Israel’s war undermining top UN court, South Africa says

Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rule on emergency measures against Israel following accusations by South Africa that the Israeli military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rule on emergency measures against Israel following accusations by South Africa that the Israeli military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 20 March 2024
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Israel’s war undermining top UN court, South Africa says

Israel’s war undermining top UN court, South Africa says
  • Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday that Israel had defied a January ruling by the ICJ that it should take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip

WASHINGTON: South Africa’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused Israel of setting a precedent for leaders to defy the top UN court, as she again alleged a campaign of “starvation” in Gaza.
South Africa has hauled Israel before the International Court of Justice to allege genocide in the war triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, infuriating Israel and drawing US criticism.
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday that Israel had defied a January ruling by the ICJ that it should take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip.




South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor. (AFP)

“The provisional measures have been entirely ignored by Israel,” Pandor said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace during a visit to US capital Washington.

HIGHLIGHTS

• South Africa has hauled Israel before the International Court of Justice to allege genocide in the war.

• A UN-backed food security assessment determined that Gaza is facing imminent famine.

“We’re seeing mass starvation now and famine before our very eyes,” she said.
“I think we, as humanity, need to look at ourselves in horror and dismay and to be worried that we have set an example.”
Pandor added that Israel’s actions may mean other nations believe that “there’s license — I can do what I want and I will not be stopped.”
She said that South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy — in going through international institutions — was “merely practicing what is preached to us every day” by the West.
“The ICJ has not been respected. And the day Africans disrespect (it), I hope we don’t go to that leader and say, ‘Listen, you’re out of bounds — because you’re an African, we expect you to obey,’” she said.
South Africa has again petitioned the court in The Hague to order measures for Israel to stop “widespread starvation” triggered by its Gaza offensive.
A UN-backed food security assessment determined that Gaza is facing imminent famine, with around 1.1 million people — about half the population — experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

 


Biden allows Ukraine to use US-supplied arms to strike inside Russia near Kharkiv area, say US officials

Biden allows Ukraine to use US-supplied arms to strike inside Russia near Kharkiv area, say US officials
Updated 13 sec ago
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Biden allows Ukraine to use US-supplied arms to strike inside Russia near Kharkiv area, say US officials

Biden allows Ukraine to use US-supplied arms to strike inside Russia near Kharkiv area, say US officials
  • Biden has come under increasing pressure from a desperate Ukraine to ease his ban, but had so far resisted amid fears it could drag NATO into direct conflict with Moscow
  • Some countries including Britain and the Netherlands say Kyiv has the right to use their weapons to strike military targets in Russia

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden has lifted restrictions on Ukraine using weapons supplied by the United States against targets on Russian territory, but only to defend the under-fire Kharkiv region, US officials said Thursday.
Biden has come under increasing pressure from a desperate Ukraine to ease his ban, but had so far resisted amid fears it could drag NATO into direct conflict with Moscow.
“The president recently directed his team to ensure that Ukraine is able to use US-supplied weapons for counter-fire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them,” a US official said on condition of anonymity.
“Our policy with respect to prohibiting the use of ATACMS or long range strikes inside of Russia has not changed,” the official said, referring to long-range missiles recently sent by Washington to Kyiv.
A second US official confirmed Biden’s change of policy.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pressing Kyiv’s supporters — chiefly the United States — to allow it to use the longer-range weaponry they supply to hit targets on Russian soil.
Some countries including Britain and the Netherlands say Kyiv has the right to use their weapons to strike military targets in Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had hinted on Wednesday that Biden could change course.
Blinken said the United States had “adapted and adjusted” as the “battlefield has changed,” as he spoke to reporters on a visit to Moldova on the eve of NATO talks in Prague.
Blinken, who traveled Kyiv earlier this month to see the increasingly grave situation as Russia pushes forward toward Kharkiv, had been widely reported to be pressing Biden to ease the rules.
Ahead of the NATO meeting, which starts with a dinner on Thursday, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said repeatedly it was time for members to reconsider those limits because they hampered Kyiv’s ability to defend itself.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to shift the dial forward on Tuesday when he said Ukraine should be allowed to “neutralize” bases in Russia used to launch strikes.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, remained less sure, saying Ukraine should act within the law — and Berlin had not supplied weapons that could hit Russia anyway.
Pressure has also been mounting ahead of a series of key meetings in Europe in coming weeks where Kyiv’s plight will be in focus.
Biden will attend ceremonies in France marking the World War II D-Day landings in early June where Ukraine’s Zelensky will also be present.
The US president will also meet leaders of the world’s top economies at the G7 summit in Italy.
 


Guilty: Trump becomes first former US president convicted of felony crimes

Guilty: Trump becomes first former US president convicted of felony crimes
Updated 9 min 31 sec ago
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Guilty: Trump becomes first former US president convicted of felony crimes

Guilty: Trump becomes first former US president convicted of felony crimes
  • Former president, all but certain to appeal, did not immediately react

NEW YORK: Donald Trump became the first former president to be convicted of felony crimes Thursday as a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments to a porn actor who said the two had sex.
Jurors convicted Trump on all 34 counts after deliberating for 9.5 hours.
The verdict is a stunning legal reckoning for Trump and exposes him to potential prison time in the city where his manipulations of the tabloid press helped catapult him from a real estate tycoon to reality television star and ultimately president. As he seeks a return to the White House in this year’s election, the judgment presents voters with another test of their willingness to accept Trump’s boundary-breaking behavior.
Trump is expected to quickly appeal the verdict and will face an awkward dynamic as he seeks to return to the campaign trail as a convicted felon. There are no campaign rallies on the calendar for now, though he’s expected to hold fundraisers next week. It will likely take several months for Judge Juan Merchan, who oversaw the case, to decide whether to sentence Trump to prison.
The falsifying business records charges carry up to four years behind bars, though prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek imprisonment, and it is not clear whether the judge — who earlier in the trial warned of jail time for gag order violations — would impose that punishment even if asked. The conviction, and even imprisonment, will not bar Trump from continuing his pursuit of the White House.
Trump faces three other felony indictments, but the New York case may be the only one to reach a conclusion before the November election, adding to the significance of the outcome. Though the legal and historical implications of the verdict are readily apparent, the political consequences are less so given its potential to reinforce rather than reshape already-hardened opinions about Trump.
For another candidate in another time, a criminal conviction might doom a presidential run, but Trump’s political career has endured through two impeachments, allegations of sexual abuse, investigations into everything from potential ties to Russia to plotting to overturn an election, and personally salacious storylines including the emergence of a recording in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals.
In addition, the general allegations of the case have been known to voters for years and, while tawdry, are widely seen as less grievous than the allegations he faces in three other cases that charge him with subverting American democracy and mishandling national security secrets.
Even so, the verdict is likely to give President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats space to sharpen arguments that Trump is unfit for office, even as it provides fodder for the presumptive Republican nominee to advance his unsupported claims that he is victimized by a criminal justice system he insists is politically motivated against him.
Trump maintained throughout the trial that he had done nothing wrong and that the case should never have been brought, railing against the proceedings from inside the courthouse — where he was joined by a parade of high-profile Republican allies — and racking up fines for violating a gag order with inflammatory out-of-court comments about witnesses.
The first criminal trial of a former American president always presented a unique test of the court system, not only because of Trump’s prominence but also because of his relentless verbal attacks on the foundation of the case and its participants. But the verdict from the 12-person jury marked a repudiation of Trump’s efforts to undermine confidence in the proceedings or to potentially impress the panel with a show of GOP support.
The trial involved charges that Trump falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who said she had sex with the married Trump in 2006.
The $130,000 payment was made by Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen to buy Daniels’ silence during the final weeks of the 2016 race in what prosecutors allege was an effort to interfere in the election. When Cohen was reimbursed, the payments were recorded as legal expenses, which prosecutors said was an unlawful attempt to mask the true purpose of the transaction. Trump’s lawyers contend they were legitimate payments for legal services.
Trump has denied the sexual encounter, and his lawyers argued during the trial that his celebrity status, particularly during the 2016 campaign, made him a target for extortion. They’ve said hush money deals to bury negative stories about Trump were motivated by personal considerations such as the impact on his family and brand as a businessman, not political ones. They also sought to undermine the credibility of Cohen, the star prosecution witness who pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges related to the payments, as driven by personal animus toward Trump as well as fame and money.
The trial featured more than four weeks of occasionally riveting testimony that revisited an already well-documented chapter from Trump’s past, when his 2016 campaign was threatened by the disclosure of an “Access Hollywood” recording that captured him talking about grabbing women sexually without their permission and the prospect of other stories about Trump and sex surfacing that would be harmful to his candidacy.
Trump himself did not testify, but jurors heard his voice through a secret recording of a conversation with Cohen in which he and the lawyer discussed a $150,000 hush money deal involving a Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who has said she had an affair with Trump: “What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?” Trump was heard saying on the recording made by Cohen.
Daniels herself testified, offering at times a graphic recounting of the sexual encounter she says they had in a hotel suite during a Lake Tahoe golf tournament. The former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, testified about how he worked to keep stories harmful to the Trump campaign from becoming public at all, including by having his company buy McDougal’s story.
Jurors also heard from Keith Davidson, the lawyer who negotiated the hush money payments on behalf of Daniels and McDougal.
He detailed the tense negotiations to get both women compensated for their silence but also faced an aggressive round of questioning from a Trump attorney who noted that Davidson had helped broker similar hush money deals in cases involving other prominent figures.
But the most pivotal witness, by far, was Cohen, who spent days on the stand and gave jurors an insider’s view of the hush money scheme and what he said was Trump’s detailed knowledge of it.
“Just take care of it,” he quoted Trump as saying at one point.
He offered jurors the most direct link between Trump and the heart of the charges, recounting a meeting in which they and the then-chief financial officer of Trump Organization described a plan to have Cohen reimbursed in monthly installments for legal services.
And he emotionally described his dramatic break with Trump in 2018, when he decided to cooperate with prosecutors after a decade-long career as the then-president’s personal fixer.
“To keep the loyalty and to do the things that he had asked me to do, I violated my moral compass, and I suffered the penalty, as has my family,” Cohen told the jury.
The outcome provides a degree of vindication for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who had characterized the case as being about election interference rather than hush money and defended it against criticism from legal experts who called it the weakest of the four prosecutions against Trump.
But it took on added importance not only because it proceeded to trial first but also because it could be the only one of the cases to reach a jury before the election.
The other three cases — local and federal charges in Atlanta and Washington that he conspired to undo the 2020 election, as well as a federal indictment in Florida charging him with illegally hoarding top-secret records — are bogged down by delays or appeals.

 


UN Security Council extends South Sudan arms embargo

UN Security Council extends South Sudan arms embargo
Updated 30 May 2024
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UN Security Council extends South Sudan arms embargo

UN Security Council extends South Sudan arms embargo
  • The US-drafted resolution passed with the minimum amount of support necessary, with nine countries in favor and six abstentions
  • The resolution extends an arms embargo on the country by a year to May 31, 2025

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council overcame resistance from several countries on Thursday and extended an arms embargo and sanctions imposed in an effort to stem violence in South Sudan.
The US-drafted resolution passed with the minimum amount of support necessary, with nine countries in favor and six abstentions.
The text decried “the continued intensification of violence, including intercommunal violence, prolonging the political, security, economic and humanitarian crisis in most parts of the country.”
The resolution extends an arms embargo on the country by a year to May 31, 2025.
It also extends an exemption, adopted a year ago, permitting the transfer of non-lethal military aid in support of a 2018 peace deal without necessitating prior notification.
It also affirms the Security Council’s readiness to review the arms embargo measures, including their ultimate suspension or easing, “in the light of progress” on certain key issues.
The embargo “remains necessary to stem the unfettered flow of weapons into a region awash with guns. Too many people, and especially, women and children, have borne the brunt of this ongoing violence,” said deputy US ambassador to the UN Robert Wood.
Juba rejects that position, along with several Security Council members including Russia, which has long demanded the lifting of the embargo.
“It is essential to acknowledge the significant achievements we have made,” said South Sudan’s ambassador to the UN Cecilia Adeng, who called for a “more balanced approach.”
“Lifting the arms embargo will enable us to build robust security institutions necessary for maintaining peace and protecting our citizens.”
The embargo “is no more serving the purposes of which it was established” and “it is having negative effects since it hinders the ability of the transitional government to create the necessary capacity,” said Amar Bendjama, the ambassador of Algeria which abstained on the vote along with the other African members including Sierra Leone and Mozambique, joining Russia, China and Guyana.
UN arms embargos are increasingly opposed by some member states, particularly African countries which are often backed by Russia.
“It is clear that at this stage, many of the Council sanctions regimes including South Sudan’s are outdated and need to be reviewed,” said Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva.
It was unfortunate that Washington views such embargos as a “panacea for all of the country’s problems,” she said.
From 2013 to 2018, the country’s 12 million people were gripped by a bloody civil war between the followers of two rival leaders, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, which claimed 380,000 lives.
Violence persists despite a peace deal signed in 2018 and nearly two million people are internally displaced, according to the UN.


Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports

Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports
Updated 30 May 2024
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Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports

Slovak Prime Minister Fico released from hospital, media reports
  • The hospital said earlier on Thursday Fico underwent further follow-up examinations
  • Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen and was taken to a hospital

BRATISLAVA: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was released from a hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica, where he had been recovering from an assassination attempt, and taken to his apartment in Bratislava on Thursday, Slovak media reported.
The hospital and the government office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The hospital said earlier on Thursday Fico underwent further follow-up examinations, which confirmed the positive development of his health condition, and that he had started rehabilitation.
An attacker hit Fico with four bullets at short range when the prime minister greeted supporters at a government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova on May 15.
Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen and was taken to a hospital in Banska Bystrica in serious condition. He immediately underwent a more than five hour operation and another one two days later.
The attacker, identified as 71-year old Juraj C. was detained on the spot and charged with attempted premeditated murder.


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

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary, French presidency says
Updated 30 May 2024
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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.