UN calls for investigation into Burkina Faso ‘mass killings’

UN calls for investigation into Burkina Faso ‘mass killings’
Soldiers patrol the village of Gorgadji, in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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UN calls for investigation into Burkina Faso ‘mass killings’

UN calls for investigation into Burkina Faso ‘mass killings’
  • Burkina Faso is ruled by a transitional government put in place after a September 2022 coup

GENEVA: The United Nations called Wednesday for an independent investigation into “mass killings” in Burkina Faso this month that left dozens of people dead, including children.
Burkina Faso’s state prosecutor said Monday that more than 70 people had been killed in an attack on November 5 in the town of Zaongo in the central-north of the country, and that most of them were children and elderly people.
The UN rights office said it was “following the alarming reports of mass killings” in the West African country.
“We call on the transitional authorities to carry out promptly a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation into these serious reports,” spokeswoman Liz Throssell said in a statement.
She pointed out that while the authorities had confirmed at least 70 deaths, “some reports suggest that some 100 people may have been killed, and a large number injured.”
“This incident, during which a number of properties were burned down, is also reported to have led the villagers to flee the area,” she said.
The Save the Children aid group also called for an “immediate investigation” into the killings.
“This incident is a grave reminder that children bear the brunt of conflict and insecurity in Burkina Faso,” said Benoit Delsarte, Save the Children’s director in Burkina Faso.
“The perpetrators of these crimes against children must be held to account and brought to justice. Impunity for violations of children’s rights feed into the narrative that these crimes are acceptable,” he added in a statement.
The country is battling a jihadist insurgency that spilled over from neighboring Mali in 2015 and has left more than 17,000 civilians and soldiers dead and displaced two million people.
Burkina Faso is ruled by a transitional government put in place after a September 2022 coup.
“Our office in Burkina Faso is continuing to look into what happened but is at this stage unable to identify the perpetrators,” UN spokeswoman Throssell said.
She pointed out that it was “difficult to access the area for security reasons and talk to witnesses and survivors,” stressing the need for a probe to determine who was behind the killings.
“The perpetrators responsible must be brought to justice, in fair and transparent trials, and reparations must be provided to victims,” she added.


Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid

Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid
Updated 3 sec ago
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Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid

Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid
Rights groups have called jail term against Ilya Baburin a record sentence, and stressed that the arson never happened
Prosecutors accused Baburin of seeking to help the Azov battalion

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Monday sentenced a man to 25 years in jail for planning to set fire to a Siberian military enlistment office in 2022, the year Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine.
Rights groups have called jail term against Ilya Baburin a record sentence, and stressed that the arson never happened.
Russia saw a wave of arson attacks on army offices however after the Kremlin announced an unpopular military mobilization drive in September 2022.
A military court in Novosibirsk handed down the sentence. Prosecutors accused Baburin of seeking to help the Azov battalion, a branch of the Ukrainian military branded a terror organization in Russia.
Baburin “created a plan to set the military commissariat in Novosibirsk on fire,” prosecutors said.
They said he recruited somebody to throw a Molotov cocktail at the army office but the unnamed person instead reported him to the FSB security service.
Baburin was acting on Ukrainian orders and that he had “established contact” with members of the Azov battalion, prosecutors said.
TASS news agency published footage of Baburin in court, wearing a tracksuit and smiling inside a glass cage for defendants.
“I did not set anything on fire,” Baburin said in court, according to the independent Dozhd TV channel.
He accused the FSB of trying to “gain points” during Moscow’s Ukraine campaign and of “investigating absurd crimes.”
Baburin, who was arrested in September 2022, was found guilty of a string of offenses, including “terrorism” and “treason.”
His lawyer Vasily Dubkov argued in court this month that “nobody was harmed,” according to a transcript of a statement delivered in court and published by the Perviy Otdel rights group.
“Baburin does not look like a spy giving out state secrets and did not have or hand out state secrets,” Dubkov said.
Separately, a military court in Saint Petersburg on Monday sentenced a cadet to eight years in prison for attempting to set railway infrastructure on fire last year.
The court said Timur Kursanov was undergoing military service at an army institute and had taken orders from an unnamed person online who wanted to “involve him in arson acts in exchange for money aimed at destroying transport infrastructure.”
The court said he was arrested during a failed attempt to set fire to a railway intersection in Saint Petersburg in May last year.

Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port

Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port
Updated 12 min 51 sec ago
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Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port

Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port
  • The disaster killed six construction workers and snarled traffic into Baltimore Harbor
  • Several tugboats are escorting the Dali on its 2.5-mile path to the marine terminal

BALTIMORE: The container ship that caused the deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge was refloated Monday and has begun slowly moving back to port.
The Dali has remained at the collapse site since it lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns on March 26, killing six construction workers and snarling traffic into Baltimore Harbor.
The ship appeared to start moving shortly after 6 a.m. as crews started to maneuver it out of the wreckage. It started and stopped a few times before slowly backing away from the collapse site.
Officials said it would move at about 1 mph on the roughly 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) trip, a fraction of the speed it was traveling when it lost power and crashed into the bridge. Pieces of the bridge’s steel trusses protruded from its bow, which remained covered in concrete from the collapsed roadway.
Officials have said they plan to unload the ship’s containers and complete some short-term repairs while it’s docked in Baltimore.
Monday morning’s high tide had been expected to bring the best conditions for crews to refloat and start moving the ship, according to a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command.
Several tugboats were escorting the Dali on its path to the marine terminal. The work is expected to last at least 21 hours.
Crews conducted a controlled demolition on May 13 to break down the largest remaining span of the collapsed bridge.
The Dali experienced four electrical blackouts within about 10 hours before leaving the Port of Baltimore for Sri Lanka and hitting the bridge, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry

Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry
Updated 19 min 51 sec ago
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Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry

Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry
  • Philippines has blamed Chinese fishermen for a massive loss of giant clams in a disputed shoal controlled by China’s coast guard
  • There was no immediate response from China

MANILA: The Philippines blamed Chinese fishermen on Monday for a massive loss of giant clams in a disputed shoal controlled by China’s coast guard in the South China Sea and urged an international inquiry into the amount of environmental damage in the area.
The Philippine coast guard presented surveillance photographs of Chinese fishermen harvesting large numbers of giant clams for a number of years in a lagoon at Scarborough Shoal, but said signs of such activities stopped in March 2019.
Parts of the surrounding coral appeared to be badly scarred, in what the coast guard said was apparently a futile search by the Chinese for more clams. The lagoon is a prominent fishing area which Filipinos call Bajo de Masinloc and the Chinese calll Huangyan Dao off the northwestern Philippines.
“Those were the last remaining giant clams that we saw in Bajo de Masinloc,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a news conference.
“We are alarmed and worried about the situation that’s happening there,” National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said. He said China should allow an independent inquiry by experts from the United Nations and environmental groups.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Beijing has repeatedly asserted its sovereignty over much of the busy South China Sea. The territorial disputes involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The Indonesian navy has also been involved in skirmishes with the Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels in the Natuna waters in the margins of the South China Sea.
The Philippines has adopted a policy of publicizing China’s increasingly assertive actions in the contested waters to gain international support, and the news conference was its latest effort to condemn China’s stewardship of Scarborough Shoal.
China effectively seized the shoal in 2012 after a standoff that ended when Philippine government ships withdrew based on what Manila said was a deal brokered by American officials to ease the dangerous confrontation. China reneged on its promise to remove its ships and has since surrounded the shoal with coast guard and suspected militia ships, according to Philippine officials.
Since then, the Chinese coast guard has had a series of skirmishes with Philippine patrol ships and fishing boats, which have been prevented from entering the lagoon, ringed by mostly submerged coral outcrops. Three weeks ago, Chinese ships fired powerful water cannons that damaged Philippine coast guard and fisheries vessels.
“They’re preventing us from getting into the lagoon,” Malaya said. “We can ask third-party environmental groups or even the United Nations to do a fact-finding mission to determine the environmental situation.”
The Philippines has brought its territorial disputes with China to international arbitration and largely won. The 2016 ruling invalidated China’s expansive claims to much of the South China Sea, a key global trade route, on historical grounds and cited Chinese government actions that resulted in environmental damage in the offshore region.
China refused to participate in the arbitration, rejected its ruling and continues to defy it.
The territorial hostilities have sparked fears of a larger conflict that could involve the US, which has warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its long-time treaty ally, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.


UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds

UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds
Updated 29 min 30 sec ago
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UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds

UK’s infected blood scandal could and should have been avoided, inquiry finds

LONDON: Britain’s infected blood scandal that has killed 3,000 people and left thousands more suffering with hepatitis or HIV was no accident, a public inquiry found on Monday, blaming a catalogue of failures by government and doctors.
Inquiry chair Brian Langstaff said more than 30,000 people received infected blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s from Britain’s state-funded National Health Service, destroying lives, dreams and families.
The use of infected blood, despite the known risks, has resulted in thousands of victims in the United States, France, Canada and other countries, in part after US prisoners and other high-risk groups were paid to provide blood.
In Britain around 1,250 people with bleeding disorders were infected with HIV, including about 380 children, the inquiry found.
Three quarters of them died.
“This disaster was not an accident,” Langstaff said. “The infections happened because those in authority — doctors, the blood services and successive governments — did not put patient safety first.”
He said proper compensation must now be paid.
The government, which in 2015 said it was “something that never should have happened”, agreed in 2022 to pay an interim 100,000 pounds ($126,990) to those affected.
The infected blood and blood products, some of which were imported from the United States, were used for transfusions, which were not always clinically needed, and as treatments for bleeding disorders like haemophilia.
Haemophiliacs received Factor 8 concentrates, often imported from the United States or Austria, which carried a higher risk of causing hepatitis.
Some of the concentrates were infected with HIV in the 1980s, the inquiry said, but authorities failed to switch to safer alternatives and they decided in July 1983, a year after risks were apparent, not to suspend their importation.
Systemic failures resulted in between 80 and 100 people becoming infected with HIV by transfusion, it said, and about 26,800 were infected with Hepatitis C, often from receiving blood after childbirth or an operation.
Both groups were failed by doctors’ complacency about Hepatitis C and being slow to respond to the risks of AIDS, it said, compounded by an absence of meaningful apology or redress.
He said patients were exposed to risks despite it being well known that blood could cause severe infection, in the case of hepatitis since the end of World War Two.
Treatment practices that could have reduced the risks were not adopted, he said, noting blood was collected from prisoners, who had a higher prevalence of hepatitis, until 1984.
Some of the victims were further betrayed by being used in medical trials without their knowledge or consent, he said.
“It will be astonishing to anyone who reads this report that these events could have happened in the UK,” Langstaff said.
The British inquiry, which started in 2018, does not have the power to recommend prosecutions. ($1 = 0.7875 pounds)


Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
Updated 20 May 2024
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Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in

Protesters block New Caledonia roads as French police pour in
  • Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections
  • Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks

SYDNEY/PARIS: A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and streets were relatively calm after a week of unrest, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked by protesters and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists.
Blockades of roads would continue, Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), the activist group organising the protests in the French-ruled Pacific island, said in a statement, urging protesters to use a peaceful approach.
Road blocks were making it a challenge to get food supplies to stores in several areas or to provide secure travel for medical staff, New Caledonia government officials said, adding, however, that there were no shortages of supplies or staff.
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said "the situation there is deeply concerning", after a night of fire and looting.
France's top official in the territory, Louis Le Franc, said on Sunday a police operation to regain control of the road from capital Noumea to the international airport would take several days. Gendarmes had dismantled 76 road blocks, the High Commission said on Monday.
Airline Aircalin said the airport would remained closed until Thursday.
Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved in France that would change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.
Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses and cars and looted shops, with road barricades restricting access to medicine and food. The business chamber said 150 companies had been looted and burnt.

EVACUATIONS AWAITED
Pro-independence political parties say they want the French government to withdraw the electoral reform before they restart talks.
"We need strong actions [from the government] to calm the situation ... this is a political, not a security issue," said Dominique Fochi, secretary general of the pro-independence Caledonian Union.
Shares of Australian nickel miners were on the rise as underlying prices surged by 7% over the weekend due to unrest in New Caledonia, a key global supplier of the metal.
Australia's Albanese earlier told ABC radio his country was awaiting approval from French authorities to send an evacuation flight to pick up tourists stranded in New Caledonia hotels.
Around 300 Australians have registered with consular officials in the French territory, which lies in the southwest Pacific, some 1,500 km (930 miles) east of Australia.
There were around 3,200 people waiting to leave or enter New Caledonia as commercial flights were cancelled due to the unrest that broke out last week, the local government said.
New Zealand defence aircraft were on standby and also awaiting the French go-ahead to repatriate nationals, its Foreign Minister Winston Peters wrote in a post on X on Sunday.