Category Archives: Other Rights

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

Dania Khalek,  The Intercept,  28 September 2016

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”

U.S. sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into the country nearly impossible. Even when a transaction is legal, banks are reluctant to process funds related to Syria for risk of incurring violation fees. This has given rise to an unofficial and unregulated network of money exchanges that lacks transparency, making it easier for extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected. The difficulty of transferring money is also preventing aid groups from paying local staff and suppliers, which has “delayed or prevented the delivery of development assistance in both government and besieged areas,” according to the report.

Trade restrictions on Syria are even more convoluted. Items that contain 10 percent or more of U.S. content, including medical devices, are banned from export to Syria. Aid groups wishing to bypass this rule have to apply for a special license, but the licensing bureaucracy is a nightmare to navigate, often requiring expensive lawyers that cost far more than the items being exported.

Syria was first subjected to sanctions in 1979, after the U.S. designated the Syrian government as a state sponsor of terrorism. More sanctions were added in subsequent years, though none more extreme than the restrictions imposed in 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

In 2013 the sanctions were eased but only in opposition areas. Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZA banker stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on August 25, 2011. US sanctions have forced Syria to stop all transactions in US dollars, with the country turning completely to euro deals, the governor of the Central Bank Adib Mayaleh told the AFP during an interview. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

A man stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on Aug. 25, 2011.

Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care. The August email from a key U.N. official warned that sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent. The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system. Medicine-producing factories that haven’t been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency, the email said.As one NGO worker in Damascus told The Intercept, there are cars, buses, water systems, and power stations that are in serious need of repair all across the country, but it takes months to procure spare parts and there’s no time to wait. So aid groups opt for cheap Chinese options or big suppliers that have the proper licensing, but the big suppliers can charge as much as they want. If the price is unaffordable, systems break down and more and more people die from dirty water, preventable diseases, and a reduced quality of life.

Such conditions would be devastating for any country. In war-torn Syria, where an estimated 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, the sanctions are compounding the chaos.

In an emailed statement to The Intercept, the State Department denied that the sanctions are hurting civilians.

“U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-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,” said the statement, which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in 1990s. The U.S. continued to rationalize the Iraq sanctions even after a report was released by UNICEF in 1999 that showed a doubling in mortality rates for children under the age of 5 after sanctions were imposed in the wake of the Gulf War, and the death of 500,000 children.

“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers,” the U.S. statement on Syria continued. “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.”

Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of KobaneRamadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

Photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Humanitarian concerns aside, the sanctions are not achieving their objectives. Five years of devastating civil war and strict economic sanctions have plunged over 80 percent of Syrians into poverty, up from 28 percent in 2010. Ferdinand Arslanian, a scholar at the Center for Syrian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, says that reduction in living standards and aid dependency is empowering the regime.“Aid is now an essential part of the Syrian economy and sanctions give regime cronies in Syria the ability to monopolize access to goods. It makes everyone reliant on the government. This was the case in Iraq, with the food-for-oil system,” explained Arslanian.

“Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq,” argues Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “But there’s pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you’re doing something,” he added.

Despite the failure of sanctions, opposition advocates are agitating for even harsher measures that would extend sanctions to anyone who does business with the Syrian government. This, of course, would translate into sanctions against Russia.

“The opposition likes sanctions,” says Landis. “They were the people who advocated them in the beginning because they want to put any pressure they can on the regime. But it’s very clear that the regime is not going to fall, that the sanctions are not working. They’re only immiserating a population that’s already suffered terrible declines in their per capita GDP,” he added.

Read the report:

Hum Impact of Syria Related Res Eco Measures 26 May 2016, 40 pages

Top photo: A Syrian Red Crescent truck, part of a convoy carrying humanitarian aid, is seen in Kafr Batna on the outskirts of Damascus on Feb. 23, 2016, during an operation in cooperation with the U.N. to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians.

Update: September 30, 2016

The wording of a paragraph about U.S. tactics in Syria and Iraq has been altered to clarify that the U.S. used a strategy of airstrikes against Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah when they were controlled by ISIS forces

The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals

The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals

Edward W. Said, 17 September 2001


In everyday usage in the languages and cultures with which I am familiar, a “writer” is a person who produces literature–that is, a novelist, poet, dramatist. I think it is generally true that in all cultures writers have a separate, perhaps even more honorific, place than do “intellectuals”; the aura of creativity and an almost sanctified capacity for originality (often vatic in scope and quality) accrues to writers as it doesn’t at all to intellectuals, who with regard to literature belong to the slightly debased and parasitic class of “critics.”

Yet at the dawn of the twenty-first century the writer has taken on more and more of the intellectual’s adversarial attributes in such activities as speaking the truth to power, being a witness to persecution and suffering, and supplying a dissenting voice in conflicts with authority.

Signs of the amalgamation of one to the other would have to include the Salman Rushdie case in all its ramifications; the formation of numerous writers’ parliaments and congresses devoted to such issues as intolerance, the dialogue of cultures, civil strife (as in Bosnia and Algeria), freedom of speech and censorship, truth and reconciliation (as in South Africa, Argentina, Ireland and elsewhere); and the special symbolic role of the writer as an intellectual testifying to a country’s or region’s experience, thereby giving that experience a public identity forever inscribed in the global discursive agenda.

The easiest way of demonstrating this is simply to list the names of some (but by no means all) recent Nobel Prize winners, then to allow each name to trigger in the mind an emblematized region, which in turn can be seen as a sort of platform or jumping-off point for that writer’s subsequent activity as an intervention, in debates taking place very far from the world of literature. Thus Nadine Gordimer, Kenzaburo Oe, Derek_Walcott Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka , Gabriel García Márquez , Octavio_Paz , Elie Wiesel, Bertrand Russell, Günter Grass, Rigoberta Menchú, among several others.

Now it is also true, as Pascale Casanova has brilliantly shown in her synoptic book La République mondiale des lettres, that, fashioned over the past 150 years, there seems to be a global system of literature now in place, complete with its own order of literariness (littérarité), tempo, canon, internationalism and market values. The efficiency of the system is that it seems to have generated the types of writers that she discusses as belonging to such different categories as assimilated, dissident and translated figures–all of them both individualized and classified in what she shows is a highly efficient, globalized, quasi-market system. The drift of her argument is to show that this powerful and all-pervasive system can go even as far as stimulating a kind of independence from itself, as in cases like Joyce and Beckett, writers whose language and orthography do not submit to the laws either of state or of system.

Much as I admire it, however, the overall achievement of Casanova’s book is nevertheless contradictory. She seems to be saying that literature as globalized system has a kind of integral autonomy to it that places it in large measure just beyond the gross realities of political institutions and discourse, a notion that has a certain theoretical plausibility to it when she puts it in the form of un espace littéraire internationale, with its own laws of interpretation, its own dialectic of individual work and ensemble, its own problematics of nationalism and national languages. But she doesn’t go as far as Adorno in saying, as I would too, that one of the hallmarks of modernity is how, at a very deep level, the aesthetic and the social need to be kept in a state of irreconcilable tension. Nor does she spend enough time discussing the ways in which the literary, or the writer, is still implicated–indeed frequently mobilized for use–in the great post-cold war cultural contests of the world’s altered political configurations.

Looked at from that perspective, for example, the debate about Salman Rushdie was never really about the literary attributes of The Satanic Verses but rather about whether there could be a literary treatment of a religious topic that did not also touch on religious passions in a very, indeed in an exacerbated, public way. I don’t think that such a possibility existed, since from the very moment the fatwa was released to the world by Ayatollah Khomeini, the novel, its author and its readers were all deposited squarely inside an environment that allowed no room for anything but politicized intellectual debate about such socio religious issues as blasphemy, secular dissent and extraterritorial threats of assassination. Even to assert that Rushdie’s freedom of expression as a novelist could not be abridged–as many of us from the Islamic world did assert–was in fact to debate the issue of the literary freedom to write within a discourse that had already swallowed up and occupied (in the geographical sense) literature’s apartness entirely.

In that wider setting, then, the basic distinction between writers and intellectuals need not be made. Insofar as they both act in the new public sphere dominated by globalization (and assumed to exist even by adherents of the Khomeini fatwa), their public role as writers and intellectuals can be discussed and analyzed together. Another way of putting it is to say that we should concentrate on what writers and intellectuals have in common as they intervene in the public sphere.

First we need to take note of the technical characteristics of intellectual intervention today. To get a dramatically vivid grasp of the speed to which communication has accelerated in the past decade, I’d like to contrast Jonathan Swift’s awareness of effective public intervention in the early eighteenth century with ours. Swift was surely the most devastating pamphleteer of his time, and during his campaign against the Duke of Marlborough in 1711-12 was able to get 11,000 copies of his pamphlet The Conduct of the Allies onto the streets in two months. This brought the Duke down from his high eminence but nevertheless did not change Swift’s pessimistic impression (dating back to A Tale of a Tub, 1704) that his writing was basically temporary, good only for the short time that it circulated. He had in mind, of course, the running quarrel between ancients and moderns, in which venerable writers like Homer and Horace had the advantage over modern figures like Dryden by virtue of their age and the authenticity of their views of great longevity, even permanence.

In the age of electronic media such considerations are mostly irrelevant, since anyone with a computer and decent Internet access is capable of reaching numbers of people quantum times more than Swift did, and can also look forward to the preservation of what is written beyond any conceivable measure. Our ideas today of discourse and archives must be radically modified and can no longer be defined as Foucault painstakingly tried to describe them a mere two decades ago. Even if one writes for a newspaper or journal, the chances of digital reproduction and (notionally at least) an unlimited time of preservation have wreaked havoc on the idea of an actual, as opposed to a virtual, audience. These things have certainly limited the powers that regimes have to censor or ban writing that is considered dangerous, although there are fairly crude means for stopping or curtailing the libertarian function of online print. Until only very recently Saudi Arabia and Syria, for example, successfully banned the Internet and even satellite television. Both countries now tolerate limited access to the Internet, although both have also installed sophisticated and, in the long run, prohibitively expensive interdictory processes to maintain their control.

As things stand, an article I might write in New York for a British paper has a good chance of reappearing on individual websites or via e-mail on screens in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, the Middle East and South Africa as well as Australia. Authors and publishers have very little control over what is reprinted and recirculated. I am constantly surprised (and don’t know whether to be angry or flattered) when something that I wrote or said in one place turns up with scarcely a delay halfway around the world. For whom then does one write, if it is difficult to specify the audience with any sort of precision? Most people, I think, focus on the actual outlet that has commissioned the piece or on the putative readers we would like to address. The idea of an imagined community has suddenly acquired a very literal, if virtual, dimension. Certainly, as I experienced when I began ten years ago to write in an Arabic publication for an audience of Arabs, one attempts to create, shape, refer to a constituency. This is requisite now much more than during Swift’s time, when he could quite naturally assume that the persona he called a Church of England man was in fact his real, very stable and quite small audience.

All of us should therefore operate today with some notion of very probably reaching much larger audiences than any we could conceive of even a decade ago, although the chances of retaining that audience are by the same token quite chancy. This is not simply a matter of optimism of the will: It is in the very nature of writing today. This makes it very difficult for writers to take common assumptions between them and their audiences for granted, or to assume that references and allusions are going to be understood immediately. But writing in this expanded new space strangely does have a further and unusually risky consequence: being encouraged to say things that are either completely opaque or completely transparent (and if one has any sense of intellectual and political vocation, it should of course be the latter rather than the former).

On one side, a half-dozen enormous multinationals presided over by a handful of men control most of the world’s supply of images and news. On the other, there are the independent intellectuals who actually form an incipient community, physically separated from each other but connected variously to a great number of activist communities shunned by the main media but who have at their disposal other kinds of what Swift sarcastically called oratorical machines. Think of what an impressive range of opportunities is offered by the lecture platform, the pamphlet, radio, alternative journals, the interview form, the rally, church pulpit and the Internet, to name only a few. True, it is a considerable disadvantage to realize that one is unlikely to get asked onto the PBS NewsHour or ABC Nightline, or if one is in fact asked, that only an isolated fugitive minute will be offered. But then other occasions present themselves, not in the soundbite format but rather in more extended stretches of time.

So, rapidity is a double-edged weapon. There is the rapidity of the sloganeeringly reductive style that is the main feature of “expert” discourse–to-the-point, fast, formulaic, pragmatic in appearance–and there is the rapidity of response and expandable format that intellectuals and indeed most citizens can exploit in order to present fuller, more complete expressions of an alternative point of view. I am suggesting that by taking advantage of what is available in the form of numerous platforms (or stages-itinerant, another Swiftian term), an intellectual’s alert and creative willingness to exploit them (that is, platforms that either aren’t available to or are shunned by the television personality, expert or political candidate) creates the possibility of initiating wider discussion.

The emancipatory potential–and the threats to it–of this new situation mustn’t be underestimated. Let me give a very powerful example of what I mean. There are about 4 million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the world, a significant number of whom live in large refugee camps in Lebanon (where the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres took place), Jordan, Syria and in Gaza and the West Bank. In 1999 an enterprising group of young and educated refugees living in Dheisheh camp, near Bethlehem on the West Bank, established the Ibdaa Center, whose main feature was the Across Borders project; this was a revolutionary way, through computer terminals, of connecting refugees in most of the main camps, separated geographically and politically by impossibly difficult barriers, to one another.

For the first time since their parents were dispersed in 1948, second-generation Palestinian refugees in Beirut or Amman could communicate with their counterparts inside Palestine. Some of what the participants in the project did was quite remarkable. Thus when Israeli closures were relaxed somewhat the Dheisheh residents went on visits to their former villages in Palestine, and then described their emotions and what they saw for the benefit of other refugees who had heard of but could not have access to these places. In a matter of weeks a remarkable solidarity emerged at a time when, it turned out, the so-called final-status negotiations between the PLO and Israel were beginning to take up the question of refugees and return, which along with the question of Jerusalem made up the intransigent core of the stalemated peace process. For some Palestinian refugees, therefore, their presence and political will was actualized for the first time, giving them a new status qualitatively different from the passive objecthood that had been their fate for half a century.

On August 26, 2000, all the computers in Dheisheh were destroyed in an act of political vandalism that left no one in doubt that refugees were meant to remain refugees, which is to say that they were not meant to disturb the status quo that had assumed their silence for so long. It wouldn’t be hard to list the possible suspects, but it is hard to imagine that anyone will ever be named or apprehended. In any case, the Dheisheh camp-dwellers immediately set about trying to restore the IbdaaCenter, and seem to some degree to have succeeded. To answer the question “why” individuals and groups prefer writing and speaking to silence is equivalent to specifying what the intellectual and writer confront in the public sphere. The existence of individuals or groups seeking social justice and economic equality–and who understand, in Amartya Sen’s formulation, that freedom must include the right to a whole range of choices affording cultural, political, intellectual and economic development–ipso facto will lead to a desire for articulation rather than silence. It almost goes without saying that for the American intellectual the responsibility is greater, the openings numerous, the challenge very difficult. The United States, after all, is the only global power; it intervenes nearly everywhere, and its resources for domination are very great, although far from infinite.

The intellectual’s role generally is to uncover and elucidate the contest, to challenge and defeat both an imposed silence and the normalized quiet of unseen power, wherever and whenever possible. For there is a social and intellectual equivalence between this mass of overbearing collective interests and the discourse used to justify, disguise or mystify its workings while at the same time preventing objections or challenges to it. In this day, and almost universally, phrases such as “the free market,” “privatization,” “less government” and others like them have become the orthodoxy of globalization, its counterfeit universals. They are staples of the dominant discourse, designed to create consent and tacit approval. From that nexus emanate such ideological confections as “the West,” the “clash of civilizations,” “traditional values” and “identity” (perhaps the most overused phrases in the global lexicon today). All these are deployed not as they sometimes seem to be–as instigations for debate–but quite the opposite, to stifle, pre-empt and crush dissent whenever the false universals face resistance or questioning.

The main goal of this dominant discourse is to fashion the merciless logic of corporate profit-making and political power into a normal state of affairs. Behind the Punch and Judy show of energetic debate concerning the West and Islam, for example, all manner of antidemocratic, sanctimonious and alienating devices (the theory of the Great Satan or of the rogue state and terrorism) are in place as diversions from the social and economic disentitlements occurring in reality. In one place, Hashemi Rafsanjani exhorts the Iranian Parliament to greater degrees of Islamization as a defense against America; in the other, Bush, Blair and their feeble partners prepare their citizens for an indeterminate war against Islamic terrorism, rogue states and the rest. Realism and its close associate, pragmatism, are mobilized from their real philosophical context in the work of Peirce, Dewey and James, and put to forced labor in the boardroom where, as Gore Vidal has put it, the real decisions about government and presidential candidates are made. Much as one is for elections, it is also a bitter truth that elections do not automatically produce democracy or democratic results. Ask any Floridian.

The intellectual can offer instead a dispassionate account of how identity, tradition and the nation are constructed entities, most often in the insidious form of binary oppositions that are inevitably expressed as hostile attitudes to the Other. Pierre Bourdieu and his associates have very interestingly suggested that Clinton-Blair neoliberalism, which built on the conservative dismantling of the great social achievements (in health, education, labor, social security) of the welfare state during the Thatcher-Reagan period, has constructed a paradoxical doxa, a symbolic counterrevolution that includes the kind of national self-glorification I’ve just mentioned. This, Bourdieu says, is conservative but presents itself as progressive; it seeks the restoration of the past order in some of its most archaic aspects (especially as regards economic relations), yet it passes off regressions, reversals, surrenders, as forward-looking reforms or revolutions leading to a whole new age of abundance and liberty (as with the language of the so-called new economy and the celebratory discourse around network firms and the internet).

As a reminder of the damage this reversal has already done, Bourdieu and his colleagues produced a collective work titled La misère du monde (translated in 1999 as The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society), whose aim was to compel the politicians’ attention to what in French society the misleading optimism of the public rhetoric had hidden. This kind of book therefore plays a sort of negative intellectual role, whose aim is, to quote Bourdieu again, “to produce and disseminate instruments of defense against symbolic domination which increasingly relies on the authority of science”–or on expertise or appeals to national unity, pride, history and tradition–to bludgeon people into submission.

Obviously India and Brazil are different from Britain and the United States; but the often striking disparities in cultures and economies shouldn’t obscure the even more startling similarities that can be seen in some of the techniques, and very often the aim, of deprivation and repression that compel people to follow along meekly. I should also add that one needn’t always present an abstruse and detailed theory of justice to go to war intellectually against injustice, since there is now a well-stocked international storehouse of conventions, protocols, resolutions and charters for national authorities to comply with, if they are so inclined. And in the same context I would have thought it almost moronic to take an ultrapostmodern position (like Richard Rorty while shadowboxing with some vague thing he refers to contemptuously as “the academic Left”) and say–when confronting ethnic cleansing, or genocide as it is occurring today in Iraq, or any of the evils of torture, censorship, famine, ignorance (most of them constructed by humans, not by acts of God)–that human rights are “cultural things,” so that when they are violated they do not really have the status accorded them by such crude foundationalists as myself, for whom they are as real as anything else we can encounter.

All intellectuals carry around some working understanding or sketch of the global system (in large measure thanks to world and regional historians like Immanuel Wallerstein, Anouar Abdel-Malek, J.M. Blaut, Janet Abu-Lughod, Peter Gran, Ali Mazrui, William McNeill); but it is during the direct encounters with it in one or another specific geography or configuration that the contests are waged (as in Seattle and Genoa) and perhaps even winnable. There is an admirable chronicle of the kind of thing I mean in the various essays of Bruce Robbins’s Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (1999), Timothy Brennan’s At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now (1997) and Neil Lazarus’s Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Postcolonial World (1999), books whose self-consciously territorial and highly interwoven textures are in fact an adumbration of the critical (and combative) intellectual’s sense of the world we live in today, taken as episodes or even fragments of a broader picture, which their work and that of others is in the process of compiling.

What they suggest is a map of experiences that would have been indiscernible, perhaps invisible, two decades ago, but that in the aftermath of the classical empires, the end of the cold war, the crumbling of the socialist and nonaligned blocs, the emergent dialectics between North and South in the era of globalization, cannot be excluded either from cultural study or from the somewhat ethereal precincts of the humanistic disciplines.

I’ve mentioned a few names not just to indicate how significant I think their contributions have been but also to use them in order to leapfrog directly into some concrete areas of collective concern, where, to quote Bourdieu for the last time, there is the possibility of “collective invention.” He observes that the whole edifice of critical thought is thus in need of reconstruction. This work of reconstruction cannot be done, as some thought in the past, by a single great intellectual, a master-thinker endowed only with the resources of his singular thought, or by the authorized spokesperson for a group or an institution presumed to speak in the name of those without voice, union, party, and so on. This is where the collective intellectual [Bourdieu’s name for individuals the sum of whose research and participation on common subjects constitutes a sort of ad hoc collective] can play its irreplaceable role, by helping to create the social conditions for the collective production of realist utopias.

My reading of this is to stress the absence of any master plan or blueprint or grand theory for what intellectuals can do, and the absence now of any utopian teleology toward which human history can be described as moving. Therefore, one invents–in the literal use of the Latin word inventio, employed by rhetoricians to stress finding again or reassembling from past performances, as opposed to the romantic use of invention as something you create from scratch–goals abductively, that is, hypothesizes a better situation from the known historical and social facts.

So in effect this enables intellectual performances on many fronts, in many places, many styles, that keep in play both the sense of opposition and the sense of engaged participation. Hence, film, photography and even music, along with all the arts of writing, can be aspects of this activity. Part of what we do as intellectuals is not only to define the situation but also to discern the possibilities for active intervention, whether we then perform them ourselves or acknowledge them in others who have either gone before or are already at work, the intellectual as lookout. Provincialism of the old kind–e.g., I am a literary specialist whose field is early-seventeenth-century England–rules itself out and, quite frankly, seems uninteresting and needlessly neutered. The assumption has to be that even though one can’t do or know everything, it must always be possible to discern the elements of a struggle or tension or problem near at hand that can be elucidated dialectically, and also to sense that other people have a similar stake and work in a common project.

I have found a brilliantly inspiring parallel for what I mean in Adam Phillips’s recent book Darwin’s Worms, in which Darwin’s lifelong attention to the lowly earthworm revealed its capacity for expressing nature’s variability and design without necessarily seeing the whole of either one or the other, thereby in his work on earthworms replacing “a creation myth with a secular maintenance myth.” Is there some nontrivial way of generalizing about where and in what form such struggles are taking place now? I shall limit myself to saying a little about only three, each of which is profoundly amenable to intellectual intervention and elaboration.

The first is to protect against and forestall the disappearance of the past, which in the rapidity of change, the reformulation of tradition and the construction of simplified bowdlerizations of history is at the very heart of the contest described by Benjamin Barber (though rather too sweepingly) as “Jihad versus McWorld.”

The intellectual’s role is first to present alternative narratives and other perspectives on history than those provided by the combatants on behalf of official memory and national identity–who tend to work in terms of falsified unities, the manipulation of demonized or distorted representations of undesirable and/or excluded populations, and the propagation of heroic anthems sung in order to sweep all before them. At least since Nietzsche, the writing of history and the accumulations of memory have been regarded in many ways as one of the essential foundations of power, guiding its strategies and charting its progress.

Look, for example, at the appalling exploitation of past suffering described in their accounts of the uses of the Holocaust by Tom Segev, Peter Novick and Norman Finkelstein or, just to stay within the area of historical restitution and reparation, the invidious disfiguring, dismembering and disremembering of significant historical experiences that do not have powerful enough lobbies in the present and therefore merit dismissal or belittlement. The need now is for deintoxicated, sober histories that make evident the multiplicity and complexity of history without allowing one to conclude that it moves forward impersonally according only to laws determined either by the divine or by the powerful.

Second is to construct fields of coexistence rather than fields of battle as the outcome of intellectual labor. There are great lessons to be learned from decolonization; first, that, noble as its liberatory aims were, it did not often enough prevent the emergence of repressive nationalist replacements for colonial regimes; second, that the process itself was almost immediately captured by the cold war, despite the nonaligned movement’s rhetorical efforts; and thirdly, that it has been miniaturized and even trivialized by a small academic industry that has simply turned it into an ambiguous contest among ambivalent opponents.

Third, in the various contests over justice and human rights that so many of us feel we have joined, there needs to be a component to our engagement that stresses the need for the redistribution of resources and that advocates the theoretical imperative against the huge accumulations of power and capital that so distort human life. Peace cannot exist without equality: This is an intellectual value desperately in need of reiteration, demonstration and reinforcement. The seduction of the word itself–peace–is that it is surrounded by, indeed drenched in, the blandishments of approval, uncontroversial eulogizing, sentimental endorsement.

The international media (as has been the case recently with the sanctioned wars in Iraq and Kosovo) uncritically amplify, ornament, unquestioningly transmit all this to vast audiences for whom peace and war are spectacles for delectation and immediate consumption. It takes a good deal more courage, work and knowledge to dissolve words like “war” and “peace” into their elements, recovering what has been left out of peace processes that have been determined by the powerful, and then placing that missing actuality back in the center of things, than it does to write prescriptive articles for “liberals,” à la Michael Ignatieff, that urge more destruction and death for distant civilians. The intellectual can be perhaps a kind of countermemory, putting forth its own counterdiscourse that will not allow conscience to look away or fall asleep. The best corrective is, as Dr. Johnson said, to imagine the person whom you are discussing–in this case the person on whom the bombs will fall–reading you in your presence.

Still, just as history is never over or complete, it is also the case that some dialectical oppositions are not reconcilable, not transcendable, not really capable of being folded into a sort of higher, undoubtedly more noble, synthesis. The example closest to home for me is the struggle over Palestine, which, I have always believed, cannot really be simply resolved by a technical and ultimately janitorial rearrangement of geography allowing dispossessed Palestinians the right (such as it is) to live in about 20 percent of their land, which would be encircled by and totally dependent on Israel.

Nor, on the other hand, would it be morally acceptable to demand that Israelis should retreat from the whole of former Palestine, now Israel, becoming refugees like Palestinians all over again. No matter how I have searched for a resolution to this impasse, I cannot find one, for this is not a facile case of right versus right. It cannot be right ever to deprive an entire people of their land and heritage or to stifle and slaughter them, as Israel has been doing for the thirty-four years of its occupation. But the Jews too are what I have called a community of suffering, and brought with them a heritage of great tragedy. Yet unlike Zeev Sternhell, I cannot agree that the conquest of Palestine was a necessary conquest–the notion offends the sense of real Palestinian pain, in its own way also tragic.

Overlapping yet irreconcilable experiences demand from the intellectual the courage to say what is before us, in almost exactly the way Adorno, throughout his work on music, insisted that modern music can never be reconciled with the society that produced it; but in its intensely and often despairingly crafted form and content, music can act as a silent witness to the inhumanity all around. Any assimilation of individual musical work to its social setting is, says Adorno, false. I conclude with the thought that the intellectual’s provisional home is the domain of an exigent, resistant, intransigent art into which, alas, one can neither retreat nor search for solutions. But only in that precarious exilic realm can one first truly grasp the difficulty of what cannot be grasped, and then go forth to try anyway.

Discovering secret dockets

Discovering secret dockets

http://www.rcfp.org/secret-justice-secret-dockets/discovering-secret-dockets

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Reporters check court dockets to find out what cases have been filed in courts across the country. The docket reveals the case number assigned by the court, the parties’ names, and a brief entry of each document filed or action taken in the case. Normally, all of this information is public record and can be obtained either from the court clerk’s office, the court’s public inquiry computer terminals, the court’s Web site, or through PACER, an electronic public access service where federal court docket information can be accessed for a fee. The information on the docket is evidence that a particular case exists and allows someone to track the case through the judicial system.

According to a survey by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for this guide, federal courts and many state courts allow for “super-secret” cases, which never appear on the public docket or are hidden using pseudonyms, such as “Sealed v. Sealed” or “John Doe v. Jane Doe.” Courts that maintain these secret dockets will neither confirm nor deny the existence of such cases. As a result, these cases proceed through the court system undetected.

Terrorism “outside the orbit”

The most recent examples of secret dockets involve cases against accused terrorists. On May 1, Iyman Faris pleaded guilty to providing material support to al Qaida, including researching ultralight airplanes, procuring lightweight sleeping bags, plane tickets and cell phones, and assisting in a plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge for the terrorist organization. But his arrest, indictment and, ultimately, his plea bargain with the Justice Department proceeded in absolute secrecy.

Faris’ case may have remained a secret were it not for two Newsweek reporters, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, who discovered through intelligence documents that Faris was suspected of working for key al Qaida operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. In a June 18, 2003 article, the reporters speculated whether Faris was on the run, had disappeared or had been captured. For individuals such as Faris, there is “a new category that seems to be evolving outside the orbit of the criminal-justice system,” the Newsweek reporters wrote.

Only after Newsweek reported on Faris did Attorney General John Ashcroft reveal that Faris had pleaded guilty to terrorist charges more than a month earlier. The Justice Department denied that the Newsweek story had anything to do with Ashcoft’s June 19 press conference in which he first announced the capture of Faris and his plea agreement.

“Our need to keep it secret had dissipated,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesperson for the Justice Department.

The Justice Department will not divulge how many other individuals are being held in secret on terrorism charges. “We have been very consistent in not discussing exact numbers,” Corallo said. “Even though it seems like innocuous information, it is not.”

Corallo claimed that providing numbers of individuals arrested on terrorism charges would “give a road map to the terrorists.” Terrorist organizations could determine how many terrorists the Justice Department has captured and monitor the government’s progress, he explained.

But the government never has explained how a terrorist operative could be in U.S. control for months and why the terrorist organization with which he is allegedly involved could not determine that its operative was missing, said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

This debate raises the question: Is such secrecy really needed to protect national security or is it being used to protect the government from scrutiny?

It was only through a court clerk’s mistake that the Miami Daily Business Review discovered the case of Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel, who apparently filed suit in a federal court in Florida against Monica S. Wetzel, a former warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in South Miami-Dade County.

According to the Business Review, Bellahouel “was once mistakenly suspected of involvement with terrorists” and appears to have filed a petition seeking freedom from unlawful imprisonment.However, the public docket will not reveal that Bellahouel’s case even exists or why his case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta (11th Cir.).

While no one knows how many cases such as Bellahouel’s exist, secret dockets are not limited to cases involving terrorism.

Secret crimes

Attorneys for alleged Columbian drug trafficker Fabio Ochoa-Vasquez discovered an entire system of “dual docketing” in U.S. District Court in Florida that deprived them of information for their client’s defense.

Ochoa alleges that a government informant bribed him and that for $30 million he would receive no more than a five-year sentence. Ochoa also alleges that another government informant told him that a U.S. program existed in which drug traffickers could pay their way to a reduced sentence and that two traffickers, Nicholas Bergonzoli and Julio Correa, had already participated in the program.

Even though Bergonzoli pleaded guilty to importing cocaine and an attorney acknowledged representing Correa in “a cooperation agreement with the government,” the Florida federal court docket does not reflect that these cases even exist, according to attorneys for Ochoa, who in May 2003 filed a brief requesting the elimination of the “dual docketing” system and disclosure of sealed proceedings to the Eleventh Circuit.

Not only does this type of secrecy deprive Ochoa of his due process rights, it is a violation of the First Amendment and common law rights of access to judicial proceedings, Ochoa’s attorneys argued.

The use of secret dockets by the federal Southern District of Florida conflicts with a decision issued by the Eleventh Circuit ten years earlier in United States v. Valenti. In that case, the government charged criminal defense attorney Charles Corces and state prosecutor John Valenti with conspiring to obtain favorable treatment for criminal defendants who paid Valenti. After the two were indicted, the state dismissed the case; however, a secret docket prevented the public from learning about closed pretrial bench conferences and the filing of in-camera pretrial motions. A reporter from the St. Petersburg Times learned about the secret docket when he observed a closed-bench conference and sought access to the transcripts.

On appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, the court held that the “maintenance of a public and a sealed docket is inconsistent with affording the various interests of the public and the press meaningful access to criminal proceedings.”

According to Ochoa’s attorneys, this holding “is consistent with every circuit that has decided a similar question.”

However, while the law disfavors secret dockets, they are still used by federal and state courts to hide sealed cases. When an entire case is sealed, rather than individual documents, federal courts either remove the case from the public docket or replace the parties’ names with anonymous pseudonyms such as “Sealed v. Sealed.” At least 46 U.S. district courts across the country allow for these types of secret docketing procedures. Such a system makes it virtually impossible for the public and press to know what types of cases are being sealed or to challenge the constitutionality of the sealing orders.

– See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/secret-justice-secret-dockets/discovering-secret-dockets#sthash.bqBpqkb9.dpuf

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/05/quantum-mechanics-israeli-totalitarianism-150507072609153.html

The quantum mechanics of Israeli totalitarianism

To understand how it feels to be a Palestinian, you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist.

Mark LeVine, Al Jazeera, 7 May 2015

With the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu easily the most ultranationalist and conservative government in Israel’s history, even the most cockeyed optimist would shrink from imagining that Oslo can still be revived, if only the right treatment were concocted.

The problem today is not that anyone but the most self-interested Israeli, Palestinian or US officials still pretends that the peace process is functioning. Rather, it’s that hardly anyone in a position of power can explain precisely when, how and especially why it died. To do so requires moving far more deeply into the dynamics of the endlessly troubled peace process than most policy-makers or commentators are willing to delve, into what I term the “quantum mechanics” underlying Oslo’s fatally flawed structures.

Israel has long claimed uniquely democratic credentials in a region besot with authoritarian regimes.

The unending occupation, the sheer chutzpah with which the Israeli government continues to expand its presence in the West Bank while sieging Gaza, the escalating protests by minorities inside the country’s 1967 borders, and the composition of the new government, all put the lie to such claims today.

Matrix of control

What’s still poorly understood by most non-Palestinians is just how deep the level of control has long been. Even if you’ve spent decades travelling through the West Bank and Gaza, the intensity of that control remains hard to grasp.

As I walked through the Jordan Valley last month near the front-line village of Fasayel, I began to understand how one reason why it’s been so difficult to explain the intensity and all-encompassing scope of Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Territories is that even its critics don’t use strong enough language to describe it.

Israel is not just an “occupier” or a “coloniser”. However democratic it may (or may not) be inside its 1967 borders, in the Occupied Territories Israel’s rule is nothing short of totalitarian.

In calling Israeli rule totalitarian, I am not arguing that the government mimics the worst policies of thought control and ideological purism practised by the 20th century’s Fascist and Communist states such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Maoist China (although Israel’s constant harassment and imprisonment of Palestinian activists does reflect a desire to control how Palestinians think and act, at least publicly).

Rather, I’m talking about a much deeper level of control, at what can only be described as the quantum level of Palestinian daily life.

To understand how it feels to live as a Palestinian today you need to think like a particle physicist, not a social scientist. Moving through the space of Israel/Palestine involves negotiating a host of forces that the average Palestinian has about as much control over as the average electron or proton does of the nuclear and quantum forces determining its path. And it’s through this near total control of the space that Israel is able, in George Orwell’s description of totalitarianism, to “control the past as well as the future”.

Israeli geographer Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) coined the “matrix of control” to describe these forces. The name evokes numerous overlapping layers of control, including the physical infrastructure of settlements and their security corridors and zones, bypass roads, closed military areas and even “nature reserves”. The matrix also includes the bureaucratic and legal/planning levels, and the use of large-scale violence and imprisonment to control people’s behaviour and movement.

With its matrix of control, Israel has achieved an unparalleled and uniquely successful synergy of “bio” and “necro”-politics, controlling life and death at most every scale of Palestinian existence. The matrix is continuously adjusted with as much care as Israel has adjusted the caloric intake of Gazans during its periodic intensifications of the Gazan siege.

Three, four and five dimensions

A look at the group of detailed maps created by ICAHD reveals upwards of two dozen parameters of control that can intersect at any given coordinate on the map. But the map is only a two dimensional representation of a multidimensional and multi-levelled reality. It’s not just various forces meeting on the ground. When you’re walking through the 97 percent of the West Bank that is in Areas B or C and thus under Israel security control, you realise that the matrix extends both under the ground you’re walking on and above your head.

Below ground, Israel controls all the water resources in the West Bank, and for 50 years has systematically taken most every possible well, stream, aquifer or other water source from Palestinians (in direct violation of international law, it must be remembered).

It also controls the airspace above Palestinians’ heads, as the constant buzz of Israeli fighter jets training overhead in the Jordan Valley, and the ubiquitous presence of drones and helicopters almost everywhere at any time, and the prohibitions on building new floors on existing structures makes clear.

In whatever direction Palestinians look or want to step or reach – left or right, forwards or backwards, above or below them – the land, air and water surrounding them is largely outside their permanent control.

Blink of an eye

But it is not just that most of their territory is out of Palestinian hands. The quantum physics of Israel’s matrix of control also has its own Heisenberg, or uncertainty principle.

In quantum mechanics this principle asserts that it is impossible to know with precision the exact state of a particle because the very act of observing it changes its state. In the same way, merely by changing their location Palestinians change the state of territory upon which they are moving.

On the one hand, despite the rockiness of the landscape, the geography of the West Bank can be among the most liquid on earth. It changes as one moves through it, depending on who you are – Jew or Palestinian, settler or refusnik, soldier or international. Spaces that seems open and free can suddenly be surrounded by military forces and closed off, declared off limits for any length of time for a variety of reasons merely because Palestinians moved into and through it or used it for grazing, water, or other normal activities.

Moreover, their very movement through the geography can change it not just for a moment, but permanently. At the same time, the uncertainty principle can also operate with a time lag. If Palestinians decide to walk through a Jordan Valley village, for example, or to plant trees on their land in the hills around Hebron or Jenin, it’s not at all uncommon for the Israeli military to issue demolition or confiscation orders a few days later.

In particular, the movement of Jews has an even more profound effect than Palestinians especially when establishing an outpost or settlement. Once land is claimed even on the flimsiest of pretexts the military usually moves in and declares a still larger area a security zone, making it impossible for Palestinians to access the land for months, years or even decades.

And so, it seems that land in Palestine can change states from liquid to solid almost instantly, freezing in place whatever Israel decides it wants frozen, from people to legal categories. The quantum physics of Palestinian geography can thus produce permanent changes not just in the three normal dimensions of space, but in the conflict’s “fourth dimension” as well, namely time.

But however many dimensions one considers, the goal remains the same: to achieve, in the words of the Palestinian-Israeli hip-hop group DAM, “Maximum Jews on maximum land; minimum Arabs on minimum land.”

Neoliberal policies

There is even a fifth, economic dimension in which the physics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict operates. The neoliberal policies imposed on the Occupied Territories under Oslo have ensured that when Palestinians aren’t being displaced by Israeli settlers or bombs, they are fixed in place as objects of development, whose economic life is confined to small spaces that remain largely under Israeli control. The possibility of their becoming subjects able to shape their own destinies is, it seems, outside the laws of physics operating in the Holy Land.

It is the changeling nature of the political, physical and economic geographies of the Israeli-controlled Occupied Territories that has made it so difficult for Palestinians and their supporters internationally (including in Israel) to develop effective strategies of resistance, nevermind transcending the occupation.

With Oslo’s final demise, Palestinians don’t just need new strategies for resisting an occupation without end; what’s needed is an entirely new physics as well.

Indeed, it has long been argued that Palestinians are still waiting for their Ghandi. It might well turn out that to overcome decades of totalitarian Israeli rule, a long-dead peace process, and ineptitude, corruption and authoritarianism internally, Einstein would be a far more useful figure.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
 
Source: Al Jazeera

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba: First “truth commission” in Israel

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-12-14/israelis-rattled-by-search-for-truth-about-the-nakba/

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba
14 December 2014

‘truth commission’ avoids issue of reconciliation as veteran Israeli fighters due to confess to 1948 war crimesMiddle East Eye – 9 December 2014

The first-ever “truth commission” in Israel, to be held on Wednesday, will feature confessions from veteran Israeli fighters of the 1948 war who are expected to admit to perpetrating war crimes as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

The commission is the culmination of more than decade of antagonistic confrontations between a small group of activists called Zochrot, the Hebrew word for Remembering, and the Israeli authorities as well as much of the Jewish public.

Founded in 2002, Zochrot is dedicated to educating Israeli Jews about what Palestinians call the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, referring to Israel’s creation on the ruins of their homeland more than six decades ago. The group also campaigns for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, probably the biggest taboo in Israeli society.

The commission, which has no official standing, could be the first of several such events around Israel, to investigate atrocities and war crimes committed in different localities, said Liat Rosenberg, Zochrot’s director.

“We have looked to other such commissions around the world as models, most obviously in South Africa,” she said. “But unlike the one there, ours does not include the element of reconciliation because the conflict here has yet to be resolved.

“We cannot talk about reconciliation when the Nakba is ongoing. We are still in a situation where there is apartheid, constant violations of human rights and 70 percent of the Palestinian community are refugees.”

The commission is likely to provoke outrage from the Israeli government, which passed the so-called Nakba Law in 2011 to try to make it harder to commemorate Palestinian suffering. The impact of the law is being widely felt. Just last month, the culture ministry vowed to block a government grant to a Tel Aviv cultural centre that hosted a Zochrot film festival on the Nakba.
Names kept secret

Rosenberg said Israeli veteran fighters and Palestinian witnesses participating in the truth commission had asked for their names to be kept secret until the hearings for fear that friends and family would put pressure on them to withdraw.

The commission is being held in the city of Beersheva, a once-Bedouin town that was ethnically cleansed in 1948 and is today the largest Jewish city in the Negev region in southern Israel.

Zochrot said it had chosen the city to host the first event event because forced expulsions of Bedouin from the Negev had taken place not only in 1948, but had continued on a large scale, out of view of observers, for many years afterwards.

The commission is the latest project by Zochrot that discredits a traditional Israeli narrative that some 750,000 Palestinians left under orders from Arab leaders and that Israel’s army acted only in self-defence. Such beliefs have fed into the common assumption from the Israeli public that Israel’s army is the “most moral in the world”.

“This is not just about researching the truth,” said Rosenberg. “The truth of the Nakba is to a large degree known, but the task is to expose the truth to the Israeli Jewish public – both so that it is forced to take responsibility for what happened and so there can be accountability.”

The commission is the direct result of a project launched by Zochrot two years ago to create an alternative archive of the Nakba, based on filmed testimonies from Palestinian refugees and Israeli veterans. Activists fear that, as the generation of refugees and fighters dies off, they will take their secrets to the grave.

Israeli military archives relating to the 1948 war began being opened to academics in the late 1980s. This led to a group of so-called “new historians” overturning the traditional accounts of that period and unearthing written evidence of massacres and ethnic cleansing operations for the first time.
Archives closed

However, historians have reported in recent years that the Israeli authorities have become more reluctant to open files and many of the more controversial episodes of the 1948 war are still unclear.

Rosenberg hopes the commission will begin to fill some of the gaps.

According to Rosenberg, three Israeli fighters and three Palestinian witnesses will testify before a panel of six commissioners. The commissioners will then question them further about events and make follow up recommendations.

The hearings are due to be streamed online.

One veteran of the fighting in the Negev, Amnon Neumann, has already gone on record in testimony that can be seen in Zochrot’s film archive.

He has said the Bedouin in the Negev – contrary to popular Israeli perception – put up almost no resistance to advancing Jewish forces because they lacked “a military capacity” and “had no weapons”. Nonetheless, he said, the Israeli army terrified the Bedouin villagers out of their homes by shooting either at them, or above their heads.

“We drove them out. Women and children went to Gaza. … By the morning there was nobody there. We burnt their houses,” Neumann said.

When villagers tried to sneak back to tend crops or vineyards under the cover of night, he recounted, the soldiers opened fire. “We would shoot and kill them. This was part of the horrible things we did.”

In other filmed testimony, Mordechai Bar-On, an officer in 1948 with the Givati Brigade, confirmed that orders were to shoot “infiltrators” – a reference to refugees who tried to return to their villages. “Even if there were women and children. I remember I told myself that we would do it. … There was an order to kill, not even catch them,” Bar-On said.

For the most part, the Israeli veterans are coming forward now out of a feeling of guilt.

“At that time I did not see anything wrong with what we were doing,” Neumann said. “If I was told to do things that I do not want to mention [here], I did them with no doubts at all. … Not now. It is already 50, 60 years that I am filled with regret.”

But challenges remain, and despite veterans coming forward, piecing together events can still be difficult.

Rosenberg said many of those giving filmed testimony, including Neumann, have been reluctant to go into details of the war crimes they participated in. It is now hoped that the questioning by the commissioners will encourage participants to be even more forthcoming.
Put on trucks to Gaza

The commission will also move beyond the 1948 period and examine expulsions in the semi-desert Negev region, comprising nearly two-thirds of Israel’s landmass, for the 12 years following the war.

Isolated from the rest of the new state of Israel, the Negev was largely unmonitored as the Israeli military carried out expulsions of Bedouin throughout the 1950s, said Raneen Jeries, a Zochrot organiser.

More than 2,000 Palestinian inhabitants of al-Majdal, which later became the Jewish city of Ashkelon, were put on trucks and shipped to Gaza nearly two years after the war ended, according to Nur Masalha, a Palestinian historian and expert on Israeli “transfer” policies.

Jeries said the legacy of the events of 1948 was being felt to this day, with policies of expulsion continuing in the Negev and the occupied territories.

Haaretz reporter Amira Hass revealed three months ago that the Israeli military was planning to forcibly relocate for a second time the Jahalin tribe. The tribe was driven out of the Negev in 1948 and fled to the safety of the West Bank, then under Jordanian control. However, Israel occupied the land after the 1967 war, and it seems that Israeli authorities now want to expel some 12,500 Jahalin tribes people, this time to a site near Jericho.

Zochrot had been successful in forcing Israelis to recognise the Nakba and a darker side to the 1948 war, said Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, where the truth commission is to be held.

“A decade ago, if I mentioned the Nakba in a class of 150 students, hardly any of them would have known what I meant. Now 80 or 90 per cent would know,” Gordon told MEE.

Gordon also attributed the change both to Zochrot’s activities and statements by Arab legislators representing Israel’s large Palestinian minority, comprising a fifth of the total population.
Law against commemoration

But as the issue of the Nakba has become more visible in Israel, sensitivity about it has only grown. Ahead of Nakba Day last May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the Palestinian Authority for commemorating the day, saying: “They are standing silent to mark the tragedy of the establishment of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.”

Palestinians were educating their children with “endless propaganda” calling for the disappearance of Israel, he said.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett went further, saying: “We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day.”

The government has backed up its rhetoric with legislation, passing a Nakba Law in 2011 that denies public funds to institutions and organisations that commemorate the Palestinians’ dispossession. The measure is partly seen as a reaction to Zochrot’s growing success.

The original legislation, which would have criminalised any commemoration of the Nakba – making many of Zochrot’s activities illegal – was water-downed after Israel came under strong international pressure.

In Zochrot’s early years, its main efforts were directed at escorting Israeli Jews and Palestinian refugees to some of the more than 500 Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 war. The villages were razed to prevent refugees from returning home.

The remnants of most of the villages are now barely traceable, hidden under forests planted by a charity called the Jewish National Fund or lost within gated communities in which only Jews can live.

Zochrot has continued such visits, placing signposts to remind the new Jewish inhabitants that their communities are built on the ruins of Palestinian homes, often belonging to neighbours living a short distance away. A large proportion of Israel’s Palestinian minority were internally displaced by the 1948 war and live close to their original homes but are barred from returning.
Backlash on campuses

Eitan Bronstein, who founded Zochrot, said the current challenge was how to change Israeli Jews’ perception of the Nakba.

“They now recognise the word but what does it mean to them? Many, it seems, think it is simply a negative label Palestinians have attached to Israel’s establishment. We have an Independence Day that they call their Nakba,” Bronstein said.

“We need to educate them about the events of the Nakba, what occurred and our responsibility for it. They have to stop thinking of it as just propaganda against Israel.”

The right wing, including the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has grown increasingly rattled by Zochrot’s agenda-setting programme of events.

The popularity of a far-right youth movement, Im Tirtzu, has grown rapidly on Israeli university campuses over the past few years, in part as a backlash to commemorations of the Nakba by Zochrot and Palestinian students.

Last month, when Zochrot held its second Nakba and Right of Return Film Festival in Tel Aviv, the culture minister, Limor Livnat, immediately threatened to pull a government grant worth more than $450,000 from the cinema that hosted it.

“The state cannot bear the cost of funding of an entity that encourages debate over what the Palestinians call ‘the right of return’,” Livnat said in a statement. She was reported to have based her decision on her reading of the Nakba Law.

“The antagonism towards Zochrot and the idea of the Nakba is part of the educational process,” said Bronstein. “It is a necessary phase Israel needs to pass through if we are to get to a point of reconciliation.”
Unfazed by threats

Bronstein and others have faced angry opposition from the Israeli public and police as they have tried to stage Nakba commemorations – most notably in Tel Aviv in 2012, when they were surrounded by riot police for four hours. Three Zochrot activists were arrested.

Yet Zochrot’s organisers, whose members include both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, seem largely unfazed by the threats and hostility their group generates.

Last year Zochrot arranged a conference that for the first time examined not just the principle of the right of return but practical ways to implement it.

This year the group launched a phone app, called iNakba, in three languages, which provides users with detailed maps and information on the destroyed villages.

Jeries said it had had thousands of downloads, giving Israelis for the first time the chance to peel away the subsequent layers of construction and forestation to see what was destroyed, often on their doorstep.

Tagged as: Bedouin, destroyed villages, Nakba
– See more at: http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-12-14/israelis-rattled-by-search-for-truth-about-the-nakba/#sthash.DPL33FIB.dpuf

Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2014/11/20/dutch-government-refuses-to-reveal-secret-deal-into-mh17-crash-probe.html

Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe
EDITOR’S CHOICE | 20.11.2014

The Dutch government has refused to reveal details of a secret pact between members of the Joint Investigation Team examining the downed Flight MH17. If the participants, including Ukraine, don’t want information to be released, it will be kept secret.

The respected Dutch publication Elsevier made a request to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement, along with 16 other documents. The JIT consists of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine – who are carrying out an investigation into the MH17 disaster, but not Malaysia. Malaysian Airlines, who operated the flight, has been criticized for flying through a war zone.

Part of the agreement between the four countries and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, ensures that all these parties have the right to secrecy. This means that if any of the countries involved believe that some of the evidence may be damaging to them, they have the right to keep this secret.

“Of course [it is] an incredible situation: how can Ukraine, one of the two suspected parties, ever be offered such an agreement?” Dutch citizen Jan Fluitketel wrote in the newspaper Malaysia Today.

Despite the air crash taking place on July 17 in Eastern Ukraine, very little information has been released about any potential causes. However, rather than give the public a little insight into the investigation, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice is more worried about saving face among the members of the investigation.

“I believe that this interest [international relations] is of greater importance than making the information public, as it is a unique investigation into an extremely serious event,” the Ministry added, according to Elsevier.

Other reasons given for the request being denied included protecting investigation techniques and tactics as well as naming the names of officials who are taking part in the investigation. The Ministry said it would be a breach of privacy if they were revealed. “If the information was to be released then sensitive information would be passed between states and organizations, which would perhaps they would be less likely to share such information in the future,” said the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, who is a member of the Christian Democratic Party, has made several requests for the information to be released to the public.

“We do not know what the Netherlands has committed itself to. The government neither published the agreement when we asked for it, nor did it show it to parliament,” he said in reaction to the ministry’s decision. “It is perfectly normal that the Netherlands cooperate with other countries in this complex investigation. Yet they even kept the existence of the agreement secret a first and that was unnecessary.”

Journalists walk behind parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive near at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine on November 11, 2014 (AFP Photo)

Malaysia is the only country to have directly negotiated with the anti-Kiev militias in the East of Ukraine, while the country’s Ambassador to the Netherlands said he was unhappy that Malaysia had not been included within the JIT. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Kuala Lumpur on November 5, but Malaysia says it still did not receive an invitation to join.
“We must first be included in the JIT, otherwise it would be hard for us to cooperate in the investigation. The parties inside the investigation must include us in the team, right now we are just a participant,” said the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was reported by the New Straits Times.
A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, which was released September said the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.
Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”
RT

Israeli blood-hounds try to muzzle Palestinian MP

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-moves-outlaw-palestinian-political-parties-knesset/13998

Israel moves to outlaw Palestinian political parties in the Knesset
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, Nazareth
4 November 2014

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement.”

It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”

“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.

But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.

In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.

Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

Death threats

Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.

In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.

Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.

During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”

Under attack

Zoabi, who has come to personify an unofficial political opposition in the Knesset against all the main parties, is under attack on several fronts.

Last week she was informed that the state prosecution service had approved a police recommendation to put her on trial for criminal incitement for “humiliating” two policemen.

She is alleged to have referred to the policemen, who are members of the Palestinian minority, as “collaborators” as she addressed parents of children swept up in mass arrests following protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza over the summer.

Faina Kirschenbaum, the deputy interior minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has also drafted two bills directly targeting Zoabi.

The first would strip someone of the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism,” while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Because ministers are not allowed to initiate private bills, the task of bringing the measures to the floor of the parliament has been taken up by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.

Intentional subversions

Zoabi further infuriated fellow members of Knesset this month when she compared the Israeli army to the Islamic State, the jihadist group that has violently taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for kidnapping westerners and beheading them.

In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”

“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.

A poll this month found that 85 percent of the Israeli Jewish public wanted Zoabi removed from the Knesset.

“There is a great deal of frustration among Israeli politicians and the public at their army’s failure to defeat the Palestinian resistance in Gaza,” said Awad Abdel Fattah, the secretary general of Balad, a political party representing Palestinians in Israel. “At times like this, the atmosphere of repression intensifies domestically.”

Silencing all political dissent

The initiatives against Zoabi are the most visible aspects of a wider campaign to silence all political dissent from the Palestinian minority.

Last week, Lieberman instructed one of his members of Knesset, Alex Miller, to initiate a bill that would outlaw Salah’s Islamic Movement.

The legislation appears to be designed to hold Netanyahu to his word from late May. Then, the Israeli media revealed that the prime minister had created a ministerial team to consider ways to ban the movement.

At the same time, the Israeli security services claimed that Salah’s faction was cooperating closely with Hamas in Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger,” he has taken a leading role in warning that Israel is incrementally taking control of the most sensitive holy site in the conflict.

Last month it emerged that the Knesset is to vote on legislation to give Jewish religious extremists greater access to the mosque compound. Already large numbers of Jews, many of them settlers, regularly venture on to esplanade backed by armed Israeli police.

They include Jewish extremists that expressly want to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque so that a replica of a Jewish temple from 2,000 years ago can be built in its place.

Last week, Yehuda Glick, a leader of one of these extremist groups, was shot and wounded in Jerusalem. In response, Israel shut down al-Aqsa for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada fourteen years ago. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, called it a “declaration of war.”

According to the text of Lieberman’s bill, the northern wing of the Islamic Movement “subverts the State of Israel’s sovereignty while making cynical use of the institutions and fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic state.”

It also blames the movement for “an eruption of violence and unrest among the Arab minority in Israel, while maintaining close relations with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Raising the threshold

The attacks on Zoabi and the Islamic Movement come in the wake of legislation in March to raise the electoral threshold — from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — for a party to win representation in the Knesset.

The new threshold is widely seen as having been set to exclude the three Palestinian parties currently in the Knesset from representation. The minority’s vote is split almost evenly between three political streams.

Zoabi’s Balad party emphasizes the need for the Palestinian minority to build its own national institutions, especially in education and culture, to withstand the efforts of Israel’s Zionist institutions to strip Palestinian citizens of their rights and erase their identity. Its chief demand has been for “a state for all its citizens” — equal rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

Balad’s chief rival is the joint Jewish-Arab party of Hadash, whose Communist ideology puts a premium on a shared program of action between Jewish and Arab citizens. However, its Jewish supporters have shrunk to a tiny proportion of the party. It too campaigns for equal rights.

And the final party, Raam-Taal, is a coalition led by prominent Islamic politicians.

The three parties have between them eleven seats in the 120-member Knesset, with one held by a Jewish member of Knesset, Dov Chenin, for Hadash.

Abdel Fattah said his Balad party had been urging the other parties to create a coalition in time for the next general election to overcome the new threshold.

So far it has faced opposition from Hadash, which is worried that an alliance with Balad would damage its image as a joint Jewish-Arab party. A source in Hadash told Israeli daily Haaretz in late September: “Hadash is not an Arab party, and there’s no reason it should unite with two Arab parties.”

Abdel Fattah said Hadash’s objections were unreasonable given that both Balad and the Islamic faction believed it was important to include Jewish candidates on a unified list. “Eventually they will have to come round to a joint list unless they want to commit political suicide,” he remarked.

Falling turnout

Balad has been under threat at previous general elections. The Central Elections Committee, a body representing the major political parties, has repeatedly voted to ban it from running. Each time the decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007 the party’s former chairman, Azmi Bishara, was accused of treason while traveling abroad and has been living in exile ever since.

But the representation of all the parties is now in danger from the raised threshold. Over the past thirty years, turnout among Palestinian citizens has dramatically fallen to little more than half of potential voters, as the minority has seen its political demands for equality greeted with a wave of laws entrenching discrimination.

Among the anti-democratic measures passed in recent years are laws that penalize organizations commemorating the Nakba, the Palestinians’ dispossession of their homeland in 1948; that provide a statutory basis to admissions committees, whose function is to prevent Palestinian citizens living on most of Israel’s territory; and that make it impossible for most Palestinian citizens to bring a Palestinian spouse to live with them in Israel.

Uncompromising stance

Last week, Balad MKs boycotted the opening ceremony of the Knesset, following the summer recess, in protest at Zoabi’s treatment.

At a press conference in the parliament, her colleague, Basel Ghattas, warned: “The day is approaching when Arab MKs will think there is no use participating in the political sphere. We are discovering more and more that we are personae non gratae at the Knesset.”

On Facebook, Lieberman responded that he hoped the Arab MKs would “carry out this ‘threat’ as soon as possible.”

The increasingly uncompromising stance towards all the Palestinian minority’s political factions marks a shift in policy, even for the right.

Although no Israeli government coalition has ever included a Palestinian party, and the Nasserist al-Ard movement was banned in the 1960s, Jewish politicians have generally viewed it as safer to keep the Palestinian parties inside the Knesset.

Analyst Uzi Baram observed in Haaretz that even Menachem Begin, a former hardline prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, believed it would be unwise to raise the threshold to keep out Arab parties. If they were excluded, Baram wrote, it was feared “they would resort to non-parliamentary actions.”

“Paving the way toward fascism”

Zoabi petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against her suspension from the Knesset in early October. However, the judges suggested she first use an arcane appeal procedure before the Knesset’s full plenum to demonstrate she had exhausted all available channels for lifting the suspension.

Israeli legal scholars have noted the irregularities in the ethics committee’s decision to impose a record-long suspension on Zoabi. The committee’s task is to regulate parliament members’ behavior inside the Knesset, not political speech outside it.

Aeyal Gross, a constitutional law professor at Tel Aviv University, warned that the Knesset’s treatment of Zoabi was “paving the way towards fascism and tyranny.”

Gross noted the extreme severity of the committee’s punishment of Zoabi, contrasting it with that of another MK, Aryeh Eldad. In 2008 he called for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister at the time, to be sentenced to death for suggesting that parts of the occupied territories become a Palestinian state.

Eldad was suspended for just one day, even though it was a clear example of incitement to violence in a country where a former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by a right-wing extremist, citing similar justification for his actions.

Tyranny of the majority

The Supreme Court, which has shifted rightwards in recent years, may not be sympathetic to Zoabi’s appeal against her suspension.

In September the court jailed Said Nafaa, a former MK from her Balad party, for one year after he was convicted of visiting Syria in 2007 with a delegation of Druze clerics and meeting a Palestinian faction leader in Syria.

The crime of making contact with a foreign agent is the only one in Israeli law in which the defendant must prove their innocence.

The court may also be wary of making unpopular rulings at a time when it is under concerted attack from the Israeli right for being too liberal.

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.

Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”


Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is jonathan-cook.net.

Book Review of Michael Scheuer’s “Osama bin Laden”

Book Review of Michael Scheuer’s “Osama bin Laden”

By Elias Davidsson, November 5, 2013

A book distinguishing itself by significant omissions 

The author omits:

  • The absence of a definite accusation by the US government against bin Laden regarding his responsibility for 9/11 (even President Bush only qualified bin Laden as a “suspect”)
  • The admission of the FBI to journalist Ed Haas in June 2006 to possess no hard evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11
  • The absence of an evaluation of bin Laden’s controversial videos (which the FBI has not considered as evidence)
  • The absence of a theological or textual analysis of bin Laden’s fatwas of 1996 and 1998
  • The absence of an explanation for the consistent failure by the US to find and detain or kill bin Laden, from 1996 to 2011
  • The reported offer by Sudan to extradite Osama bin Ladn (OBL) for trial (rejected by the US)
  • The reported offer by the Taliban to extradite OBL for trial (rejected by the US)
  • The reported meeting between OBL and a CIA employee in the hospital in Dubai, August 2001
  • The failure of the US to destroy the numerous “terrorist camps” run by bin Laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • The collaboration between the British MI6 and Al Qaeda to murder Libyan President Gaddafi
  • The issuance by the Libyan authorities of an international arrest warrant against OBL
  • The role of MI6 and the CIA in moving Al Qaeda fighters to Bosnia and Kosovo
  • The role of the CIA in providing U.S. visas to Arab militants at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) in the 1980s, for terrorist training in the United States (as reported by the chief of the visa section, Michael Springmann)
  • The omission, when discussing the WTC bombing of 1993, of mentioning the role of the FBI and Emad Salem in the bombing. See War on Truth p. 37-8
  • The omission of the role of Ali Mohamed, an important link between the FBI and CIA and Osama bin Laden. See: Triple Cross: How bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI
  • The fact that Al Qaeda has rarely, if ever, attacked Israeli or Jewish facilities (the author claims that a central issue for bin Laden was the liberation of Palestine from Zionist/Israeli occupation).These numerous omissions cannot be attributed to oversight or forgetfulness. It follows that the book is tendencious and deliberately deceptive. It was, in my opinion, a serious mistake by Oxford University Press to publish this book.

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/palestinian-children-tortured-used-as-shields-israel-un_n_3471009.html

Palestinian Children Tortured, Used As Shields By Israel, UN Says

06/20/2013
By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 20 (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights body accused Israeli forces on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had responded to a report by the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in March on ill-treatment of Palestinian minors and questioned whether the U.N. committee’s investigation covered new ground.

“If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Kirsten Sandberg, a Norwegian expert who chairs the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, said the report was based on facts, not on the political opinions of its members.

“We look at what violations of children’s rights are going on within Israeli jurisdiction,” she told Reuters.

She said Israel did not acknowledge that it had jurisdiction in the occupied territories, but the committee believed it does, meaning it has a responsibility to comply with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report by its 18 independent experts acknowledged Israel’s national security concerns and noted that children on both sides of the conflict continue to be killed and wounded, but that more casualties are Palestinian.

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of throwing stones, which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said.

The watchdog examined Israel’s record of compliance with the children’s rights convention as part of its regular review of the pact from 1990 signed by 193 countries, including Israel. An Israeli delegation attended the session.

The U.N. committee regretted what it called Israel’s persistent refusal to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.

“DISPROPORTIONATE”

“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of (Israeli) military operations, especially in Gaza,” the report said.

Israel battled a Palestinian uprising during part of the 10-year period examined by the committee.

It withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but still blockades the Hamas-run enclave, from where Palestinian militants have sometimes fired rockets into Israel.

During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the U.N. report said.

Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.

Almost all had remained unpunished or had received lenient sentences, according to the report.

Sandberg, asked about Israeli use of human shields, said: “It has been done more than they would recognise during the dialogue. They say if it happens it is sanctioned. We say it is not harsh enough.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem; editing by Alistair Lyon and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge

http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18732/racism-is-the-foundation-of-israels-operation-prot

Racism is the Foundation of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
Jul 30 2014, by Joel Beinin

On 30 June Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the Knesset faction of the ultra-right wing ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, a key member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, posted on her Facebook page a previously unpublished article written by the late Uri Elitzur. Elitzur, a pro-settler journalist and former chief-of-staff to Netanyahu, wrote:

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Shaked’s post appeared the day the bodies of three abducted settler teens­—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach—were discovered. It has since received more than 5,200 “likes.”

For over two weeks, Netanyahu and the media whipped the country into a hysterical state, accusing Hamas of responsibility for abducting the teens without providing evidence to support the claim and promoting hopes that they would be found alive, although the government knew that the boys were likely murdered within minutes of their abduction. Their deaths provided a pretext for more violent expressions of Israeli anti-Arab racism than ever before.

The viciousness of Mordechai Kedar, lecturer in Arabic literature at Bar Ilan University, was even more creative than Shaked and Elitzur’s merely genocidal proposal. “The only thing that can deter terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them,” he said, “is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” As a university-based “expert,” Kedar’s heinous suggestion is based on his “understanding” of Arab culture. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” he explained, hastening to add, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts.”

Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem “normal.” The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as “enlightened” and “democratic” to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip—1.8 million people, mostly descendants of refugees who arrived during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and have been, to a greater or lesser extent, imprisoned since 1994.

Conciliatory gestures, on the other hand, are scorned. Just two days after Shaked’s Facebook post, Orthodox Jews kidnapped sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from the Shu‘afat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and burned him alive in the Jerusalem Forest. Amir Peretz (Hatnua) was the only government minister to visit the grieving family. For this effort he received dozens of posts on his Facebook page threatening to kill him and his family. Meanwhile, vandals twice destroyed memorials erected to Abu Khdeir on the spot of his immolation.

The international community typically sees the manifestations of Israel’s violent racism only when they erupt as assaults on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Lebanon. But Israel’s increasingly poisonous anti-Arab and anti-Muslim public culture prepares the ground of domestic public opinion long before any military operation and immunizes the army from most criticism of its “excesses.” Moreover, Israeli anti-democratic and racist sentiment is increasingly directed against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of the population.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Is Our Home) Party made his political reputation on the slogan “No Loyalty, No Citizenship”—a demand that Palestinian Israelis swear loyalty oaths as a condition of retaining their citizenship. Since 2004 Lieberman has also advocated “transferring” Palestinian-Israelis residing in the Triangle region to a future Palestinian state, while annexing most West Bank settlements to Israel. In November 2011 Haaretz published a partial list of ten “loyalty-citizenship” bills in various stages of legislation designed to “determine certain citizens’ rights according to their ‘loyalty’ to the state.”

While Lieberman and other MKs pursue legal channels to legally undermine the citizenship of Palestinian-Israelis, their civil rights are already in serious danger. In 2010 eighteen local rabbis warned that the Galilee town of Safed faced an “Arab takeover” and instructed Jewish residents to inform on and boycott Jews who sold or rented dwellings to Arabs. In addition to promoting segregated housing, Safed’s Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, tried to ban Arab students from attending Safed Academic College (about 1,300 Palestinian-Israelis are enrolled, some of whom live in Safed). The rabbinical statement incited rampages by religious Jews chanting “Death to the Arabs,” leading Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to dub Safed “the most racist city” in Israel. In Karmiel and Upper Nazareth—towns established as part of Israel’s campaign to “Judaize the Galilee”—elected officials have led similar campaigns.

Palestinian Israeli Knesset members receive regular verbal abuse from their Jewish “colleagues.” For example, Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Alliance), who participated in the 2010 Freedom Flotilla to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli naval commandos attacked, killing nine Turks (one of whom also held US citizenship), has been particularly targeted. In the verbal sparring over the murder of the three teens Foreign Minister Lieberman called her a “terrorist.” Not to be outdone, Miri Regev (Likud) said Zoabi should be “expelled to Gaza and stripped of her [Knesset] immunity.” Other Knesset members—some from putatively “liberal” parties—piled on. [Update: Yesterday—29 July—Hanin Zoabi was suspended from Knesset].

Violence against Arabs in and around Israeli-annexed “Greater Jerusalem” is particularly intense. Much of it is the work of Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Defense League, banned in Israel in 1994 and designated a terrorist organization by the FBI in 2001, and several similar groups regularly assault and harass Arabs. The day of the funeral of the three abducted teens, some two hundred Israelis rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” The previous evening, hardcore fans of the Betar Jerusalem football club, known as La Familia, rallied chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”  The same chant is frequently heard at games of the team, which is associated with the Likud and does not hire Arab players. Hate marches, beatings and shootings of Arabs, and destruction of their property, long common in the West Bank, have become regular events in Israel-proper in the last month.

The citizenship-loyalty bills, Safed’s designation as “the most racist city,” the attacks volleyed at Palestinian elected officials, and mob violence against Arabs all took place before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. The operation—more aggressively dubbed “Firm Cliff” in Hebrew—constitutes Israel’s third assault on the Gaza Strip since 2008. As of yesterday, 29 July, the Palestinian death toll in that operation has reached over 1,200, the great majority of them civilians. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also died. Israeli security officials sardonically call these operations “mowing the lawn” because well-informed observers know that Hamas cannot be uprooted and is capable of rebuilding its military capacity. There is no long-term strategy, except, as Gideon Levy put it, to kill Palestinians. Major General (res.) Oren Shachor elaborated, “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.” And what might deter Israel?

[This piece originally appeared in a special weeklong series on the Stanford University Press blog, and is reposted here in partnership with SUP blog. The entire ten-part series can be found on the SUP blog.]

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Human rights group B’Tselem will petition Israel’s supreme court after advert was deemed to be ‘politically controversial’
in Jerusale
The Guardian,
Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights organisation which listed the names of some of the scores of children killed in Gaza since the conflict began 17 days ago.

B’Tselem‘s appeal against the decision was rejected on Wednesday. It intends to petition Israel‘s supreme court on Sunday in an effort to get the ban overturned.

The IBA said the ad’s content was “politically controversial”. The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims’ names.

In its appeal, B’Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. “Is it controversial that the children [aren’t] alive? That they’re children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public’s knowledge.”

In a statement, the human rights group said: “So far more than 600 people have been killed in bombings in Gaza, more than 150 of them children. But apart from a brief report on the number of fatalities, the Israeli media refrains from covering them.” By Thursday morning, the death toll in Gaza had exceeded 700.

B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”

Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days, and more than 70,000 children had been forced to flee their homes. There has also been a spike in the number of premature births.

“The shocking number of children being killed, injured, or displaced in Gaza demands an unequivocal international response to stop the bloodshed,” Save the Children said. “Entire families are being wiped out in seconds as a result of the targeting of homes.”

Dr Yousif al Swaiti, director of al-Awda hospital, said: “We have witnessed many premature births as a result of the fear and psychological disorders caused by the military offensive. The number of cases of premature births per day has doubled, compared to the average daily rate before the escalation.”

Is media just another word for control?

http://johnpilger.com/articles/is-media-just-another-word-for-control

Is media just another word for control?

by John Pilger, 2 January 2014
 
A recent poll asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The answers they gave were shocking. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed. Scientific studies report that up to a million Iraqi men, women and children died in an inferno lit by the British government and its ally in Washington. That’s the equivalent of the genocide in Rwanda. And the carnage goes on. Relentlessly.
 
What this reveals is how we in Britain have been misled by those whose job is to keep the record straight. The American writer and academic Edward Herman calls this ‘normalising the unthinkable’. He describes two types of victims in the world of news: ‘worthy victims’ and ‘unworthy victims’. ‘Worthy victims’ are those who suffer at the hands of our enemies: the likes of Assad, Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein. ‘Worthy victims’ qualify for what we call ‘humanitarian intervention’. ‘Unworthy victims’ are those who get in the way of our punitive might and that of the ‘good dictators’ we employ. Saddam Hussein was once a ‘good dictator’ but he got uppity and disobedient and was relegated to ‘bad dictator’.
 
In Indonesia, General Suharto was a ‘good dictator’, regardless of his slaughter of perhaps a million people, aided by the governments of Britain and America. He also wiped out a third of the population of East Timor with the help of British fighter aircraft and British machine guns. Suharto was even welcomed to London by the Queen and when he died peacefully in his bed, he was lauded as enlightened, a moderniser, one of us. Unlike Saddam Hussein, he never got uppity.
 
When I travelled in Iraq in the 1990s, the two principal Moslem groups, the Shia and Sunni, had their differences but they lived side by side, even intermarried and regarded themselves with pride as Iraqis. There was no Al Qaida, there were no jihadists. We blew all that to bits in 2003 with ‘shock and awe’. And today Sunni and Shia are fighting each other right across the Middle East. This mass murder is being funded by the regime in Saudi Arabia which beheads people and discriminates against women. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. In 2010, Wikileaks released a cable sent to US embassies by the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She wrote this: “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, al Nusra and other terrorist groups… worldwide”. And yet the Saudis are our valued allies. They’re good dictators. The British royals visit them often. We sell them all the weapons they want.
 
I use the first person ‘we’ and ‘our’ in line with newsreaders and commentators who often say ‘we’, preferring not to distinguish between the criminal power of our governments and us, the public. We are all assumed to be part of a consensus: Tory and Labour, Obama’s White House too. When Nelson Mandela died, the BBC went straight to David Cameron, then to Obama. Cameron who went to South Africa during Mandela’s 25th year of imprisonment on a trip that was tantamount to support for the apartheid regime, and Obama who recently shed a tear in Mandela’s cell on Robben Island – he who presides over the cages of Guantanamo.
 
What were they really mourning about Mandela? Clearly not his extraordinary will to resist an oppressive system whose depravity the US and British governments backed year after year. Rather they were grateful for the crucial role Mandela had played in quelling an uprising in black South Africa against the injustice of white political and economic power. This was surely the only reason he was released. Today the same ruthless economic power is apartheid in another form, making South Africa the most unequal society on earth. Some call this “reconciliation”.
 
We all live in an information age – or so we tell each other as we caress our smart phones like rosary beads, heads down, checking, monitoring, tweeting. We’re wired; we’re on message; and the dominant theme of the message is ourselves. Identity is the zeitgeist. A lifetime ago in ‘Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley predicted this as the ultimate means of social control because it was voluntary, addictive and shrouded in illusions of personal freedom. Perhaps the truth is that we live not in an information age but a media age. Like the memory of Mandela, the media’s wondrous technology has been hijacked. From the BBC to CNN, the echo chamber is vast.
 
In his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, Harold Pinter spoke about a “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.” But, said Pinter, “it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
 
Pinter was referring to the systematic crimes of the United States and to an undeclared censorship by omission – that is, leaving out crucial information that might help us make sense of the world.
 
Today liberal democracy is being replaced by a system in which people are accountable to a corporate state – not the other way round as it should be. In Britain, the parliamentary parties are devoted to the same doctrine of care for the rich and struggle for the poor. This denial of real democracy is an historic shift. It’s why the courage of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange is such a threat to the powerful and unaccountable. And it’s an object lesson for those of us who are meant to keep the record straight. The great reporter Claud Cockburn put it well: “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied”.
 
Imagine if the lies of governments had been properly challenged and exposed as they secretly prepared to invade Iraq – perhaps a million people would be alive today.
 
This is a transcript of John Pilger’s contribution to a special edition of  BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, on 2 January 2014, guest-edited by the artist and musician Polly Harvey. You can listen to the above transcript here
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18spvWk1qko

Turkey shuts off YouTube after ‘Syria invasion plan’ leak

Turkey shuts off YouTube after ‘Syria invasion plan’ leak

http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/

RT.COM,  March 27, 2014

Access to YouTube has been cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria. Other social media have already been blocked ahead of tumultuous local elections.

The latest leaked audio recording, which reportedly led to the ban, appears to show top government officials discussing a potential attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

The tomb is in Syrian territory, but protected by Turkish soldiers.

On the tape, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is heard to say that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees any attack as an “opportunity” to increase Turkish presence in Syria, where it has staunchly supported the anti-Assad rebels. Security chief Hakan Fidan then goes one step further, and suggests staging a fake attack to give Turkey a casus belli to intervene in the conflict.

Turkish officials have recently vowed to protect the tomb as its “national soil.”

The Foreign Ministry in Ankara reacted to the tape by issuing a statement, calling the leak a “wretched attack” on national security. It also claims the tape was “partially manipulated.”

“These treacherous gangs are the enemies of our state and people. The perpetrators of this attack targeting the security of our state and people will be uncovered in the shortest time and will be handed over to justice to be given the heaviest penalty,” the ministry said.

A source inside the office of President Abdullah Gül, who has taken a softer line than Erdoğan over the series of government leaks, told Reuters that access to YouTube may be restored if the sensitive content is removed, even though the original video has been deleted.

Invoking national security and privacy concerns has been the government’s tactic in fighting off a stream of leaks showing top officials engaging in unsavory or downright illegal practices.

Erdoğan has also repeatedly claimed that most of the audio recordings are fakes. He labeled the latest audio revelation “villainous” during a stump speech in Diyabakir.

Twitter, another popular source for leaks, has already been shut down in Turkey since March 20, after a court order.

Since then, the California-based social network and organizations have fought in several courts to have the decision reversed, calling it “disproportionate and illegal.”

A court ruling in Ankara on Wednesday supported the appeal, but the country’s regulator has a month to unblock Twitter, leading to speculation that any such move would only take place after the election.

The incumbent party also enjoys the benefit of robust privacy legislation passed last month, which makes it easy to cut off any website even before any violation has been legally proven.

The US has led the chorus of international condemnation, calling the government’s moves “censorship” tantamount to “21st century book-burning.”
OSCE slams YouTube ban

Turkey is deliberately ignoring the fundamental right of freedom of the press by blocking access to social media platforms, Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media stated.

“A regulator exercising censorship by blocking is unacceptable in democracies, and it breaches numerous OSCE and other international standards that Turkey has committed to,” Mijatović said.

The OSCE calls on Ankara to immediately restore access to YouTube and Twitter.

“I call on the authorities to preserve the free flow of information and media freedom both online and offline, and immediately restore access to YouTube. I also urge TIB to reinstate Twitter services without delay following yesterday’s court decision annulling the ban on the website,” added Mijatović.

http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/ (http://rt.com/news/turkey-block-youtube-twitter-649/)

Constructing the secret EU state: “Restricted” and “Limite” documents hidden from view by the Council

Constructing the secret EU state: “Restricted” and “Limite” documents hidden from view by the Council
http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-240-restricted-documents.pdf

– Over 117,000 “RESTRICTED” documents produced or handled by the Council since 2001 but only 13,184 are listed in its public register of documents

– 103,839 “RESTRICTED” documents not listed in the Council’s public register due to the “originators” right of veto?

– The Council seeks to stop the publication of unreleased “LIMITE” documents, which are defined as “sensitive unclassified documents”

– The Commission has failed to implement the Lisbon Treaty to ensure that all legislative documents are made public as they are produced  – this means that 60% of Council documents relating to legislative decision-making  are made public after “the final adoption” of measures

– The Council uses Article 4.3, the “space to think”, to refuse access to 50% of requests for access to legislative documents under discussion

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

“The Council have constructed a two-tier system of secrecy to keep from public view thousands and thousands of documents. This has been compounded by the failure of the European Commission to put forward proposals to implement the provision in the Lisbon Treaty to make all documents concerning the legislative procedure public.

In place of the need to deepen democratic openness and accountability in EU the Council has entrenched a system of secrecy based on its discretion to decide whether and when to make documents public.

The result is that the European legislature – the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament – meet in secret trilogues to decide over 80% of new laws going through the EU.”

The case of Muhammad Haidar Zammar



 

The case of Muhammad Haidar Zammar1

By Elias Davidsson (January 2014)

How German leaders conspired with the U.S. and Syria in covering-up a secret operation

1. Who is Zammar?

Muhammad Haidar Zammar (also written Mohammad or Mohammed Haydar) was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1961. He moved to Germany with his family when he was ten years old and became a German citizen in 1982. According to intelligence services, he participated in the war against the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces and in the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia, on the Bosnian side. According to these sources, Zammar decided in 1991 to dedicate himself fully to “jihad”, whatever that means.

2. Why is Zammar’s case relevant for understanding the conduct of Mohammed El Amir Atta?

The reason for examining thoroughly the case of Zammar, is that he reportedly claimed to have recruited Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the alleged suicide-pilots of 9/11,into the Al Qaeda network and induced them go to Afghanistan for military training.1While Zammar’s claims have not been confirmed independently, U.S. and German authorities have not denied these claims. According to unnamed U.S. investigators, Zammar is indeed believed to have recruited Mohamed Atta and his Hamburg group to become “suicide attackers”.2

Should that have been the case, the question would arise whether he acted on his own or as an operative for “higher-ups”. In the latter case, discovering the identity of these “higher-ups” would help explain the role played by Mohamed El Amir Atta and his friends, in relation to 9/11.

The present study demonstrates that Zammar was no marginal figure in relation to the group around Mohamed Atta; that the German government was aware of his key role long before 9/11; that it facilitated his departure from Germany after 9/11; and that it remains determined to hide the true function of Zammar.

3. Zammar was monitored by German intelligence long before 9/11

According to the German weekly Der Spiegel, unnamed officials said that Zammar, who obtained a German passport in 1982, had been already known to Germany’s Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) since the end of the 1980s as a militant Muslim and recruiter for “jihad”.3 According to diverse mainstream sources, German and U.S. intelligence services had Zammar under extensive observation at least since 19984, probably earlier.5They reportedly interceptedhis phone calls6, monitored his meetings7 and surveilled his movements.8 Information about the surveillance of Zammar “from the files of various German police and intelligence agencies”, was provided to the New York Times “by someone with official access to the files of the continuing investigation into the events leading to the Sept. 11 attacks.”9 German officials did not dispute the authenticity of these documents.

According to the German weekly Der Spiegel,10 the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten11 and a later Spiegel article12, Turkish authorities informed their German colleagues already in 1996 that Zammar had flown more than 40 times through Istanbul and Ankara on the way to, or back from war zones. This fact was withheld from the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (COI) and was not mentioned in the commission’s final report.Yet, such extensive travel by an unemployed person who depended on welfare payments, should have raised immediate alarms.

A German investigator, EKHK Kröschel, was asked by the Commission of Inquiry what was known to German intelligence about Zammar before 9/11. As part of his answer, he read from a dossier on Zammar from the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution (LfV), that predates 9/11:

“On the base of numerous information, Zammar is known to the Hamburg Office of the Protection of the Constitution as a follower of Osama bin Laden and is considered as belonging to the network of ‘Arab Afghans’. According to his own wish, Zammar underwent already in 1991 military training as a Mujahedeen in the use of infantry weapons and explosives in Pakistan and participated thereafter in combat in Afghanistan. He had presumably personal contact to Osama bin Laden, whom he admires.”

According to an unnamed investigator quoted by Der Spiegel, Zammar acted as a kind of “travel agency to Afghanistan.”Long before 9/11, it was suspected by German intelligence that Zammar organized military training for wanabee German “jihadists” in Bin Laden’s camps. According to Azam Irschid, deputy director of the Al-Muhadjirin mosque in Hamburg, Zammar was known within the Islamic community in Hamburg as a full-fledged apostle of “jihad”.13

According to Der Spiegel, the BfV tried to recruit Zammar in 1996 as an informant, an offer he supposedly declined: He was said not to serve Westerners, “only Allah and the jihad.”14He reportedly claimed to have been militarily trained in a “mujahedeen” camp already in 1991 and had got to know Bin Laden personally. Zammar, however, supposedly said that Al Qaeda considered him of little value.15 His statements cannot be independently verified. No open-source evidence exists regarding the period of surveillance, its extent, purpose and nature. There is, however, no plausible reason why mainstream media would fabricate evidence of Zammar’s surveillance by intelligence agencies, nor why such agencies would wish to promote Zammar’s bluster. In fact, when reports appeared about pre-9/11 surveillance of the Hamburg group in general and that of Zammar in particular, Germany’s intelligence agencies tried to downplay the significance of its surveillance. Yet, according to the German weekly STERN, German investigators informed the CIA about their surveillance of Zammar, suggesting thereby that they considered his activities sufficiently significant to report them to their U.S. colleagues.16

The name of Haydar Zammar did never appear in German media prior to 9/11. Public evidence of his existence appeared in German media only after he left Germany with the knowledge of the German authorities in the end of October 2001.

4.  What was the purpose of monitoring Zammar?

There is no public evidence that Zammar was questioned by German criminal investigators prior to 9/11. Had he been considered as a security threat – as later claimed by German authorities – they would have possessed at least five good reasons to invite him for questioning prior to 9/11: (1)Three Yemeni men, suspected of being members of Islamic Jihad, were arrested in Torino, Italy, on October 2, 1998, alleged to have prepared attacks on U.S. facilities in Europe. On their address list, Italian authorities found contacts of Mohamed Haydar Zammar;17 (2) The arrest of Al Qaeda suspect Mamduh Mahmud Salim in Munich in the fall of 1998, equally led to Zammar;18 (3) Zammar’s modest financial means (he was on welfare) were not commensurate with his extensive international travel of which intelligence agencies were aware; (4) After he was detained in Jordan in July 2001 and expelled from there to Germany, there existed ample grounds to debrief him;19 (5) other known “suspected extremists” or “Al Qaeda sympathizers” among Hamburg’s Muslims, monitored from as early as 1996,20 included the group around Mohamed Atta and were in permanent contact with Zammar.21If such questioning or debriefing did not take place, German intelligence and investigative authorities owe the public an explanation. Was it the result of gross negligence, or were they ordered to leave him alone? If such questioning or debriefing had taken place before 9/11, the question would arise why this fact is being suppressed and what did these interrogations reveal.

After mainstream media revealed the extensive surveillance of Zammar by German intelligence agencies prior to 9/11, German officials did not issue a denial but rather tried to downplay the significance and the extent of the surveillance. They claimed that Zammar was then not considered as an “extremist”; that “what we did not see, were concrete signs for such a violent act as occurred in New York”;22 that the surveillance had been a “routine operation,”23that intercepted phone calls did not allow to determine the identities of the later “9/11 terrorists” because callers used only first names;24 that at the time, German officials were not overly concerned of a threat emanating from Osama bin Laden25; and that nothing Zammar did was illegal at the time. As a “final proof” of Zammar’s benign intentions, Spiegel’s journalists presented the fact that he did not attempt to flee from Germany after 9/11.26

The above explanations revealed themselves later as contrived: According to Der Spiegel 45/2002, Zammar admitted in interrogations conducted in Syria, that he planned in 1998, together with several other “Islamists”, to carry out a bombing attack in Hamburg, Germany. He and his colleaguesreportedly surveilled the target to be bombed but ultimately found the attacks too risky to carry out because of security considerations. If he actually made this admission, it is surprising that nothing of these plans had transpired in the massive surveillance to which he was subjected. If his statement was the result of torture, the question arises why it was presented by Der Spiegel as a genuine admission.

5. Why was Zammar detained in Jordan in July 2001?

The German authorities reportedly knew that Zammar had been detained in July 2001 in Jordan for several days and expelled to Germany.27 He most probably was debriefed by German officials upon his return to Germany. It is, therefore, surprising that the German authorities did never mention such debriefing (or explained the lack thereof).The reasons for his detention in Jordan have never been clarified. Surprisingly, the 1460-page report by the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (COI), does neither mention Zammar’s detention in Jordan nor his alleged admission to have planned a terrorist attack in Hamburg.

6. Zammar was interrogated after 9/11 in Germany and released immediately

The German authorities interrogated Zammar already six days after 9/1128. He reportedly admitted to a German judge that he had previously distributed Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of War against the Americans” to Muslims in Germany.29 It was not clear why he was presented to a judge. According to Der Spiegel journalist Holger Stark, this was no mere interrogation but actually a “trial”, which was “not open to the public”.30 At the time he made the aforementioned admission, Osama bin Laden was already widely considered as the instigator of the 9/11 attacks. German officials knew after 9/11 that Zammar had in the past entertained “intensive contacts” with the alleged perpetrators of 9/11, i.e. to Atta, Alshehhi and Jarrah, as well as to the fugitive Ramzi Binalshibh.31 The authorities also knew that Zammar travelled extensively but had not the financial means to pay for his travel himself. The fact that Zammar was interrogated shortly after 9/11 was not reported at the time in German media. Yet, Der Spiegel was apparently informed of Zammar’s interrogation, for it interviewed Zammar four days later.32 But Der Spiegel mentioned its interview only in 2002. In its extensive report regarding the Hamburg group published on October 15, 2001, Der Spiegel did not mention Zammar at all.33 The contents of Der Spiegel’s interview with Zammar were never published.

It took four weeks after Zammar’s interrogation for Germany’s Attorney General’s Office to initiate a criminal investigation of Zammar as a suspected supporter of a terrorist organisation. The evidence prompting this criminal investigation included – in addition to what the authorities knew before 9/11 –incomplete and untrue statements made by Zammar to the judge on September 17, particularly about his contacts withthe alleged perpetrators of 9/11.34 It was revealed in 2007 that the investigation of Zammar, initiated in 2001, had not yet been closed.35

It was revealed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag, that merely hours after the 9/11 attacks, the decision was adopted by the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) to establish a special unit, entitled “Besondere Aufbauorganisation USA” (BAO USA) – a peculiar name given to that unit – whose role was to “take the appropriate measures regarding the investigations by the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the attacks of 9/11 and to ensure national and international obligations of informational cooperation.”36The unit employed at times more than 600 people37, and hosted at one time fifteen FBI agents.38 The then director of the Office of the Chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told to the Commission of Inquiry: “It was and remains for me entirely self-evident that we cooperate – within our law – with the USA.The USA together with our European partners are and remain allies, also and particularly in the struggle against international terrorism.”39

Manfred Klink, who headed in 2001 the BAO-USA task force, informed the Commission of Inquiry, that Zammar was considered at the time “a very dangerous islamist fundamentalist, who could be expected at any time to participate in plotting new terrorist attacks.”40 Due to the alleged dangerousness of Zammar, the Office of the Attorney General also instituted after 9/11 a covert and systematic observation of Zammar. On the base of this observation, German officials learned that Zammar had booked a flight to Morocco.The Attorney General kept Germany’s Chancellor’s Office informed about both the investigation and the surveillance.41 Germany’s leaders manifestly considered Zammar as a key player in a murky operation.

Yet, officials explained later that the evidence on Zammar they possessed was not sufficient for detaining him as a suspect.Transcripts of his interrogations by German officials have not been released to the public, though The New York Times somehow obtained a copy of one such transcript from which it selectively quoted certain phrases.42

7. Officials allowed Zammar to leave Germany while he was under investigation

Germany’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) was aware early on, that Zammar, while being investigated in relation to 9/11,planned to travel abroad, allegedly for personal reasons.On the base of surveillance, the OAG knew that Zammar inquired on October 17, 2001 about travel plans at the Hamburg airport.The OAG was also aware that on October 18, Zammar – claiming that he had lost his passport43 – attempted to obtain a temporary replacement passport, booked on October 24 a return flight from Hamburg to Casablanca and applied and obtained on that same day a temporary passport. The chief of the Customer Service Center at Hamburg North, Ms. Wolter, whose competence includes the issuance of passports, testified before the Commission of Inquiry that immediately after Zammar left the Center, a police officer came and told her that Zammar was under police observation. The officer wanted to know what Zammar was doing there.44

The authorities admit that they did not attempt to impede or at least delay Zammar’s travel, although he was under criminal investigation in relation to the mass-murder of 9/11. The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) was actually advised by the OAG that in the case of Zammar’s departure from Germany, he should not be arrested,45 suggesting thereby the need to override an existing injunction to ban Zammar’s departure from Germany.

According to Kay Nehm, who served in 2001 as Germany’s Attorney General, he claimed before the Commission of Inquiry, that the authorities possessed in 2001 no legal means to prevent Zammar’s departure from the country.46 His claim was endorsed by the former head of the German “FBI” (BKA), Dr. Ulrich Kersten.47 This claim was, however, rejected as ludicrous by members of the opposition.48 Mounir el-Motassadeq, for example, who in the fall of 2001 was also designated by German authorities as a suspect by virtue of his friendship with Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, was actually arrested and detained in order to prevent him from leaving Germany. Yet, in his case, no evidence existed at the time – or at any time later – of any connections between him and Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The differential treatment of Mounir el Motassadeq and Zammar suggests that German authorities were not truthful about their alleged inability to prevent or delay Zammar’s departure from Germany.

The President of the BfV (Germany’s domestic intelligence service), Heinz Fromm, asked by members of the Commission of Inquiry why the authorities let Zammar, a “dangerous suspect”, leave Germany, gave the curious answer that “when he is not here, he cannot do much damage.”49 It was not reported whether the Commission’s members sniggered.

According to the German newspaper Welt Online, Zammar left Germany for Morocco on October 27, 2001. His car was reportedly found abandoned in a [Hamburg] street.50

Dr. Hansjörg Geiger, who at the time served as the Chief of the Ministry of Justice, told the Commission of Inquiry that Kay Nehm informed him on October 25, 2001 of the impending departure of Zammar from Germany scheduled two days later.51 In parallel, the coordinator of the German BND (Federal intelligence service),, Ernst Uhrlau, informed the Office of the Chancellor on October 22 or 23 about Zammar’s plans to leave Germany.52 A discussion about Zammar’s impending departure from Germany took place on October 26, 2001 at the Office of the Chancellor.53 Such high level interest in the movements of Zammar and the reluctance to arrest him, suggests that he was as a key government asset.

Another person connected to the group surrounding Mohamed Atta, who was also under surveillance by German intelligence, was Sa’eed Bahaji. He also left Germany while under observation. An unidenfied official of the BfV, using the pseudonym Jürgen Lindweiler, testified in Mounir el Motassadeq’s trial in 2003, that border control officials had to notify the BfV, should Bahaji leave Germany. He was not to be arrested but his departure date had to be immediately notified to the BfV. Yet, when Bahaji left Germany, the system surprisingly failed because the BfV was not notified about his departure.54 Was Bahaji’s departure from Germany also facilitated by the authorities?

8. German officials informed Dutch, Moroccan and U.S. intelligence services in advance about Zammar’s travels

The German authorities informed on October 26, 2001, Dutch55, Moroccan56 and U.S. authorities57 about Zammar’s travel plans, flight numbers, etc., and requested that they check whether he actually carried out his flights.58 The Moroccan authorities were reportedly informed by their German counterparts that Zammar was under criminal investigation in Germany for allegedly supporting a terrorist organisation and that he was known to have had contact with the fugitives Bahaji, Binalshibh and Essebar, accused to have been indirectly involved in the mass-murder of 9/11.59 Mr. Kröschel, who testified before the Commission of Inquiry, claimed that the main reason for informing the Moroccan authorities of Zammar’s travel was to warn the Moroccans: “Beware, here comes someone who is suspected here to have had strong contacts with the perpetrators of 9/11! He is suspected and accused here to be a supporter. Beware!”60 On November 26, 2001, German officials transmitted to the FBI information about Zammar’s family circumstances, in addition to travel details.61 It is not known what was the purpose of providing such information to the FBI.

German officials claim that they could not have envisaged at the time that, should Zammar leave Germany, he might be abducted by U.S. officials and “rendered” to a third country.62 Yet, according to a report by the Special Expert of the European Council on U.S. renditions, Dick Marty, U.S. allies were informed at a secret meeting held at the fringe of the NATO Council, as early as on October 2, 2001, about the U.S.rendition practice.63 The European chief of the CIA, Tyler Drumheller, corroborated in an interview with the German weekly STERN of March 11, 2008, that European governments and intelligence services were aware of the renditions’ practice already in the fall of 2001.64 He emphasized that he knows both Ernst Uhrlau, the then President of the BND and Dr. Steinmeier, personally, whom he said he met in the Chancellor’s Office in the fall of 2001. According to him the Germans expressed their displeasure at the time about unilateral U.S. “renditions” of terrorists from European soil, carried out without the permission of the respective governments. The CIA had then, according to Drumheller, “promised to involve our allies in the operations.” German officials, including Uhrlau and Steinmeier, emphatically rejected Drumheller’s allegations. Uhrlau said he “does not remember” having met Drumheller in the fall of 2001 but remembers having met him in Russia during a conference in 2002.65 However, he denied to have discussed renditions with him. Dr. Steinmeier, for his part, denied to have ever known, let alone met, Mr. Drumheller.66 Due to the status of Tyler Drumheller,as the chief of CIA in Europe,it is difficult to take these denials at face value.

9. Zammar disappears

Zammar was supposed to return from Morocco to Germany on December 8th, 2001. However, he did not show up to his flight. He later, when he was in Syrian detention, told a German consular official that he had been arrested in Morocco on December 8th, 2001, held there for 23 days and moved to Syria in the beginning of 2002.67

On December 13, 2001, an official of the BKA, Mr. Calame, learned that Zammar had been arrested by the Moroccan authorities.68 Yet, upon requests for information, the Moroccan authorities lied repeatedly to their German counterparts about Zammar’s fate: First, they denied that Zammar entered Morocco on October 27, 2001.69 Then they told the Germans that Zammar had left Morocco on August 15, 2001, i.e.long before his current entry into Morocco (there was no evidence that Zammar had at all traveled to Morocco in August 2001).70 Zammar was then said to have left Morocco through Agadir airport.71 Another time, that he left for Spain.72 A third time that he was expelled to Spain.73 A fourth time that he left for an “unknown destination.”74 Although aware of Morocco’s lies regarding Zammar, German officials refrained from asking their Moroccan counterparts about the circumstances of Zammar’s arrest.75 German leaders – previously anxious to be informed about the movements of that particular individual – allegedly refrained to inquire about Zammar’s fate.76 On June 5, 2002 – five months after his “rendition” – the Moroccan authorities informed the BKA that Zammar was expelled to Spain on December 27, 2001 and was now in Syria.77

According to a Spiegel report of January 8, 2007, based on a memorandum from the German embassy in Washington, D.C., representatives of the State Department told German embassy officials that Germany “should not undertake steps against Morocco regarding Zammar because Morocco had acted expressly at the request of the United States.“78 Asked whether to his opinion Germany had been lied to by ”friendly partners”, Mr. Uhrlau admitted that this had been the case.79 He added that one cannot always expect from partners truthful answers to questions.80 Indeed, “friendly partners” are not necessarily true friends.

At this point, it might be useful to recall that Zammar was a German citizen who was at the time under investigation in Germany as a extremist Muslim with an Al Qaeda background, and a friend of the alleged perpetrators of 9/11.The officially displayed disinterest in seeking information about the fate of Zammar was therefore most likely contrived.

At no time then or thereafter, did German officials criticize Morocco for the arrest and the kidnapping of Zammar.Not in the least offended by Moroccan lies, a delegation of the BKA that comprised the vice-president of the agency, Bernard Falk, visited Morocco between April 8 and 12, 2002 in order to strengthen the cooperation between the BKA and the respective Moroccan agency.81 Between May 14 and 17, 2002, a delegation of the Moroccan DGST (the Moroccan secret services), visited the headquarters of the BKA in Meckenheim (Germany), to further develop intelligence cooperation.82 These meetings did not – according to testimonies before the Commission of Inquiry – yield information about the fate of Zammar.83 Officials of the DGST claimed they had no idea of hisfate.

10. Zammar was “rendered” by the CIA to Syria

In June 2002, it was reported for the first time that Zammar had been “rendered” by the CIA from Morocco to Syria after being detained by the Moroccan authorities. The exact circumstances of his transfer to Syria were not revealed. The Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag concluded in their final report that, in spite of questioning hundreds of witnesses, including high officials, it could not determine when and where Zammar was arrested and when and how he was transferred to Syria.84 Were German officials unable to obtain this information from Morocco and the U.S. or did they suppress their knowledge while testifying before a parliamentary commission?

Yet, three months earlier, in March 2002, a delegation of the BND visited Syria and was given a five-page “study” on Zammar. The “study” was not released to the Commission of Inquiry because its release would – so the German government – endanger Germany’s the state’s welfare (Staatswohl).85 One may be justified in asking what prompted the BND to travel to Syria in March 2002, and what prompted the Syrian government to hand such a “study” to the BND. According to a BKA memorandum of June 20, 2002, cited in the Commission’s report, the Zammar “study” contains “detailed information to his personal surroundings, in relation to his presence in Hamburg and his contacts there. The study also designates Zammar as a recruiter of the 9/11 perpetrators and their supporters who lived in Hamburg.”86 No further details of the “study” are included in the Commission’s report. German officials, interviewed by the Commission, purported not to know who compiled the Zammar” study” and on which basis it was compiled.

Another delegation, headed by the President of the BND, visited Syria on May 16/17, 2002 to further develop intelligence cooperation.87 This was followed by a week-long visit in Germany between July 6 to July 13, 2002, by a Syrian delegation headed by General Asef Shaukat, vice-chairman of Syria’s military intelligence service, who is apparently also the brother-in-law of Syria’s president.88 At this meeting, the German side did not request to obtain access to Zammar. Those who participated in the meeting said that the case of Zammar was not discussed.89

Shortly thereafter, a delegation headed by Dr. Kersten, president of the BKA, visited Damascus between July 29 to 31, 2002. The declared purpose of the visit was to ameliorate the cooperation between the countries in the fight against illegal migration and the struggle against “islamist terrorism”.90 The case Zammar was only mentioned as an aside.Cooperation between Germany and Syria in police and security matters began decades ago and continued at least until the year 2012:Syrian refugees in Germany, including teenagers, were routinely deported to Syria, in the knowledge that they might be arrested and tortured in their home country.91 According to a CIA official, cited by Dick Marty, “when one wishes to have prisoner seriously interrogated, one sends him to Jordan. When one wants him to be tortured, one sends him to Syria.When one wishes him to disappear from this earth, one sends him to Egypt.”92 The German BND, incidentally, cooperates also with the Egyptian secret services.

Another delegation from Germany, composed of representatives from the BND, the BfV and the BKA, visited Syria weeks later, in order to continue its discussions on intelligence cooperation between the countries.93Not much is known about the real purpose of that particular visit.Asked whether the German delegation requested from the Syrian side that Zammar be allowed to be questioned in Germany, Fromm told the Commission of Inquiry that he does not remember whether this was mentioned. He said: “I guess that this issue was not pursued, perhaps the idea did not even occur [to us], because it appeared unrealistic at this juncture to make this demand.”94

According to media reports that appeared in 2002, possibly based on the Zammar “study”, Zammar claimed to have recruited Mohamed Atta and other members of the “Hamburg group” as volunteers for training in Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan.95 On that ground alone, Germany’s judicial authorities should have possessed a vital interest in having him testify before a German court. Their aversion to such a deposition indicates that, on the contrary, their vital interest(and that of the German leadership) resided in keeping Zammar beyond the reach of German courts and media.

Indeed, after learning that Zammar was detained in Syria, German authorities undertook no efforts to have this German citizen returned to Germany, even in the knowledge that he might be tortured and could be sentenced to death.

At the time, Germany held in custody two Syrian nationals, who were arrested in December 200196 and accused of spying on Syrian nationals living in Germany.97 Under pressure from Syria, the German government waived criminal charges against these two Syrian intelligence agents and accepted to upgrade its intelligence cooperation with Syria. German officials emphatically denied that their decision to free these agents had anything to do with Syria’s cooperation regarding Zammar (whatever the nature of this cooperation!)98, Germany Ministry of Justice advised on July 22, 2002, that lifting the charges against the Syrians agents was related to the “geopolitical situation concerning the war on terrorism”, whatever that meant.99 The former Director of the Ministry of Justice, Dr. Geiger, testified before the Commission of Inquiry that the decision not to press the charges against the Syrian agents was based on an “overriding public interest”, whatever that meant.100 He said that the Zammar case did not play any role in lifting the charges. The sole reason for doing so were “the security considerations of the German Federal Republic”, whatever that meant.101

11. Germany acquiesces to Zammar’s incarceration and torture in Syria

German authorities knew that political detainees in Syria are routinely tortured but did not ask the Syrian authorities to spare Zammar from torture. They accepted to interview Zammar in the knowledge that he may have been tortured. Before they met to interview Zammar in November 2002, they Syrian authorities had for three days “prepared Zammar for questioning to make him sufficiently cooperative.”102 as formulated in the report of the Commission of Inquiry. German officials were allowed to meet him on November 21, 22 and 23, 2002 for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes in the presence of a Syrian official.103 The report by the Commission does not explain what was the nature of Zammar’s three-day “preparation” and apparently no Commission member was curious to know. German officials interviewed by the Commission conceded that torture is practiced routinely in Syria, but argued that Germany must also cooperate, including on intelligence and police matters, with countries that practice torture.104 According to Dr. Hanning, the only possibility to interrogate Zammar was that provided by the Syrians on Syrian soil:“Zammar was deemed one of the main threats in the Hamburg environment and we possessed therefore an overriding interest, from a security perspective, to access Zammar and question him.” German officials did not provide details about the content of their questioning of Zammar; in their testimony to the Commission of Inquiry the mainly described Zammar’s outward appearance, demeanor and willingness to talk, and the logistics surrounding the interrogations.105

According to Amnesty International, Zammar was described in October 2004 in a “skeletal” physical condition as a result of “three years’ incommunicado detention in Far’ Falastin without charge, in prolonged, solitary confinement in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions.”106 In 2006, the Syrian Higher State Security Court sentenced Zammar to life imprisonment, commuted to 12 years, accused of being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.107 Apparently the Syrian prosecutors used information provided by German services, including evidence of Zammar’s stints in training camps in Afghanistan and Bosnia, to convict Zammar.108 According to German officials, they did not attend Zammar’s trial. According to a report by Amnesty International from 2005, Zammar has not been seen by any outsider, including family members and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, after German officials saw him last in November 2002.109

12.German court is denied protocols of Zammar’s interrogations

The BND sent to the Syrian secret service on July 20, 2002, a catalogue of questions to submit to Zammar and repeatedly received results from interrogations carried out by Syrian officials.110

On January 29, 2003, counsel for Mounir el Motassadeq, who was standing trial in Hamburg, requested that (1) Zammar be allowed to testify as witness for the defense and that (2) the protocols of the interrogations of Zammar as well as the answers to the catalogue of questions submitted to the Syrian interrogators, be entered as exhibits to the trial.111 Counsel argued that Zammar’s testimonies might exculpate their client.

On February 3, 2003, the Office of the German Chancellor sent to the Attorney General, the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice and the BND, a declaration in which it justifies its endorsement of BND’s refusal to release to the court evidence and documents relative to Zammar.112 The main justification for the refusal was that it would cause “disadvantage to the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany”, whatever that means. According to the Chancellor’s Office, the BND is entitled to withhold from the court information about the whereabouts of Zammar, as well as the contents and the source of documents about him. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior issued a similar paper.113

One day later, on February 4, 2003, the Hamburg court– having presumably been informed of the above documents –issued two Decisions. In its first Decision,114 it rejected the request by defense counsel for the protocols of Zammar’s interrogations that took place in Morocco.The court claimed that such protocols do not exist.

In its second Decision,115 the court rejected the request by defense counsel to produce Zammar as a witness and to produce the protocols of Zammar’s interrogations in Germany and Syria. The court claimed that Zammar’s testimony is not necessary for establishing the truth in the case before trial. The court also argued that it is unlikely that Syria would permit Zammar to testify, even if this were done through a simultaneous video transmission. The court based its conclusion on the decisions by Germany’s Office of the Chancellor and by the Ministry of Interior of January 30, 2003 and February 3, 2003 to refuse access to documents concerning the interrogations of Zammar in Syria.The court added that, on the base of Zammar’s interrogation of September 17, 2001 in Germany, it appears unlikely that Zammar, even if he were allowed to testify, would provide new information relevant to the present trial, for in theinterrogation of September 17, 2001, Zammar refused to answer questions regarding Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the alleged suicide-pilots of 9/11. In that interrogation – according to the court’s Decision – Zammar claimed that he did not know Binalshibh and Essabar.Should he have lied about these facts in October 2001 – so the court – he would certainly refuse to contradict his former statements and thus incriminate himself in perjury.It was therefore unlikely, so the court, that Zammar would make any statements that might exculpate the accused. The court thus reasoned, that his appearance before the court would be superfluous!

On appeal by defense counsel to the Federal Administrative Court (FAC), the FAC upheld on February 10, 2003116 the lower court’s refusal to ask for the appearance of Zammar and for the release of the protocols of his interrogations, arguing that the German authorities had pledged to the Syrian services strict confidentiality. The FAC uncritically espoused the government’s position that releasing such information to the court would “significantly harm the “welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany”, whatever that means.117 The FAC argued that if the confidentiality promise were breached, Germany would be excluded from further information exchange between intelligence services in the so-called war on terrorism and particularly from cooperation with Syria.118 The FAC did not explain in its ruling how the release of protocols of Zammar’s interrogation, in so far as they relate to the particular court case, could harm the welfare of the nation.The decision by the FAC did not, incidentally, spell out the limits beyond which it would be unlawful or even treasonous for German government officials to promise foreign governments total confidentiality and thereby undermine their democratic accountability to their own citizens.

13. Zammar and Germany’s alleged national interest

A central argument proffered by the German government in support of its suppression of information obtained from Zammar, was that it pledged to the Syrian government not to reveal this information. To violate this pledge would endanger intelligence cooperation with Syria and more generally the credibility of German intelligence agencies. Syria, said Dr. Steinmeier, “belonged at the time to the allies of the West in the war on terror” and was no longer a “rogue state” because it condemned the 9/11 attacks and announced its readiness to participate in the “war against terrorism”. “We needed Syria’s active cooperation,“ said Steinmeier, “because the perpetrators of 9/11 maintained contacts to members of the Syrian Muslim brothers” and “we needed Syria as a constructive partner to prevent an explosion of the Middle East conflict after 9/11.”119The former president of the BND, Dr. Hanning, also emphasized to the Commission of Inquiry the importance of intelligence cooperation with Syria in the war on terror. Syria played a very important role in this matter, he said.120 He did not specify the nature of that “very important role.”

More generally, the German administration, through its various departments, argued that intelligence cooperation with other countries would suffer grave damage, if information transmitted confidentially by foreign services to German intelligence agencies, would be provided to “third parties”, including judicial authorities.

The Commission of Inquiry repeatedly requested, through the Syrian Embassy in Germany, to be allowed to interview Zammar. The Embassy reportedly did not answer a single request. Was this refusal solely based on Syrian domestic considerations or did the governments of the United States and Germany ask Syria to ignore these requests”The fact that the United States kidnapped Zammar and forcefully transferred him to Syria and that German authorities did not press for his return to Germany, suggests, however, a collusion between the three governments.

14. Why do German authorities want Zammar outside the reach of German courts?

As shown above, every move by the German authorities in relation to Zammar demonstrates the existence of a policy, adopted at the highest echelons of German politics, to remove Zammar from the reach of German courts and media. The interest shown by the highest echelons of German politics to the case of Zammar indicates that he was certainly not a “marginal figure” from their perspective.

If Zammar was no “marginal figure”, what was his role? He either was an Al Qaeda operative believed by the German authorities to be highly dangerous, or an asset of German and/or American intelligence services, whose role was to induce Muslims to become “jihadists” and spend some time in an alleged Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan. After their return home, they would become ideal targets for a media-savvy “war on terrorism.”

Had Zammar been regarded by the German authorities as a highly dangerous Al Qaeda operative, the question would arise why they did not interrogate or detain him before 9/11 and why they let him leave Germany after 9/11, although they had known virtually everything about him for years, including his alleged radical views, his contacts with suspected terrorists, his trips to Afghanistan and his lack of means to finance his frequent trips. Apologists for the German government, such as journalists of Der Spiegel, argue that before 9/11 “no one was concerned about Al Qaeda” and that those who listened to Zammar’s phone calls before 9/11 did not “connect the dots”. This explanation is tenuous and does not explain why he was not arrested after 9/11, when it transpired that he may have facilitated the travel of the alleged perpetrators of 9/11 to Afghanistan.After the bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 – the largest terrorist attacks committed anywhere in that year – the U.S. designated Osama bin Laden as the main suspect for these attacks. As a U.S. ally, the German authorities would have certainly been asked to cooperate in the investigation by monitoring and interrogating individuals residing in Germany suspected of connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Zammar was known at the time as one of the most prominent contacts to Al Qaeda living in Germany. His contacts to other “jihadists”, as mentioned above, provided further reasons for the German authorities to consider him, even before 9/11, a dangerous person, had he been a genuine “jihadist.”

The failure of the German authorities to act on Zammar’s alleged menace, both before and after 9/11, strongly suggests that Zammar played a radically different role from that attributed to him by government officials.

Is it possible, for instance, that Zammar actually accepted the reported proposal of the German BfV in 1996 to act as an informant (see above)”In that case, he would have been an asset in a covert strategy managed by U.S. and German intelligence and abetted by Moroccan and Syrian services. His role would have been to pose as a true “jihadist” and induce young Muslims to go for training to Pakistan or Afghanistan in camps led by Osama bin Laden. In order to understand the rationale for such a policy, we must briefly digress from our subject and point out what strategical benefits the West would gain by such a policy.

Around 1990, the Soviet bloc imploded. For over 40 years, the Warsaw Pact, led by Moscow, served as the main threat to the West, contributed to NATO’s political cohesion and justified a high level of military expenditures by the United States and its allies. The disappearance of that external perceived threat threatened to make NATO redundant and severely affect the revenues of the extremely profitable military-industrial complex. While the majority of ordinary people could then hope to enjoy the “peace dividend”, those dependent upon an external threat for their profit, searched for a new epochal threat that would maintain their revenues. In addition, the United States – now the sole remaining super-power – faced a unique historical opportunity to secure its long-term global hegemony. To do so, however, required the support of the American public and such support depended upon public perception of an external existential threat. It was thus both imperative and urgent for U.S. strategists to find a credible “threat” that would profitably supplant the Red Threat. No single state or group of states could at that time be credibly regarded as fulfilling this role. An alternative was therefore sought. It was found in the guise of an “Islamic global terrorist network” that would be manufactured and nurtured.121 This invention was a genial – and Machiavellian – strike of the mind:As most oil resources in the world lie under the feet of Muslims, the quest to control these resources by military means could be usefully be concealed behind policing efforts to battle “Islamic terrorists” hosted in such countries. Another advantage of this mythical construction was that authorities in Western nations could justify increased “security” measures, such as mass surveillance of telephone and internet communications, by the need to discover potential “Islamic terrorists” among the Muslims living in the particular country.

To successfully implement this strategy, Western intelligence agencies need to maintain an large pool of wannabe terrorists, agents provocateurs, hate preachers and big-mouthed jihadists, whose mainly verbal feats are useful media feed and help to promote the myth of Islamic terrorism. The initial “raw material” for that mythical network – trade-marked Al Qaeda – were the so-called Arab Afghans, who after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, found themselves unemployed and looking for new sponsors. Their new sponsors were Western intelligence agencies, acting behind the façade of Saudi and Pakistani handlers, in order to conceal their own hands.122 In order to maintain the supply of such “jihadists”, recruiters ensure a continuous flow of wannabe fighters to training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who could later be arrested as terrorist suspects and ensure regular media coverage of the “terrorist threat.”It is beyond the scope of this study to elaborate upon this development. This network – financed and managed by Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services, but ultimately serving a Western strategical concept – is now operating globally in furtherance of imperial design (the most recent example being Syria).

The conduct of German officials strongly suggests that Mohammad Haydar Zammar played a role within this covert strategy.He reportedly said he ensured that Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah would go to Afghanistan for training. These three persons were famously accused by the United States authorities to have flown three of the four aircraft that allegedly crashed on 9/11. There is, however, no evidence whatsoever, that they boarded these aircraft.123

For two of them – Atta and Alshehhi – there is no reliable evidence, that they ever went to the United States.124 By inducing them to make a stint in a training camp in Afghanistan, they could later be linked to Al Qaeda. Their presence in Afghanistan was indeed relied upon by the Hamburg Higher Regional Court (Oberlandsgericht) in the case of Mounir el Motassadeq in order to “prove”, as it were, their terrorist inclination.125 Had this been one of Zammar’s roles, it would explain why he had to be removed from German jurisdiction, maintained outside the reach of German courts and media and why the intercepts of his phone calls, surveillance logs and protocols of his interrogations are kept secret.

The present case provides a glimpse into the systematic deception of the tax-paying public carried by German intelligence agencies, the absence of effective parliamentary control of these agencies, the lack of independence of German judicial authorities, and the deplorable deference of German leaders to Washington’s imperial strategy.

NOTES

1. Acronyms used in this chapter:

BAO USA: Besondere Aufbauorganisation USA

BfV: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

BKA: Bundeskriminalamt (German Federal Criminal Police Office)

BND:Bundesnachrichtendienst

COI: Commission of Inquiry of the German Parliament (Bundestag) set up to investigate the cooperation of German government bodies with CIA “renditions” of alleged terror suspects

FAC:Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)

OAG:Bundesstaatsanwalt (Germany’s Office of the Attorney General)

1. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, “Attas Armee”, Der Spiegel, 2 September 2002, p. 9

2. DW, “Plante er den 11. September?”Welt Online, 13 June 2002

3. Andreas Ulrich, “Operation Zartheit”, Spiegel Online, 15. July 2002

4. Desmond Butler, “Germans were tracking Sept. 11 conspirators as early as 1998, documents disclose”, The New York Times, January 18, 2003

5. According to Ulrich – supra n. 3 –, German officials started already in 1997a monitoring operation of Zammar and his contacts, entitled Operation Tenderness (Operation Zartheit). According to Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Das Puzzle lag auf dem Tisch”, Der Spiegel, 3 February 2003, the German BfV intercepted telephone communications of the group surrounding Mohamed Atta since 1996.According to Peter Finn (“Hamburg’s Cauldron of Terror”, Washington Post, 11 September 2002), Brinkbäumer (supra n. 1) and Ulrich (supra n. 3), German intelligence placed Zammar under surveillance after being tipped by Turkish authorities that he had passed Istanbul and Ankara on his way to various war zones over 40 times. According to Vanity Fair (“The Price of Failure”, November 2004), the BfV was tipped off by Turkish intelligence in 1996 that Zammar had been traveling the globe to trouble spots: more than 40 journeys in all, to such places as Bosnia and Chechnya.

6. Butler, supra n. 4

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ulrich, supra n. 3

11. Franz Feyder, “11. September Geheimdienst – Operation Zartheit”, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 8 September 2011

12. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, “Atta’s Army”, Der Spiegel Online, 23 November 2006

13. Peter Finn, Hamburg’s Cauldron of Terror, Washington Post, 11 September 2002

14. Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Das Puzzle lag auf dem Tisch”, Der Spiegel, 3 February 2003; and Feyder, supra n. 11

15. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

16. Finn, supra n. 13

17. Feyder, supra n. 11

18. “Früher Verdacht”, Der Spiegel, 29 October 2001

19. DW, supra n. 2

20. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

21. Butler, supra n. 4

22. Comment by Peter Frisch, former head of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV); and Finn, supra n. 13

23. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Brinkbäumer, supra n. 1

27. “Atta von Deutsch-Syrer angeworben”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 June 2002; also DW, supra n. 2

28. According to Butler (supra n. 4), “10 days after the attacks” of 9/11.According to DW (supra n. 2) “in the middle of October [2001]”.Ultimately, it was revealed in an address to the German parliamentary commission that Zammar was made to appear before a judge on September 17, 2001, that is six days after 9/11.See infra n. 29, p. 217.

29. Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (“Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht des 1. Untersuchungsausschusses nach Artikel 44 des Grundgesetzes”)Berlin, 18 June2009, Document 16/13400, p. 217

30. Private communication to the author of June 8, 2012

31. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 217

32. Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Gerhard Spörl, “Die zweite Welle”, Der Spiegel, 24 June 2002

33. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, Anschläge ohne Auftrag, Der Spiegel, 15 October 2001

34. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

35. N/A

36. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 58

37. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 58.In October 2001 that number had already reached 615 (source: Brinkbäumer, supra n. 33)

38. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 222

39. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 59

40. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

41. Final Report (…),supra n. 29,p. 218

42. Butler, supra n. 4

43. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, Stern, 8 Mai 2006

44. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 220

45. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

46. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218-219

47. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 219

48. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 442-3

49. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 866

50. DW, supra n. 2

51. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 219

52. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 866

53. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 221

54. Oliver Schröm and Dirk Laabs, “Unser Mann in der Moschee”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 2 February 2003

55. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 443

56. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43; and, Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 443

57. The BKA informed a FBI investigator about Zammar’s return date, two weeks in advance (“Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43)

58. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 221-222. The U.S. authorities were informed about Zammar’s travel plans on the day on which he booked his flight (p. 925)

59. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p.444

60. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 222

61. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 926

62. Renditions is the term used for the practice by the CIA to abduct alleged terror suspects and transfer them to various secret prisons around the world, or deliver them to certain states in order to be tortured or “eliminated.”This unlawful and criminal practice has called forth widespread outrage.

63. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 445

64. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 445; also Uli Rauss and Oliver Schröm, “Ex-CIA Mann belastet deutsche Kollegen”, Stern, 11 März, 2008

65. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 62

66. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 457

67. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 925

68. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

69. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 225

70. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 228

71. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

72. Final Report (…),supra n. 29,p. 228; and DW, supra n. 2

73. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 228.In a latter communication from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior, January 22, 2002, Zammar was said to have been “deported” from Morocco, but the destination was not anymore given as Spain.It was unspecified; see also Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Mysteriöse Auskunft”, Der Spiegel, 15 April 2002

74. Mascolo et al, supra n. 731

75. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 868

76. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

77. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 232

78. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 932

79. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 229

80. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 232

81. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231

82. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231

83. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231-2

84. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 226

85. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 230

86. Final Report (…),supra n. 295, p. 230

87. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 238

88. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43

89. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 239

90. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 242

91. Hans Georg, “Deutsch-syrische Kooperation begann schon in den frühen 50er Jahren”, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 6 April 2011

92. Ibid,footnote 16

93. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 243

94. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 245

95. “Atta von Deutsch-Syrer angeworben”, supra n. 27; also DW, supra n. 2

96. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 239

97. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 446

98. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 238

99. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 240

100. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 240

101. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 241

102. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 931

103. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 250

104. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 245

105. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 250-256

106. Amnesty International: Muhammad Haydar Zammar

107. “Terror suspect Zammar gets twelve years”, Der Spiegel, 12 February 2007

108. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 934

109. Amnesty International: Muhammad Haydar Zammar

110. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 927

111. Antrag des Strafverteidiger von el Motassadeq vom 29. Januar 2003

112. Bundeskanzleramt, Sperrerklärung, 3 Februar 2003

113. Bundesministerium des Inneren, Sperrerklärung, 3 Februar 2003

114. Beschluss des OLG Hamburg, Anlage 96, 4. Februar 2003

115. Beschluss des OLG Hamburg, Anlage 95, 4. Februar 2003

116. Antrage auf Übergabe von Akten des BND and das OLG Hamburg im Motassadeq-Prozess abgelehnt, Pressemitteilung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts, 10. Februar 2003

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 235

120. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 236

121. No empirical evidence has ever been produced by NATO, the United Nations and Western governments, that international terrorism is a serious threat to any Western nation, let alone to “world peace”. More people did in the Western world from lightning strikes than in terrorist attacks.More people are killed yearly in the U.S. alone than worldwide in terror attacks.In Germany, home to approximately four million Muslims, no German national has ever been killed in Islamic terrorism. Yet, the myth of the terrorist threat is regularly promoted by the authorities and by complying media.

122. See, for example, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism”, Interlink Pub Group (2005)

123. See, in particular, Elias Davidsson, “Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11”, Algora Publishers (New York, 2013), pp. 29-58

124. Ziad Jarrah, however, credibly pursued flight training in the United States prior to 9/11.

125. Court documents in the case of Mounir El Motassadeq (in German)

 

Gradual privatization of criminal justice

Talia Fisher  “The boundaries of plea bargaining: negotiating the standard of proof”, in Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Summer 2007

The author proposes to extend the system of plea bargaining by allowing defendants to negotiate a lowering of the standard of proof “beyond reasonable doubt” to that of civil disputes.  The author examines the goals of the judicial process and places the designates for the truth as merely a means to pursue justice, not a goal per se.

From the Introduction:
“The public model of criminal procedure, which places the procedural aspects of the proccess beyond the reach of the defense and the prosecution, has given way to a new model: a semi-private paradigm that acknowledges the right of the parties to wield effective control over the procedural structure of the criminal trial. The adoption plea bargains expresses a readiness to open the criminal arena to contractual ordering. (1) Many features of the criminal process have turned into default rules and ‘bargaining chips’ (2) in the […] of the defense, including the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, (3) the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, (4) and the right to appeal. (5) In exchange for deviation from and waiver of these rights, the defendant may receive various concessions from the prosecution, including mitigation in the charge or the sentence.”

p. 14:
“The assumption is that since the prosecution reflects the public interest and the defense reflects the defendant’s interests, voluntary transactions between them represent pareto improvements in the situation of both the defendant and society at large. Another justification for opening the criminal justice arena to negotiation stems from recognition of the defendant’s decisional autonomy and his right to exert effective control over the manner in which his fate will be determined. The very exposure to criminal proceedings puts substantial limits on a defendant’s range of choices…Denying plea bargaining puts the poorer defendant in a double bind in this respect: On the one hand, the use he can make of his procedural rights within the trial apparatus is extremely limited in comparison to the wealthier defendant; on the other hand, in a world without plea bargains, where ‘realization’ of these procedural rights is contingent upon entrance to the trial arena, he is prevented from improving his position by ‘trading’ on these rights outside the trial arena.  In this sense, it is possible to view the closure of the criminal justice arena to negotiations as a sort of regressive taxation placed upon defendants from a lower socioeconomic bracket, in order to preserve the incommensurability and the use value of the procedural rights for the general class of defendants.”
[HERE the author purports to speak on behalf of the millions of poor defendants, whereas in practice, it is exactly the opposite]

p. 15 (Considerations against plea bargaining)

“A major market failure is attributed to principal-agent problems, which arise in plea negotiations. In the spirit of this critique, the criminal procedure is not merely a market institution; rather, it can be seen as a political instrument through which the prosecutor may advance his own private agenda. Such a private agenda is liable to be inconsistent with the public interest and may even collide with it head-on. Thus, for example, the interest of the prosecutor in high conviction rates for professional promotion purposes may clash with the public interest in non-conviction of the innocent.. [P]lea bargains give the prosecutor room to maneuver and reduce court supervision.  An additional agency problem that may arise in connection with plea bargains touches upon the tension between the interests of the defendant and his counsel. A combination of the fact that the prosecutor does not fully internalize the public interest in his utility function and the fact that the counsel for the defense may fail to promote the defendant’s interests may lead to two types of problematic results. On the one hand, the plea bargaining mechanism paves the way for the conviction of the innocent persons, with its accompanying costs and negative externalities [note the euphemism]; on the other hand, plea bargains may expose the criminal to a lesser punishment than is desirable from a social perspective.”

p. 15
“A related criticism is that negotiations in the criminal arena are coercive by their very nature. This is due to the power disparity between prosecution and defense…Critics argue that as a result of the coerciveness built into criminal justice negotiation, one cannot view it as an expression of the defendant’s free will…One can argue that procedural safeguards and rights touching upon the criminal trial are intended to advance public goals, such as arriving at the truth, and not aimed at leveraging benefits for the defendant.  The attempt to turn such rights into bargaining chips for the defendant, in order to bolster his position vis-a-vis the prosecution, is not legitimate…In sum, it is not surprising that the practice of plea bargaining has stimulated one of the stormiest controversies in the area of  criminal procedure; placing criminal disputes in the hands of prosecutors and defendants, to be settled by contractual means, can be seen as undermining basic concepts in the moral and political philosophy of criminal law….[Yet], the die has been cast. The fact that plea bargaining has taken root and expanded to its present magnitude indicates a normative choice in the matter. Such reality recognizes the legitimacy, in principle, of plea bargains and prefers the advantages, embodied in the opening of the criminal justice arena to contractual ordering, over its disadvantages. [Legitimacy? cui bono?].

p. 17  
“Changing the criminal standard of proof to a default rule from which the parties can negotiate deviations can be supported by the same considerations of efficiency, autonomy, and distributive justice that form the basis for recognizing the institution of plea bargaining.”

p. 23  “[M]ost criminal sentences under the existing system are in fact reached outside the courtroom…Plea bargains are negotiated between the prosecutor and the defendant [or his counsel], far form public view.”….In order for courts to fulfill their roles in a liberal society, their work must be properly structured [euphemism]. Judicial decision-making must be conceptualized as searching for truth and justice and must be in line with the criteria of rationality, accuracy, and fairness. The existing practice of plea bargaining does not impair the proper conceptualization of judicial decision-making because the mutual agreements on the question of criminal liability take place outside the courtroom…Due to the existence of such clear boundaries between the “world of agreement” and the “world of justice”, the present form of plea bargaining does not “stain” the perception of the craft of judging.”

p. 24   “The case can also be presented from a slightly different perspective: that of public confidence in the judicial system. There is room to claim that public trust is conditional upon conserving the basic outlines of the judicial decision-making process, as aimed at precision and ferreting out the truth.  Plea bargaining, in its current form, paves the way for the preservation of this notion. Even though, from a practical standpoint, this preference is not exposed to public scrutiny. Current plea bargains allow for the assumption that the parties have the best access to the information underlying the factual occurrence and, accordingly, that the agreement of criminal liability they reach reflects the truth.  The proposed model, on the other hand, may undermine the public image of the criminal trial.  Its adoption is a blunt declaration that a judicial decision may well be affected by inaccuracy – that the truth is not the only light held up to the court and that it may retreat in the face of agreement between the parties. Exposure of these inherent tensions within the court’s rulings may undermine the public’s faith in the judicial system. As soon as the conflict between ”truth” and “agreement” becomes visible, and the courts are perceived as preferring agreement to truth, public trust in the judiciary may well be lost.”

p. 27
“There is room to claim that the devaluation of the ‘criminal conviction’ label has already taken place with plea bargaining becoming the typical mechanism for disposing of criminal cases. In a regime where the overwhelming majority of criminal convictions derive from plea bargains, their stigmatizing effect can not longer be taken at face value.”

p. 28
“I would like to present an alternative, more ‘private’ or ‘civil’ approach, according to which the search for truth is not the be-all and end-all of the criminal process. Rather, the primary purpose of the criminal proceeding is the resolution of criminal disputes – whether defined as disputes between defendant and society or between defense and prosecution. In accordance with such private perception of the criminal proceeding, only when the parties are not in agreement on the factual happenings must the truth-seeking alternative be exhausted…In this sense, the goal of the criminal process is not accomplished when the truth is revealed: truth is only a way station on the road to the settling of the dispute.  The ultimate goal is the agreement, with truth being a means to achieve it….Naturally, this ‘private’ or ‘civil’ perception of the criminal process stands in stark opposition to the public paradigm, which view the agreement between the parties on question of fact merely as a means to discover the truth. Under the public model, where the prosecution and defense agree on facts, they are presumed to reflect the actual happenings.” [The last proposition is, alas, not always the case].

p. 29  
“Clearly, the ‘private’ or ‘civil’ approach to criminal trials conflicts with prevalent criminal theories, according to which the public nature of the criminal process is incontestable and cannot be infiltrated by private notions of justice…All that I wish to add at this point is that the recognition of the central role of agreement in criminal procedures, even overriding truth, is not foreign to the adversarial paradigm. According to the adversarial model, defense and prosecution share the prerogative of laying the whole factual basis before the court and mutually define the limits of the criminal dispute. Their agreement overrides the factual truth and the court is prevented, in principle, from examining it independently.  That is, the concept of truth in the adversarial model is relative and plays an instrumental, secondary role. This differs from the inquisitorial model, which relies on an absolutist notion of truth. In the light of the instrumental role truth plays in the adversarial model, there is no wonder that plea bargaining practices began to flourish in this legal climate.”…The very opening of the criminal arena to negotiation expresses a recognition that criminal justice is not only the product of the collective search for truth, but may also be the outcome of private, localized agreements between prosecution and defense.”

General Comment 17, Article 24 of ICCPR: Rights of the child

General Comment No. 17: Rights of the child (Art. 24) : . 04/07/1989.
 

 

CCPR General Comment No. 17. (General Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CCPR
GENERAL COMMENT 17


Rights of the child

(Article 24)

(Thirty-fifth session, 1989)


1. Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right of every child, without any discrimination, to receive from his family, society and the State the protection required by his status as a minor. Consequently, the implementation of this provision entails the adoption of special measures to protect children, in addition to the measures that States are required to take under article 2 to ensure that everyone enjoys the rights provided for in the Covenant. The reports submitted by States parties often seem to underestimate this obligation and supply inadequate information on the way in which children are afforded enjoyment of their right to a special protection.

2. In this connection, the Committee points out that the rights provided for in article 24 are not the only ones that the Covenant recognizes for children and that, as individuals, children benefit from all of the civil rights enunciated in the Covenant. In enunciating a right, some provisions of the Covenant expressly indicate to States measures to be adopted with a view to affording minors greater protection than adults. Thus, as far as the right to life is concerned, the death penalty cannot be imposed for crimes committed by persons under 18 years of age. Similarly, if lawfully deprived of their liberty, accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults and are entitled to be brought as speedily as possible for adjudication; in turn, convicted juvenile offenders shall be subject to a penitentiary system that involves segregation from adults and is appropriate to their age and legal status, the aim being to foster reformation and social rehabilitation. In other instances, children are protected by the possibility of the restriction – provided that such restriction is warranted – of a right recognized by the Covenant, such as the right to publicize a judgement in a suit at law or a criminal case, from which an exception may be made when the interest of the minor so requires.

3. In most cases, however, the measures to be adopted are not specified in the Covenant and it is for each State to determine them in the light of the protection needs of children in its territory and within its jurisdiction. The Committee notes in this regard that such measures, although intended primarily to ensure that children fully enjoy the other rights enunciated in the Covenant, may also be economic, social and cultural. For example, every possible economic and social measure should be taken to reduce infant mortality and to eradicate malnutrition among children and to prevent them from being subjected to acts of violence and cruel and inhuman treatment or from being exploited by means of forced labour or prostitution, or by their use in the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, or by any other means. In the cultural field, every possible measure should be taken to foster the development of their personality and to provide them with a level of education that will enable them to enjoy the rights recognized in the Covenant, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Moreover, the Committee wishes to draw the attention of States parties to the need to include in their reports information on measures adopted to ensure that children do not take a direct part in armed conflicts.

4. The right to special measures of protection belongs to every child because of his status as a minor. Nevertheless, the Covenant does not indicate the age at which he attains his majority. This is to be determined by each State party in the light of the relevant social and cultural conditions. In this respect, States should indicate in their reports the age at which the child attains his majority in civil matters and assumes criminal responsibility. States should also indicate the age at which a child is legally entitled to work and the age at which he is treated as an adult under labour law. States should further indicate the age at which a child is considered adult for the purposes of article 10, paragraphs 2 and 3. However, the Committee notes that the age for the above purposes should not be set unreasonably low and that in any case a State party cannot absolve itself from its obligations under the Covenant regarding persons under the age of 18, notwithstanding that they have reached the age of majority under domestic law.

5. The Covenant requires that children should be protected against discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth. In this connection, the Committee notes that, whereas non-discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights provided for in the Covenant also stems, in the case of children, from article 2 and their equality before the law from article 26, the non-discrimination clause contained in article 24 relates specifically to the measures of protection referred to in that provision. Reports by States parties should indicate how legislation and practice ensure that measures of protection are aimed at removing all discrimination in every field, including inheritance, particularly as between children who are nationals and children who are aliens or as between legitimate children and children born out of wedlock.

6. Responsibility for guaranteeing children the necessary protection lies with the family, society and the State. Although the Covenant does not indicate how such responsibility is to be apportioned, it is primarily incumbent on the family, which is interpreted broadly to include all persons composing it in the society of the State party concerned, and particularly on the parents, to create conditions to promote the harmonious development of the child’s personality and his enjoyment of the rights recognized in the Covenant. However, since it is quite common for the father and mother to be gainfully employed outside the home, reports by States parties should indicate how society, social institutions and the State are discharging their responsibility to assist the family in ensuring the protection of the child. Moreover, in cases where the parents and the family seriously fail in their duties, ill-treat or neglect the child, the State should intervene to restrict parental authority and the child may be separated from his family when circumstances so require. If the marriage is dissolved, steps should be taken, keeping in view the paramount interest of the children, to give them necessary protection and, so far as is possible, to guarantee personal relations with both parents. The Committee considers it useful that reports by States parties should provide information on the special measures of protection adopted to protect children who are abandoned or deprived of their family environment in order to enable them to develop in conditions that most closely resemble those characterizing the family environment.

7. Under article 24, paragraph 2, every child has the right to be registered immediately after birth and to have a name. In the Committee’s opinion, this provision should be interpreted as being closely linked to the provision concerning the right to special measures of protection and it is designed to promote recognition of the child’s legal personality. Providing for the right to have a name is of special importance in the case of children born out of wedlock. The main purpose of the obligation to register children after birth is to reduce the danger of abduction, sale of or traffic in children, or of other types of treatment that are incompatible with the enjoyment of the rights provided for in the Covenant. Reports by States parties should indicate in detail the measures that ensure the immediate registration of children born in their territory.

8. Special attention should also be paid, in the context of the protection to be granted to children, to the right of every child to acquire a nationality, as provided for in article 24, paragraph 3. While the purpose of this provision is to prevent a child from being afforded less protection by society and the State because he is stateless, it does not necessarily make it an obligation for States to give their nationality to every child born in their territory. However, States are required to adopt every appropriate measure, both internally and in cooperation with other States, to ensure that every child has a nationality when he is born. In this connection, no discrimination with regard to the acquisition of nationality should be admissible under internal law as between legitimate children and children born out of wedlock or of stateless parents or based on the nationality status of one or both of the parents. The measures adopted to ensure that children have a nationality should always be referred to in reports by States parties.

 

Rights of persons with disabilities: General Comment no. 5

Persons with disabilities : . 09.12.1994.

CESCR General comment 5. (General Comments)

1. The central importance of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in relation to the human rights of persons with disabilities has frequently been underlined by the international community 1/ . Thus a 1992 review by the Secretary-General of the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons concluded that “disability is closely linked to economic and social factors” and that “conditions of living in large parts of the world are so desperate that the provision of basic needs for all – food, water, shelter, health protection and education – must form the cornerstone of national programmes” 2/ . Even in countries which have a relatively high standard of living, persons with disabilities are very often denied the opportunity to enjoy the full range of economic, social and cultural rights recognized in the Covenant.

2. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the working group which preceded it, have been explicitly called upon by both the General Assembly 3/ and the Commission on Human Rights 4/ to monitor the compliance of States parties to the Covenant with their obligation to ensure the full enjoyment of the relevant rights by persons with disabilities. The Committee’s experience to date, however, indicates that States parties have devoted very little attention to this issue in their reports. This appears to be consistent with the Secretary-General’s conclusion that “most Governments still lack decisive concerted measures that would effectively improve the situation” of persons with disabilities 5/ . It is therefore appropriate to review, and emphasize, some of the ways in which issues concerning persons with disabilities arise in connection with the obligations contained in the Covenant.

3. There is still no internationally accepted definition of the term “disability”. For present purposes, however, it is sufficient to rely on the approach adopted in the Standard Rules of 1993, which state:

◦ “The term ‘disability’ summarizes a great number of different functional limitations occurring in any population … People may be disabled by physical, intellectual or sensory impairment, medical conditions or mental illness. Such impairments, conditions or illnesses may be permanent or transitory in nature” 6/ .

4. In accordance with the approach adopted in the Standard Rules, this General Comment uses the term “persons with disabilities” rather than the older term “disabled persons”. It has been suggested that the latter term might be misinterpreted to imply that the ability of the individual to function as a person has been disabled.

5. The Covenant does not refer explicitly to persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and, since the Covenant’s provisions apply fully to all members of society, persons with disabilities are clearly entitled to the full range of rights recognized in the Covenant. In addition, in so far as special treatment is necessary, States parties are required to take appropriate measures, to the maximum extent of their available resources, to enable such persons to seek to overcome any disadvantages, in terms of the enjoyment of the rights specified in the Covenant, flowing from their disability. Moreover, the requirement contained in article 2 (2) of the Covenant that the rights “enunciated … will be exercised without discrimination of any kind” based on certain specified grounds “or other status” clearly applies to discrimination on the grounds of disability. 

6. The absence of an explicit, disability-related provision in the Covenant can be attributed to the lack of awareness of the importance of addressing this issue explicitly, rather than only by implication, at the time of the drafting of the Covenant over a quarter of a century ago. More recent international human rights instruments have, however, addressed the issue specifically. They include the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 23); the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (art. 18 (4)); and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 18). Thus it is now very widely accepted that the human rights of persons with disabilities must be protected and promoted through general, as well as specially designed, laws, policies and programmes. 

7. In accordance with this approach, the international community has affirmed its commitment to ensuring the full range of human rights for persons with disabilities in the following instruments: (a) the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, which provides a policy framework aimed at promoting “effective measures for prevention of disability, rehabilitation and the realization of the goals of ‘full participation’ of [persons with disabilities] in social life and development, and of ‘equality'” 7/ ;

(b) the Guidelines for the Establishment and Development of National Coordinating Committees on Disability or Similar Bodies, adopted in 1990; 8/ (c) the Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care, adopted in 1991; 9/ (d) the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as the “Standard Rules”), adopted in 1993, the purpose of which is to ensure that all persons with disabilities “may exercise the same rights and obligations as others”. 10/ The Standard Rules are of major importance and constitute a particularly valuable reference guide in identifying more precisely the relevant obligations of States parties under the Covenant. 

 

I. GENERAL OBLIGATIONS OF STATES PARTIES

 

8. The United Nations has estimated that there are more than 500 million persons with disabilities in the world today. Of that number, 80 per cent live in rural areas in developing countries. Seventy per cent of the total are estimated to have either limited or no access to the services they need. The challenge of improving the situation of persons with disabilities is thus of direct relevance to every State party to the Covenant. While the means chosen to promote the full realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of this group will inevitably differ significantly from one country to another, there is no country in which a major policy and programme effort is not required. 11/

 

9. The obligation of States parties to the Covenant to promote progressive realization of the relevant rights to the maximum of their available resources clearly requires Governments to do much more than merely abstain from taking measures which might have a negative impact on persons with disabilities. The obligation in the case of such a vulnerable and disadvantaged group is to take positive action to reduce structural disadvantages and to give appropriate preferential treatment to people with disabilities in order to achieve the objectives of full participation and equality within society for all persons with disabilities. This almost invariably means that additional resources will need to be made available for this purpose and that a wide range of specially tailored measures will be required.

 

10. According to a report by the Secretary-General, developments over the past decade in both developed and developing countries have been especially unfavourable from the perspective of persons with disabilities:

 

    • ◦ “… current economic and social deterioration, marked by low-growth rates, high unemployment, reduced public expenditure, current structural adjustment programmes and privatization, have negatively affected programmes and services … If the present negative trends continue, there is the risk that [persons with disabilities] may increasingly be relegated to the margins of society, dependent on ad hoc support.” 12/

As the Committee has previously observed (General Comment No. 3 (Fifth session, 1990), para. 12), the duty of States parties to protect the vulnerable members of their societies assumes greater rather than less importance in times of severe resource constraints.

 

11. Given the increasing commitment of Governments around the world to market-based policies, it is appropriate in that context to emphasize certain aspects of States parties’ obligations. One is the need to ensure that not only the public sphere, but also the private sphere, are, within appropriate limits, subject to regulation to ensure the equitable treatment of persons with disabilities. In a context in which arrangements for the provision of public services are increasingly being privatized and in which the free market is being relied on to an ever greater extent, it is essential that private employers, private suppliers of goods and services, and other non-public entities be subject to both non-discrimination and equality norms in relation to persons with disabilities. In circumstances where such protection does not extend beyond the public domain, the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in the mainstream of community activities and to realize their full potential as active members of society will be severely and often arbitrarily constrained. This is not to imply that legislative measures will always be the most effective means of seeking to eliminate discrimination within the private sphere. Thus, for example, the Standard Rules place particular emphasis on the need for States to “take action to raise awareness in society about persons with disabilities, their rights, their needs, their potential and their contribution”. 13/

 

12. In the absence of government intervention there will always be instances in which the operation of the free market will produce unsatisfactory results for persons with disabilities, either individually or as a group, and in such circumstances it is incumbent on Governments to step in and take appropriate measures to temper, complement, compensate for, or override the results produced by market forces. Similarly, while it is appropriate for Governments to rely on private, voluntary groups to assist persons with disabilities in various ways, such arrangements can never absolve Governments from their duty to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Covenant. As the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons states, “the ultimate responsibility for remedying the conditions that lead to impairment and for dealing with the consequences of disability rests with Governments”. World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above), para. 3. 14/

 

 

 

 

II. MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION

 

13. The methods to be used by States parties in seeking to implement their obligations under the Covenant towards persons with disabilities are essentially the same as those available in relation to other obligations (see General Comment No. 1 (Third session, 1989)). They include the need to ascertain, through regular monitoring, the nature and scope of the problems existing within the State; the need to adopt appropriately tailored policies and programmes to respond to the requirements thus identified; the need to legislate where necessary and to eliminate any existing discriminatory legislation; and the need to make appropriate budgetary provisions or, where necessary, seek international cooperation and assistance. In the latter respect, international cooperation in accordance with articles 22 and 23 of the Covenant is likely to be a particularly important element in enabling some developing countries to fulfil their obligations under the Covenant.

 

14. In addition, it has been consistently acknowledged by the international community that policy-making and programme implementation in this area should be undertaken on the basis of close consultation with, and involvement of, representative groups of the persons concerned. For this reason, the Standard Rules recommend that everything possible be done to facilitate the establishment of national coordinating committees, or similar bodies, to serve as a national focal point on disability matters. In doing so, Governments should take account of the 1990 Guidelines for the Establishment and Development of National Coordinating Committees on Disability or Similar Bodies. 15/

 

 

 

 

III. THE OBLIGATION TO ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATION

ON THE GROUNDS OF DISABILITY

 

15. Both de jure and de facto discrimination against persons with disabilities have a long history and take various forms. They range from invidious discrimination, such as the denial of educational opportunities, to more “subtle” forms of discrimination such as segregation and isolation achieved through the imposition of physical and social barriers. For the purposes of the Covenant, “disability-based discrimination” may be defined as including any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, or denial of reasonable accommodation based on disability which has the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of economic, social or cultural rights. Through neglect, ignorance, prejudice and false assumptions, as well as through exclusion, distinction or separation, persons with disabilities have very often been prevented from exercising their economic, social or cultural rights on an equal basis with persons without disabilities. The effects of disability-based discrimination have been particularly severe in the fields of education, employment, housing, transport, cultural life, and access to public places and services.

 

16. Despite some progress in terms of legislation over the past decade, 16/ the legal situation of persons with disabilities remains precarious. In order to remedy past and present discrimination, and to deter future discrimination, comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in relation to disability would seem to be indispensable in virtually all States parties. Such legislation should not only provide persons with disabilities with judicial remedies as far as possible and appropriate, but also provide for social-policy programmes which enable persons with disabilities to live an integrated, self-determined and independent life.

 

17. Anti-discrimination measures should be based on the principle of equal rights for persons with disabilities and the non-disabled, which, in the words of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, “implies that the needs of each and every individual are of equal importance, that these needs must be made the basis for the planning of societies, and that all resources must be employed in such a way as to ensure, for every individual, equal opportunity for participation. Disability policies should ensure the access of [persons with disabilities] to all community services”. 17/

 

18. Because appropriate measures need to be taken to undo existing discrimination and to establish equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities, such actions should not be considered discriminatory in the sense of article 2 (2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as long as they are based on the principle of equality and are employed only to the extent necessary to achieve that objective.

 

 

 

 

IV. SPECIFIC PROVISIONS OF THE COVENANT

 

 

A. Article 3 – Equal rights for men and women

 

19. Persons with disabilities are sometimes treated as genderless human beings. As a result, the double discrimination suffered by women with disabilities is often neglected. 18/ Despite frequent calls by the international community for particular emphasis to be placed upon their situation, very few efforts have been undertaken during the Decade. The neglect of women with disabilities is mentioned several times in the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the World Programme of Action. 19/ The Committee therefore urges States parties to address the situation of women with disabilities, with high priority being given in future to the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights-related programmes.

 

 

B. Articles 6-8 – Rights relating to work

 

20. The field of employment is one in which disability-based discrimination has been prominent and persistent. In most countries the unemployment rate among persons with disabilities is two to three times higher than the unemployment rate for persons without disabilities. Where persons with disabilities are employed, they are mostly engaged in low-paid jobs with little social and legal security and are often segregated from the mainstream of the labour market. The integration of persons with disabilities into the regular labour market should be actively supported by States.

 

21. The “right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts” (art. 6 (1)) is not realized where the only real opportunity open to disabled workers is to work in so-called “sheltered” facilities under substandard conditions. Arrangements whereby persons with a certain category of disability are effectively confined to certain occupations or to the production of certain goods may violate this right. Similarly, in the light of principle 13 (3) of the Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care, 20/ “therapeutical treatment” in institutions which amounts to forced labour is also incompatible with the Covenant. In this regard, the prohibition on forced labour contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is also of potential relevance.

 

22. According to the Standard Rules, persons with disabilities, whether in rural or urban areas, must have equal opportunities for productive and gainful employment in the labour market 21/ . For this to happen it is particularly important that artificial barriers to integration in general, and to employment in particular, be removed. As the International Labour Organisation has noted, it is very often the physical barriers that society has erected in areas such as transport, housing and the workplace which are then cited as the reason why persons with disabilities cannot be employed 22/ . For example, as long as workplaces are designed and built in ways that make them inaccessible to wheelchairs, employers will be able to “justify” their failure to employ wheelchair users. Governments should also develop policies which promote and regulate flexible and alternative work arrangements that reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled workers.

 

23. Similarly, the failure of Governments to ensure that modes of transportation are accessible to persons with disabilities greatly reduces the chances of such persons finding suitable, integrated jobs, taking advantage of educational and vocational training, or commuting to facilities of all types. Indeed, the provision of access to appropriate and, where necessary, specially tailored forms of transportation is crucial to the realization by persons with disabilities of virtually all the rights recognized in the Covenant.

 

24. The “technical and vocational guidance and training programmes” required under article 6 (2) of the Covenant should reflect the needs of all persons with disabilities, take place in integrated settings, and be planned and implemented with the full involvement of representatives of persons with disabilities.

 

25. The right to “the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work” (art. 7) applies to all disabled workers, whether they work in sheltered facilities or in the open labour market. Disabled workers may not be discriminated against with respect to wages or other conditions if their work is equal to that of non-disabled workers. States parties have a responsibility to ensure that disability is not used as an excuse for creating low standards of labour protection or for paying below minimum wages.

 

26. Trade union-related rights (art. 8) apply equally to workers with disabilities and regardless of whether they work in special work facilities or in the open labour market. In addition, article 8, read in conjunction with other rights such as the right to freedom of association, serves to emphasize the importance of the right of persons with disabilities to form their own organizations. If these organizations are to be effective in “the promotion and protection of [the] economic and social interests” (art. 8 (1) (a)) of such persons, they should be consulted regularly by government bodies and others in relation to all matters affecting them; it may also be necessary that they be supported financially and otherwise so as to ensure their viability.

 

27. The International Labour Organization has developed valuable and comprehensive instruments with respect to the work-related rights of persons with disabilities, including in particular Convention No. 159 (1983) concerning vocational rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities. 23/ The Committee encourages States parties to the Covenant to consider ratifying that Convention.

 

 

C. Article 9 – Social security

 

28. Social security and income-maintenance schemes are of particular importance for persons with disabilities. As stated in the Standard Rules, “States should ensure the provision of adequate income support to persons with disabilities who, owing to disability or disability-related factors, have temporarily lost or received a reduction in their income or have been denied employment opportunities”. 24/ Such support should reflect the special needs for assistance and other expenses often associated with disability. In addition, as far as possible, the support provided should also cover individuals (who are overwhelmingly female) who undertake the care of a person with disabilities. Such persons, including members of the families of persons with disabilities, are often in urgent need of financial support because of their assistance role. 25/

 

29. Institutionalization of persons with disabilities, unless rendered necessary for other reasons, cannot be regarded as an adequate substitute for the social security and income-support rights of such persons.

 

 

D. Article 10 – Protection of the family and

of mothers and children

 

30. In the case of persons with disabilities, the Covenant’s requirement that “protection and assistance” be rendered to the family means that everything possible should be done to enable such persons, when they so wish, to live with their families. Article 10 also implies, subject to the general principles of international human rights law, the right of persons with disabilities to marry and have their own family. These rights are frequently ignored or denied, especially in the case of persons with mental disabilities. 26/ In this and other contexts, the term “family” should be interpreted broadly and in accordance with appropriate local usage. States parties should ensure that laws and social policies and practices do not impede the realization of these rights. Persons with disabilities should have access to necessary counselling services in order to fulfil their rights and duties within the family. 27/

 

31. Women with disabilities also have the right to protection and support in relation to motherhood and pregnancy. As the Standard Rules state, “persons with disabilities must not be denied the opportunity to experience their sexuality, have sexual relationships and experience parenthood”. 28/ The needs and desires in question should be recognized and addressed in both the recreational and the procreational contexts. These rights are commonly denied to both men and women with disabilities worldwide. 29/ Both the sterilization of, and the performance of an abortion on, a woman with disabilities without her prior informed consent are serious violations of article 10 (2).

 

32. Children with disabilities are especially vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and neglect and are, in accordance with article 10 (3) of the Covenant (reinforced by the corresponding provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), entitled to special protection.

 

 

E. Article 11 – The right to an adequate standard of living

 

33. In addition to the need to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to adequate food, accessible housing and other basic material needs, it is also necessary to ensure that “support services, including assistive devices” are available “for persons with disabilities, to assist them to increase their level of independence in their daily living and to exercise their rights”. 30/ The right to adequate clothing also assumes a special significance in the context of persons with disabilities who have particular clothing needs, so as to enable them to function fully and effectively in society. Wherever possible, appropriate personal assistance should also be provided in this connection. Such assistance should be undertaken in a manner and spirit which fully respect the human rights of the person(s) concerned. Similarly, as already noted by the Committee in paragraph 8 of General Comment No. 4 (Sixth session, 1991), the right to adequate housing includes the right to accessible housing for persons with disabilities.

 

 

F. Article 12 – The right to physical and mental health

 

 

34. According to the Standard Rules, “States should ensure that persons with disabilities, particularly infants and children, are provided with the same level of medical care within the same system as other members of society”. 31/ The right to physical and mental health also implies the right to have access to, and to benefit from, those medical and social services – including orthopaedic devices – which enable persons with disabilities to become independent, prevent further disabilities and support their social integration. 32/ Similarly, such persons should be provided with rehabilitation services which would enable them “to reach and sustain their optimum level of independence and functioning”. 33/ All such services should be provided in such a way that the persons concerned are able to maintain full respect for their rights and dignity.

 

 

G. Articles 13 and 14 – The right to education

 

35. School programmes in many countries today recognize that persons with disabilities can best be educated within the general education system. 34/ Thus the Standard Rules provide that “States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for children, youth and adults with disabilities, in integrated settings”. 35/ In order to implement such an approach, States should ensure that teachers are trained to educate children with disabilities within regular schools and that the necessary equipment and support are available to bring persons with disabilities up to the same level of education as their non-disabled peers. In the case of deaf children, for example, sign language should be recognized as a separate language to which the children should have access and whose importance should be acknowledged in their overall social environment.

 

 

H. Article 15 – The right to take part in cultural life

and enjoy the benefits of scientific progress

 

36. The Standard Rules provide that “States should ensure that persons with disabilities have the opportunity to utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of their community, be they in urban or rural areas. … States should promote the accessibility to and availability of places for cultural performances and services … “. 36/ The same applies to places for recreation, sports and tourism.

 

37. The right to full participation in cultural and recreational life for persons with disabilities further requires that communication barriers be eliminated to the greatest extent possible. Useful measures in this regard might include “the use of talking books, papers written in simple language and with clear format and colours for persons with mental disability, [and] adapted television and theatre for deaf persons”. 37/

 

38. In order to facilitate the equal participation in cultural life of persons with disabilities, Governments should inform and educate the general public about disability. In particular, measures must be taken to dispel prejudices or superstitious beliefs against persons with disabilities, for example those that view epilepsy as a form of spirit possession or a child with disabilities as a form of punishment visited upon the family. Similarly, the general public should be educated to accept that persons with disabilities have as much right as any other person to make use of restaurants, hotels, recreation centres and cultural venues.

 

 

Notes

 

* Contained in document E/1995/22.

 

1/ For a comprehensive review of the question, see the final report prepared by Mr Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur, on human rights and disability (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/31).

 

2/ See A/47/415, para. 5.

 

3/ See para. 165 of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly by its resolution 37/52 of 3 December 1982 (para. 1).

 

4/ See Commission on Human Rights resolutions 1992/48, para. 4 and 1993/29, para. 7.

 

5/ See A/47/415, para. 6.

 

6/ Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, annexed to General Assembly resolution 48/96 of 20 December 1993 (Introduction, para. 17).

 

7/ World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above), para. 1.

 

8/ A/C.3/46/4, annex I. Also contained in the Report on the International Meeting on the Roles and Functions of National Coordinating Committees on Disability in Developing Countries, Beijing, 5-11 November 1990 (CSDHA/DDP/NDC/4). See also Economic and Social Council resolution 1991/8 and General Assembly resolution 46/96 of 16 December 1991.

 

9/ General Assembly resolution 46/119 of 17 December 1991, annex.

 

10/ Standard Rules, (see note 6 above), Introduction, para. 15.

 

11/ See A/47/415, passim.

 

12/ Ibid., para. 5.

 

13/ Standard Rules, (see note 6 above) Rule 1.

 

14/ World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above), para. 3.

 

15/ See note 8 above.

 

16/ See A/47/415, paras. 37-38.

 

17/ World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above), para. 25.

 

18/ See E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/31 (see note 1 above), para. 140.

 

19/ See A/47/415, paras. 35, 46, 74 and 77.

 

20/ See note 9 above.

 

21/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above), Rule 7.

 

22/ See A/CONF.157/PC/61/Add.10, p. 12.

 

23/ See also Recommendation No. 99 (1955) concerning vocational rehabilitation of the disabled, and Recommendation No. 168 (1983) concerning vocational rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities.

 

24/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above) Rule 8, para. 1.

 

25/ See A/47/415, para. 78.

 

26/ See E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/31 (see note 1 above), paras. 190 and 193.

 

27/ See the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above) para. 74.

 

28/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above), Rule 9, para. 2.

 

29/ See E/CN.6/1991/2, paras. 14 and 59-68.

 

30/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above), Rule 4.

 

31/ Ibid., Rule 2, para. 3.

 

32/ See the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons (General Assembly resolution 3447 (XXX) of 9 December 1975), para. 6; and the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (see note 3 above), paras. 95-107.

 

33/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above), Rule 3.

 

34/ See A/47/415 para. 73.

 

35/ Standard Rules (see note 6 above), Rule 6.

 

36/ ibid., Rule 10, paras.1-2

 

37/ See A/47/415 para. 79

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