President Peña Nieto opened Tuesday´s session of the U.N. Drug Policy Summit by announcing a move towards legalizing marijuana.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto started off the special session of the U.N. Drug Policy Summit by announcing a stark policy change: the need to move towards legalizing marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. Even though he had previously been a vocal opponent of drug legalization, he now has moved toward legalization.
Stating that Mexico has paid a high price for its problems with drug trafficking, he recognized the limitations of the prohibitionist paradigm. Citing the suffering, loss of life and violence as a result of this phenomenon, he said that drug trafficking is still one of the most profitable activities of organized crime in Mexico.
He further stressed the need for greater collaboration between U.N. agencies in order to address all aspects of the global drug problem. Peña Nieto also addressed the need to look at social harms related to the illicit drug market and finding solutions through alternative education and other policies that could promote social cohesion.
The president said he plans to hold an event on Thursday in order to discuss this drug policy change.
In 2012, there were nearly 15,000 demonstrations throughout Spain, amounting to around 40 per day. In 2013, there were 4,500 demonstrations in Madrid alone: an increase of 1,000 from the year before. Protest increased on a par with the continual disintegration of full employment and the implementation of severe austerity programmes accompanied with a lack of government transparency and accusations of corruption at the very highest level.
In April last year, Amnesty International (AI) was clearly getting concerned with how the authorities in Spain were dealing with peaceful public protest in Spain by saying:
“With threats of fines or threats of being beaten, the government is trying to stigmatise and criminalise people who are just practising their rights.”
Amnesty International investigated and discovered that although the vast majority of protesters were indeed peaceful, police treated the protests as riots and the people in them in the same manner as those who incited violence. In many cases, the police had used excessive force to confront protesters. AI’s report entitled Spain: Protests and the suffocating embrace of the law makes for sobering reading.
By June, Spain officially went police state with a series of “gag laws” that effectively criminalised peaceful public protest. Among the many new repressive stipulations was the implementation of €30,000-€600,000 fines for “unauthorised protests,” which can be combined for maximum effect with a €600-€300,000 fine for “disrupting public events.”
This awful set of authoritarian statutes arose from Spain’s position as a flashpoint for anti-austerity protests. The European Union did not want to see a precursor to the Occupy Wall Street movement gaining significant ground in its territorial fiefdom and has allowed breaches of internationally recognised human rights laws to be perpetrated right under its nose. Fines and mistreatment await anyone who refuses to recognise authority with the respect it’s forcibly requiring citizens to demonstrate.
The law also extended its anti-protest punishments to social media, where users can face similar fines for doing nothing more than encouraging or organizing a protest. Failing to present ID when commanded is another fine. And then there’s this:
Showing a “lack of respect” to those in uniform or failing to assist security forces in the prevention of public disturbances could result in an individual fine of between €600 and €30,000.
What could go wrong? The Spanish news outlet eldiario.es filed a request for information which revealed an alarming number of penalties and sanctions issued since the Gag Law, otherwise known as the Public Safety Act, was passed on July 1, 2015.
In the space between July 1st 2015, the date the new laws were enforced and January 28, 2016 police have grabbed the opportunity with both hands and sanctioned or fined 40,000 people for “disrespecting” law enforcement. Some of the numbers include; 6,217 for ‘disrespecting the police”, 3,700 for disobedience to authority and 2,027 for causing public disorder.
“Now the government is judge and jury on a number of violations that were previously in the hands of independent judges,” says Joaquin Bosch, spokesperson for Jueces por la Democracia (Judges for Democracy). Bosch’s critisisms continue – “Article 52 of the law states that the complaint of a police officer constitutes “sufficient evidentiary basis” to take legal action. “In the judicial field, the cop’s word is not enough, it has to be proven.”
Spain is one of the least violent countries in the world but other controversial articles of the law are extended to areas similar to that of totalitarian states. There are penalties just for refusing to provide identification, taking photos of police or other objects that could identify a member of the security forces or for obstructing authority in compliance with administrative or judicial decisions, including people who try to prevent an eviction, for example.
Amnesty International also stated that;
“The excessive use of force by Spanish police and plans to strengthen repressive legislation are a damning indictment of the Spanish government’s determination to crush peaceful protest. The police have repeatedly used batons and rubber bullets against demonstrators, injuring and maiming protestors and by-standers alike. The police act with complete impunity, while peaceful demonstrators and leaders of social movements are continually harassed, stigmatized, beaten, sometimes arrested to face criminal charges, imprisonment and fines.”
And as one peaceful protestor, Ester Quitana said after being hit in the face with a rubber bullet fired by the police – “Due to the impact of the rubber bullet, I have a deformed nasal septum, injuries in my mouth and my ear, and have lost sensation on the left side of my face. I am still under psychological treatment, my daily routine has been affected, as well as the way I am connected with people, how I am seen by them. I’ve been denied any kind of social benefits I have applied for.”
Maria, for protesting against budget cuts was ¢1,000 told AI “They want to destroy the leadership of the movements, and so are seeking out the spokespeople”.
Amnesty International also reports that those unfortunate to become detainees have been ill-treated when taken into police custody and that journalists and photographers covering demonstrations have also reported being the target of police violence. Cameras and equipment have been damaged by police to prevent the documenting of police violence.
Revenue from the sanctions since the new laws were enforced last July has now reached 18.3 million euros.
As the government itself has since recognised, demonstrators committed violence in less than one per cent of the rallies and protests.
In the meantime, the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union, of which Spain is a member state, have looked the other way as has the United Nations, both of whom promote as central to their existence the protection of human rights.
Over 100 girls from a province in the Central African Republic claim they were sexually abused by UN peacekeepers, the AIDS-Free World’s campaign Code Blue reported. Co-founder of Code Blue Paula Donovan told Radio Sputnik that the reports are just the tip of the iceberg.
According to Donovan, the United Nations has been deliberately concealing the information about sex crimes committed by peacekeepers for the sake of its reputation, leaving ‘thousands’ of victims without hope.
“The United Nations by being so slow and so secretive and so careful about their reputation, they’re actually culpable in these crimes,” she argued.
Donovan said that documents in the recent case were leaked to her organization by an insider, and that the data they received included correspondence and notes from meetings that imply that the victims were interviewed two weeks before the information was released and that the UN was notified but — for unknown reasons — never informed the civilian population or the governments involved.
“Despite the fact that the Secretary General is saying that he is going to be more transparent, that just doesn’t ring true when he holds back this information and his staff holds back this information for such a long time,” Donovan said.
She accused the UN of creating a culture of impunity where the perpetrators never come to justice and are being released back to the community like there was no crime.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said earlier that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “shocked to the core” over the allegations.
“Why in the world would Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon respond to these latest allegations with ‘shock’?” Donovan wondered. “It doesn’t shock any of us who’s been following these stories for the past ten years.”
She asserted that accusations by girls from the Central African Republic, which include such horrible abuses as forced bestiality, are the tip of the iceberg. In fact, UN peacekeepers commit similar crimes in other countries like Liberia or Democratic Republic of Congo, and there are not even hundreds but “thousands” of women and girls who say that “their only interaction with the United Nations has been transactional sex or forced sex by peacekeepers”.
There’s documented evidence of that happening over the past two decades, Donovan claims, and expert teams sent by the Secretary General to assess the situation informed superiors about ‘low morale’ in peacekeeping missions, but the issue was silenced and nothing was done to help the victims and persecute the criminals.
“We’re reading about the Central African Republic because the media… has been shining a spotlight on that one country, and this is indicative of what we would here from other peacekeeping countries if the attention were turned in that direction,” Donavan said.
Dujarric said last week that a UN team was sent to gather data regarding recently reported allegations of sexual assault and exploitation by UN and non-UN forces as well as civilians in Kemo prefecture in past two years.
As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods.
They kill us for their sport
— Edgar in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”
[The condemnation of Radovan Karadzic to forty years of imprisonment by the International Crime Tribunal-Yugoslavia occasions these reflections.]
They come; they see; people die. They laugh. Or say it was worth it. Their maps are not a territory inhabited by living beings; they are military targets. They bomb from safe altitudes, no lower than 15,000 feet (Yugoslavia, 1999, for example) to protect their own volunteer warriors. In 38,000 sorties and 22,000 tons of bombs in three months (Yugoslavia, 1999), they never lost a plane. They promise the people their bombs will not harm a hair on their heads; then, they bomb markets and bridges at noon, when people are at their thickest; the say they are as careful at noon as they are at midnight. They claim they have nothing against the people—only against their leaders; then they bomb water supplies, electrical grids, schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, museums. They hold civilians in their power, hostages to their air force, their cluster and phosphorus bombs. They poison the land with depleted uranium and raise whole crops of human cancers for generations. They send drones. They fund, train, and arm cutthroat armies. They terrorize civilians for their political ends. They are the humanitarians of the “international community,” and they have nothing to envy the conquistadores, the exterminators of native people, the enslavers, the imperialists of times gone by. They are the agents of collateral genocide.
They are the terror they claim to fight, and they dress it in noble words.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” (9 March to 9 April 2003) claimed from 40,000 to 100,000 Iraqi military deaths. “Insurgent” deaths (April 2003 to January 2009) amounted to between 26, 320 and 27, 000. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated from between 190,000 and one million. The death toll for “Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan” (2001-2014) adds up to 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. By contrast, the NATO British contingent in Afghanistan, a total of 134,780 troops, lost 447. At a conservative estimate the total deaths caused by the “war on terror” in these three war zones alone are 1.3 million (estimates from Iraqi Body Count, The Lancet, Physicians for Social Responsibility). But these estimates include only deaths resulting from violent conflict. They do not include deaths resulting from the aftermath of war—destroyed infrastructure and support institutions. From sanctions: the regime of sanction in Iraq, August 6th (Hiroshima Day) 1991 to 2003, claimed 1.7 million Iraqi lives, according to UN data.
How do they get away with it? By thwarting, strong-arming, co-opting, bribing, rewriting, and abusing international law: the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1976 amended Geneva Conventions (on the laws and customs of war, which the US did not sign), the Charter of the United Nations, and their own constitutions. They wage wars of aggression in the name of abstractions or noble causes—“the war on terror,” R2P, “human rights,” and the prize, “genocide,” debasing the term, if convenient, to a street rumble between two ethnic groups.
What if the United Nations issued a resolution banning wars on abstractions? The “wars on terror” would become illegal (and, no, they didn’t end with Obama; they just became the “humanitarian wars”). The Security Council could order a “global police action” to sweep up and “neutralize” the army of cutthroats. So far, only Russia has shown, with actions in Syria, that it is willing to act to remove the terrorist scourge, whose atrocities proliferate and extend from the Middle East, through the heart of Africa, to European capitals. As I write, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian airstrikes, has retaken Palmyra, a significant strategic victory, opening the way to liberation of Raqqa, the IS stronghold, in the east of Syria.
But, in fact, there is no need for such a resolution. The UN Charter forbids wars of aggression. It specifies that breaking the peace to wage a “war of choice” is the “supreme international crime.” The provisions of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) include jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes but exclude the “supreme international crime,” the crime of aggression. This exclusion resulted at the instigation of the US in 1998-99, just as it prepared to attack Serbia in the Kosovo War. The US signed (Clinton) and then unsigned (Bush) the statute, without ever intending to ratify it, but it meddled, bullied and coerced so as to make it clear who was in charge of writing and unwriting the laws, who had the right to impunity ad infinitum, based on its assumed altruistic morality of intervening to adjust the affairs of the world.
The US exercised every political muscle to subordinate the ICC to the authority of the Security Council, where it could exercise its veto power to deep-six any prosecution of crimes it opposed. It favored ad-hoc tribunals such as the International Tribunal for Crimes in Yugoslavia (ICTY), instituted by the Security Council in 1993, at the request of the US. A virtual kangaroo court, it abducted and tried Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague in a show trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—without any substantial evidence, limiting time for cross-examination by the defense, using pseudo-legal pretexts to harass and obstruct it, treating the defense contemptuously, and in every way demonstrating that the tribunal was politically motivated, a feature contrary to the spirit and purpose of criminal law. The tribunal refused to investigate credible evidence charging NATO with war crimes, though it was charged with investigating crimes committed by all parties in the tragic secession wars of Yugoslavia. An example will suffice to demonstrate the political bias of the tribunal: Milosevic was indicted, among other spurious charges, for murdering 374 people; NATO killed 500 civilians. Only one of the two was investigated.
Failing to secure impunity for aggression by placing the ICC under the authority of the Security Council, the US insisted on an amendment, preventing the court from exercising that jurisdiction, until seven eights of ratifying states agreed on a definition of aggression and the means by which it could be prosecuted. Until the angels stop dancing on the pin of that prevarication, the US and its junior partners in the “international community” can freely exercise their right to crimes of aggression. This is how the ICC lists the crimes of aggression it is prevented from prosecuting:
*Invasion or attack by armed forces against territory
*Military occupation of territory
*Annexation of territory
*Bombardment against territory
*Use of any weapons against territory
*Blockade of ports or coasts
*Attack on the land, sea. Or air forces or marine and air fleets
*The use of armed forces which are within the territory of another state by agreement, but in contravention of the conditions of the agreement
*Allowing territory to be used by another state to perpetrate an act of aggression against a third state
*Sending armed bands, groups, irregulars, or mercenaries to carry out acts of armed force
Tell me one crime of aggression the “international community,” the dogs of war, has not committed with impunity since the unfortunate downfall of the Soviet Union in their unopposed quest for recolonizing the world? Do you wonder that Putin is garnering so much global popularity for insisting on acting within the law? How many Security Council resolutions have authorized actions by the “international community” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen—not to mention actions in martyred Africa or the underhanded counter-reform chicaneries in Latin America? None. This is a period of American absolutism, which is wiping clean the rule of law off the face of the earth. The result is creeping barbarism. No one is safe from Timbuktu to Brussels. Anarchy is indeed loosed upon the world.
Take Libya: now that it is not even a functional state, does any law there even apply? Why do the cowards who destroyed it bother to twist themselves into knots, like serpents in a pit, to justify a second intervention? Why don’t they maraud right in—like ISIS does? Because cowards cannot admit to cowardice, much less submit to judgment–and because the tatters they made of the law are the last cover for these scoundrels’ moral nakedness. They drag others into their bolgia of deepening Hell. Right now, for NATO member Italy, it’s a question of complying with US request, already approved in late February, to use the military base at Sigonella, Sicily, to send drones to Libya to protect American Special Forces while they clear out ISIS. Since when have Special Forces required the assistance of a mechanical Mary Poppins? They’re supposed to be in dangerous situation, by definition. It’s not conscience that “makes cowards of [them] all.” It’s criminality. If Qaddafi had not been sadistically and illegally removed (check list of crimes of aggression above) there would be no ISIS in Libya.
Never mind: Sigonella will be used for American drone raids in Libya. Opposition in the Italian Parliament and public opinion are vocally against this use, so the Italian government is presenting the project as “defensive,” just as in 1999 the formula of “integrated defense” was deployed to justify the use of Italian Tornadoes bombing Yugoslavia. Drones in this case will not be “defensive.” Contrary to the idea of protecting Special Forces, drones depend on precisely those forces on the ground to furnish the exact coordinates of the target the drone must hit and destroy. Precision attacks will be launched from Sigonella not “integrated defense.”
And then what? Retaliation— Paris, Istanbul, Beirut, Brussels in Rome or Milan? State of siege in Italy? Suspension of civil liberties? Hecatombs of dead civilians? Well may the Italian government resent the publicity the United States has bestowed on the accord over the use of Sigonella. They would have preferred to keep the accord secret, hoping that ISIS wouldn’t notice Italy’s collaboration with US forces in Libya. Fat chance, but cowards and gangsters think like that—make it look like an accident or construct “plausible deniability.”
“Your wars; our dead” is a popular poster in protests against wars in Italy. It expresses the consciousness of the ultimate cowardice of these wars, and, indeed, of all aggressive wars.
Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: email@example.com
Maintaining the integrity of the judicial system is a cornerstone in ensuring fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially for those, who were persecuted when legal proceedings were bypassed or under a political pretext.
On March 23 at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) a Russian draft resolution called Judicial System Integrity was adopted by consensus. The resolution was co-sponsored by Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Venezuela. This is an example of the key role UNHRC member states play in strengthening the legal human rights framework.
The resolution calls upon countries that operate military courts or criminal tribunals ensure they are set up as a part of the national judicial systems and meet internationally recognized principles of justice. It is important that anyone under a state’s jurisdiction enjoys all the rights and has access to a common judicial system.
Failure to comply with international standards results in systematic violations of human rights. Dozens of prisoners are held in the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay with no fair trial, no right to a defense or to appeal and are outside the legal framework. The resolution calls for the immediate shutting down all secret detention facilities as well as to hold an immediate independent and unbiased investigation into all the cases of so-called “extraordinary renditions”, secret detention, torture and abusive treatment, including under the pretext of combating terrorism.
I have no doubt this resolution will help bring all those involved in such illegal activity to justice, and help international human rights organizations push for full disclosure by the US, UK and other governments of all abuses committed in the name of ‘war on terror’.
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
The European Union called on March 18 for more countries to impose sanctions on Russia over Crimea joining the Russian Federation two years ago.
In a statement issued on the anniversary of Crimea’s formal accession to Russia, the EU said it will maintain its sanctions that ban European companies from investing in Russian Black Sea oil and gas exploration.
«The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures», the European Council, which represents EU governments, said. «The EU calls again on UN member states to consider similar non-recognition measures».
Separately, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged the EU and United States to maintain their broader economic sanctions against Russia over its support for self-declared republics in the eastern part of Ukraine. «It is important that we continue the economic sanctions», Stoltenberg told an event in Brussels.
The Crimean Peninsula became a part of the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014 after the referendum carried out on March 16 showed 97 percent of voters supported joining Russia.
The Kremlin responded by saying that the issue of Crimea could not be «a matter of negotiations or international contacts». «Our position is known: this is a region of the Russian Federation. Russia has not discussed and will never discuss its regions with anyone», President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a teleconference with reporters.
«In this case we should treat with respect the expression of the will of Crimean residents and the decision which was taken two years ago», he emphasized.
The 28-nation EU imposed its Crimea sanctions in July 2014 and then tightened them in December 2014, banning EU citizens from buying or financing companies in Crimea. The United States, Japan and some other major economies, including Australia and Canada, also imposed sanctions on Russia, whereas many other economically developed nations, like, for instance, China and Brazil, refused to join.
It should be noted that the extension of anti-Russian sanctions is a very much divisive issue inside the European Union.
Hungary and Italy said last week they would not agree to extend the EU’s toughest economic sanctions on Russia, the EU’s major energy supplier, without discussions before the summer.
Germany’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on March 17 for the EU to try to create conditions by this summer to lift sanctions.
France’s Minister for the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs Emmanuel Macron said in January that Paris will look to assist in the lifting of Western backed sanctions on Russia by the summer.
Serbia, a nation in talks on joining the EU, has firmly rejected the idea of joining the sanctions regime.
US Republican Senator John McCain has the reputation of hawk calling for getting tough on Russia. But even he had to admit the fact that the sanctions are becoming increasingly unpopular inside the EU. «I think there is clearly a lot of conversation amongst the Europeans about lifting the sanctions… There are many countries that are looking for the exit sign», the Senator said in February. «I have been hearing it for months, that there is enormous pressure in a lot of countries, particularly Germany, to lift the sanctions», he noted.
At that the prominent US politician believes it is up to Washington if and when the sanctions are eventually lifted, saying that the final decision will «to some degree depend on American leadership». Actually, the US right-wing politician openly stated the EU decision on the sanctions is made under US pressure.
Indeed, the EU is following the US. President Obama announced American sanctions against Russia are to be prolonged for another year on March 2.
The EU obediently chimed in 16 days later.
The attempts of the EU to influence other countries into joining the anti-Russia sanctions regime look especially ridiculous against the organization’s failure to make the tiny nation of San Marino, an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, comply with the EU’s demands. The republic is not officially part of the European Union and does not face Russia’s food embargo. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a Russian government daily newspaper of record which publishes the official decrees, statements and documents of state bodies, San Marino and Russia signed an export agreement on March 18 during the International Economic Forum of CIS countries.
San Marino’s Minister of Regional Development and International Economic Cooperation Antonella Mularoni attended the forum. Now this European country will export to Russia a range of products, including Parmesan cheese and premium meat products like local Parma type ham. «There are 24 dairies in the republic, and a lot of enterprises engaged in meat smoking», the executive director of the national wholesalers association Vladimir Lishchuk told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to him, imports will take the place of illegal goods bypassing the Russian food embargo. Russia’s food safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said it would monitor food imports from San Marino to prevent re-exports of sanctioned products from neighboring EU countries. Russia introduced the food embargo in August 2014 in response to Western sanctions. The ban applied to meat, poultry and fish, cheese, milk, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the EU, Australia, Canada, Norway, Japan and a number of other countries. According to Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, the import of banned products has fallen by nearly half to $6 billion in the first six months of 2015. Overall imports from the EU have fallen by 45 percent.
Evidently, the EU’s call for UN members to join the sanctions is an effort doomed to go down the drain. The European Union has no leverage strong enough to make world nations comply.
The organization itself is not in a strong position. Looks like it has seen its best days. Brussels is facing a host of acute problems. Many of them seem to be a tall order, for instance: the flows of migrants, the economic inequality of the Union’s members, debt problem and the conflicting views of the UK and Germany on European integration, to name a few.
Doing away with the divisive issue of anti-Russia sanctions could provide an impetus to making progress in other fields, but Brussels prefers a different approach.
The EU statement shows the Union’s leadership is adamant in its desire to go down the slippery slope risking a revolt among the member-states with tensions running already high inside «the European family».
To UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and ICC Prosecutor:
I am a concerned person of conscience, who fears that I am witnessing the genocide of the Palestinian people by the State of Israel. Witnessing Israel’s daily violations of Palestinian human rights- military take-over of land, restriction of movement, economic strangulation, house demolitions, restrictions on basic foodstuff, mass arbitrary arrests of both adults and children, torture, extra judicial executions, and large-scale massacres of whole families, openly calling for genocide and extermination by law makers and other public figures- I can not keep silent about this 67 year-old atrocity, unfolding before our eyes.
The Crime of Genocide is defined in a declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946. I demand the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor take action and investigate the possibility that Israel is committing the Crime of Genocide against the Palestinian People, and that the office publish its findings and recommendations.
UN inspectors, who visited the Al Khamees market in north-western Yemen, where Saudi airstrikes killed over a hundred people this week, found no evidence that the attack could have any military goal.
The closest target of any value to justify the bombing is a small checkpoint some 250 meters from the market, which is manned by a small group of Houthis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday.
The market attack in Hajja Governorate on Wednesday was one of the deadliest incidents in Saudi Arabia’s year-long campaign in Yemen, Zeid said, describing it as “carnage.” The death toll was reported as 106 people, including 24 children. The high figures are explained by the timing of the airstrikes, which were delivered during the afternoon rush hour at the market. It serves as the main shopping destination for some 15 surrounding villages.
Since the Yemeni campaign was launched in March last year by the Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations, the UN has recorded just under 9,000 casualties in Yemen, including 3,218 civilians killed and a further 5,778 injured, Zeid said.
“Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes,” he said.
“They have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties – and hundreds of private residences in villages, towns and cities including the capital Sana’a,” he added. “Despite plenty of international demarches, these awful incidents continue to occur with unacceptable regularity. In addition, despite public promises to investigate such incidents, we have yet to see progress in any such investigations.”
He warned that “we are possibly looking at the commission of international crimes by members of the Coalition.”
“I urge both sides to swallow their pride and bring this conflict to a halt,” Zeid said. “The people of Yemen have suffered enough. A very poor country is having its limited infrastructure decimated, and people are struggling desperately to survive.”
Earlier, the Al Khamees market bombing was condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a number of international organizations. Saudi Arabia said it would scale down its aerial campaign in Yemen and focus on training Yemeni troops.
The campaign’s goal in Yemen was to push back Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and bring back to power exiled former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
A United Nations meeting in Geneva this week could have enormous implications for United States national security, but it is being ignored by most of the media and by America’s political leaders. It deserves serious attention.
A new policy-making body called the Open Ended Working Group will consider ways to break the current impasse in efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear war. The group expects to make formal recommendations to the UN this fall. The initiative is especially important given recent studies on the catastrophic effects that would follow even a limited use of nuclear weapons.
The group was established by an overwhelming majority at the UN. The U.S. and all of the other nuclear weapons states voted against and are boycotting the meeting. Why?
Robert Wood, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, recently defended the American decision in a tweet: “agenda ignores security dimension of nuclear weapons. Only practical and realistic efforts will lead to a world w/o nukes.” His claim would have more weight if the United States were pursuing “practical and realistic efforts” instead of planning to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades to maintain its nuclear arsenal indefinitely.
The real reason for the boycott is that this meeting will explore ways to make the nine nuclear weapons states, which include Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, live up to their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970, which requires them to negotiate the abolition of their nuclear arsenals. It very well may recommend negotiation of a new treaty that will effectively ban nuclear weapons, defining their possession as a violation of international law.
Based on the medical evidence, the nonnuclear weapons states are right to call for the elimination of these weapons.
Over the last three years, a series of major global conferences have explored the medical consequences of nuclear war. The new scientific data presented at these meeting have demonstrated the unacceptable, existential threat to humanity posed by nuclear arsenals.
Representatives of the International Red Cross have testified that the world’s leading disaster relief organization can do nothing significant to mitigate the consequences of even a single nuclear explosion, let alone a nuclear war.
Climate scientists and medical experts have presented new data showing that even a very limited nuclear war would cause catastrophic effects worldwide. The fires caused by as few as 100 small nuclear weapons, less than one-half of one percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals, directed against urban targets, would cause global climate disruption. The resulting decline in food production would trigger a “nuclear famine” across the planet and put up to two billion people at risk. A famine on this scale would be unprecedented in human history. While it would not mean the extinction of our species, it would almost certainly mean the end of modern civilization.
A limited war between India and Pakistan, using less than half of their current arsenals, could cause that kind of famine, as could the use of the nuclear warheads on a single US Trident submarine. The US has 14 of them and an arsenal of nuclear bombers and land-based missiles as well.
A full-scale war between the US and Russia using all of these weapons would cause a “nuclear winter,” with ice-age conditions across the planet persisting for a decade or more. The collapse of food production under these circumstances would lead to the death of the vast majority of the human race. It might cause our extinction as a species.
The US and Russia are now engaged in a new game of nuclear chicken in Europe and the Middle East, with the ever-present danger that one side or the other will miscalculate, or that an accident will trigger a nuclear exchange. There have been at least five occasions since 1979 when either Moscow or Washington prepared to launch a nuclear war, in the mistaken belief that they were already under attack.
The determination to hold on to these weapons stems from a deeply held belief that they somehow make a nation more secure. For most of human history, having more powerful weapons did protect us. But as Albert Einstein observed at the beginning of the nuclear era, the splitting of the atom changed everything, except the way we think and thus we head for unprecedented disaster.
If the use of even a tiny fraction of our nuclear arsenal will cause a global holocaust that engulfs us as well as the rest of humanity, how can these weapons be seen as agents of our security? They are suicide bombs. By possessing them, we are a nation of suicide bombers.
Nuclear weapons, the evidence, is now clear, are the greatest threat to our national security. We need to make their elimination our highest national security priority. The U.S. should start by joining the working group in Geneva and, as the next step toward that goal, working for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Ira Helfand MD practices internal medicine at an urgent care center in Springfield, MA. He is a Past President of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is currently the Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Laureate.
The UN World Food Program’s (WFP) aid intended for the besieged Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor has landed mostly in territories controlled by Daesh, a source in the city’s administration said Thursday.
Earlier on Thursday, the United Nations said that the WFP had dropped 21 tons of aid into city on Wednesday.
“Planes dropped the humanitarian help sent by the United Nations into the territory controlled by Daesh. Just two containers ended up in the areas where the Syrian army [is located],” the source told RIA Novosti.
The contents of the containers that landed on the government-controlled territory has been badly damaged due to a parachute system failure, the source added.
According to earlier reports, the WFP has issued a statement admitting difficulties with the operation, adding that necessary adjustments are being carried out.
Some 200,000 people living under the Daesh-imposed siege in Deir ez-Zor are experiencing severe water shortages and a total lack of electricity, according to the United Nations.
Russia has also been providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, including through joint efforts with the Syrian government, particularly in Deir ez-Zor.
In Palestine, you would be forgiven for thinking that there was no United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
The SR, Christof Heyns, in the past 6 years, has never made a country on-site visit to Palestine to get first hand information on the hundreds of cases of Zionist perpetration of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the people of Palestine.
Not even the dozens of extrajudicial street executions of Palestinian children and youth carrying the invisible knives of Allege-gate since October 1, 2015 has impelled Heyns to rush to Palestine to ensure the zionist war criminals uphold Palestinian right to life.
In Palestine ‘alleged’ is a synonym for ‘extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution’.
Yes, there is a Palestinian youth intifada, and, yes, there have been acts of resistance to the illegal occupation involving knives, rocks, and cars that have taken some occupier-settler lives.
But the Zionist Occupation Forces (ZOF); i.e., military and police death squads are running amok in Occupied Palestine shooting, seemingly for grisly amusement, innocent Palestinian school children, workers, housewives and youth.
In a wimpy statement on 16 November 2015, SR Heyns welcomed the assurance of the Zionist “Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to the effect that Israeli security forces are prohibited from firing at a suspected assailant unless an immediate danger to human life cannot otherwise be prevented and that the use of fire must be proportional to the threat.”
You can be certain that the devastated parents of Wisam Qasrawi, 21 who buried their beloved child – transformed from family breadwinner into a martyr by lawless zionist bullets – know Wisam was killed in an indisputable and illegal extrajudicial execution.
Wisam was born in a village, Misilya. It was described for the Palestine Exploration Fund (patron was Queen Victoria) by Royal Engineers’ surveyor Lieutenant Condor in 1881 as a village with ancient wells beneath it and a rounded hilltop above with extensive views north east across the great plain to Nazareth, west to Carmel, and to Jenin behind a neighbouring hill, ‘north west across a broad corn vale’.
Today, Misilya continues its ancient agricultural lineage of growing olives and cereal. Its 3000 residents are close-knit and mainly poor because of the crippling zionist occupation.
Wisam was outgoing, energetic, well liked and had lots of friends with whom he enjoyed playing playstation and billiards at the local cafe. Wisam also had an admirable sense of responsibility; he left school in year 11 to become the family breadwinner because his father had a severe back injury and his mother had small twins plus his other younger siblings to care for. Even while at school he worked as a part-time farm or building labourer to help out.
The early morning of Sunday, January 17th, gave no hint of impending tragedy. Wisam got dressed for his work at a brick/stone factory in Nablus, gave his mother the remaining money in his wallet and armed only with his mobile joined his mate who was giving him a lift as far as the Huwwara checkpoint. He was dropped off about 500 yards from the checkpoint.
Eyewitnesses reported that the heavily armed soldiers were calling out to Wisam, “Come on, come to us”. Wisam walked, relaxed and hands in the air, and at 50 metres military shots burst hitting his chest and head. Typically, he was left to bleed out and die.
Within 10 minutes, even before Wisam’s mate returned to Misilya, the Zionist news reported an alleged attempted stabbing at the Huwwara checkpoint with no soldiers injured (understandable).
By the afternoon the ZOF had made incursions into Wisam’s village, set up checkpoints and closed off the village which was in collective shock, helplessness, anger and mourning.
Wisam’s body was returned at night and respectfully given a martyr’s burial; the body is not washed as usual with scented water and wrapped in a shroud, but the martyr is buried in the clothes in which he/she died and the blood is left unwashed. According to a Hadith – on Resurrection Day, the Shahid’s blood -“Its color saffron, and its odor musk”.
With 68 years of the violent unrestricted bloodletting of martyrs, the scent of this holy musk is tragically Palestine’s oxygen.
Wisam is no more, just as Ehab, Khalil, Ahmad, Ruqayya, Dania, Nihad, Fuad, Naim, and all the other young innocent invisible-knife wielders, are no more.
The UN was set up to maintain international peace, security and human rights for all. In 68 years, the now 192 member states of the UN have not furthered one moment of peace and justice for the people of Palestine.
The Zionist state has over and over, day to day, blatantly violated every UN declaration and convention it has ratified and it has never been suspended or expelled from the UN:
A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
The UN is as fake as the fake knives of Allege-gate. Both are smokescreens for impunity for Zionist brutality and crimes against humanity.
Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Aceh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 and then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
The UN will launch a humanitarian drive to raise some $1.8 billion required to save millions of people from humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, where over 6,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition intervention in March 2015.
In a briefing to the 15-nation United Nations Security Council, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, announced that on Thursday the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan will be launched in Geneva.
The plan aims to raise $1.8 billion to cover the “most critical and prioritized needs” that includes food for nearly nine million people. The money will also be used for water and sanitation for some 7.4 million people and medical treatment for 10.6 million people.
Highlighting the urgent need for the Security Council to take greater measures to protect civilians, O’Brien said that the UN should insure that people have a chance to survive.
“Some 2.7 million people have had to flee their homes. At least 7.6 million people are severely food insecure. Some two million acutely malnourished children and pregnant or lactating women need urgent treatment,” he told the UNSC.
He noted that since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 which has involved Saudi-led bombings, over 6, 000 people have been killed.
“More than 35,000 casualties, including over 6,000 deaths, have been reported by health facilities across the country,” since last March, O’Brien said, adding that UN has confirmed that out of that number, 2,997 were civilians deaths, in addition to 5,659 that were injured as the result of the hostilities.
Of great concern to the UN is the fate of the children in the conflict. O’Brien said that “conservative estimates” suggest that over 700 children have been killed and over 1,000 more injured. He also noted that as many as 720 children have been documented as having been forcibly recruited as child soldiers by the warring parties. The diplomat also noted that some 1,170 schools have been closed leaving some 3.4 million minors out of education.
The destruction or closure of health facilities, which totals some 600 since March, has also left some 14 million Yeminis in desperate need of medical attention.
Noting that on Sunday Saudi-led coalition airstrike struck a building 200 meters away from UN and diplomatic personnel facility, he urged all parties in Yemen to protect civilians.
“The parties to the conflict have a duty of care in the conduct of military operations to protect all civilian persons and objects, including humanitarian and health care workers and facilities, against attack,” Mr. O’Brien said, reminding all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to “facilitate humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen,” he said.
At the same time, O’Brien noted that for the past two weeks Saudi Arabia has continued to impede the work of UN staff in the country, “causing delays to important missions.” The diplomat said that Riyadh is also blocking sea access to Yemen’s ports, and is preventing aid from traveling around the country,
“Access to northern Governorates where needs are among the most severe in the country also continue to be challenging due to relentless conflict, including airstrikes – in particular to communities along the border with Saudi Arabia where conflict is intense,” O’Brien noted.
Tensions in Yemen escalated after Shia President Saleh was deposed in 2012 and his Houthi supporters, reportedly aided by Iran, eventually seized the capital city Sana’a last year. Houthi forces then advanced from Sana’a towards the south, seizing large parts of Yemen, and sending the current Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.
In late March, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition responded with airstrikes in order to stop Houthi advances and reinstate Hadi back in power. By late summer, the Saudi-led forces had started a ground operation, which so far is stuck in a stalemate.