U.S. withdraws from ‘Open Skies’ treaty with Russia

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2020. – Trump said Thursday that the United States is withdrawing from the Open Skies arms control treaty with Russia, accusing Moscow of breaking the terms. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 3:45 PM PT – Sunday, November 22, 2020

The U.S. formally announced its withdrawal from the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ due to Russian violation of the pact.

On Sunday, the United States officially exited the decades-old treaty. This came after the Trump administration first stated its intent to pull out of the agreement back in May.

The administration pointed to Russia as the catalyst of the move. They alleged the country barred surveillance flights over Russian territories.

The treaty permits a collection of 34 countries to perform unarmed surveillance flights over other countries to collect data on their military operations.

MORE NEWS: Secy. Pompeo Meets With Taliban Reps. In Qatar


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The hopes for a Tasmanian Aboriginal treaty focus on a diary entry from 1831

August 6, 1831, may turn out to be a key date in Tasmanian history, but most people don’t know why.

It was on that day that some say a treaty was struck between the government of the day and Tasmania’s first people — a treaty, they say, that was never rescinded or revoked and is still in place almost 200 years later.

Controversial figure George Augustus Robinson was travelling across the state having been tasked by the powerful Aborigine Committee to “confer with the hostile tribes and explain the humane and kind disposition of the Government towards them”.

The committee was made up of the ruling elite of Van Diemen’s Land and included governor George Arthur.

Minutes from a committee meeting said Robinson must “… if possible, negotiate with the chiefs either to proceed to the establishment, or to bind themselves to commit no further outrage on the condition of receiving food and clothing and protection from all aggression”.

Robinson had to give the chiefs of Tasmania’s Aboriginal tribes a choice — go into exile at Wybalenna on Flinders Island, or stop fighting.

It was on the August 6, 1831, that Robinson wrote in his diary he made that offer to Mannalargenna, elder of the Plangermaireener clan.

“I informed him in the presence of Kickerterpoller that I was commissioned by the Governor to inform them that, if the natives would desist from their wonted outrages upon the whites, they would be allowed to remain in their respective districts and would have flour, tea and sugar, clothes, etc. given them; that a good white man would dwell with them who would take care of them and would not allow any bad white man to shoot them, and he would go with them about the bush like myself and they could hunt. He was much delighted.”

Aunty Patsy Cameron wants the Government to acknowledge the treaty.(Supplied: MJ Anders and Natalie Barnes)

Aboriginal elder and Mannalargenna’s ancestral granddaughter, Aunty Patsy Cameron AO, said he was offered protection and freedom if his tribe and others agreed to temporarily go to Wybalenna.

Importantly, she said Mannalargenna was promised he’d be able to return to country permanently after some time on Flinders Island, which she said was definitely a treaty.

“It’s interesting that Robinson says this agreement was made in the presence of Kickerterpoller because to me, he was a witness to this agreement,” she said.

“Any one of them could have driven a spear through Robinson at any time, but their word was their bond.

By 1835, Mannalargenna had died at Wybalenna, along with about 150 Aboriginal people, who all became very sick under the horrific conditions.

“When the boat arrives at Big Green Island near Whitemark, Mannalargenna cut off his beard and his hair and that’s so symbolic of the anguish and the sadness of his heart,” Aunty Patsy said.

“He was symbolically preparing himself for death.”

How important is history in a treaty?

History is a complicated beast and interpretations of records differ.

Historian Ian McFarlane, who’s spent his life researching and writing about Tasmania’s Aboriginal history, said there was a solid basis to the argument the agreement is a treaty, but it’s not that clear-cut.

“‘Treaty’ probably is the right word, as it was an offer from the government to chieftains of independent tribes, so I’d regard that as a treaty offer,” Dr McFarlane said.

Mannalargenna, the leader of Tasmania's Pairrebeenne clan
Mannalargenna was key to convincing Aboriginal Tasmanians to leave their country and move to Flinders Island.(Supplied: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery)

Dr MacFarlane said Robinson used trickery or armed force to get other tribes on-side, so the treaty would only be with Mannalargenna and his people, not everyone else.

“It would appear Mannalargenna is the only chieftain Robinson made that proposal to, not the others like he was directed to,” he said.

“In my view, he was given orders to make a treaty, he said in his journal he did, and what he describes in his journal were the instructions he was given, so hopefully there are strong grounds for those people.

“But for everyone else, there’s no evidence at all.”

Dr McFarlane said caution was needed though, as there was only one reference to the treaty offer in history, and Robinson was prone to contradicting himself throughout his diaries, even previously advocating for exile as the preferred option.

Sophie Rigney, Senior research associate at the University of New South Wales’s Indigenous Law Centre, said in legal terms, history plays an important role in formulating modern treaties.

“Because Australia was claimed under terra nullius, the British could say this land was empty and so we therefore don’t need to enter treaty negotiations, but we know from the Mabo case terra nullius was a legal fiction and was never true,” she said.

“In other parts of the world, treaties were made at early points of contact, but obviously that hasn’t happened here so a treaty has to deal with the legacies of colonisation and invasion.

“It’s really important to have that knowledge of where those historic agreements have been and what’s been in them and why they might have fallen over.”

Renowned international law scholar and former dean of the University of Tasmania’s Law school, Tim McCormack has also previously outlined his support for the agreement being recognised as a treaty and how it could be used as a springboard to modern negotiations.

So where does that leave us?

Tasmanian Aboriginal academic Emma Lee
Emma Lee says the treaty is an idea worth revisiting.(ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

Emma Lee, a Trawlwulwuy woman and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research fellow at Swinburne University, said regardless of the legal standing of the agreement, it was an idea worth revisiting.

She said telling this story was an important part of moving forward with a 21st-century treaty.

“The process of colonisation isn’t just about Aboriginal Tasmanians, it’s also that other Tasmanians have been denied the opportunity of knowledge about what happened in their part of the world.

“Until we get that education and broader awareness, we’re going to get tangled up in arguments and discussions about ‘Aboriginal people are trying to take from us’ and instead we need to be walking together because everyone benefits in agreement making.”

Aunty Patsy is urging the State Government to acknowledge the 1831 agreement.

“In order to honour it we need to bring Aboriginal people from all around this island into a dialogue with the Government to talk about what a 21st century treaty would look like.” she said.,

A brick church behind a timber fence
The site of unmarked graves of Aboriginal people who perished at Wybalenna is a short distance from the chapel on Flinders Island.(Supplied: Rachael Rose)

Reconciliation Tasmania co-chair Bill Lawson said the organisation was actively pursuing the treaty argument.

“We have regular briefings with the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, and the leader of the Greens,” he said.

“We don’t want people thinking that anyone’s going to take over their backyard, or all that other rubbish, because this is about a fair go for the descendants of the first people.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Roger Jaensch said the Government was open to having discussions on treaty with Aboriginal communities.

“In the meantime, our continued focus will be on practical measures that support stronger outcomes for Aboriginal people in Tasmania, through our multi-faceted reset approach to continue to invest in our relationship with Aboriginal communities and to achieve some of the outcomes that a treaty might address.”

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Victorian Aboriginal communities urged to ‘keep the faith’ as treaty process hits bumps in the road

When Natarsha Bamblett is searching for inspiration in her life, she turns to her grandmother, Napurrula.

A Walpiri woman, Napurrula was taken from her mother and family at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory when she was two years old, and ultimately sent thousands of kilometres away to Victoria.

“She was actually born under a birthing tree, which is so beautiful and sacred,” Ms Bamblett said.

“And where we live today in Victoria, there’s not many of those traditions that happen.”

Despite suffering the cruelty of being torn from her family, Napurrula survived and is now a proud great-grandmother to a family that knows its culture.

“I continue to take her fierce strength and courage, bravery and resilience, and I’ve got to continue to remember — these are the people that come before me,” Ms Bamblett said.

“We are not defined by the trauma and the pain that has been inflicted by other people, from the disconnection … the strength of Aboriginal people is in our culture, it’s in the country, it’s in the bloodline.”

Ms Bamblett says her grandmother Napurrula’s advice guides her through life’s challenges.(Supplied: Natarsha Bamblett)

A proud Yorta Yorta, Gunaikurnai, Walpiri and Wiradjuri woman, Ms Bamblett is a member of the First Peoples’ Assembly, which is working to set up the rules and structures under which treaties can be negotiated between the Victorian Government and Aboriginal nations or clans.

One of its first big projects is setting up a truth and justice commission, to lay down the facts on Victorian colonisation and its ongoing impact on Aboriginal communities.

It’s a process that has been undertaken in dozens of other countries grappling with the painful legacy of colonisation, including South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.

Ms Bamblett hopes the process will create a shared understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians that will allow them to work together more closely.

“Because Australian history is my history, and my history is everyone’s history,” she said.

“We’re actually able to empower each other when we can share and listen to the messages that we have to offer as Indigenous people, then we can learn to unite and work together.”

A possum-skin quilt built from squares etched with messages about the promise of the treaty process.
The Assembly held its inaugural meeting in December last year at Parliament House.(ABC News: Joseph Dunstan)

And once treaties are formed, she hopes to see a society where people understand they can be “responsible together”.

“We all have the right and the role to be here,” she said.

“So if we can all take on the responsibility to do the right thing, to call things out when they’re not right, to say the right thing and use your voice and stand up, or stand with somebody, to follow the right path … then this will make the change, the difference, that we’ve been needing and wanting for a long time.”

Bushfires, pandemic and Djab Wurrung tree’s destruction mark a tough year

The Assembly’s final meeting in December will cap off a year that’s not been without some speed bumps in its planned path to treaties.

It started with bushfires that devastated the country of traditional owners in the east and north-east, before the coronavirus pandemic sent the treaty consultation and deliberations online.

Then last month, the controversial destruction of a majestic fiddleback tree on Djab Wurrung land to make way for the duplication of the Western Highway sparked a fresh political firestorm.

It was an outcome that had been negotiated by the traditional owner group, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, and one which saved 16 other culturally significant trees, including two birthing trees.

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As 7.30 explored, the tree’s destruction highlighted systemic concerns on cultural heritage protection laws.

While there was some disagreement amongst traditional owners around the tree’s technical cultural heritage values, its loss was deeply painful for Djab Wurrung protesters who had created a protest camp at the construction site in a bid to save the tree.

Those protesters included Djab Wurrung woman Sissy Austin, who announced she would resign as an Assembly member for the south-west in the wake of the tree being felled.

Ms Austin told the ABC at the time that to her, the destruction of the tree marked a break in trust between the Victorian Government and Aboriginal communities.

A towering tree with branches that fan out. The bark down the trunk is very wavy. An Indigenous flag is wrapped around the base
Djab Wurrung protesters camped along the Western Highway in a bid to protect the towering fiddleback tree.(Supplied: Sean Paris)

Assembly co-chair and Taungurung man Marcus Stewart said while the Assembly had not yet formally received notice of Ms Austin’s resignation, their focus was on offering her support.

He said the Assembly had also requested further briefings from the State Government after the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services raised concerns over the force used to remove protesters from the Djab Wurrung protest site.

Questions on representation remain for the Assembly

Ms Austin’s resignation highlights the diversity of views within the Aboriginal community on the treaty process being embarked on by the Assembly and the Labor Andrews Government.

Victorian Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, remains critical of the Assembly’s structure, which includes reserved seats for Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs).

Lidia Thorpe, wearing traditional face paint and scarf over a deep red dress, speaks with a crowd of people watching.
Greens senator Lidia Thorpe says issues of clan representation must be addressed for the Assembly to be truly representative.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

These are groups which have been recognised as traditional owners of country in Victoria through either the Federal Court’s native title laws or the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act, which was set up as a less burdensome state-based process to recognise traditional owners in 2010.

There are 11 RAPs with a reserved seat at the 32-member Assembly, although the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation has so far declined to take up its seat, citing a distrust of the process.

Senator Thorpe said the Assembly’s membership must be expanded beyond the RAPs to give voice to clans who have not gone through government processes to obtain formal recognition.

“I think that if you’re real about representation, you need to have the 38 nations represented,” she said.

“It is against Aboriginal lore for people to speak on other people’s country and so the foundation needs to be right, otherwise people will disengage.”

The Assembly has been grappling with the question of expanding its membership for several months, with consultations currently underway on if and how it could expand the number of reserved seats beyond those groups with RAP status.

The First Peoples' Assembly members gather around a possum quilt inside the Parliament's Upper House.
The Assembly is considering whether its membership should be expanded to include more voices.(ABC News: Joseph Dunstan)

As the Assembly’s discussion paper on the issue notes, this throws up a host of further questions, including whether the Victorian Government would recognise, or negotiate treaties with, nations that did not have formal traditional owner status under federal or state legislation.

Senator Thorpe also believes the state-based treaty processes being pursued by Labor governments in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory are unable to properly address the unceded sovereignty of Aboriginal nations.

“It needs to be at the highest level, we can’t talk about crumbs on the ground … we want real change,” she said.

“You can’t treaty at a state and territory level, they’re treaties that are administrative processes hijacked by the government.”

Assembly ‘on the verge of history’ as Queensland, NT watch on

Mr Stewart said it should not surprise anyone that within Victoria’s Aboriginal communities there was a diversity of views on the best way forwards.

“We’re just as entitled to debate and disagreement as every other Victorian, we live in this democracy as well,” he said.

“And that’s the beauty of who we are as an Assembly. We’ll have robust debate, discussion, but we’ll come to a decision on how we move forward.”

Marcus Stewart stands in a park, dressed in an Akubra and t-shirt bearing the message 'Always Was, Always Will Be'.
First Peoples’ Assembly co-chair Marcus Stewart says the Assembly is “on the verge of history”.(ABC News: Joseph Dunstan)

He said after 233 years of colonial oppression, suspicion towards governments was “generational” in Aboriginal communities, but treaty presented the opportunity to shift the power dynamic.

“My message is, keep the faith,” he said.

“We’re on the verge of history with what we’re doing, on Victoria and the country’s first treaty negotiation framework.”

Mr Stewart said Victoria was “leading the way” on treaty, with the Northern Territory and Queensland watching on closely as they adopt similar mechanisms to progress treaty talks in their own communities.

“It’s a credit to our people, the resilience of our people,” he said.

“But we have to get this right, we have to set a good precedent that South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales can follow.”

As the nation celebrates NAIDOC Week, Ms Bamblett said she saw her work on treaty as part of the eternal chain of Aboriginal stories, culture and activism encompassed by the 2020 theme “Always Was, Always Will Be”.

“The stories are here for us to embrace, as they always were and they always will be,” she said.

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Swiss leader suggests how to revive stalled treaty to EU’s von der Leyen

FILE PHOTO: Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga speaks during a news conference with Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset (not pictured) and Swiss Economic Minister Guy Parmelin (not pictured), as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Bern, Switzerland October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

November 12, 2020

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga called European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday to outline Bern’s proposal to unblock a stalled bilateral treaty, von der Leyen said in a tweet.

“I took note and await further details. We need to make progress towards signing the IFA” (Institutional Framework Agreement) treaty, she added without elaborating.

The pact would formalise ties between non-EU member Switzerland and the 27-nation bloc now governed by a patchwork of 120 bilateral accords.

It focuses on five areas – free movement of people, civil aviation, land transport, mutual recognition of industrial standards and processed farm goods. Switzerland would agree to take on EU single market rules in these areas.

The Swiss government said on Wednesday it was resuming talks over the treaty, which was negotiated over four years but has languished while Bern tries to forge domestic consensus on how to proceed.

The government has given no details on its stance, but said in the past it wants clarifications on state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss welfare benefits and unilateral Swiss rules designed to protect high wages from competition by cross-border workers on temporary assignments.

Critics say it infringes so much on Swiss sovereignty that it would never win a referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy.

A Commission spokesman told a news briefing that von der Leyen awaited more information from the Swiss side.

“It’s only once we have those details that we will be able to start looking at what the next possible steps will be. I think what’s quite clear, as the president’s tweet said, we need to see swift progress and the signing of this framework agreement,” he added.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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Suga and Biden agree security treaty applies to Senkaku Islands

TOKYO — U.S. President-elect Joe Biden sought to shore up ties with key Asian allies on Thursday morning, by making his first calls with the leaders of Japan, South Korea and Australia.

In Biden’s 15-minute conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the two leaders agreed to cooperate on fighting the coronavirus and climate change. Suga said the Japan-U.S. alliance, while needing strengthening, is the cornerstone of his country’s diplomacy and security, stressing that it is essential for the peace and prosperity of an increasingly unstable region.

Biden confirmed that Article 5 of the Japan-U. S. Security Treaty will be applied to the defense of Okinawa Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands. Article 5 stipulates that the U.S. is obliged to defend Japan should its territories come under attack. Former President Barack Obama was the first U.S. leader to declare that the pact applies to the Senkakus.

Chinese vessels have been sighted near the islands, claimed by Beijing and known as Diaoyu in China, on more than 280 days this year — moves that have ratcheted up pressure on Japan and drawn protests from Tokyo.

Suga said he looked forward to “meeting [Biden] as soon as possible,” in reference to a planned February 2021 visit to the U.S. after the presidential inauguration ceremony.

The Japanese prime minister called for cooperation toward realizing a “free and open Indo-Pacific” led by Japan and the U.S. He also requested cooperation on the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens.

After the call, Suga told reporters “it was very important to work with Biden to strengthen the Japan-U. S. alliance.”

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in also had a call with Biden on Thursday morning, in which the pair agreed on the need for a strong alliance and keeping peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“I just spoke to @JoeBiden and congratulated him on his election. We reaffirmed our firm commitment to a robust ROK-US alliance and peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula. Going forward, I will work closely with him to meet global challenges including COVID19 and climate change,” Moon said on Twitter.

But with Biden calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “thug,” analysts say Moon may face difficulties pushing for engagement with Pyongyang. Some see the North resuming military provocations to raise its negotiation power with the incoming Biden administration.

“The U.S. and its allies need to coordinate responses to North Korea’s upgraded long-range and submarine-based missiles because Pyongyang’s next move may be to conduct a provocative test as a ‘welcome gift’ to Biden before demanding financial benefits to reduce military tensions,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“A Biden administration is more likely to pursue working-level talks with Pyongyang rather than summits and big deals.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also spoke with Biden.

“There are no greater friends and no greater allies than Australia and the US,” Morrison tweeted after the call. “I look forward to strengthening even further our deep and enduring alliance, and to working with him closely as we face the world’s many challenges together. “

Additional reporting by Kim Jaewon in Seoul.

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UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons to come into force after 50th signatory

The United Nations announced on Saturday that 50 countries have ratified a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its entry into force in 90 days, a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.

As of Friday, the treaty had 49 signatories, and the United Nations said the 50th ratification from Honduras had been received.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres commended the 50 states and saluted “the instrumental work” of civil society in facilitating negotiations and pushing for ratification, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The UN chief said the treaty’s entry into force on January 22, 2021, culminates a worldwide movement “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and “is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty,” he said.

Guterres said the treaty “represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations,” Dujarric said.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty, said: “This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the UN which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone.”

“The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but illegal,” she said.

The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter which officially established the United Nations and is celebrated as UN Day.

“The United Nations was formed to promote peace with a goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons,” Fihn said. “This treaty is the UN at its best — working closely with civil society to bring democracy to disarmament.”

“Strategic error”

The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices – and the threat to use such weapons – and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries.

Once it enters into force all countries that have ratified it will be bound by those requirements.

The United States had written to treaty signatories saying the Trump administration believes they made “a strategic error” and urged them to rescind their ratification.

The US letter, obtained by The Associated Press, said the five original nuclear powers – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.

It says the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, known as the TPNW, “turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous” to the half-century-old Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of global nonproliferation efforts.

“The TPNW is and will remain divisive in the international community and risk further entrenching divisions in existing nonproliferation and disarmament fora that offer the only realistic prospect for consensus-based progress,” the letter said. “It would be unfortunate if the TPNW were allowed to derail our ability to work together to address pressing proliferation.”

Fihn has stressed that “the non-proliferation Treaty is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eliminating nuclear weapons, and this treaty implements that. There’s no way you can undermine the Non-proliferation Treaty by banning nuclear weapons. It’s the end goal of the Non-proliferation Treaty.”

“Nobody needs nuclear weapons”

The NPT sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five original weapons powers. It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states’ access to peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.

Rebecca Johnson, a co-founder and first president of the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons, said: “The ban treaty is as much about just making it much more possible for people all around the world to see nobody needs nuclear weapons, and they’re actually an impediment, an obstacle – they’re in the way of dealing with the real security threats we have on the ground from COVID to climate.”

She said in an AP interview that nuclear weapons can’t prevent or deal with conflicts. “They’re just in the way, and they’re highly expensive, and the governments that have them are distracted from the real security issues by trying to constantly pay for these arms races that they’re still obsessed with.”

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “The simple reality is that the international community could never hope to deal with the consequences of a nuclear confrontation. No nation is prepared to deal with a nuclear confrontation. What we cannot prepare for, we must prevent.”

There are over 14,000 nuclear bombs in the world, thousands of which are ready to be launched in an instant, Rocca said. The power of many of those warheads is tens of times greater than the weapons dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The treaty was approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017, by a vote of 122 in favour, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. Among countries voting in favour was Iran. The five nuclear powers and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — boycotted negotiations and the vote on the treaty, along with many of their allies.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, who has been an ardent campaigner for the treaty, said: “When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand.”

“I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of joy,” she said in a statement. “I have committed my life to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of our treaty.”

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UK admits to breaking EU treaty as top legal official quits

Britain on Tuesday admitted that it may break international law by rewriting parts of its Brexit divorce treaty relating to Northern Ireland, sparking widespread criticism and clouding the latest round of fraught EU trade talks.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, whose country is the EU nation most affected by Brexit, warned that reneging on last year’s divorce pact “could seriously erode and damage political trust”.

European Parliament president David Sassoli added: “Any attempts by the UK to undermine the agreement would have serious consequences.”

After leaving the European Union earlier this year following a bitterly divisive referendum, Britain is racing to agree a trade deal with Brussels as the clock ticks down to a crunch EU summit in mid-October.

An eighth round of talks began in London on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain will cope with the economic dislocation of leaving the transition period at the end of the year without a deal, despite also facing the coronavirus crisis.

But the prospect has caused the pound to slump on currency markets and made UK businesses increasingly anxious. 

Johnson’s government has urged Brussels to show “more realism” about dealing with a heavyweight economic power on its newly shrunk borders.

It intends on Wednesday to present legislation that could undercut its obligations in the Withdrawal Agreement it agreed with the EU last year.

It insists the changes are technical and required to ensure businesses in Northern Ireland can enjoy friction-free trade with both the EU and the rest of the UK from next year. 

To a question in parliament, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceded: “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.”

Lewis said there were “clear precedents” for such a move as circumstances change. 

But in Dublin, Coveney said the comments were “gravely concerning” and said he had asked the Irish ambassador to raise the issue directly with London.

– Shock in US –

Britain also faced warnings from across the Atlantic of consequences for a separate US-UK trade deal if it backtracked on the Brexit deal.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year warned a deal between London and Washington would be dead on arrival in Congress if the peace accord that ended decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland was undermined.

On Tuesday Democrat Congressman Brendan Boyle told BBC radio it “would be very difficult to enter into a trade negotiation with a party that would have just ripped up a very important agreement to us”.

There was criticism at home in Britain, too, with former prime minister Theresa May and the main opposition Labour party both expressing alarm.

Jonathan Jones, the head of the government’s legal department, was also revealed to have resigned, in a move the Financial Times linked to the Northern Ireland row.

It reported he was “very unhappy” about the decision to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol — a vital part of the EU withdrawal pact designed to avoid a return to the unrest that stalked British rule in the province.

Johnson’s spokesman said the government was “fully committed to implementing” the protocol.

But he stressed “we cannot allow damaging default provisions to kick in” for Northern Ireland if London and Brussels fail to negotiate a deal this year.

The British government’s claim that it has only now found problems with the protocol prompted disbelief from opposition parties.

They seized on Jones’ exit to level new charges of incompetence against Johnson after months of policy U-turns in his government’s coronavirus response.

Britain and the EU agree a deal must be struck by next month’s EU summit, to give time for translation and parliamentary ratification before the end of 2020.

But divisions remain on totemic issues such as state subsidies for industry and fishing rights.

Northern Ireland will have Britain’s only land border with the EU, and the Brexit protocol means the territory will continue to follow some of the bloc’s rules to ensure the frontier remains open.

Removing a hard border between Ireland and British Northern Ireland was a key part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to 30 years of violence.


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Poland to withdraw from European treaty aimed at preventing violence towards women

Poland”s right-wing government says it will withdraw from a European treaty aimed at preventing violence against women.

The Istanbul Convention is the world’s first binding instrument to prevent violence against women but the Polish Justice Minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, described the text as “harmful” because it requires that schools teach children about gender from a sociological point of view.

Ziobro said over the weekend that on Monday he will begin preparing the formal process to withdraw from the treaty.

“This ideological element is linked to the imperative to change education in schools and outside of school programs, in terms of learning, attitudes, convictions of the young Polish generation of students to make, in our opinion, the false assumption that biological sex is archaic, and in fact everything comes down to the socio-cultural gender.”

In Ziobro’s opinion, the convention’s articles concerning the education of children and young people as well as family relationships in the LGBT context are not acceptable.

“We also reject the LGBT element of promoting family relationships, a view propagated by activists from left-wing or homosexual circles who want to translate their beliefs into binding law,” he said.

The Council of Europe said on Sunday it is “alarmed” that Poland is aiming to withdraw from the Convention.

In Warsaw on Friday, around 2,000 people including women’s groups and other rights activists held a demonstration in front of the offices of Ordo Luris, a right-wing organisation that supports withdrawal from the convention.

“We will not be victims” they chanted.

Demonstrations were also held in other Polish cities.

Poland signed the Istanbul Convention for the prevention and combating of violence against women and domestic violence in December 2012 and ratified it in 2015.

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Poland to withdraw from treaty on violence against women – POLITICO

Women protest against Poland’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention in Warsaw on July 24, 2020 | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

Istanbul Convention contains ‘elements of an ideological nature, which we consider harmful,’ justice minister says.



Poland will begin the process of withdrawing from a treaty to prevent violence against women, which the right-wing government in Warsaw says imposes controversial ideologies about gender, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Saturday.

Zbigniew Ziobro told a news conference that his ministry would take steps next week to withdraw from the treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, as “it contains elements of an ideological nature, which we consider harmful,” according to Reuters,

Thousands of people, mostly women, protested in the capital and other cities on Friday after the government had signaled it was planning to withdraw from the convention. In Warsaw, a crowd of several hundred protesters gathered before the headquarters of Ordo Iuris, an ultra-conservative association that has campaigned against the convention.

Poland signed the Istanbul Convention for the prevention and combating of violence against women and domestic violence in 2015 under the previous administration of centrist party Civic Platform (PO). But since the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015, it has said that it would withdraw the country from the treaty.

Critics of the treaty believe that the convention violates parents’ rights by requiring schools to teach children about gender ideology that go against Polish family traditions. PiS has recently been ramping up its stance against LGBTQ rights and abortion.

The convention, which came into force on August 1, 2014, has been signed by 45 countries and the EU, and ratified by 34 countries.

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NT Treaty Commission eyes 2022 submission of final report with consultations to commence

A process of “truth telling” allowing Aboriginal people to recount personal stories is “urgent” and must begin before treaties are negotiated in the Northern Territory, the NT’s Treaty Commission says.

In a discussion paper on the framework for establishing treaties in the NT, the commission, led by former Australian of the Year Mick Dodson, says treaties have taken decades to negotiate in other parts of the world and the truth-telling process cannot wait.

“Some of our Elders are very old … the process of truth-telling must begin as soon as possible. It is urgent,” the paper says.

“The central learning from overseas is that treaties are a long game and take many years to negotiate. The Tla’amin Final Agreement in British Columbia, Canada took 22 years to negotiate and finalise.”

The paper also says truth-telling is needed to “reset the relationship” between all Territorians, and to “facilitate healing” and must take place in an empathetic setting rather than during negotiations over a treaty.

“There remain Elders, parents or grandparents in Northern Territory society today who remember first contact,” the commission says.

“Truth-telling is at the core of any treaty negotiations and is also at the heart of documenting the unfinished business.”

The Treaty Discussion Paper will form the basis of the Treaty Commission’s community consultations.(Bridget Fitzgerald)

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner committed to establishing treaties between the NT Government and Aboriginal groups after he won office in 2016; his Government later set up the Treaty Commission.

The commission’s discussion paper is being released by the NT Government today, just over a month out from the next NT election.

What is a treaty?

The paper defines a treaty as an agreement between two or more parties reached via a fair negotiation that must recognise Indigenous peoples “as a polity distinct” from other citizens due to their status as formerly self-governing communities.

The paper says treaties must recognise self-determination that includes decision-making amounting to “a form of self-government”.

“Critical to any treaty will be the exercise of self-determination in its full form, as never known since 1788.”

A man wearing a "treaty now" tshirt signs.
Gibson Farmer signs a memorandum of understanding for a future treaty on behalf of the Tiwi Land Council in 2018.(ABC News: Emily Napangarti Butcher)

According to the paper, an example of a self-government arrangement would include allowing a First Nation to set its own educational curriculum or work with the Education Department to deliver one.

The paper also says treaties should include substantive reparations for material loss and human damage … and a formal, comprehensive apology for past wrongs.

NT’s limited powers

But the paper also warns that because the NT is not a state, any treaties negotiated by the NT Government could be overruled by the Federal Government and could limit a treaty’s ability to deal with financial compensation, ownership, access to and management of land, water, and natural resources.

“The best way to ensure the longevity and enforceability of any treaty rests in good faith and in convincing all parties … that a treaty or treaties in the Northern Territory is positive and beneficial to the future of all Territorians,” the paper states.

Bob Hawke receives the Barunga statement
Former prime minister Bob Hawke receives the Barunga statement during the 1988 festival.(File photo)

There may also be challenges for Indigenous groups whose traditional lands stretch over state borders.

It says although the traditional estates of many First Nations in the NT cross state boundaries, it might be “impractical” to try to extend treaties into other jurisdictions because adding other parties to the negotiation process would reduce the chance of success.

The paper says the 2018 Barunga Agreement, which kickstarted the treaty process, “clearly” intended for the NT Government and members of a First Nation to qualify as parties.

The Commission raised concerns that Aboriginal people who are not recognised as members of a First Nation may be left out of the process.

“Members of the Stolen Generation in the Territory — who have not been able to trace their origins or have not been accepted as members of a First Nation — would appear to be disenfranchised in the Northern Territory treaty process,” the paper said.

But it does say the Treaty Commissioner can consult widely about whether Aboriginal people who are not members of First Nations can enter a treaty.

“When the position of Stolen Generations who have not found their people is considered by members of First Nations, we are confident they will respond with understanding and empathy.”

The commission said the paper drew on more than 50 meetings and forums with Indigenous organisations.

It said an 18-month consultation period was now needed before the Treaty Commissioner could hand his final report to the chief minister in 2022 and then treaty negotiations could begin.

The Treaty Commission also recommended establishing three separate bodies for managing treaties and negotiations, including an oversight body, a body to develop legislation and frameworks for negotiations and a treaty tribunal for managing disputes.

The discussion paper also outlines several other responsibilities the bodies can have, and funding arrangements for them, although it does not estimate a total cost for running them.

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