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Council of Europe slams UK asylum pact with Rwanda

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Brussels, April 23 (IANS/DPA) The Council of Europe, a European rights body, has sharply criticised the UK for its controversial asylum pact with Rwanda.

“The UK government should refrain from removing people under the Rwanda policy and reverse the Bill’s effective infringement of judicial independence,” said the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The law raises questions about the human rights of asylum seekers and the rule of law in general, he said.

The Council of Europe is independent of the EU and was founded in 1949 to protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

The British bill, which was approved by the House of Lords on Tuesday night after lengthy opposition, declares Rwanda a safe third country by law. In doing so, the government wants to prevent appeals against deportations before British courts.

The asylum pact with Rwanda stipulates that irregular migrants will no longer be given the opportunity to apply for asylum in the UK. Instead, they are to be taken to Rwanda and apply for asylum there.

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The regulation is intended to deter people from making the dangerous crossing across the English Channel in small boats. However, opponents doubt that the law will deter migrants.

“Managing asylum and migration is undoubtedly a complex endeavour for states, but it must always be done in full compliance with international standards,” O’Flaherty said.

The British law “is another representation of an ongoing trend towards externalization of asylum and migration policy in Europe, which is a matter of concern for the global system of protection of the rights of refugees,” he said.

In 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is part of the Council of Europe, prevented the UK from sending asylum seekers of different nationalities by plane to Rwanda.

–IANS/DPA

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One killed after hand grenade explodes during Japan's SDF training

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Tokyo, May 30 (IANS) A member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) on Thursday died over a hand grenade explosion during a training session in Yamanashi Prefecture, immediately west of Tokyo, according to local media reports.

The accident took place around 8.45 a.m. local time at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)’s training ground Kitafuji Exercise Area, where a 29-year-old male soldier taking part in the training was hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade thrown by another SDF member, reports Xinhua news agency.

The injured was rushed to a hospital unconscious but confirmed dead about two hours later, and the GSDF is investigating the cause of the incident which straddles the municipalities of Fujiyoshida and Yamanakako and connects to another training facility in neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture, national news agency Kyodo reported.

In recent years, the SDF has had frequent reports of training casualties. A shooting incident at a GSDF shooting range in Gifu Prefecture killed an SDF member and injured two others in June last year.

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Two Maritime SDF helicopters in April collided and crashed during a night-time anti-submarine drill, killing one and leaving seven others missing.

–IANS

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Iran rules out sabotage explosion behind Raisi's helicopter crash

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Tehran, May 30 (IANS) Iran has ruled out the possibility of a sabotage explosion leading to the helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage, local media reported.

The General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces released the second report on the causes of the helicopter crash on Wednesday, reports the official news agency IRNA.

The report said given the results of the tests on the helicopter’s wreckage and remaining parts and the way the remains had been scattered at the scene of the incident as well as their distance from the fuselage, the possibility of an explosion caused by an act of sabotage during the flight or moments before the chopper’s crash into the mountain was dismissed.

No sign of an act of electronic warfare was detected on the crashed helicopter, it said, adding that the weather conditions on the way back to Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan province, would need further investigations.

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According to the report, the total weight of the passengers and equipment onboard was proportionate to the helicopter’s maximum load limit at the time of takeoff and during the flight.

In addition, during the flight and until 69 seconds before the incident’s occurrence, contact had been maintained with the crashed helicopter’s flight crew on the specified frequencies, which dismisses the possibility of any disruption in the communication system or frequency interference, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first report of the investigation committee of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces was released on May 23.

–IANS

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Child among four injured in London shooting

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London, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Three adults and a child have been injured in a shooting near a restaurant in the London neighbourhood of Hackney.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the child is in a serious condition and that they are awaiting updates on the condition of the adults after the shooting on Kingsland High Street.

The four were taken to an east London hospital with “gunshot injuries.”

Police said they were called to the scene at around 9.20 pm (1820 GMT) on Wednesday with specialist firearms officers attending.

The force said no arrests have yet been made.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward said: “We know Londoners will be shocked by what has taken place tonight.

“Our thoughts go to all those affected.

“Fast-moving inquiries are underway and we will update as soon as we can. If anyone has any information, please contact us.”

–IANS/DPA

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Fourteen Hong Kong activists convicted under national security law

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Shenzhen, China, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Fourteen Hong Kong opposition figures were convicted on Thursday under Beijing’s controversial national security law, the South China Morning Post reported.

Meanwhile, former district councilors Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun were acquitted, becoming the first to do so after trial since the legislation was implemented in June, 2020.

The 16 pro-democracy activists were among 47 people charged with subversion in relation to an unofficial primary election for Hong Kong’s 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo).

The 16, which include former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, had contested the charge while the remaining 31 pleaded guilty before the start of the four-month trial, the Post reported. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The landmark case saw the highest number of activists ever charged under the national security law at one time since it was imposed in response to mass pro-democracy protests.

The national security law has made it easier for the Chinese authorities to crack down on activists for behaviour they class as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with a foreign power.

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–IANS/DPA

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Thousands protest in New Zealand as government reveals budget

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Wellington, May 30 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets on Thursday in a nationwide protest ahead of the new government’s first budget.

Te Pati Maori (the Maori Party) alongside the Toitu Te Tiriti (Honour the Treaty) called for the protests to demonstrate a unified response to “the Government’s assault” on Maori and New Zealand’s founding document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Pati Maori called for the establishment of a Maori Parliament after the protests.

“Up and down the country, near 100-thousand people have taken part in activation rallies and we have saturated social media networks. We have mobilised our people in a matter of days in a beautiful harmonious activation against this Government,” it said in a statement.

“Seeing Tangata Tiriti (non-Maori) and Tangata Whenua (Maori) as one, which is the true intent of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is exactly what scares the bejesus out of this government.”

“We now begin the process of establishing our own Parliament. Our people will design what this looks like for us, nobody else.”

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Police Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said officers were monitoring multiple gatherings across the country.

“While there has been disruption to travel in some locations, the participants have been well-behaved overall.”

Johnson said in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, hundreds of vehicles had clogged roads.

Groups were converging in Auckland central, on Parliament Grounds in Wellington, and in many other cities and towns.

“Police are in attendance and are focused on maintaining public safety while recognising the right to peaceful protest,” Johnson said.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis revealed her first budget on Thursday afternoon in Wellington.

“This year’s Budget is the clean-up job New Zealand needs after six years of economic mismanagement,” she said.

“We are welcoming in a new era of careful government spending, lower taxes for hard-working New Zealanders and a strong focus on rebuilding the economy.”

The protests were a follow-up of Te Pati Maori’s Day of National Action in December, in response to the policies of the coalition government.

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Since the new government was formed in November, it has overturned some of the anti-tobacco laws introduced by the previous left-wing government, axed the country’s Maori Health Authority and encouraged its ministries to roll back the use of the Maori language.

–IANS/DPA

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