Indian babus are to a good idea what a pin prick is to a bubble. A proposal to introduce parity between Non Resident Indians (NRIs) – Indian citizens living overseas – and overseas citizens of India (OCIs) – typically Indian origin foreign citizens – has become mired in the endless and mindless bureaucratic maze of various ministries invited to comment on it.The proposal, drafted by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, seeks to extend to OCIs the same benefits as NRIs in such areas as investment, employment and property rights. Mind you, it seeks parity not with Indian residents, but NRIs. However, several ministries are resisting the proposal.The same tired arguments advanced two years ago to kill dual citizenship are again being trotted out to gut the new bill. Overseas Indians will recall that after tantalizing them for years with a much-ballyhooed offer of dual citizenship, the Indian government reneged on the promise, instead adopting a bogus and misleading “overseas Indian citizenship” card, which explicitly ruled out dual citizenship. Security considerations were cited at the time against extending dual nationality to overseas Indians, notwithstanding the fact that roughly half the countries in the world permit it, including some that are most sensitive to security matters, such as the United States.The new mutation was the OCI card, a form of glorified People of Indian Origin (PIO) card introduced earlier, fashioned after the U.S. green card. The OCI card does not entitle its holder to a passport, but like the alien card its holder does not need to secure a visa for travel to India or to register in India during extended stays, which other foreign nationals are required to do.The promise of dual citizenship for all overseas Indians was first pared down to just 16 countries, principally Western, predicated partly on the plausible logic that dual nationality was viable only in countries that themselves permitted it. After the babus batted that around for two years, dual citizenship was dropped entirely and the OCI card introduced with a publicity campaign that it was dual citizenship in all but name.However, as details, and later the forms and process, trickled out, it became clear that the OCI card was a sad consolation prize for the failed promise. Now the babus are chipping away at whatever remains of the OCI card. The home ministry wants to preserve a distinction between NRIs and OCIs in the strategic financial sector; the Department of Economic Affairs wants to distinguish between the two in the acquisition and transfer of property in India, while the Revenue Department is objecting that income tax and wealth tax benefits available to NRIs should not be extended to OCIs. The ministry of health and human welfare, likewise, wants restrictions on foreign educated physicians practicing in India.The bottom line of all this hand wringing is that the only tangible benefit of the OCI card is that it serves as a lifelong travel visa. Even green card holders in the United States enjoy more rights and privileges than holders of OCI cards. Certainly in the areas of investment, employment and property rights, alien residents in the United States have many of the same privileges as U.S. citizens. One would think that, at minimum, for people the Indian government is proposing dual nationality could be afforded at least the same privileges Indian citizens with a U.S. green card are entitled to in the United States.Instead, the OCI card is emasculated every time another layer masking it is peeled away.Any surprise that under 1 percent of the eligible 24 million overseas Indians have bothered to even apply for it? Related Items
Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Stephen Curry puzzled over mention in GOP tax proposal CPP denies ‘Ka Diego’ arrest caused ‘mass panic’ among S. Tagalog NPA John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding READ: Narvasa remains defiant: I’m fighting for principleNational team head coach Chot Reyes can heave a sigh of relief as he begins the Smart Gilas Pilipinas’ preparations on Friday evening.Players like June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, and Von Pessumal of San Miguel, Japeth Aguilar and Kevin Ferrer of Ginebra, Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon of Star, Terrence Romeo of GlobalPort, and LA Revilla and Russel Escoto of Kia have the greenlight to join the national team’s preparations for the Asian qualifiers.The Philippines is set to open its first round assignment against Japan in Tokyo on November 24, before playing Chinese Taipei at Smart Araneta Coliseum on November 27.ADVERTISEMENT Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netThe PBA governors may be at an impasse when it comes to the matters about the Commissioner’s office, but the teams remain united when it comes to the national team.The five teams supporting the extension of PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said that they won’t allow the controversy to affect the league’s commitment to Smart Gilas Pilipinas.ADVERTISEMENT Stronger peso trims PH debt value to P7.9 trillion In a joint statement released on Friday, San Miguel, Ginebra, Star, GlobalPort, and Kia said they are still allowing their players to suit for national team duties for the 2017 Fiba World Cup qualifiers as part of the PBA’s agreement with Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).READ: Seven PBA governors stand firm, urge Narvasa to resign FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“All five teams composed of San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, Star Hotshots, GlobalPort and Kia Picanto will continue to make available its players to the Philippine team that is preparing for the Fiba Asia World Cup qualifier and other league functions. We believe this should not be adversely affected by the board members’ differences in opinion,” the statement read.“We reiterate that we are doing this to protect the league we all love, the game of basketball and the millions of fans who continue to support us.” Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC MOST READ QC cops nab robbery gang leader, cohort Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Japan ex-PM Nakasone who boosted ties with US dies at 101 LATEST STORIES Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games View comments Read Next
New York, Oct 16 (PTI) Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had to spend two hours at the airport upon his arrival here as US authorities subjected him to “random secondary immigration check”.However, 46-year-old Omar took it sportingly and said that this happens every time he visited the US.He also said the random checks are growing “tiresome now”.In a series of tweets from the airport, Omar said that he was subjected to another “random” secondary immigration check upon landing in the US.”Thrice in three visits, the randomness is growing tiresome now,” he said.”I just spent TWO hours in a holding area and this happens EVERY time. Unlike @iamsrk I dont even catch Pokemon to pass the time,” he said.Omar is in New York to speak at an event organised by the New York University.He tweeted “Im here to speak at an event organised by NYU but I almost wish Id stayed at home instead. Ah well, thats two hours well & truly wasted!!” PTI SKL NSA
Arnaut Groeneveld scored his first international goal to help Netherlands play out a 1-1 draw against Belgium in a friendly at the King Baudouin Stadium on Tuesday.Dries Mertens volleyed an excellent opener for Belgium after five minutes, but the young Dutch side grew into the game and were level before the break thanks to Groeneveld.It was the first draw in 13 matches for Belgium, who had won 11 of their previous 12 games, the only blemish being the World Cup semi-final loss to eventual champions France in July.It was also a second positive result in four days for the rejuvenated Netherlands, who beat Germany 3-0 in the Nations League on Saturday and showed more signs of progression under coach Ronald Koeman as they came close to another victory.Belgium took the early lead when Eden Hazard’s mazy run into the penalty area saw the ball eventually fall for Mertens, whose powerfully volley crashed into the corner of the net.Mertens almost turned provider shortly afterwards when his cross was headed over the bar by striker Romelu Lukaku, while at the other end Memphis Depay only had Simon Mignolet to beat but fired straight at the Belgium goalkeeper.The Dutch were level after 27 minutes when an incisive breakaway saw Depay provide a low cross for unmarked Groeneveld to score his first Dutch goal in his second international.The visitors had seized the momentum and were unlucky not to take the lead when Quincy Promes struck the post with a shot from the edge of the box, although Hazard should have scored for the hosts soon after when he fired wide from 10 metres.advertisementBelgium coach Roberto Martinez withdrew Hazard, Lukaku and Mertens at halftime and one of the replacements, forward Michy Batshuayi, had two chances just after the break but shot wide and had a header saved by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.The second period lacked the intensity of the first as both teams tired but Dutch defender Nathan Ake forced an excellent save from Mignolet with a header from a corner, while Pablo Rosario also missed a headed chance for the visitors.(With inputs from Reuters)
Juventus 1 Lazio 2: Immobile condemns champions to rare home defeat Matthew Scott Last updated 2 years ago 02:01 10/15/17 Getty Images Juventus lost at home in Serie A for the first time in over two years as Ciro Immobile scored twice in a 2-1 Lazio success. Ciro Immobile struck twice and Paulo Dybala missed a penalty for the second Serie A game in succession as Lazio won 2-1 to hand Juventus a first home league defeat in 42 games.Dybala’s spot-kick woe came deep in stoppage time after referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni had used the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system to rightly award Juve the chance to claim a point following a reckless challenge from Patric on Federico Bernardeschi.But Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha dived low to his right to push Dybala’s effort away before the final whistle went to condemn the Bianconeri to a first home defeat in Serie A since August 2015. 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Juve’s dominance at the Allianz Stadium has been one of the cornerstones of their six successive Serie A titles, but a growing sense that their Scudetto monopoly could be under serious threat will only increase after this eye-catching result.The hosts had won their last six league meetings with Lazio to nil, and were on a revenge mission after their stunning stoppage-time defeat to Simone Inzaghi’s side in the Supercoppa Italiana.Douglas Costa opened his Juventus account, while Gonzalo Higuain bizarrely and inadvertently hit the bar from a yard out as Massimiliano Allegri’s men dominated the opening half.But Lazio had designs on upsetting the champions once again and former Juve youngster Immobile struck twice inside seven minutes after the break to turn the game on its head and put the visitors on course for their first league win over Juve in 14 years.Both goals came as a result of creaking defensive play between Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli and, having spurned a two-goal lead against Atalanta last time out – a game in which Dybala was foiled from 12 yards to snatch a win – questions may be asked of Allegri as Napoli’s spectacular start to the season ramps up the pressure.97′ #STRAKOSHA !!!!!!!!!! LA PARATA DEL NOSTRO NUMERO !!!!!!! #JuveLazio — S.S.Lazio (@OfficialSSLazio) October 14, 2017 Allegri had opted to bench Dybala, despite the Bianconeri star failing to play a minute for Argentina during the international break, with Costa and Mario Mandzukic flanking Higuain in attack.With five Lazio players strung in front of a back three, chances were at a premium for the hosts, but they converted their first clear-cut opportunity.Sami Khedira’s snapshot drew a fine save from Strakosha, only for Costa to snaffle the rebound – the goal upheld by VAR after replays showed Bastos had played him onside on the far side.Strakosha denied Khedira more decisively with 10 minutes to play in the opening half, palming the German’s blistering 30-yarder around the post.The Allianz Stadium was collectively astonished when the score remained at 1-0 soon after when Higuain charged down Strakosha’s clearance from no more than a yard out, only to see the ball incredibly rebound clear off the crossbar.Lazio reached the interval having shown little sign of breaking their drought against the champions, but they pulled level just two minutes into the second half, Immobile curling beyond Buffon after he pulled away from Barzagli to latch onto Luis Alberto’s pass.Strakosha denied Higuain one-on-one as the striker’s luckless game continued and Lazio stunned the home crowd soon after, Immobile again splitting the defence and rounding Gianluigi Buffon, who could only trip the striker.Immobile picked himself up to send Buffon the wrong way and put the rarest of wins in the minds of Lazio fans.15 – C. Immobile has scored 15 goals this season in all club comps – currently the best tally for a player of the top-5 Euro leagues. Bomber— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 14, 2017 Allegri called for Dybala as Juve’s attempts to get back into the game came to nought and he was soon in the thick of the action, seeing a cross to fellow substitute Bernadeschi just hooked clear by Stefan Radu.Dybala was denied by the post with a fizzing half-volley in the first minute of stoppage time, but looked set to be the hero when substitute Patric suffered a brain freeze with time almost up.With the stage set, Dybala fluffed his lines again, Strakosha denying the South American to move Inzaghi’s men level in the table with Juventus, who now look on anxiously as Napoli look to extend their advantage at the top against Roma.Key Opta stats:- 783 days have passed since Juventus’ previous defeat at home in all competitions (Aug 23rd 2015 v Udinese): since then, 57 games on home soil without losing (50 wins, 7 draws).- Lazio’s last win away to Juventus in Serie A was in December 2002: since then, 10 defeats and three draws in 13 league matches in Turin.- The last player to score a brace away to Juventus in Serie A was Sulley Muntari in October 2013.- Juventus conceded two goals in a home league game for the first time since April 2015 (vs Fiorentina).- Lazio have scored 21 goals so far: only in 1942/43 had they netted so many goals after the first eight Serie A games.- Paulo Dybala has failed to score two consecutive penalties after he had converted all his previous penalty kicks in Serie A (13 out of 13).- Gonzalo Higuain has failed to score in three consecutive home league appearances for the first time since January 2015. read more
Twitter/@CollegeGameDayLee Corso picks Tennessee to beat Virginia Tech with his headgear selection on College GameDay this morning.NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. appropriately joined the GameDay crew this afternoon to make picks live from Bristol Motor Speedway ahead of tonight’s fun non-conference game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech. He picked the picked the Hokies to pull the upset, citing his fiancee, a Kentucky cheerleader, telling him he’d have to walk home for picking the Vols. Desmond Howard also took the Hokies for the surprise win.For his headgear selection, Corso pulled out a coonskin cap, threw it away which made it sound like he was switching to the Hokies, and wound up putting on a giant Tennessee-themed racing helmet. He also brought up the Vols’ awesome live mascot Smokey onto the GameDay set.Lee Corso picks Tennessee pic.twitter.com/qEjk5LlKDz— Saturday Blitz (@SaturdayBlitz) September 10, 2016Lee Corso goes with Tennessee in the @ChevyTrucks #SaturdaySelections. pic.twitter.com/61t3cPR13d— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 10, 2016Based on recent history, this may not be a great sign for the Volunteers.Lee Corso picks had a horrid record in GameDay headgear selections last year, going just 3-10 after very solid years in 2014 and 2015. He didn’t do much better with his first selection of the 2016 season. Corso picked LSU to beat Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Of course, a D’Cota Dixon interception with under a minute left sealed the deal for the Badgers.Tennessee sits as an 11-point favorite in today’s game, via Odds Shark.Next weekend, it sounds like College GameDay will be making its first trip to Louisville, for the Cardinals’ huge ACC contest against powerhouse Florida State. With the way Lamar Jackson has been dicing up opponents this year, will Lee go with the home team, or does he stick with his alma mater FSU? We’ll find out, assuming that is the show’s destination for Week 3.But first, we have the Week 2 schedule to get through. Today isn’t full of sexy match-ups, but sometimes it is weeks like this that surprise us with huge upsets and crazy finishes. If last weekend is any indication, college football won’t be letting us down today.
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – SEPTEMBER 02: Penn State Nittany Lions cheerleaders perform during the second half of a football game against the Akron Zips on September 2, 2017 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State defeats Akron 52-0. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)The Penn State Nittany Lions made a big addition to their coaching staff that should give the offense a boost.On Thursday, Penn State announced that Duke wide receivers coach Gerad Parker had been hired by the Nittany Lions to serve in the same capacity.In a statement from the school, Penn State head coach James Franklin spoke glowingly about Parker.“We are excited to add Gerad to our staff,” Franklin said. “He has a comprehensive background and knows the Big Ten. He is a terrific fit for our staff, university and community. He has a great opportunity to come in and make a significant impact both on and off the field with a very talented position group! Gerad played wide receiver in the SEC and has shown he is a great teacher of the position, as well. His wide receiver groups have been able to overachieve throughout his coaching career.”Welcome to the #PennState family, @GeradParker1!?: https://t.co/q9T5RAspFA#WeAre pic.twitter.com/LTkMCYosy2— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) January 10, 2019Parker spent the last two seasons with the Blue Devils, serving as offensive assistant in 2017 and wide receivers coach in 2018.Prior to his time at Duke, Parker spent four years with the Purdue Boilermakers in several roles.He served as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 2013 to 2014, then was moved to wide receivers coach in 2015.Parker also served briefly as interim head coach of the Boilermakers in 2016 following the dismissal of Darrell Hazell. He went 0-6 with Purdue as the team finished the year with a 3-9 record.
zoom The UK’s decision to leave the European Union will have a negative impact on all parties involved in the container shipping segment, from shippers, to freight forwarders and the container carriers themselves, the market intelligence platform for containerized ocean freight Xeneta said.“The last thing the container segment needs is further unpredictability and disruption,” Xeneta CEO, Patrik Berglund, said.Rates for shipping 40-foot containers have effectively collapsed over the past two years, with the short term average for Shanghai to Rotterdam now standing at 60% below its Summer 2014 level, driven by chronic over-capacity and cut throat competition.For the last 40-plus years the UK has been part of a mega trading block capable of negotiating the most favourable trade treaties, and therefore import duties, with other blocks and nations, but now the country is going to have to sign new treaties with everyone, without the bargaining power of the EU in its corner, according to Berglund, who added that this would “undoubtedly lead to higher duties, and therefore costs for shippers.”Furthermore, he said that the flow of containers will face a new bottleneck, increasing complexity and potentially forcing shippers to consider alternatives – such as more local sourcing, or re-positioning facilities in territories more conducive to easier trading.According to Berglund, it is impossible to predict how the decision will impact on freight rates in the immediate future, as the segment was unpredictable enough “before this political bombshell exploded.”
Fourteen communities across Nova Scotia are closer to enjoying the benefits of clean, green locally generated electricity as the province announced the next round of approved Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT) projects today, March 26. “We are very pleased with the vision and collaborative approach that has been demonstrated by these applicants,” said Energy Minister Charlie Parker. “These projects will result in communities generating power in their own backyards, while providing economic development opportunities in the communities they serve.” Details of the projects are: a 3.2-megawatt wind project owned by Watts Wind Energy, near Porters Lake a 100-kilowatt hydro project owned by Halifax Water a 50-kilowatt wind project owned by Annapolis Valley Waste in Kentville a 500-kilowatt biomass project in Hasset, Digby Co., owned by the Municipality of Digby the Municipality of Shelburne’s 800-kilowatt large wind project in Sandy Point two-megawatt wind projects in Yarmouth and Shelburne, owned by Scotian Windfields a 1.5-megawatt project in Goldboro, Guysborough Co., and two 50-kilowatt projects in Mulgrave, owned by Celtic Current a 50-kilowatt small wind project in Mulgrave owned by the Town of Mulgrave a 500-kilowatt biomass project operated by Windmill Hollsteins in Shubenacadie a 1.9-megawatt project operated by Affinity Renewables in Dean, near Stewiacke and 4.8-megawatt project in Truro. Next steps for applicants include securing financing, completing a grid-impact study and obtaining the required federal and provincial environmental assessments and approvals. The Community Feed-in Tariff concept was introduced in the 2010 Renewable Electricity Plan to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide a secure supply of clean energy at stable prices and create jobs. The program began accepting applications in September 2011. More than 100 locally based proposals have been received from more than 20 community groups for this unique, made-in-Nova Scotia initiative to encourage community participation in renewable energy projects. The Municipality of the District of Digby’s biomass project will use mink waste to develop renewable electricity, rather than sending it to landfill. “This project is one more step towards creating a positive environment for renewable energy investment in Digby,” said Warden Linda Gregory. “We commend the province for establishing the right conditions to move this forward.” “COMFIT provides us with the opportunity to turn this waste into clean, locally generated electricity,” said Max Barr, president, South West Eco Energy Ltd. “To our knowledge, this is a first for the North American mink industry.” Windmill Holsteins will use a similar process to produce energy from farm waste. The Community Feed-in Tariff allows eligible groups to receive an established price per kilowatt hour (kWh) for projects producing electricity from certain renewable resources. Rates were established by the Utility and Review Board in September. Projects can include wind, biomass, in-stream tidal and run-of-the-river hydroelectric developments. Eligible groups include municipalities, First Nations, co-operatives, universities and not-for-profit groups. The COMFIT program will help the province reach its renewable electricity targets of 25 per cent renewable electricity by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. The province expects 100 megawatts of electricity to be produced through the COMFIT program. For more information on the program visit www.nsrenewables.ca .
NEW DELHI: A woman was stabbed multiple times on the road in South West Delhi’s Munirka on Thursday by her live in partner.The woman was rushed to a private hospital where her condition is said to be critical. Police said that the woman who resides in Kishangarh in Munirka is a divorcee and has been living with a man Varun Pandey for some time in a live in relationship. However, they again separated and now the accused Varun was living in Deoli village in Khanpur. Also Read – Bangla Sahib Gurudwara bans use of all types of plastic itemsShe was going to pick up her child from school when she was attacked by the Varun by a sharp-edged weapon. The police team was informed and the accused was apprehended. He has been booked under IPC 307 (attempt to murder). “There was some argument between the two and as a result, the man stabbed the woman, her statement would be taken once she is fit for the statement,” said Ishwar singh, ACP Safdarjung Enclave. However, her condition is said to be stable.Meanwhile, the accused Varn Pandey has been arrested by Delhi police. He is into a catering business and was living with the woman in a rented accommodation in Munirka. The mother of the injured woman resides in the same locality. The investigation has revealed that the man is also a divorcee and was into a live in relationship with the woman for some time. It is said that he followed the woman, git into an argument and then stabbed her with a knife he was carrying with himself.
APTN National NewsA woman from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne says she was beaten after refusing to take a breathalyzer.The incident allegedly happened two weeks ago at the Canada Border Services Agency office in Cornwall, Ontario.APTN’s Annette Francis now with more.
21 February 2008More than 200 applications have been received for the eight remaining directorships of Iraq’s governorate election offices (GEOs), the United Nations assistance mission for that country (UNAMI) announced today in Baghdad. The number of applications received “proves that Iraqis are ready to participate in the selection process and in determining their own future,” Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative in Iraq, said at a press conference. To date, according to UNAMI, 224 applications had been submitted for positions in the seven governorates of Basra, Diala, Karbala, Najaf, Nenawa, Wassit and Baghdad, where there are two offices, to help implement legislation calling for governorate elections before 1 October. The mission added that 22 women had submitted applications for the posts, which must be received before the deadline of 28 February.Concerns had been raised by the UN and many political leaders in Iraq about the way in which the previous selection of 11 of Iraq’s 19 governorate election office directors were conducted in September 2007, and the mission last week urged an improved selection process.“The applications process for these positions is an initial step towards transparent and professional selection of the remaining eight governorate electoral offices directors,” Mr. Mistura said.
NEW YORK — Court records say a Republican congressman from western New York is expected to plead guilty in a criminal case accusing him of insider trading.A federal judge in Manhattan has scheduled a hearing Tuesday afternoon for U.S. Rep. Chris Collins to enter a guilty plea in a case initially brought last year.A similar hearing has been scheduled Wednesday for Collins’ son.The congressman is accused of illegally leaking confidential information about a biopharmaceutical company to his son and the father of his son’s fiancée.Prosecutors say the tip allowed them to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.Collins’ attorney didn’t immediately respond to messages Monday.The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan declined comment.The court filing didn’t specify which charges Collins would plead guilty to.The Associated Press
According to reports from Iraq’s second city of Basra, local transporters are refusing to carry passengers beyond the city due to a fear of illegal checkpoints along the roads, hijackings and other security issues, UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said. UNHCR’s transit centre in Basra cannot accommodate large groups of people, so the agency has opted to delay a convoy from Iran that was returning today with 208 refugees formerly residing in Shiraz, he added. The group was stopped just inside the Iranian border, where it will wait until the situation has stabilized and transport beyond Basra is readily available. “UNHCR does not promote return to Iraq, but only facilitates the voluntary repatriation of those refugees who insist on going back,” Mr. Kessler said at a press briefing in Geneva. Some 10,000 people have gone back from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon since last July with the help of UNHCR-facilitated repatriation convoys. Mr. Kessler said many of UNHCR’s partners are increasingly concerned about the security situation and unease in the south. “Despite the enormous humanitarian needs, agencies are increasingly working to keep their profiles as discreet as possible,” he said. “This is seriously affecting the amounts of assistance that can be provided to returnees, non-Iraqi refugees and displaced persons residing in the region.”
“I welcome the steps taken by the Government of Ghana in its fight against torture and other ill-treatment in the country, but much remains to be done,” UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez said in a press release at the end of a four-day follow-up visit to the country.According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he assessed critical issues in the criminal justice system, including conditions of detention, as well as mental health-care practices, in particular the treatment and living conditions of persons held in psychiatric hospitals and prayer camps.“I am concerned that instances of torture and ill-treatment continue to occur with some frequency during the apprehension, arrest, and interrogation stages by police and intelligence services,” he said. “I received troubling reports of forced confessions, despite the existence of legal guarantees intended to protect persons upon arrest and in police custody.”He added that of particular concern is the lacking sense of due diligence and urgency by oversight mechanisms such as the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice – as well as courts and prosecutors – to tackle the issue with “prompt, impartial, and effective investigations into all allegations of mistreatment.”Mr. Méndez said that without proper complaint mechanisms and public awareness campaigns, “no real change is possible.”“The right to counsel also needs to be made truly effective in all criminal cases by the expansion and effective implementation of the Legal Aid Scheme or the establishment of a Public Defenders’ Office,” the expert also stressed.Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur noted no significant improvements with regard to the still severe overcrowding in some detention centres, inadequate nutrition, a shortage of water, poor sanitation and health-care, and a lack of medicines, despite positive steps taken by the Government to accelerate the management of cases.“I am encouraged by the projects and measures being implemented by the Government,” he said. “In particular, the ‘Justice for All’ programme with its travelling court has been able to partially clear up the backlog of remand cases in various regions. I welcome the establishment of a high court on the premises of Nsawam Medium Security Prison as a pilot project that aims to speed up appeals, thereby reducing the number of detainees.”In addition, he said a further step forward are the new guidelines on sentencing, which despite not being binding on judges will, if implemented across all regions, contribute to a more consistent approach to sentencing and more reasonable use of discretion by judges. “The introduction of statutory provisions for non-custodial measures would also assist in reducing overcrowding in prisons and facilitate the reintegration into society,” Mr Méndez stated. “I call upon Ghana to swiftly ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture to ensure regular monitoring of places of detention, which is essential to guaranteeing the rights of inmates.”On the issue of mental health care, the Special Rapporteur noted that while current practices were similar to those observed during his last visit, progress is being made in the implementation of the Mental Health Act and associated programmes established by its managing Mental Health Authority.“Initial steps have been taken to decentralize mental health care. Setting up visiting committees in the regions needs to be followed up by the passage of the Act’s Legislative Instrument, sufficient allocation of funds to its programmes, and actual changes of treatment and living conditions of mentally ill patients on the ground,” he urged.Mr Méndez also stressed that private institutions treating mentally ill patients, such as prayer camps, must also be regulated and monitored by these programmes. “I saw patients chained onto walls and forced to fast in a prayer camp,” the rights expert said. “These practices are frankly unacceptable and constitute torture, and the State of Ghana can no longer close its eyes to these practices.”In the understanding that these are cultural practices and that families approach prayer camps voluntarily, the expert said he agrees with the State’s approach to use persuasion and engagement to monitor and enforce existing law and regulation and to obtain cooperation under the guidance and supervision of science-based, appropriately trained mental health professionals. “The reference to culture and tradition cannot be invoked to justify harmful practices to individuals,” he warned.Independent experts, or Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.The Special Rapporteur will present a follow-up report to the Human Rights Council in March 2016.