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Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’: UN rights expert

Press Trust of India

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United Nations: Innocent civilians must not face “collective punishment” in disputes between two States, a United Nations human rights expert has said, calling for greater protection for ordinary people affected by punitive sanctions imposed by one country on another.

Idriss Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur on effects of sanctions on human rights, said that measures that seek to block a country’s trade altogether, amount to economic warfare against civilians, with devastating consequences.

“Under economic sanctions, people also die but from lack of food and medicine, rather than from explosive devices,” said the UN rights expert in a news release on Thursday.

 

This form of warfare that relies on starvation and disease “deserves the same concern” on the part of the international community as any other conflict, he added, noting protections guaranteed under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which applies during times of war.

Referring to Iran, Jazairy said that while US sanctions – fully re-imposed earlier this week – included humanitarian exemptions, aid is currently frozen as businesses await more clarification from the US Government. There are reports that the SWIFT mechanism of bank-to-bank money transfer could make such exemptions inoperative.

India, China and Japan are among eight countries temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed “significant reduction” in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country after the US reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday as the stringent Iran sanctions kicked in.

Import of food, medicine and other necessities must be protected and not subjected to lengthy and complex approval processes, Jazairy reiterated.

“I am deeply concerned that it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of these actions,” he said, adding that Iran’s currency, the rial, had lost more than 70 per cent of its value in the past year, and food prices had risen by half.

“More people are losing their jobs as the economy suffers,” he said.

Jazairy noted that while States’ right to disagree with each other should be respected, civilians must not be harmed or used as means of “political pressure” on a targeted Government.

“This is illegal under international human rights law,” he said.

Jazairy said he is ready to “serve as facilitator” to assist the US and Iran “in finding concrete ways to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian exemptions whose observance is unchallenged by the source country, are made effective and workable.”

UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary, and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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International

Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US

Agencies

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KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.

Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.

The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.

 

The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.

The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.

Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”

Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.

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UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce

Agencies

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UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.

The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.

The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.

 

The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.

Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.

Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.

“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.

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Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.

As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.

A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.

 

The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.

It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.

The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.

“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.

After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.

Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.

Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.

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