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Sense of Impunity Emboldens Autocrats to Get Rid of Enemies

The disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist raises a dark question for anyone who dares criticize governments or speak out against those in power: Will the world have their back?

Dictators and autocrats have always sought to silence dissenters, even ones that flee abroad to escape their grasp. They seem to only get bolder in turning to their playbook of detention, threats and killings.

That may in part be because, despite decades of talk of human rights in international circles, violations get only muted reproaches.

In the United States, the Trump administration avoids strenuous criticism of human rights abuses by allies, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the Philippines, or leaders it seeks to cultivate ties with, like Russia, China and North Korea.

President Donald Trump’s denunciations of “globalism” and tough stance against the International Criminal Court also have signaled that Washington has little interest in international enforcement against violators of human rights. Western countries have turned inwards, buffeted by rising xenophobic forces — and autocrats have either benefited from the vacuum or received outright support.

So when Turkish officials said they believed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed last week after disappearing during a visit to his country’s consulate in Istanbul, there was good reason to wonder whether there would be serious repercussions.

So too when China detained the now former Interpol chief after capturing him midair — the latest Chinese figure to vanish only to appear in court, accused of corruption.

So too when Russia was accused of poisoning an ex-spy in Britain.

Often economic and diplomatic interests lead countries to overlook killings, even of their own citizens.

In one of the most chilling recent cases, an Italian postgraduate student, Giulio Regeni, was found dumped on the side of a road outside the Egyptian capital, Cairo, his body mutilated and his bones broken. Suspicion in Italy immediately fell on Egypt’s security forces, notorious for their use of torture. But nearly three years later, no one has been blamed, and while Italy says it continues to investigate, it has forged ahead with ties with Egypt, particularly with the development of a natural gas field off Egypt’s coast by Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Sara Kayyali, a researcher on Syria for Human Rights Watch, said Khashoggi’s disappearance “is not just sad, it is terrifying.”

“We are all taken aback by the lack of condemnation by any of our traditional allies for the acts that we are seeing happen, most recently with Jamal’s case. I think it is a very challenging time for all of us and our traditional allies are not around,” she said. “It looks like it is the age of impunity, but we won’t let it go.”

The Arab diaspora

After the wave of pro-democracy protests that shook the Arab world in 2011 came the backlash — brutal crackdowns. As millions from Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya left their home countries, autocrats have tracked the vocal critics among them.

The Khashoggi disappearance has shaken the large community of Arab exiles who found relative safety in Turkey, said an Egyptian dissident who fled his country after the 2013 massacre. He had met Khashoggi only days earlier. He said he is considering where to go next, adding that his wife just got a job in Saudi Arabia, but he’s afraid to go there. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.

“It is a whole new level of dangerous,” he said. It harkens back to the days when Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi called his opponents in diaspora “stray dogs” and sent death squads to shoot them down in European capitals.

One prominent Libyan defector, Mansour al-Kikhia, vanished from Cairo in 1993. His fate was unknown until 2012, a year after Gadhafi’s ouster and death, when his body was found in a freezer in an intelligence building in Libya.

A Bahraini dissident living in Britain, Sayed Alwadaei, said these days he was afraid for his wife when she had to go to the embassy to notarize legal representation for a pending trial against her at home.

“We did not trust that if she goes to the embassy, she will leave unharmed,” he said.

Bahrain’s Embassy in London dismissed Alwadaei’s concerns as “nothing more than a cynical attempt to exploit a current news story.”

Today’s dissidents have more tools to speak their mind from exile, making them more dangerous in the eyes of regimes back home. But the autocrats’ toolkit is also more diverse.

Those in exile in Turkey say their governments have infiltrated their circles, spying on them physically and through social media. One Egyptian activist said he fled his refuge in Turkey after nearly five years because government spies infiltrated the opposition TV station he had set up.

With the government gaining more ground in Syria, activists fear they will now be chased in diaspora.

One prominent exiled Syrian, Rami Abdurrahman, who has monitored the war for years and has now become a British citizen, said he got word that a senior Syrian military official named him in meetings as the next target, “wherever I am.”

Russia

Russia has been accused of going after turncoat spies without paying much attention to borders and international norms.

In 2006, former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko, who fled to Britain and became a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin, died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 in London. Investigations concluded that Russia’s security service killed him, likely on Putin’s orders. The Russian government has denied any responsibility.

In March, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury after being exposed to a Soviet-designed nerve agent known as Novichok. They spent weeks in critical condition but survived. Months later, a civilian died after being accidentally exposed to the poison.

British officials said the attack on the Skripals received approval “at a senior level of the Russian state” and announced charges in absentia against two Russian agents. The British government says it has evidence the men work for the Russian military intelligence agency. Moscow denies any role in the poisoning.

In retaliation, Britain, European Union countries and the United States expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, Britain put greater scrutiny on Russian funds, and Washington imposed limited financial sanctions. Still, Trump was reluctant to speak out strongly against the attack.

China

China’s President Xi Jinping has increasingly defied foreign governments and international rights groups, bolstered by his country’s global economic clout, military power and diplomatic weight. That’s raised concerns over the fate of civic society within the country, as well as the risks of appointing Chinese officials to positions in international organizations.

Xi has waged a broad anti-corruption campaign that has ensnared numerous political foes — including among Chinese communities outside the country.

The most recent to fall afoul is Interpol’s president, Meng Hongwei, who was taken into custody upon arriving in Beijing late last month. The Ministry of Public Security has since said that Meng, who left his post, was being investigated for accepting bribes and other crimes that were a result of his “willfulness.”

Such vague accusations are typical in China’s highly opaque judicial system that has jailed figures such as the dissident writer and late Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Beijing-based independent political analyst Zhang Lifan said China’s handling of the Meng case undermines the leadership’s insistence that theirs is a country “ruled by law.”

“In China disappearance is something that happens quite often,” Zhang said. “It’s just that this time it was presented to the international public in such a special way.”

Assassinations and renditions

A tenuous place in the ruling dynasty is no protection: Witness one of the most brazen instances of assassination in recent memory, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam died in 2017 at an airport in Malaysia in an attack that authorities said used VX nerve agent.

In March, the Trump administration referred to it only indirectly, hedging perhaps with an eye to future diplomacy. Washington only determined that Pyongyang used chemical weapons, an apparent reference to the killing without going into any further detail.

Israel and the Palestinians have a history of assassinations. Israel’s Mossad killed several top PLO and Hamas leaders in the Arab world and Gaza, while a Palestinian splinter group attempted and failed to kill the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1982. Palestinian militants assassinated Israel’s tourism minister in 2001. Tehran has blamed Israel for a series of slayings of top Iranian nuclear scientists earlier this decade.

During the post-9/11 “war on terror” under President George W. Bush, the CIA program of “extraordinary rendition” and torture of suspects to secret “black sites” was a key U.S. strategy in neutralizing the enemy. More than 50 countries participated with some like Poland and Lithuania allowing the jails to be run on their territory.

And of course, the United States carried out the most noteworthy assassination of this century when Navy SEALs under President Barack Obama’s direction tracked down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and killed him in 2011.

“It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits,” Obama said in his last State of the Union address.

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Росія: суд заарештував футболістів національної збірної Кокоріна та Мамаєва

Тверський суд Москви заарештував футболістів національної збірної Росії Олександра Кокоріна та Павла Мамаєва до 8 грудня у справі про хуліганство.

Обидва спортсмени заявили, що розкаюються.

Кокоріна та Мамаєва підозрюють у побитті водія ведучої «Першого каналу» біля готелю 8 жовтня, а також посадовця Міністерства промисловості й торгівлі Росії Дениса Пака та генерального директора державного підприємства «Центральний науково-дослідницький автомобільний і автомоторний інститут «НАМІ» Сергія Гайсіна в кафе. 10 жовтня футболістів затримали.

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В РПЦ уточнили, яку відповідь дадуть на дії Вселенського патріархату щодо України

11 жовтня синод Вселенського патріархату ухвалив продовжити процес надання автокефалії українській церкві та відновив канонічний сан глав УПЦ КП і УАПЦ

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Malaysia to End Death Penalty and Sedition Act

Malaysia’s government plans to abolish the death penalty and a colonial-era law used to suppress dissent, officials said this week.

Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said Wednesday the Cabinet would end the death penalty and halt all scheduled executions until the law takes effect. More than 1,200 people are currently on death row.

“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop,” he was reported saying by the New Straits Times.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said Thursday that the Sedition Act, introduced by the British in 1948, will also be repealed.

Both proposals are expected to be brought before Malaysia’s parliament Monday.

The Sedition Act has been expanded over the decades to outlaw any act, speech or publication that brings contempt against the government or Malaysia’s nine royal sultans. Human rights group have frequently accused the Malaysian government of using the law as a weapon against opposition politicians, journalists, students, academics and others who criticize the government.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan coalition dominated a general election in May after promising to weed out corruption and end oppressive laws. 

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak detained dozens of politicians and activists critical of his administration under the Sedition Act, after being accused of stealing billions of dollars from state-owned development firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad in 2015.

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ГПУ передала до суду провадження щодо Добкіна – речниця

Генеральна прокуратура України передала до суду обвинувальний акт у кримінальному провадженні щодо народного депутата від «Опозиційного блоку», екс-мера Харкова Михайла Добкіна, повідомила речниця генерального прокурора Лариса Сарган у Facebook.

За даними слідства, у жовтні – грудні 2008 року посадові особи Харківської міської ради «вступили у попередню змову й, діючи в інтересах осіб, які нібито потребували поліпшення житлових умов, зловживаючи своїм службовим становищем, шляхом шахрайських дій усунули перешкоди останнім у заволодінні правом на землю, що спричинило тяжкі наслідки».

Сарган зазначила, що мова йде про розкрадання понад 75 гектарів землі вартістю понад 240 мільйонів гривень.

Фігурантами у цій справі також є колишній заступник Добкіна – директор департаменту містобудування, архітектури та земельних відносин Харківської міськради та головний архітектор Харкова, екс-начальник управління земельних відносин Харківської міськради, представники обслуговуючого кооперативу та споживчого товариства.

Дії посадовців кваліфікують як шахрайство та зловживання владою або службовим становищем.

У липні 2017 року Верховна Рада задовольнила подання генпрокурора щодо позбавлення недоторканності народного депутата Михайла Добкіна, давши згоду на його притягнення до кримінальної відповідальності, затримання і арешт.

Після цього суд обрав для Михайла Добкіна запобіжний захід у вигляді арешту на два місяці з можливістю внести заставу в розмірі 50 мільйонів гривень. В «Опозиційному блоці» 19 липня заявили про внесення 50 мільйонів гривень застави за свого однопартійця.

Михайло Добкін від 2006 до 2010 року обіймав посаду міського голови Харкова, а від 2010 по 2014 рік очолював Харківську облдержадміністрацію.

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У новому офісі Радіо Свобода презентували невідомі документи КДБ про стеження за мовником – відео

У Києві разом із відкриттям нового офісу Радіо Свобода презентували онлайн-колекцію «Як КДБ стежив за Радіо Свобода» – проекту РС, Центру дослідження визвольного руху та Галузевого державного архіву СБУ. 48 розсекречених документів із архіву КДБ розповідають: Як радянська спецслужба стежила за журналістами Радіо Свобода? Як контррозвідувальним шляхом дізнавалися редакційні плани РС? Як спецслужба намагалась запобігти виходові окремих програм? На подію завітала посол США в Україні Марі Йованович. Вона наголосила на важливості професіоналізму та збалансованості в журналістиці у світі загалом та особливо в Україні, коли вона входить у період виборів.

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Singapore Airlines Launches Longest Commercial Flight

The world’s longest commercial flight, a 19-hour journey from Singapore to New York, took off Thursday from Changi Airport.

The Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900ULR will touch down at Newark Liberty International Airport early Friday after traveling 15,350 kilometers.

Singapore Airlines previously flew the same route, but abandoned it in 2013 due to high oil prices and the gas-guzzling four-engine aircraft used. 

Singapore Airlines is offering no coach seats, instead stocking the plane with 67 business-class spots and 94 premium economy. Shortly before takeoff, premium economy tickets were going for more than $2,100.

The Airbus A350-900ULR (“Ultra Long Range”) is a new two-engine plane with far greater range and fuel capacity than other commercial airliners. In addition, it has several features that aid passenger comfort during the trip, like hospital-grade air filters, improved pressurization and humidity, and customizable lighting that eases the transition between time zones. 

Singapore Airlines says it plans to add several flights from Singapore to Los Angeles in November, bringing the total number of weekly flights to the United States to 53.

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136 сховищ боєприпасів збудують в Україні протягом 34 місяців – президент

В Україні збудують 136 сховищ боєприпасів протягом 34 місяців, повідомив президент України Петро Порошенко під час поїздки до Хмельницької області.

В Адміністрації президента повідомляють, що на Хмельниччині глава держави проінспектував хід будівництва арсеналу для зберігання боєприпасів. Президент зазначив, що на його території буде вісім сховищ закритого типу, які дозволять розміщувати та надійно зберігати значну кількість боєприпасів для української армії.

«Ми повинні мати ефективну систему захисту від людського фактору», – сказав Порошенко, додавши, що цей захист має передбачати перевірку охоронців, контроль усіх систем, відеоспостереження зі зберіганням даних в захищеному командному пункті і неможливість потрапляння на територію складів будь-яких осіб без відповідної авторизації.

Останніми роками в Україні сталася низка пожеж на складах боєприпасів. Зокрема, у ніч на 9 жовтня почалися вибухи на військових складах біля Ічні Чернігівської області.

У прокуратурі повідомили, що відкрили кримінальне провадження за частиною 3 статті 425 Кримінального кодексу України (недбале ставлення військової службової особи до служби, якщо воно спричинило тяжкі наслідки, вчинене в умовах особливого періоду, крім воєнного стану).

За даними Міністерства оборони, станом на 19:00 11 жовтня вибухи продовжувалися, однак їхня інтенсивність була слабка.