Posts Tagged ‘human rights abuses’

Tillerson, in Myanmar, calls for credible probe of atrocities

November 16, 2017

Reuters

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United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi during a joint press conference in Naypyidaw on Nov 15, 2017. Photo: AFP

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Wednesday for a credible investigation into reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar’s security forces after a meeting with its civilian and military leaders.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military counter-insurgency clearance operation in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

A top U.N. official has described the military’s actions as a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing”.

“We’re deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine State,” Tillerson told a joint news conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a civilian administration that is less than two years old and shares power with the military.

Tillerson had earlier held separate talks with Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces have been accused of atrocities.

A senior U.N. official on Sunday leveled allegations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of neighboring Bangladesh.

Tillerson called for the Myanmar government to lead a credible and impartial investigation and said those who committed abuses should be held responsible.

“The recent serious allegations of abuses in Rakhine state demand a credible and impartial investigation and those who commit human rights abuses or violations must be held accountable,” he said.

“In all my meetings, I have called on the Myanmar civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation.”

He also said it was the duty of the military to help the government to meet commitments to ensure the safety and security of all people in Rakhine state.

A posting on Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page said Myanmar’s military supremo had explained to Tillerson the “true situation in Rakhine”, the reasons why Muslims fled, how the military was working with the government to deliver aid and the progress made for a repatriation process to be agreed with Bangladesh.

The military launched its clearance operation after an army base and 30 police posts were attacked on Aug. 25 by Rohingya militants, killing about a dozen members of the security forces.

CONSEQUENCES

Tillerson condemned the militant attacks, but said any response by the security forces needed to avoid to the “maximum extent possible harming innocent civilians”.

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a press conference at Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Aye Win Myint

An internal investigation by the military into the allegations of atrocities that was released this week was branded a “whitewash” by human rights groups.

Back in Washington, U.S. senators are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests.

Tillerson said he would advise against any broad-based sanctions against Myanmar, as the United States wanted to see it succeed.

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Min Aung Hlaing defends military campaign in Rakhine

But he said if there was credible and reliable information on abuses by individuals they could be targeted by sanctions.

 

Tillerson said the United States would work with partners so that those responsible for any atrocities would face consequences, “using all available mechanisms, including those available under U.S. law”.

Myanmar is undergoing a transition to democracy after decades of rule by the military, but the generals retain extensive powers over security and a veto over reform of a constitution that has barred Suu Kyi from the presidency.

“Myanmar’s response to this crisis is critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society,” Tillerson said.

”It’s a responsibility of the government and its security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so.”

He said the United States would provide an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees bringing the total to $87 million since the crisis erupted in August.

“The humanitarian scale of this crisis is staggering,” Tillerson said.

But he said he was encouraged by talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh to agree on a refugee repatriation process.

During the news conference, Suu Kyi was asked to explain why she had not spoken out more strongly over the plight of the Rohingya, as the Nobel peace prize winner’s perceived failure to speak up has damaged her international reputation as a stateswoman.

“What I say is not supposed to be exciting,” Suu Kyi said, adding that she had aimed to keep the public informed without setting different ethnic, religious communities against each other.

“It’s important to bring peace and stability to this country and that can only be done on the basis of rule of law and everybody should understand that the role of theirs is to protect peace and stability, not to punish people.”

Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel

See also:

https://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/tillerson-myanmar-calls-probe-atrocities-against-rohingya

and

It’s Time To Talk About Min Aung Hlaing

http://www.arakanmedia.com/opinions/its-time-to-talk-about-min-aung-hlaing.html

Related:

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Donald Trump’s Asia trip shows that he is being played

November 14, 2017

By Will Gore
The Independent

The Chinese have rolled out the red carpet and thus avoided both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade

Such is the paradoxical nature of Donald Trump’s Presidency that it should perhaps have come as no surprise that the man who swept to power on the promise of putting “America First” should undertake a lengthier tour of Asia than any of his three most recent predecessors.

Perhaps he decided that it is more pleasant to be feted as a foreign dignitary than hated as a divisive head of state. Certainly he enjoyed many warm words of welcome from those he visited during his trip – and he repaid the compliments by the bucketload. Yet it remains unclear whether Trump actually achieved a great deal during his 11 days away.

At the outset, he was said to have three objectives, according to General HR McMaster, the US National Security Adviser. First was the promotion of democratic freedom and openness; second was to press for ‘fair’ trade to boost America’s prosperity; third was to deal with North Korea.

In relation to the first aim, it might have been thought that the President would raise concerns over human rights abuses by China, or the large-scale killing of drug pushers in the Philippines, or the lack of media freedom in Vietnam. When it came to it, though, he evidently felt it was a little impertinent to be so rude. He is, after all, always wary of causing offence.

As for the second, he has regularly railed against Chinese trade policies, which he argues amount to an assault on America’s economy. Yet when he was actually in Beijing, he simply told President Xi what a “special man” he was (Xi, not Trump, though he probably feels the same about himself).

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Protesters burn Donald Trump effigy in the Philippines

When it came to North Korea, Trump’s attempts to rally a co-ordinated regional response were undermined by his inability to resist a childish Twitter spat with Kim Jong-un.

Of course, Trump can point to a few macho statements – mostly made about China when he wasn’t in the country – which might convince his fans at home that he’s still fighting the good fight on behalf of US workers. But the evidence that he has come anywhere near achieving something concrete in the last week and a half is slim to say the least.

What’s more, he also gave a good impression of furthering his cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, infuriating America’s intelligence community by explaining that he’d – yet again – asked the Russian President whether he had interfered in the US election and had been reassured by his answer in the negative. Not only that, complained Trump, but poor old Vlad felt insulted by the constant impugning of his reputation by suggestions to the contrary.

As ever with Trump, it is hard to know whether his apparent missteps are intentional – an extension simply of his dismissal of the US establishment and the way things have been done by his predecessors – or whether he is acting on the hoof, pulling punches when flattered and throwing them when riled.

Increasingly however it feels as if Trump – the great entertainer-President – is being played. The Chinese roll out the red carpet and thus avoid both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade. Putin, meanwhile, appeals to Trump’s own inflated notion of ego by complaining that claims of Russian meddling in America’s democratic process amount to a personal slight. Trump responds by defending his fellow strongman leader and attacking the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

In the South Korean leg of his tour, Trump gloried in being introduced to the National Assembly as the “leader of the world”. But the truth is almost the diametric opposite: Trump is being led, quite often in ways that appear at odds with American national interests, which is a remarkable state of affairs.

The counter-argument deployed by the President is that America’s foreign policy in many arenas has been a failure over many years and his approach will, at some stage, pay dividends. Yet, such an argument pre-supposes that different policies in the past – towards Chinese trade for instance, or Russian diplomacy, or the Middle East – would have had alternative outcomes. It also relies on Trump’s bluster turning into something demonstrable. That is a dangerous game indeed.

But maybe that is the central problem – that to Trump, the Presidency is simply a game, in which beating losers and vying for personal glory are the key aspects. Worse still, while Trump thinks it’s a game for single players, Russia, China and others understand that it’s all about teams. And in the last few days they have benefitted from a series of Trump own goals. 

Much more of this and America will find that it is very far from being first in the modern world order.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-asia-china-north-korea-putin-being-played-a8052261.html

Philippine President Duterte Makes Hero of Late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos — Post Office Follows Lead With Commemorative Stamp

October 28, 2017
 
The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, were issued last September 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary. Image of the stamp lifted from Philpost website

MANILA, Philippines — In case you haven’t heard about it, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos has been honored with a national stamp by the Philippine Postal Corp. to commemorate the dictator whose regime was marred by human rights abuses and corruption.

The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of Marcos, were issued last Sept. 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary.

Sold for P12 each, the stamps, which were designed by Victorino Serevo, will be available until Sept. 10, 2018, Philpost said on its website.

According to assistant post master Luis Carlos, the release of the national stamps had no political implication, adding that the postal agency had also issued stamps in the past to commemorate the birth centenary of previous presidents.

“We are just following the guidelines. The presidents who have birth centenaries have stamps issued,” Carlos was quoted as saying in a report by Agence France-Presse.

Accused of committing massive human rights abuses and stealing billions of dollars from state coffers, Marcos was ousted by a bloodless “People Power Revolution” in 1986.

Despite the death of the strongman in exile in Hawaii in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback with his widow, Imelda, and their children getting elected to office.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the political clan, granted the longstanding wish of the Marcos family to bury the Marcos patriarch at the Libingan in a surprise ceremony.

READ: Marcos buried at Libingan in ‘surprise’ ceremony l Hero’s burial for Marcos: How did we get here?

He also declared September 11 a special non-working day in Ilocos Norte upon the family’s request.

READ: Duterte defends declaring Marcos’ birthday a holiday

See more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Marcos

Many Filipinos say the Marcos government was know for human rights abuses including rule of law violations, murder, police abuse of the people and torture.

Catalan Commission to Investigate Claims of Abuse During Banned Referendum

October 2, 2017

MADRID — Catalonia will create a special commission to investigate claims of abuse by Spanish police during a banned referendum on independence on Sunday after more than 800 people were left injured, leader of region Carles Puigdemont said on Monday.

Thousands of Spanish police were shipped in to the region to prevent the vote on secession though scenes of violence due to heavy-handed tactics by armoured, baton-carrying riot units have received international condemnation.

The vote which the constitutional court banned and Madrid said was illegal, yet still attracted millions of defiant voters, was valid and binding, Puigdemont said during a conference.

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with Spain’s central government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favour of mediation in talks over the region’s future, which should be overseen by the European Union.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)

Fighting Breaks Out at Turkish President’s Speech in New York

September 22, 2017

Violence broke out at a New York hotel Thursday afternoon when protesters disrupted a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

In the middle of Mr. Erdogan’s speech, delivered in Turkish, a man — one of a handful of protesters — screamed in English: “You’re a terrorist. Get out of my country!” The ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square instantly erupted, with many attendees chanting Mr. Erdogan’s name to drown out the protesters.

Videos showed the protesters — one of them wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Michael Israel, an American who was killed in a Turkish airstrike while volunteering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G. — being punched and slapped by several attendees as security personnel removed them from the room. Security also removed at least one person who had assaulted the protesters.

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Anti-Erdogan demonstrators are punched as they are removed from a New York hotel, Thursday, September 21, 2017. From a VOA video

Meghan Bodette, who identified herself as one of six protesters (one of whom was filming), said their goal was “to call attention to the Turkish state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Kurdish people,” both in Turkey and in Syria.

“Erdogan should not be able to speak here unchallenged, and we challenged him because the American people need to know that a state that claims to be our ally is hindering the fight against ISIS in Syria and destroying civilian lives,” Ms. Bodette said in a Twitter message

Halil Demir, a Turkish-American who works for a humanitarian organization, said he had been standing near the back of the room when three protesters stood up in rapid succession: a young man, a young woman and a middle-aged man. The woman held a green banner, Mr. Demir said. Ms. Bodette identified it as the flag of the Women’s Protection Units, or Y.P.J., the female counterpart to the Y.P.G.

The young man was pulled out of the room, Mr. Demir said, and the woman left on her own after being told to do so. But Mr. Demir said he saw security guards push the middle-aged man, who fell to the ground. He did not know whether the guards were part of Mr. Erdogan’s detail, the United States Secret Service or the hotel’s security team.

“The third man screamed, and people were screaming at him,” he said. “It didn’t take long. Seconds, really.”

Mr. Demir said he later saw the man on the floor, handcuffed, outside the ballroom where Mr. Erdogan was speaking at the invitation of the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

Read the rest:

Related:

Members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington on May 16. Credit Voice of America, via Associated Press

Egypt Blocks Website of Leading Rights Group

September 5, 2017

CAIRO — A leading Egyptian rights group says authorities have blocked its website in a “new attack” on free speech.

The government in May began blocking hundreds of websites, including leading news sites, as part of a wider crackdown on dissent. It has also shut down the sites of VPN blockers, which allowed users to circumvent such measures.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms says its website has been blocked since Tuesday morning, but that it will continue publishing its reports on human rights abuses on other platforms, including its Facebook page.

It says the crackdown shows that the government “refuses any criticism,” but also that “its arguments are weak.”

Egypt has jailed thousands of people and curbed basic freedoms since the military overthrow of an elected Islamist president in 2013.

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Venezuelans Watch the Military for Signs of Fraying Loyalty

August 7, 2017

CARACAS, Venezuela — As Venezuela’s political crisis spins further out of control, many are looking to the military to see if its once-unflinching loyalty to the socialist revolution might be fraying.

On Sunday morning, Venezuelans awoke to news that a small group of armed men tried to take over a major military base in the central city of Valencia after a long-mutinous national guard captain appeared in a video calling for rebellion.

Military chiefs said the rebels were trying to steal weapons [AFP]Military chiefs said the rebels were trying to steal weapons [AFP]

The government said what it described as a “terrorist attack” led mostly by civilians dressed in fatigues and deserted officers, not active troops, was quickly put down and seven people were arrested. It wasn’t clear how much support existed for the so-called “Operation David,” but dozens of civilians startled by the sound of gunfire poured into the streets singing Venezuela’s national anthem to back the rebels.

Many people wonder whether the tension-filled incident could foreshadow a bigger uprising to come from a military with a long history of rebellion and whose troops — like many Venezuelans — are increasingly caught up in the nation’s economic and political crisis.

Analysts say that such a scenario is unlikely for now.

While signs of disgruntlement are growing as security forces come under a barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails during almost-daily anti-Maduro protests, soldiers also fear persecution under an opposition government. In addition, they face risks that any plans for a secret uprising would be found out.

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Former army Gen. Hebert Garcia Plaza

“They feel trapped,” said former army Gen. Hebert Garcia Plaza, a former Maduro minister. Since seeking exile in Washington in 2015 following accusations of corruption by Maduro, he has emerged as a sought-after filter of information for journalists, the opposition and, increasingly he says, distraught soldiers.

“There’s lots of unease, but they can’t provoke a political change without a clear horizon of what comes after Maduro,” Garcia Plaza said.

Venezuela’s military accumulated unmatched power and privilege in the past two decades of socialist rule, and Maduro has been increasingly relying on the armed forces as his own grip on power weakens. Last week, with the support of top generals, he plowed forward with a plan to seat an all-powerful assembly mandated with rewriting the constitution. Political opponents and dozens of foreign governments consider it an illegitimate power grab that will strip Venezuela of its last vestiges of democracy.

The opposition is urging the military to switch loyalties and pressure Maduro to cede to its demands, including freeing hundreds of political prisoners and setting a timetable for presidential elections. But many in the military, especially higher-ranking officers, have already hitched their fate to the revolution.

Following a 2002 coup, then-President Hugo Chavez, himself a former tank commander, carried out a deep purge of the military and promoted loyal officers to top positions in the government.

Maduro has expanded the military’s political power even further, giving them control of key sectors of the economy, such as food importation. He also rewarded soldiers with pay raises and bonuses that are the envy of civilians struggling amid triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages.

Even before the ballots were counted in the July 30 election for the constitutional assembly, Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez went in front of the cameras accompanied by the top military brass to celebrate the results as a defeat for imperialism.

Despite the outward loyalty, some cracks began to appear even before Sunday’s attack. At least 106 members of the armed forces, some of them junior officers, have been jailed for alleged crimes such as rebellion and treason since protests began in April, according to the lists provided by an army official on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. There also have been a few high-profile defections from lower-ranked soldiers that have become social media sensations.

One is Giomar Flores, a low-ranking naval intelligence officer who in June released a video calling for the armed forces to uphold the constitution. Before fleeing to Colombia, where the video was recorded, he was assigned to policing food lines in Falcon state, a job that in theory afforded access to hard-to-find staples but which ended up turning him against the institution he loved.

“I decided my future was worth more than a bag of food,” the 25-year-old Flores said in an interview with The Associated Press from Bogota.

He said the top military command was corrupted by the government and divisions within the institution more apparent than ever.

“The armed forces today are like a snake, whose head is the top command that sadly is subordinated to the regime,” Flores said. “If you cut off the head, you’ll find us the troops.”

But a full-grown rebellion such as the one led by then-Lt. Col. Chavez in 1992 faces enormous obstacles, not the least of which is a dedicated counterespionage effort by Maduro.

“It’s very hard to create critical mass without being found out,” said Ivan Briscoe, head Latin American analyst for the International Crisis Group. “In an era of instant digital communications, authorities can be alerted to the risk of destabilization very quickly.”

Far from resolving Venezuela’s problems, a coup would trigger a full-blown international crisis and likely split the military, leading to even higher levels of violence approaching a civil war, Briscoe said. Opposition leaders, wary of awakening ghosts in a region that has turned its back on a century of military takeovers, are instead calling for behind-the-scenes pressure and restraint on using force against protesters.

A failure of the socialist system also could expose many senior officers to prosecution for human rights abuses and corruption. Several have already been targeted by U.S. sanctions, including the head of the army and national guard.

The opposition has gone to great lengths to say it will avoid a witch hunt if it gains power. But many in the military are unconvinced that any promises from the traditionally fragmented opposition can be taken seriously, given the huge challenges it would face governing, Garcia Plaza said.

“Many would rather trust the devil they know then the one they don’t,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda reported this story in Caracas and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Bogota, Colombia.

Thailand Knows What a Blood Soaked Anti-Drug Policy Means — Unlike the Philippines, Bangkok Now Treats Drug Abusers and the Addicted With Compassion, Not Anger

July 9, 2017
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By DJ Yap – Reporter / @deejayapINQ
Philippine Daily Inquirer /
07:30 AM July 08, 2017
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President Duterte’s bloody drug war may not be a suitable template for Thailand, as the country’s strategy is not to fight drugs with anger but compassion, according to the Thai secretary general of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa).After the failure of Thailand’s own violent crackdown on illegal drugs in the early 2000s, Aipa Secretary General Isra Sunthornvut said his country would now rather focus on rehabilitating drug addicts.

“What works in the Philippines might not work in Thailand and what works in Thailand might not work in the Philippines,” he told a media briefing early Thursday evening at the close of the meeting of Asean lawmakers in Manila.

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Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sunthornvut added, however, that Thailand and the Philippines could still learn from each other’s experiences.

“It’s a watch-and-learn and we’ll see how it goes, as long as we’re serious in this fight, as long as there are examples for us to adapt to,” he said.

Aipa’s fact-finding committee, composed of parliamentarians from Asean’s 10 member economies, had a meeting in Manila hosted by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other Philippine lawmakers to discuss regional cooperation to combat the drug menace.

Each country gave a report on its campaign against illegal drugs, as concerns were raised over drug trafficking activities in Southeast Asia. The Philippines boasted a substantial drop in the narcotics trade and the crime rate since the start of the drug war.

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Philippine drug war. Credit: Alecs Ongcal

Mr. Duterte has waged an aggressive campaign against illegal drugs since his assumption to office last year, leaving thousands of suspected users or pushers dead in police operations and vigilante-style killings and triggering accusations of widespread human rights abuses.

But Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Barbers, chair of the House dangerous drugs committee, said there was no discussion of human rights violations during the Aipa meet.

“I don’t see any reasons why we should connect the issue of human rights to the campaign of the Duterte administration in the war against drugs,” Barbers said at the same briefing.

Sunthornvut acknowledged that his country had gone through a similar phase as the Philippines, launching an all-out offensive against drug dealers and users.

“There was a time when [the campaign] was to stand and yell at the drug users. And then they changed that to ‘let’s have compassion, let’s understand them,’” he said.

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King Rama the Ninth

“But it’s always been alongside the policies and ideas like King Rama the Ninth when he said, ‘You can’t fight drugs with anger, you have to be compassionate because it’s your fellow countrymen, so try to find ways to help understand,’” Sunthornvut said.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/911976/thailand-wont-copy-ph-style-on-drug-war#ixzz4mMGFhx9R
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Photos also from TIME:

‘I Am Seeing My Countrymen Die’

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 (The Philippines seems to be siding with China, Russia and Iran)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kine also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/07/08/1600763/cop-linked-drugs-tortured-killed

 (December 23, 2016)

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)

 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa
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Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file
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President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Myanmar refuses visas to UN team investigating abuse of Rohingya Muslims — Ethnic cleansing?

July 1, 2017

Reuters

Government led by Aung San Suu Kyi says it will deny entry to mission after UN report said treatment of minority group could amount to ethnic cleansing

 Aung San Suu Kyi said the investigation ‘would have created greater hostility between the different communities’.
Aung San Suu Kyi said the investigation ‘would have created greater hostility between the different communities’. Photograph: Hein Htet/EPA

Myanmar will refuse entry to members of a United Nations investigation focusing on allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya Muslims, an official has said.

The government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, had already said it would not cooperate with a mission set up after a human rights council resolution was adopted in March.

“If they are going to send someone with regards to the fact-finding mission, then there’s no reason for us to let them come,” said Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Friday.

“Our missions worldwide are advised accordingly,” he said, explaining that visas to enter Myanmar would not be issued to the mission’s appointees or staff.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who came to power last year amid a transition from military rule, leads Myanmar through the specially created position of “state counsellor”, but is also minister of foreign affairs.

Although she does not oversee the military, Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to stand up for the more than 1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine.

She said during a trip to Sweden this month the UN mission “would have created greater hostility between the different communities”. The majority in Rakhine are ethnic Rakhine Buddhists who, like many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

 In an interview earlier this year, Aung San Suu Kyi said: ‘I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on’ in Myanmar

Some 75,000 Rohingya fled northwestern Rakhine state to Bangladesh late last year after the Myanmar army carried out a security operation in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents that killed nine border police.

A UN report in February, based on interviews with some of the Rohingya refugees, said the response involved mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya, and “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar, along with neighbours China and India, dissociated itself from the March resolution brought by the European Union, which called for a mission to look into the allegations in Rakhine as well as reports of abuses in ethnic conflicts in the north of the country.

Indira Jaising, an advocate from the supreme court of India, was appointed to lead the mission in May. The other two members are Harvard-trained Sri Lankan lawyer Radhika Coomaraswamy and Australian consultant Christopher Dominic.

Myanmar insists that a domestic investigation – headed by former lieutenant general and vice-president Myint Swe – is sufficient to look into the allegations in Rakhine.

“Why do they try to use unwarranted pressure when the domestic mechanisms have not been exhausted?” said Kyaw Zeya. “It will not contribute to our efforts to solve the issues in a holistic manner.”

An advisory panel headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan is set to propose solutions for the broader issues in Rakhine but has not been asked to investigate human rights abuses.

*************************************

HONG KONG — Myanmar said on Friday that it would refuse to grant visas to three United Nations-backed experts responsible for investigating recent violence against Muslims in the predominantly Buddhist country, a move that threatens to further strain the government’s relationship with the organization.

“If they are going to send someone with regards to the fact-finding mission, then there’s no reason for us to let them come,” U Kyaw Zeya, the Foreign Ministry’s permanent secretary, was quoted by Reuters as saying on Friday. He added that visas would not be issued to members of the mission or their subordinates, Reuters reported.

The move is sure to draw condemnation from rights advocates who accuse Myanmar’s de facto leader, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, of allowing soldiers and security personnel to brutalize members of the Rohingya ethnic group, a persecuted Muslim minority, with virtual impunity.

Forces waged a four-month counterinsurgency in Rakhine State after an attack on a border post in October by hundreds of Rohingya militants that left nine police officers dead. Harakah al-Yaqin, a militant group that is believed to have popular support, as well as ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, led the assault.

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At least 30 migrants drown in new Med disaster — “Real life tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep today.”

May 24, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The Libyan coast guard has recently begun carrying out its own operations at sea, towing migrant dinghies headed for Europe back to shore and locking up those recovered in centres which are renowned for human rights abuses

ROME (AFP) – 

At least 30 migrants including young children drowned Wednesday when they fell off an overloaded vessel in the Mediterranean, where tensions are rising between aid ships and the Libyan coast guard.

“There’s a critical situation today. About 200 people fell into the water,” a coastguard spokesman told AFP, while a humanitarian worker at the scene said 31 bodies had been recovered.

The migrants were on a wooden boat carrying between 500 and 700 people and were just 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast when the accident happened.

The crew of the Phoenix aid boat, chartered by the Maltese NGO Moas, had begun the rescue and were distributing lifejackets when many of those on deck fell into the water, perhaps knocked off balance by a wave.

“Not a scene from a horror movie… Real life tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep today!,” said Chris Catrambone, Moas co-founder, who was aboard the Phoenix and published photos showing white body bags lined up on the deck.

“Rescuers are frantically trying to break open the locked hold on a wooden boat where hundreds of migrants are trapped!” he tweeted.

With the help of an Italian coast guard ship and several commercial ships, rescuers raced to drag as many people as possible from the water, while a military aircraft dropped life-rafts and a helicopter looked for survivors.

“Current body count at 31,” Catrambone said, adding many who fell overboard had been “small toddlers”.

– ‘Shots fired’ –

About 15 relief operations were under way Wednesday off Libya in total, the coast guard said.

On Tuesday, they coordinated the rescue of about 1,500 people, while their Libyan counterparts intercepted 237 others, including 20 women and 15 children, travelling on two wooden boats.

Among the migrants was a group of 12 Libyans — including five women and three children — who were trying to flee the conflict-hit country. Libyans have been a rare sight on migrant boats so far.

The German NGO Jugend Rettet said Tuesday it had had a run-in with armed men on a boat purportedly commandeered by the Libyan coast guard.

The Libyan boat already had passengers on board — presumably picked up from a dinghy in the area.

Jugend Rettet published a photograph appearing to show the armed men pointing their weapons directly at the migrants and said “a variety of shots” were fired “and refugees were beaten”.

Some 100 people on the Libyan boat panicked when the shots rang out and threw themselves into the water, swimming towards the German boat Iuventa and the SOS Mediterranee boat Aquarius, which was also at the scene.

“We can not say whether and how many dead there were in the shooting. We had to be careful not to get a bullet ourselves,” Jugend Rettet said in a statement citing the Iuventa’s 25-year old captain Jonas, without giving his surname.

The Libyan coast guard has recently begun carrying out its own operations at sea, towing migrant dinghies headed for Europe back to shore and locking up those recovered in centres which are renowned for human rights abuses.

© 2017 AFP