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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

Mike Pence says South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation

Agencies

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Singapore : US Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday the South China Sea does not belong to any one nation and the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows, comments sure to rile China which claims the strategic sea route.

The United States has conducted a series of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the contested South China Sea, angering Beijing, which says the moves threaten its sovereignty.

“The South China Sea doesn’t belong to any one nation, and you can be sure: The United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan, all have claims in the South China Sea, through which some $3 trillion of shipborne trade passes each year.

Pence told leaders of Southeast Asian nations on there was no place for “empire and aggression” in the Indo-Pacific region, a comment that could be interpreted as a reference to China’s rise.

Pence’s latest comments follow a major speech in October in which he flagged a tougher approach by Washington towards Beijing, accusing China of “malign” efforts to undermine US President Donald Trump and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

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India, China to step up border military meets

Agencies

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Beijing: A year after the Doklam standoff, top defence officials of India and China have agreed on the importance of maintaining peace in the border areas while implementing the consensus reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan.

The ninth annual defence and security dialogue on November 13 was held over a year after the 73-day military standoff in the Sikkim sector.

The talks were held between the two defence delegations headed by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra and China’s Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission Lt. General Shao Yuanming, a press release by the Indian Embassy here said on Thursday.

Asked about the outcome of the defence and security dialogue, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the two sides have exchanged ideas on the management of border affairs and upholding peace and tranquillity.

“We believe the two sides will try to follow the consensus between the two leaders to ensure peace and tranquillity at our border areas and ensure stability of our bilateral ties,” she said.

At the talks, both sides agreed on enhancing defence exchanges and interactions at different levels between the two militaries, the press release said.

After the talks, Mitra called on Chinese State Councillor and defence minister General Wei Fenghe on Wednesday, the release said.

Mitra was accompanied by senior officials of the ministry of defence and Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

The annual dialogue did not take place last year following the tense standoff between the two militaries at Doklam, which was triggered by the Chinese PLA’s plan to build a road close to the narrow Chicken’s Neck corridor connecting India’s northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan besides China.

The standoff ended when Chinese troops stopped the road construction after which both countries stepped up efforts to normalise relations leading to the informal summit between Modi and Xi at Wuhan in April this year.

The defence dialogue was also held ahead of the 21st round of border talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries in the Chinese city of Dujiangyan on November 23-24.

National security adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi are the designated Special Representatives for the border talks.
Besides efforts to work out a solution to resolve the dispute on the border spanning 3,488 kms, the border talks also focussed on discussions on other aspects of India-China relations.

The two militaries are due to hold the annual ‘Hand-in-Hand’ drills next month in China after gap of one year.

During the dialogue, both sides also agreed on specific defence exchanges for 2019.

“Both sides agreed to enhance exchanges and interactions through reciprocal high-level visits between the two ministries of defence as well as between military commands, joint training exercises, mutual visits by defence personnel including mid-level and cadet officers were also agreed upon,” the Indian embassy release said.

They reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and tranquillity in the border areas, implementing the consensus reached between Mr Modi and Mr Xi and specific additional confidence building measures at the operational level, it said.

The two nations also had an exchange of views on regional and global issues.

“Both sides underlined the importance of this dialogue as an important mechanism between the two countries for consultations on defence and security matters. They emphasised the need to further strengthen military-to-military ties in order to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries,” it said.

Both sides agreed to hold the next round of the dialogue at a mutually convenient time in India in 2019.

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Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide that killed millions

Agencies

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London : It is infamous for being Cambodia’s version of Nazi extermination policy against Jews during World War II with the notorious Khmer Rouge – officially called Communist Party of Kampuchea – responsible for the killing of millions during the late 1970s. Forty years since, two of its most senior leaders still alive have been declared guilty of genocide and handed out life sentences.

According to The Guardian, 92-year-old Nuon Chea – deputy to Khmer Rouge head Pol Pot, and 87-year-old Khieu Samphan – former head of state – were found guilty of having presided over mass killings between 1977 and 1979, on Friday. Both have already been serving life sentences but have now been held responsible for the mass genocide which shocked the world almost as much as the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. Local media reports that many families of the 1.7 million victims of Khmer Rouge’s atrocities had gathered for the verdict and that there were scenes of jubilation afterwards. Many called it a historic judgement which ensured leaders of Khmer Rouge are punished despite their age.

Both Chea and Samphan reportedly did not deny that they were key leaders of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s but said they had no role to play in the genocide which wiped off 25% of the country’s population at the time.

The subsequent fall of Khmer Rouge, after Vietnamese armed forces and fighters from Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation captured the capital of Phnom Penh, led to the establishment of tribunals to investigate crimes against humanity. Families of victims say it has been a long and tough battle for justice but many feel punishing leaders of the regime still alive would be a deterrent against any similar regime which may crop up here or anywhere else.

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