BEIRUT: Syria’s civil registries recorded 68,000 deaths in the war-torn country in 2017, pro-regime daily Al-Watan reported its head as saying Thursday.
“Last year, we confirmed 68,000 without specifying the nature of their death and 32,000 this year,” civil registries chief Ahmad Rahal said.
He did not provide any additional details about those who had died, including in what part of Syria they had lost their lives or whether they had been victims of the ongoing conflict.
Thursday’s news come after activists accused authorities of quietly updating civil records to mark detainees in regime jails as “deceased” — some backdated by several years.
Human rights defenders say tens of thousands of Syrians are held in government jails across the country.
Relatives and advocates say they are often tortured, denied a fair trial, and deprived of contact with their families. But Rahal said employees at the civil record did not have a “missing” box to tick.
“If a document comes through from any government body — whether a hospital or another — to confirm a death, it is confirmed without specifying if they were missing or not.”
The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented around 400 cases in recent months, including those of nine children, where civil registry employees have told family members that their detained relative has died.
There could be further such instances which are yet to be documented. Around 80,000 remain forcibly disappeared by the government, the rights group says.
More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria’s civil war started in 2011, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor says.
More than 33,000 were killed last year alone, including more than 10,000 civilians and 7,000 pro-regime fighters, it says.
During the first seven months of this year, at least 14,000 people lost their lives among them more than 5,000 civilians and 7,000 soldiers and loyalists.
DG ISPR briefs British parliamentarians
LONDON: Director General Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asif Ghafoor here on Tuesday visited British Parliament and briefed the parliamentarians about the Pakistan Army’s role in the war against terrorism.
He visited the British Parliament at the invitation of the parliamentarians of House of Commons and House of Lords, a statement of Pakistan High Commission said.
The parliamentarians highly appreciated the role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism. Lord Nazir Ahmed and Baroness Syeeda Warsi were also present on the occasion.
Salvini, Macron clash after France caught migrant dumping
ROME: Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini hit out at President Emmanuel Macron after French police were caught committing the “unprecedented offense” of dumping migrants in Italian woods.
Salvini, also deputy prime minister and head of the anti-immigrant League party, on Monday, demanded a “clear response” after French authorities admitted to returning migrants to Italy in “error”.
A French police van was seen on Friday driving into Italy to return recently-arrived migrants to the town of Claviere.
“It was an error to enter Italian territory without the authorization of the Italian police,” said Cecile Bigot-Dekeyzer, the top official in the Hautes-Alpes region.
“The police had no right to enter Italian territory,” the prefect said.
An outraged Salvini batted away that explanation, while France said the incident should be “kept in perspective”.
“Abandoning migrants in an Italian wood can’t be just a mistake or an incident,” Salvini said on social media. “What happened in Claviere is an unprecedented offense towards our country.”
“Does Paris, which claims to be civil, find it normal to throw people into the woods?… We’re dealing with an international shame, and Mr. Macron can’t pretend he doesn’t know. We won’t accept any excuses,” Salvini wrote.
– ‘It was a mistake’ –
“Let’s keep this in perspective,” an official in the French president’s office told journalists on Tuesday.
“It was a mistake, the authorities have admitted that. There was an incursion, not planned or according to the procedure, into Italian territory, where two people were dropped off.”
Thousands of migrants are caught each year trying to enter France and returned to the Italian border. Last year AFP journalists saw French police dropping off migrants in front of Bardonecchia train station, in Italy.
A source close to Macron slammed Salvini’s “essentially individual political exploitation” of the incident.
Italian Prime Minister “Giuseppe Conte hasn’t turned this incident into proof of a crisis,” the French presidency said.
“We manage our shared border together and there are occasional small regrettable incidents on both sides.”
Relations between Rome and Paris have been increasingly tense in recent months, with Italy’s populist government accusing France and others of failing to share the burden of the 700,000 migrants and asylum seekers that have crossed the Mediterranean to come to Italy since 2013.
French police in March sparked outrage by carrying out identity checks at Bardonecchia station, with the Italian foreign ministry summoning the French ambassador to protest.
In June, Macron criticized Salvini for closing Italian ports to the Aquarius migrant rescue boat, prompting a fresh summoning of the ambassador.
US announces sanctions on key Iranian paramilitary force
WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department today slapped sanctions on an Iranian paramilitary group along with a network of businesses that were providing it financing, as part of Washington’s campaign of maximum economic pressure against Tehran.
In announcing the sanctions, Treasury said a network of more than 20 businesses known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij Resistance Force, a component of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The Basij, a paramilitary force formed soon after the 1979 revolution, is one of the Iranian regime’s primary enforcers of internal security with branches in every province and city of Iran, according to the US Treasury.
The Bonyad Taavon Basij is said to provide the Basij militia social welfare services, including housing and financial support, and manages economic activities by funding small companies. “Bonyad Taavon Basij has expanded its reach into Iran’s economy by establishing several investment firms through its financial and investment offshoot Mehr Eqtesad Bank,” the Treasury statement said.
Among the other companies singled out was Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMC), the largest tractor manufacturer in the Middle East and North Africa which predates the Iranian revolution, that generates millions of dollars in profit for the investment firms that represent the Basij. Also targeted was Iran’s Zinc Mines Development Company, described as the country’s “preeminent, multibillion-dollar zinc and lead mining and processing holding company.”