War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to open new pharmaceutical production facilities in the Kaliningrad Region, Mordovia and St. Petersburg via videoconference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 30, 2023. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 02 April 2023

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace
  • Putin appears to have a strong grip on power, and some analysts suspect the the warrant hanging over him could provide an incentive to prolong the fighting

THE HAGUE: An international arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin raises the prospect of the man whose country invaded Ukraine facing justice, but it complicates efforts to end that war in peace talks.
Both justice and peace appear to be only remote possibilities today, and the conflicting relationship between the two is a quandary at the heart of a March 17 decision by the International Criminal Court to seek the Russian leader's arrest.
Judges in The Hague found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights were responsible for war crimes, specifically the unlawful deportation and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
As unlikely as Putin sitting in a Hague courtroom seems now, other leaders have faced justice in international courts.
Former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, a driving force behind the Balkan wars of the 1990s, went on trial for war crimes, including genocide, at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague after he lost power. He died in his cell in 2006 before a verdict could be reached.
Serbia, which wants European Union membership but has maintained close ties to Russia, is one of the countries that has criticized the ICC's action. The warrants “will have bad political consequences” and create “a great reluctance to talk about peace (and) about truce” in Ukraine, populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said.
Others see consequences for Putin, and for anyone judged guilty of war crimes, as the primary desired outcome of international action.
“There will be no escape for the perpetrator and his henchmen," European Union leader Ursula von der Leyen said Friday in a speech to mark the one-year anniversary of the liberation of Bucha, the Ukraine town that saw some of the worst atrocities in the war. “War criminals will be held accountable for their deeds.”
Hungary did not join the other 26 EU members in signing a resolution in support of the ICC warrant for Putin. The government's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said Hungarian authorities would not arrest Putin if he were to enter the country..
He called the warrants “not the most fortunate because they lead toward escalation and not toward peace.”
Putin appears to have a strong grip on power, and some analysts suspect the the warrant hanging over him could provide an incentive to prolong the fighting.
“The arrest warrant for Putin might undermine efforts to reach a peace deal in Ukraine,” Daniel Krcmaric, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, said in emailed comments to The Associated Press.
One potential way of easing the way to peace talks could be for the United Nations Security Council to call on the International Criminal Court to suspend the Ukraine investigation for a year, which is allowed under Article 16 of the Rome Statute treaty that created the court.
But that appears unlikely, said Krcmaric, whose book “The Justice Dilemma,” deals with the tension between seeking justice and pursuing a negotiated end to conflicts.
“The Western democracies would have to worry about public opinion costs if they made the morally questionable decision to trade justice for peace in such an explicit fashion,” he said, adding that Ukraine also is unlikely to support such a move.
Russia immediately rejected the warrants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void.” And Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, which is chaired by Putin, suggested the ICC headquarters on the Netherlands' coastline could become a target for a Russian missile strike.
Alexander Baunov, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, observed in a commentary that the arrest warrant for Putin amounted to “an invitation to the Russian elite to abandon Putin” that could erode his support.
While welcoming the warrants for Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, rights groups also urged the international community not to forget the pursuit of justice in other conflicts.
“The ICC warrant for Putin reflects an evolving and multifaceted justice effort that is needed elsewhere in the world,” Human Rights Watch associate international justice director Balkees Jarrah said in a statement. “Similar justice initiatives are needed elsewhere to ensure that the rights of victims globally — whether in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, or Palestine — are respected.”


Militants kill Pakistani soldier guarding polio team

Militants kill Pakistani soldier guarding polio team
Updated 31 May 2023

Militants kill Pakistani soldier guarding polio team

Militants kill Pakistani soldier guarding polio team
  • Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hit by attacks targeting inoculation teams that have claimed hundreds of lives
  • Extremist opposition to all forms of inoculation grew after the CIA organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani soldier was killed on Wednesday when militants opened fire on a polio vaccination team, the country’s military said, in the latest attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.
Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hit by attacks targeting inoculation teams that have claimed hundreds of lives in over a decade.
“Terrorists attempted to disrupt the ongoing polio campaign by firing on the members of the polio team,” the military said in a statement about the assault in the former tribal areas that border Afghanistan.
A soldier deployed to protect the vaccination team was killed during an exchange of fire, it added.
Extremist opposition to all forms of inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is waging a campaign against security forces, claimed the attack in a statement to media.
Pakistan is grappling with an uptick in militancy since the Afghan Taliban returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan.
North Waziristan has historically been a hive of militancy and was the target of a long-running Pakistani military offensive and US drone strikes during the post-9/11 occupation of Afghanistan.


Iraqi killed fighting for Russia’s Wagner in Ukraine, says group founder

Iraqi killed fighting for Russia’s Wagner in Ukraine, says group founder
Updated 31 May 2023

Iraqi killed fighting for Russia’s Wagner in Ukraine, says group founder

Iraqi killed fighting for Russia’s Wagner in Ukraine, says group founder
  • Abbas Abuthar Witwit died on April 7, a day after arriving at a Wagner hospital in the Russian-controlled, eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk
  • Prigozhin confirmed he had recruited Witwit from prison, saying he was not the first native of an Arab country to have joined from jail

LUHANSK, Ukraine: An Iraqi citizen fighting with Russia’s Wagner mercenary force was killed in Ukraine in early April, the first confirmed case of a Middle East native dying in the conflict, Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin told Reuters on Wednesday.
Abbas Abuthar Witwit died on April 7, a day after arriving at a Wagner hospital in the Russian-controlled, eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, the RIA FAN news site earlier reported.
Much of the fighting for Bakhmut was done by convict fighters, recruited by Wagner from prisons on the promise of a pardon if they survived six months at the front in Ukraine.
In response to a Reuters request for comment, Prigozhin confirmed he had recruited Witwit from prison, saying he was not the first native of an Arab country to have joined from jail.
Witwit, he said, had fought well and “died heroically.”
RIA FAN said Witwit had been wounded in Bakhmut, the city in Donetsk province that Prigozhin said Wagner had taken in mid-May, after a battle that had raged since last year.
Prigozhin previously said the whole conflict had cost 20,000 of his men’s lives.
In video published by RIA FAN, a man identified as Witwit’s father is shown receiving awards posthumously given to his son, and that he had supported his decision to enlist in Wagner as a “volunteer.”
“Abbas always pursued his freedom and wanted to be a man who defends his freedom and himself, and he told me he found his freedom in Russia,” he is shown saying.
According to court papers seen by Reuters, Witwit was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on drug charges in July 2021 by a court in the Russian city of Kazan. The documents said Witwit was a first year student at a technical university.


UK-based Islamic charities donate $24.4bn a year to good causes

UK-based Islamic charities donate $24.4bn a year to good causes
Updated 31 May 2023

UK-based Islamic charities donate $24.4bn a year to good causes

UK-based Islamic charities donate $24.4bn a year to good causes
  • Contributions came from more than 165,000 groups or individuals, says report
  • Number of Islamic charities has soared in last 20 years says Muslim Charities Forum

LONDON: Islamic charitable groups in the UK donated £20.2 billion ($24.4 billion) to local and international causes last year, according to an official report.
More than 165,000 groups or individuals contributed to the total, according to the study by the National Council for Voluntary Organizations, reported Kuwait News Agency on Wednesday.
According to a separate study by the Muslim Charities Forum, 600 organizations had now met the requirements and regulations set by the UK government for charitable work, up from around 25 at the turn of the century.
The initial Muslim-oriented charitable organizations were established in the early 1980s and mostly contributed to humanitarian causes in Africa and Eastern Europe, the study said.
MCF’s CEO Fadi Itani said his group’s study had shown that 150 Islamic charities geared toward international causes contributed £500 million (around $625 million) annually.
Forty-seven organizations have the capacity to gather £1 million to £20 million annually, said Itani. Approximately 30 more raised about £500,000 ($620,000) a year each, while 450 others contributed more than £150 million a year collectively.
The growing benevolence of British Muslims is backed up by a Walnut Social Research 2021 poll that showed they were the most charitable religious group in the country.
Walnut found that Muslim individuals donated around £370 annually compared to £165 for donors from other faiths.
 


Wildfire on Canada’s Atlantic coast forces evacuation of 16,000 people

Wildfire on Canada’s Atlantic coast forces evacuation of 16,000 people
Updated 31 May 2023

Wildfire on Canada’s Atlantic coast forces evacuation of 16,000 people

Wildfire on Canada’s Atlantic coast forces evacuation of 16,000 people
  • “It’s extensive. It’s heartbreaking,” said Premier Tim Houston, who announced a ban on woodland activity after visiting the disaster area to get a sense of the damage
  • The forest protection manager in the province's wildfire management group said it is safe to say that all of these fires were “very likely human-caused”

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia’s leader begged people to stay out of the woods and avoid any activity that could start more fires after a wildfire on Canada’s Atlantic coast damaged about 200 houses and other structures and prompted the evacuation of 16,000 people.
“It’s extensive. It’s heartbreaking,” said Premier Tim Houston, who announced a ban on woodland activity after visiting the disaster area to get a sense of the damage.
Many residents were eager to return Tuesday to see whether homes and pets had survived, while fire officials expressed concern that dry, windy conditions could cause a “reburn” in the evacuated subdivisions. The extended forecast is calling for hotter weather on Wednesday and no rain until Friday at the earliest.
Houston said the ban extends to all travel and activity in all wooded areas. That includes all forestry, mining, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, off-road vehicle driving and all commercial activity on government lands, he said.
“Don’t be burning right now. No burning in Nova Scotia. Conservation officers reported six illegal burns last night. This is absolutely ridiculous with what’s happeniung in this province — three out-of-control fires, eight fires yesterday, 12 on Sunday. Do Not Burn!” Houston said Tuesday. “We have to do what we can to make sure we don’t have new fires popping up.”
Scott Tingley, the forest protection manager in the province’s wildfire management group, said it is safe to say that all of these fires were “very likely human-caused.”
“Much of it probably is preventable. Accidents do happen and so that’s why we certainly appreciate the premier’s message,” Tingley said.
Firefighters have been working to extinguish hotspots in the fire that started in the Halifax area on Sunday, Halifax Deputy Fire Chief David Meldrum said. He said Tuesday that it was too early to give an exact count of homes damaged or destroyed, but the municipal government put the toll at about 200 buildings.
Dan Cavanaugh was among two dozen people waiting Tuesday in a Halifax-area parking lot to learn if their suburban homes had been consumed.
“We’re like everyone else in this lot,” said the 48-year-old insurance adjuster. “We’re not sure if we have a house to go back to.”
Police officers wrote down names of residents and were calling people to be escorted to see what had become of their properties.
Sarah Lyon of the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said an eight-member team was going into the evacuation zone to retrieve animals left behind.
In all, about 16,000 people were ordered to leave their homes northwest of Halifax, most of which are within a 30-minute drive of the port city’s downtown. The area under mandatory evacuation orders covers about 100 square kilometers (38 miles).
Sonya Higgins, who runs a cat rescue operation in Halifax, said she and more than 40 others waited in a nearby supermarket parking lot to be led into the evacuation area. They hoped to retrieve seven cats from two homes. She said the pet owners contacting her have been “frantic” to find their animals and get them to safety.


Pakistan ex-PM Khan in court as rights watchdog issues warning

Pakistan ex-PM Khan in court as rights watchdog issues warning
Updated 31 May 2023

Pakistan ex-PM Khan in court as rights watchdog issues warning

Pakistan ex-PM Khan in court as rights watchdog issues warning
  • The Islamabad High Court and a specialist corruption court granted Khan bail on Wednesday in the same graft case
  • Thousands have been rounded up since the Supreme Court declared that detention illegal and allowed him to walk free

ISLAMABAD: Embattled Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan returned to court on Wednesday, as the nation’s human rights watchdog warned all sides are to blame in a rapidly deteriorating democratic crisis.
Khan’s brief arrest earlier this month sparked days of deadly unrest before Islamabad orchestrated a crackdown on his party, including mass arrests and a pledge to try some protesters in army courts.
The Islamabad High Court and a specialist corruption court granted Khan bail on Wednesday in the same graft case which prompted his arrest on May 9, his lawyers said.
Thousands, including grassroots supporters and key Khan aides, have been rounded up since the Supreme Court declared that detention illegal and allowed him to walk free.
Islamabad says the arrests are justified because it was targeted by anti-state terrorism, while Khan claims his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is being quashed ahead of elections due by October.
But Hina Jilani, the head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), issued a stark warning to “all political stakeholders.”
“Unless they desist from any further measures that could imperil the country’s fragile democracy, they may find themselves unable to steer the country safely through the multiple crises it is facing.”
Since he was ousted from office in a no-confidence vote last spring, Khan has waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, which analysts say was behind his rise and fall from power.
His arrest was widely seen as payback ordered by top brass after he repeated incendiary allegations that they plotted an assassination attempt against him.
The HRCP said “civilian supremacy has emerged as the greatest casualty” from the deepening political crisis, which comes as Pakistan suffers from a flatlining economy and worsening security situation.
“The government’s inability — or unwillingness — to safeguard civilian supremacy” and PTI’s “incessant humiliation of law... has led to making military interference in politics inevitable,” Jilani said.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch criticized Islamabad for agreeing to try 33 civilians in military courts for allegedly attacking army installations during the unrest.
“Pakistan’s military courts, which use secret procedures that deny due process rights, should not be used to prosecute civilians,” said associate Asia director Patricia Gossman.
As the clampdown on PTI continues, several senior figures have defected, leaving former cricket star Khan increasingly isolated.
He says arrests are being used to force resignations. Nonetheless he remains far and away Pakistan’s most popular politician.

Related