World en Thu Jun 09 12:31:07 IST 2022 un-human-rights-calls-for-urgent-global-attention-on-sri-lankan-economic-crisis <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <br> <br> <br> Sri Lanka's economic collapse needs immediate global attention, not just from humanitarian agencies, but also from international financial institutions and other countries who must come to the bankrupt country's aid, according to UN human rights experts.<br> <br> The independent UN experts on Wednesday expressed alarm over record high inflation, rising commodity prices, power shortages, crippling fuel crisis and the economic collapse in Sri Lanka, at a time when the country grapples with unprecedented political turmoil.<br> <br> The experts noted that this crisis has had a serious impact on the enjoyment of human rights for the entire population. “Sri Lanka's economic collapse needs immediate global attention, not just from humanitarian agencies, but from international financial institutions, private lenders and other countries who must come to the country's aid,” the experts said.<br> <br> UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights Attiya Waris said, “Time and again, we have seen the grave systemic repercussions a debt crisis has had on countries, exposing deep structural gaps of the global financial system, and affecting the implementation of human rights.”<br> <br> Former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stepped down on July 15, after fleeing the country as protesters stormed key government buildings in the capital Colombo. On Wednesday, lawmakers elected six-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka's new President.<br> <br> Mass protests broke out in the country in March following severe shortages of food, fuel, medicines, and other essential items compounded by a series of ill-conceived economic reforms like tax cuts and servicing debt payments that ate into the country's forex reserves, the UN noted.<br> <br> Prolonged disrupted access to food and healthcare has severely affected people with illnesses, pregnant women and lactating mothers who are in serious need of life assistance, it said.<br> <br> Earlier this year, as part of the continuous engagement with the authorities, UN experts urged the Sri Lankan government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and expression during peaceful protests as thousands of people gathered in front of the President's office in Colombo, demanding his resignation over corruption and mishandling of the economic crisis.<br> <br> In May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the violence which erupted across the country, killing at least seven people. As foreign reserves dried up, unable to make interest payments on the loans, the island nation defaulted on the debt of USD 51 billion in May 2022.<br> <br> After suspending all debt payments, the government took steps to restructure the country's debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In June, IMF staff noted that significant progress had been made on the staff level arrangement on the Extended Fund Facility.<br> <br> Any response towards mitigating the economic crisis should have human rights at its core, including in the context of negotiation with the IMF, Waris said.<br> <br> The UN experts noted that the issue of rising institutional debt had been flagged in a previous visit report to Sri Lanka in 2019. The report found that debt repayments were the country's largest expenditure, and emphasised the need for complementary alternatives and the pursuit of less harmful policy options.<br> <br> In July 2022, inflation in the country hit a record high of 54.6 per cent while food inflation rose to 81 per cent.<br> <br> The snowballing economic and debt crises were deepened by the government's hasty and botched agricultural transition. Under such conditions, the World Food Programme has launched an emergency response warning that nearly 62,000 Sri Lankans were in need of urgent assistance. Thu Jul 21 10:31:34 IST 2022 russian-foreign-minister-reveals-plans-to-acquire-more-regions-in-ukraine <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the country's state-controlled media that Russia aims to control broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview given to the RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov said that Russia and Ukraine in March discussed a possible deal to end the fighting. “Our readiness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the geography of March 2022,” Associated Press reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;Lavrov alleged that the United States and Britain were encouraging Ukraine to expand the hostilities. He said, “If West supplies Khyiv with long-range weapons, geographic tasks will move even further.” Lavrov told the Russian agency, “This process continues. And it continues consistently and persistently.”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lavrov said that if the West continues to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons and aggravate the situation, then geographic tasks will move further. “Because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Zelenskyy will control there, or whoever replaces him, to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory. And the territories of those republics that have declared their independence, and those that want to determine their future on their own,” Lavrov said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>AP reported that White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials have evidence that Russia wants to annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and all of the Donbas through referendums, as soon as September.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bulk of Russia’s forces are fighting in the Donbas, where they have made slow gains facing Ukrainian resistance. The Russian military has used long-range missiles to strike targets across Ukraine, killing hundreds of civilians.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 21 10:12:06 IST 2022 4-dead-13-injured-in-tianjin-gas-explosion-in-north-china <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four people have died in a gas explosion that injured 13 others at a six-story residential building in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, state media said Wednesday.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp; A trapped person who had been pulled out on Tuesday at 5:40 p.m., more than 10 hours after the morning blast, had weak vital signs and died after being taken to a hospital, according to a Tianjin Daily report posted by the Tianjin government on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>State broadcaster CCTV later said the rescue work had been completed. It didn't provide any details on the four deaths. The injuries to the other 13 are not life-threatening, CCTV said in an online article.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The explosion occurred around 7:15 a.m. in the city's Beichen District. Photos of the scene showed upper stories of the building caved in with the roof still intact, but no obvious damage to neighboring units.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tianjin, a major port and manufacturing hub, is less than an hour by high-speed train from Beijing and has long been one of China's most developed and international cities.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, but it appears to point to the deterioration of infrastructure following more than three decades of breakneck economic growth. The building was constructed in the 1980s, the Tianjin Daily reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China's Ministry of Emergency Management called for determining the cause as quickly as possible and a comprehensive screening to identify gas leak risks and prevent such accidents in the future, the official Xinhua News Agency said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China is replacing decades-old infrastructure, with natural gas lines used for cooking, heat and power generation a particular concern.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jul 20 16:57:41 IST 2022 italy-draghi-seeks-new-pact-of-trust-inspired-by-public-support <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has stepped back from resigning, six days after the president rejected his resignation. Draghi Is calling for a new pact to prevent his unity government from collapsing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He told Italy's Senate a completely new agreement was "the only way if we want to stay together," the BBC reported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Draghi laid out priorities for Parliament to consider in rebuilding from the top the majority needed for the government to work efficiently. Appearing before the Senate, Draghi listed the implementation of European Union pandemic recovery funds and judicial reforms, among other measures.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Draghi, who led a unity government for 18 months was due to step down next year ahead of elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said he was moved by the spontaneous appeals of ordinary Italians in recent days urging him to stay on. Hundreds of mayors signed an open letter asking Draghi to stay.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This demand for stability requires all of us to decide if it's possible to recreate the conditions in which the government can truly govern, Draghi said, signalling he was willing to try.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>--With PTI inputs</p> Wed Jul 20 16:47:26 IST 2022 un-slams-killings-rights-abuses-under-afghanistans-taliban <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Hundreds of people have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban overran the country nearly a year ago, even though security on the whole has improved since then, the United Nations said in a report Wednesday.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp; In its report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also highlighted the poor situation of women and girls since the Taliban takeover and how they have been stripped of many of their human rights under Afghanistan's current rulers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is beyond time for all Afghans to be able to live in peace and rebuild their lives after 20 years of armed conflict. Our monitoring reveals that despite the improved security situation since 15 August, the people of Afghanistan, in particular women and girls, are deprived of the full enjoyment of their human rights, said Markus Potzel, deputy special representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The report said as many as 700 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded since mid-August 2021, when the Taliban overran the Afghan capital of Kabul as the United States and NATO were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The majority of those casualties were linked to attacks by the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country, a bitter rival of the Taliban which has targeted ethnic and religious minority communities in places where they go to school, worship and go about their daily lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Afghanistan has seen persistent bombings and other attacks on civilians, often targeting the mainly Shiite Muslim ethnic Hazara minority. Most of the attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After their takeover, the Taliban quickly started enforcing a sharply tougher line, harking back to similar radical measures when the Taliban last ruled the country, from 1996 to 2001.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They issued edicts requiring women to cover their faces except for their eyes in public, including women presenters on TV, and banned girls from attending school past the sixth grade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UN report added that the erosion of women's rights has been one of the most notable aspects of the de facto administration to date. Since August, women and girls have progressively had their rights to fully participate in education, the workplace and other aspects of public and daily life restricted and in many cases completely taken away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The decision not to allow girls to return to secondary school means that a generation of girls will not complete their full 12 years of basic education, the UN said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The education and participation of women and girls in public life is fundamental to any modern society. The relegation of women and girls to the home denies Afghanistan the benefit of the significant contributions they have to offer. Education for all is not only a basic human right, it is the key to progress and development of a nation, said Potzel, the UN envoy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the previous Taliban rule in Afghanistan, they subjected women to overwhelming restrictions, banning them from education and participation in public life and requiring them to wear the all-encompassing burqa.&nbsp;</p> Wed Jul 20 16:05:02 IST 2022 cia-chief-says-sri-lanka-made-really-dumb-bets-with-heavy-debts-to-china <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With Sri Lanka slipping lower and lower into the chasm of economic decline, the CIA chief said that the island nation made really "dumb bets about their economic future" with heavy Chinese investment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said, reported <a href="" style="font-style: italic;">The Guardian</a>:&nbsp;"The Chinese have a lot of weight to throw around and they can make a very appealing case for their investments. Nations should look at a place like Sri Lanka today—heavily indebted to China—which has made some really dumb bets about their economic future and are suffering pretty catastrophic, both economic and political, consequences as a result. That, I think, ought to be an object lesson to a lot of other players—not just in the Middle East or South Asia, but around the world—about having your eyes wide open about those kinds of dealings.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During former president Gotabaya's brother Mahinda's regime, China started investing heavily in infrastructure projects in the island nation as Lanka faced international isolation at the tail end of the civil war. Critics say it was due to Mahinda that the country has fallen into the "Chinese debt trap".</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Hambantota port, which was funded by a Chinese loan during Mahinda's regime, was leased to Beijing in a 99-year debt-for-equity swap in 2017 after the country failed to pay off the debt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sri Lanka has historically been an important commercial hub along maritime routes due to its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, where China is increasingly making its inroads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The economic crisis also sparked a political crisis in the country after a popular uprising against the government. The island nation needs about $5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.&nbsp;<br> </p> Thu Jul 21 08:24:52 IST 2022 lankan-protesters-to-continue-demanding-resignation-of-wickremesinghe <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka, who forced president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and quit, on Wednesday demanded the resignation of his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been elected as the new president.</p> <p>The 73-year-old acting president and six-time former prime minister secured 134 votes in the 225-member house while his nearest rival and dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma got 82. He will take the oath of office on Thursday.</p> <p>The anti-government protesters had called for the resignation of Wickremesinghe, who was appointed prime minister in May. The protesters burnt down his private home and also stormed his prime ministerial office in Colombo in demonstrations against his leadership early this month.</p> <p>"He has been elected against the will of the people. The Rajapaksas have brought him in," Father Jeewantha Peiris, a spokesman for the protest group Aragalaya', told reporters.</p> <p>"We will continue our protest campaign until Wickremesinghe resigns, he stressed.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Colombo Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage issued an order barring people from entering or gathering within a 50 meter radius of the Bandaranaike Statue located in Galle Face in the heart of Colombo.</p> <p>Sri Lanka Police told the court that there is a possible attempt being made to cause harm to the statue of the former prime minister which is situated closer to the protest site near the office of the president.</p> <p>The protesters had blocked one entrance to the presidential office on April 9. Although the protesters did vacate three other key government buildings after Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned last week they continue to be at the presidential office gate.</p> <p>Wickremesinghe did refer to the demands of the protesters after accepting his office and called for bipartisanship to address the issues raised by them including the handling of the economy.</p> <p>Rajapaksa was ousted for his mishandling of the economy when the island suffered its worst meltdown since 1948.</p> <p>The economic crisis also sparked a political crisis in the country after a popular uprising against the government.</p> <p>Sri Lanka needs about $5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.</p> Wed Jul 20 20:40:10 IST 2022 rishi-sunak-races-ahead-with-137-votes-to-face-liz-truss-in-final-leg-of-british-pm-contest <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Rishi Sunak, on Wednesday, clinched his place for the final leg of the race to succeed Boris Johnson and will go head-to-head with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as one of two finalists to take charge as Conservative Party leader and British prime minister.</p> <p>Sunak won the fifth and final voting round of Tory MPs with a resounding 137 votes, while second-placed Truss won the support of 113 MPs. Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race after coming in third with 105 votes.</p> <p>The 42-year-old British Indian former Chancellor, who has topped every voting round so far, added 19 votes to his Tuesday tally of 118 and comfortably crossed the 120 MPs mark seen as the threshold to confirm a place in the final showdown.</p> <p>Sunak and Truss are now set for their first head-on clash in a live televised debate scheduled on the BBC for Monday.</p> <p>Earlier, outgoing Prime Minister Johnson used his last prime minister's questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons to bid farewell to the top job with the Spanish phrase <i>hasta la vista, baby</i>.</p> <p>In his final speech, he had words of advice for his successor: "I want to use the last few seconds, Mr Speaker, to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.</p> <p>"Number one, stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere.</p> <p>"Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is.</p> <p>"I love the Treasury, but remember, that if we'd always listened to the Treasury, we wouldn't have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel. Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.</p> <p>"And remember a bubble. It's not Twitter that counts, it's the people that sent us here.</p> <p>Johnson's parting shot once again alluded to the thumping majority won by the Tories under his leadership in the 2019 general election, something he had referenced repeatedly in the days before ultimately resigning in the face of an unprecedented Cabinet revolt.</p> <p>It thrust the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers into action to organise the leadership contest and Wednesday's final ballot ends an intense two weeks of voting rounds, which began last week with a shortlist of eight candidates including Indian-origin Attorney General Suella Braverman, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former Cabinet ministers Kemi Badenoch and Jeremy Hunt and Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat. They were knocked off the race one by one for that shortlist to be whittled down to just two who will now face the estimated 160,000 Tory members eligible to cast votes for their choice of party leader.</p> <p>Sunak's popularity within the Conservative parliamentary party does not seem to chime with the views of the wider membership base, which has shown favour towards his leading opponents. The most recent YouGov survey of 725 Conservative Party members over Monday and Tuesday showed Truss would beat Sunak by 54 per cent to 35 per cent, and Mordaunt would also beat him 51 per cent to 37 per cent.</p> <p>There is also some concern that Sunak's prospect to replace Johnson could be hit by Conservative Campaign Headquarters' decision to send out those ballot papers early next month before the bulk of the campaign hustings have been held.</p> <p>The focus will now shift towards those hustings as both candidates campaign to woo the Tory voters to cast those ballots in their favour.</p> Wed Jul 20 21:46:20 IST 2022 russia-will-try-to-annex-parts-of-ukraine-says-us <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The White House on Tuesday said that Russia plans to claim large parts of Ukraine as its own or an illegal land grab.</p> <p>National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, citing classified intelligence, warned that the Kremlin was planning to say the Ukrainian territory around Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the whole of the Donbas belonged to Russia.</p> <p>“Russia is beginning to roll out a version of what you could call an annexation playbook,”&nbsp; Kirby told BBC.&nbsp; “Already, Russia is installing illegitimate proxy officials in areas of Ukraine that are under its control,” Kirby said.</p> <p>Kirby warned that Russian-occupied areas could hold a 'sham' referenda on joining Russia as soon as September. Kremlin, in 2014, annexed Crimea post a referendum, which was widely viewed as illegitimate. &quot;We want to make it plain to the American people,&quot; Kirby said. &quot;Nobody is fooled by it. Putin is dusting off the playbook from 2014.&quot; He also said that Putin had pro-Russia officials in the local and regional offices in parts of Ukraine it occupied. In 2014, when Crimea was annexed, supporters of Kyiv boycotted the vote—the referendum was neither free nor fair.</p> <p>“Annexation by force would be a gross violation of the UN charter, and we will not allow it to go unchallenged or unpunished,” Kirby said.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Jul 20 16:15:14 IST 2022 us-disputes-uaes-explanation-of-khashoggi-lawyer-arrest <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <h1>&nbsp;</h1> <p>The United States on Monday said it had not sought the arrest of the former lawyer of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, contradicting the United Arab Emirates' official explanation for the American citizen's detention.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> The UAE on Saturday sentenced the civil rights lawyer, U.S. citizen Asim Ghafoor, to three years in prison followed by deportation on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. Ghafoor has rejected the charges and said he had no idea he had been convicted on the charges at some point in the past, in absentia.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> Policemen arrested him from Dubai airport on Thursday as he was transiting to Istanbul for a wedding and took him to an Abu Dhabi detention center. An Emirati court rejected Ghafoor's request to be released on bail Monday as he seeks to appeal his conviction, said his lawyer, Faisal Gill.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> The UAE portrayed Ghafoor's arrest as a coordinated move with the U.S. to “combat transnational crimes," saying American authorities had requested Emirati help with an investigation into Ghafoor's alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers in the autocratic country.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> But the U.S. disputed that account, with the State Department saying it has “not sought the arrest of Mr. Ghafoor” and referring further questions to the Department of Justice.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> Ghafoor sits on the board of Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now and was a close friend of Khashoggi, the dissident writer and Washington Post columnist dismembered by Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018. He represented Khashoggi as well as his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> The State Department said it had raised Ghafoor's detention “at senior levels with Emirati authorities” and provided consular support, with American officials seeing Ghafoor most recently on Sunday.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br> “We have conveyed our expectation that Mr. Ghafoor's rights to a fair and public hearing and to fair trial guarantees be fully respected and that he be treated humanely,” the statement added.</p> Wed Jul 20 11:36:34 IST 2022