25 September 2017 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


Iraqi Kurds vote in independence referendum
By Al Jazeera, 25 Sep 2017

 People in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan are voting in an independence referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition. Polls opened at 05:00 GMT with balloting also taking place in the disputed areas between the northern city of Erbil and the capital Baghdad, as well as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which is ethnically mixed. The central government in Baghdad, which strongly opposes the referendum, sought control of the region's international border posts and airports on Sunday, in anticipation of Monday's vote.

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Syria: Coalition Airstrikes Killed Dozens Near Raqqa
By Human Rights Watch, 25 Sep 2017

Two aerial attacks near Raqqa, Syria in March killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, and raise concerns that US-led coalition forces fighting the extremist armed group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) did not take adequate precautions to minimize civilian casualties, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The conclusions are based on an on-the-ground investigation into the attacks. The 42-page report, “All Feasible Precautions? Civilian Casualties in Anti-ISIS Coalition Airstrikes in Syria,” documents coalition attacks in March on a school housing displaced families in Mansourah and a market and a bakery in Tabqa, towns west of the city of Raqqa. Human Rights Watch found that ISIS fighters were at these sites, but so were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of civilians. The coalition should conduct thorough, prompt, and impartial investigations of the attacks, do everything feasible to prevent similar attacks, and provide compensation or condolence payments to people who suffered losses due to the coalition’s operations, Human Rights Watch said.

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West courts Libyan general accused of human rights abuses
By The Guardian, 25 Sep 2017

European leaders are embracing a Libyan general who has ordered his soldiers to commit war crimes, according to new evidence that has been analysed by senior legal experts. The allegation of human rights abuses by Gen Khalifa Haftar, a former CIA asset who controls nearly half of Libya from his base in the east, comes as the general is due to arrive in Rome on Tuesday, where he will be received by Italian officials. The visit is a radical departure for Italy, who had previously shunned Haftar and seen him as a major obstacle to stability in the region because of his refusal to recognise the UN-backed government in the west.

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Iran tests missile despite Trump pressure
By BBC News, 23 Sep 2017

 Iran says it has successfully tested a new-medium range missile, in defiance of US President Donald Trump. The launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which has a range of 2,000 km (1,242 miles), was shown on state TV. It is unclear when the test took place. On Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would increase its military power "as a deterrent". US President Donald Trump criticised the launch, saying the missile was capable of hitting its ally Israel. The Khoramshahr missile was first displayed at a military parade on Friday in Tehran. It is capable of carrying multiple warheads, Iranian media report.

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