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Sudanese set for nationwide protests against military coup

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October 29, 2021

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Opponents of a military coup in Sudan have called for nationwide protests on Saturday to demand the restoration of a civilian-led government to put the country back on a path to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule.

    Thousands of Sudanese have already taken to the streets this week against the coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who dissolved Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s cabinet in a coup that has led Western states to freeze hundreds of millions in aid.

    With at least 11 protesters killed in clashes with security forces this week, opponents of the junta fear a full-blown crackdown and more bloodshed.

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    “The army should go back to its barracks and give the leadership to Hamdok,” said an activist who gave his name as Mohamed, who plans to protest. “Our demand is a civilian country, a democratic country, nothing less than that.”

    The United States, which is calling for the restoration of the civilian-led government, said how the army reacts on Saturday will be a test of its intentions.

    “We call on the security forces to refrain from any and all violence against protesters and to fully respect the citizens’ right to demonstrate peacefully,” said a senior State Department official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity.

    With internet and phone lines restricted by the authorities, opponents of the coup have sought to mobilise for the protest using fliers, SMS messages, graffiti, and neighbourhood rallies.

    Neighbourhood-based resistance committees, active since the uprising against deposed President Omar al-Bashir that began in December 2018, have been central to organising despite the arrests of key politicians.

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    Bashir, who ran Sudan for nearly three decades, was deposed by the army following months of protests against his rule. 

(For a timeline, please see) 

    Khartoum committee activist Hussam Ibnauf said the protest date had been well-advertised and he was confident of a big turnout.

“Everyone on the street … they know about October 30. If they know, the rest is easy,” he said.

There was now “no fear factor”, he said.

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    NO DEBT RELIEF

    Burhan has said he removed the cabinet to avert civil war after civilian politicians stoked hostility to the armed forces.

    He says he is still committed to a democratic transition, including elections in July 2023.

    Hamdok, an economist, was initially held at Burhan’s residence when soldiers rounded up the government on Monday, but was allowed to return home under guard on Tuesday.

    The U.S. State Department official said he was, however, still under house arrest and unable to resume his work.

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    The U.S. official said tens of billions of dollars of debt relief sought by Sudan would not happen as long as the army was attempting to direct Sudan unilaterally. The United States and the World Bank have already frozen assistance to Sudan, where an economic crisis has seen shortages of basic goods including food and medicine and where nearly a third of the population are in need of urgent humanitarian support.

    Several mediation efforts have emerged but there has been no sign of progress towards a compromise.

    Western states are not looking to engage with the military or mediate any negotiation until detainees are released and the army shows commitment to power-sharing as set out in a transitional constitutional declaration, a Western diplomat said.

    Many Sudanese opponents of the coup oppose a compromise with an army of which they are deeply mistrustful following several coups since independence in 1956.

    Friction had been mounting between the civilian government and the army leading up to the latest takeover. One point of tension had been the pursuit of justice for alleged atrocities in Darfur in the 2000s, with the International Criminal Court asking Sudan to hand over Bashir.

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    “All those who accept or participate in dialogue with the military do not have the street’s support,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said in a statement, demanding full handover of power to civilians.

    Magdi El Gizouli, a political analyst, said Burhan’s calculation is that he can suppress the opposition by force if needed, while counting on the backing of people who crave stability.

    While it was important the army avoid violence on Saturday, Burhan’s opponents must make realistic demands, he added.

Amnesty International said the Sudanese authorities must stop the security forces from using unnecessary force.

    “Sudan’s military leaders … must make no mistake about it: the world is watching and will not tolerate further bloodshed,” Amnesty said in a statement.

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(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo; Writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Tom Perry and Sonya Hepinstall)

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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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