Italy must allow migrants on NGO vessels to disembark: Human Rights Watch

Italy must allow migrants on NGO vessels to disembark: Human Rights Watch
Migrants disembark from a coast guard vessel, after arriving by the hundreds packed on boats, on the southern island of Lampedusa, Italy, May 9, 2021. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 08 November 2022

Italy must allow migrants on NGO vessels to disembark: Human Rights Watch

Italy must allow migrants on NGO vessels to disembark: Human Rights Watch
  • ‘The government’s actions cruelly expose survivors of abuse in Libya to potential further harm’
  • UN: ‘Reasonable grounds’ to believe ‘crimes against humanity committed against migrants in Libya’

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has criticized Italy for refusing entry to two NGO rescue vessels carrying hundreds of people from Libya, labeling the move a “violation” of the European country’s human rights obligations.
Last weekend, the two ships — Humanity 1 and Geo Barents — docked in the port of Catania in Sicily.
But following the entry refusal, the vessels were ordered to move back to international waters, though large numbers of passengers were allowed to disembark following vulnerability assessments. In total, 144 people left Humanity 1 and 357 people disembarked Geo Barents.
However, HRW said the assessments conducted by authorities only involved two doctors and risked overlooking large numbers of vulnerable passengers.
Following the incident, two people on the ships collapsed and were medically evacuated by Italian authorities.
Giulia Tranchina, Europe and Central Asia researcher at HRW, said: “The government’s actions cruelly expose survivors of abuse in Libya to potential further harm, and deny them their right to seek asylum in defiance of Italian and international law.
“No one should be deliberately exposed to degrading conditions, and everyone should be allowed to disembark and have their claims for international protection fairly processed.
“Trapping people on ships or stranding them at sea is not serious immigration policy: It’s just inhumane and unlawful theater.
“Rather than violating people’s rights and alienating European partners, Italy should be advocating a predictable system for people to disembark and the resumption of state-led European search and rescue operations, alongside an equitable system for sharing responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers.”
The captains of both vessels have refused to follow the Italian exit order, and both ships remain in Italian waters.
Since Oct. 20, NGO vessels have rescued about 1,000 people, mainly hailing from Libya.
The UN warned in June that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that “crimes against humanity are being committed against migrants in Libya.”
A report by the organization warned that migrants face “murder, enforced disappearance, torture, enslavement, sexual violence, rape and other inhumane acts.”


Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet
Updated 14 sec ago

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet
  • Since 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers
  • The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region of Washington state

SEATTLE: Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering its final 747 jumbo jet.

Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft. It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and helping democratize passenger flight.
But over about the past 15 years, Boeing and its European rival Airbus have introduced more profitable and fuel efficient wide-body planes, with only two engines to maintain instead of the 747′s four. The final plane is the 1,574th built by Boeing in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.

A big crowd of current and former Boeing workers is expected for the final send-off. The last one is being delivered to cargo carrier Atlas Air.
“If you love this business, you’ve been dreading this moment,” said longtime aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia. “Nobody wants a four-engine airliner anymore, but that doesn’t erase the tremendous contribution the aircraft made to the development of the industry or its remarkable legacy.”
Boeing set out to build the 747 after losing a contract for a huge military transport, the C-5A. The idea was to take advantage of the new engines developed for the transport — high-bypass turbofan engines, which burned less fuel by passing air around the engine core, enabling a farther flight range — and to use them for a newly imagined civilian aircraft.
It took more than 50,000 Boeing workers less than 16 months to churn out the first 747 — a Herculean effort that earned them the nickname “The Incredibles.” The jumbo jet’s production required the construction of a massive factory in Everett, north of Seattle — the world’s largest building by volume.

INNUMBERS

1,574 Number of 747 jumbo jets built by Boeing 

1970 - The year the first 747 entered service on Pan Am’s New York-London route

50,000 Boeing workers who took part in building the first 747 in almost 16 months

68.5 meters - Length of the jumbo jet's fuselage, and the tail stood as tall as a six-story building

The plane’s fuselage was 225 feet (68.5 meters) long and the tail stood as tall as a six-story building. The plane’s design included a second deck extending from the cockpit back over the first third of the plane, giving it a distinctive hump and inspiring a nickname, the Whale. More romantically, the 747 became known as the Queen of the Skies.
Some airlines turned the second deck into a first-class cocktail lounge, while even the lower deck sometimes featured lounges or even a piano bar.
“It was the first big carrier, the first widebody, so it set a new standard for airlines to figure out what to do with it, and how to fill it,” said Guillaume de Syon, a history professor at Pennsylvania’s Albright College who specializes in aviation and mobility. “It became the essence of mass air travel: You couldn’t fill it with people paying full price, so you need to lower prices to get people onboard. It contributed to what happened in the late 1970s with the deregulation of air travel.”
The first 747 entered service in 1970 on Pan Am’s New York-London route, and its timing was terrible, Aboulafia said. It debuted shortly before the oil crisis of 1973, amid a recession that saw Boeing’s employment fall from 100,800 employees in 1967 to a low of 38,690 in April 1971. The “Boeing bust” was infamously marked by a billboard near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE — Turn out the lights.”

Actor John Travolta, a licensed pilot, speaks during a ceremony to mark the delivery of the last Boeing 747 aircraft, in Everett, Washington, on Jan. 31, 2023. (AFP)

An updated model — the 747-400 series — arrived in the late 1980s and had much better timing, coinciding with the Asian economic boom of the early 1990s, Aboulafia said. He recalled taking a Cathay Pacific 747 from Los Angeles to Hong Kong as a twentysomething backpacker in 1991.
“Even people like me could go see Asia,” Aboulafia said. “Before, you had to stop for fuel in Alaska or Hawaii and it cost a lot more. This was a straight shot — and reasonably priced.”
Delta was the last US airline to use the 747 for passenger flights, which ended in 2017, although some other international carriers continue to fly it, including the German airline Lufthansa.
Atlas Air ordered four 747-8 freighters early last year, with the final one leaving the factory Tuesday.
Boeing’s roots are in the Seattle area, and it has assembly plants in Washington state and South Carolina. The company announced in May that it would move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Virginia, putting its executives closer to key federal government officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, which certifies Boeing passenger and cargo planes.
Boeing’s relationship with the FAA has been strained since deadly crashes of its best-selling plane, the 737 Max, in 2018 and 2019. The FAA took nearly two years — far longer than Boeing expected — to approve design changes and allow the plane back in the air.


Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official
Updated 54 min 21 sec ago

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official

Philippines to expand US access to military bases: official
  • China’s growing assertiveness on Taiwan and its claims over the disputed South China Sea have given fresh impetus to Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership

MANILA: The United States and the Philippines are expected to announce a deal Thursday that will give US troops access to another four military bases in the Southeast Asian nation, as the longtime allies seek to deter Chinese aggression in the region.
The agreement to expand cooperation will be announced during a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a senior Philippine official told AFP, and comes as the countries seek to repair ties that were fractured in recent years.
China’s growing assertiveness on Taiwan and its claims over the disputed South China Sea have given fresh impetus to Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership.
Given its proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, the Philippines’ cooperation would be key in the event of a conflict with China, which a four-star US Air Force general has warned could happen as early as 2025.
“There’s been an agreement to designate four new additional sites,” the Philippine official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Talks were ongoing for a potential fifth base, the official added.
The two countries have a decades-old security alliance that includes a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 pact, known by the acronym EDCA, which allows US troops to rotate through five Philippine bases, including those near disputed waters.
It also allows for the US military to store defense equipment and supplies on those bases.
EDCA stalled under ex-president Rodrigo Duterte, who favored China over his country’s former colonial master, but the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos has been keen to accelerate its implementation.
Under the EDCA expansion to be unveiled Thursday, the United States will have access to at least nine military bases across the archipelago.
It has been widely reported that most of the new bases will be on the main island of Luzon, the closest Philippine landmass to Taiwan, where the US already has access to two sites.
The fourth will reportedly be on the western island of Palawan, facing the Spratly Islands in the hotly contested South China Sea, taking the number of sites there to two.
Ahead of the announcement, Austin was to hold talks with Marcos at the presidential palace.
A senior US defense official told reporters Wednesday that the Philippines was under “day-to-day pressure from (China) in ways that contravene international law.”
The United States aims to ensure “they have the capability to defend their own sovereignty,” the official said.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored a ruling at the Hague that its claims have no legal basis.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.
China also claims self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reclaimed one day, by force if necessary.
“Looking at the location of the proposed sites, it seems pretty clear that these sites are in relation to a Taiwan contingency,” said Greg Wyatt of PSA Philippines Consultancy.


UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing
Updated 02 February 2023

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing

UN expert warns of another Rohingya genocide if world continues to do nothing
  • Special investigator Tom Andrews told Arab News frustration and anger among Rohingya at lack of accountability for atrocities in Myanmar is “pervasive” 
  • He presented his report to the UN’s Human Right Council on the eve of the second anniversary of the military coup in the country

NEW YORK CITY: The independent UN expert tasked with investigating the situation in Myanmar has called on the international community to “do a lot more” to protect the vulnerable Rohingya population in the country’s Rakhine State.

Tom Andrews, whose official title is UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, warned that “not to do so is to risk seeing another 2017.”

This referred to the brutal persecution of the Rohingya that began with a military crackdown on their community about six years ago, during which thousands were killed and more than a million were ultimately forced to flee to other countries.

Tom Andrews warned that the same forces who committed “those genocidal attacks” are now in control of the country and “their priority is not the human rights of the Rohingya people.”

Rohingya Muslims have suffered decades of violence, discrimination and persecution in Myanmar but the largest exodus began on Aug. 25, 2017, after Myanmar’s military launched brutal operations targeting them in northern Rakhine State.

Amnesty International said the subsequent wave of violence resulted in grave crimes under international law. The junta torched entire villages and forced more 700,000 people, half of them children, to flee to Bangladesh, where almost 1 million Rohingya now live in crowded refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.

Andrews, who had just returned from a fact-finding trip and presented to the UN in New York his report on the situation in the South Asian country, told Arab News that more than 600,000 Rohingya continue to live in Rakhine State, 130,000 of them in makeshift internment camps.

“Even those who are living in the villages, those villages are surrounded,” he said. “The people are prisoners in their own home villages. They have virtually no rights whatsoever. It’s very, very oppressive to be living under these conditions.”

INNUMBERS

700,000 Number of people who fled Myanmar after government soldiers torched entire villages

600,000 Number of Rohingya who continue to live in Myanmar's Rakhine State, 130,000 of them in makeshift internment camps.

1 million Number of Rohingya now living in crowded refugee camps at Bangladesh's Cox’s Bazar.

2,900 Number of people who have died since the Myanmar military ousted the democratically elected government

The special rapporteur said the frustration and anger among the Rohingya community at the lack of accountability for the atrocities that have been committed against them “is pervasive.”

“Many would argue that the lack of accountability for the genocide that occurred in 2016 and 2017 was not lost on the military leaders that committed (the February 2021) coup,” said Andrews.

“You know: If you could get away with one, why not get away with another? If the international community is not willing to bring justice to bear in one, perhaps they’ll just forget about what happens as a result of the coup.

“So, failure to bring accountability is not only tragic, and an injustice for the people who suffer, but it’s an injustice and a tragedy for those who will suffer at the hands of the very same forces who are receiving the message that the international community simply doesn’t care.”

A human rights organization and a group of people from Myanmar this month filed a criminal complaint in Germany seeking punishment of Myanmar’s generals for the genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity that they allege were committed during the crackdown on the Rohingya minority in 2017 and after the military coup in 2021.

Meanwhile, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan has said that an investigation being conducted by his office into the crimes against the Rohingya will be a priority during his tenure. 

Andrews lamented the fact that such legal mechanisms are “slow and cumbersome, and they are no comfort to the people who have lost loved ones in the most horrific of ways.” He called on the international community to do the “very least” it can and fully support them.

“We need to create the kind of pressure on those who are responsible for these tragedies, namely the SAC (the State Administration Council that currently rules Myanmar), so that they understand that there’s a price to pay (and) that what they’re doing now is not sustainable — and unless and until they receive that message from the international community, impunity will continue to reign,” he said.

In his report to the Human Rights Council, published on the eve of the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, Andrews described the coup as “illegal” and the military’s claim to be the country’s legitimate government as “illegitimate.”

He called for nations that support human rights to recognize the National Unity Government, the main underground group coordinating resistance to the military rule, as the legitimate representatives of the people of Myanmar. It was formed by elected politicians prevented from taking their seats when the military seized power.

Andrews said UN member states “have an important responsibility and role to play in determining whether Myanmar’s military junta will succeed in achieving its goal of being accepted as legitimate and gaining control of a nation in revolt.”

He described the situation in Myanmar as “the forgotten war” and accused the international community of failing to properly address the crisis and “the junta’s systematic crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

Since the military came to power, he said at least 2,900 people, and probably many more, have died, 17,500 people are political prisoners and at least 38,000 homes, clinics and schools have been burned to the ground.

In addition, a total of 1.1 million people have been displaced, more than 4 million children do not have access to formal education, and 17.6 million people are expected to need humanitarian aid this year, up from 1 million before the coup.

Andrews, a former US congressman, said a new, coordinated global response to the crisis is crucial.

He added in his report that the military’s hold on the country “is weakening” and his investigation found international sanctions have made it difficult for the junta to move and access the funds it needs to maintain its operations.

But “the problem is that the sanctions are not coordinated,” he added.


US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well
Updated 02 February 2023

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well

US Republican leader says debt cliff talks with Biden went well
  • Republicans are threatening to block the usually rubber-stamp approval for raising the nation’s credit limit if Democrats don’t first agree to steep future budget cuts
  • The White House accuses the Republicans of taking the economy “hostage” in order to posture as fiscally responsible

WASHINGTON: The US took a small step back from the risk of a catastrophic debt default Wednesday after the new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said talks with President Joe Biden went well — even if a deal has yet to be reached.
“The president and I tried to find a way that we can work together,” McCarthy told reporters after an approximately one-hour meeting with Biden at the White House. “I think at the end of the day, we can find common ground.”
McCarthy said that while it was a “good discussion,” he cautioned that there were “no agreements, no promises, except we will continue this conversation.”
The White House also sounded positive, saying in a statement that Biden and McCarty had “frank and straightforward” talks and “agreed to continue the conversation.”
At stake is the stability of the world’s biggest economy.
Republicans are threatening to block the usually rubber-stamp approval for raising the nation’s credit limit if Democrats don’t first agree to steep future budget cuts.
The White House, meanwhile, accuses the Republicans of taking the economy “hostage” in order to posture as fiscally responsible.
Fail to raise the debt ceiling by around June, the Treasury says, and the United States will be forced into default on its $31.4 trillion debt — a historic first that would leave the government unable to pay bills, undermine the US economy’s reputation, and likely panic investors.
McCarthy said Republicans and Democrats have about five months to talk before reaching the debt cliff, but “hopefully it doesn’t take that long.”
There have been other showdowns over the years when Republicans balked at allowing US debt to spiral ever higher. But on most occasions the dispute was quickly smoothed over, Congress extended the ceiling and the economy kept going without a hiccup.
This time, the political heat makes things far riskier.
Two years through his first term, Biden is widely expected to be on the cusp of announcing his bid for a second term in the 2024 election. And Republicans, who have just taken over control of the House, are eager to show their muscle.
Even if McCarthy is minded to show flexibility, his power in Congress depends almost entirely on the desires of a far-right group of Republicans who are more likely to play chicken, regardless of the global financial consequences.

The White House says it won’t allow the current debt ceiling to be part of any negotiation on future government spending because that $31.4 trillion is money already agreed to by Congress. In other words, refusal to raise the debt ceiling would be like refusing to pay an already existing credit card bill.
There could be room for negotiating on changes to future budgets.
McCarthy said he had told Biden that he was against defaulting on the existing debt but that he wanted to see cuts in future spending, because “the current path we’re on we cannot sustain.”
But when it gets down to brass tacks, it’s hard for either party to say where they can find significant reductions — unless they go into the usually politically untouchable Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or other government-subsidized health care.
Biden signalled he wanted to call McCarthy’s bluff by insisting that the Republicans lay out where exactly they’d make cuts. His bet is that the internal divisions in the party will burst into the open as more right-wing members demand cuts to popular spending programs.
“What are House Republicans hiding?” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said.
In a memo Tuesday, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, challenged McCarthy to publish a draft budget. The White House will issue its own on March 9, they said.
 


Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him
Updated 02 February 2023

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him

Gunman kills 1, wounds 2 in US metro rampage before passengers disarm him
  • Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., said the shootings highlight the need for serious gun control
  • “This is not a Metro-specific safety issue; it’s an American gun violence issue,” says Metro GM

WASHINGTON: A man “randomly” brandishing a firearm shot three people, killing one, in a Wednesday morning rampage in the nation’s capital that started on a city bus and ended in a Metro tunnel after passengers attacked and disarmed him.
Authorities were still piecing together the chaotic series of events that left two people with gunshot wounds to the leg and Metro employee Robert Cunningham shot dead. The shooter is in police custody and has not been publicly identified.
Metropolitan Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict praised the “heroic actions of our citizens, our community, to disarm this shooter.”
But he added, “The fact that our citizens had to intervene with armed gunmen is disturbing to me.”
The violence began shortly after 9 a.m. when the man began brandishing a weapon and confronting passengers on a city bus in the southeast area of the city. The man pursued one of the passengers off the bus and shot them in the leg, Benedict said.
The man then went down the escalator of the nearby Potomac Avenue Metro stop, confronted someone who was buying a Metro pass and shot that person in the leg as well. Both victims were recovering in local hospitals.
The armed man then went down to the train platform and began confronting a woman there. Benedict characterized his behavior as deeply erratic, saying, “He’s walking around brandishing a firearm and just randomly engaging people in confrontation. He’s clearly agitated about something.”
At that point, Cunningham, a 64-year-old mechanic in Metro’s power department, tried to intervene and was killed by a gunshot. A statement from Paul Smedberg, chair of the Metro board, said Cunningham “acted with extreme bravery to help a customer who was being threatened by the shooter.”
The armed man then attempted to board a Metro train and was apparently confronted and disarmed by the passengers. He exited the train car and was taken into custody by police officers, who recovered his weapon on the train tracks, Benedict said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said the shootings highlight the need for serious gun control. Bowser and the Police Department have recently endured intense public pressure after a city employee shot and killed a 13-year old boy who was part of a group of youth breaking into parked cars on his block. The resident was charged this week with second-degree murder.
“We’re focused on how we get guns out of our city,” Bowser said. “Whether it’s the Metro, it’s the street, it’s in individual homes, we know that we have guns that are creating tragedies in our city and in our nation.”
Metro General Manager Randy Clarke said his administration had recently beefed up security measures, including increased police patrols and video surveillance. But he said the morning’s incident was indicative of a wider issue beyond Metro security.
“This is not a Metro-specific safety issue; it’s an American gun violence issue,” Clarke said.