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US Rights Report Highlights Venezuela, Iran, China

The U.S. State Department is painting a grim picture of violations and abuses in countries that already have dismal records in its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday highlighted abuses in Iran, South Sudan, Nicaragua and China in his remarks on the release of the report.

“I wish I could say that the record of every country evaluated in this year’s report is spotless or even improved, but it’s simply not the case,” Pompeo said.

This year’s report evaluates the practices of roughly 200 countries and territories.

Venezuela

In Latin America, the report cited extrajudicial killings, the stifling of free expression, and restrictions on political participation in Venezuela. It said the May 20, 2018, presidential vote that re-elected Nicolas Maduro was “deeply flawed” and was boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community.

The State Department report also pointed to issues including “pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces” in Venezuela and in the Maduro government, “trafficking in persons and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.”

“The situation on the ground is deteriorating. It’s so tragic. The humanitarian conditions there are just awful. You have people starving, can’t get medicine to the sick,” Pompeo said in an interview in Houston.

“The human rights situation in Venezuela is terrible” and is only getting worse, said Ambassador Michael Kozak from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, adding the denial of U.S. medical and food aid by the Maduro government only exacerbates its humanitarian crisis.

Iran

On Iran, the report said, “The government’s human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas.”

The high-profile case of Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was featured in the report. Sotoudeh, who represents political prisoners and women that protested against the country’s compulsory hijab law, was arrested on June 13, 2018, on national security charges.She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes on March 12, 2019.

“We are outraged,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in Tuesday’s briefing. “This sentence is beyond barbaric.”

The human rights report also pointed to issues including executions for crimes without fair trials, arbitrary killings and forced disappearance, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment, unlawful interference with privacy, and severe restrictions on free expression, the press and the internet.

China

On China, the State Department’s human rights report said the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang).

Pompeo said China is “in a league of its own” when it comes to human rights violations.

“Today, more than 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims are interned in reeducation camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities. The government also is increasing its persecution against Christians, Tibetans and anyone who espouses different views from those or advocates those of government — or advocates change in government,” said the top U.S. diplomat.

Other issues include arbitrary detention by the Chinese government; physical attacks on and the criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, petitioners, and their family members; severe restrictions on religious freedom; the forcible return of asylum-seekers to North Korea, where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; and official repression of the freedom of speech, religion, movement, association and assembly in Tibet, according to the report.

China says it is running a deradicalization program and that the camps are vocational training centers to teach people about the law and the Mandarin language.Chinese authorities said Tuesday that the camps in Xinjiang will “gradually disappear” if a time arises when “society does not need them.”

Samuel Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, said Friday during a speech in Hong Kong that China’s detentions are not proportionate to any real threat it faces from extremism.

“China is not solving a terrorist problem by forcibly moving women, children, the elderly and the highly educated intelligentsia into mass detention centers and internment camps. Instead, they are creating one,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to take stronger actions against China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee told Pompeo last week it “appears the administration has taken no meaningful action” on the matter.

Pompeo said the administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Reproductive rights missing

Separately, critics on Wednesday pointed to the fact that the report does not highlight countries that commit human rights abuses around reproductive health.

“For the last 25 years, most of the world has recognized that empowering women to control their bodies helps them and their families to access other rights, but you wouldn’t know that from today’s report,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

“The State Department is essentially deciding that a significant set of women’s rights are not human rights at all,” she added.

It is the second time since 2012 the State Department’s human rights report eliminated references to women’s “reproductive rights” since 2012.

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США також призупиняють експлуатацію Boeing 737 Max – Трамп

США 13 березня слідом за багатьма іншими країнами світу оприлюднили екстрене рішення призупинити експлуатацію літаків Boeing 737 Max версій 8 і 9, заявив президент Дональд Трамп.

Ці рішення авіаційна влада в багатьох країнах ухвалює після катастрофи авіалайнера в Ефіопії, жертвами якої стали 157 людей.

До цього оголошення Трампа американська Федеральна авіаційна адміністрація казала, що у неї немає даних для тверджень, що літаки небезпечні. Трамп послався на «нову інформацію», яка з’явилася під час розслідування інциденту в Ефіопії, але не уточнив деталей.

Трамп додав, що безпека американців є «першорядною турботою» і додав, що авіаційна влад невдовзі зробить заяву з цього приводу.

«Boeing – це неймовірна компанія. Вони працюють дуже ретельно зараз і, сподіваюся, швидко знайдуть відповідь», – наголосив Трамп.

У зв’язку з катастрофою літака Boeing 737 MAX в Ефіопії Україна 13 березня оголосила, що призупиняє льотну експлуатацію цих літаків.

Вже низка країн і авіакомпаній по всьому світу заборонила польоти авіалайнера Boeing 737 MAX 8 через після авіакатастрофи. Європейський союз, Великобританія, Норвегія, Австралія, Китай, Малайзія, Сінгапур, Індонезія, Бразилія, Мексика, Індія та інші країни заявили 12 березня, що забороняють польоти літака цієї моделі чи закривають свій повітряний простір для літаків з інших країн як запобіжний захід.

Сполучені Штати, які допомагають ефіопській владі розслідувати катастрофу, раніше заявляли, що «занадто рано» припиняти роботу флоту Boeing 737 MAX 8 на своїй території.

11 березня компанія Boeing, найбільший в світі виробник літаків, заявила, що «повністю впевнена у безпеці» літака і пообіцяла в найближчі тижні застосувати нове програмне забезпечення для управління польотом для літаків 737 MAX.

Пасажирський літак авіакомпанії Ethiopian Airlines 10 березня зазнав аварії під час рейсу з Аддіс-Абеби до Найробі. На борту літака Boeing 737 Max 8 перебували 149 пасажирів і 8 членів екіпажу, не вижив ніхто.

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Двоє українських військових зазнали поранень на Донбасі – штаб

У зоні бойових дій на Донбасі від початку доби 13 березня зазнали поранень двоє українських військових, повідомив штаб операції Об’єднаних сил. За цими даними, підтримувані Росією бойовики відкривали вогонь двічі – поблизу Авдіївки та Мар’їнки в Донецькій області. Про ці ж обстріли та їхні наслідки йшлося в денному повідомленні міністерства оборони України.

«На обстріли противника наші захисники відповіли адекватним вогнем. Втрати противника уточнюються. Ситуація в районі проведення ООС залишається під контролем українських військових», – ідеться у вечірньому зведенні.

В угрупованні «ДНР» 13 березня звинуватили українських військових у ранковому обстрілі поблизу Ясинуватої.

В угрупованні «ЛНР» заявляють, що ЗСУ обстріляли школу в контрольованому бойовиками селищі Золоте-5. Українські військові повідомляють про причетність бойовиків до цього інциденту, внаслідок якого втрат серед цивільних немає.

На засіданні Тристоронньої контактної групи в режимі відеоконференції 7 березня Україна домовилася про оголошення нового режиму тиші на Донбасі з 00:00 8 березня.

Перед цим Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголошувала про чергове «безстрокове і стале» припинення вогню, починаючи з півночі 29 грудня 2018 року, з нагоди новорічних і різдвяних свят. Воно було порушене майже відразу після заявленого початку і відтоді, як і всі попередні перемир’я, порушується постійно.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці». За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.

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В Одесі суд арештував колишнього українського військового, який перейшов на бік Росії в анексованому Криму

Затриманого 11 березня в Херсонській області підозрюваного в дезертирстві колишнього українського військовослужбовця, який після анексії Криму перейшов на службу в Збройні сили Росії, заарештували на два місяці.

Як повідомили 13 березня проекту Радіо Свобода Крим.Реалії у відділі кримінальної поліції Головного управління Національної поліції в АР Крим та Севастополі, відповідне рішення ухвалив Приморським районним судом Одеси.

Військовослужбовця затримали 11 березня в Херсонській області.

Міжнародне співтовариство визнало окупацію і анексію Криму незаконними і засудили дії Росії. Країни Заходу ввели економічні санкції. Росія заперечує окупацію півострова і називає це «відновленням історичної справедливості».

Верховна Рада України офіційно оголосила датою початку тимчасової окупації Криму і Севастополя Росією 20 лютого 2014 року.

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Australian Cardinal’s Future Likely to be Decided by Vatican After June Appeal

The Vatican’s former treasurer, Australian Cardinal George Pell, has been sentenced to prison for sexually abusing choir boys. Handing down the sentence Wednesday, the judge said Pell would be listed as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Pope Francis will now have to decide what will happen to his former close advisor. 

The 77-year-old cardinal was sentenced in Australia to six years by Victoria County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd. The judge read the sentence, making it clear Pell would immediately start serving time in prison, although he has lodged an appeal that will be heard in June.

 

“I set a non-parole period of three years and eight months,” said Kidd. “That means you will become eligible to apply for parole after serving this non-parole period. Your release on parole will be a matter entirely for the parole board.”

 

No reaction was immediately forthcoming from the Vatican. The sentence came down on the very same day Pope Francis marked six years as head of the Catholic Church. He is on a weeklong spiritual retreat outside the Vatican, as is customary for him at the start of the Christian season of Lent.

Pope Francis could decide to defrock Cardinal Pell, as the pontiff did in February with the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, for similar issues. No decision is likely to be made until Pell’s appeal is heard. And Pell is not expected to return to Rome unless he is successful in overturning his conviction.

 

In the event he is successful, it is unlikely Pell will be welcomed back in Rome. The more likely scenario is that he will no longer serve in any Church role but given his age and failing health, he likely will be granted a pension. Under Vatican rules, Church officials normally resign at the age of 75 although the pope can choose to extend their service.

 

If the conviction is upheld on appeal and Pope Francis decides to defrock him, Pell stands to lose not only his freedom for some time but also the perks he enjoyed as a senior official of the Vatican, namely a home close to Saint Peter’s Square and a car and driver. Whether he would be able to maintain any financial support and health care would have to be discussed. He would no longer be allowed to celebrate Church sacraments.

 

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Venezuela, Iran, Uighur Detentions in China among Issues Raised in US Rights Report

The U.S. State Department is painting a grim picture of violations and abuses in countries that already have dismal records in its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018.”

Venezuela

On Venezuela, the report cited extrajudicial killings, the stifling of free expression, and restrictions on political participation. It said the May 20, 2018 presidential vote that re-elected Nicolas Maduro was “deeply flawed,” adding that the vote was boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community.

The State Department report also pointed to issues including “pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces” and in the Maduro government; “trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.”

“The situation on the ground is deteriorating. It’s so tragic. The humanitarian conditions there are just awful. You have people starving, can’t get medicine to the sick,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview in Houston.

Iran

On Iran, the report said “the government’s human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas. “

The high-profile case of Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was featured in the report. Sotoudeh, who represents political prisoners and women that protested against the country’s compulsory hijab law, was arrested on June 13, 2018, on national security charges. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

“We are outraged,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in Tuesday’s briefing, “This sentence is beyond barbaric. “

The human rights report also pointed to issues including executions for crimes without fair trials; arbitrary killings and forced disappearance; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet.

China

On China, the State Department’s human rights report said the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang).

“Authorities were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities,” said the report.

Secretary Pompeo said China is “in a league of its own” in human rights violations.

Other issues include arbitrary detention by the Chinese government; physical attacks on and the criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, petitioners, and their family members; severe restrictions on religious freedom; the forcible return of asylum seekers to North Korea, where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; and official repression of the freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly in Tibet, according to the report.

China says it is running a deradicalization program and that the camps are vocational training centers to teach people about the law and the Mandarin language. Chinese authorities said Tuesday that the camps in Xinjiang will “gradually disappear” if a time arises when “society does not need them.”

Samuel Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, said Friday during a speech in Hong Kong that China’s detentions are not proportionate to any real threat it faces from extremism.

“China is not solving a terrorist problem by forcibly moving women, children, the elderly, and the highly educated intelligentsia into mass detention centers and internment camps. Instead, they are creating one,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to take stronger actions against China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee told Pompeo last week it “appears the administration has taken no meaningful action” on the matter.

Pompeo said the administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

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Chaos, Gridlock a Daily Ordeal for Manila’s Long-suffering Commuters

It’s 3.30 a.m. in the Philippines and much of San Jose Del Monte is fast asleep.

Flashlight in hand, street sweeper Alejandro Galasao, 58, navigates a labyrinth of alleys to a main road to catch a bus to the capital Manila 30 km (18.6 miles) away.

He has to wake up in the middle of the night for a job that doesn’t start until 6 a.m.

Traffic is so bad in Manila that if he leaves any later, there’s no way he will clock in on time.

“If I go to work at rush hour, it would take me three hours,” Galasao told Reuters. “This is the only job I know. Even if I find something else, I doubt I would earn any better.”

Metro Manila, a sprawl of 16 cities fused together by outdated infrastructure, is creaking under the weight of millions of vehicles, owing largely to economic growth of more than six percent a year since 2012.

Urban rail coverage is limited, trains are prone to breakdowns and queues spill onto streets where exhaust fumes are intoxicating.

Quality of life is poor for many urban Filipinos, who spend a chunk of their day commuting.

Janice Sarad works at a bank head office and leaves home four hours before work starts in Bonifacio Global City, a Manila business hub.

On a typical day, Sarad, 22, takes a train, a bus and two passenger jeeps to get to work.

“In the morning, it’s even more difficult to commute because the pressure not to be late is there. You really have to fight your way in,” she said.

Heavy Toll

A 2015 survey by GPS-based navigation app Waze found that Manila had the world’s worst traffic congestion, partly due to a tripling of annual car sales from a decade ago.

Oliver Emocling, 23, rides the train, but queues are so long that he arrives late often, and has been docked wages as punishment.

“When I get home, it’s already 10 p.m.,” said Emocling, who works at a magazine. “I could be using that time to sleep more, rest more. Instead, my time gets wasted.”

The daily loss of business in Manila due to traffic woes has risen to 3.5 billion pesos ($67.2 million) in 2017 from 2.4 billion pesos ($46.1 million) in 2012, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that fixing Manila’s traffic wasn’t easy, adding that it was the only campaign promise he had failed to deliver.

He recently approved a law that encourages companies to support more employees to work from home.

The government is making some headway on an $180 billion program to modernize roads, railways and airports, including a subway system which was set to begin construction at the end of February.

However, the building works are exacerbating snarl-ups.

Ferdinand Tan, a 53-year-old wealth coach, lets his staff work from home and has modified his van to cope with traffic, turning it into a mobile office with a power supply, computer and even a foot massager.

“No one can really solve the traffic. So instead of complaining about it, I try to maximize (the time),” he said. “I use unproductive time to be productive.”

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Experts See Washington’s ‘Big Deal’ Approach to Denuclearizing N. Korea Facing Rejection

Pyongyang is likely to reject Washington’s “big deal” approach toward denuclearizing North Korea as indicated by signals the country has been sending through missile launch preparations, said experts.

U.S. Special Representative Steve Biegun laid out President Donald Trump’s approach toward denuclearizing North Korea at a conference held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Monday, saying, “We are not going to do denuclearization incrementally.”

Biegun also said sanctions imposed on North Korea will not be lifted until North Korea achieves complete denuclearization. 

Washington took an all-or-nothing approach or “big deal” approach toward North Korea’s denuclearization when it began its negotiations last year but gradually shifted to a phased, incremental approach, which is favored by Pyongyang, until the Hanoi summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

And weeks before the Hanoi summit, Biegun seemed to suggest in a speech at Stanford University that the U.S. would pursue a step-by-step approach toward achieving agreements made at the Singapore summit last June.

​Now, the U.S. has resumed its initial “big deal” position, and Biegun said last month’s Hanoi summit faltered because North Korea asked the U.S. to lift “basically all the sanctions” while offering to dismantle “a portion of their nuclear program.”

Scott Snyder, director of the U.S.-Korea policy program at the Council of Foreign Relations, said the Hanoi summit revealed the U.S. has reverted to its original position.

“It turns out that going for a ‘big deal’ almost brought the U.S. back to its initial negotiating position,” said Snyder. “And it raised the bar in terms of what both the U.S. was willing to give to Kim Jong Un, but also in terms of what the U.S. was expecting from Kim Jong Un.”

Biegun also said that North Korea’s chemical and biological weapons “would be unacceptable” at the Carnegie conference.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not accept the U.S. position.

“Kim has been clear and consistent from his first meeting with (Chinese President) Xi (Jinping) in Beijing that North Korea wants to move forward in a ‘phased synchronous process,’” said Manning. The leaders first met in March 2018 before the first inter-Korean summit was held in April.

​“Pyongyang will not accept the idea they give up everything, trust the U.S. and then they get some benefit,” Manning said. “It is too asymmetrical.”

Evans Revere, acting assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, said, “Pyongyang will reject U.S. efforts to pursue a ‘big deal’ requiring North Korea to give up the entirety of its nuclear weapons and related weapons of mass destruction program” because it considers them “the key to the survival of the regime.”

Revere said North Korea will consider giving up its nuclear weapons only when the current level of pressure increases to an “existentially overwhelming array of sanctions and pressure.” 

He continued, “The current sanctions and other measures have not reached the level necessary to compel the shift we seek. It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will be able to muster the diplomatic, political and moral leadership necessary to achieve the end it seeks.”

Since the Hanoi summit breakdown, movements have been detected around North Korea’s missile facilities suggesting the country is not living up to its commitments made at the first summit and possibly preparing to launch a missile. 

Commercial satellite images showed North Korea rebuilding the Sohae Satellite Launching Station at Tongchang-ri, which Pyongyang began to dismantle after the first summit with the U.S. in Singapore.

​There were also movements around the Samundong facility that suggest preparations may be underway for a test missile launch. 

Experts see these activities as North Korea signaling its refusal to accept the U.S. position.

“Kim Jong Un is sending a warning to Washington that he’s prepared to resume satellite launches if there’s no agreement on lifting sanctions in exchange for some measures toward denuclearization,” said Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction during the Obama administration.

Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, said North Korea is expressing “its unhappiness over the position taken by the U.S. at the Hanoi summit” which was rejecting its offer to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for receiving sanctions relief from the U.S. 

Christopher Hill, a chief negotiator with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, said he would be surprised if North Korea would fire a missile, but because “all the president’s men are getting less patient,” firing a missile would be “the end of this diplomatic phase.”

Lee Jo-eun, Ahn So-young contributed to this report which originated with the VOA Korean Service.