Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa tours a new health center in the province of Cotopaxi, Aug. 25, 2015. | Photo: Ecuadorean Presidency
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa Tuesday inaugurated three new health centers in the province of Cotopaxi, which are destined to serve more than 55,000 people.
The health centers were built at a cost of US$7 million and serve a part of Ecuador currently at risk of being affected by the possible eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano.
President Correa said these centers are already equipped to deal with any potential emergency related to a possible eruption.
The new health centers are part of a push by the government to improve public health in the country by reducing visits to larger hospitals and placing a greater emphasis on prevention.
These centers, run by the Ministry of Public Health, are available to all residents free of charge.
“In 2015 alone, 2.5 million dollars have been allocated to health, a human right, and the best possible investment of money,” said Correa.
Since 2007 and the arrival of Correa to the presidency, 46 health centers and 12 hospitals have been built throughout the country, with more set to be opened over the next few years.
“We are continuing on the path so that public services serve as an example, that they are the best, that’s the dream that the Citizens Revolution holds,” said Minister of Health Carina Vance, referencing the name given to the political process led by President Correa.
These new health centers are deliberately built in areas previously under-served by government services. The three new centers inaugurated Tuesday are located in a part Ecuador where the majority of the residents are indigenous peoples.
President Correa said that these types of services are an example of the commitment the government has toward serving indigenous communities and the reason why the Citizens Revolution continues to enjoy support from the majority of indigenous peoples.
A segment of the indigenous movement recently declared an “uprising” against the government, holding marches and rallies throughout the country to demonstrate their opposition.
The smaller “type B” health center inaugurated by the president includes outpatient services, dental attention, X-rays, a clinical laboratory, emergency services, clinical psychology, physiotherapy, and a pharmacy.
A second “type B” center and a larger “type C” center were simultaneously unveiled. The president said they intended to inaugurate all three centers with a visit to the largest one but changed their plans after an opposition political group said they would try to storm the center during the president’s visit.
Reprieve | August 24, 2015
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Office have refused to support a British student’s request to be released from a UAE prison, it’s been revealed – despite the fact that he was tortured into a false ‘confession’ by Emirati police.
Ahmad Zeidan, from Reading, was arrested in December 2013 in the emirate of Sharjah, along with seven other young men. During eight days of incommunicado detention, he was tortured by police into signing a document in Arabic – a language he doesn’t read or write. During a trial in which he faced a potential death sentence, the document was presented as his ‘confession’, and he was sentenced to nine years. He lost a subsequent appeal, while his allegations of police torture – common in the UAE – were never fully investigated.
The leaders of the Emirates recently granted a traditional Ramadan pardon to just under 900 prisoners across the UAE, including 200 prisoners in Sharjah jail, where Ahmad is held. The amnesty saw Ahmad’s co-defendants – none of whom are British – released, leaving him the sole remaining defendant from the December 2013 arrests to be still in prison. It’s now emerged that the Foreign Office refused to support a request by Ahmad for inclusion in the pardon – an apparent contradiction of an official UK policy to request clemency when a miscarriage of justice, such as a forced confession, has occurred.
It’s also been revealed that David Cameron met with the leader of the UAE, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in July this year, shortly before the pardon was announced. In a letter to human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Ahmad, the Foreign Office admitted that the Prime Minister had not raised the case at the meeting, saying “these specific issues were not discussed.”
Speaking to the Press Association, Ahmad said his experience had been “extremely traumatizing, for both me and my family. It’s taking a toll on me every single day, mentally and physically.” He added: “The torture at the beginning was one thing, that I live with every day; it’s now another mountain of pain I have to go through, knowing the UK government is doing nothing.” He appealed to ministers to “get me out of what I’m going through.”
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Ahmad Zeidan has suffered a staggering miscarriage of justice at the hands of the UAE. His brutal torture and the use of a bogus ‘confession’ – signed in a language he doesn’t read or write – are more than enough reason for the British government to request his release. It is deeply disappointing that ministers have not yet done this – particularly as his co-defendants, from other countries, have now all been released. The UK government must use our strong ties with the Emirates to call for an end to Ahmad’s nightmarish ordeal, so that he can return to Britain and concentrate on his future.”
Unable to reconquer Donbass Kiev wants it as an economic basket case to dampen secessionist feeling in the rest of South-East Ukraine
Government army keeps the groceries at bay
In a process that begun in July 2014 and was completed November later that year the Ukrainian government in Kiev severed all links to rebel-held Donbass in east Ukraine. This meant it stopped making social payments to citizens and de-funded all state institutions: courts, registries, hospitals, banks, post offices and state-owned enterprises.
Strategically this was a mistake.
Nothing would have underscored the legitimacy of Kiev’s rule in east Ukraine more, but for it to continue to perform many of the functions of the state there. Likewise, the people in east Ukraine could not have helped but notice it was Kiev which continued to supply them with services the rebels were incapable, and Russia unwilling, to provide.
As it was the Kiev government became a solely negative factor in their lives – what with its offensive military operations and the arming up of neo-Nazis.
Instead, it was the rebels which were forced to pick up the slack and which now – along with the prestige of being the people who keep the neo-Nazis at bay – enjoy also the legitimacy of being the people who provide the electricity, water, heating, pensions and medical care to Donbass people.
In fact, initially the two rebel statelets – the DPR and LPR – were reluctant and slow to take responsibility for many of these tasks so they should really thank Kiev for forcing them to take their state-building of rival, secessionist republics seriously.
Nonetheless, the argument laid above is a sophisticated one. As such it is understandable that Kiev did not appreciate it, but instead pulled out following the crude logic that dumping social responsibilities in the lap of the rebels would serve to decrease the amount of resources they could dedicate to building up their military capacities.
It is much less understandable why Kiev followed up its pullout from Donbass with a fully-fledged economic blockade.
The two most clear-cut consequences the blockade has had was to enable Poroshenko to act the hardliner, as well as to definitely win the hearts and minds of Donbass residents for the rebels.
Research conducted in March of this year showed the blockade helped an astounding 93% of people in rebel-held east Ukraine to transfer their loyalties away from Kiev.
This is scarcely surprising since Poroshenko very much openly proclaimed the blockade was intended as continuation of war by means of collective reprisals against the civilians of Donbass:
“We will have our jobs – they will not. We will have our pensions – they will not. We will have care for children, for people and retirees – they will not.
Our children will go to schools and kindergartens… theirs will hole up in the basements. Because they are not able to do a thing.
This is exactly how we will win this war!”
Exactly how Poroshenko thought this would win the war for Kiev is a mystery. The idea unarmed civilians would rise against armed rebels originating from their midst – and then for the benefit of their Maidan-affiliated tormentors was always bizarre.
Likewise the idea that Donbass – which controlled a stretch of border with Russia – could actually be brought to its knees and forced to beg for mercy.
Dreadfully enough, during the winter of 2014-15 the blockade indeed contributed to a major humanitarian crisis. There was little food to buy and severe shortages of many types of medicine. There were even reports of individual deaths – usually of socially isolated pensioners, now without pensions. No doubt things would have been even worse without humanitarian assistance from Russia.
This situation, however, has now been long superseded. Between commerce with Russia, smuggling across front lines, and transit from government-held Ukraine via Russia conditions in Donbass, as regards supplies, are now livable enough. – And there are no signs that Donbass is ready to fall on its knees before the government in Kiev as Poroshenko predicted in November.
If anything we must assume that many eastern Ukrainians in rebel-held territories feel a measure of pride at having withstood Kiev’s attempted strangulation of their region.
In other words, aside from being morally repugnant the blockade has proven an utter failure in its stated goal of bringing Donbass back under central control – but has instead made this goal more distant than ever.
Familiar lines (in this case from the 2004 election)
It is more likely that the politicians in Kiev regarded Donbass lost from the onset and the blockade was instead enacted for their own political purposes. – That is merely to show they were still “doing something” to bring it back even after they called off large-scale military operations in face of losses and defeats. (And even as the blockade was having the exact opposite effect.)
It is true, however, that the war and the blockade has meant that material quality of life in rebel-held territories is even worse than in areas under government control.
This must come as a disappointment to many since we can recall that hope for a better economic situation was perhaps the main mobilizing force behind the pro-Russian rallies in eastern Ukraine in the wake of Maidan.
By and large the masses of people who came out for counter-Maidan rallies in February, March and April 2014 across eastern Ukraine were not signing up for adventure and armed uprising (that came much later as reaction to heavy-handedness and intransigence of Maidan-controlled Kiev).
What they were calling for instead was for the relatively more orderly and economically prosperous Russia to swiftly take them under their wing – as it had just done with Crimea (thrilling its inhabitants).
Of course, the disappointment that Russia did not take over responsibility for Donbass is unlikely to translate into desire by its inhabitants to be taken over by the Maidan-affiliated forces that are shelling, blockading and demonizing them daily.
What the blockade may do, however, is demonstrate to other anti-Maidan Ukrainians that no matter the debt of economic abyss that Ukraine is facing an eventual separation from Maidan-controlled Kiev would not bring material relief.
Educated by the example of blockaded Donbass (and the likewise blockaded Transnistria) South-East Ukrainians now can have no doubt that no matter how dreadful the material situation in Ukraine – an attempted secession can only result in things getting worse yet.
Nikolai Holmov (‘OdessaBlogger’), a pro-Maidan commentator from Ukraine, explains the calculation leaders and people from heavily anti-Maidan areas like Kharkov, Mariupol and southern Odessa region must consider:
Anton Cisse [leader of ethnic Bulgarians in southern Odessa region] is no political ally of President Poroshenko, and therefore by extension is no political ally of Governor Saakashvili – however he is not stupid either. Indeed he is nobody’s fool.
Mr Cisse is quite capable of looking across the border to Transnistria and seeing what a basket case it is, particularly economically.
As a businessman first and foremost (and a politician secondly) there is simply no gain for him in any form of separatist movement within his stronghold that would move his patch toward an economic disaster area whilst also eschewing it from Odessa, its infrastructure, and its wealth.
Neither would he take kindly to his small fiefdom becoming a second devastated Donbas for the sake of an illusionary Bessarabia.
Thus, no matter what sympathies Mr Cisse may have (or not) for the Kremlin inspired “Bessarabia project” Mr Cisse, and his very loyal ethic Bulgarian constituents, are not about to sanction, encourage, give any meaningful support to, or lead the charge for, an independent/autonomous Bessarabia any time soon.
This, along with heavy policing – formal and informal – has to be a reason why we’ve seen very little evidence of secessionist feeling even in parts of South-East Ukraine where this sentiment was very visible last year before the war begun.
In other words, even if Maidan regime is not be able to inspire real enthusiasm and loyalty in the South-East it has conclusively demonstrated the ability to make lives fairly miserable in the material sense for those who try to break free – even in the event that they succeed.
It’s classic terrorist logic: Donbass is subject to collective reprisals, not in the hope it will surrender or be re-educated, but to be made into a lesson for those who might be tempted to follow in its footsteps.
The Ukrainian side has disrupted the prisoner exchange process three times within the past four weeks, an official in the militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) told a press briefing.
“We have repeatedly made efforts to release our military servicemen from captivity. We handed over to the Ukrainian side the list of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war with the suggestions on prisoner exchanges three times within the past four weeks. However, all our initiatives face hurdles, which leads to the disruption of the prisoner swap process,” Colonel Igor Yashchenko said.
He noted that every time a Ukrainian prisoners-of-war was brought to an appointed place where the exchange was to take place, the Ukrainian side refused to implement the agreements without providing any explanations. The latest unsuccessful attempt to exchange prisoners was made on August 17.
“One gets the impression that the Ukrainian authorities care little about the fate of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war and that they are engaged in some obscure game causing a delay in the exchange process,” the colonel said.
He added that prisoner swap attempts would continue in spite of everything.
Ecuadorean opposition leader Carlos Perez called on the Ecuadorean military and police to rebel against the government during an interview with Ecuadorean TV channel TeleAmazonas Tuesday.
“I call on the military, police you must rebel. You cannot blindly follow an illegitimate act, you cannot do this,” Perez told the interviewer from TeleAmazonas. “If I go to prison for saying this, I welcome this.”
Perez was being interviewed together with his partner Manuela Picq. Both were detained during violent protests last week against the government of Rafael Correa in the Ecuadorean capital. Picq’s detention led to scrutiny of her immigration status, which was found to be “irregular.” A judge ruled Monday that Picq — who said she would begin the process to obtain permanent residency — could stay in the country.
Perez called for the rebellion while commenting on a clash Monday between opposition protesters and police in the province of Loja, where police — backed by the military — arrived to clear an illegal roadblock and were attacked with sticks, rocks, and fire bombs. One police officer was later kidnapped, but managed to escape his captors during the night.
Perez’s remarks are likely to generate controversy in the country, given that the failed 2010 coup against the Correa government began as a police rebellion. In June, a disturbing video surfaced that appeared to incite the Ecuadorean police force to join opposition protests against proposed tax increases on Ecuador’s wealthiest sectors.
Perez, who previously served 8 days in prison for interfering in the delivery of public services, was caught on video Thursday calling on his supporters to surround the presidential palace, where government supporters had assembled. Following his remarks, protestors clashed with police, who were blocking access to the area in order to avoid conflict between the sides.
During the interview, the pair accused the government of illegally detaining them during the violent protests. Picq had previously told the El Comercio newspaper that she “was treated like a criminal simply for walking on the street,” however, she then admitted on Tuesday that she physically interfered with police, who were attempting to detain Perez.
President Correa said opposition groups have opted to turn to violence due to the “failure” of the work stoppage called by opposition-aligned groups last week. The political coalition United Front, which supports the government, also said the national action had failed, citing that no work stoppages had taken place and the protests had lower turnout than expected.
The violent tactics of segments of the opposition have come under heavy scrutiny. In a statement, the Ecuadorean ombudsperson’s office said, “Violent acts are incompatible with democracy, which is why we challenge all forms of aggression that violates rights, regardless of where it comes from.”
In an interview with the Andes news agency, Mario Ramos, director of the Andean Center for Strategic Studies said, “We do not have democratic opposition, that must be clear: there is a subversive opposition that is acting against the security of the Ecuadorean state, against democracy, against the Constitution. Let me be clear, this is not a democratic opposition, this is a subversive opposition.”
Al-Araby Al-Jadid | August 13, 2015
There is a clear contradiction between Israel’s demolition of two houses built by Jewish settlers in Beit El settlement following a judgement by the Supreme Court that they were built on private property belonging to a Palestinian, and the approval of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for the construction of 300 new homes in the same settlement, one of a number of building projects across the occupied West Bank.
Such a contradictory stance was reflected in the Israeli prime minister’s condemnation of the arson attack on the home of the Dawabsheh family by Jewish settlers, which killed a Palestinian baby and his father, given that the building programmes approved by the Netanyahu government and a climate of state-sanctioned impunity not only entices settlers to move in but also encourages them to carry out such attacks. We should not, therefore, be deceived by the apparent awakening of Netanyahu’s conscience towards the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of settlers and settlements.
It is through the judgements passed by the Israeli courts that the legal system plays a role in expanding settlements and gives them the legitimacy that Israelis crave. If the courts call for what we know will only ever be a temporary removal of some violations (the two Beit El houses, for example) they are only trying to remind settlers that they need to follow official guidance on the best way to confiscate Palestinian land and uproot the Palestinian residents therefrom.
Netanyahu’s justice minister said that it is useful to destroy two houses to make it possible to establish dozens of others in the same place, albeit it is “regrettable” to have to demolish them in order to re-build them. The minister of education explained that the court can decide whatever it wants, for the judicial system has to issue judgements while the government gets to decide about ongoing construction. It is as if they are saying, “We will learn from our mistakes, and we will build settlements in accordance with the legal instructions booklet with which the government overrides some of its formal procedures, so that the courts’ task becomes to re-direct the government towards better methods and pretexts for the confiscation of land and expansion of settlements.”
The legal process for this is represented by the permissibility of confiscating land from its owners for security reasons, or to establish army bases; later, civilians — Jewish settlers only, of course — are allowed to live there, on the pretext that they are part of the security provision; then these bases are turned into settlements, which are gradually expanded, and they swallow the surrounding areas on the pretext that the settlers themselves need security. The Israeli courts can also provide Palestinian land for the settlers because their presence in the occupied Palestinian territory is a security necessity for the state.
A number of laws are available to the government which allow it to control Palestinian land as it wishes. The Closed Areas Law, for example, allows the military to close any area without giving any reason; the Law of Absentee Property, allows the confiscation of land that belongs to people who are not in residence, for whatever reason (they may just be travelling); and the Law of Fallow Land, which allows for the confiscation of land that has not been cultivated. The latter is one of the most unjust and ridiculous of laws, because the Israeli authorities declare certain areas to be closed and prevent the owners from reaching their land to cultivate it, and then the government confiscates the land on the basis that it is uncultivated.
The Oslo Accords did not address the issue of settlements and allocated more than 60 per cent of the West Bank to what is known as Area C, which is entirely under Israeli military administration. Settlements are the essence of Israel’s founding Zionist ideology, and they have expanded many times under peace negotiations; the Palestine Liberation Organisation has failed to extract any Israeli pledge to halt settlement activity or freeze it. The West Bank is filled with settlements housing more than 600,000 settlers — all illegal under international law — with 200,000 in Jerusalem alone. The settlement programme has dismembered the West Bank, making a two-state solution almost impossible to envisage and making it unlikely that Israel will ever withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory under its control.
In the process, Jewish settler groups and political parties have grown in number and influence; it is impossible to form a government in Israel without their support. Militant extremists amongst the settlers are responsible for attacks against Palestinians and their homes and farms. An estimated 1,000 such attacks take place every year, and include murder, beatings, the burning of crops and trees, arson attacks on buildings and restricting free movement. The latest of these attacks was the arson attack targeting the Dawabsheh family. The incident cannot be separated from the context of all other settler violence. Needless to say, all settlers are heavily armed and are provided with back-up and protection by the Israeli army, and encouragement from the state.
It is no longer a secret that ardent Zionists are talking about the creation of a settler state in what they call “Judea and Samaria” in an effort to thwart any attempt by the government to withdraw from any occupied territory or close settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. This has even been mentioned by Yuval Diskin, the former head of Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet. Such a move would subject the West Bank to the control of the settlers, under the pretext that there is a dispute between residents of the West Bank; any “solution” in the occupied territories must therefore take into account the diversity of the population, even if the settlers have imposed their presence on the Palestinians in their own land.
It is enough for us to get alarmed to know that the proportion of Jewish settlers relative to the Palestinians in the West Bank exceeds the proportion of Jews to Arabs in 1948 when Israel was created. The Jewish settlers have the ability and influence to enable them to declare their own state, leaving the Israeli government free to claim that it is not responsible for what is happening there. That would, of course, be a disingenuous argument, given that it has created the settlements and settler-only access roads, and provided security and infrastructure for the settlers in the first place.
The West Bank is thus undergoing a serious Judaisation process as I write, and a major disaster is about to hit the Palestinians amid the near-complete absence and deadly inaction of the so-called Palestinian Authority. Regional Arab states and the international community are silent about what is happening before their eyes, which leaves the Israeli occupation government free to do what it wishes, and settlers free to declare their own state in the West Bank, which they call Judea and Samaria. Is anyone going to respond, to stop the disaster before it takes place?
Translated by Moein Taher
Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, insists that U.S.-Venezuela relations must be based on mutual respect.
Responding to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest comments on Venezuela, foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez called on him to stop interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs, which she described as violating international law.
Rodriguez was specifically referring to Kerry’s recent comments on a major news channel, where he said that international observers should be involved in Venezuela’s upcoming National Assembly elections and that all “political prisoners” in Venezuela should be freed, so that there would be no “negative impact” on U.S.-Venezuela relations.
In response to Kerry, Rodriguez said that Venezuela is a free and independent country and added, “the times in which the U.S. dictated norms to Venezuela are over, thanks to the anti-imperialist actions of the Venezuelan people.”
Instead, relations between Venezuela and the U.S. should be based on mutual respect and international norms, the foreign minister said.
Kerry’s claims about political prisoners refers to politicians arrested not for their political views but their orchestration of a wave of violence that led to the deaths of 43 Venezuelans in 2014.
Venezuela and the U.S. currently have not had ambassadors in each other’s countries since 2010, when Venezuela refused to admit the newly appointed U.S. ambassador because of negative comments he made about Venezuela’s military during his Senate confirmation hearing.
The U.S. subsequently expelled Venezuela’s ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez.
Ever since there have been negotiations on and off between the two countries about the exchange of ambassadors.
The most recent effort was torpedoed by President Obama’s issuing of an executive order that declared Venezuela an “extraordinary and unusual threat” to U.S. national security and imposed sanctions on several Venezuelan government officials.
Since then, new negotiations have taken place on the initiative of President Maduro, according to State Department advisor Thomas Shannon.
A retired Pinochet-era Chilean general and former head of the DINA secret intelligence unit committed suicide Thursday at the age of 76, after being convicted of dictatorship crimes earlier this week.
Former General Hernan Ramirez Rurange was one of 14 military personnel convicted Tuesday for involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Eugenio Berrios, a chemist and secret police agent under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Berrios was disappeared in the early 1990s after escaping from hiding in Uruguay. He had been sent there as part of DINA’s Operation Silence to avoid testifying in cases of assassinations carried out by secret police in the 1970s in the dictatorship-era Operation Condor.
Ramirez was sentenced to a total of 20 years and two days in prison this week: 10 years and one day for being the mastermind behind Berrios’ kidnapping, and another 10 years and one day for illicit association.
The former general died in the hospital after shooting himself in the head Thursday. His suicide immediately after the sentencing provoked strong reactions on social media.
“Hernan Ramirez couldn’t deal with his conscience or he was too cowardly to face his punishment, because he didn’t have any problem torturing.”
“Hernan Ramirez, today you join in heaven Odlanier Mena, Himmler, Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, Hess and other who valiantly committed suicide.”
Ramirez’ suicide comes a week after Manuel Contreras, another former head of DINA during the dictatorship, died Friday age of 86, remaining unrepentant until his death for the grave human rights abuses he committed, including torture, murder, and disappearances.
Ramirez was a right-hand man to Pinochet. He committed serious crimes aimed at protecting the dictatorship military regime at the beginning of the 1990’s, during the transition to democracy, when the Chilean government launched investigations into military personnel for human rights abuses perpetrated under the dictatorship, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera.
In the Berrios case, Ramirez testified that Pinochet had directly ordered him in 1991 as a DINA operative to take Berrios into hiding in Uruguay and that Pinochet knew “perfectly” who Berrios was.
Berrios oversaw the development of chemical weapons for use by DINA under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Such biochemical weapons included sarin gas, a chemical used to kill victims silently and without a trace by mimicking a heart attack.
DINA was key in executing Operation Condor, a six-country regional intelligence operation and terror campaign to assassinate political opponents of the participating U.S.-backed right-wing regimes.
Pinochet came to power after a U.S.-backed coup on Sept. 11, 1973, that removed the democratically elected, socialist President Salvador Allende. Pinochet’s bloody regime ruled until 1990, during which time over 3,000 people were murdered and tens of thousands tortured and disappeared.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the OSCE office in Donetsk, demanding unbiased monitoring of the humanitarian situation in the region.
Several OSCE representatives came out to meet the protesters but refrained from making any comments.
“If only the OSCE had monitored the situation more objectively, we would have had peace here a long time ago… The OSCE monitors are telling us nothing, saying only that they will make protocols, nothing else,” Donetsk News Agency quoted one of the protesters as saying.
Another protester, from the nearby town of Gorlovka, shamed the monitors for keeping mum while the Ukrainian military was reducing his town to rubble.
The demonstrators then left, leaving behind a collection of dolls, teddy bears and other children’s toys, which they had smeared with red paint to symbolize the blood of children in the Donbass region who had been killed by Ukrainian troops.
Published in March by Physicians for Social Responsibility, the study, conducted by a team that included some Nobel Prize winners, determined that at least 1.3 million people have died as a result of war since Sept.11, 2001, but the real figure might be as high as two million. The study was an attempt to “close the gaps” in existing research, including studies like the Iraq Body Count,” which puts the number of violent deaths in that country at about 219,000 since 2003, based on media reports of the time period.
Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, writing in April for Middle East Eye, explained some of the ways the previous figures fell short, according to the physicians’ research:
“For instance, although 40,000 corpses had been buried in Najaf since the launch of the war, IBC [Iraq Body Count] recorded only 1,354 deaths in Najaf for the same period. That example shows how wide the gap is between IBC’s Najaf figure and the actual death toll – in this case, by a factor of over 30.
Such gaps are replete throughout IBC’s database. In another instance, IBC recorded just three airstrikes in a period in 2005, when the number of air attacks had in fact increased from 25 to 120 that year. Again, the gap here is by a factor of 40.”
The physicians behind the study also praised a controversial report from the medical journal The Lancet that placed the toll count far higher than that of Iraq Body Count, at closer to one million dead. In addition to the war in Iraq, the PSR study added additional victims from other countries where the United States has waged war:
“To this, the PSR study adds at least 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan, killed as the direct or indirect consequence of US-led war: a ‘conservative’ total of 1.3 million. The real figure could easily be ‘in excess of 2 million’.”
These figures may still be underestimating the real death toll, according to Ahmed. These studies only account for the victims of violent conflict, but not the many more who will die as a result of the damage war brings to crucial infrastructure, from roads to farms to hospitals — not to mention devastating sanctions like those placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War in 1991. He continues:
“Undisputed UN figures show that 1.7 million Iraqi civilians died due to the West’s brutal sanctions regime, half of whom were children.
The mass death was seemingly intended. Among items banned by the UN sanctions were chemicals and equipment essential for Iraq’s national water treatment system. A secret US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) document discovered by Professor Thomas Nagy of the School of Business at George Washington University amounted, he said, to ‘an early blueprint for genocide against the people of Iraq.’”
Similar figures for Afghanistan, he reports, could bring totals to four million or more.
As Ahmed points out in his article, the majority of those killed in these wars and those suffering most from these wars, statistically speaking, were Muslim — a stark contrast to the common view that radical Muslim terrorists are the deadliest group in the Middle East. Rather, it would seem the American military are the worst killers, and the death toll resembles religious genocide. In 2009, Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard, wrote in Foreign Policy :
“How many Muslims has the United States killed in the past thirty years, and how many Americans have been killed by Muslims? Coming up with a precise answer to this question is probably impossible, but it is also not necessary, because the rough numbers are so clearly lopsided.”
Or, as Ben Affleck famously quipped to Bill Maher last year: “We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us by an awful lot.”
Five more former Chilean army officers have been charged for involvement in the burning of two teenage activists protesting against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1986, bringing the total to 12 people.
Last week, seven former soldiers were charged for complicity in the incident in which photographer Rodrigo Rojas was killed and Carmen Quintana was severely disfigured after the two were doused in gasoline and set on fire.
After setting them ablaze, soldiers abandoned the two activists outside of the capital city Santiago, where they managed to get help to take them to a hospital in critical condition, where Rojas later died of injuries.
Carmen Gloria Quintana is seen near her home in Santiago in July of 1987. In 1986, when she was 18, she suffered severe burns on 65 percent of her body. She spent decades in treatment in Chile and Canada. | Photo: Reuters
The case, closed in the 1990’s after a single conviction of negligence and reopened in 2013 when relatives filed a new lawsuit, is considered among the highest profile among tens of thousands of dictatorship-era human rights abuses carried out during the 1980’s.
The arrests follow the recent conviction of 10 former army officers in the 1973 assassination of Chile’s well-known leftist political folk singer Victor Jara in 1973. Soldiers had cut off Jara’s fingers, broke his hands and wrists, and shot him more than 40 times.
The charges also come as part of a larger investigation into war crimes carried out during the 17-year dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
Over 36,000 people were tortured and at least 3,200 killed or disappeared under the rule of the Chilean dictator.
Residents of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea have a legal right to hold a secession referendum, including the 2014 vote that separated them from Ukraine and reunited them with Russia, French lawmaker Claude Goasguen, currently in Russia with the French delegation, said Saturday.
“They say that Crimean people had no legal right to hold a referendum. Of course they had! Why not? This is what saved the region from war,” Goasguen said at a press conference in Moscow.
A group of 10 French lawmakers, led by lower-house National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee member Thierry Mariani, arrived in Russia for a three-day visit on Thursday. The delegation visited Crimea to see the Black Sea peninsula following its secession from Ukraine in March 2014.
Both the French and Ukrainian governments have condemned the trip, considering it a breach of international law.
The Crimean peninsula split from Ukraine to rejoin Russia in March 2014 after a referendum in which over 96 percent voted in favor of the secession.
Kiev and its Western allies labeled the vote an “annexation,” while Moscow pointed out that the actions of the local populace were within the international legal framework.