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10 killed, 14 hurt in Mali clashes

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-03-25
ID: 
1490385674124616900

BAMAKO: Ten people have died in violent clashes between two ethnic groups in central Mali, a security ministry source told AFP Thursday, as tensions grow over land use and food scarcity in the region.
Increased availability of arms from Libya has also contributed to intercommunal violence in Mali, experts say, while drought has forced herders into areas traditionally cultivated by farmers.
A Malian security ministry source told AFP: “10 dead, 14 wounded” in a text message late Thursday, adding that material damage was also being assessed, and injured people evacuated the area.
Cattle rustling in the village of Tougou has angered traditional farmers who cultivate the land with their livestock, a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The farmers, members of the majority Bambara people, carried out reprisals Wednesday against Fulani people who they believed had stolen the cows.
Fulani people are frequently accused of criminality and colluding with militants who have sowed chaos in Mali in recent years, especially in the north but more recently in the center as well.
Adam Thiam, a Malian journalist who has written a book on the challenges facing the patchwork of ethnicities living in the country’s center, said Thursday the fragile balance of the region was under threat.
“The central region survives by a very delicate consensus between the different ethnicities… which until now have succeeded in living together,” Thiam said.
“The state is absent, leaving behind only the militants as representatives, and the population has become more comfortable with their presence to where they perhaps even to prefer it,” he warned.
Military reinforcements were on the scene to calm tensions, a security source based in the northern city of Gao confirmed to AFP.
Hundreds of people were displaced by similar violence in February, also between members of the Fulani minority and majority Bambara, and 20 were left dead.
Since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya, weapons have traveled freely from the chaotic state in an arc of unrest through Mali and Niger.
A 2012 rebellion by Tuareg-led rebels was hijacked by militants who then seized control of key northern cities, triggering an international military intervention the following year.
Militants continue to roam the country’s north and center, mounting attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces still stationed in the country.

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British woman faces treason-related charges in Rwanda

Author: The Associated PressSat, 2017-03-25ID: 1490385674104616600NAIROBI, Kenya: A pregnant British mother of two has appeared in a Rwandan court for the first time since being arrested over a month ago on treason-related charges.Judicial sp…


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6 militants, 6 soldiers killed in Chechnya firefight

Author: 
Associated Press
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490373112473303100

MOSCOW: Russian authorities say six suspected militants and six soldiers were killed during a firefight in the volatile North Caucasus region.
The National Anti-terrorism Committee said in a statement Friday that armed militants, including two with suicide belts, tried to break into a National Guard base in Chechnya early Friday.
The National Guard, a powerful new security agency created last year by President Vladimir Putin, said the attack took place in heavy fog.
The Amaq news agency, which is linked to the Daesh group, said “six soldiers of the caliphate” were killed in the attack.
There was no independent confirmation of IS involvement.
The Kremlin has relied on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to stabilize the situation in the mainly Muslim region in the wake of two bloody separatist wars that followed the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

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UK police arrest 10 in London attack probe, search 21 sites

Author: 
DANICA KIRKA and JILL LAWLESS | AP
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490371206833132300

LONDON: British police are combing through “massive amounts of computer data,” have searched more than 20 sites and have contacted thousands of witnesses in a vast operation to trace how a British man became radicalized and launched a deadly attack on Parliament, a senior official said Friday.
In a briefing outside Scotland Yard, London’s top counterterror officer, Mark Rowley, said more “significant” arrests had been made, bringing to 10 the number of people in custody over Wednesday’s attack, which killed four people and the assailant.
Police said the attacker, Khalid Masood, was born Adrian Russell Ajao in southern England in 1964. He was also known as Adrian Elms and “may also be known by a number of other names,” police said.
The latest arrests were a man and a woman detained early Friday in Manchester, northwest England. Police believe Masood acted alone but Rowley said police were trying to determine whether others “encouraged, supported or directed him.”
The Daesh group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Westminster Bridge and at Parliament.
Detectives have searched 21 properties in London, Brighton, Wales, Manchester and the central English city of Birmingham in one of Britain’s biggest counterterrorism operations in years. Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in July 2005.
“We’ve seized 2,700 items from these searches, including massive amounts of computer data for us to work through,” Rowley said, adding that contact had been made with 3,500 witnesses.
“We’ve received hundreds of uploads of video images to our online platform. Given this attack was in the heart of the capital we also, of course, are dealing with statements from a wide range of nationalities.”

Raging mad
Masood drove his car into crowds on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing a police officer on Parliament grounds. He was shot dead by police.
An American man from Utah, a British retiree and British female school administrator were killed on the bridge, and police officer Keith Palmer was stabbed to death at Parliament, police said.
The latest victim, a man who died in a hospital Thursday, was identified as 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes from south London.
More than 50 people of a dozen nationalities were wounded in the attack, 31 of whom required hospital treatment.
“Those affected include a real cross-section of ages from at least 12 nationalities,” Rowley said. “It’s a poignant reminder, I think, that the impact of this attack on the capital will reach around the world. “
Rowley said two police officers targeted in the attack have significant injuries. Two other people also remain in critical condition, one with life-threatening injuries.
The 52-year-old attacker was born in southeastern England and had most recently been living in Birmingham, where several properties have been searched by police. Police say Masood has had a string of convictions between 1983 and 2003 for offenses including assault and possession of an offensive weapon.
Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday that Masood was “investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism” some years ago. But she called him “a peripheral figure.”
The manager of a hotel in the beachside city of Brighton in southern England, where Masood stayed the night before the attack, said he seemed unusually outgoing and mentioned details about his family, including having a sick father.
“He was normal, in fact friendly, because we spent possibly five or 10 minutes talking to him about his background,” Sabeur Toumi told Sky News.
Police raided the room at the Preston Park Hotel in Brighton after the attack, searching for clues.
Interfaith solidarity
Londoners continued to lay flowers and sign condolence books for the victims on Friday, as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders gathered in solidarity outside Westminster Abbey.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said terrorists “seek to divide us. Londoners are showing right now that we will always stand up with strength to confront terror and we will never be cowed by it.”
Further details about the rampage continued to emerge.
A former British army officer told the BBC that rescuers held the hand of Constable Keith Palmer and talked to him as they tried in vain to save his life after he was stabbed.
Mike Crofts, a former army captain who served in Afghanistan, said he was in the courtyard outside the Houses of Parliament, then rushed toward the scene and began performing first aid. Ultimately, 20 to 30 people were working to save the officer’s life.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were unable to save him,” Crofts said. “Palmer at the time was surrounded by a whole host of colleagues who really loved him. We held his hand through the experience.”
Some security experts, meanwhile, criticized police procedures after newly published video showed confusion and delays as the prime minister was being rushed out of Parliament after the attack. Ken Wharfe, a former bodyguard to the late Princess Diana, said the video reveals that May was not properly protected for about 10 seconds.
Rowley, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief, said changes to Parliamentary security may be needed.
“My team will work with Parliamentary authorities to assess whether a different tone or a different balance is necessary,” he said.
Retired London bus driver Charlie Irvine, laying flowers outside police headquarters, said people should focus less on the killer and more on the victims and those who came to their aid.
“I disagree with the coverage of the guy who caused this,” Irvine said. “I don’t think he should get the publicity. He doesn’t deserve the publicity.”
___
Gregory Katz in London contributed.

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London attacker Khalid Masood was a criminal with militant links

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490339216289635300

BIRMINGHAM, England: Before he killed at least four people in Britain’s deadliest attack since the 2005 London bombings, Khalid Masood was considered by intelligence officers to be a criminal who posed little serious threat.
A British-born Muslim convert, Masood had shown up on the periphery of previous terrorism investigations that brought him to the attention of Britain’s MI5 spy agency.
But he was not under investigation when he sped across Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, plowing down pedestrians with a hired car before running into the parliamentary grounds and fatally stabbing an unarmed policeman. He was shot dead by police.
Although some of those he was involved with included people suspected of being keen to travel to join jihadi groups overseas, Masood “himself never did so,” said a US government source, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack,” London police said in a statement.
“However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH (grievous bodily harm), possession of offensive weapons and public order offenses.”
Islamic State claimed responsibility for Masood’s attack, although it was unclear what links — if any — he had with the militant group.

BRITISH-BORN KILLER
The 52-year-old was born in Kent to the southeast of London and moved though several addresses in England, although he was known to have lived recently in Birmingham in central England.
Known by a number of other aliases, he racked up a string of convictions, but none for terrorism-related offenses. His occupation was unclear.
It was as long ago as November 1983 that he first came to the attention of authorities when he was found guilty of causing criminal damage, while his last conviction came 14 years ago in December 2003 for possession of a knife.
Little detail has officially been given about the man and what might have led him to carry out Wednesday’s attack, the deadliest in Britain since the London suicide bombings of 2005 by four young British Islamists, which killed 52.
“Our working assumption is that he was inspired by international terrorism,” said Britain’s most senior counterterrorism police officer, Mark Rowley, adding: “Islamist-related terrorism is our assumption.”
One of his former neighbors in Birmingham said: “When I saw the pictures on TV and in the papers of the man who carried out the attack, I recognized him as the man who used to live next door.”
“He had a young child, who I’d think was about 5 or 6 years old. There was a woman living there with him, an Asian woman. He seemed to be quite nice, he would be taking care of his garden and the weeds,” Iwona Romek, 45, told reporters at her home.
In December, she said, he suddenly moved out.
The Daily Mail newspaper said Masood had been born Adrian Elms and was brought up by his single mother in the seaside town of Rye on England’s south coast, later converting to Islam and changing his name.
Other media reports said he was a married father of three and a former English teacher who was into bodybuilding.

BIRMINGHAM CONNECTION
Birmingham has been one of the hotbeds for British Islamists. According to a study by the Henry Jackson think tank earlier this month, 39 of 269 people convicted in Britain of terrorism offenses from 1998 to 2015 came from the city.
Among those plots was one to kidnap and behead a British soldier. In December, two men were found guilty of planning to give 3,000 pounds ($3,750) to Brussels bombing suspect Mohamed Abrini — widely known as “the man in the hat.”
There are over 213,000 Muslims in Birmingham, making up over a fifth of the population, according to the 2011 census, and there has been growing concern about divisions in the diverse city.
The car Masood used in Wednesday’s attack had been hired from rental firm Enterprise’s Spring Hill branch in Birmingham, suggesting he still had connections to the area.
Since the attack in London, police have raided a number of addresses across the city, arresting five men and two women on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts.
Masood may have rented an apartment close to the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, not far from the Enterprise offices, and that was one of the properties raided by armed officers.
On the eve of the attack that Prime Minister Theresa May cast as an attack on democracy, Masood spent his last night in a budget hotel in Brighton on the south coast where he ate a takeaway kebab, the Sun newspaper said.
“An act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy,” May told parliament. “He took out his rage indiscriminately against innocent men, women and children.”

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Fillon accuses French president of involvement in plot against him

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490338811569617800

PARIS: French presidential candidate Francois Fillon accused President Francois Hollande on Thursday of being involved in what he alleges is a government plot to spread damaging media leaks about his affairs to destroy his chances of being elected.
The conservative Fillon, the campaign’s one-time front-runner whose poll ratings have plunged amid a financial scandal, stepped up his allegations that he is a victim of a plot by launching a direct attack on the Socialist president.
“You have newspapers today which receive documents 48 hours after they were seized in searches, for example in my office in the National Assembly. Who gives them these documents? The state services,” he said in an interview with France 2 television.
Asked if politicians or the justice system gave approval for this, Fillon said: “I will go much further. I blame the president of the republic.”
In response to Fillon’s latest allegations, the president’s office said Hollande “condemns with the greatest firmness the false allegations of Fillon.”
“The executive has never intervened in any judicial procedure and has always strictly respected the independence of the judiciary,” it said in a statement, adding that Fillon’s allegations brought “intolerable discord” to the campaign.
Fillon demanded an inquiry into allegations which he said are included in a soon-to-be-published book, by two journalists, that all judicial phone taps that interested Hollande were sent to the president’s office. “It is a state scandal,” he said.
Fillon said earlier this week that the aim of the alleged campaign of media leaks against him was to neutralize him as a force in France’s presidential election being held over two rounds in April and May.
Fillon, a 63-year-old former prime minister, seemed comfortably on course late last year to recover power for the center-right after five years of Socialist rule.
That was until media reports in late January sent his ratings tumbling by disclosing he had paid his wife Penelope and two children hundreds of thousands of euros of public funds for work they may not have carried out.
Fillon is now under formal investigation by magistrates on suspicion of embezzling public funds.
Fillon, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, said again on Thursday he would be proved innocent.
The fraud investigation into Fillon widened last week to include luxury suits he received as gifts.
Well-known lawyer Robert Bourgi gave Fillon made-to-measure suits worth 13,000 euros ($14,000) from exclusive Left Bank tailor Arnys in February.
Fillon said in the interview he had been wrong to accept the suits. He said he had returned three suits, but admitted he had already worn them.
“I was wrong to accept them. I see that shocked many people. I made an error of judgment. So I have returned these suits to the person who gave them to me,” he said.
Fillon said no one had ever previously questioned his integrity during 36 years of public life and said the image that was being painted of him had made him think of Pierre Beregovoy, a former French prime minister who committed suicide in 1993.
He said he “understood why you could be led to this extreme.”
Opinion polls now suggest Fillon will be eliminated in the first round of the presidential election on April 23 and that the May 7 run-off will be between independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Two members of France’s Socialist government deserted their party’s official contender for the presidency on Thursday and threw their support behind Macron, significantly bolstering the 39-year-old’s bid for the Elysee palace.
The biggest catch for Macron was the defection of Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, a Socialist Party grandee who has been a close ally and friend of Hollande for nearly 40 years.
In a sign of Macron’s growing popularity, the daily Ifop-Fiducial poll for the first time on Thursday showed Macron winning both the first round and the decisive run-off vote. A Harris Interactive survey showed the same outcome.

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South China Sea installations ‘primarily’ civilian: Li

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490338652559609000

SYDNEY: China is not militarising the disputed South China Sea, the country’s premier said Friday in Australia, claiming defense equipment Beijing has installed on artificial islands is “primarily” for civilian use.
The sea is a source of growing regional tension, with Beijing insisting it has sovereignty over virtually all the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed in part by several other countries, and deemed international waters by most of the world.
“Even if there is a certain amount of defense equipment or facilities, it is for maintaining the freedom of navigation,” Premier Li Keqiang told a press conference with Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra.
“Because without such freedom, or without stability in the South China Sea, the Chinese side would be among the first to bear the brunt of it.”
China “never has any intention to engage in militarization in the South China Sea,” he said, adding installations — which include airstrips and missile batteries — are “primarily for civilian purposes.”
Li said aircraft and ships that transit through the South China Sea were from trading partners with Beijing, “so one can easily imagine how many Chinese interests are at stake here.”
Sydney-based independent strategic consultant Tim Johnston said the nations involved in the dispute, including China and other claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines, were “being slightly disingenuous.”
“You build up features in the South China Sea in disputed waters, you are likely to have to defend them, which implies some degree of militarization,” he told AFP.
“We have the photographs of what looks like military installations on a number of the islands that China occupies.”
Li’s comments that Beijing did not want to restrict navigation in the South China Sea was also to be expected as no country was seeking such an outcome, Johnston said.
Instead, it was China’s need for a veto over activities in the waters that were contentious “in a region where nationalism is very raw and borders are undefined.”

But he added the premier’s remarks could be interpreted as an attempt “not to exacerbate the situation,” at least for the current period.
“No-one is likely to back down publicly, but that’s very different from not pushing forward. I think that’s where we are.
Australia has followed key ally the United States in carrying out several so-called “Freedom of Navigation” over-flights and sail-bys in the region, which China previously described as “provocations.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also said the building of artificial islands and possible militarization by China create regional mistrust.
Turnbull reiterated his call for all parties to resolve their differences peacefully under international law.
“We encourage all parties to refrain from taking any actions which would add to tensions, including actions of militarization of disputed features,” he added.
Beijing last year vehemently dismissed a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that there was no legal basis to China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

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In Trump land, painful choices await if Obamacare goes

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490338547659601500

ROGERSVILLE, UNITED STATES: Maribeth Coote says she hates Obamacare, but it’s the only health coverage option she can afford in this remote, hardscrabble corner of southwestern Pennsylvania.
The government should “just back off and let me figure it out, and get out of the whole industry” of health care, the 52-year-old Chicago transplant to the tiny town of Rogersville said as she cleaned up her woodworking shed from recent flooding.
Donna Himelrick is uninsured and priced out of the market, despite being the mayor of Hundred, a small town 20 miles (32 kilometers) south in neighboring West Virginia.
“I make too much for Medicaid and not enough that we can afford insurance. It’s a difficult situation,” Himelrick, 62, said at a clinic in nearby Burton, where she pays for medical treatment in cash, according to what she can afford.
Like millions in Appalachia, both women voted for Donald Trump in last November’s election seeking to upend the political system. The Affordable Care Act, they insist, is not the answer to their health woes.
But both would face dramatic changes to their health care — probably for the worse, at least at first — if Obamacare is replaced by the plan being hashed out by Republican lawmakers in Washington, a cultural and political world away.
Local clinics are a lifeline for many in this economically stagnant, overwhelmingly white region. Ambulance coverage is spotty, and rough roads with rougher weather can leave insular communities even more isolated in emergencies.
Now that Trump is president, the reforms installed by his predecessor Barack Obama are under threat, potentially spelling disaster for several community health centers in Pennsylvania and neighboring West Virginia.
“There are a lot of things that need to be straightened out” with health care, but shuttering local clinics “would be a concern to me,” Himelrick conceded. Lawmakers should “tread lightly.”
The Cornerstone Care CHC in Rogersville, which treats Coote, and several other facilities serve an area where coal mines have recently closed, pushing up unemployment, and where health facilities can be 20 miles or more apart.
“We are the safety net for this community,” Janice Morris, chief executive of the Clay-Battelle CHC in Blacksville, West Virginia, said in an interview.
Under Obamacare, several states have expanded Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor and disabled, to include residents whose income is at or below 138 percent of the poverty level.
But with some 670,000 people in Pennsylvania and 175,000 in West Virginia eligible for Medicaid through the expansion, a rollback of the program as proposed in the Republican plan would “have a terrible impact there,” Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told AFP back in Washington.
At Clay-Battelle clinic, nearly half of the patients are either on Medicaid or Medicare, the coverage program for the elderly.
Many of the clinic’s 300 to 400 weekly patients pay on a scale according to their financial ability — a system known as “the slide.”
The clinic covers the slack through Medicaid and commercial insurance reimbursements, federal and state funding, and grants.
Obamacare has helped Clay-Battelle and Cornerstone lower the rate of uninsured who get treatment there. The resulting increase in reimbursements have translated into expanding staff and hours of operation.
That could crumble if Obamacare disappears.
“A lot of people don’t recognize that the health coverage they have was made possible through the Affordable Care Act,” Morris said.
Don Humbertson, 64, says he owes his life to Clay-Battell doctors who discovered he had lung cancer.
The retired concrete worker is insured through his wife’s bus-driver job, but he has grown to appreciate how Obamacare has given those in need a chance.
“Obamacare when it first came out, I was totally against it,” said Humbertson, who has had difficulty breathing and speaking since part of his right lung was removed.
“But I’ve seen how it was helping some people.”
Instead of pulling it out by its roots, he said, Republicans and Democrats should come together and fix the current law.
That is not what’s happening.
Republican leaders are keen to keep popular provisions that bar companies from refusing to insure people because of pre-existing conditions.
But in a bid to provide more free-market choice and competition, they want to slash the amount of subsidies that would be provided for Americans to buy health care, potentially putting insurance out of reach for millions.
The bill is hanging by a thread, with the House of Representatives likely to vote on the measure Friday.
“We feel like we’re just getting whipsawed around,” Cornerstone Care chief executive Richard Rinehart said.
“We’re in the trenches, we’re dealing with these health issues that are real.”
Cornerstone operates another clinic in the larger town of Waynesburg, where coal silos, conveyors and green buildings of the shuttered Emerald Mine stand as ghostly reminders of better days.
In Trump country, many health workers are aware of the irony of a Republican law appearing likely to hurt health centers’ ability to care for the very people who voted the president into office.
“I see it very personally,” Morris said. “Many of our staff people are Trump supporters.”
But health outcomes of Americans are “at risk” because of the Republican plan, he added.
“I would urge them to really think about those people in rural America that they got support from… Don’t turn your back on them.”

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Pope Francis to offer birthday counsel to troubled EU

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490334444939505500

VATICAN CITY: European Union leaders will receive guidance from Pope Francis Friday, on the eve of the troubled bloc’s 60th anniversary celebrations in Rome.
On past form, the Argentine pontiff is unlikely to pull his punches in a Friday evening audience with 27 heads of state or government tasked with charting a “common future” for a union soon to lose Britain from its ranks.
Francis has made it clear he believes that the EU’s future should include a much greater emphasis on combatting social injustice than there has been in six decades of integration driven primarily by trade liberalization and monetary union.
Today’s Europe needs to adopt “new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole,” he said in a speech last year.
Some EU governments and also a significant bloc in the European Parliament agree with him.
But there is no consensus among the 27 member states on this or almost any other issue to do with the bloc’s next steps.
The future, too, is clouded by the advances of far-right and populist parties — a trend the pope has highlighted as a danger on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Crises provoke fear, alarm,” he said in a January interview, recalling that the “obvious example of European populism” was Germany in 1933, the year Adolf Hitler seized power.
Francis’s most senior lieutenant, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, said this week that populism was a “sign of a profound malaise felt by many people in Europe.”
This, he said, was based on genuine concerns about migration and the economic crisis to which the EU had to respond with concrete action.
Among the questions facing the EU is whether it should adopt a two-speed model, allowing some countries to deepen cooperation and pool sovereignty in various areas faster than others?
Is it time the EU finally realized the ambition of having some kind of military capacity?
Does the euro need to be underpinned by a banking union and greater fiscal harmonization?
These issues form the backdrop to Saturday’s anniversary summit, at which both Poland and Greece have threatened to block the final statement.
However, they are not the most pressing concerns as Francis sees it.
The 80-year-old pontiff reiterated again this week that Europe is currently confronted with its biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
And it seems inevitable that he will remind the leaders of his view that they have a responsibility to address it, with compassion, as he did at the European Parliament in November 2014.
“I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being,” he told an audience of EU big-wigs, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, last year.
In that speech, delivered as he accepted the EU’s Charlemagne Prize for his contribution to European unification, Francis implored today’s leaders to learn from the bloc’s founding fathers.
In the aftermath of war, they had inspired because they had “dared to change radically the models” that led to conflict.
Officially, the Vatican has always supported the idea of European integration, despite disappointment over repeated failures to enshrine an explicit commitment to Christian values in the bloc’s founding treaties.
“The celebrations (this weekend) remind us that it is still possible today to work together because that which unites us is stronger than that which divides us,” Parolin said.
“The vision of the founding fathers was rooted in the cultural, religious, judicial, political and human heritage of Europe, built over centuries. That is why Rome was chosen for the signature of the treaties. It is the symbol of this shared heritage in which Christianity was certainly a fundamental component.
“Today we have to rethink the EU along these lines, more a community on a journey than a static, bureaucratic entity.”

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ICC set for first monetary awards to war crimes victims

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-03-24
ID: 
1490333948399472800

THE HAGUE: Judges at the International Criminal Court are expected on Friday to unveil the first compensation awards to victims of war crimes, with lawyers estimating a 2003 attack on a Congolese village caused $16.4 million in damage.
Friday’s order for reparations for 304 victims of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga is set to be a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes.
Katanga was sentenced by the ICC to 12 years in jail in 2014, after being convicted on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the February 2003 ethnic attack on Bogoro village in Ituri province.
He was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes.
Legal representatives have estimated a minimum of $16.4 million in damages was caused, and it may be as high as $24.7 million, even if the “victims are not demanding this sum.”
Katanga, 38, now on trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo on other charges of war crimes and insurrection in the mineral-rich Ituri region, is liable to pay any compensation.
The judges could decide to order collective reparations for projects to help the community as a whole, as well as individual damages to victims.
“It may bring the prospect of some redress for the victims,” said Pieter de Baan, director of the Trust Fund for Victims, arguing it was important to show justice “doesn’t stop in the courtroom.”
The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is an independent body set up under the ICC’s founding guidelines, to support and implement programs to help victims.
Lawyers for the victims have set out a detailed list of the possible reparations due, pricing everything from the loss of a cow or a hen to the cost of rebuilding mud or brick homes or how much a life is worth, or how much suffering being raped caused.
“The reparations regime of the court is without real precedent,” said De Baan. “It’s not science. It’s basically trying to reach an estimation of what the harm has been in relation to the crimes.”
If Katanga cannot himself pay any reparations awarded then the TFV could decide to dip into its funds, gathered from voluntary contributions from member states.
But it only has $5 million available, of which one million has been set aside for the case of Thomas Lubanga. And under its guidelines, it can only help pay collective reparations not any individual ones.

The case of Lubanga, another Congolese warlord sentenced in 2012 to 14 years for conscripting child soldiers in the DRC, was the first to see some kind of ICC compensation awarded.
In October, judges approved “symbolic reparations” to create a “living memorial” to remember and raise awareness about child soldiers.
But a final decision on collective reparations for Lubanga’s victims is still awaited.
The Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.
Aid workers say they hope any reparations will go toward long-term projects such as building roads, health centers and schools.
“Given that today the victims and the executioners are living together, we must help people reach a real reconciliation,” said Jean Bosco Lalo, coordinator for the local group, the Ituri Civil Society.
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