176 FIRs DD entries filed till date for poll code violation

first_imgNEW DELHI: As many as 176 FIRs and daily diary (DD) entries have been registered till date against various political parties and others for violation of the model code of conduct in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the poll body in Delhi said on Tuesday.The statistics surveillance team of Delhi’s Chief electoral office constituted to keep an eye on the expenses of political parties, has seized Rs 2,88,22,850 crore in cash and also seized 1344.996 kg of narcotics and drugs. “A total of 176 FIRs or DD entries have been lodged till date in connection with the violation of the model code of conduct,” Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh told reporters on Tuesday.last_img

ECs decision on Tripura falls short of expectations CPI

first_imgNew Delhi: The decision of the Election Commission on Wednesday to conduct repolling in 168 booths in West Tripura constituency has “fallen short of expectations”, the CPI(M) said and claimed that a substantial number of voters has been denied their right to vote due to rigging. It was after several complaints by political parties that the poll body ordered a repoll at 168 of the 1,679 polling stations, almost a month after polls were held in West Tripura seat on April 11. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework The EC said that repoll in polling stations spread over 26 of the 30 assembly segments of the Lok Sabha constituency will be held on May 12. “The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) expresses its deep sense of disappointment over the Election Commission of India’s order to hold the elections void in 168 booths for the Tripura West parliamentary constituency and hold re-poll in these booths. There had been widespread rigging and prevention of voters exercising their franchise by the ruling BJP during polls held on April 11. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen “We firmly hold that this order is not in consonance with the ground reality and obviously too little and too late in ensuring a free and fair poll where more than half the electorate was actually unable to exercise their right to vote,” a statement from the party said. Alleging that the EC had only “partially” considered the complaints made by political parties and individuals about large-scale rigging and illegality, the statement said that the order will “signal, on the one hand, acknowledgement of rigging on a major scale and yet falling short of the expectations that the ECI will deliver justice for the voters of the constituency who could not cast their votes.” “Nothing short of a re-poll for the entire Tripura West parliamentary constituency will serve the purpose of a free and fair poll and protecting the rights of the voters,” it said.last_img read more

Vidyasagar statue PM Modi Mamata in furious war of words

first_imgMau (UP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday said his government was committed towards Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s vision and promised to install his grand statue at the same spot in Kolkata where it was vandalised by “TMC goondas”.Speaking at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau on Thursday morning, Modi said, “We have been witnessing the attitude of didi for long and now the country is also seeing it. Dedicated to the vision of Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, our government will install a panchdhatu (made up of five metals) statue at the very spot and give a reply to TMC goondas.” “The statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was broken by TMC goondas during the road show of BJP President Amit Shah. Those involved in this act should be given strong punishment,” the prime minister said. Modi charged that “anarchy” was spread by TMC workers during his earlier meetings in West Midnapore and Thakurnagar. “In Cooch Behar in Bengal where a dais was to be set up for my rally, didi got a grand dais made for her party. I have been seeing this attitude of didi since long but now the country is seeing it,” he said. Responding to Modi’s offer, Banerjee said Bengal does not need money from the BJP, it has enough resources to rebuild the Vidyasagar statue. She said that it was BJP “hooligans” who had destroyed a heritage of the state by breaking the bust in the violence during BJP Amit Shah’s roadshow. It is a matter of shame for Bengalis that the bust of Vidyasagar was vandalised, she said at a poll rally at Mandirbazar in support of Trinamool Lok Sabha candidate C M Jatua. “Bengal does not seek alms from BJP. We have the money for a new bust of Vidyasagar, who was part of Bengal Renaissance. Don’t you (BJP) feel ashamed saying that Bengal has been reduced to a state of being a pauper,” said West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee. Banerjee was referring to a comment by Shah at a poll rally at Canning earlier this week in which he had said that under Banerjee government “sonar(golden) Bangla has become kangal(pauper) Bangla”. “He (Modi) should squat holding his ears for destroying a heritage of the state,” she said. “The media has shown how Vidyasagar’s bust was broken. Bengalis’ pride is hurt that they will not spare BJP. They will not give it (BJP) a single vote …. It will be very surprising if Modi gets a single vote from Bengalis,” Banerjee claimed. She alleged that the BJP is spreading fake messages on the social media and warned the voters not to fall prey to it.last_img read more

Iran agrees to roadmap for UN nuclear inspections

first_imgBy Mohammad DavariTehran — Iran agreed Monday with the UN nuclear watchdog on a “roadmap for cooperation” to inspect its disputed programme, as the United States questioned Tehran’s self-declared right to uranium enrichment.Diplomats insist world powers are close to reaching a landmark interim deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief despite failing to do so in Geneva over the weekend. But US Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit to Abu Dhabi partly aimed at reassuring Gulf allies fearful of a breakthrough with Tehran, said no nation has an “existing right to enrich” and that Iran had balked at the Geneva talks.“The P5+1 was unified on Saturday when we presented our proposal to the Iranians… But Iran couldn’t take it,” said Kerry, who took part in the high-level talks.In Tehran late Monday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator and foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, played down the remarks while also challenging their authenticity.“If we want to be fair, sometimes these comments are made to address certain concerns, or those of the hosting country,” Zarif said without elaborating.He cautioned that “contradictory remarks — some which are different from what happened out there — and putting a spin on the reality… does not help generate trust in the negotiation process.”Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate whose election this year raised hopes of progress in the decade-long talks, has said Tehran will not abandon its nuclear rights, calling uranium enrichment on Iranian soil a “red line”.But in an interview with the BBC, Kerry said “right” is the wrong word.“There is a standard by which they might be able to do something, providing they meet certain standards in order to do it. And that’s what you negotiate about,” he said.The so-called P5+1 group — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — and Iran will reconvene again in Geneva on November 20 to try to iron out differences.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meanwhile reached an accord with Iran on a “roadmap for cooperation” during a visit to Tehran by the head of the UN watchdog, Yukiya Amano.Inspections accord ‘encouraging’Analysts and diplomats said the framework accord — while preliminary and somewhat vague — was a first step in satisfying the IAEA’s long-standing demands for greater oversight.The agreement requires Iran to provide information within three months on all new research reactors and identify sites designated for the construction of power plants as well as for uranium enrichment.“It is rather encouraging,” one Western diplomat said. “Maybe the wording is not perfect but it goes in the right direction.”The accord does not specifically address the IAEA’s long-stalled probe into alleged efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has always insisted its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.Amano said inspection of the Parchin military complex, where Iran is alleged to have conducted research on nuclear weapons, would be addressed in “subsequent steps” under the framework.Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said that as a gesture of goodwill, IAEA inspectors would be allowed to visit a heavy water reactor under construction in Arak — seen as a key stumbling block in the Geneva talks — as well as the Gachin uranium mine in the south.At least a year from completion, the Arak reactor is a major source of concern for Western powers, who fear the plutonium it will produce as a by-product could provide Iran with a second route to an atomic bomb.Iran insists it wants to produce isotopes solely for medical and agricultural purposes at the Arak plant, which is already under limited IAEA surveillance.Monday’s agreement foresees the IAEA having direct access within three months to the Arak plant.“The IAEA does not know right now how much heavy water Iran is actually making and they want to get a good idea about whether and how soon it is going to operate,” said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.The marathon talks in Geneva ended inconclusively on Sunday after France raised concerns over the Arak reactor.“We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians but we are not there yet,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Monday.Fabius fired back at allegations that Paris had scuppered the talks, saying: “France is neither isolated nor a country that follows the herd. It is independent and works for peace.”His comments were echoed by a senior Western diplomat in Brussels, who said the talks needed more time.In Tehran, Zarif told state television that an “agreement is still within reach”.last_img read more

US 24 Muslim Workers fired for Taking off 5 Minutes to

first_imgCasablanca – According to the news outlet Opposing views, 23 Muslim workers in Cincinnati, Ohio, were fired  for taking 5 minutes off from work to practice their evening prayer.The fired Muslim workers were Somali refugees who had been working for DHL Global Mail, a leading postal and logistics company.After DHL had changed its break policy, the now unemployed Muslim workers had to take off 5 minutes to pray, something their recently appointed supervisor did not tolerate. Apparently, their supervisor considered the 5 minutes they took off work as an additional break that was in conflict with the company’s new break policy.Mohamed Maow, one of the 24 Muslim workers who lost their job at DHL, reported never having any negative reviews on his three years of work at the company.“We do not have a choice,” Shahira Abdullah, one of the sacked workers was quoted as saying by Opposingviews.com. “We must stop what we are doing and pray. We were not asking for an additional break,” he further justified.According to the same source, police were called to ensure security after the three Muslims were told they were fired.Maow and 12 other employers subsequently lodged complaints against the company at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.According to the same source, DHL Global Mail responded to the complaints stating, “While we believe that all respective internal rules of DHL Global Mail are perfectly in line with legal requirements, we will investigate/consider the case carefully…DHL Global Mail ensures employees’ religious practices are understood and, as reasonable, accommodated.”However, Maow and the 22 other Muslims workers who lost their job contended that there was a clear lack of understanding of the workers’ religious commitments on the part of DHL.For Maow and the other Muslim workers, DHL Global Mail did not invest the same degree of understanding that other institutions in the U.S. display towards adherents of different religions:“We take work very seriously,” stated Maow, “I have never had this problem before. When I took English class at Cincinnati Public Schools, my teachers always understood when I had to pray. It never was a problem.”While their case is being closely investigated, Maow and his Muslim co-workers are officially jobless.Edited by Anna Jacobs© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Morocco to Introduce Flexible Exchange Rate System for Dirham Monday

Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of Economy and Finance will launch a flexible exchange rate system for dirham currency on Monday, January 12, according to a statement issued on Friday by Morocco’s Ministry of Finance and Economy.The decision made by the ministry concerns a new exchange rate regime where the parity of the dirham is determined within a band of fluctuation of ± 2.5 percent against ±0.3 percent currently, compared to a central rate set by Bank Al Maghrib on the basis of a currency basket composed of the EUR and USD by up to 60 percent and 40 percent respectively.Morocco’s Bank Al Maghrib “will continue to intervene on the foreign exchange market to ensure its liquidity,” added the statement. The decision is undertaken under conditions marked by the solidity of the financial sector and the consolidation of macroeconomic bases, including an appropriate level of foreign exchange reserves and a controlled inflation.The ministry added that the reform will also be supported by the structural and sectoral reforms.The decision taken by the ministry is aimed at strengthening the resilience of the national economy to exogenous shocks in order to support its competitiveness and to improve its level of growth, reported Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).The exchange rate regime reform will also support the structural changes taking place in the Moroccan economy, particularly in terms of diversification, openness and integration into the global economy, concluded the statement. read more

Official Observation of the Lunar Crescent in Morocco Begins Wednesday

Rabat – The observation of the lunar crescent expected to announce the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan will take place on Wednesday, Chaaban 29, 1439 (in the Islamic calendar), which corresponds with May 16, 2018, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowment announced on Tuesday, May 15.Magistrates, nadhers (traditional moon sighters), and delegates of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowment are invited to inform the ministry of the observation of the lunar crescent or its non-observation by contacting it at the following phone numbers: (, (, ( and ( or fax number (, according to the ministry’s website.

Moroccan Islamist Fouad Belkacem to Question Losing Belgian Citizenship

Rabat – The Antwerp Court of Appeal ordered Belkacem’s Belgian nationality to be stripped on October 23, saying he represents a permanent threat to public security and breached his obligations as a Belgian citizen.Belkacem was jailed in 2015 as the leader of the “Sharia4Belgium” group that recruited jihadists, dozens of whom went to Syria.Belkacem’s lawyer, Liliane Verjauw, confirmed Belkacem’s appeal to the Belgian outlet Belga News Agency. The lawyer, however, did not specify which elements of the judgment her client will appeal, but said they have one month to build their case.Verjauw added that she will do everything she can to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights.Fouad Belkacem received 27 convictions in the police court and 9 in the correctional court.He has been charged with robbery, threats, destruction, rebellion, defamation, racism, harassment, and violation of honor and sentenced to 12 years in prison. read more

A ModernDay Fatima alFihriya The Woman Who Founded Oujdas ENCG

Rabat- Following in the steps of Fatima al-Fihriya, who founded the world’s oldest still-operating university in 859 A.D., Fatima al-Madrassi volunteered to found the ENCG in 2003.ENCG is a subsidiary of Mohamed Premier University in Oujda.In a Facebook post on November 20, the secretary of state for higher education and scientific research, Khalid Samadi, wrote that he was surprised to find out about ENCG’s female founder and the funds on which she established the school while on a visit there.  Samadi did not state how much she had to start Oujda’s ENCG, but he noted the similarities between the two “Fatimas of Morocco” and the significance of Madrassi’s role as a philanthropist.Madrassi is a shy woman who does not like the spotlight, Samadi said and expressed a desire to meet her.  Read Also: Muslim Congresswoman to Work to Allow Hijab in the U.S CongressFatima al-Madrassi with a student at a graduation ceremony at ENCGSamadi said that Madrassi considers all the ENCG students as her own children.Like Fatima al-Fihriya, the daughter of a wealthy merchant whose family came from Kairouan in Tunisia, Fatima al-Madrassi is a 21st-century founder of a scholarly institution.The 1,159-year-old University of Al Quaraouiyine, which takes its name from Kairouan, is world’s oldest existing and still-operating higher educational institution, according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records. Al Quaraouiyine has one of the world’s oldest libraries with over 30,000 books and manuscripts, including a 9th-century Qur’an and one of the earliest collections of hadiths, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad with accounts of his daily practice.Al Quaraouiyine Library also made it onto Time’s first annual list of the world’s greatest places in August 2018. read more

Government Should Retrieve MAD 17 Billion from Moroccos Fuel Companies Balafrej

Rabat – Omar Balafrej, MP of the Federation of the Democratic Left (FGD) has criticized Moroccan fuel companies of “immorally and unreasonably” making an additional profit of  MAD 17 billion from the liberalization of fuel prices.Balafrej has also proposed the retrieval of the extra profit the companies made, owing to the liberalization of fuel prices enacted in December 2015.Balafrej recommended Tuesday in a plenary session of the House of Representatives retrieving MAD 17 billion in profits from oil companies for government-funded projects. “I found it strange that none of the MPs or heads of parties have raised the issue of retrieving the 17 billion dirhams. It’s not a ‘trivial’ amount,” he said.Balafrej fervently explained to MPs the potential projects that the government could implement with MAD 17 billion.“With 17 billion dirhams we could build: two tunnels under Tichka, train railway to Al-Hoceima or Rachidia, 17 university hospitals, and 6,000 cultural centers. As for education, which is the major priority, 1,000 community schools could be built and enough teachers could be employed, functional housing could be provided for all teachers in Morocco; free transport for all school and university students, computers for all school and university students in Morocco, and MAD 1,700 scholarships could be provided to each university student.” MP Abdellah Bouanou of PJD also stated in May that the difference between the government’s set prices and today’s prices is nearly MAD 1 per liter. “Moroccans annually consume some 6.5 million tons [of fuel]. So, we easily reach 7 billion dirhams in additional profit in one year.”Balafrej’s call for national reconciliationBalafarj also made remarks on the sentences pronounced against Moroccan activists involved in the Al Hoceima protest.Balafrej’s proposed projects covered the main economic and social sectors including education, transport, and health. However, at the end of his 2-min talk, Balafrej stressed that national reconciliation should be given priority over education. “Today, there are concerns more important than education, and there are those who will be surprised at this because I have always insisted on education,” Balafrej said.Criticizing the heavy sentences given to Hirak Rif activists on June 26, the politician said: “Today’s priority is for national reconciliation, because we need relief. Enough nihilism, don’t be nihilistic.”Balafrej and MP Mustapha Chennaoui of the FGD party have already taken action towards securing the release of political detainees . On June 29, they  introduced a proposed law requesting general amnesty for all political detainees involved in social movements over the past two years. The proposal is based on Article 71 of the Moroccan Constitution, which stipulates that general amnesty can be requested by Parliament. In Article 1 of the draft law, the FGD called for “general amnesty for all acts related to protests that occurred in Morocco from October 28, 2016 to June 28, 2018.” read more

Casablanca Court Denies Bouachrines Request for Temporary Release

Rabat – The Casablanca court has rejected the request of jailed journalist Taoufik Bouachrine for temporary release.It is not the first time that Bouachrine, who is awaiting trial on heavy charges of sexual assault, has requested and been denied temporary release.Last week, some Moroccan news outlets shared a series of leaked screenshots allegedly captured from the videos seized in the arrest of Bouachrine. The pictures, which show what appears to be the journalist with women in his office, were leaked after the National Gendarmerie Laboratory conducted a report to analyze the seized videos.The laboratory submitted its report to the court early last week.Mohamed Kerrout, one of the lawyers for the complainants told local media after Bouachrine’s latest hearing that the videos “are not fake,” according to the experts who analyzed them.However, the sharing of the alleged leaked photos angered Morocco’s Press Union, which issued a statement on Friday to condemn the act.According to the statement, which was obtained by Morocco World News, the media should be primarily concerned “with protecting the ethics and dignity of the people.” The statement slammed the news outlets which shared the photos, stating that the press is not made for “profit.”Bouachrine is the director of one of Morocco’s major newspapers,  Akhbar Al Yaoum, and its online outlet Al Yaoum24. Police arrested the journalist at the headquarters of the newspaper in February.Among the charges Bouachrine faces are sexual assault, human trafficking, rape, and attempted rape. read more

CVS announces further expansion into health care services

CVS Health is pushing deeper into health services with plans to add dietitians, medical equipment and space for the occasional yoga class to 1,500 stores.The drugstore chain that quit selling tobacco several years ago said Tuesday it will expand a store model that it started testing recently. Its HealthHub stores will have around twice as much space devoted to health care as other locations and will aim to help people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.The expansion comes as the health care system turns its focus toward keeping patients healthy instead of waiting to treat them once they become sick. Insurers and other payers have started covering things like visits with dietitians more with the hope that this care keeps patients out of expensive hospitals.Tom Murphy, The Associated Press read more

Rotary International crucial ally in advancing UNs goals – Ban Kimoon

5 November 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has hailed members of Rotary International as allies in advancing the work of the United Nations through their global efforts in support of initiatives for health, literacy and poverty eradication. “You have helped people understand what the UN is, what it does, and what it can do,” Mr. Ban told those gathered for the Rotary International Day programme held at UN Headquarters in New York on 3 November. “Ever since the United Nations was founded, you have been a wonderful partner to our organization.” In a message delivered by Deputy Chef de Cabinet Kim Won-soo, the Secretary-General noted that Rotarians have been the UN’s “chief ally” in the mission to eradicate polio worldwide, helping to immunize almost two billion children around the world against the highly infectious, often paralyzing and sometimes fatal disease.Rotary International has also worked with the UN to spread literacy and eradicate poverty, as well as sought to spread peace through its exchange programmes.In those and other ways, Mr. Ban said Rotarians have advanced the work to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the set of ambitious targets the world has set itself for slashing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other social ills by 2015.He added that in his own native Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General has seen the remarkable work Rotary International has done in supporting the country for the past 80 years. read more

Sri Lanka UN officials stress need to help civilians caught up in

“Measures that comply with international obligations governing the protection of civilians during armed conflict provide vital options for civilians as they make individual choices about where to seek safety and succour,” the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka said in a statement issued today.The statement was released amid ongoing concern about the humanitarian impact of the violence in the Vanni, a district in the north where Government forces have clashed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).The UN Country Team stressed it is still committed to helping the Government provide humanitarian assistance to civilians whether they remain in the Vanni or decide to leave.“Measures must be taken to prevent displacing people from their homes and livelihoods. The UN has also raised with the LTTE its urgent concern that civilians be allowed maximum freedom of movement of all times.”Last month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced alarm about the safety of tens of thousands of civilians because of the fighting and urged both sides to ensure the protection of those not involved in the conflict. 3 September 2008United Nations officials in Sri Lanka have acknowledged the Government’s announcement that it will take extra steps to improve the freedom of movement of thousands of civilians affected by recent fierce fighting in the north of the country. read more

UNICEF signs child protection pact with key rebel group in Darfur

21 July 2010The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today signed a child protection agreement, which includes ending the recruitment of child soldiers, with a major rebel group in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today signed a child protection agreement, which includes ending the recruitment of child soldiers, with a major rebel group in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.Under the memorandum of understanding, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) committed itself to “actively support UNICEF work on the protection and well-being of children affected by the conflict in Darfur.”The agency has called the agreement – which gives UNICEF access to JEM bases – a concrete step towards creating a detailed plan of action.The group also agreed to prevent and work to bring an end to the “association, recruitment and use” of child soldiers, including in non-combatant or supportive roles.JEM pledged to release any child under the age of 18 currently associated with the group and hand them over to UNICEF.The agreement, which was signed at the independent Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, includes a commitment by JEM to end the killing and maiming of children, as well as sexual violence.Violence flared anew between Sudanese Government forces and JEM in May, in breach of a cessation of hostilities agreement signed earlier this year.“It’s taken more than two years to get here,” said Nils Kastberg, UNICEF’s Sudan Representative, of the agreement reached today in Geneva.The process has also seen the participation of the UN and African Union mediators on Darfur, as well as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).Mr. Kastberg voiced hope that agreements with other armed movements will be forthcoming “to enhance the protection of children throughout Darfur.”He noted that in Darfur, children are not always proactively recruited to serve as soldiers. They often gravitate towards armed groups’ barracks, where they can receive food and water, he said.The UNICEF official underlined the importance of humanitarian access to deliver much-needed supplies, set up schools and other measures to “provide alternatives [to children] rather than being associated with armed groups.”Even if peace negotiations among groups and the Government should break down, “we trying now to establish [signing agreements with UNICEF on child protection] is a normal thing to do,” he said.Mr. Kastberg said that UNICEF has seen enormous progress on the protection of children since the publication of the landmark 1996 study on the impact of armed conflict on children by Graça Machel, then first lady of Mozambique.Further, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued indictments on the charge of recruiting child soldiers.“We gradually see that armed movements recognize that involving children has consequences… [and that] there can’t be impunity,” the UNICEF Representative said.For her part, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, welcomed today’s agreement, calling it a “major step towards an over-arching action plan.”She said that she hopes “for the resumption of the broader peace process,” imploring all sides to include child protection clauses in all stages, from ceasefire agreements to peace accords.“For these commitments to have a real impact for children, they must be honoured, enhanced and fully implemented,” Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed.An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others have been displaced in the past seven years in Darfur as a result of fighting between rebels and Government forces backed by allied Janjaweed militiamen. read more

Northern Yemen still volatile five months after ceasefire says UN agency

23 July 2010The situation in northern Yemen remains volatile more than five months after the signing of a ceasefire between Government forces and rebels, the United Nations refugee agency said today, citing reports of renewed clashes and ongoing difficulties in delivering humanitarian assistance. Media reports say some 30 people have been killed this week alone in incidents in northern Yemen, where nearly 300,000 people have been uprooted from their homes in the region by fighting between Government forces and rebels in recent years. While a ceasefire was signed in February between Government forces and al-Houthi rebels, the majority of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have not returned to their homes. Many are living with host communities or in scattered settlements outside formal camp sites. Yesterday the UN humanitarian wing voiced concern about a funding shortfall for aid operations in northern Yemen, noting that less than $70 million, or 36 per cent, of the $187 million sought has been received so far. According to estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only around 14,000 IDPs have so far returned to their areas of origin. “Many fear retaliation or have no place to return to due to the destruction of houses and infrastructure,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva. In addition, lack of basic services, such as health care, education and water supply in many parts of the Sa’ada governorate also discourages many IDPs from returning, she said. UNHCR is planning to start distributing packages to returnees in the coming weeks that will include food, construction tool kits, plastic sheets and hygiene kits together with other relief items. Noting that overall security and lack of access to hundreds of thousands of civilians are still hampering the delivery of assistance, UNHCR and its partners continue to call for secure and unhindered access to all communities affected by the conflict. The agency has also voiced concern about the safety of civilians who decide to return spontaneously, given the threat posed by landmines in Sa’ada. read more

Technology can help shave costs for local governments Ban says

Many countries, he said in a video message for the inaugural General Assembly of the World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments, are facing severe fiscal constraints, experiencing high unemployment and are being forced to cut back on social services.New uses of ICT, Mr. Ban told the event under way in Seoul, Republic of Korea, “can help governments become more efficient and effective; more transparent and more accountable.”More than 50 cities have signed on to the organization, which aims to disseminate knowledge of e-governments worldwide and bridge the digital divide.“Together, you can learn from one another,” the Secretary-General said. “You can find out more about the technology that best fits your needs. And in the process, you can empower citizens.”Technology use at the city and regional levels can enhance civic participation, boost trust in government services and strengthen democracy, he stressed. 7 September 2010As the ramifications of the global economic crisis continue to reverberate worldwide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the cost-cutting potential of new uses of information and communication technology (ICT) for local governments. read more

UN and African partners adopt joint strategy on Somalia crisis

The Joint Regional Strategy, adopted by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), outlines a common approach to political, security, humanitarian, institutional and financial issues and challenges facing the peace process in the Horn of Africa nation. Somalia – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 – has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with al-Shabaab Islamic militants. The country is also facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 2.4 million people are in need of assistance.The Strategy, signed at the monthly coordination meeting between Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Boubacar G. Diarra, the AU envoy for Somalia and head of AMISOM, and Kipruto arap Kirwa, the IGAD peace facilitator, will be used as a tool to enhance cooperation and information sharing between the three institutions, the international community and other partners, according to a joint communiqué.Under the Transitional Federal Charter, the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was due to expire in August. Earlier this month, however, the interim parliament voted to extend its mandate by three years beyond the August deadline by which it was to enact a new constitution ahead of general elections.That move drew criticism from Mr. Mahiga, who said the decision was made in haste and without the required consultation on how to end the transition and on next steps.Other tasks which need to be completed during the transition period include political reconciliation and building civilian and security institutions. 23 February 2011The United Nations and its African partners today adopted a joint strategy designed to help the troubled interim government in Somalia manage the transitional period. read more

UN rights council recommends suspending Libya orders inquiry into abuses

In a resolution adopted unanimously at the end of a special session held in Geneva, the 47-member Council called on the Libyan Government to meet its responsibility to protect its population, immediately end all human rights violations, stop any attacks against civilians, and respect the popular will, aspirations and demands of its people.Members of the Council are elected by the General Assembly, which has the right to suspend the membership of a country that has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership. The process of suspension requires a two-thirds majority vote by the 192-member Assembly. Addressing the opening of the session, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged action to help end the violence in Libya and to hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable, warning that the crackdown on protesters is getting worse. “More needs to be done. I encourage all international actors to take necessary measures to stop the bloodshed,” she stated, adding that, according to some sources, thousands may have been killed or injured over the past week.“Although reports are still patchy and hard to verify, one thing is painfully clear: in brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protestors.” Tanks, helicopters and military aircraft have reportedly been used indiscriminately to attack the protestors, she added.“The Libyan leader must stop the violence now,” the High Commissioner stressed, pointing out that Libya is a member of the Human Rights Council and pledged to respect human rights, and is also a State party to various international human rights treaties. She also recalled that under international law, “any official, at any level, ordering or carrying out atrocities and attacks can be held criminally accountable and that widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity.”A statement delivered on behalf of all of the Council’s independent human rights experts endorsed the High Commissioner’s call for an international inquiry into the violence, stressing that the international community should “act without delay” to protect civilians from serious human rights violations. Witnesses in and out of Libya consistently describe horrifying scenes, Ms. Pillay told delegates. Libyan forces are firing at protestors and bystanders, sealing off neighbourhoods and shooting from rooftops. They also block ambulances so that the injured and dead are left on the streets. Reports from hospitals indicate that most of the victims have been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting arbitrary and summary executions, she said. Doctors relate that they are struggling to cope and are running out of blood supplies and medicines to treat the wounded.  “Images of unverifiable origin appear to portray the digging of mass graves in Tripoli,” she added. According to several accounts, killings have also been carried out by foreign fighters who were and reportedly continue to be brought into the country and equipped with small arms and light weapons by the Government to suppress the protests.In this connection, the High Commissioner’s Office has received reports that some Libyans are turning on refugees and migrants from other African countries, suspecting them of being mercenaries fighting for the Libyan Government.Ms. Pillay stressed that the safety of all foreign nationals be ensured and that the freedom of movement of those wishing to leave the country be fully respected and protected. “Libyan authorities must allow the safe passage of humanitarian and medical supplies and humanitarian workers into the country. They must also ensure that the legitimate demands of the protestors are addressed and the fundamental human rights of the population are fully respected and promoted,” she said. Ms. Pillay also voiced her concern for the safety and well-being of refugees crossing into neighbouring countries, particularly Tunisia, Egypt, Italy and Malta, and urged Libya’s neighbours to open their borders and ensure that refugees fleeing the violence are welcomed and treated humanely.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today commended the “humanitarian spirit” shown by the Tunisian and Egyptian Governments in welcoming and caring for people fleeing Libya. “We call upon the international community to provide substantial humanitarian support for these two countries,” Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Geneva, told reporters. She added that the agency is concerned that Libyans farther away from the border areas and in the capital, Tripoli, are being prevented from fleeing. The Tunisian Government has declared that its borders are open for all nationalities attempting to flee the ongoing violence in Libya, and reported that some 22,000 people have fled the violence in Libya and crossed over into Tunisia. The Egyptian Government has told UNHCR that Libyans are welcome and that it is ready to care for all injured and sick people who need to cross the border. A UNHCR team is starting work at the Egyptian border today. “We hope that all those who need to cross the border will be allowed to do so in a non-discriminatory manner,” said Ms. Fleming.Meanwhile, a team from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is on the Libyan-Egyptian border to asses the food needs of those fleeing Libya. The agency said it is ready to dispatch high energy biscuits and provide food assistance to Libyans when the security situation improves. 25 February 2011The United Nations Human Rights Council today strongly condemned the recent violence in Libya and ordered an international inquiry into alleged abuses, while also recommending that the country’s membership in the UN’s top human rights body be suspended. read more

Thousands flee Abidjan as violence intensifies in Côte dIvoire – UN

Thousands of residents of Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, have been flocking to bus stations seeking transport out of the city fearing that an all-out war is in the offing after an escalation of violence, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.As many as 30 unarmed civilians were killed and 60 others were wounded when the market in Abidjan’s northern suburb of Abobo was attacked with mortar shells on Thursday, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, which is known as UNOCI.The shelling was carried out by members of the Ivorian Defense and Security Forces (FDSCI), who are loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, who lost a UN-certified and internationally recognized election to the opposition figure Alassane Ouattara last November, but has since refused to step down. Abobo is considered a stronghold of supporters of Mr. Ouattara.During the weekend and on Monday, monitors with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) saw thousands of people trying to leave from Adjame and Yopougon bus terminals in Abidjan. Many families slept there in a desperate bid to secure seats in departing vehicles.Some of those fleeing said they had decided to leave following an appeal on Saturday by the pro-Gbagbo youth leader, Charles Blé Goudé, who urged civilians to join the ranks of the armed forces. Thousands of youths have reportedly responded to the appeal, which those departing Abidjan have interpreted as a declaration of war.The bus stations were already crowded with families seeking to leave Abidjan amid the intensifying violence. The cost of transportation has risen sharply, according to a humanitarian partner whose staff have received requests from internally displaced persons (IDPs) to help them leave Abidjan. An estimated 300,000 people in Abidjan are displaced, many of them former residents of Abobo.Many IDPs are heading to the north and east of the country, and families who made it to those areas told UNHCR staff by telephone that the humanitarian situation there is becoming increasingly difficult for them and their hosts.Meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners have completed setting up of the first IDP site in the western town of Danane. Over the weekend, 778 displaced people were relocated to the site from a nearby primary school. Two other IDP sites are being rehabilitated in Danane, where an estimated 5,000 people were displaced by violence earlier this year.The Ivorian crisis has also affected some 24,000 Liberian refugees who have been living in Abidjan for nearly two decades. Some of them have signed up for repatriation to Liberia and the first UNHCR-organized airlift of 171 returnees took place on Saturday.Cote 22 March 2011Thousands of residents of Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, have been flocking to bus stations seeking transport out of the city fearing that an all-out war is in the offing after an escalation of violence, the United Nations refugee agency reported today. read more