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UN alarmed over escalation in fighting in Damascus ahead of Geneva peace talks

The UN has expressed concern over the escalation in fighting around Damascus. Syria peace talks are due to resume with the UN's envoy Staffan de Mistura expressing 'chronic optimism.' There have been reports of civilian deaths and injuries from shelling in Qabun, Barzeh, Tishreen and western Harasta districts of the city of Damascus, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday. "The UN is alarmed by the intensification of fighting in the Damascus area in recent days," said Haq, adding that over 100,000 civilians were living in need in neighborhoods that have seen an upsurge in fighting since Saturday. So-called Islamic State (IS)-linked groups on Monday reportedly launched a surprise attack on moderate rebels in southwestern Syria near the Golan Heights, seizing several villages and a large town. Peace talks Representatives from the opposition and President Bashar al-Assad's regime head to Geneva on Thursday for talks to end their country's six-year war. They are the fourth round of negotiations between Syria's warring parties moderated by the 70-year-old de Mistura (photo). De Mistura said the agenda at the talks would mirror the objectives outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015. The Security Council expressed its support for establishing inclusive and non-sectarian governance, the drafting of a new constitution and free and fair elections. Haq said there were still questions over the delegations. "We do expect clarifications on who precisely will be coming over," he said. The last round of talks broke up in April last year with violence ongoing on the ground. The UN-backed humanitarian taskforce created under de Mistura's watch has partially succeeded in increasing aid flows. In 2015 fewer than 500,000 Syrians in besieged and hard-to-reach areas received life-saving supplies. That number jumped to 1.3 million last year, according to the UN. Human rights groups attack Russia Participants in the talks should prioritize five key human rights issues during negotiations, 40 human rights and other organizations said in a statement released early on Tuesday. "The priorities are to end unlawful attacks, ensure aid access and safe passage for fleeing civilians, detainee rights, justice, and security sector reform," the statement read. "One of the main goals of the Geneva talks should be putting an end to the violations against Syrians who have faced bombing, chemical attacks, starvation, illegal detention, and more horrors," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The US-led coalition should take fully into account that the Russia-Syria coalition has repeatedly committed war crimes under the guise of fighting terrorism, and that any cooperation with Russia in the fight against the IS in Syria should ensure that it is not complicit in such crimes," the human rights statement reads.

The UN has expressed concern over the escalation in fighting around Damascus. Syria peace talks are due to resume with the UN’s envoy Staffan de Mistura expressing ‘chronic optimism.’ There have been reports of civilian deaths and injuries from shelling in Qabun, Barzeh, Tishreen and western Harasta districts of the city of Damascus, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday. ... Read More »

Dozens killed in likely tanker blast in Syria

A large explosion has killed dozens of civilians in a Syrian border town, targeting an Islamic court building in a stronghold of the Free Syrian Army. Several sources said that a fuel truck had blown up at the scene. At least 43 people were killed and many more injured after an explosion ripped through a busy market area in Azaz, a rebel-controlled town near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Saturday. A doctor cited by Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency said that no fewer than 60 people died in the blast. According to several sources, a massive tanker truck exploded in front of an Islamic court building in central Azaz in a presumed terror attack. Several of the surrounding vehicles caught fire. As firefighters were combating the flames, civil defense workers, rebels, and civilians were searching through the rubble. While six of the victims have been identified as Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants, most of the casualties were reported to be civilians. Repeated bombings blamed on IS Azaz, in Aleppo province, has been a FSA stronghold since they wrestled it from "Islamic State" ("IS") control in a Turkey-backed surge several months ago. At least two car bomb blasts previously targeted the town, with FSA pointing the finger at "IS." However, no group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest blast. The "Islamic State" extremist militia and the Fatah al-Sham group, formerly known as the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, are not included in the current nationwide ceasefire in Syria.

A large explosion has killed dozens of civilians in a Syrian border town, targeting an Islamic court building in a stronghold of the Free Syrian Army. Several sources said that a fuel truck had blown up at the scene. At least 43 people were killed and many more injured after an explosion ripped through a busy market area in Azaz, ... Read More »

UN to set up war crimes panel for Syria investigations

The UN has approved a resolution to set up a panel to gather evidence of possible war crimes in Syria. Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said the resolution was illegal and a threat to a solution to the conflict. The 193-member body adopted a resolution Wednesday by a vote of 105 to 15 with 52 abstentions. Iran, China and Russia - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally - were among the countries which voted against. "The General Assembly today demonstrated that it can take the reins on questions of justice in the face of a Security Council deadlock," said Balkees Jarah of Human Rights Watch. "The countries that voted for this unprecedented Syria resolution took a critically important stand for victims of grave crimes." The resolution stresses the need for the new body "to closely coordinate" with an independent commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council which has said war crimes are "rampant" in Syria. Syria and her ally Russia accused the assembly of interfering in the work of the Security Council. Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jafaari slammed the measure, saying it was contrary to the UN charter and a "flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a UN member-state." The resolution tasks the UN secretary-general to report within 20 days on the establishment of the new panel, which will be funded by the United Nations. It will set up an "international, impartial and independent mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes" in Syria since March 2011, when the conflict began. The panel will "collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses and prepare files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings," according to the draft text. Aleppo aid convoy attacked from the air Meanwhile, a UN inquiry has concluded that a UN aid convoy that was bombed while en route to the besieged city of Aleppo in September had come under air attack, but was unable to identify the perpetrators. In a summary of the findings released on Wednesday, the UN said the convoy had been "subject to an attack from the air, using multiple types of munitions deployed from more than one aircraft and aircraft type." At least 10 people were killed and 22 injured in the September 19 attack at Urem al-Kubra, near Aleppo, as a fragile ceasefire agreed to by the US and Russia collapsed. The inquiry panel said it had received reports that three Syria helicopters and three aircraft were "highly likely" to have perpetrated the attack and that a Russian plane was also suspected of being involved. "However, the board did not have access to raw data to support these assertions and, in their absence, it was unable to draw a definitive conclusion," the inquiry reported. Russia and Syria have denied involvement in the bombing. The board of inquiry, led by retired Indian general Abhijit Guha, was not allowed to visit the scene of the attack in Urem al-Kubra, but it did travel to Syria in early December.

The UN has approved a resolution to set up a panel to gather evidence of possible war crimes in Syria. Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said the resolution was illegal and a threat to a solution to the conflict. The 193-member body adopted a resolution Wednesday by a vote of 105 to 15 with 52 abstentions. Iran, China and Russia ... Read More »

Train derails in northern India, killing scores

بھارت کی ریاست اتر پردیش میں ہونے والے ایک ٹرین حادثے میں کم از کم نوے افراد ہلاک ہو گئے ہیں۔ ابتدائی تفصیلات کے مطابق ایک ایکسپریس ٹرین کی سولہ کے قریب بوگیاں پٹری سے اتر گئیں۔ ریاست اتر پردیش کے ایڈیشنل ڈائریکٹر جنرل آف پولیس دلجیت سنگھ چوہدری نے بتایا کہ یہ حادثہ پٹنہ اندور ایکسپریس کو صنعتی شہر کانپور کے قریب آج علی الصبح مقامی وقت کے مطابق تین بج کر دس منٹ پر پیش آیا۔ حادثے کے وقت زیادہ تر مسافر سو رہے تھے۔ ان کے بقول امدادی کارروائیاں جاری ہیں اور امدادی کارکنوں کو بری طرح تباہ ہونے والی بوگیاں سے زخمیوں اور لاشوں کو نکالنے میں شدید دشواریوں کا سامنا کرنا پڑ رہا ہے۔ طبی ذرائع نے بتایا ہے کہ اس حادثے میں زخمی ہونے والوں کی تعداد 120 سے زائد ہے، جن میں کئی کی حالت انتہائی تشویشناک ہے۔ابھی تک اس حادثے کی وجوہات معلوم نہیں ہو سکی ہیں تاہم مقامی ذرائع ابلاغ کے مطابق یہ واقعہ پٹری کے ٹوٹنے کی وجہ سے پیش آیا۔ حکومت کی جانب سے اس واقعے کی مفصل تحقیقات کا حکم دے دیا گیا ہے۔ وزیر اعظم نریندر مودی نے اپنے ٹویٹر پیغام میں ہلاک ہونے والوں کے لواحقین سے گہری ہمدردی کا اظہار کیا ہے،’’یہ دکھ الفاظ میں بیان نہیں کیا جا سکتا۔‘‘بھارت کے ریلوے نظام کو دنیا کا چوتھا بڑا ٹرین نیٹ ورک کہا جاتا ہے۔ تاہم اس کے بہت سے حصے انگریز دور کے بننے ہوئے ہیں اور جنہیں فوری طور پر جدید بنانے کی ضرورت ہے۔ بھارت میں ٹرین کا نقل و حمل کے لیے سب سے زیادہ استعمال کیا جانے والا ذریعہ ہے۔ ایک اندازے کے مطابق اس ملک میں روزانہ تیئس ملین سے زائد افراد اپنی منزل پر پہنچنے کے لیے ٹرین سے سفر کرتے ہیں۔ اس سے قبل 2014ء میں اترپردیش میں ہی ایک مسافر ٹرین ایک مال گاڑی سے ٹکرا گئی تھی، جس سے 26 افراد ہلاک ہوئے تھے۔اسی طرح گزشتہ برس مدھیاپردیش میں دو ٹرینوں کے تصادم میں ستائیس شہریوں کی جان گئی تھی۔ بھارتی تاریخ کا سب سے جان لیوا ٹرین حادثہ 1981ء میں اس وقت رونما ہوا تھا، جب مسافروں سے بھری ہوئی ایک ٹرین ریاست بہار میں باگماتی دریا میں گر گئی تھی۔ اس حادثے میں آٹھ سو افراد ہلاک ہوئے تھے۔

Some 14 coaches of a passenger train rolled off the tracks in a deadly early morning derailment. It is unclear what caused the mishap that killed at least 90 people. A passenger train derailed in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, killing at least 90 people, police said. Scores more were injured. At least 14 cars of the ... Read More »

Amnesty accuses Italian police of maltreating migrants

Italian police beat and used electric shocks to coerce migrants into being fingerprinted, Amnesty International has reported. The human rights organization said the treatment potentially constituted "torture." "The European Union's pressure on Italy to 'get tough' on refugees and migrants has led to unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases may amount to torture," Amnesty wrote in a report. "In their determination to reduce the onward movement of refugees and migrants to other member states, EU leaders have driven the Italian authorities to the limits -- and beyond -- of what is legal," said Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International's Italy researcher."The result is that traumatized people, arriving in Italy after harrowing journeys, are being subjected to flawed assessments and in some instances appalling abuse at the hands of the police, as well as unlawful expulsions," he was quoted as saying. The hotspot approach Italy adopted an approach that sought to separate asylum-seekers from economic migrants as soon as possible. This has meant police quizzing new arrivals without providing them with psychological support for traumas suffered during the journey or advice on asylum procedures. The so-called "hotspot approach" for processing people, which requires Italy to fingerprint incomers to prevent them from claiming asylum elsewhere, has seen minors abused, according to testimony from 170 migrants. Of the 24 reports of ill-treatment Amnesty gathered, 16 involved beatings. In several cases, people also said they had been given electric shocks with stun batons. One 16-year-old said police had inflicted pain on his genitals, while a 27-year-old told Amnesty that officers had beaten and electric-shocked him before making him strip and using a pair of three-pronged pliers on him. "I was on a chair made of aluminum, with an opening on the seat. They held [my] shoulders and legs, took my testicles with the pliers and pulled twice," he said. Some migrants do not want to be finger-printed as they hope to continue on to an EU-nation of their choosing and apply for asylum. Europe has seen an influx of over 1 million migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty. The Italian Interior Ministry had no immediate comment on the Amnesty report. Over the past three years more than 470,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have reached Italy by boat. Thousands have also died making the dangerous crossing, including at least 3,750 this year alone.

Italian police beat and used electric shocks to coerce migrants into being fingerprinted, Amnesty International has reported. The human rights organization said the treatment potentially constituted “torture.” “The European Union’s pressure on Italy to ‘get tough’ on refugees and migrants has led to unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases may amount to torture,” Amnesty wrote in a report. ... Read More »

Turkish opposition lawmaker injured in gun attack in southeast Turkey

An influential Turkish opposition lawmaker has been injured after unidentified assailants attacked and shot him. The incident took place in a restaurant in the city of Aydin in southwest Turkey. Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported that the deputy leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Bulent Tezcan, was in a stable condition following the attack on his life. Tezcan was shot in the leg with a handgun, Anadolu said. The injuries were reported to be not life-threatening. According to the Haberturk news channel, the attack happened in the city of Aydin, Tezcan's constituency. The motives of the assailant or assailants were not clear. There were conflicting reports over a single gunman operating as opposed to more than one. Police were reportedly pursuing the perpetrator. Tensions in Turkey's southeast have been on the rise since the failed coup attempt in July 2016 and after a series of deadly attacks on civilians this year, which have been blamed both on the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) as well as on the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) group. Tezcan had risen to prominence after being injured during a fistfight in the Turkish parliament in 2014. Rising tensions Earlier in the year, the motorcade of CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu had come under attack, as he was shot at by unidentified men with automatic weapons. The incident has been claimed by the PKK. Kilicdaroglu escaped the assault unharmed but three Turkish soldiers were injured in an ensuing exchange of fire. The worsening security situation in Turkey, coupled with the country's ongoing interference with operations against IS in both Iraq and in Syria, has led to the US State Department to order the families of US consulate employees to leave Istanbul. In a speech in Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he would ask parliament to consider reintroducing the death penalty. "Our government will take this [proposal on capital punishment] to parliament," Erdogan said. "I am convinced that parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it." Reports about the torture of detainees who are alleged to have participated in the planning of the July 15 coup attempt have also put the country's worsening human right record in the spotlight.

An influential Turkish opposition lawmaker has been injured after unidentified assailants attacked and shot him. The incident took place in a restaurant in the city of Aydin in southwest Turkey. Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported that the deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulent Tezcan, was in a stable condition following the attack on his life. Tezcan was ... Read More »

Report: Detainees tortured under Turkish state of emergency

NGO Human Rights Watch says that Turkish officials are violating human rights under the country's state of emergency. According to a report released on Tuesday, detainees have to suffer physical and sexual violence. After a failed military coup against the government shook Turkey in July, contentious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cracked down on any and all dissenters and those he perceives to be a danger to his power. Now Human Rights Watch (HRW) is saying that Turkey has not only seen the incarceration and firing of critical citizens, but that the country's police force has also tortured individuals in their custody. Erdogan declared a state of emergency after the attempted coup. The decrees that were passed down in this context have removed important human rights safeguards, according to the report "A Blank Check: Turkey's Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards Against Torture." HRW researchers have documented that the decrees negatively affected the rights of detainees. In the report, they detail 13 cases of alleged abuse, including sleep deprivation, severe beatings, sexual abuse, and rape threats. 'Nobody will care if I kill you' One of the cases the report details was brought to the attention of HRW by the family of a detainee. They overheard a police officer talking to another prisoner. "Because of the state of emergency, nobody will care if I kill you," the officer reportedly told the detainee. "I will just say I shot you while you tried to run away." The lawyer of another prisoner told HRW that officers had threatened to rape his client with a baton, telling him that he wouldn't survive the next 30 days. Under the emergency decrees, police can keep anyone incarcerated for 30 days without judicial review. Before the coup, the limit was four days. Detainees can also be denied access to a lawyer for up to five days. All these rules can be used to threaten those in jail, increase fear and keep family members in the dark. Victims are afraid to talk No one is able to contact and protect a detainee for five days. Even completely innocent Turks could be kept in jail for a month without the police having to prove anything. And with all the hate Erdogan is inciting against critical voices, prison is not a safe place, according to HRW. "By removing safeguards against torture, the Turkish government effectively wrote a blank check to law enforcement agencies to torture and mistreat detainees as they like," Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said. At the end of July, right after the coup, Amnesty International had also reported that detainees were abused in Turkish prisons. The organization was made aware of beatings, torture and rape. Andrew Gardner, one of the researchers who had worked on the report, said that many victims were afraid to talk and that most lawyers stayed away from taking on their cases. "I've worked on the subject of human rights in Turkey for more than 10 years, and I've never seen this kind of fear," Gardner told DW at the time. "This great fear is present among people and in civil society organizations. Working on human rights in Turkey requires bravery, particularly for domestic human rights organizations, journalists and lawyers. If these brave people are that scared, it means this is serious."

NGO Human Rights Watch says that Turkish officials are violating human rights under the country’s state of emergency. According to a report released on Tuesday, detainees have to suffer physical and sexual violence. After a failed military coup against the government shook Turkey in July, contentious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cracked down on any and all dissenters and those ... Read More »

Pakistan officials: Many killed in police center attack

پاکستانی شہر کوئٹہ میں دہشت گردی کی ایک کارروائی کے نتیجے میں کم ازکم انسٹھ افراد ہلاک جبکہ سو سے زائد زخمی ہو گئے ہیں۔ فوج کے مطابق اس مرتبہ نقاب پوش خود کش حملہ آوروں نے پولیس کی ایک تربیتی اکیڈمی کو نشانہ بنایا ہے۔ خبر رساں ادارے روئٹرز نے پاکستانی فوج کے حوالے سے بتایا ہے کہ اسلحے سے لیس خود کش حملہ آوروں نے کوئٹہ میں واقع پولیس کی تربیتی اکیڈمی پر دھاوا بولتے ہوئے کئی افراد کو یرغمال بھی بنا لیا تھا۔ بتایا گیا ہے کہ جب یہ حملہ کیا گیا، اس وقت اس اکیڈمی میں دو سو کے قریب کیڈٹس موجود تھے۔ پیر کی شام شروع ہونے والی حملہ آوروں کی یہ کارروائی پانچ گھنٹے تک جاری رہی، جس دوران حملہ آوروں نے کئی کیڈٹس کو یرغمال بھی بنا لیا تھا۔ بلوچستان میں کومبنگ آپریشن شروع، پچیس مشتبہ افراد گرفتار کوئٹہ حملہ، داعش کے بعد طالبان نے بھی ذمہ داری قبول کر لی بلوچستان میں تشدد کی نئی لہر، ’ہدف پاک چین اقتصادی راہداری‘ اس حملے میں زندہ بچ جانے والے ایک زیر تربیت پولیس اہلکار نے روئٹرز کو بتایا، ’’جنگجو سیدھے ہماری بیرک میں پہنچے اور انہوں نے اندھا دھند فائرنگ شروع کر دی۔ ہم چیختے چلاتے بیرک میں ادھر ادھر بھاگنے لگے۔‘‘ ابھی تک کسی گروہ نے اس حملے کی ذمہ داری قبول نہیں کی ہے۔ بلوچستان کے وزیر داخلہ سرفراز بگٹی نے میڈیا کو بتایا ہے کہ حملہ آوروں نے یہ کارروائی ایک ایسے وقت میں کی، جب اس تربیتی اکیڈمی میں کیڈٹس آرام کر رہے تھے یا سو رہے تھے، ’’دو حملہ آوروں نے خود کو دھماکا خیز مواد سے اڑا دیا جبکہ تیسرا حملہ آور سکیورٹی فورسز کی کارروائی میں ہلاک کر دیا گیا۔‘‘ انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ قبل ازیں ایسی اطلاعات تھیں کہ ان حملہ آوروں کی تعداد پانچ یا چھ تھی۔ روئٹرز نے بتایا ہے کہ جائے حادثہ پر ایک نو عمر لڑکے کی لاش کو ہستپال منتقل کیا گیا، جو مبینہ طور پر ایک حملہ آور تھا۔ یہ وہی حملہ آوار قرار دیا گیا ہے، جو سکیورٹی فورسز کی فائرنگ سے ہلاک ہوا۔ بتایا گیا ہے کہ وہ سر پر گولی لگنے سے مارا گیا۔ کوئٹہ میں ایک اعلیٰ فوجی اہلکار جنرل شیر افگن نے مقامی میڈیا کو بتایا ہے کہ گو کہ کسی نے اس کارروائی کا ذمہ داری قبول نہیں کی ہے لیکن ابتدائی تفتیش سے اندازہ ہوا ہے کہ ان حملہ آوروں کا تعلق سنی جنگجو گروہ ’لشکر جھنگوی‘ سے تھا۔ انہوں نے مزید کہا، ’’ہمیں معلوم ہوا ہے کہ یہ تینوں حملہ آور افغانستان سے ہدایات حاصل کر رہے تھے۔‘‘ انہوں نے کہا کہ ان حملہ آوروں کی کمیونیکشن کو انٹرسپٹ کرنے کے بعد یہ اندازہ لگایا گیا ہے۔ بلوچستان کے وزیر اعلیٰ نے مقامی میڈیا کو بتایا، ’’دو تین قبل ہمیں خفیہ معلومات موصول ہوئی تھیں کہ کوئٹہ شہر میں ممکنہ طور پر حملہ ہو سکتا ہے۔ اسی لیے سکیورٹی ہائی الرٹ تھی۔ لیکن انہوں (حملہ آوروں ) نے پولیس ٹریننگ کالج کو نشانہ بنایا۔‘‘

Several militants stormed a police academy in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 60 people and injuring more than 120. Authorities blamed a militant group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban for the attack. Gunmen wearing explosive vests raided a police training college near the southwestern city of Quetta late on Monday, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 120, ... Read More »

Human rights ‘not a zero-sum game,’ says award-winning journalist

Carolin Emcke received the German Book Trade's peace prize for this year. In her acceptance speech, Emcke openly addressed the debate around personal rights, including homosexuality and the Islamic veil. Nearly 1,000 guests, including German President Joachim Gauck, were present during the award ceremony at Frankfurt's St. Paul's Church on Sunday. In a speech honoring Carolin Emcke, philosopher and social critic Seyla Benhabib praised the journalist as a "great narrator." In her work, Emcke created a unique mixture of reportage, philosophical reflection and literary composition, which made a clear "moral" statement not only about human suffering in violent conflict, but also about other forms of human hardship and silence, Benhabib said. In her acceptance speech, Emcke called upon all those present to stand up for a free and democratic society. "Pseudo-religious and nationalistic dogmatists" want to silence everyone who speaks for the freedom of the unique and atypical individual. In reality, these people don't really care for Muslims, refugees or women, the 49-year-old author said. Fighting for freedom and democracy is tough, Emcke admitted, and there would always be a conflict between people's ways of doing things and their convictions. "But why should it be easy," she asked, adding that individuals all needed to "speak and act" in an increasingly menacing world." Everyone, "young and old, unemployed or less educated, drag queens and pastors, entrepreneurs and officials" can contribute to this cause, she argued. The journalist also spoke about her personal religious convictions and her homosexuality. It is a "strange experience" that something as personal as love "is so important for others that they take it upon themselves to encroach into our lives and tell us about our rights and our worthiness," Emcke said. The recent debate about the hijab - or the Islamic veil for women - was similar, she insisted, saying that people against Islam spoke about the veil as if the item of clothing was more important than the actual people whose decision to wear it was autonomous and natural. Human rights was not a "zero-sum game," Emcke said. "No one loses their rights if everyone else has theirs," she said. The journalist has written several books and essays in German on topics including racism, human rights, anti-democratic ideas, war and conflict.

Carolin Emcke received the German Book Trade’s peace prize for this year. In her acceptance speech, Emcke openly addressed the debate around personal rights, including homosexuality and the Islamic veil. Nearly 1,000 guests, including German President Joachim Gauck, were present during the award ceremony at Frankfurt’s St. Paul’s Church on Sunday. In a speech honoring Carolin Emcke, philosopher and social ... Read More »

Gunman kills two police officers in California desert town

A specially trained police unit has surrounded the house where the suspect is believed to be holed-up. It is the second deadly shooting incident of California law enforcement officers in a week. A California SWAT team has surrounded a house where a gunman allegedly shot and killed two police officers, and wounded a third, on Saturday while responding to a domestic dispute call. The officers were calmly talking to the suspect on the front porch when he suddenly pulled out his gun and opened fire, according to Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes. "It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of the city," said Reyes, his voice breaking as he spoke to reporters. He said the officers were standing near the front door speaking with the man, "trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply," when he suddenly began shooting. The chief, fighting back tears, identified the dead officers as Jose "Gil" Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny. He did not identify the wounded officer. Police confront suspect Dozens of police officers descended on the normally calm residential neighborhood in the desert resort city after the shooting. Several blocks have been sealed of and some nearby residents have been evacuated. Others in the neighborhood were warned to lock themselves inside their homes and stay there until further notice. The shooting comes just three days after a popular Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was shot and killed in the desert town of Lancaster, about 125 miles (200 km) northwest of Saturday's shooting. The US has been roiled by a stream of deadly shootings, both of innocent civilians by police, but also officers being shot by members of the public.

A specially trained police unit has surrounded the house where the suspect is believed to be holed-up. It is the second deadly shooting incident of California law enforcement officers in a week. A California SWAT team has surrounded a house where a gunman allegedly shot and killed two police officers, and wounded a third, on Saturday while responding to a ... Read More »

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