Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday that government exceeded its powers by unlawfully giving police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

  • Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year
  • Judge rules new regulations gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests

LONDON: Britain unlawfully gave police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests which cause “more than minor” disruption to the public, London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year, which it says gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests.
The case was heard in February amid a wider crackdown on protest movements in Britain and across Europe, as environmental activists have used direct action protests to demand urgent government action against climate change.
Judges David Bean and Timothy Kerr ruled in the group’s favor on Tuesday, finding that the regulations granting the new powers were unlawful.
The High Court granted the government permission to appeal and suspended its decision that the new powers should be quashed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Liberty’s legal action focused on the Public Order Act, under which the police can impose conditions on a protest if it could cause “serious disruption to the life of the community.”
The law was amended last year, so police could impose conditions in cases where a protest could cause “more than minor” disruption, which Liberty said was unlawful.
Government lawyers argued that ministers were given express powers to amend the law on what amounted to serious disruption.
But the High Court ruled that the government exceeded its powers, which “did not extend to lowering the threshold for police intervention.”


Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region

Updated 56 min 47 sec ago
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Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region

  • The village of Rozkishne, about 25 km from the front line, was targeted by the strike

KYIV: Russia attacked a village in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Thursday, killing three people and injuring four more, including a child, prosecutors said.
The village of Rozkishne, about 25 km from the front line, was targeted by the strike, regional prosecutors said on Telegram.
According to preliminary data, Russian troops used the Smerch system to launch cluster munitions, prosecutors said.
Among the injured was a 14-year-old boy who was hospitalized. Four households, cars, and a gas pipeline were damaged in the attack, prosecutors added.


Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead

Updated 20 June 2024
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Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead

  • Bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff sighted the boat adrift 440 nautical miles (815 km) south of the island of Tenerife
  • Insignia cruise ship was diverted to the area to pick up the survivors, the Coast Guard said

MADRID: A luxury cruise ship has rescued dozens of migrants who were trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands in a fishing boat that had stalled in rough seas killing five people, Spanish authorities and the cruise operator said on Thursday.
The archipelago has become the main point of entry to Spain for illegal migrants from Africa in recent years, and the route is also the deadliest. Migration rights group Walking Borders said last week that nearly 5,000 migrants died at sea on that route in the first five months of 2024.
Bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff sighted the boat adrift 440 nautical miles (815 km) south of the island of Tenerife on Wednesday and provided first assistance to the migrants, while the Insignia cruise ship was diverted to the area to pick up the survivors, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The Insignia, which is owned by Miami-based Oceania Cruises, also managed to recover three bodies from the boat, but bad weather prevented the recovery of another two bodies so the ship left a locating device to facilitate the search.
The small luxury cruise ship with a 670-passenger capacity is undertaking a 180— day trip around the world that started in January. It was expected to reach Tenerife at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Friday.
“Safety of life at sea is of paramount importance for all seafarers,” said a spokesperson for Oceania Cruises, which is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
“We can confirm that the Insignia rescued 68 people from a vessel in distress between Cape Verde and Tenerife, brought them onboard for medical assistance and provided food, drinks, clothing and a safe place to rest,” the spokesperson added.
A Spanish coast guard vessel was en route from the Canary Islands on Thursday to meet the Insignia and then locate the shipwreck.


Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

Updated 20 June 2024
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Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

  • People died after consuming alcohol tainted with methanol in Tamil Nadu, says chief minister
  • District official says number of those in critical condition keeps changing, death toll could rise

NEW DELHI: At least 34 people have died and dozens hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, local media reported on Thursday.

The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The incident occurred in the state’s Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it. “Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,” he added.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has also become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state. And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.


Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine

Updated 20 June 2024
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Romania to send Patriot missile system to Ukraine

  • “Council members decided to donate a Patriot system to Ukraine in close coordination with allies,” the Supreme Council of National Defense said
  • NATO countries have been reluctant to send them because they want to protect their own airspace

BUCHAREST: NATO member Romania announced Thursday that it would send a Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which Kyiv has requested to help its fight against Russia’s invasion.
“Considering the significant deterioration of the security situation in Ukraine... council members decided to donate a Patriot system to Ukraine in close coordination with allies,” the Supreme Council of National Defense said in a statement.
The donation was made “on the condition that our country continues negotiations with allies, in particular the US, with a view to obtaining a similar or equivalent system” to protect its own air space, it added.
The country, which borders Ukraine, also needed “a temporary solution to cover the operational vulnerability thus created,” it added.
While Kyiv is calling for more Patriot missile systems, NATO countries have been reluctant to send them because they want to protect their own airspace.
Germany recently announced it would transfer a third Patriot air-defense system to Ukraine, while the United States is expected to send a second battery to Kyiv, according to US media reports.
Romania signed a $4-billion deal for seven Patriot batteries with the US in 2017, the biggest defense acquisition in its history.
Two of the four systems it has received so far are fully operational.
Romania has been providing military help to Kyiv in the war with Russia, but has refused to reveal the scale of the support, citing security concerns.
It has also pledged to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets in a regional hub inaugurated in November 2023, although the timeline for that program remains unclear.


Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out

Updated 20 June 2024
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Rutte seals NATO top job after lone rival drops out

  • Rutte is expected to be formally named by NATO’s 32 nations in the coming days and should take over when current chief Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1
  • Romania’s security council on Thursday announced Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the country backed Rutte

BUCHAREST: Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday clinched the race to become the next head of NATO at a pivotal time for the alliance, after sole challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pulled out.
The veteran politician, 57, is expected to be formally named by NATO’s 32 nations in the coming days and should take over when current chief Jens Stoltenberg’s term ends on October 1.
Rutte will come in at a perilous moment for the Western allies as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on and Donald Trump battles to reclaim the presidency in the United States come November.
After staking his claim for the job last year following the collapse of his coalition, staunch Ukraine backer Rutte quickly won the support of heavyweights the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
But he had to use all the diplomatic skills gleaned during almost 14 years in charge of the Netherlands to win over hold-outs led by Turkiye and Hungary.
Rutte overcame Turkish reticence with an April visit to Istanbul, before finally sealing a deal with Hungary’s Viktor Orban at a European Union summit this week.
That left the last sticking point as Iohannis, whose surprise bid had ruffled feathers among allies banking on a smooth appointment for Rutte ahead of a NATO summit in Washington next month.
Romania’s security council on Thursday announced Iohannis had formally withdrawn and that the country backed Rutte.
Rutte will have a lot on his plate when he assumes the reins from Norway’s former premier Stoltenberg, who led the alliance through its most consequential decades since the end of the Cold War.
Just weeks after his four-year term is expected to start, voters in the United States will go to the polls in a crunch vote to chose between incumbent Joe Biden and Trump.
The prospect of the volatile former president returning to the Oval office has rattled allies fearful that he could weaken superpower Washington’s role as Europe’s ultimate security guarantor.
Trump fueled those fears on the campaign trail by saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries not spending enough on their own defense.
Like Stoltenberg, Rutte won plaudits for his careful handling of Trump during his first term in power — when the ex-reality TV star reportedly even mulled pulling the United States out of NATO.
“I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate,” Stoltenberg said on a visit to Washington Tuesday. “He has a lot of experience as prime minister. He’s a close friend and colleague.”
While Trump’s return could pose one major challenge — to NATO’s east Rutte will face the far more pressing menace from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin’s forces are currently on the front foot in Ukraine after more than two years of brutal conflict, and the NATO chief will have a key role marshalling aid from Kyiv’s weary backers.
At the same time Rutte will have to ensure the alliance is ready to defend against any potential future attack from Moscow — if, or more likely when, Putin is able to rebuild his forces.
Part of that will involve corralling European allies to spend more on defense — a key demand from Trump, and other US leaders.
This week NATO announced that 23 out of its 32 member countries had hit the alliance’s target of spending two percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Dubbed “Teflon Mark” for his ability to remain in power for so long in the Netherlands, Rutte will become the fourth Dutchman to lead NATO since it emerged from the ashes of World War II to confront the Soviet Union.
The bicycling conservative threw his country’s economic weight behind Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion — leading efforts to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv.
While NATO countries along the alliance’s eastern flank had pushed for one of their own to get the NATO job, Rutte’s backers insist he is fully aware of the threat posed by Russia.
Among the most formative events during his time in charge of the Netherlands was the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, with 196 Dutch among the 298 killed, that was blamed of Moscow-backed fighters.