Israel suspends ties with UNHRC

Senior Israeli officials have said their country’s representatives at the United Nations Human Rights Council have been ordered to cut all contact with the council and to ignore calls from the human rights commissioner. The move comes in response to a vote passed at the 19th session of the UNHRC, to establish an independent international fact-finding mission to look into illegal settlements built by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

EU widens sanctions around Assad regime

The EU added sanctions on 12 more Syrians, including the wife of President Bashar al-Assad, Alma al-Assad, adding pressure on the regime to end the violent crackdown of protesters. The sanctions include a travel ban to all EU member states, except the UK, and the freezing of assets within the EU. Alma al-Assad will continue to be free travel to the UK however, being a British citizen. The move follows previous EU sanctions on Bashar al-Assad and other senior government officials, as well as an oil embargo, the recalling of ambassadors and sanctions on the central bank. The EU has pledged to...

Switzerland extradites war crimes suspect to Serbia

Serbian officials say Switzerland has extradited a Kosovo Albanian man accused of war crimes. Swiss authorities arrested Shemsi Nuhiu last year after an international arrest warrant was issued by Belgrade. Nuhiu is accused of taking part in the killing of 80 Kosovo Serbs and the kidnap of 153 in Kosovo after Serb troops pulled out of the region due to NATO bombing. In total 17 men were charged for the crimes, with 9 of them convicted and sentenced to between 8 and 15 years in prison.

‘Self-determination’ and ‘separation’ – what’s in a word?

The use of the word “separation” to describe independence has been criticised by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond in the assembly . When asked by the Conservative Chief Whip whether he thought “separation from the rest of the United Kingdom could be negotiated within a year of an independence referendum,” Salmond replied: “If John Lamont was so confident about his position then he wouldn’t feel the need to describe the process of independence and self-determination and self-respect in such pejorative terms .” Salmond added: “What is it about independence that so frightens the...

Guatemalan paramilitaries imprisoned for massacre

A court in Guatemala has imprisoned five former right-wing militia members for a massacre committed in 1982 during the country’s civil war. The men were members of the Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil, a civilian paramilitary group created by the Guatemalan army to fight left-wing rebels. They were sentenced to a total of 7,710 years in prison for guiding the army to Plan de Sanchez, a village in northern Guatemala, and taking part in the ensuing massacre. Judge Jazmin Barrios set a sentence of 30 years for each of the 256 victims in addition to 30 years for crimes against humanity. The case...

US inches towards energy independence

The New York Times reported Thursday (see full text here ): Taken together, increasing [domestic] production and declining consumption have unexpectedly brought the United States markedly closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon: independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more. In 2011, the country imported just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005. “There is no question that many national security policy makers will believe they have much more...

No sanctions on Japan or EU countries over Iran oil – US

The US has exempted Japan and 10 EU nations from sanctions imposed on countries which continue to buy oil from Iran. The sanctions, imposed by Congress at the end of last year, are designed to deter countries from importing Iranian oil. In a statement released on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the exemptions were granted because the countries had taken difficult steps to reduce their reliance on Iranian oil. "They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil which many had been reliant on...

Mauritania agrees to al-Senussi extradition – NTC

Libya’s National Transitional Council has claimed to be close to a deal with the Mauritanian government to extradite Libya’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur announced on Twitter that "We have agreement from Mauritania to deliver Senussi to Libya where he will receive a fair trial. No date has been decided, but it will be very soon." However sources Nouakchott soon denied the claims. "We agreed to study their request favourably. It's almost a done deal but one should be careful. The French are applying lots of pressure," a security source...

Burma invites US and EU observers to elections

Burma has invited the US and the European Union to send officials to observe its by-elections to be held on the first of April. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is running for one of the 48 seats, the first time in over 20 years she is taking part in an election. An AFP news report, citing an unnamed Burmese official, said that representatives from the UN had also been invited. ''It will be like a joint team with Asean, the EU, the US and the UN," the official told AFP. The US embassy in Rangoon welcomed the move in a statement. "We are encouraged that the Burmese authorities have invited...

HRW accuses Syrian opposition of abuses

In an open letter to the Syrian National Council, released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW), detailed allegations of kidnapping for ransom, detention, and torture of security force members and government supporters. HRW's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said, "The Syrian government's brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups," "Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances." Extracts reproduced below: "We recognize that the perpetrators of these abuses are not always easy to identify nor do they necessarily belong to an organized command structure that follows the orders of the SNC or other opposition groups. Some reports received by Human Rights Watch indicate that in addition to armed groups with political motivations, criminal gangs, sometimes operating in the name of the opposition, may be carrying out some of these crimes."

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