25 May 2016 not only marks the 16th anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from 22 years of Israeli occupation and oppression by the Lebanese Resistance, but also the liberation of Lebanese political prisoners from the infamous Khiam prison. On 23 May 2000, 144 Lebanese prisoners were liberated from Khiam, 2 days before the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces.
3,000 Lebanese stormed Khiam, the site of infamous torture of Lebanese resisters, breaking the locks with axes and crowbars. “Set up by the Israelis in 1985 on a hill in the village of Khiam in the South Lebanon Governorate, the Khiam prison was considered to be one of the most ruthless detention and interrogation centers in the Middle East. While the Israelis governed the prison, which included 67 cells and more than 20 solitary confinement cells, they used the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy militia made up of Lebanese nationals, to execute their orders,” wrote Rana Harbi in Al-Akhbar.
Over 5,000 Lebanese, including 500 women, were imprisoned in Khiam prison over the years. Lebanese who participated in all forms of resistance to the occupation and its proxy forces were tortured brutally inside the notorious prison. The prison after its liberation became a museum and symbol of the torture of the occupiers and the victory of the Lebanese people and their resistance, of their freedom obtained through struggle and years of resistance.
In 2006, when Israel attacked Lebanon, it bombed the Khiam site, leaving a pile of rubble at the site of the prison, as if attempting to destroy the memory of its torture, brutality – and its defeat – preserved by the Lebanese people. However, the memory and commitment to resistance of the former prisoners – many of whom continue to struggle and play leading roles in Lebanese movements and parties, including Hezbollah and the Lebanese Communist Party – and of the people, cannot be erased by the bombing of the prison site, just as they could not be erased by torture, solitary confinement, and years of imprisonment.
The liberation of Khiam prison was not merely symbolic; it was central to the liberation of South Lebanon, just as the liberation of Palestinian prisoners is central to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. The Lebanese people and Resistance continue to struggle against Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms; and the Palestinian people and their Resistance continue to struggle for the liberation of Palestine – its land, its people and its prisoners after over 68 years of occupation. The victory in South Lebanon and the liberation of Khiam remains an anniversary of liberation and a promise for future victories over torture, oppression and occupation.
The following testimonies of former prisoners held in Khiam prison were collected and published in Al-Akhbar by Rana Harbi in 2014:
Degol Abou Tass
In 1976, at the age of 16, I was arrested in a village in occupied Palestine for the first time. I told the Israelis that I trespassed by mistake. They knew I was lying but released me anyway. My parents packed my bags and forced me to leave the country. I found out later that I was the first Lebanese citizen to get arrested by the Israeli forces.
I came back to Rmeish [a village on the borders in South Lebanon] in the 1980s after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The civil war was still raging in Beirut but in the south different resistance movements, such as the Lebanese Communist Party, the Amal Movement, Syrian Social Nationalist Party and many other factions, united against the Israelis. A few months after my arrival, the SLA knocked on my parents door. I had to leave the country, again.
I was miserable. I couldn’t stay away for long. In the early 1990s I came back to Rmeish. All the armed groups were long gone. Hezbollah dominated the resistance scene. I tried to reconnect with old militia leaders but in vain.
One day, an old childhood friend pulled into my driveway. “Are you willing to fight with us?” he asked. I looked uncertain. “Us … Hezbollah,” he added. I climbed into his car and we drove away. In 1998, one of my neighbors ratted me out.
“A Christian with Hezbollah? Now that’s something,” the Israeli officer interrogating me said. “How much are they paying you? We will pay double, no triple. What is your price? We can work something out,” he continued. I remained silent. “Okay then Jesus, welcome to Khiam prison.”
In Khiam prison we died a hundred times every day. Torture included electric shocks, being tied naked to a whipping pole for hours under the burning sun in the summer and snow in the winter, and getting whipped and beaten continuously with metal rods, wires and nightsticks.
We were caged and treated like animals. Believe me, it wasn’t so much about the pain, but the humiliation.
On the morning of May 23, 2000, the guards were talking and walking outside, as usual. Suddenly, complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. We heard the daily UN airplane fly by so we knew it was 9:30 am. “Where did they go?” one prisoner asked. We had no idea.
“They are moving us to occupied Palestine,” yelled a prisoner in a cell right next to ours. I put my feet on the shoulders of two of my cellmates so that I can reach the small window right under the ceiling. “All of us?” I asked. “They will execute half and take half … this is what we heard,” replied another prisoner. Before I could even reply I heard a noise coming from a distance. I couldn’t see anything. The voices grew louder and louder.
“Looks like our parents are clashing with the SLA guards as usual,” one prisoner said. “I bet my mother is still trying to bring me food,” another exclaimed. And then we heard gunshots. People were screaming. More gunshots.
“They are shooting our parents!” said one frightened detainee. “No, the mass execution began. They will execute half of us remember!” replied another. Panic attacks. Anxiety. Fear.
I put my ear against the door. I heard ululations. I heard prayers. I heard women. I heard children. Suddenly, the door opening through which food was usually served broke wide open. “You are liberated, you are liberated!” I fell on my knees. I thought I was hallucinating. I put my fist out. Two men grabbed my fist. “Allah akbar, Allah akbar (God is the greatest) … you are liberated!” My cellmates were all kneeling on the floor in disbelief. The locks were getting smashed from the outside. I cried aloud and the door broke wide open. I don’t really remember what happened next.
I was the first prisoner to get caught on camera. My parents watched the liberation of Khiam on TV because Rmeish was still under occupation at the time. They didn’t recognize me though. My hair and beard were too long and well, I was screaming “Allah akbar!”
Fourteen years later, I’m living with my wife and children in Rmeish, and every morning I drink my coffee while looking over occupied Palestine.
In November 1990 I was picking up photos from a store in Marjeyoun, a city in south Lebanon, when I got arrested. I was 19 at the time.
They put a tight black cover over my head and made me strip naked. Suspended from my bound wrists from a metal pole, hot and cold water was thrown on me consecutively … hot cold hot cold until I was completely soaked. Then they attached electrodes to my chest and other particularly sensitive areas of my body and electrocuted me, repeatedly.
In the 70 day interrogation period, I was tortured three times per day. I used to lose consciousness and wake up to find myself stumbling blindly in a pitch-black, 1m by 80cm by 80cm solitary confinement room.
We were tied to window grills naked for days in painful positions, freezing water thrown at us in the cold winter nights. We were whipped, beaten, kicked in the head and the jaw, burned, electrocuted, had ear-shattering whistling in our ears, and deprived of food and sleep … it was hard, very hard.
I endured the pain. With time, I became numb. I survived it all without saying a word. I was winning, I thought.
One morning, they dragged me into the interrogation room. “You didn’t tell me your sister was this beautiful,” one of the SLA officers said. My whole world came crashing down. “Wait until you see his mother,” said another. Handcuffed, I threw myself on him from across the table. It costed me 14 hours in the “chicken cage,” a 90-cubic-centimeter enclosure used for extra-severe punishment.
The SLA used to bring in the wives, sisters and daughters of the prisoners and treat them in a vulgar manner like taking off their head scarves, groping them and threatening to rape them. For me, the mere thought was intolerable. “Your sister will pay you a visit tomorrow. You miss her don’t you?”
“I’m a Hezbollah fighter,” I confessed.
Up to 12 prisoners were crammed in a tiny room. We were buried alive. The cells were like coffins. Light and air hardly penetrated through the small, barred windows located near the ceiling. We could barely breathe. We used to relieve ourselves in a black bucket placed in the corner. The heavy odor of human sweat and wastes was intolerable. We showered every three or four weeks. Once a month, we were allowed into the “sun or light room” for 20 minutes only.
One night in 1991 I woke up to the deafening screams of a detainee being tortured in the yard. The louder he screamed, the harder he got whipped. His cries were unbearable, beyond anything I had ever heard before. “You are killing him, you animals,” one of my fellow cellmates shouted.
We started banging on the door of the cell, kicking it with our feet, yelling and asking them to stop. Other prisoners in other cells joined us, but the lashes kept falling and the cries continued. And then … silence. Youssef Ali Saad, father of eight, died under torture on that cold January night. One month later, Asaad Nemr Bazzi died because of medical neglect.
Do you know what the worst part was? Fellow Lebanese citizens did this to us. I almost died on the hands of a man named Hussein Faaour, my neighbor in Khiam. Abu Berhan, another torturer I remember was from Aitaroun. The SLA members were all Lebanese, mostly from the south. Family members, neighbors, childhood friends, classmates, teachers … Lebanese who decided to sell their land and people for cash.
Lebanese who are now living among us like nothing happened, as if they did nothing! It breaks my heart that our former tormentors have escaped punishment so easily.
Fourteen years later, I’m still waiting for justice.
In 1988, I was in Beirut purchasing medicine for my pharmacy in al-Taybeh (a village in South Lebanon) when the SLA forces, aware of my role in transferring arms to Hezbollah fighters, first came looking for me. They stormed into our house again a week later but my mother told them I was in Bint Jbeil. It was the truth but they didn’t believe her.
I remember opening the front gate that afternoon and seeing my mother waiting, weeping and trembling on the doorstep. “They took away your sister and your sister-in-law along with Hadi (her five-month-old baby.) My daughter, my grandson!” she cried. I put on my clothes and waited for the SLA on the front porch. My sister was 20-years-old at the time and I was 26. My mother begged me to run away, but I didn’t.
My mother collapsed on the ground next to the SLA vehicle. I sat in the backseat and they took me away.
Blindfolded I was shoved into the interrogation room. Boiling water was thrown on my face, and my fingers and ears were electrocuted. I didn’t say a word. This went on for a month.
“I heard Hadi is sick,” one of the Israeli officers told me one morning. He wasn’t lying. My sister in law got infected and breastfeeding her child was not an option anymore. Psychologically, I suffered greatly. I wished they would just beat me up instead. I struggled, but I remained silent. Two months later Hadi and his mother, along with my sister, got released. They were of no use to the Israelis anymore.
Women detainees, like men, were severely tortured. You see, gender equality is not always a good thing [she laughs]. Let me tell you how the torture stopped.
After spending 15 days in solitary confinement, I found out upon my return to the cell I shared with six other women that one of my fellow prisoners had an extremely disgusting skin rash. I examined her and as a pharmacist I knew that her rash was contagious. As planned, I got infected. Soon, my skin started changing and I looked like an acid attack victim.
Clearly disgusted by my deteriorating skin, the SLA guard dragged me by my hair into yet another torture session. The torturer, a woman, was waiting for me. With my hair still trapped between the guards fingers, he forced me down to my knees. Before the torturer’s fist reached my jaw, I told her that my skin condition was contagious. The guard instantly let go of my hair and they both took a step back. I tried to keep a straight face but I couldn’t hide my smile. Nobody laid a hand on me after that day.
Fourteen years later, I made peace with the past. My three years in Khiam were tough, but now I feel blessed. I really do.
BETHLEHEM – After 25 years of accountability work in the occupied West Bank, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem announced on Wednesday its decision to discontinue their strategy of holding Israeli forces accountable for their crimes against Palestinians through internal military mechanisms.
Representatives of the organization, which focuses on collecting information and documenting Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, called their complicity in Israel’s military mechanisms “morally unacceptable,” in a press briefing on Tuesday.
According to a new report released by the organization, the inefficiency of Israeli military mechanisms to provide justice for Palestinian victims led the organization to label their accountability activities as a “whitewash machine” for the continuation of the nearly 50-year Israeli military occupation of the West Bank.
“B’Tselem has gradually come to the realization that the way in which the military law enforcement system functions precludes it from the very outset from achieving justice for the victims. Nonetheless, the very fact that the system exists serves to convey a semblance of law enforcement and justice,” the report stated.
The report argued that the veneer of legal legitimacy “makes it easier to reject criticism about the injustices of the occupation, thanks to the military’s outward pretense that even it considers some acts unacceptable, and backs up this claim by saying that it is already investigating these actions.”
“In so doing, not only does the state manage to uphold the perception of a decent, moral law enforcement system, but also maintains the military’s image as an ethical military that takes action against these acts,” the report added.
Since the start of the second intifada in late 2000, of the 739 complaints filed by B’Tselem of Palestinians being killed, injured, used as human shields, or having their property damaged by Israeli forces, roughly 70 percent resulted in an investigation where no action was taken, or in an investigation never being opened.
Only three percent of cases resulted in charges being brought against the soldiers, according to the report.
Field Researcher for B’Tselem Iyad Haddad told Ma’an on Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian NGOs worked for many years to create a “culture” of accountability in Palestinian communities plagued with deeply-rooted mistrust for Israeli military bodies, convincing Palestinians to submit complaints to the Israeli military when faced with human rights violations.
However, the organization became complicit in the violations by reinforcing the credibility of a system incapable of providing results or any semblance of justice for individuals or their families, Haddad said.
Kareem Jubran, field research director of B’Tselem, said he was “ashamed” of B’Tselem’s engagement with the military occupation during the press briefing, adding that the process forced victims to become victims a second time, as Palestinians are commonly mistreated by military investigators while their cases rarely result in accountability or justice.
“We became subcontractors to the occupation,” Yael Stein, a research director of B’Tselem, said in the conference, adding that the organization’s accountability work served to “legitimize the whole occupation.”
The decision has led the group to redesign its strategy from direct accountability to working in the “public arena” through a launch of a public awareness campaign that can “rob the system of its credibility,” Executive Director Hagai Elad said.
B’Tselem’s disengagement with internal mechanisms of the Israeli military occupation comes in the midst of an increasingly right-wing government and renewed attacks on Israeli human rights organizations.
Newly appointed ultra-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused B’Tselem earlier this year of being funded by the same groups financing Hamas — the Palestinian movement leading the besieged Gaza Strip’s de facto government, which has been designated a “terrorist” organization by the Israeli government — while calling B’Tselem “traitors” to the Israeli public.
In December, Ayelet Shaked, leader of the ultranationalist Israeli Home Party, pushed for a so-called “transparency” bill that would compel NGOs to reveal their sources of funding if more than 50 percent of their funding came from foreign entities, in a push to crack down on groups who receive foreign funding in order to criticize Israel.
Critics have slammed the bill, which passed its first reading in the Knesset in February, with the chairwoman of the left-leaning Meretz party Zehara Galon calling it a “continuation of the witch hunt, political persecution, and censorship of human rights groups and left-wing organizations that criticize the government’s conduct.”
Since organizations in Israel which rely on foreign funding also tend to oppose the government’s right-wing policies against Palestinians, the potential legislation is widely considered discriminatory and an attempt to weed out human rights groups working to end the large-scale human rights violations that occur in the occupied territory.
B’Tselem’s recent decision to focus on public awareness in Israeli society marks a unique shift in Israeli human rights approaches to violations against Palestinians, in a political climate where far-right views are increasingly becoming mainstream, and concerted attacks on human rights groups could be considered government policy.
Jaclynn Ashly contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
Alhaqhr – May 21, 2016
This video tells the stories of four Palestinian children from occupied East Jerusalem, and sheds light on their suffering which represents the suffering of Palestinian children in Jerusalem in general.
Yahdih Ould Slahi holds up a photo of his brother Mohamedou in a May 2016 video by American Civil Liberties Union © acluvideos / YouTube
US authorities detained, interrogated and sent back a German citizen flying in to campaign for the release of his brother – author of the best-selling “Guantanamo Diary,” who has been imprisoned and tortured at the US camp since 2002.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir, heavily redacted by government censors, was published in 2015 and quickly became a best-seller. The Mauritanian native was arrested in 2001 and rendered to Jordan for interrogation by the CIA. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay the following year.
His younger brother Yahdih, a German citizen, has campaigned for Mohamedou’s release for years. Yahdih was supposed to attend a number of events in the US this week, seeking to persuade Guantanamo’s Periodic Review Board to set Mohamedou free at the June 2 hearing.
When Yahdih Slahi arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York on Saturday, however, he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents, questioned for hours, and sent back to Germany the following day, The Intercept reported.
“He was asked questions about his family, his brother, and what he knew about why his brother was in Guantánamo,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It was a harrowing, stressful, and exhausting experience.”
Yahdih Slahi is a German citizen who lives in Düsseldorf, and would have been able to enter the US under the visa waiver program that Germany participates in. The CBP gave no explanation for denying Slahi entry.
In his memoir, Mohamedou Slahi described being held in isolation and subjected to beatings, extreme cold, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse, a simulated kidnapping, and a simulated execution. At one point, his captors tried to trick him by showing him a forged letter from his mother, Yahdih recounted in 2015. The ploy failed because the forgery misspelled Slahi’s name – and because, unbeknownst to his jailers, Slahi’s mother was illiterate.
Mohamedou Slahi admits that he fought in Afghanistan in the early 1990s with what became Al-Qaeda– when the organization was backed by the US in its struggle against the socialist government in Kabul. While he had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda since 1992, Slahi did stay in touch with his cousin and former brother-in-law, Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, who served as a lieutenant to Osama Bin Laden.
Slahi was never charged with any crime, but the 2010 decision to release him has been held up by government appeals.
“The judge said there was no evidence in 2010 to hold him. There’s certainly not evidence now. The Chief Prosecutor said when he resigned in 2007, that there was no evidence then,” Slahi’s attorney Nancy Hollander told RT in January 2015.
Slahi’s family and friends hope the Periodic Review Board will recommend his release at the June 2 hearing. The inter-agency panel ruled on Monday to set free an Afghan man, known only as Obaidullah, who was held at Guantanamo for 14 years.
It took a decade of fighting with the government for the Guantanamo Diary, written in 2005, to see the light of day. Slahi is the first Guantanamo prisoner to publish a memoir while still at the camp. He has not been allowed to receive a copy of his book.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that he had ordered Israeli police to suspend the return of bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, after seeing footage of a crowd gathering outside the funeral of one such slain Palestinians earlier during the day.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri reported on Tuesday that Erdan had watched footage of the funeral of “terrorist” Alaa Abu Jamal in occupied East Jerusalem, which prompted “anger, disapproval and condemnation.”
Abu Jamal, 22, was killed by Israeli police on October 13, after he rammed his car into a bus stop in West Jerusalem, killing one Israeli and injuring four others.
More than seven months later, Israeli authorities released his body for burial on Tuesday morning, on the condition that his family pay a 40,000 shekel ($10,353.30) deposit and that only 40 people attend the funeral.
However, Israeli forces held Abu Jamal’s body at the Oz police station for two hours due to the large number of people around the cemetery, amid heavy deployment of Israeli security forces.
The Palestinian bystanders chanted “God is great,” a phrase used regularly during Muslim funerals, as well as “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, martyr,” a variation on a popular Arabic political slogan.
Erdan accused the crowd of “incitement,” calling the scene “inadmissible by all standards and measurements everywhere, the more so in the capital Jerusalem.”
Israel refers to Jerusalem as its “united” capital and annexed the city in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community.
A spokesperson for Erdan did not immediately respond to Ma’an’s request for comment.
Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians, including six Jerusalemites, killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.
Earlier this month, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the release of the bodies of nine Palestinian from Jerusalem being withheld by Israel. Three have already been released, although it remained unclear on Tuesday whether Erdan’s order would supercede the court ruling.
More than 200 Palestinians and almost 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October.
Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.
A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group Adalah condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.”
In recent months, Israel has accused numerous Palestinians of “incitement,” alleging that it was behind a number of alleged attacks and attempted attacks against Israeli military targets and settlers.
Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
Israeli police brutally beat up an Arab supermarket worker in Central Tel Aviv after he refused to identify himself because he didn’t know who they were, according to eyewitnesses.
The border police officers were off-duty in civilian clothes when they attacked the worker, an Israeli Arab, on Sunday afternoon at the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gairol Street, opposite the Tel Aviv municipality.
The worker went to dispose of garbage when one of the policemen, dressed in shorts, demanded he identified himself. When the worker asked by what authority he was being asked to identify himself, the policeman began hitting him, witnesses said, according to the newspaper Haaretz.
“The blows were murderous, from the guy and from one of his friends. I’ve never seen anything like it. Teeth were flying through the air. The Arab was torn apart,” Erez Krispin, an eyewitness, wrote in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.
An old woman tried to interfere asking why they were beating him but the attackers screamed at her telling her to leave.
“Then police arrived and joined the two hooligans in beating him… I really don’t know if the Arab is still alive. They pushed him into a police van, not an ambulance, and disappeared. It later turned out that the two were Border Policemen (who didn’t identify themselves)” the witness said.
Another witness said, “He was beaten only because he’s Muslim,” Super Yuda owner Kobi Cohen told Walla News. “His only crime was that he’s not Jewish.”
Cohen further said that the original attackers were joined by plainclothes policemen and that there were as many as 10 people beating the worker.
“All the neighborhood knows him and knows that he’s a good guy who isn’t looking for trouble,” the victim’s father told Haaretz.
The father of the assaulted youth further said that this attack demonstrates the situation in Israel at the moment and he holds the prime minister and the public security minister responsible for such horrible incidents.
He added that the entire nation has seen the video and the police shouldn’t wait for his complaint but should check this on their own and make those cops and thugs pay.
The Israeli Police on the other hand made a statement saying that according to an initial investigation the Border Police officers identified a young man who they thought looked suspicious and asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself and attacked the policemen, one of whom was bitten.
MK Dov Henin (Joint Arab List) filed an urgent appeal with the public security minister, asking for answers “about what appears to be, on the face of it, a lynching in broad daylight, an attack of an innocent civilian by police, only because he’s Arab.”
The British government is providing military training to the majority of nations it has blacklisted for human rights violations, a new report reveals.
In a report published on Sunday, the Independent revealed that 16 of the 30 countries on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)’s “human rights priority” watchlist are receiving military support from the UK despite being accused by London itself of issues ranging from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, since 2014, British armed forces have provided “either security or armed forces personnel” to the military forces of Saudi Arabia , Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Britain is a major provider of weapons and equipment such as cluster bombs and fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in its year-long military aggression against Yemen that has killed nearly 9,400 people, among them over 2,230 children.
Since the conflict began in March 2015, the British government has licensed the sale of nearly $4 billion worth of weaponry to the Saudi kingdom.
British commandos also train Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite allegations that the Persian Gulf monarchy uses such specialist forces to suppress a years-long pro-democracy uprising in the country.
Bahraini forces visited the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, accompanied by troops from Nigeria, the Defense Ministry said.
Nigeria’s top military generals are accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes by causing the deaths of 8,000 people through murder, starvation, suffocation and torture during security operations against the Boko Haram Takfiri terrorists, according to the report.
Andrew Smith, with the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries known for being “some of the most authoritarian states in the world.”
Haaretz reported today that “Israeli Death Penalty for Terrorists Won’t Apply to Jews.”
The death penalty for murder in a ‘terror act’ that incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seeks will only apply to military courts, said a Likud source involved in the talks to bring Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition.
Such a move, which Lieberman demands if his party is to join the government, would effectively exclude its application against Jews. Palestinians accused of terror offenses are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, while Jews charged with similar crimes against Palestinians are usually tried in Israeli civilian courts, noted the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The meaning of it is simple. Though Jews are not a race, Jewish politics (left, right and centre) is always racist to the core.
The latest thematic report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concerning Colombia makes for shocking though quite important reading. In short, it details human rights abuses on a massive scale, and lays the blame for these abuses chiefly upon the right-wing paramilitaries aligned with the Colombian State. Citing Colombia’s Center for Historical Memory, the IACHR concludes that Colombia, with its over 6 million internally displaced persons, is indeed “a displaced nation.”
Exhibit at Center for Historical Memory, Showing Personal Effects of “False Positive” Victim
As the IACHR explains, the paramilitaries were responsible for 72% of the attacks recorded in the first half of 2015. Incredibly, the Colombian State, along with its U.S. sponsor, insist that the paramilitaries (also known as Autodefensas) no longer exist as a result of a demobilization (largely faked) back in 2003-2006. And, it is this very denial, the IACHR points out, which allows the paramilitaries to carry out their reign of terror with near complete impunity. After all, the State will not dismantle or prosecute what it claims does not even exist.
As explained in the report, “during 2015 the IACHR has continued receiving information about actions of the illegal armed groups that emerged after the demobilization and which are identified as being related or having among their members, persons that belonged to paramilitary groups who, in many cases allegedly continue acting under the protection of State agents.”
The misdeeds the paramilitaries are carrying out under State protection include disappearances, of which there were an incredible 3,400 during the first 7 months of 2015 alone. In all, the IACHR reports that there have been a total of between 45,000 and 61,918 forced disappearances in Colombia in the past 30 years. Thus, there have potentially been more than three times the disappearances in Colombia than in Argentina during all of the Dirty War years. And, of course, with such disappearances come mass graves, of which Colombia has many – 4,519 of them to be exact, with 5,817 bodies exhumed from them so far.
Meanwhile, the IACHR reported on the fact that at least 5,736 individuals were the victims of extrajudicial executions by the Colombian State forces between 2000 and 2010 – that, is during the period of the U.S.’s major military support for Colombia known as Plan Colombia. Nearly all of these executions were “false positive” killings in which the Colombian military murdered innocent civilians – many of them young, unemployed men – and then dressed them up as guerillas to justify to the U.S. the military assistance the Colombian military was receiving for counter-insurgency purposes. And, while the rate of such killings has decreased since 2010, they nonetheless continue, with 230 reported cases since then.
To the extent Colombia is covered at all in the mainstream press these days, one rarely gets a glimpse into the horror show which is taking place in that country. And, casual visitors to places such as Bogota or Medellin would rarely get a glimpse of this either. This is so because the lion’s share of the violence described above is taking place in the more remote areas where Colombia’s Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities live, and it is these communities which are suffering the brunt of this violence.
As the IACHR explains, these communities are largely “invisible” in Colombian society, “are victims of racial discrimination and disproportionately affected by violence, forced displacement, poverty and social exclusion.” In addition, “the majority of victims of sexual violence in armed conflict are Afro-descendant and indigenous women.” And, impunity for sexual violence in Colombia is near total “given that sexual violence against women would be perpetrated mainly by paramilitary, but also by agents of the government . . . .”
As for the issue of poverty, these communities are suffering from some of the most extreme versions of it, and live in conditions of misery which residents in the major cities are often shielded from. For example, in Choco – a town nestled in between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and populated by mostly Afro-Colombian and indigenous – the infant mortality rate is 42.69 per 1000. This figure is higher than that of post-invasion Iraq, and nearly as high as that in such countries as Burma, Bangladesh, Namibia and Haiti. Meanwhile, in Bogota, the figure is 12.88 per 1000. These figures underscore the incredible inequities and disparity in wealth which make Colombia one of the most unequal societies on earth, with a very stark divide along racial and ethnic lines.
However, the violence against Afro-Colombians and indigenous is not just the product of racism, but is also the product of the unfettered capital penetration of their rich, ancestral land. As the IACHR points out, large scale megaprojects – many of them mining projects – “have led to the appropriation of Afro-Colombian’s collective territories, and have resulted in “brutal forced displacements, massive violence and selective assassinations.”
And, of course, many of these megaprojects are owned, in whole or in part, by North American companies to which the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has opened Colombia wide open.
An example of such a deadly megaproject detailed in the IACHR report is the port expansion of Buenaventura, a town which is 90% Afro-Colombian. This port expansion was carried out to facilitate the trade and tourism created by the FTA. And, the struggle of the paramilitaries to control the wealth generated by the port expansion has led to the forced disappearances of hundreds of Buenaventura residents “and the operation of ‘chop houses’ (casa de pique)” where people are chopped up alive.
Like the Colombian and U.S. governments denials of the existence of the paramilitary death squads, the very failure of our mainstream media to acknowledge or discuss the existence of the above-described crimes allows them to continue. Thus, the U.S. government is able to continue supporting the Colombian military, and by extension its paramilitary allies, and North American multi-nationals are able to keep violently exploiting the Colombian people and their land by virtue of the fact that we are kept in the dark about this reality by a press corps which is failing in its duty to report on such matters of public concern. It is only by breaking this silence around these crimes that we have any chance of stopping them.
Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine – The 14 members of Abu Sadam’s family remain homeless after their home was destroyed by the Israel Army in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the Hizbet area of Wadi Joz, Jerusalem.
The family are calling for solidarity and support and would welcome visitors to join them.
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