UN expert slams Sri Lanka

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of turning a blind eye to the growing reports of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. Sooka says she’s surprised other commonwealth countries, including Australia, are taking “such a weak line” in saying they will attend the meeting.“I must say I’m surprised by Australia … it’s quite shocking,” she said.The federal government says it disagrees with Canada’s position and will not join a boycott of the event. She praised Canada for saying it would boycott the November CHOGM meeting unless Sri Lanka investigates suspected war crimes.“In the absence of any action by the government of Sri Lanka, they should not be rewarded by being allowed to host CHOGM,” she said. “People continue to be tortured and disappeared,” she told ABC radio on Monday. A UN human rights expert says she’s shocked the Sri Lanka will be allowed to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this year despite ongoing cases of torture and disappearances.Yasmin Sooka, who was asked by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during Sri Lanka’s war, says the country is still perpetrating abuses against its own civilians. “Sri Lanka is quite frankly descending into a state where the rule of law no longer holds sway.” “She’s turning that blind eye because she thinks it’s more important to send asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka than actually address the reason why they’re seeking asylum in the first place,” she told reporters in Melbourne.“Australia should stay home from CHOGM.”Australia has returned more than 1000 failed asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka since August 2012. read more

Third suspect confesses to killing Kotadeniyawa child

The police media unit had said that pornographic materiel had been recovered from the laptop and it has been sent to the Colombo University in an attempt to gather more information on the data stored in the laptop. The police were earlier investigating the laptop used by one of the two suspects arrested initially over the murder. The police also said that DNA samples have been taken from the remains of the child, Seya Sadewmini and the two suspects for further investigations.Among the two suspects arrested earlier, is a 17 year old youth. (Colombo Gazette) A third suspect arrested yesterday over the murder of 4 1/2 year old Seya Sadewmini in Kotadeniyawa, has confessed to the killing.The suspect, identified as 33 year old Dinesh Priyashantha, was arrested by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Gampaha. read more

Sri Lanka eyes Qatar LNG to fuel power plants

“We have already identified two 300MW LNG-generated power plants that we plan to rollout. We are now projecting our power requirements for the next 20 to 30 years; we need to quickly move on to some energy options, which have less impact on the environment and LNG is one of those options,” Hakeem told Gulf Times on the sidelines of an investment forum hosted by Doha Bank. Sri Lanka is keen on importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar as part of government policy to shift to clean energy, Minister of City Planning and Water Supply Rauff Hakeem has said. The Gulf Times quoted Hakeem as saying LNG-generated power plants are going to be the next futuristic power generation option in Sri Lanka. As a matter of policy, Hakeem said, government is now moving away from thermal power to LNG, adding that Sri Lanka’s coal-fired power plants “have created a lot of environmental issues” for the local community.The Minister said energy would be among some of the sectors to be discussed during Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s planned state visit to Qatar in 2017 to boost trade ties. Citing the visits in the past to Sri Lanka by HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani as well as HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the minister said both had expressed “keen interest” in investing in Sri Lanka’s real estate, infrastructure, and tourism sectors.“There is a free trade agreement that we are finalising with Qatar and hopefully that would be signed when the president visits the country next year. The free trade agreement will further facilitate better bilateral trade ties between Qatar and Sri Lanka and give better incentives to people from both countries to trade with each other,” Hakeem noted.The Minister said yesterday’s forum revolved around investment opportunities for Qataris in Sri Lanka in the maritime, aviation, education, energy, commercial services, tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors. “It is a matter of Qataris exploiting the opportunities available in our country. The investment climate in Sri Lanka is quite good now and we would like Qataris to try and take advantage of that.” Asked about the number of Qataris travelling to Sri Lanka, Hakeem said, “A lot of Qataris have been coming to Sri Lanka as tourists. In fact, Sri Lanka has become a preferred destination for family tourism because we are a family-friendly country.”He added that plans are underway to invite a delegation from Qatar’s public and private sectors to explore investment opportunities in the country. He also noted that Sri Lanka can help Gulf countries deal with food security issues. (Colombo Gazette) read more

SB says former Ministers will sit with the opposition

Former Minister S B Dissanayake says the former Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Ministers will sit with the opposition in Parliament and look to form a broad alliance with the joint opposition.Dissanayake and a few other SLFP Ministers had resigned from their posts recently on the basis that they could not continue to work in the unity Government. The former Minister, before resigning, had also backed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (Colombo Gazette)

Woman travelling in a motorcar shot dead

The gunmen had targeted another vehicle but the vehicle driven by the woman had been caught in the crossfire.She was travelling with a child at the time of the shooting but the child was unhurt. A woman who was travelling in a motorcar was shot dead in the Weligampitiya junction in Ja-Ela today.The Police said that she was killed by gunmen who were traveling in a vehicle.

Grad Spotlight fitness and nutrition enthusiast Paul Lejkowski

Paul Lejkowski (BKin ’03)Paul Lejkowski (BKin ’03) is a Brock University kinesiology graduate who credits professors Maureen Connolly and David Gabriel for having positively affected his life and career path.  Lejkowski is the proud owner of Sport Balance & Nutrition in Burlington. He was recently chosen by Cambridge’s Who’s Who’s executive director of global branding and networking, Donald Trump Jr., as the 2011 Professional of the Year for the nutrition and fitness industry.What attracted you to Brock University?I attended Brock University because of all the positive feedback I had heard. Once here, I was astonished with the care and attention professors provided to each student. Brock educators would always make time for you.What activities were you involved with at Brock?I was a member of men’s volleyball team (under Jessie Knight as a coach) and I participated in many intramural activities. Intramurals was a great way to meet fellow Brock students, as my school work and involvement in varsity sports didn’t allow much time for a social life.How has Brock changed your life?The impact that Brock University had on my life is indescribable in one short paragraph. Meeting brilliant professors who were honoured in their professional fields was amazing. Through them I learned that anything is possible as long as you remain on your path and always look at the big picture.What is the most rewarding part of your career?The most rewarding part of my career has been helping people and making their lives healthier by educating them about healthy lifestyle.I credit my career path to Professor Maureen Connolly. Since taking Professor Connolly’s nutrition course, my vision and goals have changed. My initial dream to become a physiotherapist was not a dream anymore. Instead of helping people recover from injuries, I decided I wanted to help people prevent them and provide them with the tools they need to forever be healthy. Today, as a successful owner of self-started company, I’ve helped thousands of people change their lives. What’s most rewarding is hearing my clients’ stories of the impact they have made on their family and friends by simply sharing what I had taught them about healthy lifestyle.What is your greatest professional achievement?Without a doubt, aside from attaining several degrees and certificates in kinesiology, physiotherapy and advanced nutrition, my greatest professional achievement was receiving a phone call from Mr. Trump Jr. congratulating me on my accomplishments, dedication and passion I have brought to the fitness and nutrition industry. He called to let me know that I was a nominee for Fitness Professional of the Year. In March 2011, I was honoured as the recipient of the award.What is your “other side of the brain”? I have always been athletic so I’m constantly involved in sports. During the summer I like to join beach volleyball leagues and enjoy golfing with many of my clients whom I consider great friends. On the other side, I also love to read so that I can stay on top of my education and research. I suppose the hard learned habits from studying at Brock stuck with me.What do you want most out of life?I would like to change and improve as many lives as I can and continue to educate others to better their lives through the sound nutrition and training program that I have developed (SBN 90). I hope that my clients continue to take what I taught them to educate others. I’d be happy knowing that the knowledge I have imparted is making a difference in people’s lives.What advice do you have for new graduates?Nothing will give you more satisfaction in life knowing that you have set goals for yourself, pursued them, achieved them and surpassed them. “Self-discipline is the key to personal greatness. It is the magic quality that opens all doors for you, and makes everything else possible. With self-discipline, the average person can rise as far and as fast as their talents and intelligence can take them. But without self-discipline, a person with every blessing of background, education and opportunity will rarely rise above ordinariness.” (Taken from The Power of Discipline by Brian Tracy). In other words, it’s easy to do something when you feel like it. But it’s self-discipline that pushes you to do something when you don’t feel like it. This type of attitude will keep you on the right track and bring you closer to achieving your goals.Lejkowski can be contacted at paul@sportbalance.net or 905-617-0171 read more

Rogers to open lab in Waterloo Region to develop commercial uses for

WATERLOO, Ont. — Rogers Communications Inc. says it will open a new innovation lab in Waterloo, Ont., in September to advance the commercialization of fifth-generation wireless networks that will begin to roll out next year.The initiative includes a three-year partnership with Communitech, which promotes and supports Waterloo Region as a community for innovative startups and larger technology players.Rogers says its Waterloo lab will complement other 5G research work it has been doing at the University of British Columbia.The Toronto-based company, which owns one of Canada’s three national wireless networks as well as cable television, internet and media businesses, has also been working with Swedish 5G network vendor Ericsson.5G wireless networks are expected to carry vastly more data traffic than current 4G networks, opening up a wider array of uses for collecting and transmitting information through connected devices.Rogers says the Waterloo 5G innovation lab will help it bridge the gap between the conceptual potential of the technology and commercialization. Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B)The Canadian Press read more

Apple wants people to know how to clean its new credit card

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple believes some of its zealous customers will treasure its new titanium credit card so much that they will spend time polishing its white finish.That’s why Apple has posted instructions on how to clean the card properly and warned that some materials might leave blemishes that are difficult to remove.The list of potential hazards includes leather and denim, prompting some people to conclude Apple’s credit card is so special that it can’t be stored in the wallets and pockets where most other credit cards reside.But the company says it merely wants people to know that the dyes used in some types of leather and denim can leave stains. Those discoloring marks are unlikely in most kinds of wallets and jeans, something Apple alluded to in its post by advising that the card can be kept in a wallet or pocket made of “soft materials.”The reverence Apple seemed to be according its card triggered widespread derision on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet.“Do not look directly at Apple Card,” Alex Stamos, a former top security executive at Yahoo and Facebook, mocked in a tweet late Wednesday . “Do not speak to Apple Card. Do not denigrate Apple Card in Its Holy Presence.”In reality, Apple’s cleaning instructions for the card mirrors the same practice it applies for its iPhone, iPad, Mac computers, ear buds and all other physical products. But while it’s common for people to clean those devices, few consumers spend time sprucing up their credits cards.Apple describes a two-step cleaning process involving microfiber cloths and isopropyl alcohol and includes a list of inappropriate cleaners. The instructions also warn against touching another credit card or “potentially abrasive objects” like coins or keys.The Apple Card, announced in March in partnership with Goldman Sachs, started rolling out in the U.S. this month. Though industry experts say the card’s financial benefits mirror many of those already out there for consumers, Apple is positioning it as a refreshing change from the thousands of other credit cards that have been available for decades.In one of the biggest differences, the card is designed to be primarily used with the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch. But at retail stores, that requires merchants to accept Apple Pay. Apple and Goldman Sachs are giving people the option of a physical card to use when Apple Pay isn’t an option.The card is made of titanium and a sleek white finish to give it added flair and prestige. It’s a strategy that has worked well for other high-end cards made of metallic alloys, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card .As part of its effort to keep its new credit card customers happy, Apple is offering to replace any card that loses its sheen, at no extra charge.___Tali Arbel contributed to this story from New York.Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press read more

Police blotter Flight from police

A 29-year-old Norfolk motorist was charged this week after a vehicle failed to stop for police.Norfolk OPP attempted the pullover on Colborne Street North in Simcoe but the driver did not comply.The suspect vehicle was later located at a residence. The alleged driver was taken into custody without incident.The arrest occurred around 11 p.m. Wednesday.The accused has been charged with flight from a police officer, driving without proper rear lights, and failure to comply with the terms of a recognizance.Car smashedA vehicle suffered extensive damage after the driver failed to negotiate a curve on Turkey Point Road this week.Authorities were alerted to the crash around 5:15 a.m. Wednesday. The driver suffered minor injuries.A 23-year-old Norfolk man has been charged with operation of a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol content in excess of the legal limit.Bicycle stolen in LangtonPolice are asking residents to lock their garages and sheds at night after a bicycle was stolen in Langton.The theft occurred on George Street in the early morning hours of Monday. Norfolk OPP are reviewing security camera footage to determine the identity of the culprit.Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Norfolk OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers of Haldimand and Norfolk at 1-800-222-8477.Callers to Crime Stoppers who help solve a crime are eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000. read more

Man given naloxone flees before paramedics arrive

Norfolk police and paramedics were called to three incidents of suspected drug overdoses where naloxone was administered over the past week.A man who was revived from a drug overdose on the weekend fled before first responders arrived at the scene.The 29-year-old man was in medical distress at a Delhi residence at just before 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Another person in the home administered naloxone and then began CPR which led to the man regaining consciousness. The man immediately fled the scene before first responders arrived.Norfolk OPP say they arrived on scene and began to check the surrounding areas for the man, however he was not located. No further information was provided to police or paramedics on scene that would assist in identifying the man.Earlier in the day, police were contacted in regards to an 18-year-old woman in medical distress at a Simcoe residence.Police say a person in the home located the unresponsive female in the residence. The person administered naloxone and another person at the scene began CPR which resulted in the female regaining consciousness.Paramedics transported the woman to hospital by ambulance to be treated.Last Tuesday evening, police were called to a Simcoe address where a 40-year-old man was in medical distress.Police and paramedics arrived on scene and were informed that another person in the house recognized the opioid overdose and immediately administered naloxone.Paramedics continued working on the man while he was transported to a local hospital, where he regained consciousness.The man noted he ingested an unknown quantity of fentanyl.“The resident inside the home recognized that the male was in medical crisis and administered naloxone that assisted in saving this man’s life. When someone is overdosing, minutes can make the difference between life and death,” Norfolk OPP Inspector Joseph Varga said in a media release. read more

Acute funding shortages may hamper key operations UN food agency warns

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is facing severe funding shortages that could hamper two of its largest operations – in Afghanistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the agency’s Executive Director warned today.Addressing WFP’s Executive Board in Rome for the first time since his appointment, James T. Morris said the Agency’s Afghan reconstruction programme has a 46 per cent budget shortfall. At the same time, a lack of donations for the operation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had stopped WFP from feeding 1 million people there this month.“We are extremely concerned that such high priority emergencies have fallen this far short on funding,” Mr. Morris said.WFP’s Afghanistan operation was launched last month to help some 9million people in the country rebuild their lives after three years of drought and war, but low donor response forced the agency to rely on pre-existing food stocks in April, while breaks in the food pipeline are now considered imminent.In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, funding shortages, coupled with operational impediments, are also undermining WFP’s ability to cope with another major food emergency. In May, the agency will not be able to distribute food to over 350,000 elderly people and 675,000 school children.“We have already had to make some tough decisions,” said Mr. Morris, emphasizing the need for immediate pledges “because once a contribution is made it takes two to four months to get that food into the stomach of a hungry North Korean.”In this climate of funding shortages, Mr. Morris told WFP’s Executive Board that he would use his five-year tenure at the agency’s helm to expand fund-raising efforts, tapping corporations, foundations and individuals for contributions.He also appealed to the assembled representatives to support WFP. “As you have seen with Afghanistan and North Korea, we are falling short,” he said. “Poor and hungry people need your help.” read more

Security Council condemns Bali attack as threat to international peace

In a resolution adopted unanimously this evening, the Council condemned “in the strongest possible terms” not only the bombing in Bali but also “other recent terrorist acts in various countries.”Those incidents, like any act of international terrorism, constitute “a threat to international peace and security,” the Council stated, voicing its reinforced determination to combat all forms of the scourge in accordance with its responsibilities under the UN Charter.All States were urged “to work together urgently and to cooperate with and provide support and assistance, as appropriate, to the Indonesian authorities in their efforts to find and bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks.”The Council also expressed condolences to the Government and people of Indonesia and to the victims of the bomb attacks and their families. read more

New Africa development plan embodies vision for advancement UN official says

Addressing the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development which began in Johannesburg, K.Y. Amoako, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, attributed the current mood of optimism to the cohesion shown by Africa’s leaders.”I believe that we would never have come so far had it not been for the political unity and leadership demonstrated here in Africa,” said Mr. Amoako, calling NEPAD a “robust” framework that recognizes diversity among countries. Concerning implementation of the initiative, Mr. Amoako said key areas for attention include sound policy-making, market access and mutual accountability. NEPAD, he told those assembled, “attempts to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts and tries to put wind in your sails of reform.”Today’s meeting marked the start of three days of intensive talks in what is the largest gathering of Ministers and experts dealing with economic policy in Africa on NEPAD since its endorsement at the inaugural summit of the African Union in Durban in July 2002. In addition to the Ministers, the meeting has attracted the participation of more than 500 officials, including central bank governors, leading academics and researchers, as well as civil society and private sector representatives. read more

Annan proposes new UN mission to guide peace process in Côte dIvoire

Mr. Annan’s proposal that the Security Council consider establishing the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (MINUCI), as well as other recommendations outlining possible ways the UN can support the Ivoirian peace process, are included in his just-released report on the situation in the strife-torn West African country.The Secretary-General says the proposed mission would be headed by his Special Representative, Albert Tévoedjré, who would also devise, in consultation with humanitarian and development agencies, an appropriate coordinating strategy that will enhance wider UN response to the complicated Ivoirian crises and its consequences.The Secretary-General stresses that the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Agreement – which calls upon the government, rebels and political opposition to share power in a transitional government until elections in 2005 – offers the best chance for the Ivoirian people to peacefully resolve the conflict that threatens to plunge their country into a crisis rivalling “those that have devastated neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.”The report notes that regrettably, wrangling over power-sharing arrangements, which ignited massive, and often violent, civil demonstrations in and around Abidjan in early February, had delayed the Agreement’s implementation. Mr. Annan stresses that although the new government of national reconciliation had been subsequently able to hold two meetings, the ministers nominated by the rebel movements have yet to take up their posts.”I urge the parties to overcome their differences, in order to allow the new government to start functioning without further delay and to address the bigger challenge of implementing the work programme set up in the Linas-Marcoussis agreement,” Mr. Annan says, adding that priority must be given to providing security for members of the new government.The Secretary-General also mentions his serious concern about the logistical constraints facing the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) force and urges donor countries to urgently provide the necessary material and financial support. He stresses the critical need to increase funding to allow UN and other agencies to address the “precarious” humanitarian situation in the country, particularly ongoing population displacements, widespread human rights abuses and growing vulnerability of communities because of the deterioration of the country’s social and economic fabric.”It would be unfortunate, if the troop contributors who came forward with offers to provide troops, on the basis of promises made by donor countries, were to find themselves facing the same circumstances that compelled other ECOWAS troops to put an end to their operation in Sierra Leone early in 2000.” read more

Sudan UN appeals for urgent funding to fill huge overall aid shortfall

With Sudan facing mass displacement from strife in its Darfur region, a flood of refugees returning to its war-ravaged south and humanitarian emergencies nationwide, the United Nations today appealed for desperately needed funds to fill a huge shortfall in aid for Africa’s largest country.Declaring that all of these aid operations “remain grossly under-funded,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pointed out that even as the recent conflict in Darfur dominates the headlines, only about 40 per cent of the requested $722 million has been received, with $434 million still outstanding to meet Sudan’s overall needs till year’s end.”While the number of people in critical need of humanitarian assistance has skyrocketed in Darfur in recent months, I implore the international community to also remember the plight of millions of vulnerable people struggling to survive all over the country,” the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Manuel Aranda Da Silva said.In the south, where prospects of a peace agreement in the 20-year war between the Government and rebels has sparked the spontaneous return of an estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), a mere $17 million of the $153 million required for the resettlement has so far been received. Just this month, an interagency assessment team confirmed that more than 50 returnees died from starvation.Already strained populations in the south are now forced to share scarce resources with returnees, and aid agencies predict that once the rainy season ends next month tens of thousands more people may return, leading to a potential humanitarian emergency.A further $110 million is still needed to assist more than 3 million people living under extremely fragile conditions in southern, central and eastern regions where poor maize harvests have compounded the situation.In Darfur, a staggering $188 million is still needed to meet the needs of some 1.5 million people who fled their homes after Arab militias launched a scorched-earth campaign of violence and intimidation against a mainly Muslim African civilian population perceived to be rebel sympathizers, according to OCHA. The UN predicts 2 million people could need humanitarian aid by October.”Aid agencies averted an apocalyptic catastrophe by gaining access to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war over the past couple of months, but the humanitarian crisis is far from over,” Mr. Aranda Da Silva said. “Hundreds of thousands of families displaced by terrorizing militias are completely dependant on relief for survival. Many are still empty-handed and with interagency assessments underway, we could see the amount of people needing help rise exponentially over the next weeks and months.”Overall funds required for the Darfur crisis have been revised upwards to $365 million from $250 million requested in March. The additional $115 million will mainly be used for UN World Food Programme (WFP) air operations to meet the increased demands.Meanwhile, Mr. Aranda da Silva and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan Jan Pronk held a press conference in Khartoum on the eve of tomorrow’s mission to Darfur by a verification team charged with observing whether Khartoum is making progress on the commitments it made to restore security and protect civilians from attacks by the militias, known as the Janjaweed.Mr. Pronk said although the Sudanese Government had taken some positive steps, he remained concerned about the safety of the vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur.Mr. Pronk also said it was vital that the Sudanese Government and Darfur’s two main rebel groups choose a political solution to their conflict. Officials from Khartoum as well as the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) are meeting at talks in Abuja, Nigeria. read more

Annan notes exemplary giveandtake in 1905 dissolution of NorwaySweden union

“Norway and Sweden went on to become good neighbours, close partners in regional Nordic cooperation and exemplary Member States of the United Nations,” he said, as well as having contributed the first and second UN Secretaries-General, Dag Hammarskjöld and Trygvie Lee.”Both (countries) are long-standing donors of development assistance, generous providers of humanitarian relief and steadfast contributors to peacekeeping operations – thus showing solidarity and sharing their prosperity throughout the world,” Mr. Annan said.Both would doubtless continue play important roles “to help strengthen the United Nations as it adapts to deal with the challenges of the 21st century,” he said. read more

Proliferation of illicit small arms leads to culture of violence and impunity

In his opening address to the UN Small Arms Review Conference, which runs from today until 7 July, Mr. Annan said that “significant progress” had been made in dealing with the problem of illegal guns since a Programme of Action was endorsed by all Member States in 2001 – but important challenges remain.“The problem remains grave. In a world awash with small arms, a quarter of the estimated $4 billion annual global gun trade is believed to be illicit. Small arms are easy to buy, easy to use, easy to transport and easy to conceal. Their continued proliferation exacerbates conflict, sparks refugee flows, undermines the rule of law and spawns a culture of violence and impunity,” he said.“The majority of people who die directly from conflicts worldwide – tens of thousands of lives lost each year – and hundreds of daily crime-related deaths can be traced to illicit small arms and light weapons. These weapons may be small, but they cause mass destruction.”Since the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons was adopted five years ago, nearly 140 countries have reported on its implementation, while a third of all States have made efforts to collect weapons from those not legally entitled to hold them, Mr. Annan said. Other progress included increased cooperation among and within regions to stem the flow of illicit weapons across national borders.“Clearly, much has been accomplished, and much is currently being done. Yet important challenges remain,” he said, highlighting in particular the urgent need for Member States to introduce or update legislation meeting the standards outlined in the Programme of Action.“Countries also require better stockpile management and security procedures to reduce weapons pilferage. And we must reach agreement on a realistic and effective approach to end-user certification. Without such certification, any effort to regulate the trade and brokering in small arms and light weapons will be found lacking.”General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who also spoke at the opening of the Conference, echoed the Secretary-General’s remarks, calling for “much more” to be done to curb the illicit trade that also “hinders efforts to promote reconciliation in post-conflict areas.”“The importance of this Review Conference cannot be overstated. We must maintain the momentum generated by the 2001 Conference. We must ensure that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons remains high on the agenda of the United Nations.”He voiced hope that participants would agree on measures to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action. “It is only through our joint, tangible and effective efforts on the ground, that we will be able to combat the scourge of illicit trafficking of small arms,” he said.The Conference opened with the election of its President, Sri Lankan Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam. This was followed by several addresses at the ministerial level, including by Austria on behalf of the European Union, Iran, Mozambique and several other countries. More than 2,000 representatives from governments, international and regional organizations and civil society will take part in the two-week event. read more

Volatile security in Darfur limiting UN aid workers access to needy

Direct attacks against humanitarian workers, acts of banditry and fighting among rebel groups mean the UN has access to less than 80 per cent of beneficiaries, well below the rates achieved in 2004, according to UNMIS.The mission said it is also worried that the security conditions inside some camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) are so poor that humanitarian operations there have been placed at risk. In Zamzam camp in North Darfur, the presence of arms belonging to elements of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of the region’s rebel groups, is raising concerns. Last Thursday IDPs killed three government workers and a police officer at Zalengi camp in West Darfur.The reports come as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, completed a two-day tour of South Darfur as part of his regular visits to the three states in the region.Mr. Pronk met South Darfur’s governor and members of the local government yesterday, also holding talks with local UN staff and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers and inspecting a government-run camp for about 13,500 IDPs at Sureif.Scores of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million others have been displaced since 2003 because of fighting between Sudanese Government forces, allied militias and rebels that has led to claims of civilian massacres, rapes and other atrocities. read more

UN agency criticizes forced return of refugee by Azerbaijan

“In the absence of indications justifying this decision, UNHCR considers her forced return to Turkey to be contrary to Azerbaijan’s obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva today. Non-refoulement prohibits States from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.The refugee in question, whose name was not reported, had spent the last two years in detention in Azerbaijan, initially on charges of illegal entry into the country, and subsequently on the grounds of an extradition request by a court in Istanbul. “She was extradited despite UNHCR’s and the Government of Germany’s repeated interventions on her behalf to the Government of Azerbaijan,” Mr. Redmond said, adding that the agency had only received only a limited explanation from them despite persistent inquiries since the 13 October extradition.UNHCR, he said, is seeking assurances from the Government of Azerbaijan that refugees and asylum seekers from any country will in the future be treated with full respect of Azerbaijan’s international and national legal obligations concerning refugees and asylum seekers. read more

Over half Kosovos missing accounted for mostly through body identification –UN

“It is of the highest priority to find the missing persons and identify the bodies,” UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Director of Justice Albert Moskowitz reported. The UN has run the province ever since Western Forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid atrocities committed in ethnic fighting. “Up to date, there are around 530 individuals whose remains have not yet been identified. To clarify the fate of the missing is a long and sensitive process and it is of special importance for the families affected. It is also essential to find the missing in order to help stabilize the region,” Mr. Moskowitz added. A total of 5,206 people were reported missing after the conflict. By the end of last month, 2,150 persons (Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic minorities) where still listed missing, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). From 2002, the UN Office on Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF) succeeded in reducing the number by over 50 per cent. OMPF was created in 2002 as a division in the UNMIK Department of Justice. Today, the office consists of 55 staff members who work to clarify the fate of the missing persons. As of 1 December, 1,807 missing persons have been pronounced dead and have had their remains returned to their families. In addition, about 100 missing persons have been identified, but the families have chosen not to accept the bodies until other members of their families or communities are found so that they can be buried together. OMPF has developed a Memory Project to create a public record of the experiences of the families of the missing. The first initiative used theatre to explore the painful issues facing the families and was compiled into the publication Voices. The second, an oral histories initiative, video-records interviews with the families to build a historical archive. read more