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International justice for Lebanon? | Beirut explosion



The August 4 explosion at the Port of Beirut not only killed more than 170 people, injured thousands of others, and left at least 300,000 people homeless, but it also dashed the Lebanese people’s hopes for a better future for their country.

This is why, I, alongside 36 other United Nations Special Rapporteurs and independent experts, issued a statement earlier this month calling for an independent and transparent investigation into the explosion that underscores international human rights obligations, clarifies responsibilities related to the explosion, and leads to justice and accountability. I am also acutely aware of what is at stake since my immediate family was hit by the blast, sustaining life-threatening injuries and losing their livelihoods.

In our joint statement, my colleagues and I urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to hold a special debate on the Port of Beirut explosion when the council reconvenes in September so as to explore all avenues by which this leading international human rights body can support the people in Lebanon and help them meet their needs and demands.

There are several reasons why we believe the UNHRC should play a leading role in the efforts to ensure that effective, transparent and impartial justice is realised for the victims of the explosion, and people in Lebanon at large.

Like scores of Lebanese and international civil society organisations, we do not trust the Lebanese government’s ability to conduct an efficient and transparent investigation into its own failures. Therefore, we believe only an international and truly independent investigation can achieve the desired results. 

As we noted in our statement, the investigation into the explosion should not only be protected from any undue influence, but it should also have “a strong and broad mandate to effectively probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities and institutions to protect human rights.” 

Unlike an investigation led by the Lebanese government, an international investigation mandated by the UNHRC could go beyond finding the individuals directly culpable for the explosion and address the systemic collapse of Lebanese governance that paved the way for the blast.

When faced with calls for an international investigation into the blast, Lebanese elites raised concerns about foreign powers meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs and using the blast to push their own agenda. 

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, for example, rejected calls for an international investigation just a few days after the devastating blast, on the grounds that such an effort would “dilute the truth”. Lebanon’s caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm also dismissed calls for an international probe, asserting that she does not want to “create a system where every time there is an important issue I go to the international”.

The Lebanese people’s lack of trust in local judicial authorities undoubtedly justifies the calls to involve international institutions and bodies in a probe into the explosion. However, the concerns about the possibility of foreign governments using an international probe to serve their own interests should not be dismissed as baseless either. 

The Lebanese people have previously witnessed how seemingly well-meaning international inquiries – such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon established by the UN Security Council – could end up serving narrow geopolitical interests and ignoring wider calls for justice. 

So when French President Emmanuel Macron calls for an international inquiry into the explosion, the Lebanese people should be suspicious of his intentions. After all, France was the former colonial power that institutionalised the sectarian system that is at the root of Lebanon’s current problems. And it is still working to expand its influence over Lebanon today. Last year, for example, the French government was the main player behind the CEDRE proposal, in which a mix of international institutions and countries pledged to give Lebanon $11bn in loans and grants on the condition that it implement certain reforms. On the surface, the proposal seems to be aimed at helping the people of Lebanon. But under closer inspection, it becomes clear that its primary aim is to give international lenders, especially France and the World Bank, a significant amount of power over political and economic life in Lebanon. 

The international community has failed Lebanon too often. For too long it left the Lebanese people searching for justice and a better future with a choice between relying on faulty and corrupt local mechanisms and international efforts guided by vested interests. But this does not mean that the international system lacks the capacity to conduct a truly impartial probe into Lebanon’s August 4 explosion that is not shadowed by powerful governments’ hidden agendas and interests. To achieve this, countries with a vested interest in Lebanon – such as France, the United States, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and China – would need to step back, and allow a multilateral process guided by an impartial international body and based on human rights principles to take its course. 

As Special Rapporteurs, who work on a voluntary basis and are independent from any government or organisation, we believe the UNHRC is well placed to give the Lebanese people what they desperately need. 

While we know the Council has the capacity to mandate an international investigation that would meet the Lebanese people’s demands for transparency and impartiality, we are also aware of how political pressures can cloud such a process. 

Just a few months ago in June, amid the Black Lives Matter uprising in the US, a bloc of African countries pressed the Council to hold an urgent debate on racism, police brutality and violence against protesters. During the debate, some delegates called for an international probe to investigate racially motivated police brutality in the US. However, due to pressure from the US and its many allies, the Council failed to efficiently address the problem and merely adopted a vague resolution calling for a report on racially discriminatory and violent law enforcement practices used against Africans and people of African descent, without specifically naming the US. 

Only time will tell whether the UNHRC will be able to lead the way in the Lebanese people’s quest to bring justice to the victims of the explosion and hold the people responsible to account. 

To mandate an international investigation into the Port of Beirut explosion, the Council needs at least one country to officially put forward such a request. If a group of countries backs the proposal, it will send the message that the international community is ready and willing to help Lebanon in its time of need. 

Come September, the Lebanese people will see whether the messages of solidarity and concern issued by world governments in the aftermath of the devastating explosion were honest. If the UNHRC successfully mandates an independent investigation into the matter and ensures that the investigation is conducted in a transparent and impartial manner, it will give the Lebanese people renewed hope for their country’s future. But if it buckles under political pressure and takes no action, or accepts a watered-down resolution, it will confirm the fears that the international community is incapable of furthering an impartial human rights agenda.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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