UN finds Australia tortures refugees.
Silence of so called "opposition" and human rights groups (along with media complicity) allows the government to keep doing it.
... "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device" ...
Sydney Morning Herald [13/3/15]:
An Iranian refugee – one of the first people to receive one of the Coalition's new temporary safe haven visas – has been found dead.
Omid Ali Avaz, 29, an Iranian of Kurdish ethnicity, is believed to have taken his own life.
Police at Dutton Park in Brisbane confirmed on Friday that the body of a 29-year-old "deceased immigrant" had been found and an investigation begun. The Queensland coroner has been alerted to Mr Avaz's apparent suicide.
Mr Avaz left a final voice message asking for a Christian burial. He had been being supported by the Catholic Church's Romero asylum seeker support service in Dutton Park.
Since arriving in 2011, he had been in detention and community detention on a bridging visa.
During that time he had suffered mental illness and was treated at Brisbane's private Toowong Private mental hospital after a number of suicide attempts.
What’s Driving the Merciless Asylum Seeker Policies in Australia? [IPS News - 11/3/15]:
... In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council Monday, Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, concluded that Australia’s “Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment, which has passed both the house and the Senate of Australia at this point, violates the [Convention Against Torture, or CAT] because it allows for the arbitrary detention and refugee determination at sea, without access to lawyers.”
Mendez’s report also found that the indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, together with reports of ill-treatment and outbreaks of violence, constituted a violation of the human right “to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as provided by articles 1 and 16 of the [Convention Against Torture].”
For some experts, even more disturbing than the policies themselves is public acceptance of routine ill treatment of refugees.
“Australia has fought its ideological war with as much moral insanity as would be found in a dictatorship,” the Australian writer and social ecologist, Isobel Blackthorn, wrote in the National Forum last year.
“We are being systematically conditioned into accepting the cruel treatment of others as necessary and inevitable.”
Australia's protected, unaccountable Immigration Minister visits Cambodia to discuss exile and enslavement of refugees with the IOM
Global Times [12/3/15]:
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong met with Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday to further discuss a refugee resettlement plan following an agreement struck by the two countries in September.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Cambodian spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Koy Kuong said Dutton told Hor Namhong that in a pilot project, Australia will send between three and five refugee-families in Nauru to Cambodia, but there is no exact date of the sending.
The Cambodian foreign minister reiterated that Cambodia will take in Australia's refugees in Nauru in a "voluntary basis."
"We do not force any refugees to come to Cambodia -- we accept only any refugees who agree to come to Cambodia voluntarily," Koy Kuong quoted Hor Namhong as saying to Dutton, adding that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also ready to help Cambodia on this plan.
Asked how many refugees have agreed to come to Cambodia, Koy Kuong said, "There is no yet. The important thing is that we have to make them understand the situation in Cambodia first."
Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng said in January that only three of the Australia's refugees in Nauru agreed to meet with a Cambodian delegation on a resettlement plan.
He said he did not know whether the three refugees would come to resettle in Cambodia or not.
Cambodia and Australia signed the refugee deal on September 26, under which Australia will send refugees, who intend to seek asylum in Australia and are being held in an offshore detention camp in the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru, to resettle in Cambodia.
Minister for Immigration Media Release [13/3/15]:
... Mr Dutton said Australia and Cambodia had reaffirmed their commitment to the voluntary and permanent nature of the agreement which meets the international obligations of both countries to offer protection and resettlement to refugees.
'I welcome Cambodia’s leadership on this vital regional issue and their commitment to finalise settlement arrangements as soon as possible,' Mr Dutton said.
'In particular, I recognise Cambodia’s progression within a single generation from a devastating civil war, through the rebuilding and reconstruction of their society, to a member of the international community taking a leadership position in protecting the vulnerable.'
Mr Dutton also met with representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who reaffirmed their support for the relocation and integration of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia. Australia will meet the costs of the resettlement programme. ...
Four of the 36 Jarai Montagnards deported last month have “disappeared” from their village in Vietnam’s central highlands, prompting fears among villagers that they may have been detained by the authorities.
The group of 36 Montagnards was deported on the night of February 24 after attempting to travel from Ratanakkiri to Phnom Penh in order to seek asylum.
Thirteen other Montagnards from Vietnam remain in hiding in the province, and reports from local villagers suggest their condition continues to worsen. … [Phnom Penh Post – 12/3/15]
Rights Group Claims ‘Systematic’ Labor Abuse by Garment Factories [Cambodia Daily – 13/3/15]
U.K. asylum seekers have gone on hunger strike to protest living conditions at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre, which is run by Mitie, a British outsourcing company. The protests come months after Mitie took over from the Geo Group whose contract was canceled after prison authorities found repeated problems. ... [CorpWatch - 12/3/15]
Refugees endure worsening conditions as Syria's conflict enters 5th year
UNHCR Media Release [12/3/15]:
As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, millions of refugees in neighbouring countries and those displaced within the country are caught in alarmingly deteriorating conditions, facing an even bleaker future without more international support, UNHCR warned today.
With no political solution to the conflict in sight, most of the 3.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt see no prospect of returning home in the near future, and have scant opportunity to restart their lives in exile. Well over half of all Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in insecure dwellings – up from a third last year – posing a constant challenge to keep them safe and warm. A survey of 40,000 Syrian families in Jordan's urban areas found that two-thirds were living below the absolute poverty line.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres reiterated that much, much more needed to be done to pull Syrians out of their nightmare of suffering. "After years in exile, refugees' savings are long depleted and growing numbers are resorting to begging, survival sex and child labour. Middle-class families with children are barely surviving on the streets: one father said life as a refugee was like being stuck in quicksand – every time you move, you sink down further," he said.
"This worst humanitarian crisis of our era should be galvanizing a global outcry of support, but instead help is dwindling. With humanitarian appeals systematically underfunded, there just isn't enough aid to meet the colossal needs – nor enough development support to the hosting countries creaking under the strain of so many refugees," Guterres added. He pointed out that with the massive influx of Syrian refugees over the past four years, Turkey had now become the world's biggest refugee hosting country and had spent over US$ 6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.
But faced with growing security concerns and insufficient international support, several of Syria's neighbours have taken measures in recent months to stem the flow of refugees, from new border management regulations to more onerous and complex requirements to extend their stay.
More and more Syrians are losing hope. Thousands have tried to reach Europe by taking often deadly land or sea routes after paying their life savings to smugglers. Many have not made it. Those who do, face rising hostility as refugees are conflated with security concerns in a climate of rising panic.
"Refugees are made scapegoats for any number of problems from terrorism to economic hardship and perceived threats to their host communities' way of life. But we need to remember that the primary threat is not from refugees, but to them," Guterres said.
Inside Syria, the situation is deteriorating rapidly. More than 12 million people are in need of aid to stay alive. Almost 8 million have been forced from their homes, sharing crowded rooms with other families or camping in abandoned buildings. An estimated 4.8 million Syrians inside the country are in places that are hard to reach, including 212,000 trapped in besieged areas.
Millions of children are suffering from trauma and ill health. A quarter of Syria's schools have been damaged, destroyed or taken over for shelter. More than half of Syria's hospitals are destroyed.
More than 2.4 million children inside Syria are not in school. Among refugees, nearly half of all children are not receiving an education in exile. In Lebanon, there are more school-age refugees than the entire intake of the country's public schools, and only 20 per cent of Syrian children are enrolled. Similar numbers can be seen among refugees living outside of camps in Turkey and Jordan.
"We have only a narrow opportunity to intervene now as this potentially lost generation confronts its future. Abandoning refugees to hopelessness only exposes them to even greater suffering, exploitation and dangerous abuse," Guterres warned.
There are more Syrians under UNHCR's care today than any other nationality on earth. Yet by the end of last year, only 54 per cent of the funding needed to assist refugees outside Syria had been raised. Inside Syria, humanitarian organizations received even less.
In December, the UN launched the largest aid appeal ever for $8.4 billion. Fully funded, this would cover basic needs for refugees, while also helping host communities to bolster their infrastructure and services. UNHCR is hoping significant pledges will be made at the funding conference in Kuwait on 31 March.
"Further abandoning host countries to manage the situation on their own could result in serious regional destabilisation, increasing the likelihood of more security concerns elsewhere in the world," Guterres said.
More than 20 international aid organisations have sharply criticised the United Nations Security Council, saying it has failed to implement three resolutions passed last year seeking to boost humanitarian assistance to Syrian civilians. ... [Al Jazeera - 12/3/15]
Turkish Coast Guard fires on cargo ship carrying 400 Syrian refugees, Dardanelles
Hurriyet Daily News [12/3/15]:
Turkey's coast guard units have fired on a rogue cargo ship in the Dardanelles Strait before capturing hundreds of migrants inside.
The 59 meters long cargo ship, named "Doğan Kartal," ignored the security forces' calls to stop off the Gallipoli peninsula on March 12.
After halting the sea traffic in the Strait, the Coast Guard fired on the engine room of the ship that was fleeing.
Security forces boarded ship at 6.30 p.m. and captured some 400 unregistered migrants, according to Doğan News Agency which also broadcast a footage of the incident.
Anadolu Agency [12/3/15]:
... "According to our initial information, around 400 illegal Syrian immigrants were on board," Canakkale governor, Ahmet Cinar, said, adding that, "There was no resistance, casualties or injuries on the ship."
Authorities faced some challenges in bringing the ship to a halt. “Despite all the warnings from Turkish officials, the ship wouldn't stop,” Cinar recalled.
The Turkish coast guards had to resort to force to halt the ship. At first, the method of mooring was tried. “Our goal was to prevent people on board from any damage," the governor said.
However, when the vessel repeatedly failed to yield to authorities’ warnings, the coast guards opened fire on the ship’s machinery. "Eventually, the ship stopped completely due to the locked steering," he said.
The "illegal immigrants" will be taken to the port of Gallipoli, he added.
The Canakkale Strait was closed to transit and Gallipoli-Lapseki ferry shuttles were also temporarily stopped during the operation. ...
European Union interior ministers thrashed out ways Thursday to tackle the growing tide of migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa by seeking illegal residence in Europe.
Setting up asylum processing facilities in third countries was one of the methods discussed to deal with would-be migrants, but with unrest creating chaos in most of those nations, the European Union faces a huge challenge surmounting the problem.
"The pressure from migration just keeps growing," Latvian interior minister Rihards Kozlovskis said after talks in Brussels.
"The European Union has to do more not only in the Mediterranean but also in the land borders in the Western Balkans."
But he added that the 28-nation bloc was "determined to take necessary measures."
The number of migrants entering the EU illegally in 2014 nearly tripled to 276,000 people compared to 2013, according to the EU borders agency Frontex. Out of the total, 220,000 arrived via the Mediterranean.
The UN says at least 3,500 people died last year while crossing the Mediterranean, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world.
Libya remains the point of departure for many risking the journey, with divisions between warring factions and rising Islamist violence making the country a key concern for the EU.
"If the Libyan question is not resolved it is pointless talking about immigration in the hope of blocking their departure," Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said.
"The priority for the whole international community must be to set up centres on African territory to treat asylum demands and see if they are acceptable."
International coalition bombing killed 50 Iraqi soldiers in Anbar, says MP Fatlawi
On Thursday, the head of Irada bloc MP Hanan al-Fatlawi claimed that the indiscriminate shelling of the US-led coalition has left 50 soldiers dead and dozens of others wounded in Anbar, demanding the government and the House of Representatives to take a stand on the coalition’s bombing toward the Iraqi Army and the Volunteer Fighters.
Fatlawi said in a press conference held today in the Parliament building and attended by IraqiNews.com, “The international coalition flight bombed military pieces in Abu Diab area today, leaving 50 soldiers dead and dozens of others wounded,” pointing out that, “Some of the dead are still beneath the rubble.”
“This was not the first time, other bombings by the coalitions have occurred in many areas and targeted the Army and the Volunteer Fighters elements,” demanding the government and Parliament to “take a stand on the bombing,” and urging to “make up for the dead and wounded’s families.”
It is noteworthy that the House of Representatives voted in its meeting held on Thursday to include the bombing incident of the international coalition on the military pieces in Anbarin its agenda.
United States, “allies” continue bombing Iraq and Syria [Centcom - 12/3/15]:
On March 11, U.S. and Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq, using fighter, attack and remote aircraft to conduct 13 airstrikes.
All strikes took place between 8 a.m., March 11, and 8 a.m., March 12, local time.
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
•CJTF-OIR conducted no airstrikes in Syria between 8 a.m., March 11, and 8 a.m., March 12, local time.
•Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicles.
•Near Al Qaim, an airstrike struck an ISIL staging area.
•Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit, two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
•Near Kirkuk, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL excavators, three ISIL vehicles and an ISIL VBIED.
•Near Mosul, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed four ISIL armored vehicles.
•Near Ramadi, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
•Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL buildings and an ISIL vehicle.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.
Iraqi forces tighten siege of Tikrit [Al Jazeera - 12/3/15]:
Iraqi commanders have said that time is on their side as government forces tightened their siege of Tikrit and warned they would not be rushed into a final assault.
Since the operation to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group was launched at the start of the month, thousands of troops and Shia militia have re-conquered the land around the city.
On Wednesday, they moved deep into Tikrit's sprawling northern district of Qadisiyah and closed in on the few hundred ISIL fighters holed up in the city centre.
But Police Staff Major General Bahaa al-Azzawi said on Thursday that government forces would refrain from advancing too fast to avoid unnecessary losses.
"We don't want to be rushed because we want to avoid casualties," he told the AFP news agency in Albu Ajil, a village from which Tikrit can be seen across the Tigris river. "Tikrit is sealed off from all sides."
Police sources told Al Jazeera on Thursday that on the southeastern side of the city, clashes between Iraqi forces and ISIL fighters were continuing near the former presidential palaces of Saddam Hussein - adjacent to the local government compound.
Iraqi troops were shelling Tikrit's centre as army helicopters targeted ISIL hideouts, the sources said.
Hadi al-Ameri, the commander of the volunteer Popular Mobilisation units, told reporters on the front lines that there was no way out for the ISIL fighters trapped in Tikrit.
"They have two choices, surrender or death," said Ameri, whose Badr organisation is one of the largest Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq and controls the interior ministry.
"We do not need to attack. That could lead to victims in the ranks of the fighters," he said.
None of the Iraqi fighting forces involved in the battle have provided casualty figures since the start of the operation to wrest back Tikrit, the largest since ISIL captured the city nine months ago.
Dozens of bodies are being driven down to Baghdad and the Shia holy city of Najaf almost every day, however, and, while government forces have had the upper hand, ISIL has done damage with suicide car bombs, booby traps and snipers.
The campaign to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, involves a curious mixture of Iraqi forces -- the army and air force, federal police, powerful Shia militia as well as Sunni tribal fighters.
It's a cast of about 30,000 fighters with an opaque command structure. And that makes it tough to be precise about numbers -- but by several estimates only one-third of those fighters are from the regular army.
A CNN team that's seen the offensive at close quarters noted that Iraqi army commanders appeared to be taking a subordinate role to leaders of the Shia militia, notably Hadi al Ameri, leader of the Badr Organization. Iranian military advisers are on hand, and highly influential on the battlefield.
Press TV [10/3/15]:
Iraqi security troops, backed by Shia, Sunni volunteers and tribal forces, have reportedly entered the strategic city of Tikrit from multiple directions, reports say.
Iraqi forces have reportedly taken control of the al-Qadisiyah neighborhood from ISIL Takfiri terrorists. The Takfiris are now besieged in the center of the city.
According to reports, the streets of Tikrit have been covered with dead bodies of the ISIL terrorists.
Some of the terrorists were killed by the Iraqi forces, while others were executed by their fellow Takfiris for fleeing the battle.
Spain Says UN Resolution Needed for Any NATO Role in Libya [Naharnet – 12/3/15]
Houthis open fire on protesters in southern Yemen, one dead [Ahram - 12/3/15]
Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militants on Thursday attacked a fortified area in the central town of Baidoa, home to a key regional government headquarters, United Nations compound and airport, security officials said. ... [Ahram - 12/3/15]
Afghanistan: Former MP, Presidential election candidate found dead
Shahla Ata, a former member of parliament and a candidate of the presidential elections in 2009 – in which she did not succeed – was found dead at her residence in the 10th police district of Kabul city this morning.
Kabul police confirming the death of Shahla Ata say that further details will be provided after the initial investigation and the provision of medical reports.
Shahla Ata was Member of Parliament in 2005 and was one of the two female candidates who ran for the country’s presidency in 2009 but did not win.
She belonged to the family of Sardar Mohammad Dawoud Khan and her father Sardar Ghulam Khan was an army general during the government of King Zahir Shah who was overthrown from power by his cousin Sardar Mohammad Dawoud Khan.
Ata had said during her presidential campaigns that she will apply the policies of Sardar Mohammad Dawoud Khan if she wins the election.
But Hamid Karzai who was the president of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 won the election and became Afghanistan’s elected president for the 2nd term.
8 policemen killed in Takhar [Khaama - 12/3/15]
Senator Glenn Lazarus resigns from Palmer United Party
Media Release [12/3/15]:
Senator for Queensland, Glenn Lazarus, today resigned from the Palmer United Party.
“I have today resigned from the Palmer United Party,” Senator Glenn Lazarus said.
“This was a difficult decision.
“I have a different view of team work. Given this, I felt it best that I resign from the party and pursue my Senate role as an independent Senator.
“I am deeply grateful to Clive Palmer for the opportunity to be involved in the party.
“I sincerely wish Clive and his family all the very best for the future.
“I will miss working with my esteemed colleague Senator Dio Wang.
“I am determined to do my best in representing, and being a voice for, the people of Queensland in the Australian Senate.”
Senator Lazarus Media Release [9/3/15]:
Palmer United Senator for Queensland and Leader of Palmer United in the Senate, Glenn Lazarus, this week launched a petition on www.change.org to garner support for his call on the Abbott Government to establish a Royal Commission to investigate the human impact of CSG mining.
Already, the petition has secured several thousand signatures and is continuing to rise. “I have visited parts of Queensland affected by CSG mining and I am deeply concerned by what I have discovered," Senator Glenn Lazarus said.
“Communities are being devastated by CSG mining.
Senator Lazarus Media Release [9/3/15]:
Palmer United Senator for Queensland and Leader of Palmer United in the Senate, Glenn Lazarus, today backed calls for a new inquiry into the 2011 Grantham flood.
“I have been contacted by many people in the Toowoomba and Grantham region seeking a new inquiry into the Grantham flood," Senator Glenn Lazarus said today.
"This issue was also raised by a number of people during the Senate Inquiry into the Queensland Government.
Signing pact with OECD, Tsipras says non-disbursement would suggest foul play
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged Thursday that his government will pursue reforms in line with commitments to Greece’s creditors after signing an agreement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development aimed at putting the ailing economy back on track.
In a news conference in Paris with OECD chief Angel Gurria, Tsipras struck a rather conciliatory tone after days of tensions between Greece and the so-called “institutions,” expressing his intention to honor pledges to the latter while also seeking the OECD’s “stamp on the reforms that the Greek government wants to push on with.”
In a statement on its website, the OECD said that it and Greece “agreed today to work together on the design and implementation of the structural reforms needed to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”
Those reforms are to include boosting job creation, slashing the red tape that hampers businesses and boosting efficiency in public administration while “disrupting oligopolies and cartels through greater competition and product market reform.”
Tsipras underlined the need to deal with “historically rooted injustices and the inefficiencies of our economic system.”
In answering a reporter’s question, he also made it clear that Greece is keen to secure crucial rescue funding.
“If there is no disbursement, this means someone wants to undermine the agreement,” he said.
Earlier he had stressed that even if Athens does not secure the release of funding, it will meet its obligations.
As regards the restrictions to liquidity from the European Central Bank, Tsipras said he did not feel he had a noose around his neck, noting that Greece was determined to reform “for the first time.”
Tsipras also repeated calls for debt restructuring, which he said “is absolutely vital.”
The premier is due in Brussels Friday for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
IMF loan to Ukraine is ‘involuntary servitude’– Central Bank ex-head [RT – 12/3/15]
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has decided to extend the mandate of the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine for one year, as well as increase the potential number of its observers to up to 1,000 people. … [RT – 12/3/15]
Saudi 'gang' leader 44th beheaded this year
Daily Star [12/3/15]:
The beheading of a gang leader in Saudi Arabia Thursday raised the number of executions carried out this year to 44, already more than half the total for 2014.
Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia is "well on track" to far exceed previous annual execution records.
Mansour bin Habeeb bin Mahdi Khalfan, a Saudi, was put to death Thursday in the kingdom's eastern region after having been convicted of "leading a gang" dealing in hashish, money laundering and forged documents, the interior ministry said.
According to an AFP tally, Khalfan was the 44th local or foreigner executed this year in Saudi Arabia, which Amnesty says has regularly been among the world's top five executioners.
London-based Amnesty says around half of this year's executions have been for drug-related offences.
The interior ministry cites deterrence as a reason for the punishment, while warning of "the physical and social harm" caused by drugs.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's version of sharia Islamic law.
The Gulf state has carried out around 80 executions annually since 2011, with 87 last year by AFP's tally.
Australia tortures refugees.
Which politicians and human rights organisations will call for an end to it?
Turning back the boats is a moral and legal failure, say academics [Guardian
The first academic analysis of Australia’s “turning back” of asylum seeker boats concludes the policy is a fatally risky, moral and legal failure that is “severely damaging” the country’s reputation.
The University of Queensland study, which examines all 29 interceptions of boats under the Howard and Abbott governments from 2001, finds while there is no conclusive evidence the policy has saved lives, as many as eight people have died as a result of it.
The risk of death or serious injury at sea, including to Australian officials, remains elevated with the ongoing incentive for migrants to sabotage vessels in a bid to thwart forced returns to Indonesia or Sri Lanka, the study says.
“Given the official secrecy surrounding this topic, it is not possible to say with certainty that there have not been further cases of death or injury,” it says.
UQ researchers Andreas Schloenhardt and Colin Craig argue the singular achievement of halting the arrival of irregular migrants is “greatly outweighed” by factors also including the diplomatic effect of making Australia’s commitment to international refugee laws “meaningless”.
They conclude: “It is difficult to advocate, support and sustain this policy in these circumstances.”
Schloenhardt, a law professor and organised crime expert who came to the topic via his research of people smuggling, told Guardian Australia the government’s dishonesty about the fact it was flouting those laws through “towbacks” was “appalling”.
He said the nature of what took place during forced returns of mostly genuine asylum seekers – which have been kept secret by the government since last year – would make the public “think twice about this policy and whether it’s really the best way of stopping people smuggling”.
“Most people are not aware of the circumstances of returns, what happens on these boats, how few [towbacks] there have really been and all these other factors that flow into that,” Schloenhardt said.
“They just think, ok, there’s no more boats coming, that’s all we really care about.”
The study chronicles the frequency of dangerous incidents during forced returns by the navy and customs, from drownings to fatal explosions after engine sabotage and mechanical failures in unseaworthy boats towed at length.
It takes aim at Abbott’s comments as opposition leader about the “success” of the policy under Howard – when he said there was “no reason why [the navy] can’t do it safely again” – dismissing them as “a misrepresentation by any standard”.
Schloenhardt said in both eras of the policy, there had been “a very consistent pattern” of passengers taking desperate steps, including self harm and violence, to avoid “towbacks”.
He said it was striking how common these incidents were, as well as how few boats were actually turned back under Howard (four of 14 intercepted).
The law professor said Australia was unique in the way it broke its international refugee obligations and laws at sea, shifting the burden to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia with no such obligations.
Those countries tolerated underground societies of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants, partly as a source of cheap labour but mainly because it was cheaper than detaining or deporting them in great numbers, he said.
Instead of accepting and protecting asylum seekers, Australia was repelling them in circumstances where it could not guarantee they would safely reach Indonesian shores – much less be protected from the risk of exploitation, arbitrary jailing or return to their original place of persecution, Schloenhardt said.
“There are international treaties and guidelines on this whole topic of people smuggling and none of them envisage the sorts of responses we have cooked up,” he said.
“We have a situation where international refugee laws are completely and utterly meaningless for Australia and the government is simply so dishonest about that. That is what is so frustrating for me.
“The government should have been honest and say we don’t want to be bound by these obligations and withdraw our signature. Of course it’s politically very unpopular, it paints us in a very bad light internationally, but this is the effect that all of this has.
“The resettlement of people in refugee camps in third countries is a nice thing to do, very humanitarian, but it’s got nothing to do with the refugee convention, which says if people show up, look after them and don’t send them back.”
The Australian government was “quite ignorant” of the negative publicity it was gaining worldwide on the issue, especially in Europe.
Irregular migrant numbers in countries like Austria (70,000 a year) – where Schloenhardt spends half the year as a research fellow at the University of Vienna – dwarf Australia even at its 2003 peak of 20,587.
“Certainly in Europe where there are a lot of organisations dealing with refugees, they all think this is completely crazy, what the Australians are doing,” Schloenhardt said.
“In Italy, where in the first month this year they had 6,000 arrivals by boat, they debate to what lengths they go to to rescue these people not about what they can do to stop them coming in the first place.”
While the number of deaths that have occurred among asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat has been estimated at 1550, Schloenhardt said the true number – was likely twice that.
UQ presents study of Australia’s policy to turn-back asylum-seeker vessels:
On 13 March 2015, Dr Andreas Schloenhardt, Professor of Criminal Law in the UQ School of Law, will be presenting the findings of a study of Australia’s policy to refuse entry to vessels carrying asylum seekers to Australia.
A main feature of this policy is to turn or, in some cases, tow the vessels back to Indonesia or Sri Lanka. The study by UQ’s Migrant Smuggling Working Group provides an in-depth analysis of the context, objectives, and controversies of this policy and explores the known successful and attempted ‘turn-backs’.
The study critically evaluates the rationale and operation of the past and present policies and reflects on the question of whether to retain or repeal this approach.
In their study, Professor Schloenhardt and co-author Colin Craig found that “one of the main effects of the ‘turn-back’ policy has been a shifting of Australian responsibilities to other countries and a rejection of Australia’s obligation under international refugee law so that Australia’s signature under the Refugee Convention has become irrelevant”.
"The execution of the ‘turn-back’ policy has also placed passengers and crew as well as Australian Navy and Customs personnel at risk of serious injury and death, especially if the vessels are not seaworthy or are sabotaged by desperate migrants”, adds Professor Schloenhardt.
The study will be presented at a public seminar titled ‘“Turning back the Boats”: Domestic policies and international law relation to Australia’s “war on people smuggling”’, at Bond University, Faculty of Law, on 13 March 2015, 12:30pm.
Obama renews 'state of emergency' against Iran, extends bans for another year
Press TV [12/3/15]:
US President Barack Obama has extended Washington’s decades-old "state of emergency" with respect to Iran that keeps sanctions against the Islamic Republic in place for one more year.
On Wednesday, Obama informed Capitol Hill that he was continuing the "state of emergency" against Iran because the crisis in Tehran-Washington relations “has not been resolved.”
The state of emergency has been in place since 1979 when Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic ties.
“…certain actions and policies of the government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Obama claimed in a notice to Congress.
“For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared with respect to Iran and to maintain in force comprehensive sanctions,” Obama wrote.
This is while Obama, in the same letter, spoke of the progress made in the talks between Iran and the P5+1 group - the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France plus Germany - over Tehran’s nuclear program.
“This marks the first time in a decade that Iran has agreed to take, and has taken, specific actions that stop the advance and roll back key elements of its nuclear program,” he said, in reference to the 2013 interim deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 group.
Under the six-month deal, which took effect on January 20, 2014, sanctions against Iran were partially suspended while Iran scaled back its nuclear program.
US presidents have declared about 53 states of emergency since Congress passed the National Emergencies Act in 1976.
The state of emergency forms the basis for most US sanctions against Iran. This comes at the time when Tehran and the P5+1 are seeking to seal a comprehensive nuclear deal by July 1. The two sides have already missed two self-imposed deadlines for inking a final agreement since they signed an interim one in the Swiss city of Geneva in November 2013.
Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 group of countries wrapped up their latest round of nuclear negotiations in the city of Montreux, Switzerland, on March 6.
In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.
Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.
The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms. ... [The Intercept - 11/3/15]
#ObamaYankeeGoHome Viral as Many Reject Threats to Venezuela
Thousands of people have taken to social media in solidarity with Venezuela in the face of new U.S. threats.
The hashtag #ObamaYankeeGoHome is among the top trending topics Tuesday following U.S. President Barack Obama calling Venezuela a “threat to national security” and announcing new sanctions against Venezuelan government officials on Monday.
According to Twitter Topsy, in just 24 hours, over 80,000 tweets with the hashtag have been written.
The phrase, Yankee Go Home in Latin America is a rejection of U.S. interference in countries’ affairs, or outright invasions.
The U.S. was involved in the 1973 Chilean coup, in supporting the Nicaraguan contras to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution, in the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and in the Bay of Pigs invasion, supporting the 2009 coup in Honduras, ousting the national government in Panama in 1989, invading Granada, overthrowing the Guatemalan government in 1954, and much more.
Renowned Venezuelan singer Ali Primera also wrote a song called Worker Latin America, where he would sing, “The U.S. fears the revolution, the U.S. fears the chant, ‘Yankee go home’ … the workers of Latin America say,’Yankee go home.’”
... As for Obama’s decree that Venezuela now poses an “extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States, is there anyone, anywhere, that wants to defend the reasonability of that claim? Think about what it says about our discourse that Obama officials know they can issue such insultingly false tripe with no consequences.
But what’s not too obvious to point out is what the U.S is actually doing in Venezuela. It’s truly remarkable how the very same people who demand U.S. actions against the democratically elected government in Caracas are the ones who most aggressively mock Venezuelan leaders when they point out that the U.S. is working to undermine their government. ... [The Intercept - 11/3/15]
Declaración sobre las medidas adoptadas por Estados Unidos contra Venezuela [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Argentina - 11/3/15]
Pakistan soldiers raid MQM's Karachi headquarters
Security forces have raided the Karachi headquarters of Pakistan's fourth biggest political party, detaining "hardcore criminals" and seizing arms.
Col Tahir Mahmood said troops acted on information that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was hiding criminals.
Schools and businesses across the city closed down amid fears of a backlash.
The MQM, which has urged a national protest, has long been accused of using violence and intimidation to control Karachi - claims it denies.
At various times in its 30-year history, the MQM has been part of the national governing coalition.
But leader Altaf Hussain lives in self-imposed exile in London, where he is being investigated over money-laundering allegations.
And its control of Karachi is increasingly being challenged by ethnic gangs, says the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad.
Germany rejects Greek demands for WW2 reparations
Germany dismissed on Wednesday Greek demands to pay World War Two reparations after leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Berlin of using legal tricks to avoid paying compensation for the Nazi occupation of his country.
"It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved," said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future," he added.
A spokesman for the finance ministry said there was no reason to hold talks with the Greek government about reparations and that the demands were a distraction from the serious financial issues facing Greece.
Gas licensing set to be further delayed
Daily Star [12/3/15]:
The absence of a president and the deep discord among ministers will further delay the offshore gas licensing round in Lebanon for near future, a minister and insiders said Wednesday.
“I still don’t have any idea when the Cabinet will hold a meeting to discuss and approve two decrees concerning the number of blocks that will be auctioned and the mechanism for revenue sharing,” Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian told The Daily Star.
He added that Prime Minister Tammam Salam has not yet added the item to the Cabinet’s agenda.
The two decrees are essential to launch the licensing round, which has already been delayed five times due to political gridlock.
The minister refused to say whether there might be deliberate attempts on the part of powerful political parties to thwart the approval of the two decrees.
However, a source close to Parliament told The Daily Star that the failure to elect a president has further hampered efforts to pass the two decrees in the Cabinet.
“What made matters even worse is that Salam agreed in principle that the next Cabinet session should not exceed three hours. You can’t discuss a sensitive issue like oil and gas in only three hours,” the source said.
The prime minister has insisted on limiting the upcoming Cabinet session to three hours in order to avoid any confrontation between the ministers on key issues.
The source said there was no indication that the decrees would be approved anytime soon, noting that the Cabinet was more concerned about security developments along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Some political quarters are pressing the Parliament to elect the president as soon as possible to help break the deadlock.
They warn that Lebanon is missing great opportunities to develop its potential oil and gas resources due to the absence of a president.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has repeatedly urged the Cabinet to pass the two decrees, warning that procrastination would encourage Israel to siphon off gas from Lebanon’s southern waters.
Spectrum, a British oil company, has conducted 2-D and 3-D seismic surveys covering a 5,200 square kilometer area of Lebanon’s coast.
In addition, Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) has covered a larger region of 9,700 square kilometers.
Some MPs have stressed the importance of accelerating the award process for blocks of territory that border Israeli waters. Israel has discovered natural gas fields in the territory bordering these blocks.
Spectrum has said that Lebanon’s southern territorial waters could hold more than 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
However, experts stress that it is difficult to give accurate estimations of Lebanon’s potential oil and gas reserves both offshore and onshore until actual drilling starts.
There is also concern that the international oil companies may not be too enthusiastic to bid for the next licensing round in Lebanon amid a sharp drop in the oil prices and abundant supplies of crude in the international market.
How on earth are Australians supposed decide for themselves the truth, when the government and establishment media are so discredited?
A thoughtcrime is an occurrence or instance of controversial or socially unacceptable thoughts. The term is also used to describe some theological concepts such as disbelief or idolatry, or a rejection of strong social or philosophical principles.
The term was popularized in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, wherein thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects. To entertain unacceptable thoughts is known as crimethink in Newspeak, the ideologically purified dialect of the party. ...
Melbourne to Ramadi: My Journey” [Jake Bilardi] via Slack
Weapons and drugs stashed 'all over' on Monto property
News Mail [12/3/15]:
A 53-year old man has been arrested after more than 30 firearms, 30 cannabis plants and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized in a raid at his Cynthia property, outside of Monto, yesterday morning.
Bundaberg Detective Sergeant Andrew Self said the weapons stash included rifles, pistols, silencers and one semi-automatic weapon.
Stashes of weapons were scattered all over the 5500 acres property.
There were 22 officers involved in the 10.30am raid from Bundaberg, Mundubbera, Monto and Eidsvold.
"The weapons were all over the joint," Sgt Self said.
"We used horses, quad bikes and motorbikes."
The man surrendered peacefully and has been charged with unlawful possesion of a Category D weapon and a Category R weapon.
Police opposed his bail and expect to proffer further charges.
He will appear in Bundaberg District Court on Monday.
The region's last big weapons raid was at the end of 2013, when police uncovered one of the largest hauls of illegal weapons ever found in Australia at a Moonford property.
Plea to catch those who hacked father to death
Tweed Daily News [11/3/15]:
It's been nine months since Michael Martin Jr listened helplessly as his father was hacked to death, and the horror of that night continues to haunt him.
On June 13 last year, Mr Martin's 46-year-old father, Michael Martin senior, was murdered during a home invasion at his Quarry Rd, South Murwillumbah apartment.
"It's just something we haven't been coping with," she said.
On Sunday the 25-year-old made a public plea to help find his father's killers.
The day his father left hospital after a near-fatal attack in April, Mr Martin said his father had planned to leave town, but the next morning he was dead.
"I was going to help him make a new start," Mr Martin said.
During the June attack, Mr Martin said he feared for his own life, and didn't see the attackers.
"I got dragged down and taped up in the kitchen.
"I could just hear the noises of my father being killed. It was just terrifying. I never expected I'd see my wife and children again."
Mr Martin said while his father had drug problems, he didn't know why someone would want him dead.
"My father did have a colourful past, but he didn't deserve that.
"I have no idea what he'd done. I did ask him after the April bashing. Whether he didn't want to tell me or he didn't know himself, I don't know."
Tweed-Byron LAC crime manager Detective Inspector Brendon Cullen said a late 80s or early 90s brown Toyota Camry was seen in Quarry Rd on the morning of the murder.
Insp Cullen said police would like to speak to the owner or driver of the vehicle, with partial Qld plates "LAC", as they may be able to assist with inquiries.
Yachtie's sordid history revealed after guilty rape verdict
News Mail [12/3/15]:
A jury took less than six hours to find John Collins guilty of raping a young woman aboard his yacht as it sailed up the Queensland coast during the 1980s.
But it was not the first time Collins had been before a court charged with raping a young woman aboard his yacht.
It can now be revealed over the past year Collins, 76, had faced two separate trials in the Brisbane District Court for sex offences against four different women.
The offences against the four women were committed aboard his yacht between 1987 and 1999 at various locations along the Queensland coast.
Collins was sentenced in October last year to nine years and four months behind bars for sex offences he committed against one of those women.
He was also declared a serious violent offender, which means he must serve at least 80% of the sentence.
Collins pleaded not guilty in the Brisbane District Court this week to rape and sexual assault stemming from his interactions with a fifth woman, in 1986, aboard his yacht while it travelled from the Sunshine Coast to Hamilton Island via Bundaberg.
The young woman, who cannot be identified due to legal reasons, had met Mr Collins after responding to a job advertisement for a position aboard his yacht.
The advertisement promised an adventure on the high seas in return for some help with minor duties and company aboard the yacht.
Crown prosecutor David Nardone said, during Collins' sentencing on Thursday, that he was a predator who preyed on young women.
He said Collins' sordid criminal history across four states was littered with sex offences against young women.
Judge Julie Dick sentenced Collins to two years behind bars for his latest offences and ordered it be served on top of the sentence he is currently serving.
She said she had to take into account the totality principal when determining her sentence.
"There is not a lot that can be said in your favour," she said.
"I think you live in a fool's paradise, in your perception about having a relationship with these women."
Collins will be eligible to apply for parole in October 2024.
Aboriginal victims of abuse have claims collected
North West Star [11/3/15]:
Claims of victims of institutional abuse were collected on Mornington Island this week.
Seven years ago the state government compensated victims of institutional abuse – except for those in dormitories on Aboriginal Reserve Land and missions.
It meant victims in gulf communities like Doomadgee and Mornington Island missed out on compensation as high as $42,000 in the Redress Scheme, which was finalised in 2010.
The state government has now agreed to pay these Indigenous victims following the results of an Australian Human Rights Commission investigation.
Cairns based Bottoms English Lawyers principal John Bottoms said the action against the state government did not indicate misbehaviour in the church or by organisations that ran the dormitories.
“Rather, it is seeking to rectify an administrative oversight by the state that is in effect, compensating white children who were put in dormitories, but not Aboriginal children who were put in similar dormitories,” Mr Bottoms said.
So why were Indigenous people overlooked in the Redress Scheme?
According to Mr Bottoms, the redress scheme applied to dormitories that were licenced under the Children’s Services Act 1965 or the Juvenile Justice Act 1992.
“That was all well and good, but it so happened that most Aboriginal children were placed in dormitories that were run on government settlements or missions under the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897, and its successors in title,” Mr Bottoms said.
“The nett effect of this was that most Indigenous people missed out on the compensation which was available to all the white children who had been in dormitories.”
The law firm challenged the issue as a result of a large number of Indigenous people whose claims were denied.
The state government agreed those in Indigenous dormitories should be eligible for compensation as well, following the Human Rights Commission finding. “This was achieved as the state wanted to avoid a class action in the Federal Court, with all that entailed,” Mr Bottoms said.
“We have now agreed with the state that we will put in claims for the various children who were put into dormitories from other Indigenous communities around the Cape and in the Gulf.”
A spokesperson from the State Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services said the government formally rejected applications from institutions on Aboriginal Reserve Land because they did not fit under the terms of reference under the 1999 Forde Inquiry.
But Aboriginal dormitories operating as ‘‘industrial schools’’ were addressed in the scheme, the spokesperson said.
“Some institutions in Cape York and the Gulf Country did not come within the terms of reference of the Forde Inquiry as they were not licensed under the Children’s Services legislation.
“Applications relating to institutions or facilities that were outside the scope of the Forde Inquiry were ineligible under the Redress Scheme.”
Doomadgee mayor Fred O’Keefe said solicitors had visited the community.
He said he was unsure how many in the community might be eligible for compensation.
People can make claims by contacting Bottoms English Lawyers and filling forms.
Other locations visited include Thursday Island, Hammond Island, Pormpuraaw, Kowanyama, Aurukun and Lockhart River.
Cyclone Olwyn: Chevron workers stranded on Barrow Island
WA Today [12/3/15]:
More than 1000 workers are stranded on Barrow Island, 50km off the Pilbara coast, as Cyclone Olwyn heads towards the WA mainland, with resource giant Chevron blamed for the debacle.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney said Chevron had failed to fix its cyclone evacuation plans and had now put workers lives at risk.
"Eight flights were cancelled this morning. The runway and access roads are flooded. This tells me that Chevron left it too late," Mr McCartney said.
A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said that Barrow Island was now experiencing gusts up to 113km/h and had received more than 50mm of rain since 9am on Thursday.
"It's going to be very ordinary out there. It's just as well everyone is inside and locked down," he said.
Mr McCartney believed Chevron could have done better.
"They've had plenty of notice that this cyclone was in development but they put profits ahead of safety."
Workers are accommodated in two camps, where some of the buildings are not cyclone rated, forcing some to double up in rooms to ensure their safety.
"They are going to be crammed in like sardines," Mr McCartney said.
"Some of these accommodation areas haven't got kitchens how are they going to be fed during a cyclone? How are they going to go to the toilet?"
Mr McCartney has demanded a Worksafe investigation and wants the report made public.
A Chevron spokesperson said the company had well-established policies, plans and processes when it came to natural weather events like cyclones.
"Chevron Australia places the highest priority on the health and safety of its employees and contractors and has a rigorous cyclone preparation plan in place on Barrow Island," the spokesperson said.
There were purpose-built, cyclone-rated accommodation facilities at the Gorgon Project on Barrow Island and everybody would be housed within them.
"There will be some inconveniences as with any significant weather event, however, workers will have access to dining, wc, shower and recreational facilities," the spokesperson said.
"They will be as comfortable as possible given the circumstances."
Mount Isa Mines workers boycott vote on AWU Glencore deal
North West Star [11/3/15]:
Union officials say they want to strengthen the mining workforce in Mount Isa after Glencore employees voted in favour of a new enterprise agreement.
Bede Harding spoke on behalf of Australian Workers’ Union North District secretary Rodney Stockham and said the AWU represented about 30 per cent of the workforce at Mount Isa Mines, about 1000 employees.
The vote was close with 778 voting ‘‘yes’’ and 701 ‘‘no’’, and three informal votes.
“It was very close but resulted in the affirmative,” Mr Harding said.
A “large percentage of the workforce didn’t participate” in the vote and Mr Harding believed that not voting was their way of protesting. But the voting system did not take into account employees who did not vote.
Mr Harding said the “hot and contentious issues” were performance-based pay with an Individual Performance Agreement within the new EA.
“A primary concern was the remuneration package which will be up to the discretion of the company and no locked-in wage increase,” Mr Harding said. “Many were concerned the IPA was open to favouritism from supervisors.’’
He said the IPA was open to “interpretation, distortion, and was more subjective than objective”.
But he admitted some saw the implementation of an IPA as a positive.
Another concern was the abolition of four agreements (mining, metalliferous plant, services and Black Star Open Cut) – instead the new EA opted for one blanket agreement.
Mr Harding said the AWU would ensure Glencore lived up to its commitment in the EA.
“We will be holding them to their commitments in the EA,” he said.
A Mount Isa Mines spokesman said in the past five months the company had been working in consultation with its EA workforce to determine the conditions within the new EA.
“(Monday and Tuesday) our EA employees voted on whether or not they agreed to the terms and conditions outlined in the agreement,” the spokesman said.
“Mount Isa Mines confirms that the proposed enterprise agreement has been approved by the workforce by a majority vote and we will now implement our new agreement across our Mount Isa Mines EA workforce.”
The CIA's torturers and the leaders who approved their actions must face
the law, Chelsea E Manning [Guardian – 9/3/15]
Manus Island asylum seekers mount fresh challenge against detention in Australia's death camp
A group of 25 asylum seekers on Manus Island is mounting a fresh challenge in Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court against their detention.
The asylum seekers will argue that their ongoing detention breaches the right to liberty and the right to access legal representation guaranteed in PNG's constitution.
"The ultimate relief that we're seeking is [the] release of all detainees that are held at the [detention centre on] Lombrum navy base," said lawyer Ben Lomai, who is representing the asylum seekers.
The asylum seekers involved are from Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria and Lebanon.
The asylum seekers made contact with Mr Lomai through an intermediary while they were being detained without charge at the Manus Island provincial prison, accused of stoking protests at the detention centre in January.
The ABC has obtained copies of the court documents, including a consent form signed by the asylum seekers and emails requesting legal representation.
"I was in Indonesia detention for 18 months and was recognised as a refugee by the UNHCR," wrote one asylum seeker from Myanmar.
"Now I am being held in Manus Island (PNG) without getting any right information about our future."
PNG attorney-general Ano Pala told the ABC he had not read the documents yet, and chief migration officer Mataio Rabura was not immediately available for comment.
Lawyers for the asylum seekers this week filed a notice of motion requesting access to the detainees at the detention centre and refugees at the East Lorengau transit facility, so they can obtain official statements.
On March 18 PNG's Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to allow the lawyers into the facilities.
If access is granted, Mr Lomai plans on sending a team of up to six lawyers to record statements from the existing 25 clients and possibly other asylum seekers.
Mr Lomai will argue that the asylum seekers' detention on Manus Island breached Section 42 (1) and 42 (2) of the PNG constitution.
Section 42 (1) guarantees the right to liberty unless a person is suspected of committing a crime or illegally enters PNG.
Mr Lomai said the men were transferred to Manus Island under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Australia and therefore were not covered by PNG's constitutional exceptions.
However, the PNG parliament amended the constitution in early 2014 to effectively exempt the asylum seekers from the protections of Section 42.
The amended constitution now reads:
"No person shall be deprived of his personal liberty except for the purposes of holding a foreign national under arrangements made by PNG with another country or an international organisation that the Minister responsible for immigration matters, in his absolute discretion, approves."
"We will argue that the amendment can't be used retrospectively," Mr Lomai said.
The other part of the new case relates to Section 42 (2) of the constitution, which sets out the "five rights" guaranteed to anyone in detention in Papua New Guinea.
The asylum seekers will argue that they have not been granted access to a lawyer of their choosing.
They will also claim compensation for the long period of detention and alleged breaches of rights.
Asylum seekers also undertaking class action in Australian Supreme Court
This new challenge is slightly different to other cases underway.
While he was opposition leader of PNG, Belden Namah challenged the MoU with Australia, saying it breached Papua New Guinea's constitution.
Mr Namah was given standing to pursue the case more than a year ago, but his lawyers were not available to comment on the case's progress.
Separately, asylum seekers are undertaking a class action in the Australian Supreme Court, suing the Commonwealth for negligence relating to the standard of care provided at the detention centre and for psychological injury caused by conditions.
As of February 28, there were 1,004 asylum seekers detained at the Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island, and at least nine refugees living at the East Lorengau transit facility awaiting “resettlement” in PNG.
BBC: The secrecy surrounding Australia's refugee gulag archipelago [11/3/15]
Worker killed in accident at BMA coal mine in Blackwater, Queensland
A worker has been killed in a vehicle accident at the Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) coal mine in Blackwater, central Queensland.
It is the fourth coal industry fatality in central Queensland in less than 12 months.
The Police Forensic Crash Unit has been called in to investigate the crash at Blackwater.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Queensland president Stephen Smyth said union inspectors were on their way to the site to investigate the circumstances of the accident.
"We've had a wave of fatalities in the past year hit our industry," he said.
"BMA must be completely open and transparent so we can get to the bottom of how and why this tragic accident occurred.
"We also need the Mines Department as the industry regulator to step up and hold the industry to account over its safety practices.
"This is another worker who won't be going home to his family at the end of his shift.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this terrible time."
Mr Smyth said the union would will continue to make safety its top priority.
On February 16, a man was killed when a tyre exploded at Anglo American's Dawson mine near Moura.
On December 12 last year, another man was crushed to death when an underground wall collapsed in Anglo American's Grasstree mine, north-west of Rockhampton.
In May last year, an electrician suffocated on noxious fumes at the Grasstree mine.
Appeal for witnesses: Serious traffic crash, Finnie
QPS Media [12/3/15]:
Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward following a serious traffic crash that occurred in Finnie yesterday.
Around 5.30pm, a car attempting to turn right from Drayton Connection Road was hit from behind by a truck before colliding with an oncoming vehicle.
The woman driver and sole occupant of the car, was transported to the Toowoomba Base Hospital where she remains in a critical condition.
The truck driver was taken to hospital for treatment to minor injuries.
Officers are appealing for witnesses to the event or anyone who may have noticed the vehicles prior to the crash, to contact them with information.
The road was closed for approximately five hours, and reopened at 9.30pm.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating. Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Queensland man dies after being hit by B-double truck on Hume Highway near Yass [ABC – 11/3/15]
Two killed in accidents in Footscray and Shepparton [The Age – 11/3/15]:
Two men have died and another is a critical condition after accidents on Victoria's roads on Wednesday morning.
In Shepparton, a 94-year-old man was hit by a car when he crossed the road around 7:40am.
He was taken to the Shepparton Hospital, but his condition deteriorated and the elderly man died before he was able to be flown to Melbourne.
The man was hit by a car turning left into Archer Street from Haslem Street. The driver of the car was a 47-year-old Kialla man who is assisting police.
Meanwhile, a truck and car collided in inner Melbourne, killing one man and leaving another critically injured.
The two vehicles crashed on Footscray Road about 11.10am and one man, travelling in the car, died at the scene before paramedics arrived.
Paramedics were treating the second man in the car when he went into cardiac arrest.
The man, believed to be aged in his 30s, was revived and taken by ambulance to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition with severe head, chest and pelvis injuries.
It is understood the truck driver escaped serious injury.
The deaths bring the 2015 road toll to 60.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Serious assault, Keperra
QPS Media [12/3/15]:
A 28-year-old man has been taken to hospital with stab wounds after an incident in Keperra last night.
Just after 10pm, a man went to investigate a group of people involved in a disturbance in the street near his residence on Eidsvold Street.
A verbal altercation ensued, before the group set upon the victim, punching and kicking him.
The man received two stab wounds to his back, before the group ran off.
The victim tried to follow them, but collapsed on Annandale Street.
He has been transported to the Royal Brisbane Hospital for treatment.
Police attended the scene and located three men nearby.
They are currently assisting police with their enquiries.
Investigations are continuing.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Drug arrests, Sunshine Coast [QPS Media - 12/3/15]
A man has been charged after allegedly failing to stop for police at Capalaba yesterday. ... [QPS Media - 12/3/15]
Police investigate Scots College assault allegations
Sydney Morning Herald [12/3/15]:
Police are investigating an alleged incident in which a student from The Scots College was held down by one boy while another student rubbed his genitals near the victim's face.
The alleged incident took place at the prestigious school's Glengarry Campus in Kangaroo Valley last month.
Other agencies were informed and kept updated during the investigation.
Principal of The Scots College, Ian Lambert, confirmed an incident took place, with the school informing the authorities as well as the parents of the boys involved.
"The College immediately implemented our procedures, which included reporting to the NSW Police and speaking with the parents of the boys involved in the incident," Dr Lambert said. "Other agencies were informed and kept updated during the investigation."
The school did not comment on the specific detail of the alleged incident.
A NSW Police spokesman confirmed an investigation was under way but was unable to release more details while inquiries continued.
"Detectives from the NSW Police Force are making inquiries into an incident which is alleged to have occurred at an educational campus in Kangaroo Valley," he said.
The two alleged perpetrators have not been expelled and have returned to the school's Bellevue Hill campus.
Year 9 boys spend two residential terms at Glengarry, with The Scots College website stating it is: "conducive to boys' rapid social development, a rite of passage into manhood. It is here where the boys learn the tools they need to grow into fine young men."
A parent familiar with the incident claimed that intimidation was commonplace at the campus.
"Bullying is particularly rife at Glengarry, where it's generally accepted as an 'old boys' rite of passage'," she said.
Boarding at Glengarry costs almost $3000 per term, on top of annual tuition fees of more than $30,000.
Former student Nathan Chaina drowned after falling into a swollen creek at Glengarry in 1999, sparking a lengthy legal battle between his family and the school. There was no suggestion in that incident of sexual abuse.
The alleged incident comes as two industry peak bodies representing boarding schools - Boarding Australia and the Australian Boarding Schools Association - announce a review of practices in the wake of the public hearing into Knox Grammar School at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse - 1300 657 380
Survivors & Mates Support Network - 02 8355 3711
… He threw me in the needle bed
Across my dress he lay
Then he pinned my hands above my head
And I began to pray
I cried, "My God, I am your child
Send your angels down"
Then feeling with my fingertips
A bottleneck I found
An' I tore that glass across his neck
As fine as any blade
Then I felt his blood pour fast and hot
'Round me where I lay
Caleb Meyer, your ghost is gonna
Wear them rattlin' chains
But when I go to sleep at night
Don't you call my name …
'Caleb Meyer', Gillian Welch 
Indonesia says execution of foreigners on death row to be done together
Channel News Asia [12/3/15]:
The execution of 10 foreigners on death row in Indonesia for drugs offences will be carried out together, the attorney general's office said on Thursday.
"Until today there has been no change of plans from the AGO that all executions will be all at once," the attorney general's spokesman Tony Spontana told reporters.
"Executions will be done until everything is clear. Whether it will be in March or in April."
The group includes two Australian citizens whose clemency appeal was postponed on Thursday until March 19, while a decision on a separate appeal by a French convict was postponed on Wednesday until March 21.
PNG government to sell Air Niugini shares
Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister has announced the government's 50 percent equity stake in the national airline will be up for sale by the end of the year.
Peter O'Neill told the Australia-Papua New Guinea Business Council this week that the Government had already received interest in its equity in Air Niugini from investment organisations and development partners.
Mr O'Neill says the preference will be first given to PNG-owned entities but will be available to other investors if those entities do not take up all the options.
He says selling the stake in the national airline is part of the Government's move to restructure State-owned entities.
The National reports the government will be doing its first privatisation and restructuring programme of Air Niugini at end of the year and if it is successful, it will then look at other State-owned entities like PNG Power and PNG Ports.
Overnight heavy rain and wind has turned the entire Kokopo/Rabaul road into a scene similar to that of the work of a logging company.
Heavy, wet and sticky mud and silt have taken over the entire bitumen road.
No vehicle has travelled from Rabaul to Kokopo along the coastal stretch since 3am. ... [PNG Loop - 12/3/15]
New Zealand braces for Cyclone Pam [RNZI - 12/3/15]
Cyclone Pam expected to be Category 5 within 48 hours
Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office says it is preparing for the worst as Tropical Cyclone Pam is expected to be upgraded to a category five storm in the next two days.
The cyclone is moving slowly towards Vanuatu with winds at its centre of about 170 kilometres an hour.
The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) acting director Peter Korisa said the storm was likely to become the most devastating cyclone since Cyclone Uma in 1987.
He said officials were working out how to give appropriate refuge to more than 45,000 people in Port Vila.
"Public buildings like churches and the classrooms, school classrooms and community halls, in fact they don't really meet the standards. But we usually identify those with some basic facilities like toilets, and some buildings that can cater for such needs," said.
Mr Korisa said if Cyclone Pam caused damage beyond the capacity of Vanuatu government, it would need to appeal to international donors.
"There's no formal standard house here so I'm just imagining if this happens in Port Vila, it will be disastrous," he said.
A Fiji Meteorological Service forecaster, Stephen Meke, said small islands in eastern Solomon Islands were already being bombarded with rain.
In the next few days the storm would move south towards Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila.
"The cyclone is still intensifying. We are anticipating it to cross category five over the next 24 to 48 hours. It has been dumping a lot of rain and also some very destructive winds." Mr Meke said.
Fiji's Meteorological Service says winds of 167 kilometres have been reported at Pam's centre. Islands in the area have been warned to expect hurricane force winds of more than 116 kilometres an hour.
Tropical cyclones can be hundreds of kilometers wide and can bring destructive high winds, torrential rain, storm surges and occasionally tornadoes. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a category four cyclone involves maximum sustained wind speeds of 210 to 249 kilometres an hour.
The Vanuatu Meteorological Service is briefing the public on the hour on the increasing strength of the cyclone. It had warned of "severe and damaging" winds in Port Vila on the Island of Efate and the southern part of Vanuatu.
The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in Vanuatu is scrambling to organise evacuation centres in anticipation of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
Mr Korisa said new settlements around Port Vila are at risk and officials are working on an evacuation plan.
"What we are doing we're trying to arrange the evacuation centres. We're talking with civil authorities, especially church organisations, schools and public buildings. We're trying to arrange if we can use these evacuation centres."
Fiji Airways has cancelled flights between Nadi and Vanuatu scheduled for Friday, the Fiji Times reports.
Although Cyclone Pam is not expected to affect Fiji directly, it is predicted to bring heavy rain over the country with possibly strong winds, and the airline will continue to monitor the situation.
Neville Koop of Fiji's Nadraki weather service told Morning Report the cyclone would past just east of the Vanuatu chain and he thought it would get close enough to do real damage.
In March last year, Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Lusi over two days, killing 10 people, damaging crops and infrastructure, flooding towns and contaminating the water supply.
Reports from Kiribati says the causeway linking the two most populated parts of Tarawa atoll was closed yesterday because it was no longer safe. ... [RNZI - 12/3/15]
Cyclone Nathan to reach Cat 3 but unlikely to cross Queensland coast
[The Newsport Daily - 12/3/15]:
... Cyclone Nathan is continuing to move slowly west towards the coast near Cape Flattery. It is expected to slow this movement during today and ultimately change direction to the east-northeast away from the coast over the next 24 hours
Gales extend out to approximately 100 kilometres from the centre to the south of the system and could develop about coastal and island areas between Coen and Port Douglas today. GALES could extend north to Lockhart River overnight and into Friday, depending on the track the cyclone takes.
Very destructive winds are expected to develop within 45 kilometres of the centre early Friday morning and could begin to affect coastal and island areas between Cape Flattery and Cape Melville.
Destructive winds extend out to 70 kilometres from the centre and could develop about the coast and islands between Cooktown and Cape Melville, including Lizard Island, today.
Areas of heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, are expected across parts of the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands and Peninsula districts throughout today. A separate Severe Weather Warning for heavy rainfall and damaging winds is current for parts of these districts.
Abnormally high tides could develop about coastal areas between Coen and Cape Tribulation during today with large waves possibly leading to minor flooding along the foreshore if the cyclone takes a more westward track closer to the coast. People living in areas that could be affected by this flooding should take measures to protect their property as much as possible and be prepared to help their neighbours in case this scenario occurs.
Tropical Cyclone Olwyn: Onslow, Exmouth on yellow alert as winds gusts of up to 165kph predicted [ABC - 12/3/15]
The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, resigned on Wednesday, following a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that found widespread racially biased abuses in the city's police department and municipal court. ... [Al Jazeera - 11/3/15]
Al-Akhbar pulls plug on English site
Daily Star [6/3/15]:
The English-language website of one of Lebanon's most outspoken newspapers abruptly ended operations Friday, after a three-and-a-half-year stint, while plans to launch an English print edition were also put in the shredder.
Employees at Al-Akhbar English told The Daily Star that members of the newspaper's management made the unexpected announcement Friday afternoon.
"We had two options: Either to go forward with a larger and much more expensive [print project], or to shut down," Amer Mohsen, a senior member of Al-Akhbar's editorial staff, told The Daily Star.
"And since the first option to publish the full-fledged paper was not possible, we decided to go the other way," he said.
"Many factors," including a lack of funds, led to closure of the website and the canceling of a paper launch, Mohsen added.
The closure comes days after three members of the staff were let go in unprecedented layoffs for the English site.
Al-Akhbar English, which was launched as an online-only platform in August 2011, had recently began preparing to transition into a full-fledged print newspaper under a new name, The Beirut Bulletin.
Originally, the management intended to continue running the news site until the launch of the paper, which was scheduled for summer.
But the site, which featured a blend of translations from the Arabic newspaper and original English content, was abruptly canceled when management realized plans for The Beirut Bulletin could no longer move forward.
Seven Marines and four soldiers were presumed dead after an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed on a nighttime training mission off Florida's Gulf coast, where U.S. military officials continued a search-and-rescue operation on Wednesday afternoon. ... [Reuters - 11/3/15]
UN: War plunged 80 percent of Syrians into poverty [Al Jazeera – 12/3/15]
No 'D-Day' for NZ Iraq deployment [RNZI - 12/3/15]:
There's no "D-Day" around the Iraq deployment and it won't go ahead until satisfactory legal protections for the soldiers have been secured, Chief of Defence Force Tim Keating says.
The Government is to send a 143-strong deployment to train Iraqi soldiers in Taji, north of Baghdad.
Lieutenant General Keating appeared before Parliament's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee this morning, where he faced questions about the deployment.
During the hearing, he told MPs the standard the Defence Force would like to aim for is a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
"But with the bureaucracy in that nation, it is too difficult to obtain; it won't stop us requesting our Government working on that, and I believe our Government is working on that," he said.
"However, underneath that there are a number of levels of immunity that would satisfy me that will allow people to operate safely within Iraq."
He was asked by the Green MP on the committee, Kennedy Graham, whether it was appropriate for soldiers to operate under diplomatic passports.
In response, he said soldiers "may well be going on official passports".
Talking to reporters afterwards, he said using official passports was "one of the strong options" for the deployment.
"If there was a SOFA we'd go under military ID cards - the difference between a diplomatic passport and an official passport, the immunities are basically the same, one is traditionally more used for diplomatic functions, traditionally."
Lieutenant General Keating said one bottom line for him would be that New Zealand led any investigations into incidents involving New Zealand soldiers in Iraq.
He said New Zealand soldiers would have to be able to act within the basic rules of engagement, ie the "inherent right of self defence".
He said there are a number of possible dates for a deployment and described the timeframe as "elastic".
When he made the announcement last month, Prime Minister John Key said that would likely happen in May.
Lieutenant General Keating said that was the date the Defence Force was working towards.
"But if I go to the Prime Minister and say look, I think my people need more training, or the immunities aren't in place, the Prime Minister's open.
"There isn't a D-Day here if you like."
He said the deployment would not go ahead until the arrangements for legal protections and immunities were settled.
... Ms Jagose [Acting Head GCSB] acknowledged there was a tension between public transparency, and the secrecy necessary for the agency to carry out its work.
But she said she wanted to assure the public the agency was not
carrying out mass, unwarranted surveillance, or targeting the private
communications of New Zealanders. ... [RNZI
Islamic State militants have desecrated another ancient Iraqi capital, the government said on Wednesday, razing parts of the 2,700-year-old city of Khorsabad famed for its colossal statues of human-headed winged bulls.
Rasheed [antiquities director Qais Rasheed] said Iraq had asked for, but not received, satellite imagery from Hatra and Khorsabad so it could assess the scale of the damage. "They say they are working on getting pictures. How? Is it hard for the Americans to get satellite photos?"
Huge stone carvings of winged bulls with bearded human faces were shipped from Khorsabad and other Assyrian cities in Iraq to France, Germany, Britain and the United States in the 19th century. But Rasheed said those huge statues, each weighing several tonnes, were just a fraction of the Khorsabad treasures.
"The French and English excavated at Khorsabad and the excavations only got 10 percent of the city - it's a big city, a capital," he said of the three square km site. ... [Reuters - 11/3/15]
Iraq forces push into Tikrit, ISIS hits back [Daily Star – 12/3/15]
US, allies conduct 13 airstrikes in Iraq, 2 in Syria [RT – 11/3/15]
@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [11/3/15]:
The government's forces have arrested the civilians -which they have fled from bombing on Garma -and the number of arrested persons jumped to 38 ones yesterday afternoon in Habaniya and Bizebiz ,in addition to detaining of women and children at checkpoints since yesterday including two documented cases -woman and 9 children and woman and three children-.....
Salah-il-deen: The displaced families- fleeing from bombing of army and swarms militia on Tikrit- live at Himreen desert without tents east of the city ..........
Anbar: The coalition aircrafts shelled Furat neighbourhood in Qa'im district west of Anbar at 4:30 am under the pretext of targeting of ISIL's locations then the shelling was renewed at 7:10 am ......
Anbar: The shops in Fallujah have been destroyed due to the intended bombing which targets people ,masjids ,schools and shops.....
Attacks in and around Baghdad, mostly bomb blasts, killed at least 17 people on Wednesday, Iraqi police and medical sources said. ... [Naharnet - 11/3/15]
A car bomb exploded among a group of ISIL terrorists while they were seeing off a suicide bomber who was intending to detonate the car bomb in Ramadi city. ... [IraqiNews.com – 11/3/15]
The bodies of four migrants bidding to reach Spain's Canary Islands were recovered off southern Morocco's Atlantic coast Wednesday, a day after 19 others were rescued from a rubber boat, officials said.
The four drowned migrants were found near Tan-Tan, across from the islands, said the officials, quoted by Morocco's MAP news agency.
Their nationalities were not immediately known.
On Tuesday, maritime police rescued 19 others on a rubber boat that had run into trouble off Tan-Tan, in an area some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Canaries.
UNRWA chief joins aid convoy into besieged Yarmouk camp [Maan - 11/3/15]:
The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees accompanied the first aid convoy in three months to enter the besieged Yarmouk camp in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.
Pierre Krahenbuhl said it was "totally unacceptable" that some 18,000 residents of Yarmouk had not received aid for so long.
Rebel groups inside the camp, the largest in Syria, have been under army siege for more than a year.
More than 200 people have been killed since the siege began, among them dozens who have died of starvation, non-governmental groups say.
"There should be distributions more regularly during the week, not just one day and interrupted again," Krahenbuhl told AFP.
The last UNRWA aid delivery was in December, "which from a human point of view is totally unacceptable."
"Certainly there should be no limit to the number of people that we can support in this on a daily basis. This is the thing that has to continue to improve," he said.
Krahenbuhl said he has received "strong messages from the government of their commitment to this happening."
"There has to be a solution to this situation," said Krahenbuhl, who met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Damascus on Monday.
He also urged rebel groups "to respect Palestine refugees, to respect civilians and, of course, to not interrupt and interfere with distributions" of aid.
More than 160,000 people -- both Palestinian and Syrian -- lived in Yarmouk before the start of the conflict in Syria that will enter its fifth year on Sunday.
Fifteen-year-old Palestinian Khalid Hussam al-Sheikh entered his 76th day in Israeli custody on Wednesday after he was sentenced to four months jail time and given a 2,000 shekel ($495) fine for throwing rocks and burning tires. ... [Maan - 11/3/15]
Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed US was to send Ukraine more non-lethal military aid, including drones and armored Humvees.
“We are today providing immediately some 75 million dollars of additional non-lethal assistance, immediately, to Ukraine in order to help them in non-lethal assistance,” Kerry told the Senate on Wednesday afternoon during a hearing concerning a proposed war powers act offered by the White House.
“And, as you know, other things are currently under consideration.”
The aid has been discussed on the phone by Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a phone call, according to US officials, AP reported.
The aid package includes the small Raven drone system, which can be launched by hand, radios, counter mortar radars, 30 heavily armored Humvees and 200 regular ones.
Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis [USA Today – 10/3/15]
Afghanistan: Drone strike kills 6 in Nangarhar
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which is commonly known as drone has targeted a vehicle of insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province killing six insurgents and damaging their weapons.
Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, spokesman for the police headquarters of Nangarhar province told Khaama Press that the attack took place yesterday afternoon.
According to Mashriqiwal the drone targeted a corolla vehicle of the insurgents in Mamond District of Achin District in which six insurgents were riding with having weapons and ammunition.
He added that all six insurgents were killed in the attack and their weapons and ammunition damaged.
The ones killed included Mullah Toor, a Taliban so-called District Governor and his assistant Rahmanullah as well as four other insurgents whose names are Hasti Gul, Qadar Gul, Nasrat and Amrullah, according to Mashriqiwal.
Achin District is one of the comparatively restive District in the southern part of eastern Nangarhar province which also has border with Pakistan.
Two days before Afghan National Security Forces arrested 72 suspects during separate raids in the jurisdiction of Achin District.
According to the Ministry of Defense heavy and light weapons were also seized from the position of the suspects who were taken under further interrogation.
Unknown drones have carried out airstrikes on two Al Shabaab hideouts in Southern Somalia, a regional governor has confirmed to the media. ... [Horseed Media - 10/3/15]
"It was a blazing firestorm. I saw a baby catch fire on its mother's back, and she couldn't put out the fire. I saw a horse being led by its owner. The horse balked and the cargo on its back caught fire, then its tail, and it burned alive, as the owner just stood there and burned with it," she said.
Tokyo remembers devastating, overlooked WWII firebombings [Yahoo - 10/3/15]:
Japan mourned Tuesday for the 105,400 people killed in a single night 70 years ago, when U.S. B-29 bombers obliterated much of Tokyo in the deadliest conventional bomb attack ever.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowed in a somber ceremony held in a downtown temple that was built to commemorate deaths from a 1923 earthquake, but is also used as a memorial for the victims of World War II bombings.
"With the lessons of the atrocities of war etched deeply in our hearts, we must humbly face the past and do our utmost to contribute to world peace," said Abe, surrounded by white floral wreaths and chrysanthemums, as a group of dignitaries, survivors and other residents looked on.
The March 10, 1945, attack on Tokyo killed more people than the Aug. 9 atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
The death toll was on par with the Aug. 6 atomic attack on Hiroshima.
But the firebombing and similar ones that followed in more than 60 other Japanese cities have received little attention, eclipsed by the atomic bombings and Japan's postwar rush to rebuild.
The only formal public monument for the Tokyo victims is a modest floral memorial near the temple where Tuesday's ceremony was held.
Haruyo Nihei, just 8 when the bombs fell, was among many survivors who had kept silent for decades. A half-century passed before she even shared her experiences with her own son.
"Our parents would just say, 'That's a different era,'" Nihei said. "They wouldn't talk about it. And I figured my own family wouldn't understand."
Now, as their numbers dwindle, survivors are determined to tell their stories while they still can.
The B-29s flew over Tokyo in the dead of night, dumping massive payloads of cluster bombs equipped with a then-recent invention: napalm. A fifth of Tokyo was left a smoldering expanse of charred bodies and rubble.
Where earlier raids targeted aircraft factories and military facilities, the Tokyo firebombing was aimed largely at civilians, in places including Tokyo's downtown area known as "shitamachi," where people lived in traditional wood and paper homes at densities sometimes exceeding 100,000 people per square mile.
"There were plenty of small factories, but this area was chosen specifically because it was easy to burn," says historian Masahiko Yamabe, who was born just months after the war's end.
Another departure from earlier raids: the bombers flew low.
"It was as if we could reach out and touch the planes, they looked so big," said Yoshitaka Kimura, whose family's toy store in downtown Tokyo's Asakusa was destroyed. "The bombs were raining down on us. Red, and black, that's what I remember most."
Nihei, now 78, was mesmerized as she watched from a railway embankment.
"It was a blazing firestorm. I saw a baby catch fire on its mother's back, and she couldn't put out the fire. I saw a horse being led by its owner. The horse balked and the cargo on its back caught fire, then its tail, and it burned alive, as the owner just stood there and burned with it," she said.
Firefighter Isamu Kase was on duty at a train parts factory. He jumped onto a pump truck when the attack began, knowing the job was impossible.
"It was a hellish frenzy, absolutely horrible. People were just jumping into the canals to escape the inferno," said Kase, 89. He said he survived because he didn't jump in the water, but his burns were so severe he was in and out of hospital for 15 years.
Split-second choices like that determined who lived and who died.
The bombing campaign set a military precedent for targeting civilian areas that persisted into the Korean and Vietnam wars and beyond. But the non-atomic attacks have been largely overlooked.
"Both governments, the press, media, radio, even novelists ... decided the crucial story was the atomic bomb," said Mark Selden, a Cornell University history professor.
"This allowed them to avoid addressing some very important questions."
Japan marked the fourth anniversary Wednesday of the quake-tsunami disaster that swept away thousands of people and sparked a nuclear crisis, a tragedy that has left visible scars on the landscape and continues to wreak misery for many.
Remembrance ceremonies were held in towns and cities around the disaster zone and in Tokyo, where Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko led tributes to those who died in Japan’s worst peace-time disaster. ... [Japan Today - 11/3/15]
... Australia is well-positioned as an international laughing stock in the realm of human rights. ...
Australia Cherry-picking Human Rights to Fight for, Andrew Eagle [The Daily Star – 11/3/15]
Delighted to join panel of Pacific government and civil society leaders to celebrate Pacific Women Rising! #csw59 [The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women]
Image: @AusAWG - Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls [11/3/15]
Dutch State Ordered to Compensate ‘Children of Sulawesi’ [Jakarta Globe – 12/3/15]:
... The massacres in Sulawesi were part of a 1946-47 campaign in which the controversial Dutch Capt. Raymond Westerling played an important role. As the commander of a Special Forces unit, Westerling was called upon to “pacify” South Sulawesi.
The so-called “Westerling Method” entailed summary executions of people suspected to be involved in any anti-Dutch activity and other harsh counter-insurgency tactics.
Estimates vary widely, but historians have put the death toll as a direct result of the actions by Westerling’s unit in South Sulawesi at around 1,500, with regular military units being responsible for many other killings in the region.
The Indonesian government at the time put the number of victims in Sulawesi at 40,000.
The U.N. torture investigator accused the United States on Wednesday of stalling on his requests to visit its prisons where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement and to interview inmates at Guantanamo on his terms.
Juan Mendez, special rapporteur on torture, has sought for more than two years to enter U.S. prisons, including maximum-security facilities, to check on conditions. U.N. human rights experts have asked to visit Guantanamo since 2004. ... [Reuters - 11/3/15]
12 March 2015