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WTO official explains beoutQ piracy ruling and logo policy

Spokesman says WTO logo should not be used ‘to endorse a position’ after Saudi mission superimposed logo on statement.

The World Trade Organization’s spokesman Keith Rockwell has told Al Jazeera the use of the WTO logo to indicate that the body endorses a certain position is unacceptable after Saudi authorities superimposed the WTO logo on a press release related to a recent WTO ruling on the pirate broadcaster, beoutQ.

In a landmark ruling on June 16, the WTO said Saudi Arabia had actively promoted and supported the beoutQ TV operation and had breached its obligations under international law to protect intellectual property rights.

Following the ruling, the Saudi mission to the WTO issued a press release containing erroneous statements related to the case. The release featured a superimposed WTO logo at the top of the document, indicating it was an official WTO transmission, and claimed the global trade body had supported measures undertaken by Riyadh on the grounds they were taken to protect Saudi security interests.

In comments broadcast on Al Jazeera on June 29, Rockwell said the WTO is a neutral body and its logo is not allowed to be used to “endorse a position”.

“If there is an instance in which someone is using our logo in a way that might indicate that there is a position being taken by the secretariat, then we have the responsibility to inform this member of our logo policy,” Rockwell said.

“The logo is not to be used in any sort of way for endorsing a position or for a product or anything of that nature.”

After Rockwell’s interview was broadcast, the Saudi government’s communication office’s Twitter account deleted the post showing the press release from the social media platform.

In the Al Jazeera interview, Rockwell also explained the findings of the recent ruling.

“The [WTO ruling] found that beoutQ had been using broadcast transmission without permission from beIN and broadcasting around Saudi Arabia,” Rockwell said.

“What [the panel] found also is that the Saudi system did not provide them due process under the law. They did not have legal counsel and they were unable to bring any judicial proceedings against beoutQ.”

The WTO judgement also said Saudi government officials and entities, including Saud Al-Qahtani, an aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), publicly promoted beoutQ, including with official tweets.

Qatari sports network beIN Media Group, which holds exclusive rights to broadcast international tournaments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and parts of Europe, has long claimed beoutQ is stealing its signal and broadcasting it as its own.

BeoutQ began broadcasting after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade against it in June 2017. The four countries accused Qatar of “supporting terrorism” and meddling in neighbouring countries’ affairs. Qatar rejected the allegations.

Shortly after the blockade was enforced, all beIN Sports channels were banned in the blockading nations and their equipment was confiscated in Saudi Arabia.

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Germany’s elite force ‘to be partially disbanded’

Germany’s defence minister says she has ordered the partial dissolution of the elite KSK commando force, which has come under growing criticism over right-wing extremism in its ranks.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a newspaper it had become partly independent of the chain of command.

In May, police seized explosives and weapons at the home of a KSK soldier.

In January, military intelligence said there were almost 600 suspected far-right supporters in the army last year.

They also said the KSK (Special Forces Command) was seen as a particular problem, with 20 members of the elite force suspected of right-wing extremism.

The KSK had “become partially independent” from the chain of command, with a “toxic leadership culture”, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The minister set up a working group in May to examine the problem, and the group presented a report on its findings on Tuesday.

The KSK “cannot continue to exist in its current form” and must be “better integrated into the Bundeswehr [German army]”, said the report, seen by the AFP news agency.

One of the force’s four companies, where extremism is said to be the most rife, will be dissolved and not replaced, the minister said.

“Anyone who turns out to be a right-wing extremist has no place in the Bundeswehr and must leave it,” she told German radio.

KSK operations will be moved to other units as far as possible, and it will not take part in international exercises and missions until further notice.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said the latest findings – including the disappearance of 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62kg (137lb) of explosives – as “disturbing” and “alarming”.

An internal investigation is due to determine whether those items were stolen or are missing due to sloppy bookkeeping.

The unit was founded in 1996, and has some 1,000 soldiers trained for crisis situations such as freeing hostages abroad, which had not been possible until then without assistance from other countries’ forces.

The military’s problem with far-right supporters emerged in 2017.

Inspections were ordered on all military barracks when Nazi-era memorabilia was found at two of them. Many of those suspected of far-right links are thought to be sympathetic to Germany’s main opposition AfD party.

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Hong Kong: What’s in China’s proposed security law and why has it shocked the world?

China is expected to pass a controversial new national security law for Hong Kong over the coming days.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s highest legislative body, is meeting in Beijing to finalise the details of the law.

Many in Hong Kong and around the world believe the law will violate Hong Kong’s traditional liberties, including a free press, independent judiciary, and the right to protest.

Beijing insists Hong Kong’s freedoms will be protected and that the law is necessary to restore order to the city.

What’s in the law?

No one knows exactly because Beijing hasn’t published the detail – even Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam hasn’t seen a full draft.

But summaries published by Chinese state media say the law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

Similar laws are used in mainland China to jail critics of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese security agencies will be able to operate in Hong Kong itself.

Other reports have suggested that the law will allow the Hong Kong chief executive to pick judges for national security cases; for some cases to be tried in mainland courts (which have a 99% conviction rate); for special facilities to be used to detain those arrested under the law; and that the law could potentially be applied retroactively – criminalising behaviour that was perfectly legal in the past.

Why is it controversial?

When the UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the Chinese government agreed to maintain the city’s freedoms until 2047, under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems”.

This was enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which serves as a constitution. Under that, Hong Kong is supposed to legislate on its own affairs, apart from foreign affairs and defence.

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong was meant to pass its own national security law. But previous attempts have been unpopular and, ultimately, unsuccessful.

In May, China shocked the world by announcing it would impose a national security law directly on Hong Kong, by adding it to an annex of the Basic Law.

What happens next?

The law must be voted on by the Standing Committee, added to the annex of the Basic Law, then announced by gazette in Hong Kong itself. These are all formalities; afterwards, the law will be in effect and we will finally know the detail.

In one sense, though, the full text of the law doesn’t really matter: the national security law is not an end in itself but a means for China to bring Hong Kong to heel.

The law means whatever Beijing wants it to mean, so its implementation is the most important aspect. When the first cases are brought, people in Hong Kong will have a better understanding of the law’s true impact.

What does this mean for the Hong Kong protests?

Protests to the bill have been relatively limited so far. Authorities have restricted gatherings, citing COVID-19 concerns. But last year’s proposed extradition bill – a much less significant piece of legislation – brought huge numbers on to the street, and often led to violence.

An annual pro-democracy march is held on 1 July. Police have denied permission but it’s still likely to go ahead.

If, as likely, the national security law is in effect by then, it will be an important test of three things: the strength of public feeling against the law; protesters’ willingness to risk the consequences that the new law potentially brings; and how the authorities might apply the new law to those who take part in the march.

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Ved Nanda: India may need to pull closer to U.S. as it navigates tensions with China

The agreement reached this week by Indian and Chinese military commanders in the Himalayan region of Galwan Valley, Ladakh, to disengage troops from the disputed border points should diffuse tensions that had resulted in a clash between their security forces on June 15, in which 20 Indian troops were killed. China was silent on its casualties, but Indian officials said that 30-40 Chinese soldiers were killed. Foreign ministers of India and China, S. Jaishankar and Wang Yi, have also spoken over the phone and met on Tuesday, pledging to find peaceful resolution of the dispute.

The accord is not likely to resolve the crisis that has built over a period of several decades. The struggle goes back before the India-China war in 1962, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for India and the occupation by China of the Indian territory of Aksai Chin in Ladakh. This time no shots were fired, but the forces fought with sticks, stones, and clubs with nails or barbed wire.

The 2000-mile-long border is one of the longest unmarked borders in the world. Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops are stationed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was established after their war in 1962. The Galwan Valley clash occurred when Indian soldiers tried to stop Chinese troops seeking to build a “structure” on the Indian side of the LAC. China has often asserted that it has historical sovereignty over the Galwan Valley.

In India, the public is outraged, with huge gatherings calling for a boycott of Chinese goods and putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond decisively to Chinese aggression. Modi convened an all-party meeting, in which he announced that India wants peace but will defend every inch of its territory and the that sacrifice of 20 soldiers will not be in vain.

How should India respond? Modi has met China’s President Xi in informal summits and has been to China several times. However, China continues to aggressively pursue its geopolitical strategy of seeking hegemony in the region and considers India as the only rival to stand in its way.

Modi will not follow Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s fateful decision in 1962 to wage war with China as he knows China’s superiority, both militarily and economically. He understands that in 1988, when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his counterpart, Deng Xiao Ping, agreed to form a forward-looking relationship between the two countries, they were near-equals, with similar GDP and defense spending. Today, China’s GDP is more than five-times India’s and its defense expenditure is almost four times that of India.

Things are further complicated by India’s ongoing disputes with Pakistan. Thus, the two-front situation – China and Pakistan – presents Modi with a difficult choice. As India cannot afford to fight on both fronts, should it make peace with one of these rivals? If this does not currently seem feasible, as dictated by history, public opinion, and the current geopolitical situation, India will have to get closer to the United States because the policy of nonalignment that India cherished for several decades is dead.

India getting closer to the West should not necessarily be seen as designed to contain China. India should substantially increase its defense spending and use its diplomatic and economic skills to counter China’s aggressive stance. India and China could be rivals and still good neighbors.

Modi is an astute politician with a stellar record, as he has won the trust of the people at home and gained respect abroad for India.  To illustrate, India recently was elected as a member of the Security Council and chair of the Board of the World Health Organization. Just as one of his predecessors, Atul Bihari Vajpayee, he has reached out and created close relationships with neighboring countries in Asia and the Arab world. All expectations are that he will skilfully navigate this crisis.

Ved Nanda is Distinguished University Professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His column appears the last Sunday of each month and he welcomes comments at [email protected]

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