United Nations, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley says the Trump administration expects to see two Reuters journalists accused by Myanmar's government of illegally possessing official documents acquitted of all charges next week.
A Myanmar judge postponed the verdict in the case of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone on Monday, saying it will be announced on Sept. 3.
The two reporters have pleaded not guilty to violating Myanmar's colonial-era Official Secrets Act. They contend they were framed by police while reporting on Myanmar's brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.
Haley told the Security Council Tuesday that "a free and responsible press is critical for any democracy."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed, without mentioning names, that "we must also continue to press for the release of journalists who have been reporting on this human tragedy."
Mexico City, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — About 300 sea turtles have died on Mexico's southern Pacific coast after they were trapped in an abandoned illegal fishing net.
The office for environmental protection says the Olive Ridley turtles drowned after getting caught in the net.
The office said in a statement Tuesday that the endangered turtles were badly decomposed when found in the water near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. They had been dead for about eight days when local residents reported them.
They had been trapped in a 393-foot (120-meter) long net that is not approved for fishing.
The turtles were buried on the beach, and officials are investigating who set the net.
Sao Paulo, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Brazilian President Michel Temer announced Tuesday that he'll deploy the military to restore order in a state at the heart of the Venezuelan migrant crisis, as new data showed a surge in killings that meant the state now has the highest homicide rate in the country.
Between January and June, there were 27.7 homicides for every 100,000 people in Roraima, a poor state in northern Brazil on the border with Venezuela, data from the Violence Monitor showed. Rio Grande do Norte, with 27.1 killings per 100,000, had the second-highest rate, followed by Ceara and Acre, both with 26.
In the past three years, Roraima, like many Brazilian states, has been the scene of an intense battle between criminal organizations for territory and influence. During the same period, it has also been the major entry point into Brazil for Venezuelans fleeing political and economic turmoil in their homeland. Both have put pressure on the state's institutions and contributed to a feeling of instability.
"What we see is that there is a clear feeling of the fragility of local institutions to deal with the fear of people, who are starting to think the state has no rule of law," said Bruno Paes Manso, a researcher with the Center for Violence Studies at the University of Sao Paulo. The center participated in putting together the Violence Monitor.
"This leads people to defend themselves ... you have this perception: people are arriving from every corner, crime dominates, and homicides multiply in these contexts," he said.
Despite the well-known pressure on Roraima, Manso said the spike was surprising. The rate for all of last year was 25.1 per 100,000 - and Roraima wasn't in the top 10. In 2016, it had the third-lowest homicide rate in the country.
Brazil has long been the world leader in overall homicides. The monitor registered more than 26,100 killings in Brazil in the first six months of the year - which could be an indication that the number of killings could fall in 2018 after a particularly bloody 2017. This year's data, however, does not include complete figures from three states.
The data was compiled and analyzed by the G1 news portal, the Brazilian Forum on Public Security and the Center for Violence Studies, and includes murders, deaths during robberies, and assaults that resulted in deaths.
In a brief televised address Tuesday night, Temer announced that he signed a decree to send in the armed forces to restore order and security in Roraima. The federal government had already decided to deploy members of an elite military-style police force after residents of a border town attacked Venezuelans and burned their belongings earlier this month.
The decree authorizes the deployment starting Wednesday and lasting until Sept. 12. It could be extended. Temer did not say how many troops he would send.
The government of Roraima welcomed the decree but said it wasn't enough. In a statement, the state said it was still seeking $45 million in compensation for spending on health, education and security as a result of the crisis, a field hospital to relieve pressure on health services, more ambulances and police cars and a larger deployment of an elite military-style police force.
Poor and isolated, Roraima has struggled to deal with the influx from Venezuela, where the collapse of institutions and an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression has driven 2.3 million people to flee, according to U.N. estimates. Tens of thousands have come to Brazil, largely to Roraima. Many are living on the streets of the state's cities and towns, and the influx has been linked to a measles outbreak in Brazil, with 300 cases in Roraima.
"Brazil is not confronting a migratory crisis. Roraima is confronting a migratory crisis," the state's governor, Suely Campos, wrote in an op-ed in the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper this past weekend.
The federal government in "Brasilia's disregard for the largest humanitarian crisis in the Americas, in coordination with its allies in the state, is criminal," she wrote.
Contacted by The Associated Press, the office the chief of staff of the president didn't respond directly to Campos' criticisms, but said that the federal government has provided Roraima with nearly $100 million since the beginning of the crisis. Campos, in her op-ed, accused the government of announcing resources in the press that the state never received.
The federal government has also relocated about 1,000 migrants.
Geneva, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — U.N. human rights experts said Tuesday the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may have been responsible for war crimes since Yemen's conflict intensified 3½ years ago, including rape, torture, arbitrary detention and use of child soldiers.
Their report — the first since being mandated to investigate by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council nearly a year ago — is increasing international pressure on the Saudis' Western-backed coalition that already has been widely condemned for devastating airstrikes on civilians as well as combatants.
The U.N. panel also pointed to possible war crimes by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels who have been fighting the coalition that gets support from the U.S., Britain and France.
In one of the first reactions to the report, a Saudi diplomat told The Associated Press that the findings were "not accurate."
In 2015, Saudi Arabia announced it would lead a coalition of countries against the Houthi rebels who had ousted Yemen's internationally recognized government.
In the years since then, the U.N. says the conflict has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people in desperate need in what is already the Arab world's poorest country. The experts documented 6,475 deaths from March 2015 until last June, but said the real figure is likely to be significantly higher. Other groups have estimated that more than 10,000 have been killed — excluding over 2,300 cholera deaths since April 2017 amid pitiful water supplies.
"Despite the severity of the situation, we continue to witness a total disregard of the suffering of the people of Yemen," said one of the experts, British human rights lawyer Charles Garraway. "This crisis has reached its peak, with no apparent sight of light at the end of the tunnel."
"It is indeed a forgotten crisis," he added.
The report said the experts from Britain, Tunisia and Australia have "reasonable grounds to believe that the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations."
Among the violations were unlawful "deprivation of the right to life," arbitrary detention, rape, torture, enforced disappearances and child recruitment, the report said, adding that the Houthis were to blame for many of the same abuses.
Much of the onus fell on Saudi Arabia, criticized for airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties. One airstrike struck a bus near a market in Saada province, a Houthi stronghold, in northern Yemen on Aug. 9, killing more than 50 people, including 40 children, and wounding dozens.
Nearly a dozen deadly airstrikes the experts investigated in the last year "raise serious questions about the targeting process applied by the coalition," the report said. It chastised some in-the-field coalition fighters for "routinely" failing to seek information about targets on official "no-strike" lists that should have been avoided.
At a Pentagon news conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. intends to continue backing the coalition despite civilian casualties and questions about the Saudis' commitment to avoiding killing innocents.
He defended U.S. support for the coalition, saying American influence on the Arab air campaign has made a difference in reducing instances of errant bombing and the targeting of civilians.
He noted, however, that U.S. support is conditioned on a Saudi commitment to doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid any loss of innocent life and Riyadh supporting a U.N.-brokered peace process to end the civil war. The U.S. provides the coalition with intelligence, aerial refueling and military advice, but U.S. forces are not directly involved in the airstrikes or other fighting.
The experts' report urged the international community to "refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict"— an apparent reference to Western countries that have sold sophisticated weapons systems to the Gulf states. It also was an apparent reference to Saudi nemesis Iran, which the coalition has accused of arming the Houthis.
They sharply criticized work by the coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which was set up as a bulwark against possible rights violations. They questioned the JIAT's explanations for the airstrikes that have killed civilians, and challenged its "independence and its ability to carry out impartial investigations."
The experts began their investigation following a rights council resolution in September 2017 — with the assent of the Saudis themselves. The Saudis repeatedly had resisted earlier diplomatic efforts to organize a more-intrusive investigation of possible crimes and rights abuses in Yemen, and criticized the experts' findings.
The experts said they drew up a "confidential list" of people suspected of committing international crimes and are giving it to the office of the U.N. human rights chief. They declined to specify the number or say whether they were on rebel or government sides.
The AP reported last year that the UAE and its allied militias were running a network of secret detention facilities, beyond Yemeni government control. In June, the AP reported hundreds of detainees had been subjected to sexual abuse and torture.
The Shiite rebels control some of Yemen's most populated western and northern areas, and human rights advocates have faulted them for planting land mines and targeting religious minorities and imprisoned opponents.
Abdulaziz al-Alwasil, the Saudi ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the AP that the report was "not accurate" and overlooked the bigger picture of an armed Houthi militia illegally seizing territory from an internationally recognized government and at times firing missiles in Saudi Arabia.
"It (the report) is surprising for us because it doesn't reflect the reality," he said. "We genuinely want to improve the situation in Yemen: We are spending money there, our people are getting killed there. And Yemen is not a wealthy state . it's just our neighbor. And we think it is our responsibility to make sure that this country is not used to attack the neighboring countries."
Al-Alwasil insisted the coalition regularly reviewed its operations and would do so "with or without" the report.
"I don't think it's going to have a major impact in the way that we review our procedures or the way we conduct our military operations," he said.
In his response to the report, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that his country "must review it, answer its merits and review what it says about the horrors of the Houthis."
The U.N. refugee agency, meanwhile, said more than 450 civilians were killed in Yemen in the first nine days of August, making it one of the deadliest periods since the start of the war. Since June, the coalition has waged an offensive to clear the port city of Hodeida — pivotal for the entry of humanitarian aid — of the Houthis and restore government control.
Washington, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — The United States is ready for talks with North Korea when it's clear it will follow through on its commitment to denuclearize, the State Department said Tuesday after a planned visit to Pyongyang by top diplomat Mike Pompeo was shelved.
On Friday, President Donald Trump directed Pompeo to delay his trip, which had been slated for early this week, citing insufficient progress on getting the authoritarian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons, as agreed upon with leader Kim Jong Un in June.
Pompeo's spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to comment on reports that a tough-worded letter from an aide to Kim had derailed what would have been Pompeo's fourth visit to North Korea this year.
Nauert said the president and his national security team, including Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, had judged that "now is not the right time to travel." However, she said diplomatic efforts are "ongoing" though she could not say whether there had been communications between the State Department and North Korea since Friday.
She cited a statement from Pompeo that despite the decision to delay the trip, "America stands ready to engage when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit with President Trump to completely denuclearize North Korea."
"The world is united behind the need for Chairman Kim to fulfill that commitment," Nauert said.
Trump, who views the reduction in tensions with North Korea this year as a major foreign policy achievement, still voiced respect for Kim on Friday and said he looked forward to seeing him "soon." He laid unspecified blame on China, North Korea's leading trade partner, for the lack of progress. China is currently embroiled in a trade dispute with the U.S.
But Trump's tweet marked a shift in his relentlessly upbeat messaging since the Singapore summit, the first ever held between leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. There is growing skepticism in Washington and beyond that Kim intends to denuclearize without first winning concessions such as sanctions relief or a declaration on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. might carry out military exercises with South Korea next spring after having cancelled a major exercise this year as a gesture toward advancing diplomacy aimed at eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons. Mattis said no decision has been made on when to resume military exercises, but his statements suggested the recent cancellation might not be repeated.