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Norway in legal quandary after wind turbines ruled a threat to reindeer herder rights

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November 2, 2021

By Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway faces hard choices over the future of two major wind farms stripped of their licences for jeopardising the way of life of Sami reindeer herders, but it remains unclear whether they should be dismantled, the energy minister said.

While herders in the Fosen region of coastal central Norway have called for the giant machines to be removed and the landscape restored, the owners said they hope to apply for a new licence that would not violate Sami rights.

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“This is a quite complex case both legally and politically,” Minister of Petroleum and Energy Marte Mjoes Persen told Reuters on Tuesday after meeting with lawyers for Sami communities.

“It’s important to emphasise that the government has a responsibility under international law for the legal rights of Sami interests,” she said.

Reindeer herders in the Nordic country argue that the sight and sound of giant wind turbines frighten their animals grazing nearby and thereby jeopardise age-old traditions.

Norway’s supreme court unanimously ruled on Oct. 11 that the construction of the Storheia and Roan wind farms in Fosen had violated the herders’ cultural rights set by international conventions, and that the operating permits were thus invalid.

But the court did not spell out what should happen next to the 151 turbines or to the dozens of kilometres (miles) of roads built to facilitate their construction, and the wind farms therefore remain in operation for the time being.

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Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, is aims to boost its output of renewable energy, such as wind power, in preparing for a transition towards a greener economy.

Persen plans a trip to the Fosen area to meet with herders and is not ruling out any outcome, including dismantling the turbines, part of a wider $1.13 billion development that has become Europe’s largest onshore wind farm.

“That could be one of several solutions…, but there may also be other outcomes,” she said. “We need a thorough process. It’s premature to say that one thing or another will happen.”

Lawyers representing the herders said their clients saw one only possible option: a removal of the turbines.

“We are a little disappointed that (Persen) was not more concrete about what needs to be done to address this breach of human rights that goes on every day,” lawyer Jon-Andreas Lange told Reuters after meeting the minister.

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“At the same time, the minister appears willing to go quickly into this case…, and she promises that international law is (to be) applied in Fosen,” Lange said.

Direct and indirect owners of the wind farms include Germany’s Stadtwerke Muenchen and Swiss BKW, as well as Fosen Vind, Statkraft, TroenderEnergi, Nordic Wind Power, Energy Infrastructure Partners and Roan Vind.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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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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