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Thousands march in Spain demanding Catalan separatists’ release

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Barcelona, Nov 12: Thousands of people took to the streets here to demand the release of jailed Catalonian leaders for their outlawed drive to secede from Spain.

Barcelona’s municipal police force said 750,000 people participated in the march on Saturday, called to demand the release of eight former members of the dissolved Catalan government and the presidents of the two main grassroots independence organisations – the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, reports Efe news.

The ANC and Omnium had organised Saturday’s demonstration.

The jailed separatist leaders include former vice president of the Catalan regional government, Oriol Junqueras, who like the rest of his fellow Cabinet members is charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for his role in enabling the region’s October 27 declaration of independence.

The demonstrators, many waving pro-independence Estelada flags, marched past the Sagrada Familia church and other emblematic parts of Barcelona behind banners that read “Freedom for Political Prisoners” and “We Are a Republic”.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau also participated .

The former speaker of Catalonia’s Parliament, Carme Forcadell, who also is under investigation for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, did not attend Saturday’s march on the advice of her attorney.

On Friday, she was released from custody after posting a 150,000 euro ($174,000) bond.

Puigdemont, who fled to Brussels late last month, delivered a recorded message on Friday to the pro-independence movement.

He called on people to take to the streets and said the Spanish government’s crackdown on independence leaders would not dissuade the region from freely deciding its future at the ballot box.

Puigdemont is scheduled to appear before a judge in a November 17 hearing on the European arrest warrants that have been issued for him and four officials of his administration who accompanied him to Belgium.

Hours after Catalonia’s October 27 declaration of independence, the Spanish Senate approved Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposal to invoke Article 155 of the constitution and rescind Catalonia’s regional autonomy.

Rajoy dismissed Puigdemont and his Cabinet, dissolved the Catalan Parliament and called regional elections for December 21.

IANS

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Nepal, China sign 8 deals worth $2.24bn

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Beijing, June 20: Nepal and China on Wednesday signed eight agreements worth $2.4 billion on the second day of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit.

These agreements were reached between the two governments and private sectors where Chinese investors will put money on developing hydroelectricity, water resources, cement factories and fruit cultivation and farming.

The signing ceremony took place at the Nepal Embassy here.

Additional memorandum of understandings will be signed on Thursday after delegation-level talks between Oli and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.

Oli, who arrived here on Monday on his five-day-visit, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

This is Oli’s first official visit to China after returning to power in February and second foreign trip after India.

IANS

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US withdraws from ‘biased’ UN Human Rights Council

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Washington, June 20: The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday. 

The US envoy Nikki Haley told the UN, the body is “hypocritical and self-serving” and “makes a mockery of human rights”.

Last year, Haley accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said America was reviewing its membership, a BBC report said.

Constituted in 2006, the council invited flak for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

Following this United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the Donald Trump’s administration decision.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note said.

The move comes amid sharp criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

Haley announced the US’s intention to exit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She described the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time witnessed the killing of dozens of protesters during political turmoil.

Israel is the only nation that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is scrutinised at a regular basis.

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UN chief regrets as US exits ‘biased’ Human Rights Council

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, June 20: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said his spokesman on Tuesday.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note read.

Earlier, announcing the country’s withdrawal from the UNHRC, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley described the body as “hypocritical and self-serving” and one that “makes a mockery of human rights”.

According to a BBC report, Haley last year accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said the US was reviewing its membership.

Formed in 2006, the council has been criticised for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

The move comes amid intense criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also condemned separation of families, and called President Trump’s human rights policy “one-dimensional”.

Reacting to the US’ exit from the global rights body, Ra’ad said in Geneva that the US withdrawal is “disappointing, if not really surprising.”

“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said.

Haley announced the US intention to quit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She called the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the Council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time saw dozens of protesters killed during political turmoil.

Israel is the only country that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is regularly scrutinised.

IANS

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