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Top UN rights official calls for impartial probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance

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Khashoggi

United Nations : Saudi Arabia and Turkey should “reveal everything” they know about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, a top UN human rights official has said while demanding a “thorough and impartial” probe into the whereabouts of the dissident Saudi journalist.

Khashoggi, 60, is feared to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The incident has resulted in a global outrage, more so in the US as he lived here as a legal permanent resident and worked for ‘The Washington Post’. Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities suspect he was abducted and murdered by the Saudis.

But Riyadh insists that the journalist, a known critic of Saudi King Salman, had left the building and that murder claims are “baseless”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey to “reveal everything they know” about the disappearance and a possible extra-judicial killing of the prominent journalist. Bachelet urged the authorities of both the countries “to ensure that no further obstacles are placed in the way of a prompt, thorough, effective, impartial and transparent investigation”.

She welcomed the agreement that has allowed investigators to conduct an examination inside the consulate and possibly also at the residence of the Saudi Arabian Consul-General in Istanbul.

Bachelet said the diplomatic immunity of officials must be “waived immediately” to ensure a prompt and transparent probe. “In view of the seriousness of the situation surrounding the disappearance of Khashoggi, I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials bestowed by treaties such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations should be waived immediately,” Bachelet said. She said under international law, both a forced disappearance and an extra-judicial killing were “very serious crimes” and immunity should not be used to impede investigations into what happened and who is responsible. “Two weeks is a very long time for the probable scene of a crime not to have been subjected to a full forensic investigation,” Bachelet said.

Protection from national jurisdictions is bestowed on consular premises and officials by treaties such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. “There seems to be clear evidence that Khashoggi entered the Consulate and has never been seen since the onus is on the Saudi authorities to reveal what happened to him from that point onwards,” she said. The High Commissioner noted that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were both parties to the ‘UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’. They are obliged to take all measures to prevent torture, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations to investigate allegations of acts constituting these crimes, and to bring to justice those suspected of committing them, she said.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva amid news reports that details of Khashoggi’s death may surface soon, indicating that it was an accident, UN human rights office (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville said potentially serious crimes had been committed and the perpetrators should be held accountable. “The one thing we really know as a solid fact is that Khashoggi went into the consulate and he was never seen coming out again,” Colville said, adding that it seemed “very probable” that some crime had been committed. “Enforced disappearance or murder, if that has occurred, extra-judicial killing, either way, those are very serious crimes,” he added. “We all need to know what it was, how it happened and who was responsible and where the evidence leads”.

US lawmakers have been demanding to scrap of the USD 110 billion mega defence deal with Riyadh, whereas heads of several companies, CEOs, newspapers have announced not to attend an upcoming finance conference in Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump on Monday talked to the Saudi King, during which the latter flatly denied having any knowledge of the missing journalist.

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Trump to make ‘major’ announcement on shutdown, border issue

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Donald Trump

Washington | US President Donald Trump has said he will make a “major” announcement Saturday on the ongoing federal government shutdown and the humanitarian crisis on the country’s southern border. No further detail about the announcement was immediately available from the White House.

The shutdown, the longest-ever in US history, is a result of the bitter political divide over border security issue between the Trump-led Republican party and the opposition Democratic party led by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats, who now enjoy majority in the House, have refused to approve a legislation approving USD 5.7 billion in federal funding to construct a wall across the US-Mexico border, a poll promise by the Republican president. “I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M. (1:30 am Sunday IST), live from the @WhiteHouse,” President Trump tweeted Friday.

Functioning of several key wings of the US government, including Security and State departments, has been paralysed for nearly four weeks now because of the ongoing partial government shutdown. President Trump insists that building a wall is the only solution to protect the nation from a large flow of illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.

The Democrats are opposed to any such funding. After Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House last week, Democrats have refused to come to the negotiation table. Pelosi and the Democratic party argue that such a funding is a wastage of tax payers payer and does not reflect the ethos of American culture. The divide between the parties has led to some 800,000 federal government employees being rendered without work.

The ongoing shutdown on January 12 broke the previous record of 21 days of US government shutdown under the Bill Clinton administration in December 16, 1995 to January 5, 1996.

Besides the border issue, the divide between Trump and Pelosi deepened after he denied her a military plane for an “excursion” to Brussels and war-torn Afghanistan, a tit-for-tat retaliation after the House Speaker asked the president to reschedule his annual State of the Union address slated for January 29. Pelosi, who is third in line to the presidency, had made the suggestion citing security reasons triggered by the shutdown that has entered its 28th day.

The House Speaker Friday accused Trump of endangering the lives of US nationals by revealing to the world about her secretive trip to Afghanistan. She told reporters that “any time anyone with a bright light, of the presence of a high-level, or any level of Congressional Delegation in a region, you’ve heightened the danger. And this was a high power.”

However, Trump had alleged that Pelosi and her Congressional delegation was headed on an “excursion” trip.  Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the country with other Democrats on a seven-day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid. Also, could somebody please explain to Nancy & her big donors in wine country that people working on farms (grapes) will have easy access in! Trump tweeted.

The White House denied Pelosi’s allegations, with as senior administration official saying, When the speaker of the house and about 20 others from Capitol Hill decide to book their own commercial flights to Afghanistan, the world is going to find out. The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat out lie.”.

Pelosi later told reporters that she has abandoned her trip to Afghanistan.

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Fuel pipeline blaze in Mexico kills 20, 54 injured: government

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Mexico City |  A leaking fuel pipeline triggered a massive blaze in central Mexico on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring another 54, officials said.

Omar Fayad, governor of Hidalgo state, said locals at the site of the leak were scrambling to steal some of the leaking oil when at least 20 of them were burned to death. “I’ve been told that 20 have been burned to death and another 54 burn victims being treated” in hospitals, Fayad told local FaroTV.

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Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in February: White House

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Washington | US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February on Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear and missile programmes, the White House has announced. The two leaders had met on June 12 last year in Singapore for the first summit.

While the White House did not identify a location for the second summit between the two leaders, according to media reports preparations were under way to host the summit, most likely in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi or coastal city of Danang. The announcement came after Trump met with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle his country’s nuclear weapons programmes.

President Trump sat down with Kim Yong Chol, a high-level official in North Korea’s Communist government, in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February.  “The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date. she said in a statement. The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations.”

The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”, she said. “We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February,” Sanders’ told reporters.

The North Korean envoy arrived at the White House after a closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel here.

Following the White House meeting the North Korean official and a delegation he was leading were invited to lunch by Pompeo at Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman said that in Singapore, Trump capitulated to Kim Jong-un handing North Korea a propaganda coup in exchange for empty words. During a second summit, he must deliver concrete, verifiable commitments from Pyongyang, he demanded.

Last year in Singapore, Trump had described his first-ever historic meeting with Kim Jong-un as “really fantastic” and said they had agreed to “sign” an unspecified document after their “very positive” summit, aimed at normalising ties and complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. The US president had said he believed he and Kim Jong-un will “solve a big problem, a big dilemma” and that by working together, “we will get it taken care of”.

The summit at Singapore’s Sentosa island – the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader – had marked a turnaround of relations between Trump, 72, and Kim, 36, after a long-running exchange of threats and insults.

The US insists it will accept nothing less than complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

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