today in history

January 19, 1983. The New Catholic code expands women's rights in the Church.

international news

international

Mexico's crime fighting national guard wins lower house approval


Mexican legislators have overwhelmingly voted to approve the creation of a new 60,000-member national guard, a proposal embraced by leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as a crucial tool in the fight against organised crime.The proposal was approved on Wednesday by about three-quarters of the lower house of Congress, 362 votes in favor and 119 against, with changes to Mexico's constitution requiring a two-thirds vote in both chambers.Lopez Obrador's MORENA party teamed up with smaller leftist allies and lawmakers from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to approve the new national guard which would replace the armed forces in the fight against crime, including drug cartels.In a first phase, the guard will be composed of some 60,000 members transferred from existing military and federal police forces, but it was not clear when it might include new hires.According to the fine print of the proposal, the head of the force will be a civilian, but operational chiefs will be military officers.The proposal must still be approved by the Senate, and then a simple majority of state legislatures, but both are seen as likely because of the political strength of MORENA and its allies across Mexico.Critics fear rights abusesCritics of the new guard fear it could further militarize crime fighting and lead to human rights abuses. Even some reluctant backers of the bill called for changes that would place limits on the force and eliminate protections against prosecutions if members commit crimes against civilians.According to a study conducted by Flores-Marcia, associate professor of government at Cornell University in the US, the militarization of public safety in Mexico is not a solution to tackle the country's record level of violent crimes.On the contrary, he argues, similar measures adopted in the past have contributed to a sharp increase in violence, while decreasing "the state's capacity to provide public order".Flore-Marci's research insists that the military is ill suited for police task since it relies on weapons and tactics that destroy the targeted enemy rather than de-escalate threats to citizen's security.Record violenceThe bill was proposed by Obrador to find a solution to organised crimes in the country. Homicides in Mexico rose by 16 percent in the first half of 2018, breaking a new record for violence set in 2017 when over 29,000 homicides were reported.Obrador, who took office on December 1, has said he also wants to address Mexico's long-running battle with gangland violence and lawlessness by tackling poverty and inequality. He has suggested the possibility of an amnesty for some lesser criminals.The creation of the national guard is not the first time a new government has sought to put its stamp on security with a different policy.The former administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto created a gendarmerie to oversee the fight against organized crime, but it was later heavily scaled back.More than a decade ago, former President Felipe Calderon sent in the armed forces to fight warring drug cartels, but while the policy succeeded it killing or capturing cartel leaders, the criminal groups splintered and gang violence has since claimed more than 170,000 lives.-Al Jazeera

January 17, 2019, 12:43 pm
international

Thousands of Syrians in ‘life and death’ struggle amid harsh conditions in remote desert camp, UN warns


Conditions in a makeshift Syrian camp near the border with Jordan are “increasingly desperate” and “have become a matter of life and death”, United Nations officials warned on Tuesday, after at least eight children died there from extreme cold and a lack of medical care.The development comes as the newly appointed UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pederson, arrived in Damascus, for his first meeting with the Government, since taking over from veteran UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura.In a message on Twitter, the Norwegian diplomat said he was “looking forward to productive meetings” in the Syrian capital, which has been hit by seven years of fighting that has left hundreds of thousands dead.Speaking to journalists in Geneva, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel echoed a warning from UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that children only months old are succumbing to the harsh winter conditions in the Rukban settlement at the south-western border of Syria with Jordan, which last received aid in November.“The United Nations remains seriously concerned about the increasingly desperate conditions for more than 40,000 people staying at the Rukban site” he said. “The majority are women and children, who have been staying at the site for more than two years in harsh conditions with limited humanitarian assistance, access to medical care and other essential services.”Amid security concerns, Jordan closed its border with Syria at Rukban as tens of thousands of Syrians arrived at the camp, fleeing expanded Russian and United States-led coalition air strikes against areas held by Islamic State of Iraq and the levant (ISIL) terrorists in central and eastern Syria.Following the delivery of joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid to Rukban in November, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that “colleagues returned shocked from what they saw on the ground, reporting grave protection issues, increasing food insecurity and no certified medical doctors among the stranded population”.Mr. Lowcock warned then that “without sustained access, the situation of tens of thousands of Syrians – stranded in the harshest desert conditions – will only further deteriorate as the winter cold sets in”.Echoing that message today, Mr. Verhoosel reiterated the call by WFP and the UN “for a second inter-agency convoy with critical assistance to take place as soon as possible”, urging “all parties to ensure safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law”.The plight of those stranded in Rukban dates is not new, but the harsh winter and lack of regular supplies have made the situation much worse, according to UNICEF’s Geert Cappelaere, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.“Needs for assistance in Rukban are beyond urgent,” he said in a statement. “They are extremely acute and have become a matter of life and death.”Mr. Cappelaere stressed: “Once again, UNICEF calls on all sides to urgently facilitate a humanitarian convoy to Rukban, including mobile health clinics, so that lifesaving supplies and services can be delivered.”In eastern Syria, meanwhile, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor Governorate has displaced 10,000 people since December, the UNICEF official warned.“Families seeking safety face difficulties leaving the conflict zone and wait in the cold for days without shelter or basic supplies,” he said. “The dangerous and difficult journey has reportedly killed seven children, most of them under a year old.”According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria “the ongoing fighting in Hajin is taking a heavy toll on civilians”, with those staying having no access to humanitarian aid due to extreme insecurity, and “those leaving undertaking an arduous journey to escape the violence”. In a statement issued on Tuesday, OCHA added that “many of those arriving to Al Hole are extremely exhausted” and called upon all parties to the conflict to take measures to protect civilians.The last time the United Nations had access to Rubkan was in November, where an inter-agency convoy, jointly with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, delivered food, medical and other assistance.-UN NEWS CENTRELeague of Justice Online

January 16, 2019, 1:48 pm

african news

africa

Burundi to change its capital city


The Burundian parliament has voted to move the country’s capital from Bujumbura back to the ancient capital of Gitega.The vote took place on Wednesday and the leader of parliament said the move would take place over three years.The first to move will be the upper house of parliament, the Senate — starting on Friday.President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has to sign off the change, promised in 2007 to move the capital, saying Gitega was geographically more centrally placed in Burundi, AFP reports.Opposition accuse Nkurunziza of attempting a symbolic restoration as Bujumbura is today considered an opposition stronghold where the president spends less and less time.-The East AfricanLeague of Justice Online

January 19, 2019, 1:05 pm
africa

Sudan issues arrest warrants against 38 reporters amid crackdown


Sudan's State Security Prosecution has issued arrest warrants for 38 journalists and activists on charges of "incitement" and spreading "false news", local media reported.According to broadcaster Sudania 24, the state prosecutor's office issued the warrants under articles 66, 69 and 77 of the Criminal Code and Article 17 of the Cybercrime Act.The channel pointed out that the legal articles are related to "incitement, public disturbance, dissemination of false news, disturbing peace and public tranquillity, and distorting the reputation of natural and corporate figures".Activists and journalists inside and outside Sudan rely on social networking sites to spread news of the protests in the country by broadcasting pictures and videos of demonstrations.Those indicted were journalists and electronic activists, including 28 residing outside Sudan. Arrest warrants were issued against them, according to Sudania 24.'Sudan is not the same'The state prosecutor's order comes as Sudan marks one month since protests against the deterioration of living conditions first began on December 19. The rallies expanded to demand the overthrow of the government of President Omar al-Bashir, who has been ruling for nearly 30 years.The country's economic crisis is driven by an acute shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation that has more than doubled the price of food and medicines.According to Sudanese political analyst Osman Merghani, this "movement will be successful in changing the regime.""This can happen through a new political party taking over, or the ruling party side-stepping Bashir and bringing someone in his place," he told Al Jazeera."One thing we can be sure of is that Sudan is not the same Sudan post-December 19," he added.Speaking from Khartoum, Al Jazeera's correspondent Hiba Morgan said this has been the "longest wave of anti-government protests since Sudan gained independence in 1956."It is also "the biggest challenge" to Bashir, who has remained "very defiant", she continued."People are saying that this wave will not end until he steps down, something he said he’s not going to do until elections come next year," Morgan said.However, the president has held several emergency meetings with his cabinet and ruling party, which Morgan said shows just how concerned the government is regarding the ongoing protests.Arrests and deathsOn Friday, protests were renewed in a number of districts in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. The Sudan Doctors' Committee (SDC) announced the death of a demonstrator in the district of Burri, east of Khartoum, from his wounds, raising the death toll to three from Thursday and Friday's demonstrations.According to government statistics, 25 people have been killed, but international rights organisations say the death toll is higher than 40, while at least 1,000 people have been arrested.United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that he was "very worried" about the situation in Sudan."We strongly encourage the government to be very attentive to the respect of human rights," he told reporters in New York.-Al JazeeraLeague of Justice Online

January 19, 2019, 12:11 pm

today in history

January 19, 1983. The New Catholic code expands women's rights in the Church.