BOGOTA: The UN warned the Colombian government Thursday that “there can be no going back” on the landmark peace agreement with FARC guerrillas, despite President Ivan Duque’s plans to modify the deal he sees as too lenient.
“The current government will have the historic responsibility to continue with the full implementation of the peace agreement,” Alberto Brunori, the UN’s human rights chief in Colombia, said in a speech in Bogota.
Duque was elected last year on a pledge to roll back some aspects of the deal that ended five decades of conflict in the South American country.
He announced plans last week to reform the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), set up under the agreement to try former combatants accused of atrocities.
The right-wing president has announced that he will object before Congress to six of the 159 articles of the law that regulates the JEP, considered the backbone of the peace pact negotiated in Havana.
Under the JEP, ex-rebels or soldiers would receive alternative sentences to prison time if they confess their crimes, compensate victims and pledge never to resort to violence again.
Negotiators of the 2016 peace pact have warned the United Nations that the move would “seriously damage” the accord.
“The construction of a stable and lasting peace depends on the urgent approval and promulgation without denunciations of the draft statute law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace,” said Brunori, who was presenting the annual human rights report for Colombia.
Transformed into a political party since the peace deal, FARC has hit out repeatedly at the lack of security guarantees for its members.
While some 7,000 ex-fighters laid down their weapons, Colombia’s peace and reconciliation commission estimates 1,600 dissident rebels remain active.
The UN office has also described as “worrying” the human rights situation in Colombia, including the killings of activists and community leaders.
Some cases are linked to “substantial delays in the implementation” of the peace agreement, according to the UN. Brunori reported 113 killings in 2018 alone.
Canada unveils air passenger bill of rights
OTTAWA: Airline passengers in Canada will soon be eligible for significant compensation for delayed flights or lost baggage under regulations announced Friday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
The measures follow a rising number of complaints about being stuck on the tarmac for hours, musical instruments being broken in transit and lost baggage.
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive,” Garneau said.
“These new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Starting July 15, airlines will be required to disembark passengers after three hours on the tarmac if there is no prospect of taking off soon.
They would also need to compensate passengers bumped from overbooked flights up to Can$2,400 (US$1,800) and up to Can$2,100 for lost luggage.
As of December 15, additional measures will require airlines to pay passengers up to Can$1,000 for flight delays and cancellations, provide food, drink and accommodations, and rebook them on new flights — using competing airlines if necessary.
They would also have to seat children near a parent at no extra charge and develop new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The latter was in response to travelling musicians complaining on social media about broken guitars and other instruments during flights.
The rules apply to flights to, from and within Canada.
According to Canada’s government statistics agency, there are an average of 5.5 million take-offs and landings at Canada’s 91 airports each year.
Due to its vast geography, air transportation is crucial for connecting parts of the country. A flight from easternmost to westernmost Canada takes about eight hours.
Iran ‘Threat’: US orders new troops to ME!
WASHINGTON: The United States announced Friday it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in response to what the Pentagon called a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
And it comes as the Trump administration is planning to bypass congressional restrictions to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s arch-enemy in the region.
“This is a prudent response to credible threats from Iran,” said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
President Donald Trump, who approved the deployment, called it “protective.”
“We want to have protection in the Middle East,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to set off on a trip to Japan.
“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump added. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
The initial threat came at the beginning of May, according to Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The US caught the IRGC attempting to covertly deploy “modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” he said, referring to small traditional boats.
“We view this as a campaign,” Gilday told reporters.
The moves “are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”
“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels, and that all of the attacks… have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” Gilday said, citing still-secret US intelligence.
US officials said the aim was both to extend greater protection to the 70,000 US forces deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to deliver a message to Iran to refrain from attacks.
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” he said.
Gilday said the US moves have had some impact. When Washington first learned of Tehran’s alleged intent to launch attacks, it delivered a stern warning to Tehran “within hours” through an unnamed third party.
Since then, the threat of the missile-bearing dhows appears to have subsided.
However, the Trump administration continues to draw criticism that it has not clearly shown the need for an escalation.
Members of Congress were also angered that Trump was overriding their block on delivery of lethal weapons to the Saudis.
“More tactics with absolutely no strategy,” tweeted Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
“All that is happening now is escalatory move after escalatory move. Trump has ZERO plan for how this ends, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.”
But Pentagon officials stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”
Venezuela Jail: 23 inmates dead in clashes with police!
CARACAS: At least 23 inmates were killed and 14 policemen wounded in clashes at a jail in western Venezuela on Friday, an NGO that defends prisoner rights said.
The clashes were sparked by prisoners taking some visitors hostage. “We can confirm that there are 23 dead detainees and 14 wounded police,” Carlos Nieto, director of the Una Ventana a la Libertad NGO, told the Media.