Modified text for Durban antiracism conference welcomed by UN rights chief

17 April 2009The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today congratulated nations for agreeing on the text of a draft outcome to be adopted at next week’s anti-racism gathering in Geneva, stressing that the process under way will help millions of people suffering from intolerance worldwide. Navi Pillay said that the 16-page document, agreed on by the Preparatory Committee this afternoon, will have an “easy passage” through the Durban Review Conference because it was so “well-deliberated” by States.“It has not been an easy process, but it is excellent that delegates have agreed on the key issues,” she said. “This process is very important for the sake of all the millions of people who suffer from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance every day, of every week, in every part of the world.”The High Commissioner hailed the spirit of consensus that lead to agreement on the document, commending States’ commitment to “move forward together to tackle the scourge of racism.”The five-day Review Conference, opening on 20 April, seeks to assess progress and implementation thus far of the landmark Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) agreed on by States eight years ago.As of this morning, nearly 4,000 people had registered to participate in the gathering, including more than 100 heads of delegation from Member States and over 2,500 representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).“The commitments made by governments in 2001 were forceful and ground-breaking, but there is still much to be done in implementing them,” Ms. Pillay said. “The aim of next week’s conference is to reinvigorate implementation of those wide-ranging commitments so that we can eliminate discriminatory practices and intolerance.”Acknowledging that it is only normal that opinions differ in a diverse world, she voiced hope that by the end of the gathering, which will also be attended by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a clear message will be sent out that “we are, indeed, united against racism.” read more

Top officials converge at UN to tackle global economic crisis

“At this critical moment, we must all join our efforts to prevent the global crisis, with its myriad faces, from turning into a social, environmental and humanitarian tragedy,” General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto said at the start of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development.He called for a solution to the current turmoil that will not leave “the vast majority of humanity to their fate,” exhorting the representatives from nearly 150 Member States expected to address the three-day gathering to “take decisions that affect us all collectively to the greatest extent possible.”For his part, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored that the current crisis is “not a cause for any one person, nation or group of nations. It is a challenge for us all.”Despite signs of financial stabilization and growth in some pockets of the world, he said that “the real impact of the crisis could stretch for years.”A multi-pronged approach is needed to stem the catastrophe, Mr. Ban said, that incorporates boosting access to education, promoting ‘green’ growth, helping subsistence farmers and increasing resources to fight diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis.“The world institutions created generations ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective,” he pointed out, voicing regret that reforming financial institutions has divided Member States.The crisis has revealed the need for a “renewed multilateralism,” he said, adding that “challenges are linked. Our solutions must be, too.”The event will also feature several roundtable discussions on topics including the role of the UN in responding to the crisis and how to mitigate the impact of the downturn on development, featuring, among others, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.Earlier this year, an expert panel appointed by Mr. D’Escoto and chaired by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz emphasized that international finance structures must be drastically overhauled in the face of the current global economic crisis, calling on wealthier nations to direct one per cent of their economic stimulus packages to help developing countries address poverty.A coordinated approach – bringing together not just the G-8 or even G-20 nations, but the “G-192” representing all members of the Assembly – is needed to pull the world out of the recession, according to the recommendations of the Commission of Experts on Reforms of International Finance and Economic Structures.The experts also called for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to increase the availability of funds for hard-hit nations. 24 June 2009As high-level delegates from around the globe gathered in New York today to discuss how to address the economic meltdown while taking the interests of all nations into account, top United Nations officials issued urgent calls for action to ease the burden on the world’s poorest. read more

Moroccan Jews the focus of UN event marking legacy of Holocaust survivors

28 January 2010Morocco’s tolerance of Jews and its resistance to anti-Semitic policies during World War II were spotlighted today as part of a series of events being held at the United Nations to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. The North African nation resisted French colonial policies during World War II, refusing to exclude Jews from public functions and not making them wear the yellow Star of David, as had been decreed by the Vichy regime in German-occupied France.Efforts to whitewash the Holocaust are “a wound to the collective memory, which we know is engraved in one of the most painful chapters in the collective history of mankind,” King Mohammed VI said in a message to a briefing today at UN Headquarters in New York, delivered on his behalf by Peter Geffen, an educator.Morocco’s experience with Jews provides important lessons for the present, especially the conflict in the Middle East, the King stressed. Exclusion, he said, still exists even when steps are made to spur dialogue among the world’s civilizations, cultures and religions.Remembering the Holocaust “strongly imposes ethical, moral and political standards which will, tomorrow, be the true guarantors of this peace – based on equally-shared justice and dignity – and for which most Palestinians and Israelis yearn,” he underscored.Serge Berdugo, Ambassador at Large for Morocco, recounted a story at the event of his father, a leader of a Jewish community in the country during World War II, who received the solemn vow of the country’s monarch that no harm would come to Jews which did not “affect first my family and myself.”The king at the time did his utmost to slow down the record-taking demanded by French authorities of the assets held by Jews, and called for the destruction of all documents when the United States landed on Moroccan shores in November 1942.Also addressing today’s briefing – which was organized by the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Relations Cluster in the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI) – was Andre Azoulay, Counsellor to the King.Estimates vary but about 6 million Jews are thought to have been killed in the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis, as well as countless numbers of Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists and political dissidents.The legacy of the Holocaust’s survivors “carry a crucial message for all of us,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday in a video message commemorating the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.“A message about the triumph of the human spirit. A living testament that tyranny, though it may rise, will surely not prevail,” he said.The UN has observed the Day on 27 January since the General Assembly made the designation in 2005. Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary to the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and most notorious of all of the camps.The UN has marked this year’s Day through exhibits, panel discussions and a film screening.Hundreds of people attended a memorial ceremony and concert at the General Assembly Hall in New York last night, with the Nürnberg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bayreuth Zamir Choir and the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir, under the baton of Maestro Isaak Tavior, performing a range of works, including pieces by Beethoven and Brahms. The event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Germany.Holocaust remembrance events are also being held this week by the UN at its offices in Geneva and Vienna and across its global network of information centres, including in Bucharest and Bogotá. For the first time, observances were held in Myanmar and Namibia. read more

UN extols Sudanese peace pact partners on forming a new Government

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today congratulated the partners to the 2005 peace accord that ended the country’s north-south civil war on the formation of a new Government.In a press statement, UNMIS voiced hope that the new Sudanese Government “will persevere in its resolve for achieving a stable and durable peace.”It called for the “credible referenda” to be carried out in southern Sudan and Abyei, slated for early next year, which are meant to be the final phase of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended 20 years of fighting between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) separatists in the south and the national Government in the north.The referenda include a vote on whether the south of the vast country should secede from Sudan.The mission today also underlined the need for “realizing the popular consultations” in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.The new Government, UNMIS said, “shoulders the historic responsibility of implementing the CPA during the final year of the Interim Period.”The mission repeated its commitment to the full implementation of the CPA and underlined its readiness to help the parties during the “coming crucial period for the people of Sudan.”The formation of the new Government comes two months after the holding of historic presidential and parliamentary elections, the first of their kind in Sudan in 24 years.On Monday, the top UN envoy to Sudan told the Security Council that the international community must take a more active role in promoting democracy after the elections, particularly ahead of next year’s referenda, and also focus on stabilizing the increasingly violent Darfur region.“Sudan needs to be encouraged and assisted to expand the democratic space opened by the recent elections and establish a broad-based system of national governance that leads to a more equitable society and durable peace,” Haile Menkerios, head of UNMIS, told the 15-member UN body.In late April, the Council extended the mandate of UNMIS for another year, stressing the need to wrap up all remaining tasks under the CPA. 16 June 2010The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today congratulated the partners to the 2005 peace accord that ended the country’s north-south civil war on the formation of a new Government. read more

Ban strongly condemns terror attacks on worshippers in Pakistan

“The Secretary-General is dismayed by the indiscriminate killing of civilians in a place of worship, which no cause can justify,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.Mr. Ban extended his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Pakistan. 5 November 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned today’s terrorist attacks on two mosques in north-western Pakistan, which reportedly left more than 70 people dead, including a number of children. read more

Solitary confinement should be banned in most cases UN expert says

18 October 2011A United Nations expert on torture today called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, with an absolute prohibition in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities. “Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez told the General Assembly’s third committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs, saying the practice could amount to torture.“Solitary confinement is a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system,” he stressed in presenting his first interim report on the practice, calling it global in nature and subject to widespread abuse.Indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 days should also be subject to an absolute prohibition, he added, citing scientific studies that have established that some lasting mental damage is caused after a few days of social isolation.“Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles,” he warned.The practice should be used only in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, he stressed. “In the exceptional circumstances in which its use is legitimate, procedural safeguards must be followed. I urge States to apply a set of guiding principles when using solitary confinement,” he said.He told a later news conference these circumstances could include the protection of inmates in cases where they are gay, lesbian or bisexual or otherwise threatened by prison gangs.There is no universal definition for solitary confinement since the degree of social isolation varies with different practices, but Mr. Méndez defined it as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day. In his report he noted that in the United States an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 individuals are being held in isolation, while in Argentina a prevention of violent behaviour programme consists of isolation for at least nine months and, according to prison monitors, is frequently extended.He warned of an increased risk of torture in these cases because of the absence of witnesses and said some detainees have been held in solitary confinement facilities for years, without any charge and without trial, as well as in secret detention centres.Mr. Méndez told the news conference that he had been following the case of US soldier Bradley Manning, detained in connection with his alleged leaking of secret cables to the WikiLeaks website. Mr. Manning was held in solitary confinement for eight months but has now been moved and is no longer subject to the same restrictions, he noted, adding that he would release a report on the issue in a few weeks. Examples he cited in his report from around the world included Kazakhstan where solitary confinement can last for more than two months, and the US terrorist detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, where experts found that although 30 days of isolation was the maximum period permissible, some detainees were returned to isolation after very short breaks over a period of up to 18 months.Elsewhere, two prisoners are reported to have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana, US, for 40 years after attempts for a judicial appeal of their conditions failed, he noted. In China an individual sentenced for “unlawfully supplying State secrets or intelligence to entities outside China” was allegedly held in solitary confinement for two years of her eight-year sentence.“Social isolation is one of the harmful elements of solitary confinement and its main objective. It reduces meaningful social contact to an absolute minimum,” Mr. Méndez told the committee, noting that a significant number of individuals will experience serious health problems regardless of specific conditions of time, place, and pre-existing personal factors.He called for an end to solitary confinement in pre-trial detention based solely on the seriousness of the alleged offence, as well as a complete ban on its use for juveniles and persons with mental disabilities.Solitary confinement for shorter terms or for legitimate disciplinary reasons can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases where the physical conditions of prisons, such as sanitation and access to food and water, violate the inherent dignity of the human person and cause severe mental and physical pain or suffering.Today’s news conference also heard from Claudio Grossman, chair of the UN Committee against Torture, and Malcolm Evans, chair of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. read more

Canadian dollar falls as traders look ahead to Bank of Canada interest

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar was lower Monday amid generally quiet trading as U.S. markets were closed for the Memorial Day holiday and traders looked ahead to the Bank of Canada’s next announcement on interest rates.The loonie dropped 0.11 of a cent to 96.78 cents US.The Bank of Canada makes its next announcement Wednesday, the last such word on rates from outgoing central bank governor Mark Carney.“Carney’s last interest rate decision won’t have any fireworks with no move on rates and likely no change in the final lines of the statement that allude to a period on hold, followed at some point by a hike,” said CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld in a commentary.On commodity markets, oil prices continued to be squeezed after a survey on China’s monthly manufacturing pace released last week showed a bigger-than-expected decline. The July crude contract was down 58 cents at US$93.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.The June bullion contract gained $6 to US$1,392.60 an ounce while July copper added a penny to US$3.30 a pound.Canadian Press read more

Plains Midstream says construction equipment may have caused latest Alberta pipeline leak

MANNING, Alta. — The owner an Alberta pipeline says a recent spill may have been the result of construction equipment that was in the area.Plains Midstream Canada says in a news release that early indications suggest the Kemp line in northwestern Alberta suffered “external damage” before releasing condensates from natural gas production late last week.The company has said preliminary estimates suggest approximately 950 barrels were released over an area about 1.5 hectares.It says more than 60 people are working to clean up the spill.The news release doesn’t specify what the construction equipment was doing near the pipeline or whether it was associated with the pipeline’s operation or maintenance, and no one from the company could be immediately reached to elaborate.The Plains Midstream news release says it has conducted an assessment that has found no effect to wildlife.“We regret this incident and are working around the clock to limit the impact of the release,” said Stephen Bart, the company’s vice president of crude oil operations, in an earlier news release.“Industry-leading technical experts and regulatory bodies are engaged onsite in our response efforts and to ensure an effective cleanup.”Cara Tobin, a spokesperson for Alberta’s energy regulator, said the regulator’s staff have been at the scene of the spill since the company detected and reported it on Friday.Tobin said the spill was in a remote location and was detected by electronic sensors within the pipeline itself. She said it wasn’t near any flowing water and hadn’t reached any rivers.“There’s no public impact although there are First Nations in the area. The company has attempted to contact them,” Tobin said Sunday, although she didn’t know if those efforts had been successful.The leak follows another Alberta pipeline spill in recent weeks that saw 9.5 million litres of industrial waste water flow into a wetland near the community of Zama City.Aboriginals in the area have said all vegetation in the spill area, from grass to trees, is dead but a spokesman from the pipeline’s owner, Apache Canada, said 99 per cent of the fluid was water and that wildlife doesn’t seem to have been affected.Apache is still investigating the cause of the leak.Earlier this year, Plains Midstream was charged under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act following an April 2011 pipeline breach northeast of Peace River. The breach spilled 4.5 million litres of oil and was blamed for powerful smells in the community of Little Buffalo that residents said caused headaches and stomach problems and kept schoolchildren at home for days.That case is scheduled to be in provincial court in Peace River on Monday.Another Plains Midstream breach in June 2012 leaked up to 475,000 litres of oil into the Red Deer River near Sundre in central Alberta.Greenpeace Canada said the most recent spill near Manning makes it obvious the government and its energy regulator are failing.“We need a truly independent system so that protecting industries image so the government can push more tar sands pipelines doesn’t continue to be more important than protecting the public good,” spokesman Mike Hudema said in a news release.Plains Midstream Canada says the Kemp pipeline remains shut and that sections of it are being removed and will be inspected by a third-party firm. read more

TSX Wall Street climb as ECB surprises with rate cut new stimulus

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was slightly higher Thursday, as the European Central Bank announced it’s cutting its key interest rate and putting in place a new stimulus program to help rescue Europe’s weak economic recovery.The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 4.02 points to 15,661.65. The Canadian dollar rose 0.43 of a cent to 92.27 cents US, also finding support in the ECB announcement.The Dow Jones industrials gained 48.37 points to 17,126.65, while the Nasdaq jumped 15.58 points to 4,588.14. The S&P 500 index saw an uptick of 4.83 points to 2,005.55.The European Central Bank trimmed its benchmark interest rate to a low of 0.05% from a previous record low of 0.15%. ECB President Mario Draghi says the bank will start buying asset-backed securities and covered bonds in October.The efforts aim to make credit cheaper at a time when concerns continue to grow that the economy of the 18-country eurozone might go into reverse. It did not grow in the second quarter, raising fears of a triple-dip recession.Although it was a surprise move, the measures fall short of some expectations that an ECB stimulus program would have involved the purchase of government bonds, similar to what the U.S. Federal Reserve has done.The ECB also cut its growth forecast for 2014 to 0.9% from 1.0% previously. It lowered its inflation forecast for the year to 0.6% from 0.7%.On Wednesday, the Bank of Canada kept its key rate unchanged at one%, where it has been since September 2010, and showed no indication that it will hike rates until next year.In economic news, Statistics Canada reported higher-than-anticipated trade surplus. The agency reported that Canada’s merchandise exports grew by 1.4% in July, while imports edged down 0.3%.This raised the country’s trade surplus with the world to $2.6 billion from $1.8 billion in June. Economists had expected a surplus of about $1.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. In the U.S, the Labor Department says slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but the total number of people receiving jobless aid remains at its lowest level in more than seven years.Applications for jobless aid rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to a still-low 299,750. A steady decline over the summer in applications means that 2.46 million people collected benefits last week, the lowest total since June 2007, a few months before the Great Recession began.U.S. figures for August will be released on Friday, as well as the latest Canadian jobs data.On the corporate front, Manulife Financial Corp. announced after markets closed on Wednesday that it’s buying the Canadian operations of Standard Life for $4 billion in cash. Manulife said the acquisition will boost its presence in Quebec, which it has underserved in the past. Its shares dipped more than one%, or 24 cents, to $22.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.Meanwhile, in commodities, the December crude contract was down 41 cents to US$95.13 a barrel, while December bullion was up $2.70 to US$1,273  an ounce. December copper was jumped four cents to $3.15. read more

Financial market highlights on Tuesday SPTSX 1514341 up 10311 points

Highlights at the close Tuesday at world financial market trading.Stocks:S&P/TSX Composite Index — 15,143.41, up 103.11 pointsDow — 22,118.86, up 61.49 points (record high)S&P 500– 2,496.48, up 8.37 points (record high)Nasdaq — 6,454.28, up 22.02 points (record high)Currencies:Cdn — 82.24 cents US, down 0.21 of a centPound — C$1.6140, up 1.52 centsEuro — C$1.4538, up 0.17 of a centEuro — US$1.1957, down 0.16 of a centOil futures:US$48.23, up 16 cents(October contract)Gold futures:US$1,332.70 per oz., down $3.00(December contract)Canadian Fine Silver Handy and Harman:$22.610 per oz., down 6.9 cents$726.91 per kg., down $2.22 read more

French Embassy not happy

The cinema part of the Festival comprised screening, in the premises of the BMICH, of Sri Lankan and French films selected by the Embassy. The Embassy said that the film “Flying Fish” had been chosen to be screened at the film festival, due to its international recognition in festivals in Asia and in France. “The Embassy of France regrets this unfortunate incident and the embarrassment for the general public and for the French Spring partners and sponsors,” the French Embassy in Colombo said.The Embassy said that the aim of the Spring Festival Cultural Festival is to strengthen the friendly relations between France and Sri Lanka and in no way to harm any part of the Sri Lankan diverse society. The Embassy received from the Public Performances Board the certifications authorising the screening of all these movies. The conditions put to the screening of “Flying Fish”, such as its one time only presentation to a selected invited audience without children have been respected.The Embassy of France had however been informed yesterday by the Board of Management of the SWRD Bandaranaike National Memorial Foundation of its decision to suspend the French Film Festival on “account of the contents of and the sentiments contained in the Sinhala Film “Flying Fish”. The Embassy of France in Colombo says it regrets the unfortunate incident and the embarrassment for the general public and for the French Spring partners and sponsors after the local authorities had ordered the suspension of the French Film Festival.The French Film Festival had been organised by the Embassy of France between June 18th and July 14th, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Arts, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall and many others partners and sponsors. The Festival provided opportunities for artists from the two countries to perform on a common stage and/or to share mutual experiences. In its framework, a dozen events have been presented in various artistic fields such as music, songs, dance, fashion, photography, books and gastronomy. read more

Body washed ashore in Lanka is of a taxi driver

The Trincomnalee Harbor police had taken charge of the body, and sent it to the Trincomalee government hospital morgue. An Indian High Commission official told Express on Monday that a message has been sent to the relevant authorities in Chennai seeking further information on the matter. The body washed ashore at Nilveli near Trincomalee has been identified as a Chennai taxi driver, the New Indian Express reported.The body, discovered by local fishermen on Sunday, had an Identity Card of N.Poomi Durai, member of the Chennai Central Call Taxi Association (registration number: 161/2003). His address is given as No: 13/15 N.G.O.Colony, Kamaraj Nagar, Chooli Madu, Chennai: 96. ID No: 25, DL No: 9418, Badge No: 96731. This body was discovered after Trincomalee fishermen reported to the Harbor Police on Sunday that six bodies were floating 20 nautical miles off the coast. The Sri Lankan Navy then sent two Dvora gunboats to recover the bodies, but the mission was unsuccessful due to poor visibility and the rough sea. On Monday, three Dovras and a Y-12 aircraft of the Lankan Air Force were deployed, but they had not reported sighting any floating body, said the Lankan navy spokesman Capt.Akram Alavi. Asked if it was possible for bodies of Chennai flood victims to be washed ashore so far from India, Capt.Alavi said that such a possibility could not be ruled out given the strength of sea currents. read more

President Sirisena begins official visit to Malaysia

President Maithripala Sirisena began an official visit to Malaysia today. The President was welcomed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport by Malaysian Human Resource Development Minister Dato Sri Richard Riot Anak Jaem and senior officials.The visit is at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak. The Official Welcoming Ceremony will be held tomorrow at Perdana Square, Putrajaya. The visit will be President Maithripala Sirisena’s inaugural visit to Malaysia since assuming the post in January 2015. Malaysia and Sri Lanka enjoy warm and wide-ranging substantive relations in trade and investment, education, tourism and culture, human resources, capacity building, youth, and sports which have brought about mutual benefit to both countries.This visit will provide new impetus to the bilateral cooperation that will cement and elevate relations between Malaysia and Sri Lanka to greater heights. (Colombo Gazette) During the visit, YAB Prime Minister and the President will hold a bilateral meeting that will provide opportunities for both sides to review existing relations and cooperation as well as identify potential areas for future collaboration.Five Memoranda of Understanding would be concluded between the two countries covering the areas of tourism, youth development, culture, arts and heritage, foreign workers as well as scientific and technical cooperation. read more

Mangala to address UNHRC members during 34th session

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is to address the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) during 34th session.Samaraweera is to brief the council on the latest developments in Sri Lanka during the high level segment of the session on Tuesday February 28. The government is expected to gather support for another pro-Sri Lanka resolution at the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution is to back giving the Government more time to implement the systems needed to be in place to take the reconciliation process forward.An interactive dialogue will be held on Sri Lanka on March 22 during the 34th session. The 34th session of the UNHRC takes place in Geneva from 27th February to 24th March. The discussion will be based on the report on Sri Lanka submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last year by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Ra’ad Al Hussein.In his report Zeid had expressed satisfaction on the efforts taken by the Government to address reconciliation issues.However, he had raised concerns over the slow progress on releasing more land held by the military. He had also raised concerns over the failure to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He also noted the need for international participation in the accountability process. The High Commissioner had urged the Government to take concrete steps to address the impatience, anxiety and reservations towards the process that stem from various quarters, and reiterates the importance for all Sri Lankans to rally behind the process. (Colombo Gazette) read more

UN torture committee to submit confidential report to Sri Lanka

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has completed its first visit to Sri Lanka from 2 to 12 April where it examined the treatment of people deprived of their liberty and the safeguards in place for their protection against torture and ill-treatment.“We have received good cooperation during the visit, having access to all places of detention, getting all relevant information and performing confidential interviews. We look positively on Sri Lanka’s prospective development of a national preventive mechanism, as required under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture,” said Victor Zaharia, who led the four-member delegation. The Subcommittee’s next step will be to submit its confidential report to the Government of Sri Lanka, containing its observations and recommendations arising from the visit. The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture encourages the State parties to make its reports public.The delegation was composed of Victor Zaharia, Head of Delegation (Republic of Moldova), Satyabhooshun Gupt Domah (Mauritius), Petros Michaelides (Cyprus), and June Lopez (Philippines). (Colombo Gazette) “Our work is guided by the principles of confidentiality, impartiality, non-selectivity, universality and objectivity,” Zaharia underscored. The Optional Protocol, which Sri Lanka ratified in 2017, says that no authority or official shall order, apply, permit or tolerate any sanction against any person or organization for having communicated to the Subcommittee or to its delegates any information, whether true or false, and no such person or organization shall be otherwise prejudiced in any way.The Subcommittee carries out its work within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations and is guided by the purposes and principles thereof, as well as the norms of the United Nations concerning the treatment of people deprived of their liberty. The delegation visited police stations, prisons, remand prisons, military camps, rehabilitation centres, mental health institution, a rehabilitation centre for children, and held meetings with the Government representatives, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission and civil society representatives. read more

Bringing the city to the vineyard

Brock grads learning about grape growing in the vineyardDriving along the QEW into Niagara often stirs that ‘coming home’ nostalgia for Brock graduates. After all, over 80 000 alumni have graduated from the University, and many call Niagara home during their time at Brock. Now, as graduates, the drive into Niagara has another landmark to note – the wineries.While undergraduate students have typically not been known for their discerning tastes – more likely to drink Spumonti Bambino than Bordeaux – the Niagara region also has much to offer for those with more refined palates and quality over quantity.During this year’s Homecoming celebrations in September, we plan to bring alumni ‘home’ to Niagara’s wine country. On Sunday, September 22, shuttle buses will leave from Toronto, Burlington, and right here in Niagara to take graduates on a tour of three beautiful wineries in the Twenty Valley region with stops at Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Thirty Bench Winery, and Hernder Estate Winery where guests will also enjoy lunch.VisitNiagaraCanada.com describes the Twenty Valley (the towns of Beamsville, Vineland & Jordan) as “rural yet sophisticated;” one minute you’re driving alongside farmland, the next, you’re passing a vineyard nestled at the base of the Escarpment.Come join us on this exciting Homecoming tour as we “bring the city to the vineyard!” From a “boutique” winery like Thirty Bench Winery, to a property boasting a 60 year tradition of grape growing and Niagara’s only covered bridge at Hernder Estates to a winery rich with history, and whose namesake lived on the land during the late 18th century at Henry of Pelham.For more information, and to register for the tour, visit brocku.ca/homecoming read more

Round table welcomes creative industry leaders

Brock’s Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film and the Development and Donor Relations office will jointly host a round table discussion March 22 at 5 p.m. in the Sankey Chambers.The theme is: What do you need to know to break into the creative industries?Participants include: Casey Rovinelli: director of Digital Marketing, National Hockey League Players’ Association and online marketer whose clients include ETRADE, eBay, PayPal and Virgin Mobile Brian Simpson: CEO, Keyframe Digital Production, producer of visual effects for numerous film and television productions, and animation including Pinky Dinky Doo, co-produced with Sesame Street Ralph Mellanby: executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada who made numerous innovations in the sports media field, not the least of which was to release Don Cherry on an unsuspecting nation. He also was a producer of several Olympic games.“These three immensely successful creative industry leaders will engage with students hoping to become the creative practitioners of the future and community members seeking ways to expand Niagara’s creative industry sector,” said organizer Jackie Botterill, associate professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film.Everyone is welcome. For more information, email jbotterill@brocku.ca. read more

Deadly plane crash in Stoney Creek

A man is dead after his amateur plane crashed in a soybean field next to Stoney Creek airport. Officials tell us the plane had just taken off for St. Thomas Ontario, when it crashed and was engulfed in flames.A surveillance camera from a neighbouring business caught an image of the plane going down and if look carefully behind the time stamp and you can see it descend rapidly, and explode.“It certainly was a devastating impact. The aircraft took off from the runway in a north direction and shortly after turned en route to its destination and was observed to impact the ground and catch fire.” Ken Webster, from the Transportation safety board.Investigators from the transportation safety board are examining what’s left, the engine, the wingtips and the tail. The plane appears to explode after impact, so the fire likely came from the fuel tanks located in the wings.“You’ll have fuel spraying out and when it hits hot engines and hot exhaust, then you have ignition, and that’s normally what causes the fire in these small airplanes.” said Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum President Dave Rohrer.Rohrer used to be the lead plane crash investigator in the region. He says the greatest danger of a flight is at take-off, and landing.“You’re at low altitude and you have less time to react to the abnormality.”This was an amateur aircraft.“Amateur built is different regulations, more lax. So more recreational users can fly and maintain the aircraft.” said Webster.“A lot of people get their start in aviation in this type of airport, with these type of aircraft. Those are primarily home builders, who build their own airplanes or buy kits and put them together, or fly ultralights.” said Rohrer.Less than 2 weeks ago a small plane crashed just outside of the Grimsby airport.  That pilot survived.The Hamilton chapter of the experimental aircraft association calls this airport home.  They put a message out on social media today that the pilot involved was not one of their members, but they did not identify him.  Neither police or the transportation safety board are saying who exactly died in this crash, but it was a man flying alone in the plane, headed for St. Thomas. read more

Matthews promises more transparency

Deputy premier of Ontario Deb Matthews announced the government will be reintroducing a bill that will make government spending more transparent.Matthews says one of the first steps will be appointing a patient ombudsman to focus on quality improvement in the health care system.“I think it’s a really big step forward. I think that having someone to review decisions of hospitals, long-term homes and community care … This is opening up patient focus and improvement in health care. I’m really excited about having the patient voice heard,” said Matthews.Matthews says openness and transparency are crucial so that government services are efficient and taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely. The Liberals will introduce their budget next week. read more