Wow, the world gets crazier every moment! Stephen Lewis, former socialist NDP leader from Canada’s province of Ontario was asked about PM Justin Trudeau’s letter to the UN asking for a special General Assembly meeting, as reported by the CBC yesterday:
The Canadian Mission to the United Nations has submitted a rare request asking the president of the General Assembly for a meeting of all 193 member states to “explore concerted action to apply pressure on the parties of the violence [in Syria],” now in its sixth year.
ON CBC this morning (Friday, October 14, 2016) Lewis was briefly interviewed by the CBC and clearly and distinctly chose the U.S. /NATO / western imperialist /mainstream media (MSM) position on Syria. He called Canada’s moves “artful and important.” His reasons were shallow and demonstrated clearly that his socialist ideals – at least as an international socialist – are not very near and dear to his heart.
He commented that “war crimes are being committed by Russia” but hopefully that “Russia may at some point be forced to reconsider,” its position. When questioned further on this he said he did not think that Russia – more specifically Putin, our now necessary evil ‘other’ personified as one man – would change its actions. Why? Because “Putin doesn’t care”, he wants to show that “Russia is back” and that is a “terrifying proposal.”
Double standards abound
Apparently the letter was co-sponsored by 68 other countries. All of them for sure sycophantic allies of the U.S. empire…. but perhaps underneath something unintended may occur.
Lewis said the meeting of the UN would “allow the world to express its outrage” at Russia’s war crimes, at the “destruction of children…the murder of children.” Most interesting here is that while Russia is being singled out with this narrative, the history of the U.S. empire over the past several decades appears to be getting a clear pass.
Does anyone remember the war in Iraq, an illegal war (all initiators of wars are war criminals) that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (many children obviously, as most populations consist of about fifty per cent children)? And before that, an estimated 500 thousand children died as a result of U.S. sanctions against the Hussein regime. When questioned about this, then U.S. Secretary of State said the deaths were worth it for U.S. interests. War crimes? Absolutely.
And what about Libya and the war crimes committed there, with the destruction of civilian infrastructure and attacks against the government that went well beyond the UN sanctioned no-fly zone. More war crimes, more severe unintended consequences – although it did play into U.S. plans to eliminate Syria.
Back to Afghanistan where the U.S. “war on terror” simmers on. War crimes and crimes against humanity were committed there by U.S. forces and its “coalition” forces, including Canada. Afghanistan as you should well know, is now a mess of factional fighting with the Taliban controlling about a third of the country.
Before all those, Serbia was bombed illegally by NATO (which the U.S. leads and in which Canada played a major role), attacking civilian structures such as bridges, industrial plants, public buildings, businesses, and as an aside, the Chinese embassy. This was supposedly a “right to protect” operation, proved to be a preconceived excuse in order to weaken the Serb Republic and further contain a soon to be resurgent Russia. An estimated 500 civilians were killed – sorry, no child count there. But definitely a war crime.
And I probably shouldn’t mention Israel as I will instantly be labelled anti-Semitic, but the war crimes against civilians there – both in the West Bank and Gaza – have been ongoing for decades. The notable case here at least as seen from the MSM perspective, have been the Israeli attacks against the open air prison of Gaza (population now at 2 million). Hundreds of children have been slaughtered there using many “made in the U.S.A.” weapons, including chemical warfare (modified tear gas, phosphorous bombs), serving as well as a testing/proving ground for Israeli manufactured materials in support of their militarized economy. More U.S. supported war crimes.
The U.S. has committed war crimes of an overt or covert nature in 50 countries since WW II, disposing of non-compliant governments with violence against citizens of those sovereign states.
Careful what you wish for
Perhaps, just perhaps, the unintended consequences of the UN meeting might be the bringing to light the war crimes of the U.S., against children, against civilians, against sovereign governments. I don’t expect that as the U.S. controls the MSM for the western world. But to focus a call on Russian war crimes is the height of arrogance and hubris from a nation (Canada) that has supported U.S. war crimes and committed some of its own.
Yes, indeed, let’s have a special General Assembly meeting on war crimes, but let’s do it for the whole world and not just the sycophantic interests of an increasingly belligerent member of the U.S. imperial coalition.
The world does need to express its outrage – at war crimes committed by the U.S., about U.S. support for Saudi war crimes in Yemen, about U.S. support for Saudi support of the various salafist jihadi groups around the world.
Russia is back
Well, yes and no. Russia endured three major invasions from Western Europe (Napoleon, Wilhelm, Hitler), more invasions after WW I from western nations, and suffered under the “shock doctrine” of U.S. neoliberalism. The latter came about as the result of U.S. influence on the drunkard Yeltsin and created a country in decline ruled by oligarchs who stole much of the wealth of the country (Khodorkovsky, Magnitsky among them). Currently, the U.S. has a first strike nuclear policy with missile bases in Poland and Romania within minutes of the Russian heartland.
Not exactly a great history of western accommodation. And now NATO has expanded towards Russia’s borders, yet accuse Russia of aggression (??) – logic not being a strength of the MSM or the politicians of the west. The U.S. initiated the coup in Ukraine, just ask Victoria “F**k the EU” Nuland, partner of Robert Kagan, known neocon warmonger.
The MSM across the west, in collusion with the political elites, are doing their best to create an evil Putin leading an evil Russia trying to regain its empire. That they have succeeded in this image is a testament to the power of the MSM, the ignorance of the people of the west (most particularly in Canada and the U.S.), and the arrogance, hubris, and wilful ignorance of the elite class.
Russia is back (and Canada postures)
– and is scaring the bejesus out of the U.S. and its allies. It has obviously revived its military power, and in many cases is considered to be well ahead of the U.S. It’s economy, in spite of the best intentions of U.S. sanctions, is doing reasonably well as its home grown industries are being forced to develop more, and its agricultural sector has benefited from counter sanctions against EU products. Western action against China have created a Sino-Russian alliance stronger than it ever was during the Sino-Soviet era.
The latter has serious implications for the U.S. desire to be the global hegemon with full spectrum dominance over – everyone and everything. And for that, it is good that Russia is back.
For Canada and Trudeau to attempt to corral the western MSM message into the UN is simply political posturing. Whether it comes from wilful ignorance and arrogance, simple ignorance, simple stupidity, or a pretty boy posturing as the good guy Canadian mediator is difficult to discern. But it is definitely posturing – it is the U.S. that has created the mess in the Middle east, it is the U.S./NATO that has created the belligerence towards Russia, it is the U.S. military /industrial /political /financial complex that has created a world of fear and terror in order to attempt its global hegemony. Finally someone is capable of standing up to that – which unfortunately, given the U.S. propensity for nuclear sword threats, may result in the U.S. having created the perfect storm to induce world war last.
Copyright © Jim Miles, Global Research, 2016
It should be personal to all of us. Yemen, regularly portrayed as the poorest nation in the Arab world, is proving itself to be the richest in courage, resourcefulness and resilience.
Ever since March 2015, some of you may have noticed how oil-rich Saudi Arabia, with the United States at its side, have been waging genocidal war against the Yemeni people.
Yemen are a people under attack by an undeclared super-power coalition comprised of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US, UK, EU, UAE and Israel. As in Iraq, while the Yemeni people are under attack from super-powers, they are simultaneously being collectively punished by the illegal sanctions imposed by a corrupt United Nations body.
Sanctions imposed by resolution 2216, against 5 named individuals, on the pretext of legitimizing an illegitimate fugitive ex-president, Saudi Arabia and Washington’s hand-picked puppet leader, Mansour Hadi, who demanded that neighbouring Saudi Arabia bomb his own people – even after Hadi had resigned twice from an already over-extended presidential term, before fleeing to his alma mater in Riyadh.
UN sanctions imposed upon 5 named individuals yet being exploited by the US/UK/EU backed Saudi coalition to collectively starve and punish 27 million Yemeni people.
This fact has been consistently omitted and waxed over by western political appeasers and ethically challenged mainstream media apologists – and their ignorant and conceded omission is one of the primary reasons why this conflict has been allowed to go from bad to worse.
To compare Saudi Arabia’s belligerent actions in Yemen to Nazi Germany’s undeclared wars of aggression prior to WWII is no exaggeration. In fact, one could make the argument that this Saudi-US joint venture is much worse, and a far more dangerous precedent. Likewise, the failure of a corrupt UN (who effectively sold Saudi Arabia its seat on at the head of the UN Human Rights Council ), led by an impotent Secretary General in Ban-ki Moon, to censure Saudi Arabia for its flagrant violation of international law, the Nuremberg Principles and the entire Geneva Convention content and implied framework – leaves the UN in the exact same position as the League of Nations in 1938.
This is most certainly the case on paper, and with each passing moment we are nudging ever closer to geopolitical déjà vu.
This is one of the most egregious war crimes we’ve seen so far in Yemen, and considering what Saudi Arabia has already done to date, this is off the scale. On the 9th October 2016, the Saudi ‘coalition’ targeted one of the biggest public halls in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Officials said two air strikes hit the grand hall of ceremonies, where a post funeral gathering was held to receive condolences for the late Ali bin Ali al-Ruwaishan, the father of Interior Minister, Jalal al-Ruwaishan.
A total of 4 missiles were launched into crowds of civilians. The first strike, two missiles tore into the hall and surrounding areas leaving dozens dead and dying. Then, as funeral-goers clambered over the smouldering rubble to rescue the injured, Saudi coalition planes returned for the double tap air-strike, targeting the civilian rescuers.
Yesterday, the under secretary of the Public Health Ministry in Yemen told journalist and Middle East commentator, Marwa Osman, the death toll had risen to 458 and hundreds more injured. In an interview with RT, Osman went on to describe, 213 bodies were reported as charred, burned beyond recognition, 67 bodies were completely dismembered and 187 bodies torn apart by shrapnel. The brutality of this attack is evident from the horrific photos that appeared on social media very quickly after the event, as Yemenis were reeling from the scale of the massacre.
Yemen civil defence and army recovering bodies from the Saudi coalition bombed ceremony hall in Sanaa (Photo: Yemen the Forgotten War)
The hundreds more injured have been described as “bleeding to death in the streets“. The following report came in from Sanaa hours after the attack:
“Saudi-American airstrikes targeted the biggest hall in Sanaa. The hall was hit by 4 missiles, 2 air-strikes. When rescuers went to the aid of the dying and injured Saudi jets attacked for the second time in their double tap operation. It’s impossible to count the deaths. Officially they are saying less than 500 but many more are dying because they can’t be treated due to the absence of medical supplies and hospital facilities. This is entirely due to the UN sanctions and effective land, air and sea blockades. The hall is 2km from our home and 150m from my university but luckily, today I was not there.
Yesterday we killed several mercenary leaders in Mareb and Saudi commanders so today they are taking their revenge on the innocent people” ~ information supplied to Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire.
According to Hassan Al Haifi, writer, academic and political commentator, living in Sanaa, the Saudi attack was deliberate:
“The mourners were paying tribute to General Jalal Al-Rouishan, Min of Int, who hails from a leading family of Khowlan Al-Tayyal Tribe, a leading and powerful Yemeni tribe.”
Al Haifi commented that this was a cynical and brutal attack by the Saudi coalition, intending to kill as many Ansarullah and Ali Abdullah Saleh officials and supporters as possible. A number of Saleh’s closest friends and allies were killed by the strikes along with a smaller number of Ansarullah members. Al Haifi, himself should have been at the ceremony but had been delayed and fortunately was not there when the Saudi jets launched their missiles into the throngs of mourners.
Saudi air-strike on Sanaa (Photo supplied to 21st Century Wire from Yemen)
The US State Department immediately swung into damage limitation mode and cranked up their hypocrisy to protect their Saudi coalition military industrial complex clients. John Kirby even deployed the “self-defence” terminology usually reserved for their other regional, arms guzzling ally with close links to Al Qaeda, Israel.
The bloodshed and suffering of the Yemeni people was reduced to an obscene game of semantics by a cold and calculating US State Department, as their multi billion dollar arms industry registered obscene trading levels with the Saudi coalition in 2015. In the first 21 months of Saudi-US illegal war on Yemen, US arms sales worth $33 Billion were closed Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entities according to Defense News. In total, America’s Nobel Peace Chief Barack Hussein Obama has offered to sell $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia since taking office in 2009 – more than any previous US administration, according to a recent report.
Not to be left out of the party, Britain has also sold more than £3.7 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since Saudi’s illegal war of aggression began.
In truth, many of these estimates are conservative and do not include many more hundreds of millions in ancillary costs, staffing, support contracting and engineering.
Even though they’ve been completely redacted by the western media, and also by the myriad of Gulf monarchy media outlets, the real heroes of this conflict are the Yemeni people.
In their reductionist way of thinking and categorizing the world outside of their shores, Americans refer to Middle East populations in sectarian terms – because this is they way they would like to see the world, but it couldn’t be any further from reality. To Americans, the Yemeni war is all because of “Iranian-backed Shia Houthi Rebels.” The first US Congressman ever to say that in public probably read it directly off an AIPAC policy briefing sheet. That’s the sad reality still in Washington – information-poor (and lobby cash-rich) elected representatives are only able to see the world through the Israeli lens.
The reality is much more complex than just “the Houthis.” A genuine Arab Spring has taken place in Yemen and the US and Saudi response was simply to try and crush the people. But the people have resisted fiercely, and together. Unlike other neo-colonial ventures like Iraq and Afghanistan – the people of Yemen have united to a large degree and are determined to realize their own vision of self government. This is something that has been written off by everyone in the US establishment – from the President all the way down the political food chain.
The UK/US built, House of Saud, is waging a genocidal war of aggression that has already destroyed entire swathes of Yemeni cultural heritage and decimated entire communities, particularly in the northern, traditionally Ansarullah (Houthi) held areas such as Saada and Hajjah. This was by design. By now, we can see clearly how this was yet another ethnic cleansing programme being endorsed, fuelled and defended by the United States and her allies in the UK, EU, Israel, and of course the neighbouring Gulf States, the majority of whom participated in this dirty war. Oman, a lone, moderate, and independent thinking gulf state, has remained neutral, providing a degree of support to the Yemeni people. […]
The height of US hypocrisy was on full display during a US State Department press briefing where the already discredited US spokesman John Kirby shameless danced around a mass-murder by Saudi Arabia – whose airstrikes are supported logistically by the United States. This is the definition of criminality unchecked. Watch:
Author Vanessa Beeley is a special contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.
For further background on Saudi ‘s war of aggression please read 21WIRE article: UN Whitewashing Saudi Coalition War Crimes and International Human Rights Violations
The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has recently presented the UN Security Council with its third report, in which it alleges the Syrian Armed Forces were involved in two uses of chemical weapons in Syria.
While appreciating the significant amount of work done by the JIM and its experts, conclusions drawn by its leadership panel are hardly convincing. It has become obvious that due to objective reasons it had very little chance to conduct an effective investigation. One of the main problems was lack of access to the locations due to the dire security situation on the ground.
There are also other factors that have seriously affected the quality of the investigation, including it being carried out in some cases more than two years after the incident, some of the information was misleading, and sources of information were of second or third hand. The accusation against Damascus is mostly based on the testimonies of the “witnesses” handpicked by opposition NGO’s, and the assumption that nobody but the government forces in Syria have access to aircraft, which could be used to drop barrel bombs filled with chlorine.
Taking into consideration the gaps and inconsistencies in the report, one may conclude that there is insufficient evidence to state that any party, be it the government of Syria or even ISIS, was undoubtedly involved in the use of chemical weapons. It is also necessary to ask ourselves, what is the motive behind such an insignificant, from a military point of view, use of chlorine as a chemical weapon?
Such acts serve no purpose for Damascus in view of its possession of much more destructive conventional weapons and especially given the fact that no military operations to recapture towns mentioned in the report followed the incidents. Apart from the fact that such acts carry a clear hallmark of propaganda tailored to putting the blame on the Syrian government at pivotal moments of the ongoing civil conflict.
There are talks about the need to impose sanctions against Damascus on the basis of the JIM’s conclusions. There are no grounds for such action which, above all, might be extremely detrimental for efforts aimed at a political settlement.
For more than two years Russia has been trying to draw attention of the international community to the fact that terrorist organizations have repeatedly used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq. Together with China we proposed to adopt a brief and pragmatic UNSC resolution, which would have constituted a first step toward solving this issue. Considerations of a strictly political nature on the part of some of our colleagues in the Council have caused the international community to lose a minimum of two years that could have been spent in developing measures to address the threats and challenges of chemical terrorism.
Unfortunately, the time lost in pointless political rhetoric has also affected the work of both the OPCW and the JIM, and made it much harder for them to execute their respective mandates. Even now some of the proponents of imposing sanctions against Damascus blatantly call to turn a blind eye to chemical crimes committed by ISIS. Despite this shortsighted policy the time has come for serious action to address this problem.
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
Saudi Arabia rejected a request by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Bin Al-Hussein to form an international commission of inquiry into war crimes committed in Yemen.
“Riyadh does not support the call of the High Commissioner to form an international investigation committee,” Saudi Minister of Culture and Information of Adel Tarifi said in a statement, stressing that “the work of the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry is generally agreed”, according to reports by German Press Agency.
The Human Rights Council of the United Nations had refused on Thursday to open an independent investigation into war crimes in Yemen, and demanded instead a national commission of inquiry to investigate attacks on hospitals and killing of civilians.
US and EU sanctions against Syria are punishing the population and make aid work in the war-torn country almost impossible, a leaked UN report and internal letters have revealed.
The restrictive measures contributed to the destabilization of every sector of the economy in Syria that used to be self-sufficient before the war began in 2011.
The country now heavily depends on aid, which is hard to deliver as sanctions make medicine, food, fuel, spare parts and other essentials unreachable, a 40-page UN report, cited by The Intercept, stressed.
The paper entitled ‘Humanitarian Impact of Syria-Related Unilateral Restrictive Measures’ was published in mid-May, but The Intercept got hold of it now, adding other materials on the issue.
The report blasted US and EU restrictions as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.”
According to the UN, the sanctions introduced by Washington are extremely harsh regarding provision of humanitarian aid. The American restrictions made money transfers into Syria almost impossible, preventing aid groups from paying salaries and purchasing supplies “in both government and besieged areas,” the report said. It stimulated the creation of a shady, unofficial network of money exchange, which is actively being used by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists.
The trade restrictions ban the export to Syria of all goods, containing at least 10 percent of US-made content. This puts the aid groups in a difficult situation as, in order to transfer specific items, they are forced to apply for a special license, which is very hard to obtain due to bureaucratic barriers, according to the report.
An internal UN email, also obtained by The Intercept, blamed the US and EU restrictions for food shortages in the country.
Wheat production has dropped 40 percent in the country since 2010, raising the price of wheat flour by 300 percent and rice – by 650 percent. An August letter from “a key UN official” also said that the restrictions were a “principal factor” in the crippling of the Syrian health care.
The medication factories, which weren’t destroyed during the hostilities, still had to close due to absence of raw materials and foreign currency caused by the sanction, the official wrote.
The Intercept contacted the US State Department on the issue, which refused to acknowledge any of the claims or that the sanctions are hurting civilians in Syria.
“US sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people,” the State Department said in emailed response.
“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers. He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it,” the email added.
Sanctions have been gradually introduced against Syria since 1979 when Washington labeled the country sponsor of terrorism. But the harshest restrictions came in 2011 when the uprising and military conflict in the country started.
A group of 29 countries called for the Venezuelan government and opposition to engage in renewed national dialogue Thursday, amid calls for more US sanctions against the South American country.
Led by the right-wing government of Paraguay, the international group including the US and UK called on President Nicolas Maduro to “ensure the full respect of human rights, due process, the separation of powers and the consolidation of a representative democracy”.
Issued during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the statement also called for the Venezuelan government to ensure the organisation of a presidential recall referendum.
Venezuela condemned the declaration as “interventionist”, while its regional allies drew support outweighing the Paraguayan statement.
A call from Cuba for respect for state sovereignty drew the support of 88 countries.
Maduro described the outcome of the UNHRC meeting as a “great victory” for Venezuela.
“To their 29 votes, we got 88,” he said.
The fiery session Thursday was the latest in a series of jabs at Venezuela over the course of the meeting. When the UNHRC forum began on September 13, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein lashed out at Maduro’s government over “allegations of repression of opposition voices, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful protests”.
A major anti-government rally two days later drew thousands of opposition supporters to the streets of Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities, with no signs of widespread police crackdowns or repression. Another large rally is scheduled to take place on October 12.
More International Setbacks, Possible Sanctions
The controversy at the UNHRC followed weeks of bad news for Venezuela’s international relations. Earlier this month Venezuela was barred from its position as president of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, while Maduro’s hosting of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement failed to draw more than a handful of international allies.
Then on Wednesday, US lawmakers issued renewed condemnation, and calls for new sanctions on Caracas.
On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the release of “political prisoners” in Venezuela.
“This resolution states in no uncertain terms that President Maduro’s shameful and rampant corruption in Venezuela must end,” said Florida Representative and former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz herself faced allegations of corruption earlier this year, after whistle-blower website Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show Schultz and other leading party officials failed to maintain impartiality during the Democratic primaries.
CNE Head Targeted by Rubio
The day after the House issued its latest Venezuela resolution, long time anti-Venezuela campaigner Senator Marco Rubio called on President Barack Obama to authorise sanctions on government officials including the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.
Rubio claimed Lucena and other top officials have “committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses”.
Lucena herself has no oversight over Venezuela’s security forces, which have been accused of human rights abuses. Nor has she directly been involved in the arrest of opposition political figures such as Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2015 after a Venezuelan court found him guilty of inciting a wave of deadly violence.
As head of the CNE, Lucena has been criticised by opposition supporters, who say her organisation has dragged its feet on preparing for a presidential recall referendum, which could lead to Maduro being forced from power early. CNE officials have responded to the complaints by arguing the opposition itself has slowed the referendum by allegedly including bogus signatures in a preliminary petition that was required to prompt a recall vote.
Last week, the CNE confirmed the referendum would not be possible until next year, dashing opposition hopes of forcing new elections. The timing of the referendum is significant: if it takes place before January 10, 2017, Maduro could be forced from office, and snap elections held. If the referendum is held after this cut off point, Maduro will simply be replaced by his vice-president for the rest of the normal presidential term.
The CNE’s handling of the referendum has also been criticised by the US, prompting backlash from the Maduro administration.
In a bid to ease tensions, the US and Venezuela are expected to hold new diplomatic talks in the coming weeks.
According to a report from the Associated Press this week, the talks will include Venezuelan officials and a US Department of State official. The official was named as Thomas Shannon, the state department’s current undersecretary of state for political affairs.
No further details of the meeting have been released, though another recent meeting between Venezuelan officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focused on the detention of Joshua Holt.
A US national, Holt was detained by the Venezuelan military in June, under allegations of stockpiling firearms in the home of his wife in Venezuela. Holt’s relatives have denied the allegations.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has condemned the killing of at least 15 civilian men and the injuring of at least 13 others, including at least one boy, in an airstrike targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) conducted yesterday in the country’s eastern district of Achin.
“UNAMA calls on the Government and international military forces to launch a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident,” the mission said.
In the early morning of 28 September, an international military forces unmanned aerial vehicle conducted an airstrike, reportedly targeting members of ISIL/Da’esh, which struck a civilian home, killing the 15 civilians, according to UNAMA.
The civilians had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal elder from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and were reportedly sleeping in a guesthouse of the elder when the airstrike occurred. Civilian victims of the strike included students and a teacher, as well as members of families considered to be pro-Government. Government sources report that ISIL/Da’esh personnel also died in the attack, UNAMA said.
The mission highlighted that in a press release issued yesterday, United States Force-Afghanistan acknowledged conducting the airstrike, but refrained from elaborating further, indicating that they “are still reviewing all materials related to the strike.”
UNAMA also expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the incident and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
Afghanistan has been in protracted conflict for almost 35 years, which, in addition to being prone to recurrent natural disasters, has seriously hampered poverty reduction and development, strained the fabric of society and depleted the country’s coping mechanisms.
The Iranian interior minister says the UN has failed to provide Tehran with sufficient aid to help the country cover the expenses of the services it is offering to refugees on its soil, particularly Afghan nationals.
Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli made the remarks in a Tuesday meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in New York.
The Iranian minister traveled to New York to attend the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, which addresses large movements of refugees and migrants.
Rahmani-Fazli further voiced Iran’s concern over the situation of illegal migrants, which has created many problems for both the Iranian government and people.
“The United Nations and relevant international institutions should provide the Afghan government with more serious” assistance so it can organize and secure the repatriation of its nationals, he added.
Foreign assistance to Iran only covers less than three percent of its expenses in dealing with the refugees it is sheltering, said Rahmani-Fazli, urging international aid bodies to take more responsibility “in providing the required expenditure to take care of the healthcare, medical, educational and food costs of refugees and displaced people.”
Iran has been hosting large numbers of Afghan refugees, who fled wars and conflicts in their country. In recent years, Tehran has been urging the Afghan nationals to return home voluntarily to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland.
More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now going to school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools, according to UNHCR.
Fazli called for efforts to restore security to the countries grappling with terror groups and help them improve their economic conditions as the only “realistic” approach towards stemming mass migrations and displacements.
For his part, Grandi said his observations during a visit to Iran in June showed that the country’s attitude towards refugees “is a model in the world.”
Also on Tuesday, the Iranian interior minister met with Swiss Head of the Department of Justice and Police Simonetta Sommaruga as well as Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to a landmark nuclear agreement Tehran signed with the six world powers last year.
“Iran continues to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amanon said in an introductory statement to the agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna on Monday.
He added that his report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) summarizes the verification and monitoring activities conducted by the UN nuclear agency in the last few months.
The IAEA chief said Iran has submitted its declarations under the Additional Protocol, which Tehran is applying provisionally, pending its entry into force.
“The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement,” Amano pointed out.
He noted that the IAEA would continue evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
In a quarterly report on Iran on September 8, the IAEA confirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement reached between the Islamic Republic and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – plus Germany on July 14, 2015.
The UN nuclear agency, which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA, said Tehran has not exceeded the limits set in the accord on its low-enriched uranium and heavy water stockpile.
Under the JCPOA, which took effect in January, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related bans imposed against Tehran.
The deal requires Iran’s storage of uranium enriched to up to 3.67 percent purity to stay below 300 kilograms. Tehran has also agreed to keep its heavy water stockpile below 130 metric tonnes.
Since January, the IAEA has released regular reports confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran’s commitment to the agreement.
In April, the IAEA director general hailed Iran for respecting the nuclear accord, saying the Islamic Republic has even gone beyond its obligations.
Following numerous complaints and legal action concerning pain and injury caused by the use of single plastic hand ties by the Israeli military on detainees, including children, the office of the Military Advocate General announced the introduction of new procedures for the use of restraints in 2010. The nature of the complaints prior to the introduction of the new procedures relating to the use of plastic ties included swelling, ties cutting into wrists and severe pain.
Under the new procedures introduced in 2010, hands should be tied from the front, unless security considerations require tying from behind. Three plastic ties should be used; one around each wrist and one connecting the two; there should be the space of a finger between the ties and the wrist; and the restraints should avoid causing suffering as much as possible. The officer in charge is responsible for ensuring compliance.
According to international juvenile justice standards restraints should only be used if the child poses an imminent threat to him or herself, or to others and all other means have been exhausted. Restraints may be used as a precaution against escape during transfer but only for as long as is strictly necessary and must not cause unnecessary pain or suffering. According to UNICEF and a UK report, single plastic hand ties should be prohibited in all circumstances, as should blindfolds.
Approximately three years after the introduction of the new procedures, UNICEF reported that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process”. In reaching this conclusion UNICEF found that children continued to be painfully hand tied and blindfolded on a routine basis contrary to international standards and Israeli military regulations.
In May 2013, the military authorities responded to UNICEF’s findings by issuing a letter to the heads of all Brigades, Divisions, Police and Military Police operating in the West Bank reminding all units of existing standard operating procedures and policies in relation to the arrest of minors. Existing standard operating procedures stipulate that: hand-tying should be done at the discretion of the head of forces and always with three plastic ties in accordance with the 2010 regulations.
According to evidence collected by Military Court watch (MCW) in 2016, 90 percent of children continue to be restrained upon arrest, generally with plastic hand ties, and 85 percent report being blindfolded. In situations where plastic hand ties are used, many children continue to report experiencing pain. In 67 percent of cases where restraints are used, the military regulations for their use continue to be disregarded.
Although UNICEF and the UK reports also recommended that children should never be restrained while attending court except in extreme and unusual circumstances, children continue to be shackled by the ankles during their appearances in the military courts. … Full article
A collective open letter has been signed by many professors of international law and legal researchers. Entitled “A plea against the abusive invocation of self-defence as a response to terrorism” it has been circulating on the internet for a few weeks.
Among the signatories, of which there are more than 230 professors and almost 50 assistants/researchers (see the list available here as at 25 July; it is updated regularly by the Centre de Droit International de l´Université Libre de Bruxelles), there are distinguished members of the international law community as well younger practitioners. The objective of this collective initiative is to challenge the invocation of the legal argument of self-defence by several states in the context of the so called “war” against ISIS.
As is well known, the UN Charter has been extremely clear on the unique exception to the prohibition of the use of force since its adoption in 1945 — self-defence — and military operations authorised by Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter. However, since 9/11, interpretations made by the United States and its allies have been made to give legal support for unilateral military operations in the territory of a state without the previous consent of its authorities. In a recent note published on the website of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL), we read that: “Particularly since 9/11, several States have supported a broad reading of the right to use force in self-defence, as allowing them to intervene militarily against terrorists whenever and wherever they may be. A consequence of that conception is that any State could be targeted irrespective of whether that State has ‘sent’ the irregular (in this case terrorist) group to carry out a military action or has been ‘substantially involved’ in such an action.”
The use of force in self-defence must be exercised in conformity with the conditions laid down in international law, and particularly the UN Charter. On this very particular point, it must be recalled that France presented to the Security Council a quite surprising draft resolution after the Paris attacks of 13 November last year (see the full text here of the “blue version” circulated among UN delegations) which avoided any reference to the Charter in its operative paragraphs; it is possibly a great “première” of French diplomacy at the United Nations and was analysed in a short note. Resolution 2249 was used a few weeks later in a British parliamentary debate to justify air strikes in Syria, without major clarifications (see this modest note about this).
The text of the global open letter (available here in French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic) considers, among other arguments, that: “Thus, numerous military interventions have been conducted in the name of self-defence, including against Al Qaeda, ISIS or affiliated groups. While some have downplayed these precedents on account of their exceptional nature, there is a serious risk of self-defence becoming an alibi, used systematically to justify the unilateral launching of military operations around the world. Without opposing the use of force against terrorist groups as a matter of principle — particularly in the current context of the fight against ISIS — we, international law professors and scholars, consider this invocation of self-defence to be problematic. In fact, international law provides for a range of measures to fight terrorism. Priority should be given to these measures before invoking self-defence.”
Furthermore, the signatories of this collective letter state: “…we consider that terrorism raises above all the challenge of prosecution and trial of individuals who commit acts of terrorism. A variety of legal tools are available in this respect. They relate first and foremost to police and judicial cooperation (chiefly through agencies such as INTERPOL or EUROPOL), aiming both at punishing those responsible for the crimes committed and preventing future occurrence of such crimes. Although there is certainly room for improvement, this cooperation has often proved effective in dismantling networks, thwarting attacks, and arresting the perpetrators of such attacks. By embracing from the outset the ‘war against terrorism’ and ‘self-defence’ paradigms and declaring a state of emergency, there is a serious risk of trivialising, neglecting, or ignoring ordinary peacetime legal processes.”
It must be noted that international law scholars and researchers around the world can sign this document until 31 July. The text recalls a certain number of very clear rules that the diplomats in New York know better than anyone — despite the ambiguous interpretations made by some of their colleagues, in particular since the beginning of air strikes in Syria, without the consent of its de facto authorities — on the extremely vague notion of an ‘unwilling or unable’ State, justifying, for some diplomats, military operations on its territory without its previous consent. I refer to this very recent article published in The Netherlands.
The collective document also states that: “…the maintenance of international peace and security rests first and foremost with the Security Council. The Council has qualified international terrorism as a threat to the peace on numerous occasions. Therefore, aside from cases of emergency leaving no time to seize the UN, it must remain the Security Council’s primary responsibility to decide, coordinate and supervise acts of collective security. Confining the task of the Council to adopting ambiguous resolutions of an essentially diplomatic nature, as was the case with the passing of resolution 2249 (2015) relating to the fight against ISIS, is an unfortunate practice. Instead, the role of the Council must be enhanced in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Charter, thereby ensuring a multilateral approach to security /…/ However, the mere fact that, despite its efforts, a State is unable to put an end to terrorist activities on its territory is insufficient to justify bombing that State’s territory without its consent. Such an argument finds no support either in existing legal instruments or in the case law of the International Court of Justice. Accepting this argument entails a risk of grave abuse in that military action may henceforth be conducted against the will of a great number of States under the sole pretext that, in the intervening State’s view, they were not sufficiently effective in fighting terrorism.”
It must be noted that, in February, Canada’s new government decided to cease air strikes in Syria and Iraq. We read in this official note produced by the Canadian Armed Forces that: “ In accordance with Government of Canada direction, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ceased air strike operations in Iraq and Syria on 15 February 2016. From their first sortie on 30 October 2014 to 15 February 2016, the CF-188 Hornets conducted 1378 sorties resulting in 251 airstrikes (246 in Iraq and 5 in Syria), expended 606 munitions and achieved the following effects: 267 ISIL fighting positions, 102 ISIL equipment and vehicles, and, 30 ISIL Improvised Explosive Device (IED) factories and ISIL storage facilities.”
In 2015, a Canadian scholar concluded an extremely interesting article on air strikes in Syria and Iraq in the following terms: “However, there is a further legal hurdle for Canada to overcome. Unless Canada can attribute ISIS´ attacks in Iraq to Syria, then the question becomes whether Canada may lawfully target ISIS, as a non-state actor in Syria’s sovereign territory, using the ‘unwilling or unable’ doctrine to prevent ISIS’ extraterritoriality attacks against Iraq. This justification moves significantly away from the Nicaragua, Congo and Israeli Wall cases’ requirement for attribution. There appears to be a lack of consensus on whether opinion juris and state practice have accepted the ‘unwilling or unable’ doctrine as customary international law. There is no escaping the conclusion that Canada’s air strikes on Syria are on shaky, or at least shifting, legal ground.”
The signatories of the open letter, the number of whom is increasing daily, include scholars from different continents and of different ages; they conclude by reaffirming that: “The international legal order may not be reduced to an interventionist logic similar to that prevailing before the adoption of the United Nations Charter. The purpose of the Charter was to substitute a multilateral system grounded in cooperation and the enhanced role of law and institutions for unilateral military action. It would be tragic if, acting on emotion in the face of terrorism (understandable as this emotion may be), that purpose were lost.”
Eastern Ukraine neighbourhood shelled by Ukraine armed forces (UNHCR photo)
Five days ago, the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released another in a long line of reports purporting to provide an overview of the human rights situation in Ukraine. This latest report is titled “Accountability for killings in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”.
The report is 20 pages long with 31 additional pages of appendix examining “Cases of violations or abuses of the right to life in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”. A press release by the UN body summarizes the content of the report.
The OHCHR report is another outlandish collection of selected facts making a strong inference that a large part of the “abuses to the right to life” it examines are the fault of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and their self-defense forces.
As with past reports, the OHCHR makes an equivalency between, on the one hand, the governing regime in Kyiv which is bound by all of the international conventions on human rights which previous Ukrainian governments signed onto and, on the other hand, the people’s republics and armed forces of Donetsk and Lugansk which are not so bound. The Donetsk and Lugansk republics cannot sign on to international human rights conventions because they are shunned and unrecognized by most international bodies… including the OHCHR!
At last check, it is not the republics of the former eastern Ukraine which have invaded Ukraine, but Ukraine that has invaded and imposed an ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ against the people there. Yet the UN report describes Kyiv’s civil war as a “separatist conflict”.
Adding insult to injury, the UN press release says, “According to the report, the killings are being “fueled by the inflow of foreign fighters and weapons from the Russian Federation”.
The UN report fails to mention that even if such a patently false description of the conflict as being a “separatist conflict” were true, Ukraine is nonetheless duty bound by international convention to protect its nominal citizens and not wage war against them.
The UN report speaks of shadowy “armed groups” in Donetsk and Lugansk who it says are responsible for extra-judicial killings as well as prisoner abuse, torture and killings. Yet when it comes to the extremist and neo-Nazi paramilitaries who are joined with Ukraine’s armed forces in waging civil war, they are given the polite description of “volunteer battalions”. Sounds downright patriotic and heroic!
When it comes to the Kyiv regime itself, the UN report language is all kid glove. For example, in professing concern about the Odessa Massacre of 48 people on May 2, 2014, UN press release writes:
The report also highlighted the violence that took place on 2 May 2014, in Odesa, during which 48 people died as a result of clashes between “pro-unity” and “pro-federalism” groups. OHCHR “remains concerned that the authorities have still not taken appropriate measures to ensure effective investigations into the 2 May 2014 events, nor to protect the independence of the judiciary,” the report said.
On that day in Odessa, nearly all of the victims were peacefully protesting against the coup in Ukraine in February 2014 which deposed the country’s elected president. They were targeted for killing when the trade union building in the center of the city where they had taken refuge from a right-wing mob was set on fire.
Further in the press release we read:
Furthermore, the report found that the lack of accountability remains widespread in Ukraine, despite efforts by the Government [sic] to bring perpetrators from its own ranks to justice and the pre-trial investigations by the Office of the Chief Military Prosecutor into cases of killing, torture and ill-treatment by members of the armed groups of the self-proclaimed [sic] “Donetsk people’s republic” and self-proclaimed “Luhansk people’s republic.”
While acknowledging the challenges faced by the authorities in ensuring justice, including the lack of access to the territories where many of the alleged acts took place, the report noted “an apparent lack of motivation to investigate some cases … especially when it concerns acts allegedly committed by Ukrainian forces.”
What about the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement, signed by Ukraine on February 12, 2015 and endorsed by no less that the UN Security Council several days later? Not a word of it in the OHCHR press release. In the 20 pages of the report, one finds several references to the need to implement what is called the “Minsk Agreements”, but no detailed description of the content and import of the agreement is provided.
How bad is the official state of human rights in Ukraine? Two months ago, the UN’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture took the unprecedented step of cancelling in mid-visit an official visit looking into reported cases of torture by Ukrainian government forces and by rebel authorities in the east. The reason for the cancellation was that Kyiv refused to live up to its obligations under Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, an international convention to which a previous Ukrainian government signed on. It requires signators to provide unfettered access to prisons and other places of detention. The subcommittee was intending to investigate reports of secret prisons operated by Ukraine’s police and military services.
Oh, don’t look for information in this latest UN report on the telling experience of the UN’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture two months ago. Blank. Apparently, that would be unrelated to “Cases of violations or abuses of the right to life in Ukraine from January 2014 to May 2016”.