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Canada extends ban on non-essential travel with US until July 21
18 June 2021, 4:53 PM

Canada is extending a ban on non-essential travel with the United States until July 21 and will soon reveal how existing COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said on Friday.

Canada’s Liberal government is under increasing pressure from businesses and the tourism industry to ease the ban, which was first imposed in March 2020 to help contain spread of the coronavirus and has been renewed on a monthly basis ever since.

“In coordination with the US, we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the United States until July 21st, 2021,” Blair said on Twitter.

Ottawa will reveal on June 21 how it plans to start lifting the measures for fully vaccinated Canadians and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada, he added.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu last week said the government was preparing to lift quarantine protocols for citizens who had received their second dose of a vaccine.

The US administration has created working groups with both Mexico and Canada to discuss the restrictions. The groups held their initial meetings this week, sources told Reuters.

Liberian rebel sentenced in Switzerland for war crimes, cannibalism
18 June 2021, 4:46 PM

A Liberian rebel commander was sentenced in Switzerland to 20 years in jail on Friday for rape, killings and an act of cannibalism, in one of the first ever convictions over the West African country’s civil war.

The case was also Switzerland’s first war crimes trial in a civilian court. It involved 46-year-old Alieu Kosiah who went by the nom de guerre “bluff boy” in the rebel faction ULIMO that fought former President Charles Taylor’s army in the 1990s.

Kosiah, faced 25 charges and was convicted on all but four of them, documents from the Swiss Federal Court showed.

He was arrested in 2014 in Switzerland, where he had been living as a permanent resident. A 2011 Swiss law allows prosecution for serious crimes committed anywhere, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Human Rights Watch called Friday’s sentencing a “landmark”.

“Switzerland’s efforts on this case should help mobilize wider accountability in Liberia as this shows that these crimes can be prosecuted. I see this as an opportunity,” the group’s Elise Keppler said.

Liberia has ignored pressure to prosecute crimes from its back-to-back wars between 1989-2003, in which thousands of child soldiers became bound up in tussles for power exacerbated by ethnic rivalry.

DEPORTATION, COMPENSATION

Activists in the Liberian capital Monrovia celebrated the verdict. “This will serve as a deterrent for others around the world. I think justice has taken its course,” said Dan Sayeh, a civil society campaigner.

Jefferson Knight, another activist in Liberia, said he hoped the sentence would add to growing pressure for the government to create a war crimes unit, as the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee recommended years ago.

Charles Taylor was sentenced for war crimes in 2012, but only for acts in neighbouring Sierra Leone. His son, Chuckie, was sentenced for torture in Liberia by a US court in 2009.

Kosiah had denied all the charges and told the court he was a minor when first recruited into the conflict. He was cleared on Friday of attempted murder of a civilian, accessory to the murder of a civilian, an order to loot and recruitment of a child soldier.

The court said in an emailed statement that the 20-year sentence was the maximum it was allowed to give under Swiss law.

“No mitigating circumstances were taken into account in the sentencing. A deportation from Switzerland was also ordered for a period of 15 years,” it said. Kosiah was also ordered to pay compensation to seven plaintiffs, it added.

It was not immediately clear when the deportation would take place. Kosiah’s sentence includes the 2 413 days, or around 6-1/2 years, that he has already served in pre-trial detention, the court papers showed.

AstraZeneca says EU loses legal bid for more vaccine supplies by end-June
18 June 2021, 4:40 PM

AstraZeneca said on Friday the European Union had lost a legal case against the pharmaceutical firm over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, with a court in Brussels rejecting an EU request for more deliveries by the end of June.

But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday’s ruling supported the EU’s view that AstraZeneca — against which the bloc has recently launched a second lawsuit — had failed to meet its commitments.

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant committed in a contract to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the 27-nation bloc by the end of June, but production problems led the company to revise down its target to 100 million vaccines.

The supply cuts delayed the EU’s vaccination drive in the first quarter of the year, when the bloc had initially bet on AstraZeneca to deliver the largest volume of its shots. That led to a bitter dispute and to the EU’s legal action to get at least 120 million doses by the end of June.

But the judge ruled that it should deliver only 80.2 million doses by a deadline of September 27. The company said it would “substantially exceed” that amount by the end of June.

The court said in a statement that AstraZeneca must deliver 15 million doses by July 26, another 20 million by Aug. 23 and another 15 million by September 27, for a total of 50 million doses. The EU had asked for 90 million doses in the second quarter.

Should the company miss these deadlines it would face a penalty of “10 euros ($11.8) per dose not delivered”, the EU Commission said. The EU had asked for a fine of 10 euros per dose per day.

AstraZeneca said other measures sought by the Commission had been dismissed, and the court had found that the EU had no exclusivity or right of priority over other parties the drugmaker had contracts with.

“The judgment also acknowledged that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay,” AstraZeneca said in a statement.

“AstraZeneca now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help combat the pandemic in Europe.”

The European Union last month launched a second lawsuit against the drugmaker seeking financial penalties for the delays to vaccine supply.

“This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract,” Commission President von der Leyen said on Friday.

The EU lawyer said the EU will analyse the situation before deciding whether to go ahead with second legal case.

Africa COVID trajectory is ‘very concerning’, WHO official says
18 June 2021, 4:27 PM

The trend of COVID-19 cases in Africa is very concerning, a senior World Health Organisation official said on Friday.

Absolute numbers do not make Africa look in bad shape, said Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, adding that in the last week it had recorded just over 5% of global cases and 2.2% of deaths.

But given the level of underdiagnosis, he told a news conference: “It’s a trajectory that is very, very concerning.”

Australia lock Philip backs Rennie’s ‘dark side’ call
14 June 2021, 8:25 AM

Lock Matt Philip has backed coach Dave Rennie’s call for the Wallabies to bring out their “dark side” ahead of next month’s three-test series against France.

Philip recently returned to Australia after a stint in France’s Top 14 with Pau and was included in Rennie’s 38-man squad for the series, which starts on July 7.

The 27-year-old said his time in France had helped him improve as a player and he was looking forward to putting what he learned to good use with the Wallabies.

“Top 14 is quite a physical comp, it’s more physical than Super Rugby so from that point of view I had to learn a few more techniques,” Philip told reporters in a Zoom call on Monday.

“Around the scrum and line-outs I’ve picked a few things up that I’m excited to try out and see how they go over here. Top 14 is rugby but it’s very different to Super Rugby.”

Australian sides won just two out of 25 games against New Zealand opposition in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, and Rennie said the Wallabies had to have a different approach than the Super Rugby sides.

“We want to play an attractive brand of rugby but we’ve also got to show a dark side,” Rennie said on Stan Sports on Sunday when announcing his squad.

“We’ve got to make some shifts from Super Rugby.”

With Australian teams conceding an average of almost six tries per game in the Trans-Tasman competition, Philip said defence had to be the focus.

“I think defence is probably the main way that that can be shown and I think looking at Super Rugby I don’t think the Australian Super Rugby teams will be too happy with how they’ve defended,” said Philip.

“The team that was selected has a lot of strong defensive players in there, which can really put dominant shots on and I think that’s what he’s going to be looking for.”

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