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Death of S.Korean dictator leaves brutal legacy unresolved

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November 25, 2021

By Hyonhee Shin and Yeni Seo

SEOUL (Reuters) – The death this week of South Korea’s last military dictator, Chun Doo-hwan, marks the end of a divisive chapter in the country’s modern history but leaves survivors of his regime’s violence no closer to reconciliation or resolution.

Chun died on Tuesday https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/former-south-korean-military-dictator-chun-doo-hwan-dies-90-2021-11-23 at the age of 90.

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Hundreds of people are estimated to have died or gone missing when the South Korean government violently put down the Gwangju uprising by pro-democracy protesters in May 1980, when Chun was the de facto leader of the country after leading a military coup.

Years after the massacre, many details remain unconfirmed, including who gave the orders for troops to open fire on protesters. Many victims remain unidentified.

A lack of contrition and cooperation by former members of the regime, including Chun, has hampered efforts to find the full truth, victims said.

“I’m very worried that a lot of truth will be hidden with Chun Doo-hwan’s death,” said 57-year-old Kim Young-man, who still carries a scar on his head from where a police officer struck him with a baton.

Kim holds out hope that former members of the regime will come forward to shine light on the bloody crackdown, but like many other victims, was disheartened that Chun died without showing significant remorse.

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Months after leaving office in 1988 amid growing calls for democracy, Chun offered a formal apology for abuses during his leadership, including Gwangju.

But later he appeared to walk back some of that contrition, prompting victims to doubt the sincerity of that apology as he embraced a defiant and defensive stance to the end.

“Chun Doo-hwan was not the type of person to apologise,” Kim said. “Yet if he had apologised, I think there would have been a possibility that Gwangju citizens who have been heartbroken for 41 years feel a little better.”

In 1996 Chun was sentenced to death on charges of corruption and treason, but the sentence was reduced to life in prison and later commuted.

More recently he was involved in other legal disputes, including being found guilty in 2020 of defaming a priest who claimed to have witnessed the Gwangju crackdown.

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On Wednesday, a day after Chun’s death, a group of 70 Gwangju survivors, including Kim, filed a lawsuit against the government seeking compensation for emotional damage.

Some victims have received compensation for their loss of work, but other claims for compensation for emotional and psychological trauma faced legal barriers until a Supreme Court ruling in September, said Lee Ki-bong, an official at the May 18 Memorial Foundation who works with the families.

A group of victims rallied on Thursday outside the hospital where Chun’s body was taken, holding signs telling him to “go to hell”. They condemned some of Chun’s former aides who call the uprising a plot inspired by North Korean communists.

In November the main conservative party’s presidential nominee, Yoon Suk-yeol, travelled to Gwangju to apologise after appearing to excuse or praise Chun by saying many people thought the former president “was really good at politics aside from the coup and the events of May 1980.”

Chun will not be given a state funeral, and officials said his treason conviction made him ineligible to be buried in a national cemetery.

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“Upon Chun Doo-hwan’s death, South Korean news appear to be pure emotion, disbelief at how he never apologised,” tweeted Korean-American author Suki Kim.

“It’s an odd thing to want an apology from a ruthless dictator, decades later, as though expecting justice by (a) universe which had allowed that dictator.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Yeni Seo; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Three missionaries released in Haiti following October kidnapping

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December 7, 2021

By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Three missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October have been released, the U.S. State Department and the Ohio-based missionary group that organized the group’s trip to the Caribbean nation said on Monday.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.

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U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday confirmed the release, adding that the United States is continuing to work to secure the release of the others.

Haitian National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said the three were released on Sunday night. He declined to give additional details, citing the security of the remaining hostages.

Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage. The incident has highlighted Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.

Two other ministry group members were released last month.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Susan Heavey and Matthew Lewis)

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Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defence minister

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December 7, 2021

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

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Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

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Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza. 

    Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defence forces and Palestinian armed groups.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague with additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)

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Global finance system partly to blame for inequality – World Bank’s Malpass

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December 7, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass on Monday said fiscal and monetary policies were operating in “uncharted territory” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be contributing to a sharp rise in global inequality and poverty.

Malpass told a roundtable hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the number of people in extreme poverty had increased by over 100 million since the beginning of the pandemic even as global spending has increased to an all-time record.

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Advanced economies have rebounded, while the poorest countries had seen only a weak rebound, or none at all, he said. This was causing “tragic reversals” in median incomes, women’s empowerment and nutrition, he said, and inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, and high energy prices were aggravating these trends.

“Part of the inequality problem is global finance itself and the unequal structure of the stimulus,” Malpass said, noting that prevailing sovereign debt, fiscal and monetary policies were adding to inequality.

Malpass said monetary policy in the advanced economies had long focused on reserve requirement ratios and limited growth in bank reserves to achieve stability in currencies and prices, an approach still used by China.

Other major central banks had switched to a “post-monetarism system” of using very large amounts of excess bank reserves to purchase and hold long-duration bonds and other assets, which he said provided price support for a highly select group of assets.

That approach, he said, excluded small businesses and developing countries, while restraining policy through regulation of liquidity and bank capitalization ratios.

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Fiscal policy was also channeling resources to narrow groups within major borrowers, while leaving others behind, and sovereign debt policies were contributing to inequality.

Malpass repeated his call for greater transparency in debt contracts and a freeze in debt payments for countries with unsustainable debt. He said creditors should move away from collateral and escrow arrangements.

“As one of the largest creditors of developing countries, China’s active participation and strong voice in debt reduction efforts are very much needed and would benefit all participants by encouraging sustainable investment and debt,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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