by Jason Ditz
Both Syrian rebels and government allies reported multiple ceasefire violations over the weekend, each blaming the other side for all violations, but by and large the ceasefire held through the weekend, with fighting enormously down from pre-ceasefire levels.
Russia announced late on Saturday that it is grounding all its warplanes in Syrian territory, despite the ceasefire allowing them to continue attacks on ISIS and al-Qaeda targets, saying they didn’t want there to be any “mistakes” to threaten the truce.
The rebels also say that they are going to stick to the ceasefire for the time being, but that they also intend to complain to the United Nations about “Russian violations” and also complained about the US not keeping them more directly involved in the negotiations.
The UN had suggested that if the ceasefire lasted through this first week they are going to attempt to get a new round of peace talks going. Though there are still several days left, the chances look a lot better now than they were expected to be.
The biggest incidents of fighting over the weekend where with parties not directly involved in the ceasefire, as ISIS attacked a major Kurdish-held town, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front launched attacks against coastal Latakia.
The top United Nations investigator on torture, Juan Mendez, has been alleging that Washington is dragging its heels when it comes to granting him access to visits of federal prisons and allowing him to talk with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mendez’s biggest criticism has been the US’s solitary confinement policies and whether they are a violation of human rights laws.
Ben Swann speaks with constitutional rights attorney Pardiss Kebriaei about the tensions growing between the State Department and the United Nations.
The highest court within the UN has ruled the acts of war committed by Croatia and Serbia against the other’s population in the 1990’s does not qualify as genocide.
The International Court of Justice says they recognize acts of rape, torture, and widespread killings had taken place between the two countries, but by the formal definition of genocide, no such act was carried out during the conflict.
According to the official report, genocide implies there is a laid out plan to systematically wipe out an entire population of peoples and to prevent any further births from occurring within the targeted population. While the acts of war carried out were brutal, the court claims there was no such plan on either side.
According to NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, the decision should come as no surprise since the “U.N. courts have never charged any Serbs or Croats with genocide in each other’s territory.”
“The Croatian government alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991,” said Nelson. “Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and hundreds of Croat men were detained and killed. Serbia later filed a counterclaim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.”
Peter Tomka, the president of the International Court of Justice, said, according to Reuters, “Croatia has not established that the only reasonable inference was the intent to destroy in whole or in part the (Croatian) group.”
Tomka went on to say the desire to expel ethnic groups from towns and cities does not constitute genocide since the intention is not to destroy the groups. This also led Tomka to say Serbia’s counterclaim of genocide did not met the definition either, and therefore denied the country’s claim.
The foreign minister of Croatia, Vesna Pusic, said, according to the New York Times, she hoped this ruling would help bring a “better and safer period for people in this part of Europe.” Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic of Serbia echoed these hopes.
The Saudi Arabian police have arrested the man who filmed the public beheading of a woman in the streets of Mecca.
The footage, according to the Independent, showed Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Bassim being dragged through the streets of Mecca before four police officers surrounded her in the street. A man in a white robe then steps forward with a curved sword and deals three blows to Bassim’s neck, severing her head from her body.
Bassim was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering her stepdaughter, according to Mediaite, but she claimed her innocence in the video up until the first sword blow met her neck.
“I did not kill. There is no God but God. I did not kill,” Bassim said while the police and executioner surrounded her. “This is injustice… I did not kill.”
After the public execution, the footage of the event was posted online by a human rights activist group in order to draw attention to the judicial system in place in the country. A UN investigation into the trials which have led to executions in Saudi Arabia called the trials “grossly unfair,” according to the Daily Mail.
Once the Saudi government saw the video online, an unnamed man was brought into custody, and a Saudi official told the New York Times, the man will face charges related to cyber-security.
The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), an organization based in Mecca, according to VICE News, said the dissemination of the footage is a crime and they want the person who filmed the execution punished.
“Those who disseminated the clip are not less guilty than those who filmed the execution,” said Mohammed Al Sahli, a member of the NSHR.
Other videos have been circulating online depicting public executions in Saudi Arabia. According to the Times of Israel, 10 people have been executed publicly this year already, while the number of public executions in 2014 was 87.
San Antonio politicians and leaders are working to get the Alamo designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site, which is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco.
If that happens, the U.N. could have influence in the way Texas manages and takes care of the Alamo. Besides the Alamo, there are four other Spanish colonial missions in San Antonio considered for inclusion.
One state politician told BenSwann.com’s Joshua Cook that Texans got visibly angry when they heard about this. “Texans are incensed with the idea of this effort,” the state politician added.
But Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Peterson said that theories are incorrect: “Some folks might think that getting on this list means the U.N. has some sort of influence at the Alamo. Those folks must not be from around here,” Patterson said. “The people of Texas own the Alamo now and in the future. Nothing is going to change that.”
But, as seen recently, projects in the area of the Alamo are receiving extra scrutiny, to not interfere with the site’s World Heritage Site application.
One case in particular is a proposed 26-story hotel and time-share building atop the Joske’s Building at the Alamo Plaza, which could jeopardize the designation.
“No one on the council is going to do anything that jeopardizes the World Heritage designation,” said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Another interesting side of this story is Unesco itself. There is federal law forbidding the payment of dues to Unesco. The U.S. is two years behind in dues and could lose its vote on the group’s governing conference completely. There is a congressional ban on contributing to U.N. agencies that admit Palestine. Unesco admitted Palestine in 2011.
One politician expressed concern about the U.N. using its influence to diminish the 2nd Amendment at the Alamo.
In Texas this is a red hot issue. Texans are angry that the U.N. would choose the Alamo, a symbol of Texas independence, to gain more influence and a foothold in the U.S.
For many years, the US government has said it respects, protects, and promotes human rights here at home and all over the world. However, the US admitted to the UN Committee on Torture that after 9/11, abuses had occurred during the “War on Terror.”
The US legal adviser Mary McLeod spoke to the ten member committee saying, according to the Raw Story, “In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we regrettably did not always live up to our own values… we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that.”
After this, the committee began to ask the 30 top US officials present for the hearing, various questions regarding how the US planned to amend and atone for these acknowledged abuses.
Some of these questions revolved around Guantanamo Bay. The committee asked the US delegates why the prison was still open after saying it would be closed and when the US government plans on shutting down the prison for good.
The delegates were also questioned on the Abu Ghraib prison incident and the lack of redress for the victims.
McLeod responded by saying, according to ABC News, “As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that… The United States has taken important steps to ensure adherence to its legal obligations.”
Amnesty International previously submitted evidence of human rights abuses to the UN Committee on Torture, outlining various violations US personnel are responsible for. The method of water-boarding and secret detention of captives were two methods mentioned on this list.
From here, the UN questions moved from international torture to torture at home.
They questioned the delegates how the government justifies the detention of non-violent, non-criminal illegal immigrants, specifically children. The disproportionate levels of police brutality in cases involving minorities were also brought into question.
The committee plans to publish its conclusions concerning torture and the US government on November 28.
As the world begins to respond to the growing threat of ISIS, the United Nations Security Council met Wednesday and unanimously approved a resolution which forces member states to stop terrorist recruiting and movement within their territories.
President Obama chaired the committee saying, according to the Hill, “I called this meeting because we must come together as nations and as an international community to confront a real and growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters… The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our commitment to meet this challenge.”
The resolution not only calls for states to stop recruiting and movement within their borders, but also requires states to take precautions to ward off potential terrorist attacks from foreign fighters within their borders.
Foreign fighters, in this instance are defined, according to the International Business Times, as, “Individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts…” An estimated 12,000 fighters who fit into this definition have already traveled from at least 74 countries to the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS.
In addition, the resolution calls for all member states to share information concerning any domestic terrorist concerns with other members. However, there was no definition given as to what constitutes a domestic terrorist, leaving it up to each state to make up their own definition of a “domestic terrorist.”
In order to show how serious the US takes the issue at hand, the US Treasury Department put immediate sanctions in place against 11 individuals and one Indonesian organization. The people and group in question are thought to be sending foreign fighters and funds to Islamic terrorist groups, such as ISIS.
In a statement after the sanctions were passed, David Cohen, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said, according to RT, “These steps, taken the same day as the adoption of a new United Nations Security Council Resolution, affirm the commitment of the United States and our partners to degrade and destroy terrorist access to financing.”
WASHINGTON, August 23, 2014– Information is now being released to the public detailing the Obama administration’s attempted rescue of reporter James Foley and other hostages, but proving the mission to be a failure. The news continues to damage the administration’s credibility given their track record with Benghazi and other scandals such as the IRS, the NSA, the VA, etc.
Former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton spoke with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren about how the release of information to the public on the failed mission amounts to a “breach of security.”
As violence continues to escalate between Israeli forces and those of Hamas in Gaza, a UN backed school has reportedly been shelled by Israeli tanks, leaving 15 dead and about 200 wounded.
The school was in a coastal area of Gaza known as Beit Hanoun, which has been known to be a dangerous region since the fighting began. Civilians had fled the region so they could find shelter and escape the fighting between the IDF and Hamas. Of those killed and injured, all are believed to be civilians.
Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, said, according to the Independent, “People are sheltering in UN schools which as a result cannot be used for education. They are running out of food, and water is also a serious concern.”
This strike comes amongst a day of heavy fighting throughout Gaza. The fighting was sparked by a demand by Hamas for Israel and Egypt to lift the blockade around Gaza, according to the Guardian.
Spokesman for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), Chris Gunness made a tweet, according to the Ma’an News Agency, saying, “Precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun had been formally given to the Israeli army.”
A contact in the Israeli military told Al-Jazeera the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were not necessarily responsible, but the IDF had detected rocket fire from Hamas in the area. This same contact said those detected rockets could have fallen short and hit the school.
This is the fourth UN facility to be hit in the fighting since the Israeli operation began on July 8.
Director of UNRWA, Robert Turner, said, in relation to all of the facilities caught in the line of fire, “We always call on all parties to ensure that civilians are not harmed.”
A new report from the United Nations claimed that as a result of increased international trade, rich countries are “outsourcing” carbon dioxide emissions to poor countries. This is driving global warming, the report argued.
The U.N. report said, “A growing share of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in developing countries is released in the production of goods and services exported, notably from upper-middle-income countries to high-income countries. A growing share of global emissions is released in the manufacture of products that are traded across international borders.”
According the to report, most of these emissions come from coal plants in China and other manufacturing countries that are producing electronic devices like “smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods.” These products are typically then bought and consumed in the United States and Europe. BenSwann.com’s Sonya Sandage wrote about the new U.N. report yesterday.
The U.N. continues to discourage free trade by lamenting carbon dioxide emissions. But the fact is that free trade benefits both consuming and manufacturing countries.
George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux said, “Free trade increases prosperity for Americans — and the citizens of all participating nations — by allowing consumers to buy more, better-quality products at lower costs. It drives economic growth, enhanced efficiency, increased innovation, and the greater fairness that accompanies a rules-based system. These benefits increase as overall trade — exports and imports — increases.”
Furthermore, manufacturing raised the living standards in countries with developing economies like China. Economic analysts at consulting company McKinsey & Company said, “China’s emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse has been astonishing… China not only overtook the United States in 2011 to become the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods but also used its huge manufacturing engine to boost living standards by doubling the country’s GDP per capita over the last decade.”
Sandage reported yesterday that the U.N. recommends “a shift to clean energy and a move away from fossil fuels such as coal.”
But living standards in poor countries have increased due to coal. Chief Executive of World Coal Association (WCA), Milton Catelin, said, “No other poverty alleviation strategy in modern history has been more effective than the one implemented by China and driven by an economy fuelled at over 70 percent by coal.” The WCA reported, “Coal has been vital to global development – almost half of this century’s incremental energy has come from coal alone. Virtually all of the world’s poverty reduction between 1981 and 2008 took place in coal-fuelled China.”
The U.N. report also pointed out that carbon dioxide emissions may cause global warming. China has doubled their yearly carbon emissions since 2000 — a sizable percentage of such emissions are from manufacturing goods for consumption in the U.S. and Europe. Given this fact, many U.N. diplomats are trying to force consuming countries to pay poor countries for the emissions. This means taxpayers in the U.S. would be made to fork over more cash to the U.N. for climate change in the form of “loss and damage” payments.
The Daily Caller reported, “The issue ‘loss and damage’ will be revisited in 2016… Rich countries feared that creating a new UN mechanism for the damages of global warming would saddle them with new financial obligations — which would be unpopular in a time of slow economic growth, high unemployment and growing government debt… China and other poor countries have demanded $70 billion a year in climate aid by 2016.”
Bottom line: while the new U.N. report makes valid points about the possible future of the environment, it should not be blindly accepted. Like most organized groups, the U.N. has an agenda of its own.
This article was submitted by guest contributor Jason Ditz.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has warned that recent mass executions by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) may amount to “war crimes,” particularly with reports of them mass executing prisoners at sites they were about to lose in Raqqa earlier this month.
AQI has been executing captives for months, of course, but as fighting with rival rebel factions has picked up there have been reports of summary executions by the scores several times a week.
Rival rebels that have taken AQI bases where prisoners were held have reported finding large numbers of recently executed people, suggesting AQI just executes people en masse rather than abandoning those sites.
The dead have included a number of civilians, including at least four journalists, but more recently the executions have centered around captured fighters for other factions, including rival al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra.
This article is from Antiwar.com. A friend in need is a friend indeed – and we need your help to fight this brazen state repression. We’re fighting to restore constitutional government in America – but we need your tax-deductible donation to do it. Please, make your contribution today!”
On Friday, Joshua Cook of BenSwann.com asked US Senate candidate Lee Bright a few questions via Google Hangout about the UN Small Arms Treaty and the UN. In the interview, Bright discussed recent attacks on the Second and Fourth Amendments, the UN and primary opponent Lindsey Graham.
Regarding the recent NSA and DOJ revelations, he echoed an opinion whose popularity transcends party lines when he said “the Fourth Amendment is absolutely under assault right now,” going on to say “we’re definitely not being granted our due process rights. We’re not criminals, so they have no right to that information.”
He emphasized the need for Americans to protect their gun rights, not limiting his discussion to simple self defense issues. “The Second Amendment defends all the rest … our founders intended those rights to protect us from a tyrannical government,” he said, adding that though Republican willingness to “acquiesce to the demands of the Democrats on gun rights is very disturbing,” he would act as an uncompromisingly pro-Second Amendment Senator.
The biggest gun control battle being waged at the moment, though, isn’t a traditional legislative battle at all. It’s a UN Small Arms Treaty supported by Barack Obama, Samantha Power and John Kerry alike, the three people with the strongest ability to subordinate US interests to the international organization. When asked about the treaty, Bright said he would filibuster any such treaty, and supported the idea of a US exit from the UN in general. “I think we can communicate with other nations if need be, and if we’re going to have a global organization, I’d like it to be somewhere else, because I don’t want it trying to micromanage the US or trying to take away our rights.”
Bright also said that he had tried to give Lindsey Graham the benefit of a doubt, but that he had ignored the will of the people, had not been the conservative voice South Carolina wants and needs, and that his actions in Egypt had been the last straw.
Lee Bright is one of Graham’s three conservative challengers in the South Carolina primary. The senator hasn’t been up for re-election since 2008, so this will be his first campaign since the rise of the Tea Party.