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Council of Europe opens decisive session on Russia’s membership

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Council of Europe opens decisive session on Russia’s membership

Membership

Russian voting rights in the council’s parliamentary assembly were suspended a half-decade ago when Russia annexed neighbouring Ukraine’s Crimea region.

In retaliation for the suspension, Russia has stopped paying membership fees.

The Russian arrears were estimated at 90 million euros (100 million dollars), the Finnish Foreign Ministry said.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Council of Europe needs to be able to work effectively in future, and he was seeking a solution to avert Russia leaving, adding this was not in the council’s interests.

“Russia belongs to the Council of Europe, with all attendant rights and obligations,” Maas said ahead of the session.

He later met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines and raised topics including Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and Iran, the German Foreign Ministry tweeted.

Lavrov, who made a rare appearance at the council, was due to have other private meetings.

Ukraine’s foreign minister did not attend Friday’s session, spurring media speculation that the council could move to restore Russia’s voting rights.

Finland later Friday passes the rotating chairmanship of the council’s committee of ministers to France.

The council’s secretary general, Norwegian politician Thorbjorn Jagland, has emphasised that it was key that the member states fulfil their obligations.

In the run-up to the meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed the “importance of finding a solution that will enable Russia to remain in the Council of Europe, with all the resulting rights and obligations,” the French Foreign Ministry said this week.

This month marks 70 years since the Council of Europe was established in the wake of World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and rule of law on the continent.

“The ministerial session in Helsinki has a decisive significance for the fate of the Council of Europe,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The session should result in the “adoption of concrete decisions directed at continuing to guide the organisation out of an institutional crisis,’’the Russian side said.

The crisis, it said, was “provoked by the unlawful deprivation of rights of the Russian delegation in the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly.”

Foreign

Lightning kills shepherd, 19 buffaloes in Indonesia 

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Lightning

Police said Sinto Habeyan, 23, was lighting a bonfire in a cattle barn in the Central Tapanuli district late Monday when lightning struck amid heavy rain, the Kompas daily reported.

Habeyan and the 19 buffaloes died immediately, district police chief Sukamat said.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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Sudan forms sovereign council to lead country to civilian rule 

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Formation

The members of the Sovereign Council, made up of six civilians and five Transitional Military Council (TMC) officers will be sworn in Wednesday morning, SUNA said.

A prime minister is expected to be sworn in later in the day.

A spokesman for the TMC announced the names of the members of the council in a televised address late Tuesday.

For the initial 21 months the body will be led by TMC head Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, who took over as Sudanese leader following the overthrow of long-time president Omar al-Bashir in April.

A civilian will take over for the remaining 18 months until 2022, when democratic elections are due.

The council was formed after a power-sharing deal was signed between the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the military on August 17, regulating how power is divided.

The deal gives the pro-democracy movement two-thirds of the seats in Sudan’s Legislative Council and the power to select the prime minister.

The military council will have the power to choose the interior and defence ministers.

For months, there have been massive demonstrations in Sudan.

The protests initially led to the ousting of al-Bashir, who had ruled the country in north-eastern Africa for three decades with an iron fist.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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Victim of Pell assault ‘relieved’ at court’s decision to quash appeal 

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Relief

The judges at the Court of Appeal rejected Pell’s appeal in a majority two-to-one decision and upheld his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-1990s.

“It is four years since I reported to the police. The criminal process has been stressful,” the victim said through his lawyer, Vivian Waller, after the court decision on Wednesday.

“The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from. The justice machine rolls on with all of its processes and punditry, almost forgetting about the people at the heart of the matter.”

In the state of Victoria, where the trial took place, publishing anything that may tend to identify the victims of sexual abuse is prohibited under law.

Pell’s victim was identified as JJ by the sentencing judge. The other victim died in 2014.

JJ said he “felt a responsibility to come forward” after attending the funeral of his childhood friend, the other choirboy, who died of an accidental drug overdose – which has been blamed on the abuse.

“I knew he had been in a dark place. I was in a dark place. I gave a statement to the police because I was thinking of him and his family. I felt I should say what I saw and what happened to me.”

JJ said he did not report to the police for his personal gain.

“I have risked my privacy, my health, my well-being, my family… This is not about money and never has been,” he said, adding he is “not on a mission to do anybody any harm.”

“My journey has not been an easy one. It has been all the more stressful because the case involved a high-profile figure,” said JJ, who recently became a father.

“I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everybody is equal before the law and no one is above the law.”

“I just hope that it is all over now.”

Meanwhile, the father of the late victim said he shed “tears of relief in the courtroom when the judgement was handed down this morning.”

“It’s been an extremely tough wait for our client who has had to deal with the awful thought that maybe the man who destroyed his son’s life could have his conviction overturned,” said Lisa Flynn, the lawyer for the father.

YEE

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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3 children of German Islamic State fighters arrive in Frankfurt

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Militants

It is the first time the German government has brought the children of Islamic State militants home amid a fierce debate about how to handle repatriation of jihadists and their children in the wake of the militant group’s collapse.

The police spokesman said the children’s transport has been overseen by social workers and child protective services, but declined to give further details citing privacy regulations.

Sources told dpa the children included two sisters ages 2 and 4 who had been accompanied to the airport in Erbil by their grandmother, and a boy aged 7 who was also brought to the airport by his grandmother.

According to the German Foreign Ministry, four children including a sick baby were handed over to employees of the German Consulate in Erbil on Monday.

The children had been living in the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol refugee camp near the border with Iraq since the collapse of the Islamic State group.

The police spokesman did not comment on the whereabouts of the baby.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday that the government is working under difficult circumstances to bring more children of Islamic State fighters back to Germany.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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Brazil bars Maduro’s officials entry, alleging rights abuses 

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Abuses

The prohibition concerns officials whose acts have violated principles contained in the Brazilian constitution: democracy, human dignity and human rights, according to the announcement.

The government will prepare a list of the names of the officials in question.

It was not known if the list would be made public.

It was the first time that Brazil adopted unilateral sanctions against another country, according to daily O Globo. Colombia, Argentina, and Peru have adopted similar measures against Maduro, who is facing a campaign by the U.S.-backed opposition to oust him from power.

The president won a second term in an election boycotted by most of the opposition last year, and has presided over an economic meltdown.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in January and won the support of dozens of countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump meanwhile said his administration was maintaining contacts with the Maduro regime on several levels, including a very high level.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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