Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

UN Warning of Catastrophe in Venezuela — Columbia can’t handle Venezuelan refugee crisis

March 13, 2018

Venezuela: UN agency warns of humanitarian “catastrophe”

The World Food Program director called on the US and other nations to provide financial assistance to Colombia. NGOs have tried to help Venezuelans directly, but President Maduro has repeatedly refused humanitarian aid.

An aid worker helps feed Venezuelan migrants (picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Vergara)An aid worker helps feed Venezuelan migrants in border city Cucuta, Colombia

The World Food Program director, David Beasley, urged the international community on Tuesday to help Colombia handle the humanitarian “catastrophe” that is unfolding at the border with neighboring Venezuela.

Beasley delivered the warning after a two-day visit to the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where he gathered testimony from Venezuelans who had crossed the border.

“I asked, ‘Why are you here?’, and the answer people gave me was, ‘We don’t have any food.’ And they said, ‘Even if we had money, there’s no food,'” Beasley recounted. “I don’t think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be,” the WFP director said.

“This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” Beasley warned.

Read more: Could there be a Venezuelan refugee crisis?

Colombia at risk

The Venezuelan exodus has sparked alarm across Latin American nations. It is estimated that as many as 3 to 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated, with several hundred thousand in 2017 alone. The bulk of these migrants in 2017 have fled to neighboring Colombia. The Colombian Ministry of Defense, Luis Carlos Villegas, said that there were approximately 700 thousand Venezuelan immigrants registered in the country.

Read more: Venezuelan exodus is Colombia’s burden

While Beasley said Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis was not being driven by an armed conflict, he also warned that the crisis could worsen. He pointed to the example of Syria, a country with a smaller population than Venezuela, which began with a minor food emergency and now has 6 million people a day that need UN food assistance.

As hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine batter Venezuela, the UN has offered to assist the South American nation directly. Yet, President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly rejected offers of humanitarian aid, claiming that these are veiled attempts by the US and others to destabilize his government.

Read more: For Venezuela HIV patients, lack of medicine ‘a death sentence’

Now the WPF director is urging the US and other nations to provide financial assistance to Colombia. The food NGO already has an established presence in Colombia, where it had helped feed those displaced by the country’s half-century guerrilla conflict and it is currently working with the government to help meet its malnourishment eradication goal by 2030.

Beasley stressed the importance of shielding Colombia from the adverse effects that Venezuela’s crisis could bring. “Colombia has made so much progress in the past many years with peace and the last thing it needs now is for all that success to be undone,” he said.

Read more: Venezuelans facing economic crisis cross border to secure cash lifelines

On Saturday, the UN Refugee Agency asked countries in the region to share the burden of the Venezuelan refugee tide and appealed for countries to allow them in and provide them the necessary protections.


Philippines among worst offender of press freedom in Asia Pacific — Corruption Perception Index 2017 predicts trouble for the Philippines

February 22, 2018
Members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines stage a rally criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila. The STAR/KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, along with India and the Maldives, are the worst offenders of press freedom in the Asia Pacific region, according to an international organization against corruption.

In its Corruption Perception Index 2017, Berlin-based Transparency International noted that the three countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms.

“In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists,” the report read.

The Philippines, with a score of 34, also dropped its ranking in the global corruption index from 101st in 2016 to 111th in 2017.

The survey further noted that the results of the 2017 index show that corruption in many countries in the region is still strong.

“In some countries across the region, journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies are threatened, and in the worst cases, even murdered,” Transparency International said.

The results of the survey indicate that countries with least protection for press and non-governmental organizations also have the worst rates of corruption.

“Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt,” the report read.

The results of the 2017 index also show the variance in public sector corruption in Asia Pacific as the region has an average score of 44 out of 100 despite top scorers like New Zealand and Singapore.

Among the worst scorers in the region are Afghanistan, North Korea, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

“With a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 means very clean and 0 reflects a deep-rooted, systemic corruption problem, the Asia Pacific countries, on average, are failing,” the survey read.

The index ranked 180 countries and territories based on perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. Countries were scored from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

“This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new,” Transparency International said.



 (No man is above the law…)

113 detainees killed by Houthi torture: Human rights report

January 11, 2018

Victims of Houthis’ torture during detention show their injuries.
THE HAGUE: At least 113 people have been tortured to death in detention centers in Yemen run by the Houthis since the coup began, according to a human rights report.
The Netherlands-based foundation for human rights in the Arab world, Rights Radar (RR), announced on Tuesday that 113 detainees had been killed in Houthi centers since Sept. 21, 2014 and said some cases may qualify as war crimes.
RR said that it had investigated 113 killings under torture in illegal detention centers run by the Houthis in the capital Sanaa and other cities under Houthi control, along with the deaths of civilian detainees in prisons run by Yemeni forces loyal to the UAE in the governorates of Aden and Hadramout in southern Yemen.
Responding to the report, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohammed Askar told Arab News that the figures in the report were only estimates, and that the real figures were much higher.
Askar said that the number of cases of abduction and arbitrary detention in 2017 reached 1,930, including 400 forced-absence cases, which made last year the highest for the number of abductions.
He said that there had been more than 18,000 abductions since the beginning of the coup.
Askar said that the Yemeni government had documented arbitrary detention cases against members of the General People’s Congress after the assassination of Ali Abdullah Saleh, and confirmed the presence of hundreds of detention centers full of men and women who were tortured by Houthi militias, including leaders and members of the General People’s Congress and the Republican Guards.
Askar said that there were a large number of torture victims of these militias in Sanaa, Taiz, Hajjah and Dhamar, noting that Dhamar houses the biggest detention center in Yemen.
He said that the Yemeni government had sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which included initial figures of detainees, and noted that the government would publish a detailed report about the main violations against leaders and members of General People’s Congress and the Republican Guards.
Askar said that the Houthi militias were criminal groups who practiced state terrorism and did not respect human rights international norms, and that the Yemeni government had issued many reports about the number of people detained by them.
The RR report said that sources from human rights NGOs estimated the number of people inside Houthi detentions at 7,000, distributed over 643 illegal prisons across Yemen. Most of these detainees belong to the Yemeni Islah Party. Their number recently grew with new detainees, members of the General People’s Congress (GPC) of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh after the Houthi militants assassinated Saleh on Dec. 4, 2017 and started to arrest GPC supporters in Sanaa city.
International relations officer for Rights Radar, Gerard van der Kroon, said “the cases of murder under torture are serious violations of human rights that should be qualified as war crimes leading to individual criminal responsibility under the international criminal law and that should not go unpunished.”
He said RR strongly condemned the frequent torture-related deaths in Houthi detention centers as serious violations of human rights that the international community should no longer tolerate.
Van der Kroon called on the international community, and the UN in particular, to take deterrent measures against the perpetrators and to hold them accountable for those who were victims of the weakness of the failing Yemeni state authorities who were not able to defend the safety of their population and guarantee compliance to the laws of war by the warring parties.
“The persistence of the international community’s silence over these grave violations of human rights and breaches of international legislation pertaining to war crimes in Yemen encourages perpetrators to repeat and continue their malpractices. The international community should do anything that is in their power to stop these horrific crimes,” Van der Kroon said.

Israel bars 20 activist groups from entry over calls for Israeli boycott

January 8, 2018
© Dominique Faget, AFP | Protesters hold a “Boycott Israel” banner during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris on August 2, 2014.


Latest update : 2018-01-08

Israel on Sunday identified 20 activist groups from around the world whose members will be banned from entering the country over their calls to boycott the Jewish state, stepping up its fight against a movement it views as a serious threat.

Israel last year enacted a law that would ban any activist who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” The list made public Sunday, which includes a Nobel Peace Prize winning organization, follows up on that legislation.

A statement by the Strategic Affairs Ministry said those who have carried out “significant, ongoing and consistent harm to Israel through advocating boycotts may be considered to have their entry barred.” It said “central figures in key boycott organizations” risked being prevented entry. The 2017 law does not apply to Israeli citizens, the statement said.

“The boycott organizations must know that the state of Israel will act against them,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. “The creation of this list is another step in our struggle against the incitement and lies of the boycott organizations.”

>> Israel, US race to prevent publication of UN settlement ‘blacklist’

The list is part of Israel’s efforts against a grassroots movement known as BDS, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. The movement has urged businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel and it includes thousands of volunteers around the world.

Supporters of the movement say the tactics are a nonviolent way to promote the Palestinian cause. Israel says the campaign goes beyond fighting its occupation of territory Palestinians claim for their state and often masks a more far-reaching aim to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Israel’s list banning intl human rights organizations & advocates from entry is yet another desperate, fanatic attempt by Israel’s far-right government to silence its critics and counter the impressive growth of the nonviolent BDS movement for Palestinian rights around the world.

The listed groups, from the United States, France, South Africa and beyond, count thousands of people as members. They were chosen because they are the main ones who “operate consistently and continuously” against Israel, according to Erdan’s office.

American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group on the list, said it would continue to work for “peace and justice.” The group, together with a British Quaker organization, won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for assisting World War II refugees.

“We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations,” said Kerri Kennedy, an AFSC official responsible for international programs.

The U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace was also blacklisted.

“Israel’s decision to specifically ban JVP is disconcerting but not surprising, given the further erosion of democratic norms and rising anxiety about the power of BDS as a tool to demand freedom,” Jewish Voice for Peace wrote on Facebook in response to the decision.

© Facebook, Jewish Voice for Peace

In the years since its formation, the BDS movement has persuaded several church organizations to divest themselves of Israel-related investments and has garnered support on U.S. college campuses. Most recently, pop singer Lorde joined a number of other performers who have canceled performances in Israel amid pressure from BDS activists.

Even so, a slew of other musicians have defied boycott calls and performed. Israel has also enjoyed new economic partnerships and diplomatic ties despite calls for boycotts and it has become a top destination for international sporting and cultural events.



Israel: Ex-minister Tzipi Livni calls for freeze on settlements

December 25, 2017

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni called for a freeze on Israeli settlements and a revival of the peace process with the Palestinians. “Peace is in the Israeli interest,” she told Antoine Mariotti in Tel Aviv.



Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has long belived the policies of Netanyahu are undermining Israel’s status as a democracy. She has been against more settlements and other elements of the PM’s administration….

See also:



Illegal Israeli Settlements — And how the authorities are involved in de facto legalization

December 25, 2017

Israel Helped Establish 14 Illegal West Bank Outposts Since 2011

State support ranges from turning a blind eye to offering government funds ■ Review reveals system that helps clear the way for ‘legalization’

By Yotam Berger Dec 25, 2017 7:06 AM

Israeli settlers start to build a new illegal outpost in the Jordan Valley, October 25, 2016.

Israeli settlers start to build a new illegal outpost in the Jordan Valley, October 25, 2016. JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

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Israeli authorities in September placed one of the so-called hilltop youth under house arrest at Havat Itamar Cohen – an illegal outpost in the West Bank. That’s one example, and not the only one, of how the authorities are involved in de facto legalization of illegal outposts. (The teen, who asked that his name not be published, said he’d had a falling out with the owner of the farm, who was going to beat him. A few hours later the Shin Bet security service and the army placed the teen in another, legal facility. People at the farm declined to comment.)


Another example is that of Hill 387, a small illegal outpost established on state land near Kfar Adumim east of Jerusalem. At the outpost, surrounded by privately-owned Palestinian land, an NGO called Haroeh Ha’ivri (“the Hebrew Shepherd”) operates. Its official purpose is to rehabilitate violent settler teens known as hilltop youth. In fact, the association itself established the illegal outpost. Its documentation shows that it is funded solely by the Education Ministry, with an annual budget of a few hundred thousand shekels.

Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

The Education Ministry at first denied that the NGO established the outpost, but the documents it filed with the Civil Administration show that not only did it establish the outpost illegally, it is also seeking to have it legalized retroactively.

In 2014, Amira Hass disclosed in Haaretz that the Shomron Regional Council was behind the establishment of the illegal outpost Havat Shaharit. The Shomron Regional Council responded at the time that “the work was carried out by law and in coordination with the relevant officials.”

Yet another illegal outpost, a kind of farm in the Umm Zuka nature reserve, was connected a few months ago to a water pipeline by a nearby Israel Defense Forces base.

Hill 387, the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost where Jewish Shepherd operates a rehab program for teenage dropouts, in Jan. 2017. The photograph shows a few rudimentary buildings in a rocky area near a larger community.

Hill 387, the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost where Jewish Shepherd operates a rehab program for teenage dropouts, in Jan. 2017.Olivier Fitoussi

Ostensibly, after the report on illegal outposts submitted to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by attorney Talia Sasson in 2005, no more illegal outposts were to have been established, certainly not with government assistance. The report, which revealed that the government had invested hundreds of millions of shekels directly and indirectly in the establishment of dozens of illegal outposts, was to have put an end to this phenomenon. But aerial photos and Civil Administration data show that it has not stopped, it’s only gone underground. Over the past six years illegal outposts are once more being established, some in recent months.

Most of these outpost are hastily cobbled together, a tent or a prefab where “hilltop youth” – most of them under 18 – live off and on.

The authorities are fighting against these outposts tooth and nail, removing them and sometimes arresting residents, among other reasons because the security forces see them as a source of violence against Palestinians. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seems almost pleased to order their evacuation – perhaps because they don’t have a political lobby or economic backing. Last summer, in speaking to journalists covering the West Bank, he called them “disturbed” and “idiots.”

The law is not being enforced when it comes to the better-planned and more establishment-supported outposts; they are sometimes recognized and receive assistance and protection. Since 2011, 17 illegal outposts have been established, 14 of which are known to the Civil Administration. The way they were established shows their planning. The founders or planners examined aerial photos and the location chosen was not coincidental: They are built on government land, not privately-owned Palestinian land, which increases the chance that they will be legalized in the future. They are mainly built in fairly remote locations with a commanding view of the surroundings.

Three of them are near but not connected to existing settlements, such as the so-called “prefab neighborhood” set up near the outpost of Sde Boaz, which was evacuated about two weeks ago. Eleven outposts were set up as farms with living quarters for a few people who raise flocks or crops. No plans are known for evacuating these outposts, although they are all illegal.

Dror Etkes, of the left-wing organization Kerem Navot, says that the founders of these outposts chose the locales and built their structures on state land so they can claim that they should not be evacuated. “They take over as much surrounding land as possible, including private land, which they steal by other means, such as cultivation or barring access [to the Palestinian landowners].” Etkes, who is in possession of Civil Administration maps, believes the settlers saw them before they established the outposts.

At the outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon Moreh, Etkes says: “Huge surrounding areas are private, and were taken over by planting or barring access, and have very much increased the area of the outpost. It’s methodical, and they know exactly what they’re doing.”

 Umm Zuka nature reserve
Umm Zuka nature reserveGil Eliyahu

Civil Administration data obtained by Haaretz show that dozens of demolition orders have been issued against these outposts. Nine such orders were issued against Havat Itamar Cohen, and eight against Haroeh Ha’ivri. But the Civil Administration doesn’t issue demolition orders against outposts within settlement master plans, such as Neveh Ahi near the settlement of Halamish, which was established after the murder this year of the Salomon family in the unused area of where a master plan is in force.

But the flood of demolition orders is misleading. In fact, these outposts can expect the authorities to turn a blind eye to them, if not support them outright. “Except for Sde Boaz, there are no evacuations,” said Etkes. “This is clearly sweeping immunity against enforcement of the law. Add to this all the infrastructure around it, electricity, water, road-building; this isn’t being paid for with settlers’ private money.”

A resident of the evacuated outpost at Sde Boaz, which was established with the assistance of the regional council, told Haaretz: “They told us that the High Court had decided that it had to be dismantled. We were told there was no choice, that it could harm the settlements – so we left. We’re not hilltop youth, we’re good, law-abiding people we understood there was no point in going on.”

West Bank outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon Moreh
West Bank outpost of Nahalat Yosef, east of Elon MorehOlivier Fitoussi

We might learn about the future of the illegal outposts through the case of Malakhei Hashalom, a small outpost on an abandoned army base near Shiloh in the northern West Bank, with a sheep pen that is presented as a farm. Visits to the site revealed it is inhabited by one family and visited occasionally by teens. The Civil Administration has evacuated the site a few times, but according to officials familiar with the case, a few months ago it was agreed between the Civil Administration and the site that its inhabitants would evacuate it of their own free will. The state sent them trucks and they piled their belongings on them. The Civil Administration proudly touted the evacuation. But within a few weeks later the outpost was established elsewhere, with the same sheep.


Yotam Berger
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EU steps up pressure on Hungary over Soros school, NGO laws, migration

December 7, 2017

Image result for Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary, photos

Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Thursday stepped up its pressure on the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary over its treatment of immigrants, non-governmental groups (NGOs) and a liberal school.

Orban has been locked in a series of running battles with the EU, where Western states and the Brussels-based executive Commission decry what they see as his authoritarian leanings, the squeezing of the opposition and the free media.

In a series of legal announcements, the European Commission said it was taking Budapest to the bloc’s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, over its NGO laws as well as a higher education law that has targeted a Budapest university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.

Brussels also confirmed it was taking Hungary – along with eastern EU peers Poland and the Czech Republic – to the tribunal over refusing to host asylum-seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

It has in addition stepped up its legal case against Budapest over Hungary’s asylum laws.

Separately on Thursday, European lawmakers were debating whether the rule of law and democratic standards in Hungary are under threat more generally and to an extent that would merit the triggering of an unprecedented punishment against Budapest.

The so-called Article 7 procedure would shame Orban by denouncing his government as undemocratic and could even lead to the maximum – though practically highly unlikely – sanction of stripping Hungary of its voting rights in the EU.

The Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, however, made clear the executive did not side with the parliament’s broader, tougher view of Hungary.

“We believe that we are dealing with very specific issues where we have disagreements with the Hungarian government,” Timmermans told a news conference. “For now, the Commission does not see the need to move to another track.”

“The situation in Hungary is not in that sense comparable to the systemic threats to the rule of law which we see in Poland,” he said of Orban’s closest EU ally, the euroskeptic, nationalist Polish government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Lily Cusack and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson


US Joins EU calls on Cambodia to ‘undo’ opposition party ban

November 17, 2017


© AFP/File | The US joins a chorus of condemnation from the European Union and activists after the ruling that effectively allows Hun Sen’s party to run in next year’s polls uncontested

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States Thursday demanded Cambodia reverse its ban on the country’s main opposition, warning the dissolution of the party would strip 2018 elections of legitimacy.Washington hit out after Cambodia’s Supreme Court, effectively controlled by strongman premier Hun Sen, outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned more than 100 of its politicians, accusing the party of plotting to overthrow the government.

The US joined a chorus of condemnation from the European Union and activists following the ruling that essentially allows Hun Sen’s party to run uncontested in next year’s polls.

The verdict is the culmination of a strangling of dissent in Cambodia, with CNRP president Kem Sokha jailed for treason in September as part of a crackdown that has also seen media outlets shuttered, journalists jailed and activists harassed.

The United States blasted Thursday’s ruling as a setback for democracy in Cambodia, calling for the government to “undo its recent actions against the CNRP (and) release imprisoned CNRP leader Kem Sokha.”

In a statement, the White House said leaders must also “allow opposition parties, civil society and the media to maintain their legitimate activities.”

“On current course, next year’s election will not be legitimate, free, or fair,” the statement said, adding the US would pull support for Cambodia’s National Election Committee.

The US has previously rejected Cambodia’s allegations of American involvement in plotting to oust the government as baseless.

Although US President Donald Trump met with Hun Sen at a regional summit last week, the US leader did not comment on the brewing political crisis.

– EU rebuke –

Washington’s condemnation came after the European Union said next year’s elections have been stripped of credibility with the CNRP pulled from the race.

“A situation in which all parties, including the CNRP, their leaders and their supporters are able to carry out freely their legitimate functions, must be swiftly restored,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement.

It warned that “respect of fundamental human rights” is a prerequisite of Cambodia’s duty-free access to the bloc’s markets.

Cambodia largely relies on trade with the US and EU to bolster economic growth following a savage civil war that ended in 1975.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected, has ruled the country since 1985 and says he has brought much-needed peace and stability to the impoverished nation.

But he is also accused of squeezing out his rivals through well-timed crackdowns and dubious court cases.

Analysts say he has been emboldened by financial backing from Beijing, which has lavished the country with investment that has made it less dependent on aid from Western democracies.

A government official said Friday the decision to dissolve the CNRP — the country’s only viable opposition party which nearly unseated Hun Sen in 2013 elections — was in line with the law.

“It is regretful that the US official stance was made without consideration of the evidence and the court ruling,” Huy Vannak, an Interior Ministry undersecretary of state, told AFP.

He said he hoped the US and the EU would continue working with Cambodia, adding that the CNRP sought to “destroy” the country.

– ‘Unjust’ –

The CNRP said it still considers itself a legitimate party and plans to stand in next year’s election, even though more than half its 55 lawmakers have fled the country.

Rights groups slammed Thursday’s ruling, with HRW saying the decision signalled the “death of democracy” and Amnesty International calling it a “blatant act of political repression”.

Observers say the current climate of repression is harsher than previous clampdowns, with Hun Sen foregoing even the pretense of respecting human rights and a free press.

In addition to assaults against the CNRP, his government has shut down a series of outspoken NGOs and independent news outlets, including the respected Cambodia Daily.

In Cambodia’s sleepy capital Phnom Penh, life returned to normal Friday for some residents too scared to protest the verdict delivered at Thursday’s heavily-guarded trial.

“Most people don’t support the court’s decision but I just stay quiet,” tuk-tuk driver Ly Huor told AFP, vowing to vote next year.

“It’s very unjust. It’s like they are robbing the will of the people.”




Cambodian opposition party dissolved by Supreme Court, as Hun Sen clears path to 2018 “election”

November 16, 2017

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen waits to attend the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia CREDIT: HENG SINITH/AP

By Agence France-Presse

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s main opposition party be dissolved, in one of the biggest blows yet to democratic aspirations in the Southeast Asian state.

The verdict Thursday, which was widely expected, is seen as the latest move by authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen to remove threats to his power ahead of elections next year.

The government accused the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party of involvement in a plot to topple the government and asked the judiciary to dissolve it.

 Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor

Party officials have denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Hun Sen, a firebrand former Khmer Rouge fighter who has held office for 32 years, had already promised a guilty verdict would be delivered on Thursday.

The case against the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s main opposition party, could see over 100 politicians banned from office for five years.

That would be a crushing blow to a movement that has been battered by legal attacks since it nearly unseated Hun Sen in the last national election in 2013.

Scores of riot police were deployed outside the Phnom Penh court early Thursday as the hearing began, though there were no signs of protests.

Government lawyers took several hours to present their case before the panel of nine judges – whose president Dith Munty is himself a member of Hun Sen’s ruling CPP party.

They accused the CNRP of teaming up with the US and other foreign forces to plot a revolution – allegations Washington and rights groups have dismissed as bogus.

‘Resist the pressure’

Lawyers showed video clips of CNRP leaders urging supporters in 2013 to join protests over that year’s poll, which the party said was stolen from them due to election fraud.

“They incited anger in order to hold mass demonstrations to topple the legitimate government,” government attorney Ly Chantola told the court.

“The US is behind (the plot) and associations or NGOs funded by US gave them ideas,” he added.

In September CNRP leader Kem Sokha was detained and charged with treason over the same accusations – a dramatic arrest that sent more than half of the party’s 55 lawmakers fleeing into exile out of fear.

In this March 30, 2017, file photo, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha prays during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on anti-government protesters in 1997, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In this March 30, 2017, file photo, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha prays during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on anti-government protesters in 1997, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia CREDIT:  AP

On the eve of the Thursday’s court hearing US-based Human Rights Watch urged judges to “resist government pressure” to dissolve the embattled party.

“Although the Supreme Court is effectively an organ of the ruling party, it has a historic chance to show some independence and uphold the rule of law,” said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams.

The watchdog warned that Hun Sen was on his way to turning the nation into a “de facto one-party state”.

In anticipation of the ruling, his government had already passed legal amendments that allow election authorities to redistribute seats or local posts held by a dissolved party.

The hardman premier, who ultimately defected from the Khmer Rouge and helped drive the regime from power, has a long history of undercutting his rivals through well-timed crackdowns and dubious court cases.

But observers say the current climate of repression is harsher and longer-lasting than previous clampdowns, with Hun Sen foregoing even the pretence of leading a free democracy.

In addition to assaults against the CNRP, his government has in recent months shut down a series of outspoken NGOs and independent news outlets – including the respected Cambodia Daily.


Russia could target any foreign media under new law

November 14, 2017


© AFP/File | Russia Today has registered as a “foreign agent” in the US

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia would be able to list any foreign media outlet as a “foreign agent” under new measures expected to be approved Wednesday, a lawmaker said, as Moscow responds to US pressure on the Kremlin-backed RT channel.

The move comes as Washington fights what it calls a barrage of “fake news” from Russian media and online outlets aimed at interfering in US domestic politics.

Parliament is set to approve a set of amendments to an existing media bill Wednesday, meaning they could go into force as early as next week, deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament Pyotr Tolstoy told Rossiya 24 channel.

“(The law) gives the relevant government institution the opportunity to classify media outlets that receive money from abroad as foreign agents,” he said, when asked which outlets are likely to be put on the list first.

Most likely the list will be maintained by the ministry of justice, which already keeps a similar database of non-governmental organisations which have been designated as “foreign agents”.

The bill is a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s move to register T&R Productions LLC, a corporation which operates US studios of state channel RT, as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Asked to clarify exactly who could be listed as a “foreign agent” in Russia, Tolstoy said “these are media outlets that receive money from foreign governments regardless of their ownership structure”.

TASS news agency however published details of more sweeping amendments, according to which the measures could apply to any media outlets receiving money “from international and foreign organisations, foreign citizens.”

Tolstoy said outlets that are put on the list will be subject to similar treatment as “foreign agent” NGOs under the law that was adopted in 2012.

Such media will “have to file the relevant reports and most likely mark its product,” he said.

The law applying to NGOs forced many organisations to close.

Others have complained that government institutions refuse to work with them following the acquisition of the “foreign agent” label, which in Russia is akin to being branded a spy.