BETHLEHEM – A Palestinian rights group slammed on Wednesday the killing of a Palestinian teen by Israeli forces earlier this week, calling the case an “extrajudicial killing” and demanding that Israeli authorities open an investigation into the case.
Qusay al-Umour, 17, was killed during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
Video of the moments immediately following al-Umour being shot by Israeli forces has elicited a strong emotional response, as it showed Israeli soldiers roughly carrying the teenager’s limp body by his dangling arms and legs.
Legal NGO BADIL said in a statement on Wednesday that the footage provided “evidence contradicting Israeli accounts and raises concerns about the adherence of the Israeli forces to the central tenets of international law.”
The group quoted Hisham Abu Shaqra, the Palestinian journalist who recorded the video, who said that al-Umour was not a threat to Israeli forces when he was fatally shot — contradicting claims by the Israeli army, which said that the Palestinian youth was the “main instigator” of the clashes that day.
“Qusay was sitting between olive trees, you know how guys are, he was just watching the soldiers… Only a few seconds after (I was) looking at him the Israeli forces shot him three or four times,” Abu Shaqra said.
“The soldier who shot him was not in danger at the time of the shooting, in fact, he was secured and safe,” he added. “First the (Israeli military) jeeps started coming closer and closer [to the youth] and then this specific soldier, the sniper with the Ruger rifle, also started coming closer. I remember he was by the third jeep, then I saw him by the second jeep and he was by the first jeep when he shot Qusay.”
The eyewitness accounts of the incident, coupled with the audiovisual evidence, have led BADIL to conclude that “whether he was throwing stones at the soldiers or not, al-Umour could not have presented a lethal threat to the well-protected Israeli border police from a distance of around 100 meters, and the use of live ammunition against him was therefore unjustified.”
The NGO denounced the “complete lack of consideration for (al-Umour)’s human dignity or his traumatic injuries.”
The group also slammed statements by Israeli police to Ma’an saying that they were “not aware” of any official investigation being carried out by Israeli authorities into al-Umour’s killing.
“Israel continuously fails to investigate such actions or to prosecute members of its forces, which is the natural result of a growing culture of impunity that exists within the Israeli military,” BADIL wrote. “This is why recent Israeli actions towards Palestinian civilians cannot be considered as isolated incidents, but rather as the violent manifestations of a policy of lawlessness in which Israeli forces operate in repeat, and direct contravention of international law absent effective accountability.”
The group therefore “demands that a comprehensive and independent investigation be launched into this killing as a matter of great urgency in order to identify those responsible and to hold them accountable to the full extent of international law.”
Al-Umour is the fourth Palestinian to have been confirmed killed by Israeli forces in 2017. Two more Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the two days since.
Five Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in 2017.
In 2016, Ma’an recorded the deaths of 112 Palestinians, 15 Israelis, and three foreign nationals.
Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their excessive use of force against Palestinians, including minors, during incidents which could have been handled without the use of deadly violence.
NEGEV – The Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, accused Israeli police of spreading misinformation to Israeli media regarding an alleged vehicle attack Wednesday morning in the Negev, as new video footage emerged further contradicting the Israel police’s version of events.
The Joint List’s statement argued that Israeli police lied in their claim that a Palestinian Bedouin deliberately rammed his car into officers during a raid to demolish homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in order to distract from Israel’s campaign to establish Jewish-only towns “on the ruins of Bedouin villages.”
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said that during a raid of the slain Palestinian’s home, police found three copies of a Hebrew-language newspaper from 2015 with the headline: “Isis bomb that took down a plane,” suggesting that the old newspapers were evidence that the man carried out a terror attack.
Rosenfeld added in his statement that Israeli police also detained and were questioning the son “of the terrorist” as part of the investigation.
However, numerous eyewitnesses reported that Israeli police fired at the Palestinian Bedouin, identified as Yaqoub Abu al-Qian, while he was driving, which caused him to spin out of control and crash into Israeli officers, killing one policeman. Family members also firmly denied Abu al-Qian intended to carry out an attack.
Meanwhile, new Israeli police footage published by Israeli daily Haaretz, which they said was most likely from a police a helicopter hovering above the scene, appeared to show police officers shooting at al-Qian as he was driving at a very slow pace, and only several seconds after the gunfire does his car appear to speed up, eventfully plowing through police officers. It is unclear if the drive sped up intentionally.
Hours later, as Israeli bulldozers began razing the homes to the ground, renewed clashes erupted in the village.
Umm al-Hiran is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state, and more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.
The unrecognized Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel.
Now more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognized by Israel and live under constant threats of demolition and forcible removal.
The Joint List’s statement described the actions by Israeli authorities as “a terrorist and bloody invasion that brings to mind the scenes of displacement and destruction of Arab villages during the Nakba in 1948.” Some 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced during the creation of the state of Israel in what Palestinians call the Nakba — “catastrophe” in Arabic.
The statement described how Israeli forces besieged Umm al-Hiran en mass and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets, “terrifying residents who took to the streets to defend their homes.”
Israeli police have denied to Israeli media that rubber-coated steel bullets were used to suppress the clashes, which are used by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. Some news sites said police were in fact firing sponge-tipped bullets, with journalists pointing out they are just as lethal as rubber bullets.
“Police behaved as in a battlefield, and as a result of the clashes, Yaqoub Abu al-Qian fell a martyr, and dozens of others, including MK Ayman Odeh were injured.”
The Joint List said that the “crime in Umm al-Hiran” was in line with the “dangerous escalation” of anti-Palestinian policies within the “extremist” Israeli government.
“The (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu government has effectually declared a military war against our people in the 1948 area,” the statement said, referring to lands that were declared part of the Israeli state in 1948.
“The war started with demolitions in Qalansawe, and it is continuing today in Umm al-Hiran.”
The Joint List denied the “false narrative,” in which Israeli police claimed that Abu al-Qian carried out a deliberate car ramming attack, which left an Israeli police officer dead. Israeli police also said they were investigating to see whether or not the slain Bedouin was “influenced” by the so-called Islamic State.
Numerous eyewitness accounts said that al-Qian lost control of his vehicle after he was shot, causing him to crash into Israeli police.
“Israeli police are trying to cover up the crime of displacing and uprooting a whole town and killing an unarmed Arab citizen through an incitement campaign against all Arab citizens, by spreading misinformation that a police officer was killed in a terrorist, ISIS-like attack.”
The statement urged Hebrew-language news outlets to ensure that they work “professionally” and fact-check their information before they publish their news reports.
“When media outlets take the information they receive from Israeli police as facts, they in fact partake in incitement against Arab citizens,” the statement argued.
Human rights organization Adalah also said Wednesday that they strongly objected to Israeli police’s version of events in Umm al-Hiran according to witness accounts.
They group said the police statements, “reflects the Israeli police’s culture of lying,” and referred to recent accusations by Israeli authorities claiming that a string of wildfires were deliberate arson attacks committed by Palestinians, saying that the claims had “not been proven at all. Not one person has been convicted based on these accusations.”
Rights groups have claimed that demolitions in unrecognized Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.
According to Adalah, families of the Abu al-Qian tribe were initially expelled from their lands in Khirbet Zubaleh in 1948 after they had cultivated the area for generations, and were eventually forced to move to Umm al-Hiran by an Israeli military order.
“Despite this, the state has not legally recognized the village to this day. As a result of the decision to establish the Israeli Jewish town of Hiran over the Bedouin village, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) demanded to expel them again, to the government-planned town of Hura.”
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israeli government approved the construction of the new Jewish community of Hiran in November 2013 to be built on the land of Umm al-Hiran. Village residents lost the legal defenses they mounted, including an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court, and were unable to prevent the demolition of the village.
“Palestinians from Umm al-Hiran have Israeli passports and citizenship, yet the Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing, colonization, forcible displacement, and apartheid affect them all the same,” Maya al-Orzza, a legal researcher at NGO BADIL said Wednesday.
“These policies do not only happen in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also inside Israel against Palestinians,” al-Orzza said, noting that Palestinians make up some 20 percent of Israeli citizens.
Commenting on a peace conference held in Paris on Sunday which reaffirmed international commitment to the two-state solution and the cessation of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory, al-Orzza said that “by focusing on the one- or two-state discussion, or only on Israeli actions in the occupied territory, the international community is disregarding the ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing that Israel is implementing against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Brothers, sisters, friends and supporters:
Our hearts are heavy today. President Obama has denied Leonard’s application for a commutation. His name appears on the January 18 list of commutations denied by Obama as issued by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Leonard’s attorney Martin Garbus was also notified. (Pardon Attorney’s Letter)
Today, in an email, Leonard said, “If I should not [receive clemency] then after we are locked in for the day I will have a good cry and then pick myself up and get myself ready for another round of battles until I cannot fight [any] more. So, don’t worry. I can handle anything after over 40 years.”
It’s hard to bear such a blow, though. And make no mistake — Leonard has been hit hardest of all. But let’s not mourn so very long. Instead, let’s move ever forward. Channel your grief and anger in a positive way. Remember that Leonard still needs our help. He needs quality health care and a transfer to a medium security facility, among other things. We’ll always work towards freedom for Leonard, but these actions may help to make his life more bearable until freedom is won.
Now, we urge you to write to Leonard and help to keep his spirits up. Tell him you won’t give up, that you’ll walk the rest of the way with him. Send cards and letters to:
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP Coleman I
PO Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521
Thank you for your hard work and determination. Blessings to all of you.
Please stay tuned.
International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
At the Atlantic Council — a “think” tank funded by such bastions of democracy as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, not to mention that center of peaceful nonviolence NATO — Samantha Power announced on Tuesday that Russia is a menacing danger to the United States of America and to the rule of law in the world, which statement in fact constituted a menacing danger to the U.S. and to the rule of law in the world.
Power cited the “Russian government’s aggressive and destabilizing actions.”
“For years, we have seen Russia take one aggressive and destabilizing action after another. We saw it in March 2014, not long after mass peaceful protests in Ukraine brought to power a government that favored closer ties with Europe, when Russia dispatched its soldiers to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. The ‘little green men,’ as they came to be called, for Russia denied any ties to any of them, rammed through a referendum at the barrel of a gun, which Mr. Putin then used to justify his sham attempted annexation of Crimea.”
The “peaceful protests” involved hundreds of casualties, while the “ramming at the barrel of a gun” involved zero. The “peaceful protests” followed the preemptive exposure of U.S. facilitation of a coup. The new government quickly began threatening the rights and lives of ethnic Russians. The annexation of Crimea followed an overwhelming vote, which the United States has never dared to propose be re-done. The annexation was successful. Russia always had troops in Crimea. That it sent in more was to its discredit but legal under its basing agreement.
“We saw it months later in eastern Ukraine, where Russia armed, trained, and fought alongside separatists. Again Russia denied any role in the conflict it manufactured, again flouting the international obligation to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbor.”
Russia did not manufacture the conflict. It certainly did not in any major way “fight alongside” the “separatists” — many of whom were not seeking separation. It’s noteworthy that the claims about shooting down an airplane that were so central to this sort of speech for so long have faded away along with the idea that there was evidence to back them up.
“We saw it also in Russia’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s brutal war in Syria – support it maintained even as the Assad regime blocked food and medicine from reaching civilians in opposition-held areas, civilians who were so desperate that they had resorted to eating leaves, even as photographs emerged of countless prisoners who had been tortured to death in Assad’s prisons, their bodies tagged with serial numbers, even as the Assad regime repeatedly used chemical weapons to kill its own people.”
Power has no evidence for her “chemical weapons to kill its own people” old stand by (and would it be OK to kill someone else’s people?), and that lack of evidence was critical to preventing major U.S. bombing in 2013, the year after the U.S. had rejected out of hand a 2012 Russian peace deal that would have included Assad stepping down. The U.S. preferred a violent overthrow and believed it to be imminent. Of course Assad and Russia and many other parties have committed horrible acts of war in Syria, just as has the United States.
“We saw it in 2015, when Russia went further by joining the assault on the Syrian people, deploying its own troops and planes in a campaign that hit hospitals, schools, and the brave Syrian first responders who were trying to dig innocent civilians out of the rubble. And with each transgression, not only were more innocent civilians killed, maimed, starved, and uprooted, but the rules that make all of our nations more secure – including Russia – those rules were eroded.”
All true . . . of Russia and of the United States.
Power claims Russia funds France’s National Front party and hacks German computers — and claims, despite limited evidence even of these actions, to know “Russia’s” motives. She claims Russia planned a U.S.-in-Ukraine-style coup in Montenegro, without noting that Montenegro funds the Atlantic Council.
Power then claims with absolutely no evidence that:
“the Russian government sought to interfere in our presidential election with the goals of undermining public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrating one candidate, and helping the other candidate. Our intelligence agencies assess that the campaign was ordered by President Putin and implemented by a combination of Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and government-paid trolls. We know that, in addition to hacking the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic Party officials, Russia also hacked U.S. think tanks and lobbying groups. And we know that Russia hacked elements of multiple state and local electoral boards, although our intelligence community’s assessment is that Russia did not compromise vote tallies. But think for just a moment about what that means: Russia not only tried to influence our election but to access the very systems by which we vote.”
In fact we know none of these things, and the “very systems by which we vote” are, in most places, essentially worthless and totally unverifiable election machines.
“We must also forcefully reject the false equivalency between the work that the U.S. government and the Russian government are doing in other countries. There is a world of difference between supporting free and fair elections, and investing in independent institutions that advance human rights, accountability, and transparency, as we do; and, on the other hand, trying to sow distrust in democratic processes, misinform citizens, and swing elections toward illiberal parties, as Russia is doing.”
Here’s William Blum’s list of U.S. attempts to overthrow governments (asterisks where successful):
China 1949 to early 1960s
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Afghanistan 1980s *
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Libya 2011 *
Ukraine 2014 *
Power then explains what her point is, what she wants done. She wants NATO funded and put on hair trigger alert. And she wants $1 billion in anti-Russian propaganda:
“That means maintaining our robust support for NATO and making clear our nation’s steadfast commitment to treat an attack on any NATO member as an attack on us all. . . . A report by the UK parliament found that the Russian government spent between $600 million and $1 billion a year on propaganda arms like RT. So we need to be spending at least as much – and arguably much more – on training and equipping independent reporters, protecting journalists who are under attack, and finding ways to get around the censors and firewalls that repressive governments use.”
The U.S. military’s advertising budget last year? $600 million.
Russia disagrees with outgoing US President Barack Obama’s reproaches on nuclear disarmament, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday, noting that Moscow supports a proportional process.
Obama accused Russian President Vladimir Putin at his final news conference on Wednesday of unwillingness to negotiate the reduction of nuclear stockpiles.
“We cannot agree with Mr. Obama’s statement. Russia has always advocated for a fair and proportional nuclear disarmament process,” Peskov told reporters.
Peskov said the nuclear disarmament process “cannot be disproportionate, it cannot and should not lead to a breach of nuclear parity, which is critical to ensuring global stability and security.”
“Thus, we cannot agree with that, Russia has consistently taken a well-known position on this issue,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
Governments are using media organizations as proxies in an effort to control the information citizens can get from the Internet, says former MI5 officer Annie Machon. The fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie, she added.
RT has been blocked from posting content to its Facebook page during the live broadcast of Barack Obama’s final news conference over an alleged copyright infringement.
The suspension was triggered by one of the social network’s algorithms, which is alerted according to what’s being submitted.
RT has a contract with the Associated Press and streamed a news feed. The agency has confirmed RT had the right to retransmit the video, so the problem must lie with Facebook.
The head of Russia’s telecoms watchdog is warning of “active response measures” if RT’s work is restricted by the American media or the social networks.
Facebook has not replied to inquiries, and the restrictions on posting remain.
RT: The news outlet was mentioned as triggering a Facebook alert and says it’s not them. So just how sensitive has Facebook’s media clampdown tool become?
Annie Machon: I think this is the first blow in Facebook’s self-proclaimed war against so-called fake news. Both Facebook and Google in the wake of the shadowy PropOrNot list of 200 news organizations around the world that are supposedly peddling fake news, but actually just offering an alternative to the corporate US media, and RT was included in that. Facebook and Google in the aftermath said that they would start to censor all these outlets. I think that is what we are seeing with Facebook now is that they are using the excuse of copyright to censor legitimate news channel and stop them from covering a world event that the rest of the world is going to watch without any problem on other channels.
RT: At the World Economic Forum in Davos the Facebook representative said that their organization is dedicated, as they put it, to tackling so-called fake news and the whole phenomenon that we’ve heard of lately. Do you think this is part of that?
AM: I think it is part of that. And it is not just Facebook and Google who said they are going to take on the so-called fake news. It is also the European Union who issued a diktat last November saying that they were going to set up a body to counter fake news. We see countries like France and Germany already peddling this idea that there is going to be hacking and counter-democratic activity in the run up to their elections this year. So, they are using this. But I think it is interesting to see that the copyright has been used as a pretext for this censorship. I’ve been saying for years that the media organizations are being used by the governments as proxy organizations in terms of trying to control the information we can ingest over the internet and the information we can actually access over the internet.
RT: The suspension is imposed ahead of Trump’s inauguration and won’t be lifted until the day after it. What do you make of that? Is it a coincidence?
AM: Absolutely not. It is a first blow in the so-called battle – fake battle against fake news. And let’s just remind ourselves how this so-called concept of fake started. Somehow information was leaked from the DNC last year and the people who received that information, WikiLeaks said very clearly it was not a hack, it was actually a leak. And yet the corporate media in America has said again, “No, this was Russia hacking the DNC.” And then somehow it became Russia hacking the American elections, Russia hacking voting computers, Russia hacking the energy grid in America. None of this has been proven. Some of it has been actively proven to be false. But when Obama expelled the 35 Russian diplomats from America back to Russia before Christmas, that sort of solidified as fact that the Russians had done something wrong. There is no proof whatsoever. So this fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie.
I think there are strings have been pulled in the background, shall we say. Particularly, in America. And the big media and internet corporations in America have been proven year after year to be very much in bed with the US state and with the US secret state. We know this of course because of the revelations of Edward Snowden. You know, all the big social media giants signed up to allow access to their databases by the secret agencies in America, starting with Microsoft back in 2006. We know that they are complicit; we know that they have been compromised. So, who can tell where this is going to go. There is a sort of all-out fight between the president-elect anyways and his so-called intelligence agencies.
RT: The original source mentioned as alerting Facebook denies it raised a copyright flag. AP confirmed RT had the rights for transmission. Facebook is the only entity yet to answer. Why isn’t it being more pro-active to remedy this considering this being a pretty big media news?
Chris Bambery, political analyst: It is pretty big media news, and I am really puzzled. Donald Trump is about to become President, and he is painted by much of the world’s media and spy agencies as being President Putin’s chum. And yet there is this continuing escalation of the Cold War with Russia, even hours before Trump is elected. Facebook is a giant American transnational. It is not known for its own transparency over these things. It does lead one to suspect that there are sections of our US elite who really do not like Donald Trump and want to create difficulties between the incoming presidency and Russia.
RT: RT’s troubles with Facebook come a day after the online news alert service Dataminr refused to renew our contract with them. That stems back to the CIA also being denied access and saying the same should apply to RT claiming we’re tied to Russian intelligence. Is that the real reason, do you think?
CB: On that basis, if you are being blocked because you receive state funding, the BBC World service is funded by the British Foreign Office, so why would that not be blocked? And I am sure Radio Free Europe and various other outlets have received funding from the American state. So, if that is to be criteria than a lot of leading news agencies would be off social media, and off air. This is going to feed into the conspiracy theories because it is so bizarre and strange.
Well, the biggest fake news story I’ve seen was the so-called dossier about Donald Trump, and they didn’t seem to be blocking that, which was all over Facebook. Again, I find it rather strange.
In his final press conference, beginning around 8 minutes 30 seconds in, Obama admits that they have no evidence of how WikiLeaks got the DNC material. This undermines the stream of completely evidence-free nonsense that has been emerging from the US intelligence services this last two months, in which a series of suppositions have been strung together to make unfounded assertions that have been repeated again and again in the mainstream media.
Most crucially of all Obama refers to “The DNC emails that were leaked”. Note “leaked” and not “hacked”. I have been repeating that this was a leak, not a hack, until I am blue in the face. William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, has asserted that were it a hack the NSA would be able to give the precise details down to the second it occurred, and it is plain from the reports released they have no such information. Yet the media has persisted with this nonsense “Russian hacking” story.
Obama’s reference to the “the DNC emails that were leaked” appears very natural, fluent and unforced. It is good to have the truth finally told.
Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz
On Tuesday police in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura announced they had discovered the body of Afro-Colombian human rights activist Emilsen Manyoma, 32, and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, who had been missing since Saturday.
A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region since 2005, Manyoma was an active member of the community network CONPAZ where she was an outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local by international mining and agribusiness interests.
For the past year Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region as part of the recently created Truth Commission.
The police said they had found the bodies in an advanced state of decomposition in a jungle area beside the highway. The Justice and Peace Commission, an ecumenical human rights group, reported that both bodies were severely wounded, with Rodallega’s hands reported tied. Radio Contagio reported that both bodies were beheaded.
While police did not release the names of any suspects, just days before their disappearance on Saturday, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house.
According to the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, at least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016 alone.
Cuba has denounced US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria, saying they violate the Arab country’s sovereignty as they are not permitted by Damascus.
Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations Humberto Rivero made the criticism during a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday.
“We demand the cessation of the violations of Syrian sovereignty and the foreign military presence without the consent and the coordination of operations with the Syrian government, the only legitimately elected authority in the country,” Rivero said.
He further condemned the “politicization” of the crisis in Syria and “the tampering of the humanitarian crisis and the suffering” of people in the Middle Eastern country.
Those who are “supplying weapons, money and patronage to terrorist groups are responsible for the thousands of civilian victims of the conflict and the humanitarian situation,” the Cuban diplomat said, expressing his opposition to “the promotion of an interventionist agenda” in Syria.
The US-led coalition has been conducting air raids against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Analysts have assessed the strikes as unsuccessful as they have led to civilian deaths and failed to counter terrorism.
The US Air Force is also carrying out airdrops of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to militants fighting against the pro-government forces in Syria.
UN chief optimist on ‘conflict freeze’
Separately on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the consequences of the Syria crisis had become “too dangerous.”
Speaking in a briefing at the UN office in the Swiss city of Geneva, Guterres stressed that the conflict had fueled instability in the Middle East region and terrorist attacks across the globe.
Touching on the upcoming Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the UN chief further expressed hope that the discussions could “lead towards a consolidation of the ceasefire and a freeze in the conflict.”
The cessation of hostilities took effect on December 30, following an agreement between Syria’s warring parties.
Mediated by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran, the truce is the first of its kind that has been largely holding in Syria for almost three weeks now. Earlier attempts by the US to broker such a long-lasting ceasefire had failed.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Guterres underlined that the success of the Syria talks could “help create the conditions for a political process” regarding the Syria crisis.
The Astana talks, which are scheduled to be held on January 23, were brokered by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.
The French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has reiterated her support for Russia’s claim on Crimea in a newspaper interview in which she made another decisive tilt towards Moscow.
With three months before France goes to the polls, the Front National leader said she recognised Crimea as being part of Russia and if elected, she would push for a dropping of sanctions against Russia which France had backed simply because it was following German orders.
She told the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, that the referendum in the peninsula in 2014 to become part of Russia showed the “agreement of the people to join Russia”.
“Ukraine’s ownership of Crimea was just an administrative issue from Soviet times, the peninsula was never Ukrainian,” she said.
“I regret that the referendum, organised as a demonstration of the will of the people of the peninsula, was not recognised by the international community and the UN.”
Le Pen had made the comments about Crimea on French television earlier in January after which the Ukrainian security service SBU proposed banning her from entering the country for five years.
She described sanctions against Russia as “senseless” and “a pretty stupid method of diplomacy” and that “all countries should show respect for each other, to negotiate on equal terms and to accept a compromise solution acceptable to all”.
“We don’t have to have a situation whereby the major powers impose their policies on other states, behaving like stubborn children,” she told the paper.
( Image Credit: European Parliament/ flickr).
Many members of the Black Panthers and New Afrika party remain behind bars, some under dubious circumstances.
In the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera, teleSUR takes a look at some of the more prominent political prisoners who remain behind bars for their activism and fight for justice.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested and charged with killing white police Officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia in December 1981. One year later, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
In 2011, the United States Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in his case, and he was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole. He and many activists have maintained that he is innocent.
Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted under the dubious murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975, has continually maintained his innocence. In the 40 years since his trial, evidence continues to surface showing that Peltier was in fact convicted under false pretenses
Simon Trinidad joined Colombia’s FARC rebel group in 1987, rising through the ranks to eventually serve as the group’s de facto foreign minister. On a diplomatic visit to Ecuador in 2004, Trinidad was arrested and deported to Colombia, where on trumped up charges he was extradited to the U.S. After two hung juries Trinidad was ultimately convicted of conspiracy charges related to the kidnapping of two Plan Colombia agents and sentenced to 60 years at a supermax prison. Speaking of the sacrifices he’s made for his beliefs Trinidad said, “If I don’t do this, what am I? A traitor. That’s why I put up with pain and suffering to fight for what we lack. That’s why I took up the guerrilla struggle.”
Mutulu Shakur, a Black Liberation Army and Republic of New Afrika member who was stepfather to the late rap artist Tupac Shakur, was jailed in 1988 on charges of “conspiracy to aid bank expropriation.” Due to his activism, he had previously been placed on the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO surveillance program, which was also used against Martin Luther King Jr. and other radical Black activists.
“Sonia” aka, Omaira Rojas Cabrera
Born to a Colombian peasant family, Omaira Rojas Cabrera, known by her nom de guerre “Sonia,” joined the FARC rebel group as a teenager and rose to become one of their top female commanders. She was kidnapped by Colombian special forces in 2004, and eventually extradited to the U.S. where she was put on trial over drug charges. She was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 16 years, a fraction of the 55 to 60 years the prosecutors had asked for. Both she and Simon Trinidad were the subject of prisoner exchange negotiations between the FARC and then Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, launched by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
David Gilbert is a radical U.S. leftist organizer and member of the Weather Underground Organization, who worked with members of the Black Liberation Army. In 1983, he was convicted and sentenced to 75 years for three counts of felony murder over an attempted bank robbery attempt along with the activists.
Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz
Russell “Maroon” Shoatz was convicted back in 1970 for the first-degree murder of a Philadelphia police officer, in an attack that was conducted at the Philadelphia police station. A former member of the Black Panther Party and “soldier” of the Black Liberation Army, he was held in solitary confinement for 22 years, only being returned to the general prison population in 2014.
Black Panther Sundiata Acoli was convicted of killing a state trooper during a 1973 shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Acoli is one of at least 15 former members of the Black Panther Party who are still in prison.
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was a Black activist who worked with the Black Panthers, and was previously known as H. Rap Brown. He was convicted of shooting two deputies in March 2000 as they approached him with an arrest warrant for offenses including impersonating a police officer. He is serving a life sentence.
Al-Amin and his supporters have long argued that he was framed by a government that has feared him since his days in radical anti-racist politics.
Ever since its founding in Oakland in 1966 the Black Panthers were ruthlessly persecuted by the FBI and other domestic security forces. From the illegal Cointelpro program to the infamous Panther 21 trial, when 21 members of the Party were tried on 156 charges which were all eventually dropped, the U.S. government set out to destroy the grassroots movement. In addition to the former Panthers listed above, there are 11 Black Panthers who remain in jail on a variety of charges: Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald in California; Ed Poindexter in Nebraska; Joseph Bowen in Pennsylvania; Jalil Muntaqim in New York; Romaine Fitzgerald jailed since 1969; Herman Bell imprisoned in New York since 1971; Veronza Bowers, in prison since 1973; Robert Seth Hayes, jailed since 1973; Zulu Whitmore, in prison in Louisiana since 1977; Maliki Shakur, jailed since 1979; and Kamau Sadiki, imprisoned since 2002.
Judging from how the mainstream media has characterized the legacy of Barack Obama so far, the outgoing president will be most remembered for his many rousing aspirational speeches and well-timed shows of emotion.
His talent as a persuasive public communicator and the strength of his personal brand, bolstered by years of apple-shining from liberal magazines and newspapers, has been Obama’s most valuable asset.
This perception of Obama that has been propagated from the top, the view that he is essentially a benevolent figure with deep integrity or the personification of a modern liberal-statesmen, is a stunning smokescreen.
The contradiction between the high-minded rhetoric of the president in contrast to the actual policies pursued by his administration has been stark and utterly scandalous.
To hear Obama wax poetic about ‘the politics of hope’ and ‘how ordinary Americans can steer change’ feels deeply perverse coming from a figure that has institutionalized a vast, unaccountable permanent warfare state.
In the face of Obama’s global covert assassination program, his numerous secret wars without congressional approval, a mass electronic surveillance capability unprecedented in history, the speeches reveal themselves as little more than banal platitudes and vapid sloganeering.
As the sun sets on Obama’s presidency, to say the press has given him a pass is a grand understatement.
Some outlets have occasionally run criticism of Obama’s drone policies or inconvenient relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Other voices invert reality altogether, chastising Obama for his reluctance to militarily engage Syria, despite the US dropping over 12,000 bombs on the country in 2016 alone.
Contrary to his predecessor, Obama had a firmer grasp on the political risks inherent in the large-scale deployment of US troops in sustained military campaigns, but his strategic objectives differed little, and his belief in American exceptionalism was total.
Rather than ‘shock and awe,’ Obama proffered ‘leading from behind,’ culminating in NATO support and air power for insurgents that toppled the Libyan government on the pretext of defending human rights, turning the country into a cauldron of rival fiefdoms and lawlessness.
The Obama administration and the CIA fueled a proxy war in Syria with arms and training for insurgents, many of whom took up arms with ISIS or Al-Qaeda affiliated groups. The US military’s presence in Syria and support for non-state actors abjectly violates international law, and John Kerry’s leaked comments make clear how the administration cynically leveraged the threat of ISIS against the Syrian government.
Not only did Obama fail in his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay torture facility, he effectively replaced enhanced interrogation with an unaccountable covert assassination complex, endowing himself with the roles of judge, jury, and executioner.
By virtue of his suave and benevolent public persona, top-tier entertainers and figures of the liberal intelligentsia were largely willing to acquiesce to the precedent set by Obama’s unrestrained executive powers, exercised in near-complete secrecy.
They believed Obama would use the entrenched military and surveillance capacities of the US government judiciously. They swallowed the Democrats’ rhetoric of social inclusion and focused their political energies largely on identity issues.
Liberal figures didn’t protest against the president’s ability to spy on countless Americans suspected of no crime, nor did they organize against the president’s extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens and non-Americans without trial or due process.
Liberals hardly spoke out against the thousands of civilians killed by Obama’s drone bombings. Oddly enough, many seemed more outraged at Trump’s campaign rhetoric against Muslims and Mexicans than the reality of President Obama engaging in military hostilities against seven Muslim countries and deporting more people than any president in history.
Frankly, far too many Americans have been utter cowards in the face of the outgoing Democratic presidency. Obama will soon leave office as the only president in American history to serve two complete terms at war.
Despite his tense relationship with the Israeli prime minister and token opposition to the expansion of settlements, Obama signed the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance to Israel in history, enabling the cancerous Israeli occupation and further brutalization of Palestinians.
As the Saudi military ceaselessly bombarded towns and cities across impoverished Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, in a botched attempt to reinstall an ousted proxy government, the Obama administration offered muted criticism and a $115 billion arms deal.
Obama’s administration has in fact brokered more arms sales than other since the second world war. Despite campaigning on the building of ‘the most transparent administration in history,’ he has waged war against whistleblowers and official leakers, invoking the 1917 Espionage Act more than all previous presidents combined.
Obama spoke of his dramatic commitment to building a nuclear weapons-free world on the campaign trail. Once in office, he committed the country to a trillion-dollar modernization of US nuclear production facilities and weapons, including warheads with adjustable yields that, according to the New York Times, make the weapons “more tempting to use.”
One of the most consequential international developments to occur under Obama’s watch was the deterioration of US-Russia relations and the revival of Cold War antagonisms, marked by the covert American role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine that brought to power a crude, corrupt and pervasively anti-Russian regime.
The largest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the second world war has unfolded under Obama’s watch, and the White House has moved in lock-step with the US intelligence community to propagate the anti-Russian line that has now captured American politics.
His administration’s pivot to Asia policy aimed to transfer 60 percent of the US naval presence to the Asia Pacific region by 2020, while the now-botched Trans-Pacific Partnership sought to – in the words of Senator Charles E. Schumer – “lure” other countries “away from China.”
On the domestic front, there have hardly been any clear-cut achievements for President Obama. He has overseen an obscene transfer of wealth from the middle class to the billionaire class, becoming the first two-term presidency that has failed to post a three percent GDP growth on an annualized basis over two terms.
The much-touted streak of job recovery rests on the proliferation of insecure part-time and temporary jobs with the low protection characteristic of the gig economy, while the share of workers in temporary jobs has risen from 10.7 percent to 15.8 percent under his watch.
Wall Street banks hoarded funds fueled by the quantitative easing policies of the Federal Reserve to triple the size of stock values. Corporate profits reached an 85-year peak under Obama while the total compensation of employees’ wages and salaries slipped to levels last recorded in 1929.
The wealth of the richest 400 Americans increased from $1.57 trillion in 2008 to $2.4 trillion in 2016.
The market-driven Affordable Care Act, Obama’s primary domestic initiative, did extend medical coverage to segments of American society, while millions of others were forced to pay higher premiums for substandard care. This shifted health care costs from employers and the state to working individuals in a move that effectively amounts to a bailout for private insurers.
And finally, there is the obscene proliferation of police brutality that has unfolded under Obama’s watch, with offending officers rarely held to account for their actions. African-American males were found to be nine times more likely to be killed by police officers in 2015 than white men of the same age.
But despite Obama’s troubled and deeply hypocritical track record, he remains a figure that many Americans continue to admire and respect, especially as the country moves rapidly toward a new and highly divisive political era.
A great many Americans, especially those in African-American communities, desperately and sincerely want to believe in the hope that Obama inspired in them. Unfortunately, Obama’s key achievement has proven to be his skillful usurpation of progressive rhetoric in the interest of an extremely militaristic and pro-corporate political agenda.
While many fear the specter of Donald Trump’s incoming presidency and the new forms of authoritarianism and state violence that will inevitably accompany it, none should forget that it was President Obama who set a precedent for the extreme executive authority that President Trump will soon enjoy.
Nile Bowie is an independent writer and current affairs commentator based in Singapore. Originally from New York City, he has lived in the Asia-Pacific region for nearly a decade and was previously a columnist with the Malaysian Reserve newspaper, in addition to working actively in non-governmental organisations and creative industries. He can be reached at email@example.com.