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Soleimani: US Killing Of Iran’s Top General ‘Unlawful’, Says UN Expert

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The US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani was “unlawful”, the United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings concluded in a report released Tuesday.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, concluded it was an “arbitrary killing” that violated the UN charter.

The US had provided no evidence that an imminent attack against US interest was being planned, she wrote.

The independent rights expert does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it.

Her report on targeted killings through armed drones — around half of which deals with the Soleimani case — is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Thursday.

The United States withdrew from the council in 2018.

US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani in a January 3 drone strike near Baghdad international airport.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago”, Trump said at the time.

Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the drone strike.

“In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing for which, under IHRL (international human rights law), the US is responsible,” Callamard said in her report.

‘No evidence’ imminent attack planned

She said the strike violated the UN Charter, with “insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack,” she wrote.

“No evidence has been provided that General Soleimani specifically was planning an imminent attack against US interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified,” Callamard said.

“No evidence has been provided that a drone strike in a third country was necessary or that the harm caused to that country was proportionate to the harm allegedly averted.

“Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the US was unlawful.”

The killing of Soleimani, who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, provoked massive outpourings of grief in Iran.

Tehran retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq. While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain Al-Asad killed no US soldiers, dozens suffered brain trauma.

Callamard’s report addresses targeted killings through armed drones, in light of the proliferation in drone use and their expanding capability over the last five years.

It makes recommendations designed to regulate their use and enhance accountability.

Callamard said that while incidents like the killing of Soleimani and the September 2019 hit on Saudi Arabia’s oil processing facilities generated strong political reactions, “the vast majority of targeted killings by drones are subjected to little public scrutiny”.

Drone technologies and drone attacks were generating fundamental challenges to international legal standards, she added.

 

(AFP)

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg Becomes World’s Third Centibillionaire

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Facebook’s CEO has joined Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, as the only people with centibillionaire status.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune has topped $100bn for the first time, placing him among members of the world’s centibillionaires’ club.

This comes after Facebook’s shares surged by 6% on the news that the company plans to launch Instagram Reels, a rival to the Chinese video-sharing application TikTok.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump banned US companies from dealing with ByteDance and Tencent – the Chinese owners of TikTok and the WeChat messaging service.

The 36-year old media magnate has joined Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, as the only people who have centibillionaire status, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index said.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook while a student at Harvard in 2004, owns a 13% stake in the company. Earlier, he said that he was going to give away 99% of his Facebook shares over his lifetime to charity.

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Another Canadian Sentenced To Death By Hanging In China

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A court in Southern China on Thursday sentenced a Canadian citizen, Xu Weihong, to death for manufacturing drugs.

This, the court said, was the third such case since relationship between Canada and China soured two years ago over Canada’s detainment of a Huawei Executive.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on its website that it sentenced Weihong to death for manufacturing drugs.

Meanwhile, a Chinese citizen, Wen Guanxiong, was also sentenced to life imprisonment in the same case.

Weihong is the third Canadian to be sentenced to death on drug-related charges in China in the past two years, as relations between Beijing and Ottawa turned icy over Canada’s detainment of Huawei Executive Meng Wanzhou.

Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in December 2018 in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request. She faces accusations of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

However, shortly after her arrest, China detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on accusations of espionage.

Critics say their arrest was done in retaliation for Meng’s detainment, while Beijing says Meng’s case is politically motivated.

In January 2019, Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was serving a 15-year prison sentence in China for drug smuggling, was suddenly retried and given the death penalty.

Also, another Canadian, Fan Wei, received the death penalty for drug trafficking after three months.

Drug convictions in China can attract long prison sentences or even the death sentence for trafficking.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that judicial cases were treated according to the law and that Weihong’s sentencing should not have any impact on China-Canada relations.

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We Will Not Accept US “Theft” Of TikTok — China

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China says it will not accept the U.S.’ “theft” of a Chinese technology company, state media reported on Tuesday.

The Trump administration’s pressuring of ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company in China, to sell its U.S. operations to Microsoft or risk closure amounts to a “smash and grab,” the state-run China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Beijing has ways to retaliate against Washington’s pressure on the Chinese-owned short video app TikTok.

While Beijing will likely be “cautious” in imposing equivalent restrictions on U.S. companies in China, it has “plenty of ways” to retaliate, the paper said.

Microsoft said on Monday that it was in discussions with ByteDance to buy parts of TikTok after U.S. President Donald Trump gave the companies 45 days to reach a deal.

Trump had initially threatened to ban TikTok in the U.S. on national security grounds.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said over the weekend that Washington might take action “shortly” against TikTok and other Chinese companies believed to share data with the Chinese government.

ByteDance said in a statement late Sunday it was still committed to being a global company despite “complex and unimaginable difficulties” including the “tense” international political environment.

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