The Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States have now locked horns at the United Nations in the dispute over Iran’s next ambassador to UN, Hamid Aboutalebi, in light of the US refusal to issue a visa for him and Iran’s stern reaction of lodging a complaint with the relevant authorities at the UN.
By all indications, the coming battle will be fought hard by both sides and may turn out to be time-consuming and involve a lengthy arbitration process. Objectively speaking, Iran’s chance of winning this battle is fair to excellent, because Iran has the weight of international law on its side.
As stated in Iran’s letter of April 14, 2014, addressed both to the UN Secretary General and the permanent representative of Cyprus, the current chair of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country, the US is now in breach of its international obligations by refusing to issue an entry visa to Mr. Aboutalebi.
Specifically, the US is now in contempt of its obligation under the US-UN treaty known as the “Headquarters Agreement,” which was signed in 1947. Section 11 of this Agreement expressly prohibits the US from imposing any restrictions on travel to the UN by representatives of UN member states.
Not only that, even the US’s own law, enacted in 1947, which imposes certain restrictions with respect to foreign officials who may pose a security risk to the US, does not give the US government the right to a blanket exclusion.
Section 6 of the US legislations states, “Nothing in the agreement shall be construed as in any way diminishing, abridging, or weakening the right of the United States to safeguard its own security and completely to control the entrance of aliens into any territory of the United States other than the headquarters district and its immediate vicinity.”
Clearly, this section simply does not permit the US to deny entry completely to any individual who has a right of entry, particularly the designated permanent representative of a UN member state.
What lies ahead, then, is a potentially lengthy arbitration process. Section 21 of the Headquarters Agreement provides a specific arbitration mechanism for such disputes between the US and the UN. If the negotiations between Iran, UN, and US at the above-said committee, scheduled for April 22nd, fail, then the matter would be referred to a tribunal of three arbitrators, one to be named by the UN Secretary General, one to be named by the United States, and the third to be chosen by the two, or, if they should fail to agree upon a third, then by the President of the International Court of Justice.
Legally speaking, US’s stated unhappiness with Mr. Aboutalebi over his alleged role with the Iranian students who took over the US embassy in 1979 does not suffice to warrant his exclusion from the UN. As a veteran Iranian diplomat for the past quarter of century, serving in several Western countries, Aboutalebi, who holds a degree from the prestigious Sorbonne University, is well-suited for the designated position at the UN and his credential simply nullifies any lame US excuse that he poses a “security risk.”
Besides, the US and Iran have signed an agreement known as the Algiers Accord in 1981, which has specific provisions regarding the settlement of disputes arising out of the US embassy ‘crisis’ and which are relevant to Iran’s defense of its choice for the top position at the UN. The US is beholden to the terms of the Algiers Accord, which precludes the US from punishing Iran one way or another for the embassy situation.
Clearly, this is a vexing issue for not only Iran but also many other UN member states, particularly those who may have a past or present dispute with the US, in light of the new US legislation that opens a Pandora’s Box by enhancing US free hand to screen foreign diplomats and impose restrictions on them based on criteria that violate the terms of the Headquarters Agreement, thus jeopardizing the future of “multilateral diplomacy” as correctly stated in Iran’s letter to UN mentioned above; as result, the Non-Aligned Movement, comprising the largest UN grouping at the General Assembly, may intervene on Iran’s behalf.
This may be why US President Obama has not yet acted on this legislation, which is Iranophobic through and through and was initiated by the hawkish members of US Congress who are on record opposing the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers. But, sooner or later, the US has to furnish a detailed and official explanation as to why it refuses a visa for Mr. Aboutalebi. But once it does, it will inevitably make more clear the already glaring fact that the US is in contempt of its international obligations.
The fact that Mr. Aboutalebi has entered the US in the past, as part of Iran’s delegation to the UN General Assembly, represents another strike against the US, which would have to be taken into consideration by the UN officials and the arbitration panel, the argument being that if he did not pose any security risk in the past, why should he be so regarded now?
With respect to any US argument that Aboutalebi has violated international law in the past by acting as a US “hostage-taker,” this is not convincing either due to the following: (a) by his own admission, Aboutalebi was not among the hostage-takers and played a limited role as an interpreter; (b) the embassy take-over was in part a response to a prior US violation of international law by engineering the 1953 coup in Iran and then supporting a ruthless dictatorship for a quarter of century; (c) those events are now remote in time and have been followed by the Algiers Accord that, as stated above, implicitly if not explicitly precludes the US from imposing punishments on Iran over the “hostage crisis.”
Henceforth, the US is likely to lose the legal battle with Iran at the UN, which in turn raises the question of what happens if the US ignores the adverse opinion of the arbitration panel. This case has striking similarities with the (PLO Chairman) Yasser Arafat visa affair, when the US showed callous disrespect for the bounds of its UN host agreement in 1988, which completely backfired and led to the General Assembly’s decision to hold its next annual gathering at the UN headquarter in Geneva.
If the US loses the legal bout, as it logically should given the above-stated reasons, then Iran has the option of seeking a similar move by the General Assembly.
For now, however, Tehran is keen on resolving this matter amicably through in-house negotiation at the UN, and hopefully reason will prevail and Mr. Aboutalebi will be able to assume his position in the near future, irrespective of how certain groups and individuals in the host country feel about it.
Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine have adopted a joint document on the de-escalation of the Ukraine crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, after talks in Geneva. It calls for all illegal armed groups to lay down arms and a wide amnesty.
The document calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable,” Lavrov said.
The most important agreement reached during the talks, according to Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start of true constitutional reform.”
“Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists at the Thursday briefing.
“An amnesty for all the protesters must take place, except of those who committed grave crimes,” the Foreign Minister added.
The issue of illegal armed groups and seized buildings concerns all the regions of Ukraine, Lavrov stressed.
“It is impossible to solve the problem of illegally seized buildings in one region of Ukraine when the illegally seized buildings are not freed in another,” he said.
“Those who took power in Kiev as a result of a coup – if they consider themselves as representing the interests of all the Ukrainians – must show the initiative, extend a friendly hand to the regions, listen to their concerns, and sit down with them at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov said the document does not give any guidelines on the future political system of Ukraine.
“We did not use any terms… There are federations where the rights of the regions are limited, and there are unitary states in name only where the regions have broad authority,” he explained.
The goal of the meeting was to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they are responsible for stability in the country and must ensure that “each region can protect its history and language,” Lavrov stressed.
“Only then will Ukraine be a strong state, a proverbial bridge between the East and the West,” Lavrov said.
The Russian side on Thursday provided US and EU representatives with documents passed on from south-eastern Ukrainians, which contain “a thorough vision of how their interests should be reflected in the new [Ukrainian] constitution.”
The OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) monitoring mission must play “the leading role” in assisting the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the crisis, Lavrov stressed, adding that Russia “will support” the mission’s work.
The Geneva meeting has given Russia “hopes” that “the US and the EU are genuinely interested in a trilateral cooperation with Russia aimed at convincing the Ukrainian to sit down at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.
According to the Russian top diplomat, the Americans now have a “decisive influence” on the Kiev authorities, which should be used for resolving the crisis.
Russia “does not want to send any troops to Ukraine,” Lavrov stressed, answering journalists’ questions. Moscow’s chief concern is that the rights of all the Ukrainian regions, including those with Russian-speaking majorities, must be taken into account in the constitutional reform.
“We have absolutely no wish to send our troops to Ukraine, to the territory of a friendly state, to the land of a brotherly nation. This is against the fundamental interests of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.
Calling the recent NATO statements on Ukraine’s neutrality “unacceptable,” Lavrov stressed that pushing for changes in the country’s non-aligned status will “undermine the efforts to resolve the crisis” in Ukraine.
“The fact that Ukraine has chosen non-aligned status and enshrined it in its law must be respected by all and there should not be any attempts to doubt it or to erode its meaning,” the Russian Foreign Minister stressed.
Ahead of the quadrilateral talks, Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saw Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa. Both meetings were held behind closed doors.
The United Nations’ nuclear monitoring body says Iran is complying with the terms of an interim nuclear agreement struck between the Islamic Republic and six world powers late last year.
In its monthly report released on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tehran has diluted half of its uranium earlier enriched to the 20-percent purity to a lower grade to power reactors.
The other half of the stockpile is to be converted into a form that would be relatively difficult to be reconverted to the 20 percent level.
On Wednesday, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said, “I can tell you, these measures [by Iran] are being implemented as planned.”
Iran and the six world powers – the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – sealed an interim deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 to pave the way for the full resolution of the decade-old dispute with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program. The deal came into force on January 20.
Under the Geneva deal, dubbed the Joint Plan of Action, the six countries have undertaken to provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for the Islamic Republic agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities during a six-month period.
Iran and the six powers are scheduled to resume expert-level talks on Tehran’s nuclear energy program in New York May 5-9.
The negotiations will be held ahead of a fresh round of high-level nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, scheduled to begin in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on May 13.
Tehran and the six countries wrapped up their latest round of high-level nuclear talks in Vienna on April 9.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has submitted legal documents to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a bid to gain an access to the Pacific coast for his land-locked country through Chile.
“The Bolivian people hope that the historic wrong that took place will be repaired as soon as possible,” Morales said at the Bolivian Embassy in the Netherlands after personally handing over the documents to the ICJ in The Hague.
Morales was accompanied at The Hague by a strong delegation, including Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca.
Landlocked Bolivia, which still maintains a navy, seeks to force its neighbor to give back a Pacific Ocean passage that it lost in a war with Chile at the end of the 19th Century.
“We have come here to make a historic demand, for Bolivia to regain sovereign access to the sea,” he added.
Bolivia and Chile have had only limited diplomatic relations since 1978. Unfruitful negotiations with Santiago over the issue prompted La Paz to lodge a complaint to the ICJ for the first time in April 2013.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said last month that the court case had closed the door on any hopes of a bilateral deal.
“We are very clear that we respect international treaties… but we are going to first analyze the Bolivian case in order to decide how we proceed,” Bachelet said shortly before Morales submitted the documents to the ICJ on Tuesday.
Chile says its border with Bolivia was fixed by a treaty signed by the two countries in 1904, which cost Bolivia some 120 kilometers (75 miles) of coast and 120,000 square kilometers (46,332 square miles) of arid land where many of the world’s top copper reserves are located.
Iran has sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations over the US refusal to issue a visa to the Islamic Republic’s appointee for the position of ambassador to the world body.
Iran’s diplomatic mission to the UN met with the UN Office of Legal Affairs on Tuesday over Washington’s refusal to issue a visa to the Iranian appointee Hamid Aboutalebi.
The Iranian mission has also filed a letter, which was released on Monday, with the UN’s Committee on Relations with the Host Country.
In a separate letter, Iran has asked the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to register its letter of protest as an official UN general assembly document and distribute it among member countries.
Washington has decided to deny visa to Aboutalebi over his involvement in the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran during post-revolution incidents in 1979.
On April 10, the US House of Representatives unanimously approved a legislation that prevents Aboutalebi from entering the US. The White House has also said it would not issue a visa to Aboutalebi.
Abutalebi denies any direct role in the embassy takeover, saying he worked as an interpreter while negotiations for the release of the hostages were going on.
On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian university students took over the US Embassy in Tehran, which they believed had turned into a den of espionage. Documents found at the compound later corroborated the claims by the students.
Meanwhile Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Hossein Dehqani on Tuesday called on the UN to confront the US over its illegal and unconventional move.
In a meeting with UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs Miguel de Serpa Soares, the Iranian envoy said as an international body, the UN receives representatives of independent and sovereign countries.
He expressed regret that the US as the host country has failed to meet its legal commitments under unfounded pretexts.
“This move is against the obligations of the host country according to the agreement between the [host of] the venue and the UN and other diplomatic legal regulations, and will undoubtedly have an unfavorable impact on the United Nations’ mission and the activities of member countries, and will undermine the United Nations’ standing,” Dehqani said.
Soares, for his part, said he would study Iran’s letter of complaint and added that the legal aspects of the issue are currently under investigation.
Under the 1947 Headquarters Agreement, the United States, as the host country of the UN, is required to allow access to the world body for foreign diplomats.
Iran is not considering any replacement for its newly-appointed ambassador to the United Nations Hamid Aboutalebi who has been denied a visa by the US, a top Iranian diplomat says.
“We are considering no alternative to replace Mr. Aboutalebi and are pursuing the issue through legal mechanisms,” said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyyed Abbas Araqchi on Saturday.
On Friday, the White House said it had announced to Iran and the UN that the US would not issue Aboutalebi with a visa.
The announcement came a day after the US House of Representatives unanimously approved a legislation that prevents Aboutalebi from entering the United States.
The bill, sponsored by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, was passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate through voice vote on April 7.
The legislation will be sent to the White House to be signed by President Barack Obama to take effect.
Iran has rejected the US decision as unacceptable and says it will follow up on the issue through diplomatic channels at the United Nations.
Washington has decided to deny a visa to Aboutalebi over his involvement in the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran during post-revolution incidents in 1979. Abutalebi denies any direct role in the embassy takeover, saying he worked as an interpreter while negotiations for the release of the hostages were going on.
On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian university students took over the US Embassy in Tehran, which they believed had turned into a den of espionage. Documents found at the compound later corroborated the claims by the students.
The UN regulations stipulate that each country is allowed to select its own representatives at the international organization and the US, as the host country, must grant visas to the appointed diplomats.
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a group of activists have declared their region independent from Kiev. This comes after protesters stormed a local government building last night.
Mass demonstrations against the country’s new leadership started peacefully on Sunday, but the situation quickly escalated.
Pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk have seized the local power building, including the headquarters of the Security Service of Ukraine and proclaimed the creation of a People’s Republic of Donetsk.
Ukraine’s police and security services have not interfered, although officials in Kiev are threatening punishment for the rioters.
Protesters have erected barricades around the Council building.
Today at 12:20 local time, a session of the people’s Council of Donbass (Donetsk region) took place in the main hall of the Regional Council and unanimously voted on a declaration to form a new independent state: the People’s Republic of Donetsk.
The Council proclaimed itself the only legitimate body in the region until the regions in southeast Ukraine conduct a general referendum, set to take place no later than May 11.
“The Donetsk Republic is to be created within the administrative borders of the Donetsk region. This decision will come into effect after the referendum,” the statement said.
The Council in Donetsk issued an address to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for deployment of a temporary peacekeeping force to the region.
“Without support it will be hard for us to stand against the junta in Kiev,” said the address.
“We are addressing Russian President Putin because we can only entrust our security to Russia,” the statement said.
Rallies in support of the federalization of Ukraine continue in a number of cities in southeast Ukraine. Thousands of citizens have joined the protests, demanding the earliest possible federalization of the country.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior said that last night unknown persons stormed the Security Service of Ukraine building in the city of Lugansk and seized a weapons warehouse there. During the night’s clashes, nine people were reportedly injured.
In the city of Kharkov protesters erected barricades around the buildings of the city and the regional administrations and the regional headquarters of Security Service of Ukraine.
There were brief clashes between supporters of the federalization of Ukraine and pro-EU demonstrators in downtown Kharkov. Protesters on both sides used fire crackers and stun grenades.
A demonstration against political repression in Ukraine has also been held in the southern regional center of Odessa.
The chiefs of security agencies of Ukraine are reportedly heading to the cities engulfed in protests.
The interim secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Andrey Parubiy, together with acting head of the Security Service of Ukraine, Valentin Nalivaichenko, are set to visit Lugansk. Interim Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema will visit Donetsk and acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has reportedly already arrived in Kharkov.
The coup-appointed acting president, Aleksandr Turchinov, has threatened that counter-terrorist measures could be taken against those who take up arms against the Kiev authorities, RIA news agency reported. On Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament will tighten laws regarding separatism and could possibly ban certain parties and organizations , Turchinov warned.
“What happened yesterday is the second stage of the special operation of the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” announced Turchinov in an address televised on Monday, sharing that an “anti-crisis command was set up last night” to deal with the crisis, Interfax-Ukraine reported.
Ukraine’s interim Foreign Minister Andrey Deschitsa announced on Monday that if the situation in the eastern regions escalates, the coup-appointed government in Kiev will take “much harsher” measures than those on the reunion of the Crimea with Russia. Deschitsa gave an assurance that members of the government are already working with local authorities.
More than 1,500 Palestinian children have died at the hands of Israeli forces since 2000, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of social affairs, Kamal Sharafi, said Saturday, on Palestinian Children’s Day.
In addition to the 1,520 children that have been killed, another 6,000 have been injured and more than 10,000 arrested, Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted Sharafi as saying. Two-hundred children are still in detention in Israeli prisons.
“Protecting and supporting children should be a national responsibility,” Sharafi said, urging the Palestinian Authority to approve a law for the protection of minors.
The international community has criticized Israel for the mistreatment of Palestinian minors. In March 2013, a United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) report concluded that Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank are “systematically” ill-treated, which is a violation of international law.
Each year, some 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 – mainly boys – are arrested, interrogated, and detained by Israel’s army, police, and security agents, UNICEF said in the 22-page document.
According to the report, the ill-treatment often begins at the point of arrest, when children are woken by heavily-armed soldiers and forcibly brought to an interrogation center “tied and blindfolded, sleep-deprived and in a state of extreme fear.”
In June 2013, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) issued a report stating that thousands of Palestinian children were systematically injured, tortured, and used as human shields by Israel.
During the 10-year period examined by UN human rights experts, up to 7,000 children aged 9 to 17 were arrested, interrogated and kept captive, CRC said in the report.
NATO will strengthen relations with Ukraine and send more troops to Eastern Europe, the bloc’s outgoing chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. The Ukrainian coup-imposed foreign minister is to fly to Brussels to take part in Ukraine-NATO talks.
Days after seconding US President Barack Obama’s statements on “ensuring a regular NATO presence” in “vulnerable” countries, NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen spoke to the German media detailing the alliance’s plans in Eastern Europe.
Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Rasmussen said that NATO’s expansion in the region has been “one of the greatest success stories of our time.” However, the alliance’s “task is not yet complete,” the NATO chief added.
NATO’s partnership with Ukraine has been getting “ever stronger,” Rasmussen noted, accusing Russia of violating the country’s right to “freely determine its own destiny,” as well as its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia have already sought NATO membership and are already working on reforms to achieve it, he said.
“We are now considering revised operational plans, military manoeuvres and adequate troop reinforcements. We will, for example, relocate more aircrafts to the Baltic States,” Rasmussen told Focus magazine.
While this does not apply to Ukraine, which, according to the NATO chief, does not see membership a priority “in the foreseeable future,” NATO will help to “reform” Ukraine’s armed forces.
At the same time, NATO seeks “diplomatic solution to the crisis” in Ukraine, Rasmussen said, and will “keep the channels of communication with Moscow open.” This comes days after the alliance’s chief tweeted that NATO is to “review viability” of its relationship with Russia.
The Ukrainian coup-imposed government is set to discuss cooperation with NATO as early as next week, according to Kiev-picked acting foreign minister Andrey Deshchytsa.
Deshchytsa told journalists on Saturday he will take part in the extraordinary session of Ukraine-NATO Commission in Brussels on April 1-2, will “hold meetings and consultations” with US and UK foreign ministers, as well as attend the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 2-3.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been holding an unexpected meeting on Ukraine in Paris. Kerry abruptly changed his travel route and decided to meet his Russian counterpart on Saturday after speaking with Lavrov over the phone. The latest round of Russian-US diplomacy over Ukraine started with President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama discussing the situation in the Eastern European country by phone on Friday.
Brazil’s public prosecutor wants to suspend use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s pervasive herbicide Roundup. A recent study suggested glyphosate may be linked to a fatal kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions worldwide.
The Prosecutor General’s office is also pursuing bans on the herbicide 2,4-D and seven other active herbicide ingredients in addition to glyphosate: methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram, and paraquat, GMWatch reported.
The Prosecutor General of Brazil “seeks to compel the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to reevaluate the toxicity of eight active ingredients suspected of causing damage to human health and the environment,” according to the prosecutor’s website. “On another front, the agency questions the registration of pesticides containing 2,4-D herbicide, applied to combat broadleaf weeds.”
The two actions have already been filed with Brazil’s justice department.
The prosecutor is also seeking a preliminary injunction that would allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suspend further registration of the eight ingredients until ANVISA can come to a conclusion.
The country’s National Biosafety Technical Commission has been asked to prohibit large-scale sale of genetically modified seeds resistant to the 2,4-D as ANVISA deliberates.
Last week, Brazil’s Federal Appeals Court ruled to cancel use of Bayer’s Liberty Link genetically-modified maize. Earlier this month, France banned the sale, use, and cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically-modified maize MON 810. New research found insects in the United States are developing a resistance to the genetically-engineered maize.
As for glyphosate, new research suggests it becomes highly toxic to the human kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.
The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.
Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka banned glyphosate given the links to an inexplicable kidney disease, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology, known as CKDu, according to the Center for Public Integrity. CKDu has killed thousands of agricultural workers, many in Sri Lanka and El Salvador.
El Salvador’s legislature approved in September a ban on glyphosate and many other agrochemicals, yet the measure is not yet law.
Relatives of Palestinian teenager Yussef Shawamreh mourn outside his house in the West Bank village of Deir al-Asal, 15 kilometers from Hebron on March 19, 2014 after he was shot dead by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: AFP – Hazem Bader)
Israeli occupation forces who shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank last week used live fire, without warning, against innocent youngsters out foraging for roots, an Israeli rights group said Wednesday.
After investigating the March 19 death of 15-year-old Yussef Sami Shawamreh, B’Tselem said it had found no evidence to support the army’s version of events that troops had opened fire at youths who had “sabotaged” the West Bank apartheid wall.
B’Tselem said the primary responsibility for the boy’s death rested with the army commanders who approved the use of live fire at a site where villagers from Deir al-Asal al-Tahta are known to go out and pick wild plants on their own land.
An army spokeswoman told AFP after the incident that soldiers had spotted three Palestinians vandalizing the wall, saying they had “verbally warned” them before firing warning shots in the air then shooting at their lower extremities.
But Shawamreh’s family and witnesses said the teenager had been looking for gundelia, a thistle-type plant used in cooking.
B’Tselem said the shooting occurred in an area where there is a wide breach in the barrier and where families regularly go out to forage on their own farmland.
“The two surviving youths… heard three or four shots as they got off the road, fired with no advance warning,” the report said.
Shawamreh, who was severely wounded but not picked up by a military ambulance for some 30 minutes, was later pronounced dead at an Israeli hospital.
The NGO said its findings were “markedly different” from the army’s version of events.
“The youths made no attempt at vandalism; they were crossing through a long-existing breach, and the soldiers did not carry out suspect arrest procedure, shooting at Shawamreh with no advance warning,” it said.
Troops in the area were “well aware” that over the past two years, Palestinians have been crossing the barrier at the breach “to pick gundelia on their own farmland,” B’Tselem.
It added that the use of live fire showed a “cynical lack of concern for the life of a Palestinian teenager.”
Two days earlier, soldiers had detained four teenagers in the same spot, beating them and confiscating the plants they had picked.
“The decision to mount an armed ambush at a point in the barrier known to be crossed by youths, who pose no danger whatsoever to anyone, for the purpose of harvesting plants is highly questionable,” the report said, noting it showed “extremely faulty discretion” on the part of the commanders.
“The primary responsibility for the killing lies with the commanders who sent the soldiers out on armed ambush,” B’Tselem director Jessica Montell said in a statement that urged the military police to consider whether the commanders should “bear personal criminal responsibility” for Shawamreh’s death.
There was no immediate response from the occupation authorities.
Watchdogs from several European countries have noticed no indication of a massive build-up of Russian military that would threaten the security of neighboring states, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Sunday.
According to Mr. Antonov, as many as seven inspection groups paid visits to Russian border territories over the past month. “Our facilities and deployment areas along the Russian-Ukrainian border were twice checked by the Ukrainian military,” he noted.
Monitors from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland scrutinized Russia’s military camps stationed on its borders with neighboring nations. “It must have been a simple ‘coincidence’ that the majority of these [missions] focused on the regions near the Ukrainian border,” Mr. Antonov noted.
“We were as transparent as it comes and let our partners inspect all facilities they wanted. We have nothing to hide,” the defense chief pointed out.
The Russian military went as far as allowing EU and NATO watchdogs to interrogate Russian command, takes photos of bases where personnel and military hardware were stationed and accompany them during their routine maneuvers.
“The conclusion that our partners came to after the final briefing, which is a compulsory inspection procedure, was unanimous: Russian armed forces are not involved in any manner of unannounced military maneuvers that would endanger the security of neighboring states,” Antonov underscored.
The Russian deputy defense minister urged Ukrainian and European watchdogs to update their corresponding governments on the actual situation on the Russian borders, saying a clearer picture would certainly de-escalate the situation in the region.