ISLAMABAD: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners incarcerated in Saudi jails:
U.N. Panel urges probe into Israeli shootings at Gaza border one year ago
NEW YORK: A United Nations commission has urged Israeli authorities to step up their inquiries into shootings by Israeli troops of Palestinian demonstrators during the protests a year ago, which investigators say may have constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The three-person commission of inquiry made its recommendation on Monday in presenting the United Nations Human Rights Council with its full 252-page report on Israel’s use of deadly force against demonstrators, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The broad contours of the commission’s report were already known after the release of a summary document last month that reported the deaths of 189 Palestinians, of whom 183 — including 32 children — were killed by live ammunition. The commission said snipers firing such ammunition also injured 6,106 Palestinians, inflicting many life-changing wounds.
The commission chairman, Santiago Canton, told reporters in Geneva on Monday: “I hope Israel expands the investigation to all the killings and all the injured. That’s what we expect or hope Israel will do.”
Release of the commission’s full report, came as another United Nations expert monitoring human rights in Gaza, delivered a separate report critical of Israel’s expanding settlements and its extraction of natural resources for commercial use. That report also warned of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.
After March 30, 2018, tens of thousands of Palestinians turned out along the fence on Fridays to demand an end to Israel’s draconian blockade of Gaza and the right to return to land that belonged to their ancestors in what is now Israel. Additional mass protests are expected to note the start of the first anniversary and beyond.
The commission was acutely aware of the context in which those protests erupted, Canton told the human rights council, but its report concluded, “Israeli soldiers killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither participating directly in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat to the Israeli Security Forces, or to the civilian population in Israel.”
Among those killed were three paramedics and two journalists, all wearing clothing that clearly identified them, the report said. At least 39 other paramedics were wounded by live ammunition
as they provided medical assistance, and an additional 39 journalists were also shot, it said.
The commission said it had heard that large crowds would turn out at the fence for the protests’ anniversary on March 30 and urged Israel to ensure its rules of engagement, complied with international law. The excessive use of force that occurred over the past year “must not be repeated,” it said.
In his remarks, Canton added that the “excessive use of force” that took place on March 30, May 14 and October 12, 2018 “must not be repeated”.
Recalling a senior Israeli official’s statement that “each and every bullet” fired by security forces during the protests had received authorization from an experienced commander he said the commission found that lethal force had been authorized, “in the majority of cases”, unlawfully.
“This inevitably led to arbitrary deprivation of life,” he said.
On its part, Israel says the UN council is biased, and it boycotted the day-long debate, while hundreds of Israel supporters rallied outside the United Nations in Geneva, including senior US officials.
Rights advocates slam US move to bar entry to Int’l Criminal Court investigators
UNITED NATIONS: Human rights defenders expressed outrage on Friday after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the Trump administration was revoking or denying visas for any International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel who try to investigate or prosecute U.S. officials or key allies for potential war crimes.
The move, Pompeo confirmed to reporters was a direct response to ongoing efforts by the Hague-based ICC to probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Programme, was among those who spoke out against the decision
The ACLU currently represents Khaled El Masri, Suleiman Salim, and Mohamed Ben Soud, who were all detained and tortured in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008.
“This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt international accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day,” Dakwar said.
“It reeks of the very totalitarian practices that are characteristic of the worst human rights abusers, and is a blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses.”
Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it “an outrageous effort to bully the court and deter scrutiny of U.S. conduct.” He encouraged ICC member countries to “publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for the ICC and will not tolerate U.S. obstruction.”
Daniel Balson, advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, noted that this is just “the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.”
Visa bans, as Balson pointed out, are “powerful tools typically reserved for the most serious of human rights abusers.”
But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC—an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under international law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.
Pompeo’s announcement came after John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, threatened to impose sanctions on court officials in September if they continued to pursue an investigation of potential crimes by U.S. civilians or military personnel in Afghanistan.
The move “is highly indicative of [the administration’s] culture of disregard for rights abuses,” Balson said.
“Throwing roadblocks in front of the ICC’s investigation undermines justice not only for abuses committed in Afghanistan, but also for the millions of victims and survivors throughout the world who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law.”
Echoing Bolton’s broader denunciations of the ICC last year, Pompeo on Friday highlighted that the United States—under both Democratic and Republican presidents—has refused to join the court for more than two decades “because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers and the threat it poses to American national sovereignty.”
Warning that “the court could eventually pursue politically motivated prosecutions of Americans,” the secretary of state told reporters that the Trump administration is “determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation.”
“These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent,” Pompeo added. “Implementation of this policy has already begun.”
117 children die in northeastern Syria camp
DAMASCUS: As many as 117 children died in a battered camp in northeastern Syria over the past few months, a war monitor reported Friday.
The dead children were mostly under 12 years old and 60 percent of them died as a result of the tough humanitarian situation in the camp over the past 19 days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The United Nations has made several statements about the tough humanitarian situation in al-Hol camp. Its latest statement on Thursday said there has been an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the camp since December 2018.
About 67,000 people are in al-Hol camp, 90 percent of whom are women and children fleeing hostilities from the town of Baghouz, the last IS-held area in eastern Syria.
The United Nations said the camp was over-crowded and uninhabitable and threatened human dignity and life where people were forced to sleep on the ground during harsh weather conditions.
People are leaving Baghouz on a daily basis and the Observatory said the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has postponed its last push against the IS in the town as the terror group is holding prisoners from the SDF.
The SDF, backed by the US-led coalition, has been carrying out a crushing offensive against the IS in eastern Syria since last September.
In recent reports, the Observatory said the IS militants were in their last days in eastern Syria amid the progress of the SDF.