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ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to hand over Darfur war crime suspects | Sudan News

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Fatou Bensouda has given her last briefing as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, lamenting that the tribunal has not yet brought justice to victims of atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region. But, she said, a new era in Sudan and the transfer of the first Darfur suspect to the court should give them hope.

Bensouda said Darfur victims she spoke to last week had one message: Sudan’s transitional government should hand over three suspects sought by the court who are in its custody – former President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide; former defence minister Abdel Raheem Hussein, and former interior minister and governor Ahmad Harun.

Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, said she has focused on Darfur since crimes being committed there were referred to the the court by the Security Council in 2005, when she was deputy prosecutor. But her recent visit to Sudan and Darfur was a first – a memorable trip that she said was “a strong reminder that we should focus on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.”

Bensouda cautioned, however, that “the road ahead remains long and fraught with dangers,” saying that Sudan’s transition following al-Bashir’s overthrow in April 2019 after mass protests demanding civilian rule “is still in its infancy”.

Still, she said, after years of hostility and no cooperation, “the ICC and the government of Sudan have turned a new page in their relationship” and have been engaging in “constructive dialogue” and a “good spirit of cooperation.”

The vast Darfur region was gripped by bloodshed in 2003 when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an armed rebellion accusing the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of discrimination and neglect.

The government, under al-Bashir, responded with a scorched-earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed local nomadic Arab militias known as the Popular Defence Forces on the population, resulting in countless reports of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.

Legal obligation

Bensouda said she urged the handover of al-Bashir and the others at meetings with Sudanese government officials, including the head of the Sovereignty Council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

“Sudan is under a legal obligation to surrender the suspects” under the Security Council resolution that referred Darfur to the court, she said.

Harun, who faces 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes, remains at large. His presence at the Hague-based court is required for the trial to begin.

Bensouda said Harun’s transfer is urgent so he can be tried with Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, who voluntarily surrendered a year ago to the court in The Hague, Netherlands. She appealed to the Security Council “to prevail upon Sudan to immediately honour Mr Harun’s wish and facilitate his transfer to the ICC without delay.”

Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, said she has focused on Darfur since 2005 [File: Bas Czerwinski/Pool via AP]

Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said: “It’s well past time for Khartoum to honour its responsibility to the victims of Darfur. Surrendering these three suspects would signal an indelible commitment to the rule of law.”

Adam Day, programme director at United Nations University’s Center for Policy Research who was a political officer with the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur in 2008, said the question now is: “What incentives can the international community offer the new Sudanese government to turn over the suspects to the ICC? … Will major international donors insist that their support be conditioned on the handover of al-Bashir” and the others?

“As a cash-strapped government in desperate need of support, that could tip the balance towards handover,” he told The Associated Press.

Eric Reeves, a retired Smith College professor who has worked on Sudan for 22 years and is a trustee of the Darfur Bar Association, said Bensouda has spent her entire time trying to get the Darfur cases prosecuted “and has not succeeded”.

“She knows as well as anyone if the court can’t bring convictions in the case of Darfur then the court has probably seen its relevance either diminished entirely or diminished to the point where it just can’t function,” he said. “If it fails it will be a major failure for international justice.”

The ICC was officially established on July 1, 2002, to hold accountable perpetrators of the world’s most serious crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – in cases where adequate national judicial systems are not available.

It has 123 member nations, and Bensouda’s staff is currently investigating alleged crimes in 13 other places from Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Libya to Bangladesh-Myanmar, Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian territories. Darfur was the first referral to the court by the Security Council.

‘Without fear or favour’

Nine Security Council members that are parties to the court issued a statement after Wednesday’s meeting, calling for intensified efforts to surrender all suspects, commending Sudanese authorities and the UN for facilitating Bensouda’s visit, and expressing gratitude to the prosecutor for her persistence in fighting impunity and pursuing international justice “without fear or favour”.

Day from the United Nations University recalled that when Bensouda became prosecutor in 2011, the court faced criticism for being overly focused on African conflicts as well as the risk that some African countries might withdraw from the court.

“One of Bensouda’s biggest accomplishments was in fact saving the ICC from that negative trajectory, restoring the legitimacy of the international community,” he said.

“I think Bensouda has successfully kept Darfur on the Security Council’s agenda, and has made a consistent and well-reasoned point that peace in Darfur cannot be achieved without a meaningful reckoning with past human rights abuses,” Day said.

HRW’s Dicker referred to sanctions against Bensouda and another court official by US President Donald Trump in 2020 over the court’s investigations into alleged war crimes by the US in Afghanistan and by US ally Israel in the Palestinian territories. They were lifted by the Biden administration on April 2.

“Fatou Bensouda brought a staunch commitment to defending the independence of her office in the face of unprecedented pressure that was aimed at exacting a high personal cost,” Dicker said. “Yet, she did not flinch. This prosecutorial legacy is fundamental to the court’s legitimacy.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Nic Dlamini is set to be first black South African at Tour de France

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South African cyclist Nic Dlamini
Nic Dlamini is set to become the first black South African to ride the Tour de France

Nic Dlamini will make history at this year’s Tour de France by being the first black South African to compete in cycling’s most famous race.

The 25-year-old will be one of the eight riders for Africa’s only top-flight professional cycling team Qhubeka-Assos at the Tour, which runs from 26 June until 18 July.

He will be the only African on the team that will be jointly led by Australia’s Simon Clarke and Austrian Michael Gogl as well as including the Italian 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru.

“Being selected to ride in my first Tour de France is an absolute dream come true for me,” Dlimani said.external-link

“It’s always been an childhood dream and now that I’m about to live it makes it feel surreal.

“I think it speaks to what the team is about, the Ubuntu spirit [I am because we are], and how we change people’s lives because it is honestly a very special moment: to come from a small township and then to go to the Tour de France.”

He becomes the latest rider to progress from the South African-registered team’s development squad and onto the UCI WorldTour.

Humble beginnings

South African cyclist Nic Dlamini

The 25-year-old, who grew up in an informal settlement in Cape Town, first caught the eye as a runner before moving into cycling where his talents saw him move to the UCI’s World Cycling Centre Africa in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

“Considering where I come from it would simply have been impossible for me to have the opportunity to ride at the Tour de France if it wasn’t for Team Qhubeka-Assos,” he explained.

“The platform that they’ve provided me, and other riders from Africa, to compete at the highest level in cycling has been critical.

“I really hope that this will serve as a reference of hope and inspiration to many young South Africans, and people around the world, who have been working really hard to reach their dreams. My hope is that they take from this that anything is possible.

“I want to race the Tour to inspire more kids on Qhubeka bikes to follow in my footsteps and to experience the world like I have, for more kids in communities to put their hands up for bikes to work hard like I did, to dream big.”

According to the team “Dlamini’s style of racing will likely see his talents deployed in the offensive strategy the team will look to pursue during the race, while also playing a key supporting role in the flatter stages.”

The team is completed by Belgium’s Victor Campenaerts, Max Walscheid of Germany, debutant Sean Bennett of the USA and Colombian Sergio Henao.

Qhubeka-Assos’ team principal Douglas Ryder also hopes that Dlamini’s inclusion is a special moment.

“For Nic, what a moment though; his story is simply an incredible one and for him to have earned this opportunity shows that dreams really do come true, and for the team to have provided that opportunity makes me incredibly proud,” he said.

“He’s always been an individual that has stepped up and taken the opportunities that he’s fought for; and he does so again as he lines up at the startline in Brest on the sport’s biggest stage in front of the world.

“This will culminate in an incredible moment for him, South Africa and especially for our team.

“His selection speaks to everything about what we’ve created and built with this team through providing hope, an opportunity and then ultimately the platform to be on the biggest stage of all, the Tour de France.”

The only African rider to have worn the Tour de France leader’s famous ‘yellow jersey’ is Dlamini’s compatriot Darryl Impey, who wore it for two stages in 2013.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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In COVID hit Asia, mixed messages on refugee vaccinations | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Medan, Indonesia – Earlier this month, dozens of Rohingya refugees landed on a deserted island off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

The refugees had been at sea for more than 100 days, having left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh in a rickety wooden fishing boat, and were spotted huddling on uninhabited Idaman Island by local fishermen who used the island as a rest stop between fishing trips.

By June 5, just a day after their arrival, all 81 refugees, including children, had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The refugees were vaccinated in conjunction with the local government,” Nasruddin, the humanitarian coordinator of Geutanyoe Foundation, an NGO which provides education and psychosocial support to refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, told Al Jazeera.

“When we found them, they were in a crisis situation on the island with no food, water or electricity, so local residents brought them food and we also brought them 50 tanks of water,” he added. “The feeling on the ground was that we needed to share our vaccines with the refugees in order to protect them as well. No one complained that the vaccines were being given to refugees.”

Aceh Province has been widely praised by humanitarian groups, NGOs and the general public for vaccinating Rohingya refugees, but elsewhere in Southeast Asia, asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers have not been so lucky.

Hard line

When Nasruddin assessed the 81 refugees on Idaman Island, they told him that they had wanted to go to Malaysia. Some had family members who were already living there, while others were under the impression that the country had a more liberal policy towards refugees than its neighbours.

Some of the Rohingya refugees who arrived in Aceh earlier this month. They told NGOs that they had wanted to go to Malaysia because they had family there or thought it would be more welcoming to refugees than other countries in Southeast Asia [Cek Mad/AFP]

But like most countries in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention and while the government has said it will vaccinate everyone living in the country, it has also taken a hard line on undocumented migrants and refugees, including Rohingya.

“In February, the cabinet decided that in the interest of pandemic recovery all foreigners would receive vaccination free of charge, including refugees and undocumented migrants,” Lilianne Fan, the co-founder and international director of Geutanyoe Foundation who is based in Kuala Lumpur, told Al Jazeera.

“The COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force and Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as coordinator of the vaccination programme, have been vocal advocates of this approach.

“However, the recent statement of the minister of home affairs that those without valid documents should not be vaccinated, combined with renewed crackdown on undocumented migrants, contradicts the government’s earlier position and will simply drive more people into hiding and slow down Malaysia’s pandemic recovery.”

Malaysia went into its second strict lockdown at the beginning of June after cases of coronavirus surged – stretching hospitals and intensive care units to the limit. The health ministry announced 6,440 new cases on Friday.

The government has indicated that it will ease the lockdown as more people are vaccinated, and Khairy has consistently stressed that the programme will include everyone living in the country.

But as it did during last year’s first lockdown, Malaysia has once again stepped up operations against undocumented migrants.

Malaysia’s Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin has declared that PATI – the acronym for undocumented people in the Malay language – will be detained and sent to immigration detention centres.

This month, he stressed that undocumented migrants had to “surrender” before they would be vaccinated.

In early June, a video from state news agency Bernama showed 156 undocumented migrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar being sprayed with disinfectant in Cyberjaya, near Malaysia’s international airport, after they had been detained.

Last week the immigration department shared a post on its Facebook page – styled like a poster for an action movie – with the headline “Ethnic Rohingya migrants are not welcome”. After an outcry, but not before it had been widely shared among refugee communities, it was deleted.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia on Monday expressed concern at “recent statements portraying migrants, undocumented or irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as a threat to the safety and security of the country and a risk to the health of Malaysians” and urged the government to rethink its approach.

“Instilling fear through threats of arrests and detention of undocumented foreigners is counterproductive in light of ongoing efforts to overcome the pandemic and achieve herd immunity,” it said, stressing the clear differences in the situations of migrant workers, and refugees and asylum seekers.

Malaysia closed its borders during the first strict lockdown last year when immigration officers carried out a number of raids on areas under ‘enhanced’ lockdown. Rights groups fear more raids will deter people from coming forward for the vaccine that is crucial to Malaysia ending the COVID pandemic [File: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

Rohingya made up about 57 percent of the 179,570 refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia at the end of May.

Unofficial estimates suggest the country may have as many as three million undocumented migrants, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Widespread problem

The mixed messaging on vaccinations for refugees is not exclusive to Malaysia.

In a statement released in early June, the UN refugee agency warned that a shortage of vaccines in the Asia Pacific region was putting the lives of refugees and asylum seekers at risk.

“Refugees remain especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Overcrowded settings, coupled with limited water and sanitation facilities, can contribute to increased infection rates and an exponential spread of the virus,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said in the statement.

There are almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, making it the single largest and most densely populated cluster of refugee camps in the world. According to Mahecic, the number of COVID-19 cases in the camps has increased dramatically in the last two months.

As of 31 May, there had been more than 1,188 confirmed cases among the refugee population, with more than half of these cases recorded in May alone.

None of the refugees in Cox’s Bazar has yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Mahecic added that, in many countries in the Asia Pacific region, there were not enough vaccines to go around, leading to groups such as migrant workers and asylum seekers being sidelined.

The UNHCR had observed a “worrying increase” in the number of coronavirus cases among refugees and asylum seekers in countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Indonesia, at least, appears to be starting to do more to address the problem.

The UNHCR says COVID-19 has begun to accelerate in the crowded refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, but no Rohingya living there have been vaccinated [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Other parts of the country have started to follow Aceh’s lead, according to the IOM, which vaccinated more than 900 refugees in the Indonesian city of Pekanbaru in Riau Province in early June in collaboration with the local government.

“IOM applauds the response of the City Government of Pekanbaru for making vaccines available to the refugee community in the city,” Ariani Hasanah Soejoeti, the national media and communications officer of IOM Indonesia told Al Jazeera, adding that all refugees in the city over the age of 18 have now received vaccines.

“Vaccines are one of our most critical and cost-effective tools to prevent outbreaks and keep individuals and therefore entire communities safe and healthy,” she said.

“The virus knows no borders or nationality; and neither should our solidarity.”





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Why Ethiopia’s 'alphabet generation' feel betrayed by Abiy

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PM Abiy Ahmed swept to power after mass protests, but his Oromo community still feel like outsiders.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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