After Qur’an burnings, UN rights body calls for more action to combat religious hatred

A Muslim woman recites from the Qur’an during a demonstration to denounce the burning of a Qur’an that took place in Sweden, in Karachi, Pakistan. (File/AP)
A Muslim woman recites from the Qur’an during a demonstration to denounce the burning of a Qur’an that took place in Sweden, in Karachi, Pakistan. (File/AP)
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Updated 12 July 2023
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After Qur’an burnings, UN rights body calls for more action to combat religious hatred

A Muslim woman recites from the Qur’an during a demonstration to denounce the burning of a Qur’an that took place in Sweden.
  • After the vote, Ambassador Khalil Hashmi of Pakistan insisted the measure “does not seek to curtail the right to free speech”

GENEVA: The UN’s top human rights body overwhelmingly approved a measure calling on countries to do more to prevent religious hatred in the wake of Qur’an burnings in Europe, over the objections of Western countries who fear tougher steps by governments could trample freedom of expression.
Applause broke out in the cavernous chamber of the Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the 28-12 vote, with seven abstentions, on a measure brought by Pakistan and Palestine that was backed by many developing countries in Africa, as well as China and India, and Middle Eastern countries.
The resolution comes in the wake of recent Qur’an burnings in parts of Europe, and among other things, calls on countries to take steps to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
After the vote, Ambassador Khalil Hashmi of Pakistan insisted the measure “does not seek to curtail the right to free speech,” but tries to strike a “prudent balance” between it and “special duties and responsibilities.”
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Qur’an or any other religious book,” Hashmi said. “They lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the council could have expected from them.”
A day earlier, however, Michele Taylor, the US ambassador to the council, said that the United States “strongly condemns the acts that have precipitated today’s discussion, including desecration of the Holy Qur’an on June 28” — a reference to an incident in Sweden last month that fanned protest in some Muslim communities.
After the vote, Taylor said she was “truly heartbroken” that the council was unable to reach consensus “in condemning what we all agree are deplorable acts of anti-Muslim hatred, while also respecting freedom of expression.”


Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says

Updated 13 sec ago
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Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says
Organizers had said in April that President Vladimir Putin would not be invited to the events in France
The commemorations will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government

PARIS: Russia will not be invited to events marking the 80th anniversary of the Second World War’s D-Day landings next week given its war of aggression against Ukraine, the French presidency said on Thursday.
Organizers had said in April that President Vladimir Putin would not be invited to the events in France, but that some Russian representatives would be welcome in recognition of the country’s war-time sacrifice.
Prior to France’s announcement on Thursday two diplomatic sources told Reuters that the Ukraine war and unease among some allies about Moscow’s presence had led Paris to reverse its initial thinking.
The commemorations will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.
Briefing reporters ahead of next Thursday’s anniversary, a French presidency official confirmed Russia’s absence and that Zelensky had been invited given his country’s “just fight” in the war against Russia.
“Russia has not been invited. The conditions for its participation are not there given the war of aggression launched in 2022, which has only increased these last weeks,” the official said.
Russia is advancing modestly but steadily in eastern Ukraine as two years of war saps Ukraine’s ammunition and manpower.
Earlier this month, three other EU diplomats told Reuters that a number of states from the bloc had said they would be uneasy if Russia attended.
More than 150,000 Allied troops launched the air, sea and land D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, an operation that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany.
The Soviet Union lost more than 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War and Moscow marks the victory with a massive annual military parade on Red Square.
Russians officials have attended D-Day ceremonies in the past. During the 70th-anniversary events in 2014, Putin along with the then-leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine set up the so-called Normandy format — a contact group aimed at resolving the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which then focused on the Donbas and Crimea regions.
“When there’s a person, there’s a problem. When there’s no person, there’s no problem,” said one of the diplomatic sources using a quote of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s, to describe the decision to not invite Russia.

Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move

Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move
Updated 30 May 2024
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Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move

Israel condemns Slovenia’s Palestinian statehood move
  • Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision, which requires Slovenian parliamentary approval, rewarded Hamas for murder and rape

JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign minister denounced the Slovenian government’s decision on Thursday to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the decision, which requires Slovenian parliamentary approval, rewarded Hamas for murder and rape, a reference to the Palestinian Islamist group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war in Gaza.
In a statement, Katz said the move also strengthened Israel’s arch-enemy Iran and damaged “the close friendship between the Slovenian and Israeli people.” He added: “I hope the Slovenian parliament rejects this recommendation.”


UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners

UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners
Updated 30 May 2024
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UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners

UK govt calls for release of Hong Kong democracy campaigners
  • “We call on the Hong Kong authorities to end NSL prosecutions,” junior foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said
  • Britain has become increasingly critical of Beijing’s influence on its former colony

LONDON: The British government on Thursday urged Hong Kong to halt prosecutions under its National Security Law and release 14 pro-democracy campaigners found guilty of subversion.
“We call on the Hong Kong authorities to end NSL prosecutions and release all individuals charged under it,” junior foreign minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in a statement.
Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 but has become increasingly critical of Beijing’s influence on its former colony, accusing it of breaking its promise to protect democratic freedoms.
Relations have soured between the two capitals, including after Hong Kongers were given residency and a route to citizenship in the UK due to the crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
Trevelyan said Thursday’s verdict was “a clear demonstration of the way that the Hong Kong authorities have used the Beijing-imposed National Security Law to stifle opposition and criminalize political dissent.”
The 14 people found guilty, who were among 47 charged, were “guilty of nothing more than seeking to exercise their right to freedom of speech, of assembly and of political participation,” she said.
“Today’s verdict will only further tarnish Hong Kong’s international reputation. It sends a message that Hong Kongers can no longer safely and meaningfully participate in peaceful political debate.”


Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat

Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat
Updated 30 May 2024
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Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat

Animals collapse, water shortages bite amid India’s searing heat
  • India’s capital Delhi recorded first heat-related death on Wednesday as sun scorches
  • Extreme temperatures spark fires in several regions of country such as Jammu and Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Animals collapsed, people jumped on water tankers with buckets amid shortages and government employees changed their work hours as blistering summer heat kept its grip on north India on Thursday.

Although Thursday’s readings were marginally lower in Delhi than the previous day when one area recorded an all-time high of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22 Fahrenheit), the region still saw temperatures touching 47 C (116.6 F).

Delhi, which has a population of 20 million, recorded its first heat-related death on Wednesday, with a 40-year-old laborer dying of heatstroke, local media reported. Authorities said they are investigating if the 52.9 C reading in the Mungeshpur neighborhood on Wednesday was caused by a sensor error at the local weather station.

Television images showed people chasing water tankers or climbing on top of them in parts of the city to fill containers amidst an acute water shortage that the government blames on low levels in the Yamuna River — Delhi’s primary source of water.

Along the river’s banks, women in shanties endured stifling conditions in their homes as their cooking stoves aggravated the sweltering weather.

“The heat is worse this year. We work like this every day so we get into the habit,” said Seema, 19, who cooks for her family twice a day.

In the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, a policeman used CPR to revive a monkey that he said had fainted and fallen from a tree because of the heat, pumping its chest for 45 minutes, local media reported, and Delhi also saw cases of heatstroke among birds.

As more people chose to order food and groceries by home delivery instead of venturing out in the heat, delivery personnel have been spending more time on their scooters and motorbikes, their employers said.

“Order frequency has been higher during the afternoon when people are avoiding stepping out,” said Ateef Shaikh, a delivery fleet manager at a Swiggy delivery app store in Mumbai.

Zomato and its grocery delivery business, Blinkit, have taken additional measures to help delivery workers, including providing refreshments and comfortable clothing, their spokespersons said.

Blinkit is installing air coolers in the waiting areas of all its stores, the spokesperson added.

The extreme temperatures have also sparked more fires in several parts of the country, including in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, where authorities are using drones to monitor forest fires.

The country, which is nearing the end of multi-phase national elections, is not alone in experiencing unusually high temperatures. Billions across Asia are grappling with the heat and in neighboring Pakistan the temperature crossed 52 C (125.6 F)this week.

Scientists say this trend has been worsened by human-driven climate change. India, the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has long held that, as a developing nation, it should not be forced to cut its energy-related emissions but has set a target of becoming a net-zero emitter by 2070. 


Ukraine to get up to 100,000 shells in June: Czech official

Ukraine to get up to 100,000 shells in June: Czech official
Updated 30 May 2024
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Ukraine to get up to 100,000 shells in June: Czech official

Ukraine to get up to 100,000 shells in June: Czech official
  • Ukraine could get millions of shells if allies managed to collect the money
  • Ukrainian forces said earlier this year they were so low on supplies that they were forced to ration ammunition, letting Russia seize ground

PRAGUE: Ukraine will receive 50,000-100,000 shells in June under a Czech-led initiative to buy ammunition for the war-ravaged country largely outside Europe, a Czech official said Thursday.
Tomas Kopecny, the Czech government envoy for Ukraine reconstruction, told reporters that Ukraine, battling a Russian invasion since February 2022, could get millions of shells if allies managed to collect the money.
“The first delivery under the umbrella of this Czech initiative will be in June, and it will be dozens of thousands of shells, between 50 and 100,” he said on the fringes of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Prague.
Ukrainian forces said earlier this year they were so low on supplies that they were forced to ration ammunition, letting Russia seize ground.
Russia has more recently launched a widescale offensive in northeastern Ukraine ahead of the delivery of US weapons that were approved after a long delay in Congress.
Besides the Czech Republic, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal have so far contributed some 1.7 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to buy 500,000 shells in the first phase, Kopecny said.
Ten other countries are “in the process” with talks for donations under way, he said.
In Prague for the NATO meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the so-called Czech initiative, estimating that the effort will bring one million shells to Ukraine by the end of the year.
“Czechia’s leadership is really quite extraordinary,” Blinken said. “We’re not only stronger, we’re more likely to prevent — to deter — aggression when we’re united.”
Kopecny urged further contributions as Ukraine will need 200,000 shells a month in the next two years “just to make the balance” vis-a-vis Russia.
The necessary supplies will swallow “between seven and ten billion euros per year,” he said, adding the 500,000 shells obtained or pledged so far would suffice for two and a half months.
He said allies were competing for millions of rounds of ammunition produced outside Europe with Russia.
“It’s about speed,” he said. “It’s a market where the owner of a product wants to sell it at the highest price.”
Kopecny also slammed allies for a failure to use bank loans to finance the weapon supplies to Ukraine.
“It’s so frustrating when you compare it with the expenses and the loans the EU took for Covid. Hundreds of billions of euros. Easy. And here we’re struggling with hundreds of millions.”