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China’s Xinjiang actions could be crimes against humanity

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By Cate Cadell and Stephanie Nebehay

BEIJING/GENEVA (Reuters) –Human Rights Watch said on Monday that China’s actions in Xinjiang could meet criteria for crimes against humanity, calling for a U.N. investigation into “widespread” abuses and for businesses to shun goods made in the region.

The U.S.-based activist group said there was evidence of ongoing egregious abuses targeting Turkic Muslims, which include Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people. China has consistently denied all accusations of abuse in Xinjiang.

“Given the gravity of the abuses against Turkic Muslims, there is a pressing need for concerned governments to take strong, coordinated action to advance accountability,” Human Rights Watch said.

United Nations experts and rights groups say China has detained over a million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang since 2017 as part of a broad crackdown in the region.

The report cited cases of torture, enforced disappearances, labour transfers, sexual violence and other abuses based on evidence including witness testimonies, government documents and media reports.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said that such crimes were among the gravest under international law.

“Concerned governments should be imposing targeted sanctions – visa bans, economic restrictions and the like. They should be pursuing criminal cases under the concept of universal jurisdiction,” he told a news conference.

Companies that cannot ensure that their supply chains for textiles or other goods were not made using forced labour in Xinjiang should stop doing business there, the report said.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “We really think this is a very important moment for anyone doing business in the region to pause and think very very carefully about whether their operations really are free of serious human rights violations.”

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The report provides a legal framework for how Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang could meet the criteria for crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In December, the ICC said it would not pursue an investigation into the mass detentions because the alleged crimes took place inside China, which is not party to the Hague-based court.

Several Western governments have levied sanctions over alleged rights abuses against China, which has said it will not allow an independent investigation into its programmes in Xinjiang.

Chinese officials initially denied the mass detentions, but have since said people were participating in voluntary vocational training and de-radicalisation programmes, and they have since “graduated”.

In March, the European Union, United States, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang. China responded with corresponding sanctions on several lawmakers, researchers and institutions.

Beijing has called Uighur witnesses abroad “actors” and says efforts to investigate Chinese policy in Xinjiang are led by “anti-China forces”, primarily in the United States.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell in Beijing and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Neil Fullick and Rosalba O’Brien)

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At least 34 dead after floods in north India

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At least 34 people have died following days of heavy rains in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, the state’s chief minister said, as rescuers continued work to free those stranded on Wednesday.

Aerial footage of the affected areas showed engorged rivers and villages partially submerged by floodwaters.

“There is huge loss due to the floods … the crops have been destroyed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami told Reuters partner ANI after surveying the damage late on Tuesday.

“The locals are facing a lot of problems, the roads are waterlogged, bridges have been washed away. So far 34 people have died and we are trying to normalise the situation as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet he was “anguished” by the loss of life.

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is especially prone to flooding. More than 200 were feared killed in February after flash floods swept away a hydroelectric dam.

Unseasonally heavy rains across India have led to deadly floods in several areas of the country in recent days. Authorities in the southern state of Kerala said on Monday more than 20 people had died there following landslides. (This story corrects typographic error in the last paragraph)

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Jane Wardell)

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Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away

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A  volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain’s Nakadake crater.

The government is checking to determine the status of a number of climbers on the mountain at the time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, but added that there were no reports of casualties.

Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.

Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.

Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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UK Manchester Airport terminal to reopen after security scare

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Terminal Two at Britain’s  Manchester Airport will reopen after Greater Manchester Police found no security threat following reports of a suspicious package, a spokesperson for the airport said on Tuesday.

“…Greater Manchester Police is satisfied that there is no security threat and has lifted the cordon that was in place,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the terminal will reopen within the next hour.

The terminal was closed earlier on Tuesday evening after police began assessment of reports of a suspicious package.

In a previous statement, the airport said a “controlled evacuation” was taking place.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas and Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin)

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