Category Archives: International Criminal Law

 
 

Fifteen years of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/05/the-15-year-u-s-war-in-afghanistan-barely-gets-mentioned-even-when-nato-airstrikes-massacre-30-civilians/
Salpon.com, Nov. 5, 2016
The 15-year U.S. war in Afghanistan barely gets mentioned, even when NATO airstrikes massacre 30 civilians
The U.S. war continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, yet Clinton and Trump never even discussed it
Ben Norton

At least 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan on Thursday. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

The site of the attack, in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, was near the remnants of a hospital bombed by NATO forces almost exactly one year before.

These new casualties come just after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan entered its 16th year. The ongoing conflict, which gets little coverage in the media and has hardly been mentioned in the presidential campaigns, is one of the longest conventional wars in U.S. history, and has taken an enormous toll on the South Asian country’s civilian population.

Airstrikes were called in on Thursday after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban militants and U.S. and allied Afghan forces in the northern village of Buz Kandahari.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Amarkhil called the attack “a horrible incident,” Reuters reported. Afghan villagers brought the bodies of the slain civilians into the nearby city of Kunduz and held angry protests.

“These bodies you see here are either children or women, they are not Taliban. All innocent children and women killed here — look at the bodies there,” a resident told Reuters.

Two U.S. soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

This latest attack took place roughly three miles from the center of Kunduz, where NATO forces bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

Last year’s attack killed another 30 civilians, including 14 hospital workers. A hospital nurse said there “are no words for how terrible” the bombing was, noting that “patients were burning in their beds.”

The U.S. military’s version of the story changed multiple times, and was full of contradictions. Ultimately, no U.S. officials lost their jobs because of the attack.

Doctors Without Borders called the hospital bombing a war crime. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights similarly said it could have been a war crime.

The medical humanitarian group, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, emphasized that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months.” Yet its facility was repeatedly bombed for more than 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The Kunduz hospital was the only large medical facility in all of northeastern Afghanistan, yet MSF was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.

Millions of Afghans have had their lives permanently changed by the U.S. war, which marked its 15th anniversary on Oct. 7 — an unpropitious date that came and went with little attention in the media, and virtually no acknowledgment by major American politicians.

More than a decade of nonstop war has pushed Afghanistan to the brink of catastrophe. And things are getting worse, not better.

At least 220,000 Afghans were killed in the first 12 years of the war, in a conservative estimate, according to a report by the Nobel Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Since 2012, Afghan civilian casualties have increased, with children making up a growing portion of victims. The violence in 2015 was the worst since the U.N. began tracking the casualties.

In the first nine months of 2016, 2,562 Afghan civilians were killed, including more than 600 children, and another 5,835 were injured, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
A graph released by the U.N. mission shows how civilian casualties have gradually risen in the past several years.

http://media.salon.com/2016/11/casualties-afghanistan-un.jpg

A May report by Amnesty International noted that the number of Afghans “who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country, where they live on the brink of survival,” has doubled in just over three years.

At least 1.2 million Afghans are displaced within their country — a rise by some 240 percent since 2013. Another roughly 2.6 million Afghans are refugees, stuck outside of their country’s borders.

Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Yet the European Union, which has backed the NATO war in Afghanistan that has displaced so many people, made a deal to send Afghan refugees to Turkey, in a plan experts said is illegal and immoral.

Even child refugees are not spared. From 2007 to 2015, the United Kingdom deported 2,018 unaccompanied children to Afghanistan — in another program human rights officials have warned is illegal.

None of this is to mention the enormous costs of the war for U.S. taxpayers. Numerous reports estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost at least $1 trillion. That is money that could have been invested in social services, health care, infrastructure, education and so much more.

The war drags on. President Obama promised countless times that he would end it in 2014. Instead, he has extended it multiple times.

The Taliban was itself a product of U.S. war. In order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia trained, armed and funded extremist Islamist militants, giving birth to the extremism that haunts the region today.

While fighting between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces escalates, Obama nears his last days in office. Neither Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate for U.S. president, nor her opponent Donald Trump has presented a strategy for ending the war. The Afghan people, meanwhile, cannot wait. They are dying, suffering, losing their homes and loved ones.

As Nicholas Haysom, the U.N.’s secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, put it in February, mere statistics do not “reflect the real horror of the phenomenon we are talking about.”

“The real cost we are talking about in these figures,” Haysom continued, “is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieve for lost children, the children who grieve for lost parents.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Hillary Laughed ‘I Came He Died’

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

Yes, Netanyahu, Let’s Talk About Ethnic Cleansing

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.741296
Opinion // Yes, Netanyahu, Let’s Talk About Ethnic Cleansing

Turning Israeli settlers into victims is the prime minister’s most staggering act of chutzpah yet. The only mass ethnic cleansing that took place here was in 1948, when some 700,000 Arabs were forced to leave their lands.
Gideon Levy, Sep 10, 2016 9:48 PM

Israel knows a thing or two about ethnic cleansing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows a thing or two about propaganda. The video he posted on Friday proves both points. Here’s the real thing — yet another record for Israeli chutzpah: The evacuation of settlers from the West Bank (which has never happened, and presumably never will) is ethnic cleansing.

Yes, the state that brought you the great cleansing of 1948 and that has never, deep in its heart, given up on the dream of cleansing, and that never stopped carrying out methodical microcleansings in the Jordan Valley, in the South Hebron Hills, in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and in the Negev, too — that state calls the removal of settlers ethnic cleansing. That state compares the invaders of the occupied territories with the children of the land who clung onto their lands and homes.

Netanyahu proved once more that he is the real thing, the most authentic representative of the “Israeliness” that created reality for itself: Turning night into day, shamelessly and without any sense of guilt, without inhibition.

In Israel, many people, perhaps a majority, will buy these goods. The settlers of the Gaza Strip became “expellees,” their removal “deportation.” Not only is an aggressive and violent action — settlement — legitimate, but its agents are victims.

The Jews as victim. Always the Jews, only the Jews. An Israeli prime minister less brazen and arrogant than Netanyahu would not dare to utter the term “ethnic cleansing,” given the plank in his own eye. Few propaganda campaigns would dare go so far. Yet occasionally, reality intrudes.

And the reality is razor-sharp. The only mass ethnic cleansing that took place here was in 1948. Some 700,000 human beings, the majority, were forced to leave their homes, their belongings, their villages and the land that had been theirs for centuries. Some were forcibly expelled, put on trucks and removed; some were intentionally frightened into fleeing; still others fled, possibly unnecessarily. They were never allowed to return, save for a few, even if only to recover their belongings.

Being barred from returning was worse than the expulsion. It is what proved that the cleansing was intentional. Not a single Arab community remained between Jaffa and Gaza, and all the other areas are scarred with the remains of villages, the vestiges of life. That is ethnic cleansing — there’s no other term for it. More than 400 villages and towns were wiped off the face of the earth, their ruins covered over by Jewish communities, forests and lies. The truth was concealed from Israeli Jews and the descendants of the deportees were forbidden to commemorate them — neither monument nor gravestone, to paraphrase Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

The number of settlers now exceeds the number of expellees. They invaded a land that was not theirs, with the support of successive Israeli governments and the opposition of the entire world, and they knew that their enterprise was built on ice. They and the Israeli governments not only crudely violated international law, which earns no respect in Israel. They also broke Israeli law, with the support of a subjugated judiciary.

Land theft is even a violation of the law practiced in Israel and the territories. When Israelis, and the world, began to become accustomed to this situation, to accept it as inevitable, along comes the prime minister and takes his chutzpah up one more level: The settlers are actually victims. Not the ones they expelled, not the ones they disinherited of their land. In the reality according to Netanyahu, the settlements that were built for the purpose of precluding arrangements with the Palestinians are not an obstacle, and he equates them with the she’erit haplita — the remnants of the Palestinians that remained in Israel, to borrow a term from the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Language can be twisted to any use, propaganda to any moral perversion. Farewell, reality, you’re not relevant here anymore.

US and Britain wrangled over Iraq’s oil in aftermath of war, Chilcot shows

US and Britain wrangled over Iraq’s oil in aftermath of war, Chilcot shows

Terry Macalister, 7 July 2016, The Guardian

Iraq war inquiry finds Britain arguing for ‘level playing field’ for its companies in access to oilfields.

The US and British governments fought bitterly over control of Iraq’s oil following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Chilcot papers show. Tony Blair seemed more concerned than the Americans about any invasion being seen by critics as a war for oil, telling them it would be very damaging if the two countries were seen to “grab Iraq’s oil”.

But Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, told Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, in Washington on 9 December 2002 that Britain still wanted more of the spoils.

“It would be inappropriate for HMG [Her Majesty’s government] to enter into discussions about any future carve-up of the Iraqi oil industry,” he said. “Nonetheless it is essential that our [British] companies are given access to a level playing field in this and other sectors.”

UK government officials called in a team from BP for a briefing about the prospects for the Iraq energy sector on 23 January 2003, two months before the invasion, which ended in May.

Later that year, the British oil company started a technical review of the Rumaila field, the second largest in the world. By 2009 BP had won a service contract to raise production on the field, which has 20bn barrels of recoverable oil.

Edward Chaplin, the British ambassador in occupied Iraq, talked of raising “BP and Shell’s interests” when he held discussions with Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, on 13 December 2004.

Blair had told the US president, George W Bush, at a meeting mid-invasion on 31 March 2003, that a clearer picture was needed of the shape of a post-Saddam Iraq to “sketch out a political and economic future and dispel the myth that we were out to grab Iraq’s oil”.

Yet a civil service briefing note in the same year for Geoff Hoon – then the UK defence secretary – before talks with his US counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses the need for “Level playing field: big contracts to rebuild Iraq. Putting UK lives on line. Expect level playing field for UK business in oil and other areas.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the United Nations, identified budgeting and oil as the two clearest examples of issues on which the UK was not consulted by the US-run coalition provisional authority put in to run Iraq.

“We did not see anything whatsoever in the oil sector; they [the CPA] kept that very closely American, because they wanted to run the oil sector,” he told the Chilcot inquiry, and was quoted in the final report.

Meanwhile, a note between two British civil servants on 6 September 2004, headed “Energy strategy for Iraq”, highlighted that the UK was to take advantage of Iraq, which has some of the world’s largest oil reserves. It said: “Iraq’s energy sector development to be complemented by the increasing involvement of UK firms, leading to sustained investment over the next five to 10 years and substantial business for the UK.”

BP declined to comment.

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions

by Joy Gordon

in Ethics and International Affairs 04/2006

Joy Gordon is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University. She received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale and a J.D. from Boston University. Prior research interests include Latin American political thought. Her recent work is in Third World and leftist critiques of Western theories of human rights. Currently, she is writing a book on economic sanctions and their role within the larger context of international governance.

ABSTRACT

Economic sanctions are emerging as one of the major tools of international governance in the post-Cold War era. Sanctions have long been seen as a form of political intervention that does not cause serious human damage, and therefore does not raise pressing ethical questions. However, the nature of sanctions is that they effectively target the most vulnerable and least political sectors of society, and for this reason they must be subject to ethical scrutiny.This essay looks at sanctions in the context of three ethical frameworks: just war doctrine, deontological ethics, and utilitarianism. It argues that sanctions are inconsistent with the principle of discrimination from just war doctrine; that sanctions reduce individuals to nothing more than means to an end by using the suffering of innocents as a means of persuasion, thereby violating the Kantian principle that human beings are “ends in themselves”; and that sanctions are unacceptable from a utilitarian perspective because their economic effectiveness necessarily entails considerable human damage, while their likelihood of achieving political objectives is low
A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions (PDF Download Available). Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/229658377_A_Peaceful_Silent_Deadly_Remedy_The_Ethics_of_Economic_Sanctions [accessed Jul 23, 2015].

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

Who really bombed the Paris metro in 1995?

Who really bombed the Paris metro in 1995?

Naima Bouteldja, The Guardian, Thursday 8 September 2005 00.02 BST

The evidence is that the 1995 Islamist attacks on the French metro were in fact carried out by the Algerian secret service

Ever since the 1995 bombing of the Paris metro by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) made France the first western European country to suffer so-called radical Islamist terrorism, its politicians and “terror experts” have consistently warned Britain to the dangers of welcoming Islamist political dissidents and radical preachers to her shores.

In the aftermath of the July London attacks, commentators were quick to argue that France’s “zero tolerance” policy and campaign of “integration” in the name of republican values – embodied in the 2004 ban on the display of all religious symbols in schools – has spared the country from terror attacks, while Britain’s failure to follow Spain and Germany in adopting the French model has proved a spectacular own-goal. However, as Tony Blair made clear in unveiling his government’s proposed legislation on August 5, “the rules of the game have changed”. Suddenly, the French recipe for dealing with Islamist terror has become feted by British politicians and media alike.

But how would we regard the virtue of the French model if, a decade after bombs ripped through the metro, enough evidence had been gathered to demonstrate that the attacks allegedly carried out by Islamist militants were not fuelled by fundamentalism, but instead were dreamt up and overseen by the Algerian secret service as part of a domestic political struggle that spilled over into Algeria’s former colonial master? The most comprehensive studies – including Lounis Aggoun and Jean-Baptiste Rivoire’s Françalgérie: Crimes and Lies of the State – argue that this is exactly what happened.

In 1991 Algeria’s main Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), won a first-round victory in the country’s inaugural multiparty general elections, which threatened to strip away the power of the generals who had controlled the state from the shadows.

Exploiting Europe’s fear of an Islamic government, the Algerian army intervened to halt the second round of voting, forcing the president to step down and a temporary commission to rule the country. But the legitimacy of this new arrangement could only be assured if the Islamic opposition could be discredited and crushed.

The DRS – the Algerian secret service – systematically infiltrated insurrectionary Islamist groups such as the GIA and from 1992 onwards launched its own fake guerrilla groups, including death squads disguised as Islamists. In 1994, the DRS managed to place Jamel Zitouni, one of the Islamists it controlled, at the head of the GIA.

“It became impossible to distinguish the genuine Islamists from those controlled by the regime,” says Salima Mellah, of the NGO Algeria Watch. “Each time the generals came under pressure from the international community, the terror intensified”. By January 1995, however, Algeria’s dirty war began to falter. The Italian government hosted a meeting in Rome of Algerian political parties, including the FIS. The participants agreed a common platform, calling for an inquiry into the violence in Algeria, the end of the army’s involvement in political affairs and the return of constitutional rule.

This left the generals in an untenable position. In their desperation, and with the help of the DRS, they hatched a plot to prevent French politicians from ever again withdrawing support for the military junta. As Aggoun and Rivoire recount, French-based Algerian spies initially given the task of infiltrating Islamist networks were transformed into agent provocateurs. In spring 1995, Ali Touchent, an Algerian agent, began to gather and incite a network of disaffected young men from north African backgrounds to commit terrorist attacks in France. The DRS’s infiltrators, led by Zitouni, also pushed the GIA to eliminate some of the FIS’s leaders living in Europe.

On July 11 1995 Abdelbaki Sahraoui, a FIS leader in France, was assassinated. The GIA claimed responsibility. Two weeks later the metro was hit by bombs, killing eight. After a further attack, Zitouni called on President Jacques Chirac to “convert to Islam to be saved”. The resulting public hysteria against Islam and Islamism saw the French government abandon its support for the Rome accord.

So what happened to the perpetrators? The masterminds of the main attack were never caught. Despite being publicly identified by the Algerian authorities as the European ringleader of the GIA and by French investigators as the key organiser, Touchent evaded capture, returned to Algeria and settled in a secure police quarter of Algiers.

France’s inability to bring to justice those genuinely responsible for the 1995 attacks was evidently more than an accident. According to Mohamed Samraoui, a former colonel in the Algerian secret service: “French intelligence knew that Ali Touchent was a DRS operative charged with infiltrating pro-Islamist cells in foreign countries.” It has never been officially denied that in return for supplying the French authorities with valuable information, Touchent was granted protection.

This is not the only explanation for French collaboration with the Algerian government. Algeria is one of the main suppliers of gas and oil to France, and an important client. François Gèze of La Decouverte, a French publisher which exposed the involvement of the Algerian secret services in the dirty war, argues that at the heart of this economic relationship is a web of political corruption. “French exporters generally pay a 10 to 15% commission on their goods. Part of this revenue is then ‘repaid’ by the Algerians as finance for the electoral campaigns of French political parties.”

What the true story of France’s 1995 brush with “Islamic terror” reveals is that the attacks, while probably executed by a small number of Muslim extremists, were conceived and manipulated by vested interests. British policymakers would do well to understand the specific context and complex colonial legacy of French-Algerian relations before they go looking for direct comparisons. The 1995 case is also a warning against blaming “Islamists” for terror, while turning a blind eye to repressive actions of governments in the Arab world when they suit western governments’ agenda.

· Naima Bouteldja is a French journalist and researcher for the Transnational Institute

Macedonia faked ‘militant’ raid

Macedonia faked ‘militant’ raid

BBC, April 30, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3674533.stm

Macedonian officials have admitted that seven alleged Pakistani militants killed in March 2002 were in fact illegal immigrants shot in cold blood to “impress” the international community.

They said four officers in the security services had been charged with their murder, while former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski may also face charges.

At the time, the interior ministry said they had been killed after trying to ambush police in the capital, Skopje.

But a police spokeswoman said they had in fact been shot in a “staged murder”.

The Macedonians were apparently trying to show the outside world that they were serious about participating in the US-led war on terror, officials say.

“It was a monstrous fabrication to get the attention of the international community,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Mirjana Kontevska told a news conference.

Questions asked

When the incident was reported more than two years ago, it was claimed that a new front had opened up in the war on terror.

The Macedonian interior ministry said the seven men of Pakistani origin were killed after opening fire on a police patrol with machine guns.

Mr Boskovski said the dead men had been planning attacks on vital installations and embassies.

But questions soon began to be asked about the authorities’ version of events.

Now the public prosecutor’s office has brought charges against officers involved in the case and has asked parliament to waive Mr Boskovski’s immunity from prosecution.

The former interior minister denies any wrongdoing.

Gunned down

Police spokeswoman Mirjana Konteska told the Associated Press news agency that the victims were illegal immigrants who had been lured into Macedonia by promises that they would be taken to western Europe.

She said they were transported to the Rastanski Lozja area, about 5km north of Skopje, where they were surrounded and gunned down by police.

“They lost their lives in a staged murder,” she said.

Ms Konteska told AP the investigation was continuing and more suspects could be charged.

If convicted, they face between 10 years and life in prison.

 

Guantanamo inmate claims he underwent medical experiments

Guantanamo inmate claims he underwent medical experiments

A German-Turkish man, who spent over four years imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, has claimed US guards regularly carried out medical experiments on inmates. The allegations follow revelations made by a US website.

Murat KurnazKurnaz spent over four years in Guantanamo

Former Guantanamo inmate Murat Kurnaz has accused guards at the US-run detention camp, of subjecting him and other prisoners to medical torture.

In an interview with the daily Berliner Zeitung, Kurnaz claimed that he was given medicine against his will several times a month throughout the four and a half years he spent in Guantanamo Bay.

Kurnaz, who is of Turkish origin, was released in 2006 and then returned to Germany, where he had grown up.

His assertions correlate with the results of two separate studies by American lawyers and the US news website Truthout. They revealed that inmates in the prison camp in Cuba were forced to take high doses of drugs, without any medical need.

Mysterious injections

Kurnaz told the Berliner Zeitung that he was regularly given injections without being told what they were for.

“I felt really terrible,” Kurnaz said.

Rights groups claim medical experiments took place in Guantanamo

Although there was no danger of malaria in the camp, he alleges he was forced to take anti-malaria tablets, which made him tired and breathless.

Kurnaz alleges that some of his fellow inmates blew up like ballons under the influence of the drugs.

“They had swollen heads, swollen hands, everything was full of water,” Kurnaz said.

Kurnaz claims that all the inmates he spoke with were convinced that newly developed medicines or drugs were being tested on them.

“We were guinea pigs, although no one told us,” Kurnaz said.

‘Pharmaceutical waterboarding’

The American organization Truthout last December published details of three cases of suicide at Guantanamo Bay. Truthout claimed that government documents from 2006 showed that all inmates were being administered high doses of the oral anti-malaria drug mefloquine. The dose was apparently five times the normal usage. Truthout described the practice as “pharmaceutical waterboarding.”

Kurnaz’s lawyer said the effects his client experienced correlate with the known side-effects of mefloquine.

“Sometimes he felt lightheaded, other times he was sick, and he also had nightmares,” Bernhard Docke told Deutsche Welle. “That conforms to the effects mefloquine can have on humans, when taken in high doses.”

Mefloquine can lead to sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, psychosis and hallucination. There are reports of US soldiers displaying episodes of aggression and a higher rate of suicide after taking the drug.

Why speak out now?

Kurnaz was released from Guantanamo five years ago, so some are asking why he has waited until now to speak out. Docke says his client was not seeking publicity. He was only responding to an inquiry by journalist Andreas Förster, following the publication of Truthout’s findings.

“He’s trying to lead a normal life,” Förster confirmed to Deutsche Welle. “That isn’t very easy, because the name ‘Murat Kurnaz’ was in the headlines for a while. There were also reports – particularly in the tabloid press – that he was a dangerous Islamist from whom we needed protection.”

“I think Kurnaz has become very mistrustful of the media,” Förster added, “because he’s scared people won’t believe what he went through.”

Author: Joanna Impey
Editor: Susan Houlton

Deutsche Welle

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

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.]

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/palestinian-recourse-to-the-international-criminal-court-the-time-has-come/

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

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.”

Rwanda’s massacres preceded by a false-flag operation covered-up by the UN

Evidence of Kagame’s Crimes Suppressed by Chief Rwanda Prosecutor Louise Arbour – Affidavit of Michael Andrew Hourigan

http://www.globalresearch.ca/evidence-of-kagames-crimes-suppressed-by-chief-rwanda-prosecutor-louise-arbour-testimony-of-michael-andrew-hourigan/5377200

COMPLETE DOCUMENT

Date of document:                                          27 November 2006

Filed on behalf of the Plaintiff by:            

Michael Hourigan

Carrington House

61-63 Carrington Street

Adelaide South Austrlia 5000

AUSTRALIA

Ph: (08) 8237 0584

Mobile: 0415 668 732

Fax: (08) 8237 0555

Email: mikehourigan@gmail.com                                                                    

Date and time of filing or transmission:    27 November 2006

AFFIDAVIT

I, MICHAEL ANDREW HOURIGAN Lawyer of 61-63 Carrington Street Adelaide 5000 in the State of South Australia Solicitor MAKE OATH AND SAY as follows:

1                    I am a qualified legal practitioner in the State of South Australia. I was also a former police detective before completing a law degree in 1995 after which time I took up a post as a Crown Prosecutor with the Director of Public Prosecutions (D.P.P. Adelaide).

2                    In April, 1996 I left the D.P.P. in Adelaide and took up a position as an investigator with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

3                    Soon after my arrival in Rwanda I was put made a team leader in charge of a team consisting of about 20 members and the team was to be known as ‘the National Team’.

4                    I was directed by Judge Richard Goldstone (the then Chief Prosecutor) and Judge Honoré Rakotomana (the then ICTR Prosecutor) and Mr. Alphonse Breau (the then Director of Investigations) to focus my teams investigations on the following matters:-

4.1.            investigate the criminal conduct of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora and then locate and arrest him;

4.2.            investigate the criminal conduct of Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva and then locate and arrest him;

4.3.            Investigate the murder of thousands of Rwandan elite in the first days of the genocide by the Rwandan Presidential.

4.4.            identify the person(s) responsible for the fatal rocket attack on 6 April 1994 killing President Habyarimana and all others on board;

5                    Together with my investigators we conducted investigations into these matters throughout the next year. During the course of 1996 I was called upon to brief Judge Goldstone and then his replacement Judge Louise Arbour and other senior prosecutors on the progress of our investigations into Bagosora, Nsengiyumva, the Presidential Guard and the rocket attack upon President Habyarimana’s aircraft.

6                    At no time did Judge Goldstone, Judge Arbour or any other member of the ICTR ever indicate to me that our investigations into the downing of the President Habyrimana’s aircraft were outside the ICTR mandate. On the contrary, it was made clear to me that our investigations into the rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft was an act of international terrorism which clearly fell within the ICTR statute Article 4 Violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions:-

Article 4: Violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II

The International Tribunal for Rwanda shall have the power to prosecute persons committing or ordering to be committed serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 for the Protection of War Victims, and of Additional Protocol II thereto of 8 June 1977. These violations shall include, but shall not be limited to:

a) Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation or any form of corporal punishment;

b)

c)

d) Acts of terrorism;

e)

f)

g)

h)

7                    I am pleased to say that the National Team was successful and we achieved the following results:-

7.1.            Located, arrested and charged Colonel Theoneste Bagosora with Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity;

7.2.            Located, arrested and charged Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity;

7.3.            Gathered evidence against senior members of the Presidential Guard in relation to the killing of key Rwandan citizens, including but not limited to, UNAMIR-protected VIPS  Justice Joseph Kavaruganda, (President of the Constitutional Court) and Vice President  Lando Ndasingwa (the head of the Parti liberal);

7.4.            In late January or early February 1997 members of the National Team were approached by three (3) informants (either former or serving member of the R.P.F.) claiming direct involvement in the 1994 fatal rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft. Their evidence specifically implicated the direct involvement of President Paul Kagame, members of his administration and military. The informants also advised that the Kagame administration was actively involved in covert operations aimed at murdering high profile expatriate Rwandans – once such murder was the death of Seth Sedashonga in Nairobi.

8                    With respect to the highly sensitive information from the three informants regarding the plane crash I immediately informed my Commander Jim Lyons. My Director Mr. Alphonse Breau was out of the country and I arranged for him to be told by telephone.

9                    The information from the sources was very detailed and seemed very credible. I was very concerned about the sensitivity of the information and arranged for an urgent ‘secure’ telephone call to Judge Arbour.

10                Commander Jim Lyons and I attended at the US Embassy in Kigali and I made a call to Judge Arbour at the US Embassy in the Hague using an encrypted (‘secure’) STU III telephone. I informed Judge Arbour in considerable detail about the information implicating President Kagame. She was excited by the break through and advised me that the information corroborated some other information she had just learnt from Alison Des Forge the week before. At no time did she suggest that our investigations were improper. On the contrary, I would describe her mood as upbeat and excited that at last we were making significant progress into the events surrounding the plane crash.

11                Judge Arbour was concerned about the safety of the informants and my men. I advised her that the informants’ identities had been kept secure and if she so directed me I would arrange for my investigators involved in the plane crash to leave Rwanda. She directed that my investigators should leave and I agreed to have them travel from the country on suitable inquiries inNairobi. As for me I declined to leave Rwanda and advised her that I wanted to stay with my team and assist them complete other important investigations. She consented to this  but asked me to keep in touch with her while she considered what to do with this sensitive information.

12                During the next week I was directed by senior members of the UN in Kigali that I was required to travel to the ICTY in the Hague in order to meet with Judge Arbour and brief on her on our investigations in the rocket attack upon President Habyarimana’s aircraft.

13                Some days later I was approached at the ICTR headquarters in Kigali by Mr. Michael Hall, UN Deputy Security (NY). He advised me that I would be flying to Arusha the next day on the ICTR aircraft and from there board an international KLM flight to Amsterdam. Mr. Hall asked me to give him any information that I had on air crash and he would convey it to the airport in a UN diplomatic pouch. I then gave Mr. Hall a single floppy disc containing a memorandum I had prepared for Judge Arbour.

14                The next day Mr. Hall conveyed me to the Kigali airport where I checked in for the UN flight. There Mr. Hall and I were told that the flight was overbooked and that I could not to Arusha. Mr. Hall became agitated and told the UN flight officer that the UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan had personally ordered my attendance in Arusha for an international connection the next day. As a consequence I was given a seat on the UN flight and flew to Arusha.

15                The next day I flew to the Hague and over-knighted in a hotel near the ICTY.

16                The following morning I met with Mr. Al Breau and briefed him on the information concerning the plane crash. Together we discussed forming a special ICTR investigations unit based outside of Kigali to investigate the plane crash.

17                Following breakfast Mr. Breau and I attended at the ICTY and met with Judge Arbour. Also present was Mr. Mohammed Othman, Acting ICTR Prosecutor.

18                I briefed Judge Arbour on the informants and their information regarding the involvement of President Kagame and members of the RPF in the downing of President Habyrimana’s aircraft.

19                I presented her with a copy of a memo I had prepared entitled ‘Secret National Team Inquiry – Internal Memorandum’ and this document which is undated is attached to this statement. This document detailed the information provided by the three informants.

20                To my surprise Judge Arbour was aggressive and questioned me about the source of the information regarding the informants and the quality and potential reliability of their information. I advised her that the information was given to me by members from my team – the National Team. Those members were Amadou Deme and Peter Dnistriansky. I advised her that I held both investigators in the highest regard. I did say that I was not able to provide any advice as to the reliability of their information as it had not been tested. However, I did suggest that it was very detailed and this is itself meant that it could be subjected to considerable forensic examination.

21                Mr. Al Breau also expressed his strong view that both Amadou Deme and Peter Dnistrianksy were highly effective and reliable men.

22                Judge Arbour then advised me that the National Team investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our mandate. She suggested that the ICTR’s mandate only extended to events within the genocide, which in her view began ‘after’ the plane crash.

23                I was astounded at this statement. I pointed to the temporal mandate of the ICTR being 1 January 1994 until 31 December 1994 and this clearly covered the time of the plane crash. I also addressed the ‘terrorism’ and ‘murder’ provisions of the ICTR statute.

24                More particularly I also told her that this was the first time she had ever suggested that this was outside the ICTR mandate. I reminded her that I had personally briefed her before about our investigations  into the plane crash and that she had never ever expressed a view that this matter should be part of an ICTR inquiry.

25                I expressed my strong view to her that these Rwandan informants were courageous and were deserving of our protection. I cautioned her that the UN had a history of abandoning informants in Rwanda and I specifically reminded her of the UN’s abandonment of Jean Pierre Turatsinze in 1994.

26                Judge then became hostile and asked me if I was challenging her authority to direct to end our investigations into the plane crash.

27                I told her that I was not questioning her authority only her judgement. I informed her that I was her servant and I would obey her direction.

28                Judge Arbour then asked me if the memo that I had prepared for her was the only copy. I told her that it was and she said she was pleased to hear that and placed in her office filing cabinet.

29                She then asked me to leave the room.

30                I was extremely concerned at Judge Arbour’s decision and felt that it was wrong both in law and policy.

31                I returned to Kigali and a short time later resigned from the ICTR.

32                After my resignation from the ICTR I was offered a position as an investigator with the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in New York. Soon after taking up my appointment I was asked to provide OIOS  investigators investigating corruption within the ICTR with a statement re my service in Rwanda for the ICTR.

33                On 1 August 1997 I prepared an internal memorandum detailing various issues which I felt lay behind some of the difficulties with the ICTR. A copy of this memorandum is attached here.

34                The OIOS leadership were not at all interested in the memorandum and they expressed their concern at some of the contents of the document implicating the Secretary General in some of the serious events inRwandain1994.

35                I completed six months with OIOS and resigned.

36                I feel that unknown persons from within the UN leadership and possibly elsewhere pressured Judge Arbour to end the National Team’s investigations into the shooting down of President Habyarimana.

37                Following my resignation my National Team was dismembered – the National Team investigations into the plane crash were brought to an end.

38                I have suffered at the hands of Judge Arbour and the UN because my career with the ICTR was brought to an untimely and ignominious end. I was proud of serving with the ICTR but I felt that I could not work for Judge Arbour when, in my view, she acted for personal reasons against the interests of the ICTR, the UN and world community which we served.

39                I know the facts deposed to herein to be true of my own knowledge, information and belief except where otherwise plainly appears.

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

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the United Nations Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

René Provost

Starvation as a Weapon: Legal Implications of the United Nations Food Blockade Against Iraq and Kuwait

30 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 577 (1992)

(Introduction)

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990 was a bold political move that sent shockwaves through the community of nations and triggered an international reaction which some have viewed as the dawn of a ‘New World Order.’ From the start, the United Nations (the “U.N.”) was at the center of the reaction against this illegal use of force, condemning the invasion in unmitigated terms the same day it occurred. The U.N. proved successful in channelling efforts which eventually resulted in the liberation of Kuwait.

My focus here is on the use of a food blockade by the U.N. Security Council against Iraq and occupied Kuwait. The use of starvation as a weapon is regulated by a number of international humanitarian norms, some conventional and others customary. In this article, I analyze the legal and factual background of the food blockade, and then assess its compliance with international humanitarian law. I conclude that the U.N., the members of the Security Council, and the countries that participated violated several mandatory humanitarian norms in enforcing the food blockade.

Read the entire article here:

starvation-provost

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings on Belgrad

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings

Amnesty International, April 23, 2009

Aftermath of NATO bombing, Aleksinak, Yugoslavia, 28 May 1999

Ten years on, no-one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television building that left 16 civilians dead. Sixteen civilians were also injured during the air attack on 23 April 1999 on the headquarters and studios of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) in central Belgrade.

Those killed included a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, a programme director, three security guards and other media support staff. An estimated 200 staff are thought to have been working in the building at the time.

“The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime,” Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert said.

NATO officials confirmed to Amnesty International in early 2000 that they targeted RTS because of its propaganda function, in order to undermine the morale of the population and the armed forces.

“Justifying an attack on the grounds of combating propaganda stretches the meaning of ‘effective contribution to military action’ and ‘definite military advantage’. These are essential requirements of the legal definition of a military objective – beyond acceptable bounds of interpretation.

“Even if NATO genuinely believed RTS was a legitimate target, the attack was disproportionate and hence a war crime,” Sian Jones said.  

NATO officials also confirmed that no specific warning of this particular attack was given, even though they knew many civilians would be in the RTS building.

The raid was part of NATO’s “Operation Allied Force” against the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999. Approximately 500 civilians were killed and 900 injured during the course of the conflict.

Many of these casualties were caused by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and a failure to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.

In several attacks, including the Grdelica railroad bridge on 12 April 1999, the road bridge in Lužane on 1 May 1999 and Varvarin bridge on 30 May 1999, NATO forces failed to suspend their attack after it was evident that they had struck civilians. In other cases, including the attacks on displaced civilians in Djakovica on 14 April 1999 and Koriša on 13 May 1999, NATO failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties.

“Civilian deaths could have been significantly reduced during the conflict if NATO forces had fully adhered to the laws of war,” said Sian Jones. “Ten years on, no public investigation has ever been conducted by NATO or its member states into these incidents.”

Amnesty International recommended as early as 2000 that the victims of violations committed by NATO receive redress. Yet the victims of the RTS bombing and their relatives have never received any redress or reparations, including compensation, despite proceedings in domestic courts in Serbia and further applications to the European Court of Human Rights (Banković and others v Belgium and others and Markovic v Italy), which ruled the cases inadmissible.  

Many of the problems that undermined compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in “Operation Allied Force” – such as lack of clarity in the command structure and decision-making processes on target selection, divergent understanding among national contingents of applicable international law – persist in the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan.

“It now appears that NATO has failed to learn from the mistakes of Operation Allied Force. If anything, NATO appears to have taken a step backward in transparency, releasing less information about attacks it carries out in Afghanistan than it did during Operation Allied Force,” said Sian Jones.

“The most powerful military alliance in the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection of civilians according to international humanitarian law. It must be held accountable for any violations of that law.”

NATO Bombs RTS – TV Station in Belgrad

NATO Bombs TV Station in Serbia

Emergency rescue workers carry victims out of the Belgrade TV station bombed by NATO

‘Once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you change the rules of war’

by Robert Fisk, The Independent, April 23, 1999

Hanging upside-down from the wreckage was a dead man, in his fifties perhaps, although a benevolent grey dust had covered his face. Not far away, also upside-down – his legs trapped between tons of concrete and steel – was a younger man in a pullover, face grey, blood dribbling from his head on to the rubble beneath.

Deep inside the tangle of cement and plastic and iron, in what had once been the make-up room next to the broadcasting studio of Serb Television, was all that was left of a young woman, burnt alive when Nato’s missile exploded in the radio control room. Within six hours, the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, declared the place a “legitimate target.”

It wasn’t an argument worth debating with the wounded – one of them a young technician who could only be extracted from the hundreds of tons of concrete in which he was encased by amputating both his legs. Nor with the silent hundreds who gathered in front of the still-smoking ruin at dawn yesterday, lost for words as they stood in the little glade of trees beside St Marko’s Cathedral, where Belgrade’s red and cream trams turn round.

A Belgrade fireman pulled at one of the bodies for all of 30 seconds before he realised that the man, swinging back and forth amid the wreckage, was dead. By dusk last night, 10 crushed bodies – two of them women – had been tugged from beneath the concrete, another man had died in hospital and 15 other technicians and secretaries still lay buried. A fireman reported hearing a voice from the depths as the heavens opened, turning into mud the muck and dust of a building that Ms. Short had declared to be a “propaganda machine.”

We had all wondered how long it would be before Nato decided that Radio Televizija Srbija should join the list of “military” targets. Spokesmen had long objected to its crude propaganda – itincluded a Nato symbol turning into a swastika and a montage of Madeleine Albright growing Dracula teeth in front of a burning building. It never reported on the tens of thousands of Albanian refugees who spoke of executions and “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. It endlessly repeated films that depicted Yugoslav soldiers as idealised heroes defending their country. It carried soporific tapes of President Slobodan Milosevic meeting patriarchs, Cossacks, Russian envoys and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

The channel was showing an American interview with Mr Milosevic when the first cruise missile smashed into the station’s control room just after two o’clock yesterday morning. But did this justify killing the night staff in their studios and taping rooms? Two weeks ago, Nato’s spokesmen had been suggesting that RTS would have to carry six hours of Western television a day if it was to survive – CNN’s bland, safe coverage of events presumably offering some balance to the rubbish churned out on the RTS news.

But once Nato decided this was as preposterous as it was impracticable, its spokesman announced that the station was not on the list of Nato targets. Then, on Monday, CNN’s bosses called up from Atlanta to inform the satellite boys in Belgrade that they should pull out of the RTS offices.

Against the wishes of other Nato nations, so the word went, General Wesley Clark had decided to bomb Serb television. CNN withdrew from the building in Takovska Street. And that night, we were all invited to have coffee and orange juice in the studios. The building was likely to be a target of the “Nato aggressor”, according to Goran Matic, a Yugoslav federal minister, as he walked us through the ground floor of the doomed building. Yet, oddly, we did not take him seriously. Even when the air-raid siren sounded, I stayed for another coffee.

Surely Nato wouldn’t waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff. Yesterday morning, the moment I heard the cruise missile scream over my hotel roof, I knew I was wrong. There was a thunderous explosion and a mile-high cloud of dust as four storeys collapsed to the ground, sandwiching offices, machines, transmitters and people into a pile of rubble only 15 feet high.

Yet, within six hours, Serb television was back on the air, beaming its programmes from secret transmitters, the female anchorwoman reading the news from pieces of pink paper between pre-recorded films of Serbian folk-songs and ancient Orthodox churches. All along, the Serbs had been ready for just such an attack. We had not believed Nato capable of such ferocity.

The Serbs had. The crowds still stood in the park as darkness fell, watching the men with drills punching their way through the concrete for more survivors. By that time, explanations were flowing from Nato’s birthday celebrations in Washington. Serbia’s “propaganda machine” had been prolonging the war.

I wonder. I seem to recall Croatian television spreading hatred a-plenty when it was ethnically cleansing 170,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. But we didn’t bomb Zagreb. And when President Franjo Tudjman’s lads were massacring Serbs and Muslims alike in Bosnia, we didn’t bomb his residence.

Was Serbian television’s real sin its broadcast of film of the Nato massacre of Kosovo Albanian refugees last week, killings that Nato was forced to admit had been a mistake? Yes, Serbian television could be hateful, biased, bad. It was owned by the government. But once you kill people because you don’t like what they say, you have changed the rules of war. And that’s what Nato did in Belgrade in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Truth – Justice – Peace