10th week of Algeria protests aim for ex-president’s brother

ALGIERS, Algeria — Algerians are massing for a 10th week of protests against their country’s ruling class, calling for the ex-president’s brother to be put on trial.Friday’s protest took aim at Said Bouteflika, whose brother Abdelaziz was Algeria’s president for two decades until swelling protests forced him to resign instead of seeking a fifth term. A presidential election has been set for July 4 to choose the successor to Bouteflika, but protesters want his entire ruling entourage gone from power.Said Bouteflika has been a particular focus of their anger, and protesters on Friday accused him of being the “leader of the gang.”Three wealthy brothers believed close to Said were detained for questioning this week in investigation intended to respond to demands to root out widespread corruption.The Associated Press read more

Demand surging for services of UN antidrugs anticrime agency

The world is turning increasingly to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for help in the fight against illegal drugs, corruption, terrorism and other crimes, with the latest figures indicating that demand for the Office’s specialist expertise is surging.Total spending on the UNODC’s operational programmes jumped by 32 per cent to $91.7 million last year, and the Office’s Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said today he expected demand to keep rising, especially in the areas of tackling corruption, human trafficking and money laundering.“The world is becoming a more dangerous place and States increasingly rely on the specialist expertise which UNODC can provide,” Mr. Costa said in a statement released from the Office’s headquarters in Vienna.Spending on anti-narcotics initiatives, such as the training of drug enforcement officers, rose by 12 per cent to $69.1 million to last year, with marked increases noted in Western and Central Asia, as well as in South-East Asia and the Pacific region.Expenditure on anti-crime measures soared by 186 per cent to $22.6 million, driven largely by rising demand for UNODC services in Afghanistan, West Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.Central bankers and other financial officers have been given assistance to fight money laundering and programmes have been implemented, in countries ranging from Ghana to Pakistan, to improve the inspection of containers arriving at ports for illicit materials.Voluntary contributions from Member States – which account for about 90 per cent of the UNODC annual budget – have also grown to meet the rising demand, with total contributions pledged last year increasing by 25 per cent to $150.7 million. 6 February 2007The world is turning increasingly to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for help in the fight against illegal drugs, corruption, terrorism and other crimes, with the latest figures indicating that demand for the Office’s specialist expertise is surging. read more

Complex global challenges leave UN ready to thrive – Ban Kimoon

11 July 2007The United Nations is entering an era when it can prosper because the world’s major challenges have become so complex that individual countries cannot resolve them on their own, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. Calling on the world body to “grow and take on new roles” and to “develop and deliver on new fronts,” Mr. Ban told the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London that the UN was well placed to tackle issues ranging from climate change to disarmament.“You will know that our world of complex and global challenges is exactly the environment in which our United Nations should thrive – because these are challenges that no country can resolve on its own,” he said.The Secretary-General stressed that it was unrealistic to expect the UN to provide a solution to every challenge.“But we can, and should, serve as a forum to set a global agenda and consensus. We can, and should – given the necessary political resolve – implement the clearly defined will of the international community. We can, and should, be visionary and proactive.”To deal with this, the world needs greater dialogue, patience, resources and reform, he said.During his address to the Royal Institute, Mr. Ban outlined the major priorities facing the UN in the three pillars of its work: peace and security, development and human rights.He said the crises in Darfur, the Middle East, Lebanon and Iraq are at the top of his peace and security agenda, as well as efforts to fight terrorism and to overcome the current stalemate in disarmament and non-proliferation, particularly regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran.Turning to development, he urged Governments to take more concerted action towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight targets for slashing poverty and other social and economic ills, all by 2015.Mr. Ban also called on leaders to “accept their historical responsibilities” towards future generations and reach concrete agreements on reducing emissions and other ways of combating climate change.“I am convinced that this challenge, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately, our global legacy. It is time for new thinking.”He added that greater attention must be paid to human rights, so that it is a pillar of the UN’s work “not only on the drawing board, but in reality, on the ground.”The Human Rights Council, introduced last year to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights, must be scrutinized “to ensure that it delivers on its promise and shines a spotlight on the darkest places in the world.”Mr. Ban also detailed some of the internal UN reforms he has introduced to strengthen the world body’s capacity, especially in peacekeeping as the number of UN personnel in the field reaches a historic high of nearly 100,000.While in London today, Mr. Ban held talks with the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. read more

UN agency airdrops emergency food relief into floodravaged Uganda

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered by airdrop enough food for 33,000 people in northern Uganda who have had to leave their homes because of widespread flooding – the first time airdrop food assistance has been used in the Central African country.WFP spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told reporters today in Geneva that the agency, which started the relief programme two weeks ago, will continue to deliver emergency food supplies by airdrop for another three weeks.It is also delivering food supplies by truck, boat and helicopter to an estimated 183,000 people, particularly in western Uganda, which has also been inundated.In total, more than 480,000 Ugandans have been displaced by the flooding, which were the worst in decades in some areas of the country. Crop planting has been badly hit, and harvests are unlikely before February at the earliest.The latest update from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that dry weather for much of the past two weeks has led to improved road conditions, although some bridges remain open only to lightweight vehicles.All but eight of 110 schools which had been unable to open for the third term have now re-opened, but school sanitation facilities are still struggling to cope, with many latrines waterlogged.OCHA said it has also been able to reduce the incidence of malaria in those districts where insecticide-treated nets have been widely distributed.But Ms. Berthiaume warned that, since 15 October, WFP has not received any contributions to its appeal for $26 million to help in the relief effort. So far the agency has received just over a fifth of the target amount, forcing it to dig into its stocks used normally to support refugees and those displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in northern Uganda. 23 October 2007The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered by airdrop enough food for 33,000 people in northern Uganda who have had to leave their homes because of widespread flooding – the first time airdrop food assistance has been used in the Central African country. read more

New UN centre informs Colombian refugees crossing into Ecuador on rights

26 May 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has opened a new information centre at a key border crossing point to inform Colombian refugees and migrants crossing into Ecuador about their rights. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has opened a new information centre at a key border crossing point to inform Colombian refugees and migrants crossing into Ecuador about their rights.Opened in cooperation with Ecuadorean authorities, the centre at the Rumichaca International Bridge links Colombia’s volatile Nariño department and Ecuador’s Carchi province. Every year, some 150,000 people – including migrants and refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Colombia – cross the bridge into Ecuador. “The main problems are lack of knowledge about the existence of an asylum system, people’s fear of coming forward, or the concentration of refugees in isolated areas where services and information are scarce or non-existent,” said Marta Juarez, UNHCR’s representative in Ecuador. While there are roughly 180,000 Colombians in Ecuador, only 16,000 have been formally granted refugee status, she noted. The new centre seeks to provide refugees – many of whom are possibly unaware that they can apply for asylum in Ecuador – with information regarding their rights. The new facility opened last week, located in a former Ecuadorian customs building. UNHCR will supply printed material and audio-visual equipment for the new office, which will be manned by two municipal employees who have received training in international refugee law and other related areas. “This will be a great opportunity for people who arrive from now on because they will be able to know about the possibilities that Ecuador offers,” said José, a Colombian refugee who attended the opening ceremony. “They will be able to learn that it is possible to request asylum in this country where I have found freedom and optimism.” read more

Top UN envoy condemns abhorrent bombings in Baghdad and Mosul

At least 36 people were reportedly killed or wounded as a result of the car bomb that exploded on Friday outside a mosque in the northern city of Mosul as well as several explosions that struck the capital, Baghdad. Ad Melkert, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Iraq, described the bombings as “an abhorrent crime targeting worshipers while they prayed and others as they embarked on their mid-Shaaban pilgrimage.” The mission said UN agencies are working with local officials and the Iraq Red Crescent Organization to deliver humanitarian relief to families affected by the bombings. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided basic household supplies to some 50 families whose homes were badly damaged. Mr. Melkert, who heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), urged local authorities to ensure access for the ongoing humanitarian effort.The attacks come just over a week after bombings at five Shi’a mosques across Baghdad which drew strong condemnation from the Secretary-General.“Attacks against places of worship cannot be justified by any political or religious cause,” Mr. Ban said in a statement following the 31 July attacks. “These attacks appear to be aimed at provoking sectarian strife and undermining stability in Iraq.” 9 August 2009A top United Nations official has strongly condemned the recent bombings that targeted worshipers in two of Iraq’s major cities, leaving dozens of innocent civilians dead or injured. read more

Ban emphasizes power of prayer in tackling global challenges

15 September 2009Faith has a key role in addressing current global challenges, ranging from disarmament to climate change to the economic crisis, and in bringing people together to promote peace and progress, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The power of prayer is immeasurable,” Mr. Ban said yesterday evening at a service held at the Church of the Holy Family in New York. “The power of prayer for the United Nations is invaluable.”Today’s crises have not just a material, but a spiritual impact as well, he stressed, with many becoming discouraged and angry due to their suffering.The UN is responding by helping countries meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, but the world body “alone cannot heal the wounds that families are suffering from economic hardship,” the Secretary-General said. “Here is where faith can make all the difference.”Speaking on the eve of the start of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, he told religious leaders at the church that faith groups also have the ability to shape policies which can also help meet people’s material needs.Faith can “strengthen our ability to reach the UN’s life-saving goals, for the sake of our planet and all people,” he emphasized. read more

Public right to information essential to good governance Ban stresses

Mr. Ban told a panel discussion being held at United Nations Headquarters in New York to mark the annual World Press Freedom Day that “there is a global trend towards new laws which recognize the universal right to publicly held information.“But these new laws do not always translate into action. Requests for official information are often refused, or delayed, for years. At times, poor information management is to blame. But all too often, this happens because of a culture of secrecy and a lack of accountability.”The Secretary-General called for efforts “to change attitudes and to raise awareness” on the importance of a free flow of information.“People have a right to information that affects their lives,” he stressed. “States have a duty to provide this information. Such transparency is essential to good government.”Today’s panel discussion – held in advance of World Press Freedom Day, which will be observed on Monday – considered freedom of information and the public’s right to know and was focused on South-East AsiaThe Secretary-General said countries in the region had a broad spectrum of press freedom standards. Some have high standards while others are plagued by serious problems that ranged from impunity for violations to State repression.The global picture, he noted, is bleak. Mr. Ban cited last year’s records by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) indicating that 77 journalists were murdered around the world.“These were not high-profile war correspondents, killed in the heat of battle,” said Mr. Ban. “Most of them worked for small, local publications in peacetime. They were killed for attempting to expose wrongdoing or corruption,” he said.He condemned the killings and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice.“Impunity gives the green light to criminals and murderers, and empowers those who have something to hide. Over the long term, it has a corrosive and corrupting effect on society as a whole,” the Secretary-General said.He said that around the world, there are governments and other powerful forces which seek ways to obstruct the freedom of press.“They impose high taxes on newsprint, making newspapers so expensive that people can’t afford to buy them. Independent radio and TV stations are forced off the air if they criticize government policies. The censors are active in cyberspace too, preventing people from accessing websites for political reasons, and arresting citizen journalists,” Mr. Ban said. 29 April 2010Everyone has a right to information affecting their lives but too often government secrecy and a lack of accountability ensure that the public are deprived of vital facts, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he called for a wholesale change in attitudes towards press freedom. read more

Ontario seeks closer business ties with oilrich Alberta

EDMONTON — The province of Ontario has gone from criticizing the oil sands to increasing its efforts to capture their economic benefits.Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister for economic development, says he plans to increase his department’s attention to Alberta by adding more staff to deal with trade issues.I think that we want to now move forward with the knowledge that the oil sands are important to Ontario’s economy“I think we have a recognition that our relationship could be stronger. I think that we want to now move forward with the knowledge that the oil sands are important to Ontario’s economy,” Duguid told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.He said he understands the value of the oil sands to Ontario business and estimated that value at $63-billion over the next 25 years.[np-related]“It may be a time for Ontario to increase our presence in the province of Alberta in terms of our business supports here,” he said from Calgary. “We may want to look at having some more presence here in terms of staffing.”The Ontario government doesn’t currently have an office in Alberta. A bureaucrat at the Ontario legislature spends part of his time dealing with Alberta files.“The intent is move that to a full-time contact so that we’ve got more of a personal contact here — a good liaison between the business community in Ontario and Alberta.”A spokeswoman for Duguid’s office later clarified the Ontario government is looking at many ways to boost its profile in Alberta, which may or may not include opening an actual office in the province.Duguid said it’s time to help businesses in his province that are looking for oilpatch opportunities and Alberta companies that are looking for skilled labour.“There’s a recognition that that’s important to Ontario’s economy and it makes sense to look at ways we can work closer together, both in providing opportunities for our respective businesses and at the same to work together as governments,” Duguid said.Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said earlier this year that the booming energy sector was driving up the Canadian dollar and hurting the manufacturing and export sectors in Central Canada.Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has made similar comments. He has said the oil sands are artificially inflating the Canadian dollar and hollowing out the country’s manufacturing sector. He calls it the definition of Dutch disease — a reference to the Netherlands and how a natural gas find in that country led to declines in manufacturing in the 1960s.Duguid said his government wants to move past that debate.“We’re aware that there was a lot said about those comments. We just want to move forward.”Stronger links between Canada’s largest provincial economy and its fastest-growing one would be good for the whole country, said Duguid. read more

Federal ads were to address controversies around Northern Gateway documents

One of the key concerns for the federal government in a multimillion-dollar Natural Resources advertising campaign was the negative publicity around the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, according to internal government documents.In particular, the statement of work provided to the ad company a year ago noted that media coverage had been critical of legislative changes that gave the federal cabinet power to override the National Energy Board recommendations on project approval.There was also criticism of changes that limited public participation in joint review panel hearings that are currently taking place in B.C., said the April 2012 document obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.Among the key issues:— “allegations that these changes will put British Columbia’s sovereignty at stake.”— “if cabinet can override the National Energy Board, why bother with Northern Gateway hearings, for a project which the government has already declared to be in the national interest.”— “ongoing uncertainty over impact of the Responsible Resource Development changes to the Northern Gateway pipeline.”— “putting Responsible Resource Development changes in the Budget Implementation Act means the federal government can adopt the changes without comprehensive analysis, hearings or debate by Parliament.”— “potential for changes to the Fisheries Act to end up in litigation.”The Conservative government’s energy policies and new energy developments will continue to come under public scrutiny, said the April 2012 document.“It will be important in this environment to increase public awareness and understanding of the Government’s balanced approach to energy policy,” the document said.Among the objectives of the two-year newspaper, television, online and radio ad campaign was to promote the government’s “balanced investments to secure Canada’s energy future and that this will help grow our economy, maintain our quality of life, and sustain our social programs.”The Northern Gateway proposal would see pipelines linking Alberta oilsands to a tanker port in Kitimat, on B.C.’s north coast.Project supporters say that diversifying the market for Canadian oil products beyond the U.S. — currently the only customer — will boost profits in the neighbourhood of $20 billion a year because currently producers are forced to sell to just one customer.Project opponents, which include many First Nations and conservation groups, say the pipeline poses too great a risk to the environment, in particular off the B.C. coast where it would result in more than 200 oil tankers a year traversing the waters around the Haida Gwaii archipelago.Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the ad campaign relays facts to the public.“The advertisements provide specific facts about measures taken by the government to protect the environment, and other information on Responsible Resource Development,” Oliver said in an email.Natural Resources Canada has an advertising budget of $9 million for this fiscal year, according to a previous report by The Canadian Press.Oliver said all details of the ad campaign will be published in the annual report on government advertising activities. read more

Crowdfunding boosted the growth of these tiny Canadian startups almost overnight in

Freire had some concerns about competing with countless other drone products on Indiegogo and rival crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, including many that were very early in their development stages. But he was confident that the Indiegogo community would respond to the fact that the PlexiDrone was a far more polished product almost ready to be manufactured.“You could say it’s a saturated market to some extent, but there are a lot of people who are making money just from building custom products for a small number of end users where they’re not really thinking about the larger-scale picture and the regulatory aspects of it,” he said.“Our background is in aerospace engineering so from Day 1 we went out and we met with Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration, we got special flight operating certificates in Canada, we’re working with the FAA on allowing people to use the PlexiDrone commercially as well for film and photography. So we’re thinking ahead of the game in a couple of dimensions.”The third most successful Canadian campaign was for the Vanhawks Valour smart-bike, which offers riders turn-by-turn navigation, blind spot detection technology, and digital tracking of trips. More than $820,000 was raised to get the bike into production.Both Freire and D’Souza said they only expect crowdfunding to grow as a trend next year.“I certainly see it as something that’s here to stay — people assumed that eBay would go the way of the dodo too after free local online classifieds came around,” D’Souza said.If anything, Freire said he’s concerned that crowdfunding might get too big and overrun with campaigns launched by large companies.“The one thing that I worry about is that it’s going to become a platform for larger companies that are already well established to come in and use their funding for better marketing, better PR and it’s going to be easy to exploit and take away from the spirit of what crowdfunding currently is,” Freire said.Tam said he’s heard those concerns but thinks it would only help small companies if huge corporations also used Indiegogo and Kickstarter. He feels it would further legitimize the crowdfunding concept and lead to more consumers supporting start-up companies.“Tech companies understand that big companies coming in and playing in this space is not necessarily taking anything away from them, if anything it’s bringing credibility and it’s bringing public awareness,” Tam said.“Companies who are crowdfunding their products know that they’re not in competition with Samsung and LG and Sony and Apple, they’re aspiring to bring products to market that those companies don’t have a product for yet.”Mass Fidelity, DreamQii and Vanhawks have yet to deliver their products. As crowdfunding campaigns have ballooned in size and popularity, concerns have grown about companies making promises about products that they can’t keep.But horror stories of badly botched campaigns are relatively rare, argued D’Souza, who added that his supporters have not been skeptical of his claims to date.“Most of the failures are the little guys out there, most of the big campaigns have actually delivered — and if not (they’re late) on the delivery schedules they may have promised,” he said.“We might have had one or two out of 3,000 (supporters) who are skeptics and said, ’How can I be sure your product will deliver on its claims?’ Being a serious company, we made some casual promises of money back, we plan to launch in retail and offered the crowdfunding customers the same warranty we would for retail customers.” TORONTO — There was $1.3 million raised for high-fidelity wireless speakers, almost $1.2 million for specialty drones and $820,000 for smart-bikes.In 2014, three tiny Canadian companies went from teetering in obscurity to making headlines on tech blogs around the world thanks to successful crowdfunding campaigns that spurred exponential growth almost overnight.Once the domain of hobbyists and tinkerers, crowdfunding is increasingly becoming a growth strategy for real — but still small — companies with big ideas.“An older paradigm about crowdfunding was four guys in their garage who couldn’t find money any other way,” said Steve Tam, a marketing manager with Indiegogo Canada.“Now we’re seeing an increasing number of companies who are either already in market or have a very validated product and are using crowdfunding as a part of their marketing campaign, or their fundraising, or their access to international markets.“This is a really cool place for people to find new ideas and concepts.”Mass Fidelity, headquartered just east of Toronto, turned to Indiegogo earlier this year. The company sought about $55,000 to help get its Core wireless speaker system from the prototype stage into production.“We considered it a bit of a get-the-word out exercise, we were a small company no one had heard of based in sleepy old Toronto. It was the ability for us to make a sales pitch to a much wider audience than we normally could,” said co-founder Neil D’Souza.Crowdfunding? 7 steps to help you prepare for a successful U.S. campaignFour ways to get the media behind your crowdfunding campaignHow to make your startup’s crowdfunding campaign a hitTo the Core team’s astonishment, the modest crowdfunding campaign raised more than 25 times what the company was originally seeking, eventually surpassing $1.3 million.“It literally has changed our company. We’re going to accelerate our growth in a manner that we couldn’t have possibly managed. We’re going to be somewhere in 12 months that we were probably going to be in 36 months,” D’Souza said.The second most successful crowdfunding campaign in Canada this year was for the PlexiDrone, targeted at photographers and videographers, which raised $1.17 million after setting a goal of about $115,000.“We could’ve spent $2 million on PR and marketing and we would not have gained the worldwide exposure that we have,” said Klever Freire, chief executive of DreamQii, the company that created the PlexiDrone.Michael Barker/CNW Group/DreamQii read more

Realtors who break rules should face tougher penalty says Ont association

TORONTO — The Ontario Real Estate Association is advocating that fines should be doubled for realtors who break the rules, at a time when agents are collecting big commissions in the province’s inflated housing market.In a white paper published Wednesday, the association proposed that the maximum fines for salespeople who violate a code of ethics under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act should increase to $50,000. OREA also wants the maximum fine for brokerages doubled to $100,000.It says the average fine per case last year was just $6,000 and that the effectiveness of fines as a deterrent has “eroded” in today’s real estate landscape, where property prices have reached record highs.The current rules were set in 2002, a lifetime ago for Ontario’s real estate market when the average cost of a home in the province was $211,000. Today it’s $619,000 in the province while the average price of a Toronto home has reached $759,000.“For those who willingly break the rules, these fines are ‘the cost of doing business,”‘ the paper said.But it warns that even if fines are higher, penalties may not cover the entire commission earned.“In other words, even under a system of higher fines registrants could still profit from unethical behaviour.”It recommends that the industry regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario, be given the ability to force a realtor to repay all of their profits. OREA also wants RECO to be given the power to suspend or revoke licenses.The white paper is part of a push for changes to discourage potential unethical real estate practices in Ontario. The province’s 16-point housing plan introduced in April includes a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers and expanded rent controls, as well as reviews on how consumers are represented by real estate agents.In June, the province proposed a ban on realtors representing both a buyer and a seller in a transaction. The province said sellers seeking the highest price, and buyers looking for the lowest price have competing interests which makes it challenging for a single agent to represent the best interests of either side.“This divided loyalty and the associated risks may leave some consumers vulnerable even when written consent is obtained and the necessary disclosures … have been made,” the government said in a discussion paper.The ban would not apply in some situations such as sales between family members and markets where there are few agents working.—On the web:The white paper is available at http://www.rebbareform.ca/ read more

WatchMore than double the number of Canadians hit by Equifax cyber attack

TORONTO — Equifax Canada has revised the number of Canadians caught up in a massive data breach earlier this year, saying an investigation has found that more than 19,000 were affected.The company previously said about 8,000 Canadian customers had their personal information compromised in the cyber attack, but couldn’t say how many additional credit cards were impacted across the country.Equifax issued a statement on Tuesday saying 11,670 of the affected credit cards are Canadian, bringing the total number of Canadians impacted by the hack to about 19,000.The company says an investigation has revealed that the credit card records contain names, addresses, credit or debit card numbers, expiry dates and Social Insurance Numbers.Hackers also accessed or stole the personal data of 145.5 million U.S. consumers and nearly 400,000 Britons in the breach, which was discovered on July 29.The company says it is notifying all affected consumers by mail, and is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to affected Canadians.Equifax first notified the public of the security breach on Sept. 7, though it said the unauthorized access is thought to have happened from May 13 to July 30.The company previously said that it believes that hackers accessed Equifax Canada’s systems through a consumer website application intended for use by U.S. consumers.But a website for Equifax’s Canadian division now says Canadian systems were not affected and are “entirely separated from those impacted by the Equifax Inc. cyber security incident reported in the U.S.”Equifax is facing investigations in Canada and the U.S., as well as at least two proposed class actions filed in Canada. read more

MSF Denies Gotas Claims On Final War

MSF says it is a private, international, humanitarian, non-profit organisation, providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, irrespective of race, religion, ideology or politics and adheres to the principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality. It is only after the end of the fighting in May 2009 that MSF was able to provide medical assistance to the victims of the conflict in North Vavuniya and this was outside the battle zone at the Omanthai checkpoint.MSF provided surgical support in Vavuniya hospital and in addition established an emergency field hospital for the displaced population living in camps in Menik Farm.Again, all of this activity was outside the battle zone, MSF said in the statement.MSF France meanwhile says it remains committed to working alongside the Ministry of Health to support the District General Hospital of Mullaitivu in 2012, and develop assistance in mental health care in the Mullaitivu District. However in a statement emailed to The Sunday Leader MSF said it had made numerous requests to the government for access to the battle zone in northern Sri Lanka and these requests were repeatedly denied, despite expressing extremely serious concerns about the fate of civilians who were trapped in the heavy fighting. The medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says it is concerned about a claim by Secretary of Defense Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that MSF was present in 2009 in Sri Lanka’s war zone and received surrendering militants to be treated.In an interview published on February 6th in India and reproduced in the Sri Lankan media, the Secretary of Defense is purported to have said that MSF teams were present in the battle zone during the fighting. “… Mr Gotabaya said international agencies, including the French MSF (Medicines Sans Frontiers) and the Indian medical team, were present in the battle zone to receive survivors and surrendered militants,” an Indian media report had said. Ahead of the final offensive, in September 2008, along with most other international organisations, MSF was given a government directive to leave Kilinochchi.Thereafter, MSF repeatedly requested permission to enter the battle zones to provide medical care to the civilian population. Permission was sought from numerous ministries, including the Ministries of Health as well as Defence, but at no point was this request granted during the final stages of the conflict in late 2008 and 2009. read more

Lanka firm against outside intervention

The delegation from Sri Lanka was speaking during the debate on the human rights situation in Belarus. The delegation said that Sri Lanka feels that action contemplated with regards to Belarus must have the country’s consent. The Sri Lankan delegation also said that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism is the appropriate forum to address the human rights situation of all countries in a constructive and equal spirit of engagement. Sri Lanka informed the UN Human Rights Council that it is firmly against outside intervention in any country to address human rights concerns without the consent of that country.The Sri Lankan Mission in Geneva told the council during its ongoing 20th session today that any action on a specific country should be based on the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue. Sri Lanka urged the Council not to permit debates and resolutions on country specific situations by virtue of selective processes that run counter to its founding principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.Sri Lanka also says it is against the current trend of unnecessary duplication or multiplication of country specific mandates which leads to their continuation and politicization of the council. (Colombo Gazette) read more

BASL goes to court over impeachment

Some international rights groups have expressed concern over the impeachment. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, has urged Sri Lanka to “reconsider” the motion and ensure that proper due process is carried out. (Xinhua) The chief justice had denied all the allegations including not declaring over bank accounts and misuse of power against her.The chief justice came under criticism by the government after her ruling against a bill that sought wider power for Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The BASL which represents all the lawyers in the country and part of the judges said that the PSC on Thursday refused to accede to request of the Supreme Court to postpone the probe until a constitutional interpretation is given on the impeachment procedure. The policy making body of 11,000 lawyers of Sri Lanka said Wednesday that they went to the Supreme Court challenging the impeachment of country’s first female chief justice.The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) had filed an action against the Speaker of the Parliament and 11-member Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake on 14 charges, the Bar President Wijedasa Rajapaksa said. In its fundamental rights action, the Bar Association has asked the Supreme Court to issue an immediate order to stay further proceedings of the impeachment as it violates the fundamental rights of the legal fraternity and of the citizens of Sri Lanka. read more

UN silent on appointment of Jagath Dias

On Sunday Human Rights Watch said Sri Lanka’s promotion of Jagath Dias, whose division was implicated in serious human rights abuses, casts doubt on government pledges to credibly investigate alleged war crimes. The United Nations (UN) refused to comment on the appointment of Major General Jagath C Dias as the new Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army.Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked at a press conference if the UN had any comments on the post given to Jagath Dias despite some human rights allegations against him and since he may get listed in a UN Human Rights Council report on Sri Lanka. “I think first we’ll allow for the Human Rights Council itself to review the matter and pronounce themselves on that,” Farhan Haq said in response to the question. Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias, who led the Army’s 57th Division during the last two years of the civil war with the LTTE, was appointed army chief of staff, one of the armed forces’ highest post. Although effective May 7, 2015, the appointment was only made public on May 15.“Sri Lanka’s new government has promised genuine accountability for wartime abuses, but naming the general of an abusive unit the army chief of staff is a slap in the face for victims,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Members of the UN Human Rights Council expecting genuine accountability in Sri Lanka need to closely scrutinize the government’s actions.” (Colombo Gazette) read more

Malaysian police arrest 7 over Lankans death

Malaysian Police have arrested seven men for investigation into the death of a Sri Lanka man who was allegedly assaulted while attempting to break into an apartment at Kota Kemuning.Shah Alam district police chief ACP Shafien Mamat said the incident occurred about 3 am when occupants of the apartment saw the suspect attempting to prise open the door and gave chase when he attempted to flee, the New Straits Times reported. “Several individuals at the apartment also went after the man and assaulted him after catching him,” he told a media conference at his office. He said the man died on the way to a hospital. Shafien said the suspects, age between 20 and 30, were detained for investigation under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder. read more