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UN agrees roadmap to women’s economic empowerment

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:36:21 +0000

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has agreed on a roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy as a vital step to achieving sustainable development as the body concluded its two-week session. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has agreed (24 March 2017) on a roadmap to women’s full and equal participation in the economy as a vital step to achieving sustainable development as the body concluded its two-week session. “This Commission has engaged strongly, comprehensively and constructively over the last two weeks in considering the most effective ways in which to bring about change for women in the world of work,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The outcome document, consisting of a set of agreed conclusions, highlights barriers that women face, such as unequal working conditions, women’s over-representation in the informal economy, gender stereotypes and social norms that reinforce women’s concentration in certain sectors, such as health and social sectors, and the uneven share of unpaid care work that women do. This year’s Commission drew the attendance of 162 Member States, including 89 representatives at the Ministerial level. More than 3,900 representatives from 580 civil society organisations came to New York from 138 countries, attesting to the growing strength and unity of women’s voices around the world. Member States expressed concern over the gender pay gap and the persistently low wages paid to women, which are often below decent living wages. In the final agreement, they commit to the implementation of equal pay policies through social dialogue, collective bargaining, job evaluations and gender pay audits, among other measures. “There has never been any excuse for the inequality that exists. Now we are seeing a healthy intolerance for inequality grow into firm and positive change,” said Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka. Underlining that women’s careers should not experience any disadvantage because of pregnancy and motherhood, the outcome document stresses the need to ensure that both women and men have access to paid parental leave and to promote men's usage of such allowances. For the first time, the transition of informal and domestic workers into the formal economy was a key issue of discussion for the Commission, whose members agreed on the need of promoting decent work and paid care in the public and private sectors; increasing the provision of social protection and wages that guarantee an adequate standard of living; and ensuring safe working conditions for women. This comes as a matter of concern as many migrant women employed in the informal economy and in less skilled work are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The Commission recognised the positive contributions of migrants and called for gender-responsive migration policies that promote migrant women’s economic empowerment. It also calls for strengthened efforts in both public and private sectors to retain women in the workforce and seek more gender balance in managerial positions. Member States further called for an end to the practice of gender-based price differentiation, also known as the ‘pink tax’ – whereby goods and services intended for or marketed to women and girls cost more than similar items marketed to men and boys. With the empowerment of indigenous women being the emerging theme of this session, the outcome document urges the full inclusion and development of indigenous women in economic life, including through the establishment of indigenous-owned businesses. * More on the Commission on the Status of Women here * United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html [Ekk/4] [...]



Christian Aid welcomes full refugee status for resettled Syrians

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 08:21:24 +0000

Christian Aid has welcomed the Home Office announcement to grant Syrians resettling in the UK refugee status, saying Britain should be proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and conflict.

Christian Aid has welcomed the Home Office announcement to grant Syrians resettling in the UK refugee status, saying Britain should be proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and conflict.

Thousands of people who have fled Syria and resettled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS) will now have access to rights, including higher education and overseas travel documents, promoting dignity and stability among people who have experienced violence and trauma.

Syrian refugees have previously been granted Humanitarian Protection, a special form of leave to remain, which prevented them from accessing some services.

Tom Viita, Head of Advocacy at Christian Aid, said: “It may take many years for peace to return to Syria and the many millions who have fled to return home and help rebuild their country. Today the Home Office has done the right thing for the few thousand Syrians resettled in the UK by granting full refugee status so they can move on with their lives with some stability after such trauma.

“This will allow them to make a full contribution to this country while they are here. Britain should be proud to do our bit to offer sanctuary to these Syrians.”

Currently at least 5 million Syrians are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, which hosts more than 1 million refugees in a country with a population of around 4 million. The UK scheme has resettled less than 6,000 out of a planned 20,000 by 2020.

However, following Donald Trump’s moves to stop America’s refugee resettlement programme, the charity called on the UK to expand the British scheme beyond the planned 20,000 it has committed to resettle by 2020.

Mr Viita added: “Donald Trump’s U-turn on America’s commitment to resettle refugees means the UK and other countries need to step up and do more for the millions of people who have been forced to flee Syria, especially those in need of permanent resettlement.

“The British scheme of 20,000 is low by international standards and suggests the UK is not doing all it can to help those who have fled for their lives. The Government should extend the scheme and speed up the transfer of people from the region.”

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




UK churches' statement on UN sponsored nuclear ban treaty

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 13:43:33 +0000

Five UK Churches have issued a statement to support and encourage those meeting in New York to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons.  They have also expressed their shared disappointment that the UK Government has refused to take part in these talks, despite its longstanding international commitments to work towards a nuclear weapon free world. Five UK Churches have issued a statement to support and encourage those meeting in New York to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons.  They have also expressed their shared disappointment that the UK Government has refused to take part in these talks, despite its longstanding international commitments to work towards a nuclear weapon free world. Churches from across the United Kingdom give thanks for the moral courage being exhibited by all the countries participating in these important negotiations. We pray that you succeed in your efforts to create a legally-binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons. On behalf of our churches we commit ourselves to working with you and supporting your efforts until all nuclear weapons have been eliminated from the face of the earth. We also want to express disappointment in our own Government for thus far refusing to take part in this important process. In 1968 the UK Government agreed to negotiate in “good faith” for an end to the nuclear arms race.  In declining to support these negotiations the UK is failing to observe that promise. In our view the UK Government is letting down not only the vast majority of countries in the world that are involved in these negotiations but also their own citizens.  We assure you that millions of people in the UK want to see a world free of all nuclear weapons regardless of the lack of co-operation from our Government. We believe that the possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons is a sin against God and humanity. We repent of our complacency in allowing this state of affairs to continue for so long. Several of the nine countries maintaining nuclear weapons, including our own, have warheads that are several times more destructive than those that were used on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The very existence of such weapons violates the dignity and worth of every human being. We affirm that the trillions of dollars being squandered on these weapons are, in the words of President Dwight D Eisenhower, “a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Our world faces many challenges including oppressive poverty, climate change, violent extremism and emerging national rivalry. Addressing these challenges requires strong relationships across nations, founded on mutual co-operation, trust and shared prosperity. Security policies based on the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are immoral and ultimately self-defeating. We recognise that the elimination of nuclear weapons under an internationally agreed system of verification is a big undertaking. However, we believe that this is a critical moral issue of our time and that together we can rise to this challenge. We cannot leave this threat to hang over our children and over future generations to come. It is for us to take responsibility for resolving what the late Jonathan Schell called, the final ‘unfinished business’ of the 20th century and achieve the intention of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in all its aspects. We commend you all for your efforts and uphold you in your deliberations to achieve a treaty that will impose an unequivocal ban on all nuclear weapons. Signed, The Rev Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader of the Baptist Union of Great Britain The Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland Rachel Lampard MBE, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain The Rev Kevin Watson, Ge[...]



School fees for a state education?

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 10:34:00 +0000

School fees for a state education?

read more




ISIS 'dumped hundreds' in mass grave says Human Rights Watch

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 10:04:43 +0000

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) executed and dumped the bodies of possibly hundreds of detainees at a site near Mosul, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) executed and dumped the bodies of possibly hundreds of detainees at a site near Mosul, Human Rights Watch said yesterday (23 March 2017). Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the bodies of those killed, including bodies of members of Iraqi security forces, were thrown into a naturally occurring sinkhole at a site known as Khafsa, about eight kilometers south of western Mosul. Local residents said that before pulling out of the area in mid-February, ISIS laid improvised landmines at the site, which are sometimes referred to as improvised explosive devices or booby traps."This mass grave is a grotesque symbol of ISIS's cruel and depraved conduct – a crime of a monumental scale", said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Laying landmines in the mass grave is clearly an attempt by ISIS to maximize harm to Iraqis." Iraqi authorities should make it a priority to mark and fence the site for the protection of the mass grave and those in the area, until deminers can clear the site, Human Rights Watch said. Residents said that water runs through the bottom of the sinkhole, which may make it difficult to exhume the human remains there. If exhumation is possible, the process should be carried out under international standards. Authorities should turn the site into a memorial and support families of victims seeking justice for the executions. The site is one of dozens of ISIS mass graves found between Iraq and Syria, but could be the largest discovered thus far, Human Rights Watch said. While it is not possible to determine the number of people executed at the site, the estimates of residents, based on executions they witnessed and what ISIS fighters in the area had told them, reaches into the thousands. Iraqi forces seized control of the site in mid-February 2017. Human Rights Watch visited the site on March 7, but did not inspect the sinkhole closely due to the landmines. An improvised explosive device left at the sinkhole killed a journalist and at least three Iraqi security forces on February 25. Residents said they had seen multiple mass executions at the 35-meter-wide sinkhole, sometimes on a weekly basis starting in June 2014 until May or June 2015. They said they heard ISIS fighters talking about other executions, including of former police, former Iraqi Security Force members, and members of the Awakening Force (Sahwa), the Sunni force that fought extremist fighters from 2007 to 2008.Some of the victims may also have been detainees at Badoush Prison, 10 kilometers west of Mosul, which ISIS captured on June 10, 2014. On that day, ISIS fighters executed about 600 prisoners at a ravine in the nearby desert, nine survivors told Human Rights Watch. On March 11, 2017, the Iraqi Security Forces announced that they had found another mass grave, about two kilometers from Badoush prison, that held between 500 and 600 men – though it is unclear how they determined these numbers. On March 13, Human Rights Watch spoke to an Iraqi military commander who had visited the site four days earlier and had witnessed Iraqi forces exhuming bodies there. On March 15, a general in the Iraqi military's 9th division told Human Rights Watch that under the division's supervision, medical experts from Baghdad had exhumed about 400 bodies from the site. Fawaz Abdulameer of the International Committee for Missing Persons, an international organisation working to establish effective procedures for protecting mass graves and conducting exhumations, told Human Rights Watch: "These excavations are unacceptable. They must be carried out by trained teams with sufficient experience, because they are dealing with human [...]



UK period of decently-paid maternity leave one of lowest in Europe says TUC

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 09:44:05 +0000

Mothers in the UK get one of the lowest amounts of decently-paid maternity leave in Europe, according to new TUC analysis published today ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday..

Mothers in the UK get one of the lowest amounts of decently-paid maternity leave in Europe, according to new Trades Union Congress (TUC) analysis published today (24 March 2017) ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday..

The UK ranks 22 out of 24 amongst European countries that offer statutory maternity leave. While mothers in the UK only get six weeks’ decently-paid maternity leave, most European countries offer three months or more:

  • 6 months: Croatia
  • More than 4 months: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
  • More than 3 months: Estonia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Malta and Switzerland.

The only European countries offering less decently-paid maternity leave than the UK are Ireland and Slovakia, where mothers do not get any decently-paid time off.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK is in the relegation zone when it comes to decently-paid maternity leave. Many Europeans countries offer decent support to new mums. But lots of parents here are forced back to work early to pay the bills.

“My advice to all new mums is to join a union. It is the best way to improve your pay and conditions.”

Director of Maternity Action Ros Bragg said: “Without adequate maternity pay, women’s choices are limited and many cannot afford to take their leave entitlements. We should be investing in support for pregnant women and new families.”

* 'Decently-paid' leave is defined as time off paid at two-thirds of women’s pre-maternity leave earnings or more, or a rate of pay greater than £840 (€1000) per month. While the UK has a relatively generous period of maternity leave compared to other countries, the leave is decently-paid for a shorter period

* More about statutory maternity leave in European countries here.

* TUC https://www.tuc.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




High Court rules rendition case can be heard in secret

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 09:01:16 +0000

The High Court has ruled that a Blair-era renditions case should be heard in secret, following a request from the government under the controversial Justice and Security Act.

The High Court ruled yesterday (22 March 2017) that a Blair-era renditions case should be heard in secret, following a request from the government under the controversial Justice and Security Act.

In reaching his judgment, Mr Justice Leggatt warned that secret hearings are a “serious derogation from the fundamental principles of open justice and natural justice.”

The  case involves two Pakistani men, Amanatullah Ali and Yunus Rahmatullah, who were detained by the UK in Iraq in 2004 and handed over to US forces.(http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23805)

The pair were then rendered to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan where they were tortured and held without charge or trial for a decade.

The government’s application for secrecy was met with criticism by senior Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, who warned that “If this case is heard secretly, many people could well feel that the truth has never been exposed.”

In documents presented to the court at a hearing, the government argued that that it would not be possible to discuss in open court “whether they [the two men] were ill-treated (and if so, by whom) during that operation.”

The judge’s decision means that the victims will not be able to hear key parts of the case, which will be shrouded in ‘closed material procedures’ or CMPs. This marks the first use of CMPs in a civil case brought by rendition victims. The judgement follows a hearing behind closed doors at the Royal Courts of Justice, where lawyers and journalists were barred.

The government is claiming that the men were members of the extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). However, human rights organization Reprieve has demonstrated that Mr Ali, a rice trader, was detained on the basis of flawed intelligence that misidentified him as a LeT commander. Ministers have repeatedly told Parliament that Mr Ali was a LeT member, despite this flawed intelligence.

Omran Belhadi – a lawyer at Reprieve assisting the victims – said: “This is a dark day for British justice. The government is insisting on secret hearings – concealed even from the victims – to continue covering up its error. It is a blatant attempt to bury the embarrassing truth about the UK’s role in renditions. With the new US President vocally supporting torture, it’s more important than ever that we learn from the mistakes of the past – and never repeat them. The government should urgently withdraw its bid for secrecy.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Mozambican campaigners demand cancellation of secret debt

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:39:49 +0000

Campaigners in Mozambique have called for secret debts to be cancelled before the IMF lends to the country again, alongside a range of measures including public disclosure of the audit into the debts, mechanisms to hold leaders accountable for actions and greater tax collection from megaprojects in the country. Campaigners in Mozambique have called for secret debts to be cancelled before the IMF lends to the country again, alongside a range of measures including public disclosure of the audit into the debts, mechanisms to hold leaders accountable for actions and greater tax collection from megaprojects in the country. In a statement signed by 35 organisations in Mozambique, and supported by 31 international organisations, the groups say: “The only sustainable way out of Mozambique’s economic crisis is through far greater transparency in borrowing and lending, and ensuring that any adjustment falls on those who are able to pay, and that Mozambique does not get trapped by an unpayable debt burden.” The statement has been released at the same time as the Mozambique government was expected not to make payments on one of the secret debts on 21 March. An audit of the deals by US company Kroll is expected to be completed by 31 March. The statement calls for the full audit to be publicly disclosed. It also calls for:   a clear framework for how political leaders will be held accountable if such a situation arises again   a commitment by both the government and IMF not to cut government spending on vital services and investment   a strong and convincing strategy for cutting overspending and anticorruption measures   a renegotiation of contracts with megaprojects to ensure that they are all paying a fair share of tax   cancellation of a significant reduction in debt owed by the government as a result [of the secret debts]. Signatories to the statement include the Mozambique Budget Monitoring Forum, Mozambican Debt Group and the Transparency and Fiscal Justice Coalition. International supporters include the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad), Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), ActionAid International and Oxfam International, and the Jubilee Debt Campaign. Mozambique’s debt crisis has come from revelations in April 2016 that money had been lent to companies in Mozambique, with government guarantees, without them being publicly disclosed or agreed by the Mozambican parliament. Furthermore,the fall in global commodity prices since mid-2014 has cut the Mozambique government’s revenue, and contributed to the meticais, the Mozambican currency, falling 60 per cent against the dollar, rapidly increasing the size of foreign-owed debts. In 2013, the London branches of Credit Suisse and VTB Capital arranged for the Mozambique government to borrow $850 million from international speculators, supposedly to pay for a tuna fishing fleet, with an interest rate of 8.5 per cent. Unbeknown to most people at the time, Credit Suisse and VTB together also lent a further $1.1 billion, under English law, to two state owned companies in Mozambique, much of which is now reported to have been spent on military equipment. From 2001 to 2014 Mozambique was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This was based on a series of mega projects based around the extraction and export of resources such as fossil fuels and metals. In a report in 2015, Jubilee Debt Campaign showed how this high growth was not leading to significant poverty reduction and that the dependence on raw materials made the country vulnerable to a big fall in prices, which could lead to a debt crisis. The first ever mega project was an aluminium smelter jus[...]



Faith groups respond to Westminster attacks

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 09:43:03 +0000

Following the attack in Westminster yesterday in which four people, including the attacker, died and 40 were injured, several faith communities have issued statements or comments from their leaders.

Following the attack in Westminster yesterday (22 March 2017) in which four people, including the attacker, died and 40 were injured, several faith communities have issued statements or comments from their leaders.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described the incident as "brutal and senseless",saying he was praying "for those grieving loved ones – and those injured and traumatised", while Cardinal Vincent Nichols said "I think first of the families of the people who have lost their lives. I pray for the dead and I pray for those who will mourn their loss very deeply."

A statement from  Muslim Council of Britain reads: "We are shocked and saddened by the incident at Westminster. We condemn this attack and while it is still too early to speculate on the motives, our thoughts and prayers are for the victims and those affected. We pay tribute too to the police and emergency services who handled this with bravery. The Palace of Westminster is the centre of our democracy and we must all ensure that it continues to serve our country and its people with safety and security."

The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the  Rev Dr Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard,  have responded saying: "We ask all Methodists to join us in prayer as we unite with others across the UK in the wake of today's attack at Westminster.

"We pray for those who were attacked and their families, for the emergency services who responded so quickly and for the whole country at this time."

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain.said: "As Quakers throughout Britain, our thoughts are with all those touched by today's violent events in Westminster. For Quakers all human life is precious, we deplore all killing. Our prayers are with the injured, their families, and all those involved in this tragic incident."

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis said: “Today’s attack, which targeted the very heart of our democracy in Westminster, will serve only to unite us against the scourge of violence and terrorism.

“The prayers of the Jewish community are with the families of the victims and with our security services, who so often selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for our protection."

[Ekk/4]




'Conversation welcome' say churches as Article 50 is triggered

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:43:09 +0000

In readiness for the impending trigger of Article 50, four of the UK's largest Christian Churches, representing three quarters of a million members, are inviting their congregations to take part in discussions across the UK to explore what kind of society we should be seeking to create.

In readiness for the impending trigger of Article 50, four of the UK's largest Christian Churches, representing three quarters of a million members, are inviting their congregations to take part in discussions across the UK to explore what kind of society we should be seeking to create.

At a time when the UK is moving towards exiting the EU, there is naturally uncertainty about what our future as a country will look like, whichever way people voted in the referendum. Churches are being invited to take part in constructive conversations about the sort of society we would wish to live in, and hope to leave to future generations. Talking about things where people disagree can be dif?cult, so a pack – Conversation Welcome – has been provided to help.

The conversations will be held by local Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed and Church of Scotland churches. They are being promoted by the Joint Public Issues Team, through which the four Churches work together on issues of justice and inequality.

Baptist Minister, the Rev Phil Jump, who is coordinating the initiative and an adviser to the Joint Public Issues Team, commented: "Conversations are important at any time but the extraordinary recent political events have made the need more pressing. The EU Referendum campaign has left some mourning the loss of an important identity, while others are delighted by the opportunities that lie ahead.

"The process of leaving the European Union means making many important decisions that will shape the UK for years to come. By taking part in these conversations, people will discuss a vital underlying question - What kind of society should we be seeking to create?"

The Conversation Welcome discussion will suggest four questions to explore: 

  • What sort of society do we want to leave for future generations?
  • How should we treat others?
  • How should we use our resources?
  • How should we make decisions?

The resource pack is available here

* Joint Public Issues Team http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Muslim Council of Britain statement on Westminster attack

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 22:54:19 +0000

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a statement following the attack in Westminster this afternoon

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued the following statement following the attack in Westminster this afternoon (22 March 2017):

"We are shocked and saddened by the incident at Westminster. We condemn this attack and while it is still too early to speculate on the motives, our thoughts and prayers are for the victims and those affected. We pay tribute too to the police and emergency services who handled this with bravery. The Palace of Westminster is the centre of our democracy and we must all ensure that it continues to serve our country and its people with safety and security."

[Ekk/4]




On World Water Day, the WCC asks: “why waste water?”

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:31:47 +0000

As World Water Day is observed across the world today (22 March 2017), Prof. Jesse N.K. Mugambi, giving the fourth reflection during Seven Weeks for Water 2017, said: “The great challenge is how to reduce the cost of treating wastewater, especially in the equatorial and tropical zones.”

As World Water Day is observed across the world today (22 March 2017), Prof Jesse N.K. Mugambi, giving the fourth reflection during Seven Weeks for Water 2017, said: “The great challenge is how to reduce the cost of treating wastewater, especially in the equatorial and tropical zones.”

If the cost of treating wastewater exceeds the benefit, there must be other justifications for such expenditures, said Mugambi. “Under such circumstances, reducing the use of fresh water to the bare minimum is a prudent policy.”

While the World Health Organisation recommends a bare minimum of 20 litres per capita consumption of water, some developed countries use up to 400 litres per capita.

World Water Day – designated by the United Nations – is observed by governments, non-governmental organisations, communities, churches and individuals who want to call attention to the global water crisis. All the rivers and lakes of the world comprise only 0.3 per cent of the fresh water available on our planet for human consumption. The remaining 99.7 per cent is  found in the oceans, soils, icecaps, and floating in the atmosphere.

As part of its ongoing pilgrimage of justice and peace, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been communicating the message that the global water crisis is not only an issue of scarcity but an issue of justice. The WCC Ecumenical Water Network has been engaged in the Lenten campaign Seven Weeks for Water which this year is focusing on Africa.

As part of the campaign, seven theological reflections on water justice have been written by African theologians and academicians.  About half of the world's population without access to safe drinking water and about one-third of world's population without access to adequate sanitation facilities come from sub-Saharan Africa.

* More about World Water Day here and Seven Weeks for Water here

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

[Ekk/4]




New GCHQ chief urged to 'come clean' on UK role in US drone strikes

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:11:10 +0000

The Foreign  and Commonwealth Office has announced that Jeremy Fleming will take over GCHQ, the UK intelligence gathering agency that has been directly implicated in assisting covert US drone strikes in countries including Yemen.

The Foreign  and Commonwealth Office has announced that Jeremy Fleming will take over GCHQ, the UK intelligence gathering agency that has been directly implicated in assisting covert US drone strikes in countries including Yemen.

Secret US drone strikes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children. Last year, an investigation by The Intercept showed that some of the aspects of the US programme of covert strikes in Yemen – including the location of targets – had been “tasked by several offices at . . . GCHQ”.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has expressed concern about potential UK complicity in the US drone programme, and urged the Government to “clarify” its understanding of the legal basis for such support.

Otherwise, the committee has warned, it could potentially be putting “UK personnel who have a role in assisting or facilitating the use of lethal force by coalition allies, such as the US” at risk of “criminal prosecution for complicity in murder”.

President Trump has faced criticism over his covert drone policy, after a US raid on a Yemeni village in January 2017 killed at least 23 civilians.

The international human rights organisation Reprieve has found that among the civilian dead from the raid were a newborn baby, an eight year old girl, and an 80-year-old tribal elder.

Reprieve has written to Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking for information about any UK involvement in the raid, and in future covert operations under President Trump.

Jennifer Gibson, Drones and Kill List Project Lead at Reprieve, said: “The new head of GCHQ must come clean over UK involvement in covert US drone strikes. Parliament has raised serious concerns that UK intelligence feeds into US assassinations without charge or trial. It is now more urgent than ever. President Trump is loosening the rules of engagement for covert operations around the world – with his debut raid in Yemen killing at least 23 civilians and his decision to once again involve the CIA in its covert killing programme. Fleming must immediately clarify what role the UK has in covert US drone strikes, and the legal basis underpinning that involvement, before more innocent people are killed.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Put Libya ahead of ‘narrow interests' says UN envoy

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:40:11 +0000

Warning of escalating tension across the North African country due to mobilisation of forces, the worsening security situation in the capital, Tripoli, as well as recent violence in Misrata and Benghazi, the United Nations envoy for Libya yesterday has called on all parties to unite and to put the country ahead of their “own narrow interests.”

Warning of escalating tension across the North African country due to mobilisation of forces, the worsening security situation in the capital, Tripoli, as well as recent violence in Misrata and Benghazi, the United Nations envoy for Libya yesterday (20 March 2017) called on all parties to unite and to put the country ahead of their “own narrow interests.”

“Do not let the agenda be driven by violence on the ground and extremism,” urged Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), in a news release.

“Calm must be restored immediately, democratic bodies and ideals must be respected and freedom of speech must be protected,” he added.

Last week, the UN human rights arm (OHCHR) had sounded an alarm over the situation and had spoken of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses stemming from recent fighting in the country’s eastern oil crescent area, including summary executions and mass detentions.

In his statement,  M. Kobler also mentioned violence, hate speech and mutilation of corpses. “[Such incidents] are completely unacceptable,” said the senior UN official, calling on Libyan institutions to commit to advancing the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and swiftly implementing the security arrangements in the capital, Tripoli, that would provide for the withdrawal of armed groups there and the deployment of army and police.

He also made reference to the Quartet meeting on Libya, held on 18 March, which urged the Libyan parties to re-engage in the political process. The Quartet comprises the League of Arab States, the African Union, and European Union as well as the UN.

Recalling the international community’s strong commitment to the country, Kobler emphasised: “The responsibility, however, lies first and foremost with the Libyans themselves to end this escalating violence.”

He concluded: “All political and security stakeholders in a position to influence their constituencies should act now.”

* Read the Libyan Political Agreement here

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html

[Ekk/4]




Inspectors criticise 'prison like' immigration centre

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:19:11 +0000

A ‘prison like' immigration removal centre  has been criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for detaining too many people for too long.

A ‘prison like' immigration removal centre (IRC) has been criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for detaining too many people for too long.

In a recent inspection of Morton Hall, an IRC near Lincoln, inspectors discovered that 31 people had been held for over a year, including three who had been detained for two years. On average, people were locked up at Morton Hall for over three months.

Worryingly, the inspection also revealed that three children had wrongly been imprisoned alongside adults: one for 12 days, one for 36 days and one for 151 days. Some of these detentions were prolonged because of disagreements between local authorities over who was responsible for assessing the child’s age.

Cases of self harm at the centre had also rocketed, with inspectors revealing there had been a three fold increase. The revelation follows two recent deaths at Morton Hall. Inspectors said that a new Government ‘adults at risk’ policy, designed to protect vulnerable detainees, wasn’t understood, with staff unable to identify people who’d been identified as at risk of harm.

Responding to the report, Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: "This troubling report further reminds us that the Government’s immigration detention estate is a stain on the nation’s conscience. Every year, thousands of people, including children, are spirited away, sometimes in the dead of night, through a shadowy government policy, to these bleak prisons.

"What’s even more alarming is the fact that people entering immigration detention have absolutely no idea when they’ll be released, leaving many people with their mental health in ruins. If the Government truly believes in justice and liberty, then it must close Morton Hall and places like it as soon as possible.”

* Refugee Council http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/

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