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Sudan: A Year On, Justice Needed for Crackdowns

(Nairobi) – Sudans transitional government should accelerate efforts to investigate and prosecute cr..

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(Nairobi) – Sudans transitional government should accelerate efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes against protesters by government security forces since December 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. December 2018 was the start of the wave of protests triggered by price increases that forced president Omar al-Bashir to step down on April 11, 2019.

“Scores of protesters, including teenagers and children, paid with their lives to force al-Bashir out, but a year on, the families of those killed are still searching for justice,” said Jehanne Henry, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudanese authorities should step up their efforts to do right by these victims. Justice should not be denied or delayed.”

Government security forces, particularly the National Security and Intelligence Service (NISS), used lethal, excessive force including live ammunition to break up the protests, killing dozens of unarmed protesters every month. While the exact death toll of protesters is not known, independent groups estimated that over 100 people were killed between December 2018 and April 11, 2019, and Amnesty International verified at least 77 killings during that period.

On April 11, a transitional military council took power and announced that al-Bashir and several of his allies in the ruling National Congress Party were in detention. Salah Gosh, the former head of the NISS, was not detained and reportedly fled to Egypt in May.

Protesters remained at the sit-in demanding that military authorities hand over the government to civilian rule. On June 3, security forces violently dispersed the sit-in, killing over 120 protesters between June 3 and 18, according to doctors groups. The security forces were led by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have a documented record of abuses and attacks on civilians in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile.

On August 17, opposition groups and the military agreed on a transitional government, forming a sovereign council composed of military and civilian leaders but led by military for the first 22 months, with a civilian prime minister and cabinet. Gen. Abdelfattah al-Bourhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, “Hemedti,” commander of the RSF, are chair and deputy chair of the sovereign council respectively. Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, a former United Nations official, is prime minister.

Human Rights Watch concluded after documenting the events on June 3 and the following days that the killings and abuses could qualify as crimes against humanity because they were part of a government policy of using excessive, lethal force against unarmed protesters. Human Rights Watch recommended that the authorities should establish an independent entity to investigate abuses committed since December 2018, including sexual violence.

Despite the transitional governments promises to ensure justice, it has made slow progress in the face of many serious problems, including a collapsing economy. In September, the authorities appointed a committee to investigate the June 3, 2019 crackdown. However, the committee has attracted wide criticism for its slow pace and inaccessibility, especially for victims of gender-based violence.

The authorities have not established a body specifically to address the crimes against protesters since December 2018, but are handling cases alleging violations against protesters in an ad hoc manner, if and when victims families come to them with evidence. Legal aid groups told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors, who lack resources and technical capacity, do not actively investigate but rather rely on victims families to collect evidence.

“It is very disappointing to protesters, victims, and their families, to see that justice is not moving one step further one year after ousting al-Bashir,” said Rifat Makkawi, a prominent human rights lawyer and director of PLACE legal aid center.

The Attorney Generals office has focused on corruption charges and the coup that brought al-Bashir into power in 1989. Al-Bashir was convicted of financial crimes on December 14, 2019, and sentenced to two years in a rehabilitation facility. On April 1, 2020, prosecutors announced new charges against him and 15 former military officers for their involvement in the 1989 coup. Twenty-three other former government officials are also detained in Kober federal prison, media reported. None has been charged with crimes related to the crackdowns against protesters or other human rights violations.

The transitional government should ramp up efforts to ensure justice for the protester killings by investigating cases and identifying suspects, including those at the top of the command chain, whether active or dismissed from service, Human Rights Watch said. This effort could take the form of a special entity, such as an investigation committee or special court. The international community, including donors, should seek to provide technical and financial support to achieve these goals.

The authorities should also move ahead with their cooperation with the International Criminal Court in its Darfur investigation, which includes executing outstanding arrest warrants against al-Bashir and two others who are in detention for their role overseeing serious crimes in Darfur. In February 2020, the prime minister and head of the sovereign council re-affirmed their commitment to cooperate with the court but have yet to take action to carry out that commitment.

“Sudans leaders should not let protesters sacrifices be in vain,” Henry said. “They need to step up efforts at investigating and prosecuting those responsible for killings and other crimes against protesters, including officials at the highest levels.”

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Spain locates Christopher Columbus’ first tomb

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It has long been known that Columbus was buried in Valladolid after his death there in 1506 but the exact location of his tomb was not known until now.

Three years later his remains were taken to his family mausoleum in the southern city of Seville, and were moved several more times over the following centuries before returning to Seville in 1898.

Using DNA samples from bone slivers taken from the Seville tomb, a forensics team led by the University of Granada confirmed in 2005 that the remains kept there did in fact belong to Columbus.

Researchers have now determined that he was first buried in the San Francisco convent in Valladolid which no longer exists, Spain’s Naval Museum, which helped coordinate the study, said in statement.

The site is currently a commercial zone near the spacious Plaza Mayor, a broad, pedestrianised expanse surrounded by arcaded buildings painted red.

This conclusion follows “a detailed historical investigation, confirmed by ground-penetrating radars,” the statement added.

Researchers took samples of elements from the Seville burial sport — lead, brick, golden threads — and found they matched with the location of the spot in Valladolid which was excavated, it added.

Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that housed the remains of Columbus.

In 1544 his remains were moved from Seville to Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic, in accordance with the instructions he had left behind.

In 1795 his bones were moved to Havana before being shipped back across the Atlantic and returned to Seville in 1898.

The Dominican Republic claims Columbus is buried at an ornate lighthouse in Santo Domingo.

The teams behind the 2005 DNA study said that while they are convinced the bones in Seville are from Columbus, the tomb in Santo Domingo might also hold part of his remains.

Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the so-called discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.

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Spain’s Infanta Cristina and Iñaki Urdangarin announce ‘interruption of marriage’

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The sister of Spain’s King Felipe VI, Cristina de Borbón, and her husband Iñaki Urdangarin have decided to “interrupt” their marriage, according to a press release published Monday by Spanish news agency EFE.

“By mutual consent, we have decided to interrupt our marital relationship. Our commitment to our children remains intact. Given this is a private decision, we ask for utmost respect for everyone around us,” the document stated.

The former Olympic handball champion was sentenced to prison in 2018 in connection with a financial crimes scandal known as the Nóos case, and the Infanta – a title Cristina bears for being the daughter of a king – was questioned in court over the matter, although she was later cleared of all criminal charges. Urdangarin has since been moved to an open regime and only reports to prison once a week.

The public announcement comes after Urdangarin was photographed holding hands with another woman last week in Bidart in southwestern France. When asked about his relationship to the woman in question, Ainhoa Armentia, a 43-year-old from the Basque city of Vitoria, Urdangarin replied: “These things happen.”

The relationship between Cristina de Borbón and Iñaki Urdangarin officially began in 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, where Urdangarin was competing as a member of the Spanish handball team. One year later, they married in a church in Barcelona in a ceremony attended by 1,500 guests. The couple have four children together.

In June 2018, Urdangarin was sentenced by the Supreme Court to six years and three months in prison for his involvement in the Nóos case. He was found guilty of tax fraud, embezzlement and influence peddling, and entered prison on June 18, 2018. He has served five years and 10 months at Brieva penitentiary, and is now allowed to serve out the remainder from home.

Last year, the former Duke of Palma – who was stripped of his title following the scandal – was granted permission to move to a more flexible prison regime, meaning he could serve the remaining 11 months of his sentence from home. Under this regime, Urdangarin does not need to wear an electronic bracelet that tracks his movement, and is only subject to weekly in-person meetings and phone check-ins. Since then, he has been living in Vitoria with his mother, Claire Liebaert, who is in poor health.

The new regime also allowed Urdangarin to start working at the accounting firm Imaz & Associates, which has a good relationship with his family. But the frequency in which the former duke was seen in the streets during working hours – under the pretext that he was teleworking – prompted prison authorities to recommend he work in the office in person. There he met Armentia, a married woman whose marriage was not going well, but who continued living in the same apartment as her husband.

Since the photograph was taken last Wednesday, a scrum of photographers and reporters have been waiting long hours outside the accountancy firm to get a statement from Urdangarin and Armentia. According to sources close to the owner of Imaz & Associates, the media attention has made the director question his decision to hire the former duke, which he did as a personal favor to his family. The media attention has also surprised Armentia, who until a few days ago was just an anonymous accountant with two young children.

According to sources close to the Royal Household, news of Urdangarin’s relationship with Armentia also caught Cristina de Borbón off guard.

In June 2015, Felipe VI stripped his sister of the title of Duchess of Palma after the latter repeatedly refused to give up her hypothetical rights to the throne (she is sixth in line of succession). The decision was made a week after the first anniversary of Felipe’s reign, as the monarchy was going through an institutional crisis derived partly from the Nóos scandal.

After Felipe’s father Juan Carlos I abdicated the throne in 2014, the Royal Household announced that membership in the royal family was being reduced to include just Felipe and Queen Letizia, their daughters Leonor and Sofía and Felipe’s parents Juan Carlos I and Doña Sofía. Felipe’s sisters, the infantas Elena and Cristina, were excluded from this group and do not receive any allowances from the Spanish budget.

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Swiss company helps recycle Morocco’s organic waste

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africanews– In Morocco, a Swiss company is helping to process organic waste.

EV or Green Elephant has an annual turnover of 40,000 tonnes of compost and organic fertiliser.

In Morocco, nearly 80% of household waste is organic compared to less than 30% in Europe.

“Our sector of activity is the recovery of agricultural by-products through an industrial process called composting. There are different raw materials of vegetable and animal origin that are mixed together, with well-defined ratios”, says Mohamed El Kabous, EV production manager.

The organic waste is processed and replaces chemical fertilisers improving sustainability.

Traditionally, in Morocco, most household waste is buried.

According to official data, 66 illegal dumps have been rehabilitated so far.

“All our products are organic and can be used in organic farming to replace some of the chemical fertilisers that kill the soil, and also to participate and offer customers a healthy and sustainable agriculture” promises EV’s production manager.

According to the Ministry of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, in 2015 only 6% of household waste was recycled.

A national waste programme whose objective was to reach a recycling rate of 20% by 2022 was pushed back to 2030.

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