Cairo, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Amnesty International is urging Sudan's military rulers to hand over longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict.
Amnesty's statement on Friday — just two days before al-Bashir is to go on trial on corruption charges before a Khartoum court — says the former president "has evaded justice for far too long."
The ICC first issued an arrest warrant for him a decade ago.
The statement quotes Amnesty's Joan Nyanyuki as saying that while al-Bashir's trial in Khartoum "is a positive step ... he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people."
Al-Bashir was overthrown in April but Sudan's military rulers have said he would not be extradited to the ICC in The Hague.
Zimbabwe (AP) — Police are clashing with a few hundred anti-government protesters who gathered in central Harare. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd at Africa Unity Square but many protesters moved into nearby streets. The square is engulfed in tear gas. Police are chasing demonstrators and arresting some. One woman was beaten by police and is lying on the street.
Zimbabwe's High Court has upheld the police ban on the opposition demonstration planned for Friday. The court rejected the application from the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, to declare the planned protest action to be legal.
Zimbabwe's police patrolled the streets of the capital, Harare, Friday morning while many residents stayed home and shops were shut fearing violence from an anti-government demonstration.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has launched a legal challenge, urging the courts to declare their protest to be lawful and to dismiss the police ban on their street demonstration, said party spokesman Daniel Molokele.
Police in riot gear and with water cannons maintained a heavy presence in downtown Harare and in residential areas across Harare early Friday morning. Police cordoned off central Africa Unity Square, where the demonstrators had planned to gather. Police and government officials warned that the demonstration would be illegal and protesters would "rot in jail."
To avoid any possible trouble, many residents avoided going out. Many shops were closed and Harare's streets were unusually quiet Friday morning.
The opposition party had planned what it said would be a peaceful protest to press President Emmerson Mnangagwa to set up a transitional authority to address economic problems and organize credible elections. The protests will spread to other cities next week, the opposition said.
Zimbabwe's economic turmoil with inflation at 175%, widespread power cuts lasting up to 19 hours a day and shortages of water are blamed for the rising political tensions. From the hope that swept across the country with the forced resignation of repressive ruler Robert Mugabe in November 2017, the nation has returned to widespread resentment and fear, according to government critics and residents.
Six anti-government activists were abducted and tortured this week ahead of the protests, according to human rights groups.
Zimbabwe's president urged the opposition to engage in dialogue, but at the same time his government pushed parliament to quickly adopt new security legislation criticized as repressive.
To discourage the protests teams of police officers searched vehicles at checkpoints on roads leading into the city. Police said the protests are likely to be violent, and warned people to stay away.
"Do not take part, you will rot in jail," shouted police officers through megaphones on Thursday in downtown Harare and some residential areas.
Mnangagwa, 77, came to power with promises of sweeping political and economic reforms. But now his government is widely viewed as an extension of Mugabe's economic mismanagement and even more heavy-handed on security, according to human rights groups.
In addition to the debilitating shortages of power and water, about a third of Zimbabwe's 15 million people are in dire need of food aid, according to aid agencies.
Amnesty International Thursday accused Mnangagwa's administration of "using some of the brutal tactics seen under the government of Robert Mugabe," said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for southern Africa. "Instead of listening to protestors' concerns about the economy, the authorities have used torture and abduction to crush dissent and instill fear."
Bangkok, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Myanmar and Bangladesh are making a second attempt to start repatriating Rohingya Muslims after more than 700,000 of them fled a security crackdown in Myanmar almost two years ago, Bangladeshi and U.N. officials said Friday.
Caroline Gluck, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told The Associated Press that the Bangladesh government has asked for its help in verifying the 3,450 people who signed up for voluntary repatriation. She said the list was whittled from 22,000 names that Bangladesh had sent to Myanmar for verification.
Bangladesh's Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said the identities of the refugees have been confirmed by Myanmar and now they could go back there if they want.
Speaking in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, he said the government had ordered local officials in Cox's Bazar district to locate those on the list in the four refugee camps there, but their repatriation would only happen if they actually want to return voluntarily.
"We are working as per the list, but I can't tell you if they will go back," he said.
He said Bangladesh was always ready to provide support to any refugees who wish to return home, but also would not use force to make them go back.
Leaders of the Rohingya refugee community in the camps said they had not been consulted on the matter and were unaware of plans for any imminent return.
Myanmar's military in August 2017 launched a counterinsurgency campaign in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The army operation led to the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.
The U.N.-established Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar's top military commanders for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Myanmar has rejected the report and any suggestion its forces did anything wrong.
In July, Myanmar officials went to the camps in Bangladesh to talk to the refugees about their plans and preparations to bring them back, the latest of several similar visits. So far, most refugees appear to distrust the promises and believe it is too dangerous to return.
It is unclear when any repatriation might begin, given the need to find and check all the individuals and the fact that there is a major holiday at the moment in Bangladesh, Gluck said.
It is also possible it may stall, as it did last year.
Bangladesh authorities then had arranged transportation and other facilities to help them return, but the refugees started protesting against the move, saying they would not go back as they did not feel safe. The authorities waited for a whole day to find a refugee who would go back voluntarily but found none. Bangladesh then temporarily suspended the repatriation attempt.
"It's very hard to say whether people will accept voluntary repatriation this time round," Gluck said. "They tell us very clearly we want to go back with .. full rights . They are not willing to go back if nothing on the ground has changed."
The Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations.
Nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Islamabad, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan's military says Indian troops have fired across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region, killing another soldier and bringing the death toll to six in less than 24 hours.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor in a tweet Friday said "another brave son of soil lost his life in the line of duty" in Buttal town.
Pakistan's military and police said Thursday that Indian firing killed two civilians and three soldiers in Pakistan's part of Kashmir, which is split between the nuclear-armed rivals and claimed by both in its entirety.
Tensions have increased between India and Pakistan since New Delhi downgraded the autonomy of the part of Kashmir it controls last week. India also deployed thousands of additional troops to the region and imposed an unprecedented lockdown now in place for a 12th day to try to prevent any outburst of violence after Friday prayers.
India's top court on Friday is scheduled to hear petitions challenging the revoked status and the lockdown, which includes a near-constant curfew and a news blackout. The petitions were filed by an advocate and by the Kashmir Times editor, Anuradha Bhasin.
Jakarta, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — Indonesia's president on Friday appealed for support to move the country's capital from overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta, in an annual national address to mark the 74th anniversary of independence.
President Joko Widodo told members of parliament and top officials on the eve of Independence Day that the capital city is not only a symbol of national identity, but also a representation of its progress.
"I'm asking your blessing and support from all Indonesian people to move our national capital to the island of Borneo," Widodo said. "This is for the realization of equality and economic justice, this is for the vision of forward Indonesia."
Indonesia's decades-long discussion about building a new capital on Borneo island inched forward in April when Widodo approved a plan for the capital to move from Jakarta on Java island, the nation's most populous.
He did not name a new location but a hilly area in East Kalimantan province on Borneo has often been rumored as a possible site.
Prone to flooding and rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled ground water extraction, Jakarta is the archetypical Asian mega-city. It has been creaking under the weight of its dysfunction, causing massive pollution to rivers and contaminating the ground water that supplies the city. Congestion is estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.
Improving inadequate infrastructure in the Southeast Asia's largest economy has been Widodo's signature policy and helped him win a second term in April elections.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Widodo reiterated that he wants to build a new capital, suggesting it should be outside Java, where 57% of the country's nearly 270 million people are concentrated.
"We want to separate the capital, the center of government and Jakarta as a business and economic center," he said, "We don't want all the money existing only in Java. We want it to be outside of Java as well."
Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said a new capital would require an area of 30,000 to 40,000 hectares (about 74,000 to 99,000 acres) and a population of up to 1.5 million.
Jakarta counts 10 million people and swells to three times that number when counting those living in its greater metropolitan area.