57 conscientious objectors released

South Korean authorities released 57 men Friday who had been jailed for refusing mandatory military duty, marking a potential shift in policy to give more options to conscientious objectors for alternative service.

The men paroled had rejected military service on religious grounds and for other reasons.

The release followed a landmark ruling Nov. 1 by South Korea’s Supreme Court that acquitted a member of
the Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusing conscription. The Christian denomination’s teachings oppose joining the armed forces.

In June, a constitutional court said the government must introduce alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors. Public hearings are underway on such changes.

The court decisions also reflect a general shift in attitude in South Korea about potential threats from North Korea after nearly a year of groundbreaking outreach between the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, and the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

In symbolic gestures, 10 guard posts on each side of the heavily fortified border have been destroyed.

— Min Joo Kim

U.N. report: 'Deficit of trust' in peace deal

South Sudan is beset by “alarming levels” of sexual and gender-based violence and a desperate humanitarian situation, including severe food shortages, as it attempts to implement the latest peace agreement in a climate of “deep distrust,” U.N. experts said.

The panel of experts said in a report to the Security Council that the world’s newest nation must deal with fragmentation of armed groups “and grave human rights abuses, including against children,” in addition to the “profound deficit of trust” among almost all signatories to the September peace deal.

But most important, they said, is whether implementing the deal will improve the lives of civilians, many of whom expressed “profound distrust of a high-level political process that appears increasingly removed from their suffering.”

There were high hopes for South Sudan after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. But it plunged into ethnic violence in 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president, who is a Nuer. The conflict has killed tens of thousands and forced over 4 million to flee their homes.

— Associated Press

Romania shuts hospital over superbug concerns: Romanian health authorities temporarily closed the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest after 13 babies born there recently were diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The hospital said it had canceled dozens of Caesarean sections and would be directing pregnant women needing the procedure to other public hospitals. The Health Ministry said Giulesti's maternity wards would undergo cleaning and disinfection.

Plane crashes in Sao Paulo residential area, killing 2: A small, single-engine plane crashed in a residential area of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, leaving at least two dead and a dozen injured, firefighters said. Live images on Globo TV showed the charred remains of the plane that firefighters said hit three houses near the small Campo do Marte airfield. Two cars were also smashed. A Sao Paulo firefighters' spokesman said the bodies of two people were pulled from the wreckage of the six-seat Cessna 210 Centurion.

Austria rearrests suspected spy: Austrian authorities say a retired colonel in the country's military who is suspected of having spied for Russia for more than two decades has been rearrested a few weeks after he was released. The Austria Press Agency reported that the 70-year-old was arrested Friday, and Salzburg prosecutors said he was in investigative custody. He had been released Nov. 13, a few days after the government made the case public, when a Salzburg court rejected a bid to keep him in custody. Prosecutors said a court in Linz on Friday granted their appeal against that decision. The case is embarrassing for Austria, which has some of the closest relations with Russia in the European Union. Moscow denies any involvement in the case.

— From news services