International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing
Local workers transport a piece of wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at the site of the plane crash near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine (REUTERS)
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Updated 08 February 2023

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing

International team suspends investigation into MH17 downing
  • Announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: An international team of investigators has suspended its criminal investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, saying they have insufficient evidence to launch any new prosecutions.
Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said Thursday that “the investigation has now reached its limit. All leads have been exhausted” as the team began laying out the evidence it uncovered in its long-running investigation.
Dutch prosecutors said in their summary of findings that “there are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying” a Buk missile system to Ukrainian separatists. A Buk system was used to bring down MH17 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Russia has always denied any involvement in the downing of MH17.
The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people on board on July 17, 2014. One Russian was acquitted by the court.
None of the suspects appeared for the trial and it was unclear if the three who were found guilty of multiple murders will ever serve their sentences.
The convictions and the court’s finding that the surface-to-air Buk missile that blew the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight out of the sky came from a Russian military base were seen as a clear indication that Moscow had a role in the tragedy. Russia has always denied involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the court in November of bowing to pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the news media.
But the November convictions held that Moscow was in overall control in 2014 over the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist area of eastern Ukraine where the missile was launched. The Buk missile system came from the Russian military’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, based in the city of Kursk.
The Joint Investigation Team is made up of experts from the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Belgium and Ukraine. Most of the victims were Dutch. It has continued to investigate the crew of the Russian Buk missile system that brought down the plane and those who ordered its deployment in Ukraine.
“The indications for close ties between the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian government officials raises questions about their involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service said on its website, citing intercepted phone calls between leaders of the breakaway region and “high-ranking Russian government officials held in the summer of 2014.”
As well as the criminal trial that was held in the Netherlands, the Dutch and Ukrainian governments are suing Russia at the European Court of Human Rights over its alleged role in the downing of MH17.


Ethiopia rejects US war crime allegations as ‘inflammatory’

Ethiopia rejects US war crime allegations as ‘inflammatory’
Updated 12 sec ago

Ethiopia rejects US war crime allegations as ‘inflammatory’

Ethiopia rejects US war crime allegations as ‘inflammatory’
ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s government on Tuesday accused the United States of unfairly apportioning blame for crimes committed during the two-year Tigrayan conflict.
The US allegations were “partisan,” the foreign ministry said, adding: “The US statement is inflammatory.”
Washington on Monday accused all parties to the conflict of committing war crimes.
But it singled out Ethiopian, Eritrean and regional Amhara forces for crimes against humanity, without mentioning the Tigrayan rebels.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who last week made his first visit to Ethiopia since a breakthrough November 2022 peace deal between the federal government and Tigrayan rebels, on Monday made a forceful call for accountability on his return to Washington.
He said the State Department carried out a “careful review of the law and the facts” and concluded that war crimes were committed by federal troops from both Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea as well as by the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and forces from the neighboring Amhara region.
“Many of these actions were not random or a mere byproduct of war. They were calculated and deliberate,” Blinken said as he presented an annual rights report.
Blinken added that the State Department also found crimes against humanity by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces, including killings and sexual violence, although he did not mention the TPLF.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said the US statement “unfairly apportions blame among different parties in the conflict.”
“The statement appears to exonerate one party from certain allegations of human rights violations such as rape and other forms of sexual violence despite the clear and overwhelming evidence about its culpability,” it said.
“This partisan and divisive approach from the US is ill-advised,” it added, calling it “unwarranted.”
TPLF officials did not respond to AFP requests to comment about the US report.
Blinken had called for accountability during his trip to Addis Ababa, where he held an unusually long meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and spoke separately with senior TPLF leader Getachew Reda.
But he did not directly mention war crimes or crimes against humanity and sounded upbeat about the prospects for peace during his visit.


The war badly soured US relations with Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and long one of Washington’s major partners on the continent.
Abiy had earlier voiced anger when Blinken during the war spoke more generally about crimes against humanity, and the Ethiopian leader has rejected UN-led efforts for a probe.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry said Washington’s statement “undercuts the support of the US for an inclusive peace process.”
The United States has estimated that some 500,000 people died in the two-year conflict, making it one of the deadliest wars of the 21st century and dwarfing the toll from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The war began in November 2020 when the TPLF, once the major powerbroker in Ethiopia, attacked military installations in the Tigray, triggering a major counteroffensive.
As allegations of atrocities mounted, the US imposed sanctions on Eritrea, an authoritarian state whose relations with Washington were already poor, and booted Ethiopia from a major trade pact, although it held back on further actions against the warring parties.

Pakistan’s parliament summoned in midst of crisis over former PM Imran Khan

Pakistan’s parliament summoned in midst of crisis over former PM Imran Khan
Updated 20 min 51 sec ago

Pakistan’s parliament summoned in midst of crisis over former PM Imran Khan

Pakistan’s parliament summoned in midst of crisis over former PM Imran Khan
  • Former cricket star Khan was prime minister from 2018 until 2022
  • His supporters have clashed with police several times over recent days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s parliament is to meet in a special joint session on Wednesday to “take important decisions” to enforce the state’s authority, media reported, in the midst of prolonged anti-government defiance by former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Former cricket star Khan was prime minister from 2018 until 2022, when he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. Since then, he has been demanding a new election and holding protests across the country to press his case.
His supporters have clashed with police several times over recent days as authorities try to force him to appear in court in connection with various cases brought against him.
The office of the speaker of parliament, in calling Wednesday’s joint session, did not give a reason but the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said the ruling coalition had called for parliament to “take important decisions” to ensure the writ of the state was enforced.
The APP, reporting on a meeting attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet, cited the participants as saying Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was not a political party but “rather a gang of militants,” and its “enmity against the state” could not be tolerated.
Sharif has rejected Khan’s demand for a new election saying it would be held as scheduled later this year.
Parliament will meet in the capital, Islamabad, as Khan’s supporters gather for his latest rally in the eastern city of Lahore.
The clashes between Khan’s supporters and the security forces have brought a new round of political instability to the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people, which is in the midst of a crippling economic crisis.
Khan says the government and the powerful military are trying to stop him from contesting the next election, scheduled for November. If convicted in a case, Khan could face disqualification from the polls.
Both the government and military deny this.
Police have arrested hundreds of Khan’s supporters in raids in recent days in response to the clashes.
Khan appeared on Tuesday before the Lahore High Court to apply for protective bail in fresh cases against him, PTI leader Mussarat Jamshed Cheema told Reuters.
The former prime minister is also appearing before a bench hearing a case he has filed against the police for raiding his home, which he says was in violation of court orders granting him protective bail last week.

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London police force racist, misogynist and homophobic: report

London police force racist, misogynist and homophobic: report
Updated 43 min 17 sec ago

London police force racist, misogynist and homophobic: report

London police force racist, misogynist and homophobic: report
  • Crimes perpetrated in a pervasive culture of ‘deep-seated homophobia’ and predatory behavior
  • Female officers and staff ‘routinely face sexism and misogyny’

LONDON: The London police forces, Britain’s largest, is institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic and could still be employing rapists and murderers, a scathing independent review said Tuesday.
The report, written by government official Louise Casey, was commissioned after the kidnap, rape and murder two years ago of a London woman, Sarah Everard, by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.
But since then, another officer, David Carrick, was also jailed for life for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults stretching back two decades, and several other Met scandals have emerged.
Casey found the shocking crimes had been perpetrated in a pervasive culture of “deep-seated homophobia” and predatory behavior, in which female officers and staff “routinely face sexism and misogyny.”
Officers from minorities suffer widespread bullying, while violence against women and girls in the majority white and male force has not been treated seriously enough, she concluded.
Asked if there could be more officers like Couzens and Carrick — who at one point served in the same armed unit protecting MPs and foreign diplomats — Casey said: “I cannot sufficiently assure you that that is not the case.”
“It is the police’s job to keep us safe as the public,” she said. “Far too many Londoners have now lost faith in policing to do that.”
Casey’s findings come nearly 25 years after the Macpherson Report, which probed Met failures after the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, also found the force institutionally racist and recommended dozens of reforms.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that what was happening inside the Met was “simply shocking and unacceptable” and that “there needs to be a change in culture and leadership.”
But he backed its chief Mark Rowley, who was appointed after Cressida Dick was forced out last April, to “restore confidence and trust” through a draft overhaul unveiled in January.
Rowley called Casey’s report “a very upsetting read.”
“We have a real problem here. We have misogyny, homophobia and racism in the organization and we’re going to root it out,” he told Sky News.
The report, which identified “systemic and fundamental problems” within the Met including “inadequate management,” made 16 recommendations that would constitute a “complete overhaul.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has responsibility for the force and initiated the review, said he expected all of them to be fully implemented quickly.
“It’s in all of our interests to make sure that the police service changes, root and branch,” he told the BBC.
Failure to reform could mean the force, which polices more than eight million people over 1,605 square kilometers in the British capital, would be broken up, Casey warned.
“The bottom line is this if an organization can’t fix itself then there has to be change,” she told BBC radio.
But she noted: “The tougher thing is to ask the organization to change its culture and to do a better job.”
The Met had failed to protect its female staff and the public from “police perpetrators of domestic abuse, nor those who abuse their position for sexual purposes,” her report stated.
“Time and time again, those complaining are not believed or supported. They are treated badly, or face counter-claims from those they have accused,” it said.
The 363-page review also said an “absence of vigilance” meant that “predatory and unacceptable behavior has been allowed to flourish.”
Racism also exists within the force, with discrimination “often ignored” and complaints “likely to be turned against Black, Asian and ethnic minority officers.”
The Met’s investigations of crimes was also criticized, with the review saying that the force relied on “over-stuffed, dilapidated or broken fridges and freezers” to store forensic evidence.
A lunchbox was found in the same fridge as forensic samples in rape cases, and some appliances were so full they were strapped shut.
One fridge broke down, meaning the evidence inside could no longer be used, the report found.


Sunken Philippine oil tanker found – officials

Sunken Philippine oil tanker found – officials
Updated 21 March 2023

Sunken Philippine oil tanker found – officials

Sunken Philippine oil tanker found – officials
  • Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank on February 28
  • The tanker was found by a Japanese remotely operated underwater vehicle

POLA, Philippines: A leaking oil tanker that sank in the Philippines three weeks ago has been found, officials said Tuesday, as the slick reached waters known for their rich marine life.
The Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters (210,000 gallons) of industrial fuel oil when it sank on February 28 off the central island of Mindoro, south of the capital Manila.
Diesel fuel and thick oil from the vessel have since contaminated the waters and beaches of Oriental Mindoro province and other islands.
The tanker was found by a Japanese remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor told reporters.
It is nearly 400 meters (1,300 feet) below the waves.
Dolor said he received the first photos showing the exact location of the vessel on Tuesday morning.
The national disaster agency said the ROV would assess the hull’s condition before a decision was made about how to “control the spill from its source.”
The Philippines has sought assistance from several countries, including Japan, the United States and France, to help contain and clean up the slick.
Thousands of hectares of coral reefs, mangroves and seaweed could be affected, officials have said.
Oil spill booms made out of hay, human hair and other materials have been deployed to try to protect coastal waters that people in the fishing and tourism industries rely on for their livelihoods.
Oil has been spotted as far away as Casian Island, off the north coast of the western island of Palawan, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) southwest of where the tanker sank.
As feared, oil has also drifted north to the Verde Island Passage — a busy sea lane between Mindoro and the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.
Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga said previously that the area was “globally recognized” for its marine biodiversity.
The Philippine Coast Guard said clean-up operations on Monday removed oil from the shores of three villages on Verde Island, which is popular with divers.
Oil also has been spotted further along the passage at Tingloy municipality on Maricaban Island, part of Batangas province.
Residents and coast guard personnel have been removing oil-coated seaweed and other debris from affected areas.
Tens of thousands of people have been affected by the spill, with scores falling ill. The government is distributing food packs and other assistance.
Among the hardest hit are fishermen, who have been ordered to stay on shore until they can fish safely.


German minister praises ‘esteemed’ Taiwan, China protests ‘vile’ visit

German minister praises ‘esteemed’ Taiwan, China protests ‘vile’ visit
Updated 21 March 2023

German minister praises ‘esteemed’ Taiwan, China protests ‘vile’ visit

German minister praises ‘esteemed’ Taiwan, China protests ‘vile’ visit
  • But education minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger says her trip was not connected to her government’s China strategy
  • Germany has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, though it does maintain a de facto embassy in Taipei

TAIPEI: Germany’s education minister said on Tuesday she was honored to visit “esteemed partner” Taiwan but that her trip was not connected to her government’s China strategy, as Beijing said it had protested to Berlin about her “vile conduct” in going there.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has increased military, political and economic pressure to assert those claims. The politically sensitive visit is taking place as Berlin is reviews its previously close ties with China.
A visit to Taiwan in January by a delegation of high-ranking lawmakers from the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-way coalition, led to protests from Beijing.
Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, also of the FDP, said at the signing of a technology cooperation agreement with Taiwan’s National Science and Technology Council Minister Wu Tsung-tsong that it was “extremely important to my ministry and me to promote cooperation with like-minded partners.”
“This arrangement stands for enhancing cooperation on the basis of the democratic values transparency, openness, reciprocity and scientific freedom, to only name a few,” she said.
“It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be the first minister heading a specialist government department to visit Taiwan in 26 years,” she added. “Taiwan, with its excellent research institutions, is a highly esteemed partner.”
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said they had filed a strong protest with Germany about her “vile conduct.”
Germany should “immediately stop associating and interacting with Taiwan independence separatist forces, immediately stop sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence separatist forces, and immediately stop using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Wang told a daily news briefing.
Germany, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, though it does maintain a de facto embassy in Taipei.
Given the sensitivity of the trip, Stark-Watzinger is not scheduled to meet Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
In a departure from the policies of Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz’s government is developing a new China strategy to reduce dependence on Asia’s economic superpower, hitherto a vital export market for German goods.
Responding to a question from a reporter, Stark-Watzinger said: “The federal government’s China strategy remains unchanged. To that extent, this visit today is not connected with that.”