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Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

Landmark UN plastic waste pact gets approved but not by US

May 11, 2019

GENEVA (AP) — Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say. An agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste emerged Friday at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals.

Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and rivers and entangles wildlife, sometimes with deadly results. Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

The deal affects products used in a broad array of industries, such as health care, technology, aerospace, fashion, food and beverages. “It’s sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world — to the private sector, to the consumer market — that we need to do something,” Payet said. “Countries have decided to do something which will translate into real action on the ground.”

Countries will have to figure out their own ways of adhering to the accord, Payet said. Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

Payet credited Norway for leading the initiative, which first was presented in September. The time from that proposal to the approval of a deal set a blistering pace by traditional U.N. standards for such an accord.

The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.” The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic waste or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before.

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for the export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said.

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UN mission: Ukraine actions after Odessa fire inadequate

May 03, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Five years after 48 people died in clashes in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, a United Nations’ human rights monitoring mission criticized authorities Thursday for delays in investigating and prosecuting people for the violence.

The loss of life on May 2, 2014 started during a confrontation between demonstrators calling for autonomy in eastern Ukraine amid a Russia-backed separatist uprising and supporters of Ukraine’s government. Six people were killed during hours of street fighting.

The worst was yet to come. After pro-autonomy demonstrators retreated to a trade union building, government supporters threw fire bombs into the building; 42 people died inside or after jumping or falling from windows.

In a statement on the bloodshed’s five-year anniversary, the U.N. human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said “authorities have not done what it takes to ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions.”

In Odessa, residents marked the anniversary by laying flowers outside the trade union building and attending other events. About 4,500 people took part, according to police.

UN adds leader of outlawed Pakistan group to sanctions list

May 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD (AP) — In a major diplomatic win for India, the United Nations added the leader of an outlawed Pakistani militant group to its sanctions blacklist Wednesday after the group claimed responsibility for a February suicide attack in disputed Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers.

Sanctions against Masood Azhar were confirmed by Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal at an urgently held news conference in Islamabad. Azhar’s addition to the Security Council’s Islamic State and al-Qaida blacklist includes a travel ban and freeze on his assets as well as an arms embargo.

The development came less than three months after Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad group claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack in Kashmir, which is split between the two countries and is claimed by both in its entirety. The clashes brought the two nuclear rivals to the brink of war.

India had intensified its lobbying to have Azhar blacklisted after the killing of its soldiers and New Delhi quickly welcomed the Security Council decision. Sanctions against Azhar had been delayed because Security Council member China had blocked them on three previous occasions. But the council went ahead after China no longer objected.

Azhar was blacklisted for his leadership of the al-Qaida-linked Jaish-i-Mohammad. The official listing by the U.N. sanctions committee said the 50-year-old Azhar was associated with al-Qaida by supporting its activities including by supplying arms and recruiting members, and for financially supporting Jaish-i-Mohammed after he was released from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

As a group, Jaish-i-Mohammed had been put on the sanctions blacklist in 2001 for its ties to “Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban.” The U.N. listing noted that 2008 recruitment posters for Jaish-i-Mohammed “contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter that “today is a day that would make every Indian proud! I thank the global community and all those who believe in humanitarian values for their support.”

Days after the Feb. 14 Kashmir attack, India responded by launching an airstrike in northwest Pakistan that caused no casualties. Pakistan then responded on Feb. 27 by shooting down two Indian warplanes and capturing a pilot, who was later returned.

Timely intervention by the international community defused tensions between the two South Asian nuclear powers, who have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947. Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the Trump administration commends the decision to sanction Azhar. Azhar’s sanctioning comes weeks after Washington said it was seeking to have him put on the U.N. blacklist. Pakistan is a key ally of the U.S. in its fight against extremism.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters that “after 10 years China has done the right thing by lifting its hold on this designation.” The official, who insisted on speaking anonymously, said Britain and France joined the U.S. in putting pressure on China after the Feb. 14 attack, and Beijing seems to have understood “that it is increasingly important that its actions on the international stage on terrorism matched its rhetoric.”

The official said the Trump administration is watching to see if Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s commitment to crack down on militants in the country “will translate into irreversible steps to end terrorist and militant safe havens inside Pakistan.”

Khan has ordered the takeover of assets and property of Jaish-i-Mohammed and dozens of banned militant organizations that operate in Pakistan. Bushra Aziz, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Embassy to the U.S. in Washington, said the country is resolved to countering terrorism and claims that no other country can match Pakistan’s efforts in the fight. Aziz said terrorism is a menace to the world and also criticized India’s actions against residents of Kashmir.

Pakistan has said authorities have detained dozens of people suspected of involvement in the Kashmir attack after receiving a file with intelligence on the attack from New Delhi. Pakistan said its probe did not establish any direct link between Azhar or his group and the attack that killed the Indian soldiers. However, Islamabad has sought more evidence from New Delhi so that it can act against Azhar and his group.

Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed reported in Islamabad and AP writer Ashok Sharma reported from New Delhi, India. AP writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

UN rights envoy says Laos focus on big projects hurting poor

March 28, 2019

BANGKOK (AP) — A United Nations human rights expert has urged communist-ruled Laos to focus less on foreign-invested dam and railway contracts and devote more resources to helping its children and the poor.

The U.N. rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston, said Thursday that Laos’ impoverished economy can only thrive if its leaders do a better job of educating and caring for all of its people. The current strategy of favoring big-ticket projects with Chinese investors and granting big concessions for land and other resources favors a wealthy elite and is leaving many others behind, he said.

Alston made the remarks in a news conference livestreamed from Laos’ capital, Vientiane, after he toured parts of rural Laos, including an area devastated by a dam collapse last year. They add to a chorus of concern over China’s push for big construction projects linked to its “Belt and Road” initiative, which is aimed at weaving a global network of transport and trade that is integrated with its own economy and industries.

Tucked between Thailand, China, Myanmar and Cambodia, tiny Laos’ economy has grown quickly in recent years, but the benefits of that growth have not reached many in its largely rural population. Alston said many infrastructure and plantation projects take land from local residents, forcing their resettlement. Most generate too few jobs and result in too much debt, he said.

“Those concessions potentially cover something like 40 percent of the national territory and many if not most of those concessions have produced very few returns to the national budget,” he said. “They have generated very little real revenue that can be spent on the wellbeing of the Lao people and of course they have led to widespread dispossession.”

A Lao foreign ministry official, Phetvanxay Khousakoun, objected to Alston’s comments. “Some of that information that you received might be biased. Also, NGOs might have hidden agendas. This might provide you some misperceptions about Laos,” he said. “These are rather small groups of people that do not reflect the entire country.”

The official also suggested Alston’s comments went beyond his mandate. Alston praised the government for allowing his 11-day visit to the country. But he countered that his findings were in line with his mission.

“These challenges can only be met if they are acknowledged,” he said. He noted that women in Laos are largely shut out of decision making, and that the ethnic minorities who make up nearly half of the population are “severely deprived” by nearly every measure, with low incomes and inferior access to education and health care.

Despite major progress in alleviating poverty, more than one-fifth of Lao children are underweight, 9 percent suffer from “wasting,” or severe malnutrition and a third are stunted. Less than half have been vaccinated.

“You might have no interest in children, but all you have to know is they are the economic future,” he said. “You’re not going to have a great workforce with those statistics as your starting point.” Alston, an Australian who is based in the U.S., acknowledged that all countries struggle with poverty.

He said the government’s pursuit of resource-oriented foreign investment such as rubber plantations, mining and hydroelectric dams is directly linked to poverty because they fail to generate tax revenues or jobs needed to address poverty.

“Poverty is a political choice,” he said. “When you decide to spend money on something else, you produce poverty or you perpetuate poverty.”

UN judges increase sentence for Bosnian ex-leader to life

March 20, 2019
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.
Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgment, which means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In increasing the sentence, Joensen said Karadzic’s original 40-year sentence “underestimates the extraordinary gravity of Karadzic’s responsibility and his integral participation in the most egregious of crimes.”
Defense lawyer Peter Robinson said Karadzic vowed to fight on to clear his name. “He says that politics triumphed over justice today,” Robinson said. “The appeals chamber whitewashed an unjust trial and an unfair verdict.”
Robinson said Karadzic felt “moral responsibility” for crimes in Bosnia, but did not believe he was criminally responsible. Karadzic had appealed his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war — Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.
The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by the Hague war crimes court. His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the conflict, which left over 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.
Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes. Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.
Families of victims who traveled to the Hague welcomed the verdict. Mothers of victims, some elderly and walking with canes, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.
Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic was also awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence. Both men were convicted of genocide for their roles in the slaughter by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.
Last week, Bosnian war wounds were revived when it was revealed that the white supremacist suspected in the mosque shootings that left at least 50 people dead in New Zealand appeared to show admiration for Karadzic and his legacy. In a video, the self-proclaimed white supremacist is seen driving apparently on his way to the attack and listening to a wartime Bosnian Serb song praising Karadzic and his fight against Bosnia’s Muslims.
Prosecutors had appealed Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide, which saw Serb forces drive out Muslims and Croats from Serb-controlled villages in a 1992 campaign. Judges on Wednesday rejected that appeal.
At an appeals hearing last year, prosecution lawyer Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel that Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence — a life sentence.”
Karadzic has always argued that the Bosnian Serb campaigns during the war, which included the bloody siege of the capital, Sarajevo, were aimed at defending Serbs. After his indictment by the tribunal in The Hague, Karadzic remained at large for years before he was arrested in Serbia in 2008 disguised as a new-age therapist.

UN rights chief renews call for access to China’s Xinjiang

Geneva (AFP)

March 6, 2019

The UN rights chief on Wednesday renewed her request to access China’s Xinjiang region, where large numbers of the Uighur ethnic minority are reportedly being held in re-education camps.

In her annual address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said her office was seeking to “engage” with China on conditions in Xinjiang.

She also re-issued her requests for “full access to carry out an independent assessment of the continuing reports pointing to wide patterns of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region”.

A UN panel of independent experts has said there are credible reports that nearly one million Uighurs and other Turkic language-speaking minorities are being held in Xinjiang.

Beijing at first denied the allegation, but later admitted putting people into “vocational education centers”.

Xinjiang has long suffered from violent unrest, which China claims is orchestrated by an organized “terrorist” movement seeking the region’s independence. It has implemented a massive, high-tech security crackdown in recent years.

But many Uighurs and Xinjiang experts say the violent episodes stem largely from spontaneous outbursts of anger at Chinese cultural and religious repression, and that Beijing plays up terrorism to justify tight control of the resource-rich region.

Bachelet said she was confident that “stability and security in this region can be facilitated by policies which demonstrate the authorities’ respect of all people’s rights.”

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/UN_rights_chief_renews_call_for_access_to_Chinas_Xinjiang_999.html.

UN rights envoy comes to Turkey to study Khashoggi killing

January 28, 2019

ISTANBUL (AP) — A U.N. human rights expert has arrived in Turkey for a weeklong visit over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard and her team of experts on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Monday.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said they are also expected to meet Turkey’s justice minister and the Istanbul prosecutor heading the investigation. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about the Saudi crown prince, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His remains have still not been found.

Turkish officials have called for an international investigation and complained of a lack of cooperation by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 people in the killing and is seeking the death penalty against five of them.

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