20 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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World Politics

United States

UN members warned Donald Trump will take issue personally if countries back draft resolution rejecting US decision

Nikki Haley speaks during a UN security council meeting on 18 December in New York

Nikki Haley speaks during a UN security council meeting on Monday in New York. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned UN members she will be “taking names” of countries that vote to reject Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, Haley told countries – including European delegations – that she will report back to the US president with the names of those who support a draft resolution rejecting the US move at the UN general assembly on Thursday, adding that Trump took the issue personally.

Haley writes: “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally.

“The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,” she continued.

Haley followed the letter by tweeting: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”

The Trump administration’s heavy-handed approach to foreign policy – often in breach of both international consensus and diplomatic niceties – has alienated even close allies.

The 193-member UN general assembly – which has no vetoes – will hold an emergency session on Thursday to vote on the proposed measure that the US vetoed at the security council earlier this week.

There was fury in Washington over Monday’s vote, in which the US was isolated in a 14-1 vote requesting Trump withdraw his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

According to Haaretz, Israel has sent instructions to its own diplomatic missions ordering ambassadors to seek meetings with officials to persuade them to direct their representatives at the UN to oppose the draft resolution at the general assembly and ask them not to make speeches.

A copy of the draft resolution, also seen by the Guardian, calls on the general assembly to declare the US move “null and void”.

It also demands that countries avoid “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem” and calls upon all states to comply with existing security council resolutions.

The UN general assembly meeting was requested by Turkey and Yemen on behalf of the Arab group of countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The two countries circulated a draft resolution on Tuesday that mirrors the vetoed measure Egypt had put forward at the security council meeting, which was backed by all members apart from the US.

The Palestinian ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said he expected “overwhelming support” for the measure stating that Jerusalem was an issue “to be resolved through negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The general assembly will say, without the fear of the veto, that the international community is refusing to accept the unilateral position of the United States,” Mansour told reporters.

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UN official says there is no evidence man posed a threat when he was shot in the head by security forces at protest

Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh

Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh waving a Palestinian flag during a protest along the Gaza-Israel border. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

A senior UN official has said Israel’s killing of a Palestinian wheelchair user protesting against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “incomprehensible”, as Israel said the man had not been targeted.

A statement issued by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was shot in the head by Israeli security forces close to the Gaza border fence on Friday.

Hussein said there was nothing to suggest Abu Thurayeh posed an imminent threat when he was killed, and “the facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against [him] was excessive”.

The statement said: “Given his severe disability, which must have been clearly visible to those who shot him, his killing is incomprehensible – a truly shocking and wanton act.”

The Israeli military said its own investigation had found it was not possible to say what had killed Abu Thurayeh and that no live fire had been directed at him during the dispersal of the violent demonstration.

“No live fire was aimed at Abu Thurayeh. It is impossible to determine whether Abu Thurayeh was injured as a result of riot dispersal means, or what caused his death,” part of the military statement said.

It said protesters hurled explosive devices and rocks and rolled burning tyres “with the aim of harming soldiers and destroying security infrastructure”, and that its forces mainly used non-lethal riot dispersal means, although a few live rounds fired under supervision were aimed “towards main instigators”.

The military statement said “numerous requests” for information on Abu Thurayeh’s wounds had not been answered by Palestinian officials. “If additional details are received, they will be examined and studied,” it said.

Gaza medical officials said on Friday that Israeli troops had shot dead four people, including Abu Thurayeh, and that 150 others had been wounded by live fire during protests.

Most of the casualties were on the Gaza Strip border. In the West Bank, the Israeli military said about 2,500 Palestinians took part in riots against soldiers and border police officers.

Abu Thurayeh, 29, was a regular at demonstrations. In media interviews, he had said he lost both legs in a 2008 Israeli missile strike in Gaza.

Hussein’s statement said the Israeli response to Friday’s protests had resulted in five people being killed, including three in Gaza, and more than 220 injured by live ammunition. He called for an independent investigation.

He said international law strictly regulated the use of force in the context of protests and demonstrations, and the lethal use of firearms should be employed only as a last resort when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem infuriated the Arab world and upset western allies. The status of the city has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.

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Judge’s order came after lawyers filed class action lawsuit against US government that alleged the Somalian immigrants were held in ‘inhumane conditions’

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), which chartered the deportation flight, does not comment on pending litigation.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), which chartered the deportation flight, does not comment on pending litigation. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Florida judge has halted the deportation of 92 Somali men and women who alleged US immigration authorities physically abused them when they were shackled on an airplane for nearly 48 hours during a failed attempt to return the group to Somalia.

US federal district judge Darrin Gayles halted their deportation hours after lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against the government that alleged the Somalian immigrants were held in “inhumane conditions” on the airplane and faced heightened danger in Somalia because of subsequent media attention.

The group of deportees, which included people who had lived in the US for decades, were headed to Somalia on 7 December when the flight was turned back to the US from Dakar, Senegal after being held there for 23 hours.

The judge’s order on Tuesday night stops the government from deporting the men and women for at least two weeks. The government said in court Tuesday that it had planned to try and deport the group again on Wednesday morning.

“The judge acted just in time,” Rebecca Sharpless, lead attorney on the lawsuit, said in a statement.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), which chartered the deportation flight, does not comment on pending litigation. In earlier statements about the flight, which received widespread media attention, Ice denied allegations of mistreatment.

The agency said the flight was turned around after a layover in Dakar because the relief crew was unable to get sufficient rest.

“Various logistical options were explored, and ultimately Ice decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees,” the agency said in a statement.

The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that if returned to Somalia, they fear death and persecution at the hands of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, which has spread terror throughout the country and killed more than 500 people with a massive truck bomb in October.

The US has in recent decades avoided deporting people to Somalia because of its instability – only 31 people were removed to Somalia in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

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European commission tells other member states that Polish reforms put fundamental democratic values at risk

People in Warsaw hold a Polish flag at a protest against changes to the judiciary.

People in Warsaw hold a Polish flag at a protest against changes to the judiciary. Photograph: Rafal Guz/EPA

The EU has triggered a process that could ultimately see Poland stripped of voting rights in Brussels in an unprecedented step designed to force the country’s rightwing government to drop reforms the bloc regards as a threat to the country’s democracy.

The country’s fellow 27 member states have been advised by the European commission that the legislative programme of Poland’s government is putting at risk fundamental values expected of a democratic state by allowing political interference in its courts.

“Within a period of two years a significant number of laws have been adopted – 13 in total – which put in serious risk the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers”, the vice president of the commission, Frans Timmermans, told reporters in Brussels.

“Judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law.”

The issuing of a formal warning to Poland has been recommended to the member states under the first clause of the, until now, unused article 7 procedure. “It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to initiate Article 7.1”, Timmermans said. “But the facts leave us with no choice”.

At least 22 of the 28 member states will now need to vote in favour of the commission’s proposal for a formal warning, but Brussels is confident it has the numbers.

The most serious sanction possible under article 7 would be to suspend the member state of its voting rights in EU institutions and suspend EU financial transfers, but that would require unanimity among the member states in a subsequent vote. Hungary’s rightwing government has insisted it would never support such a move.

Timmermans said that although there has been no dialogue with the Polish government this year on the issue, the EU was open to talks out of the current stand off.

A new prime minister took office only this month, and Warsaw was told that the commission could rescind its decision if remedies were enacted within the next three months.

Timmermans also insisted that at this stage he was not deploying the “nuclear option” and it would be up to Poland to respond to the developments.

The highly symbolic move of triggering article 7 will no doubt, however, exacerbate a growing sense of crisis over Poland’s membership of the EU.

Speaking to state television earlier on Wednesday, foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said that any decision to initiate Article 7 proceedings would constitute “an attempt to stigmatise Poland and push us aside when key decisions are made in the EU.”

State television news, controlled by Law and Justice since the passage of a controversial media law in 2016, accompanied its coverage of the announcement with the headline ‘Frans Timmermans wants to take away Poles’ right to reform their own country.’

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