Former dictator Efrain Rios Montt’s conviction of genocide is a historic moment in a country still healing from a brutal, three-decade civil war and his trial offered Guatemala’s oppressed indigenous communities their first chance to be heard, human rights activists said.(...more)
Saturday, 11 May 2013
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
In the first year of the second world war a tribunal heard evidence about a “fine young man”, a Methodist Sunday school teacher and Cambridge graduate, whose conscience forbade him to take up arms.
He was my father, Richard Wainwright, and the hearing’s ruling in his favour led to six years’ work with the Quaker-run Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU), from cleaning hospital bedpans in Gloucester to saving German families and refugees from reprisals after the allied victory.
His pacifist war service will be recognised this weekend with that of more than 1,300 colleagues in the FAU, 17 of them killed in action, and their counterparts in the Friends Relief Service (FRS) which helped civilian victims of war, first in the 1940-41 blitz and then overseas in the wake of the fighting.(...more)
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Since the Israeli army first occupied the West Bank in 1967, there has been a massive military presence in the area. A complex system has been developed to keep the local population under control, which extends far beyond the wall separating the West Bank from neighbouring Israel. On a daily basis, Palestinians have to negotiate a series of checkpoints, spot checks and road blocks, all under the watchful eye of the army’s surveillance towers…
Médecins Sans Frontières has been running a mental health program in the West Bank for more than 10 years. More than half of our patients are children who have directly experienced violence related to the conflict.(...more)
WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.(...more)
North Korea said it doesn’t oppose resuming dialogue with the U.S. in its first conciliatory gesture following months of threats to attack South Korea and American bases and warnings of preemptive nuclear strikes.
The offer is predicated on receiving U.S. assurances that it isn’t trying to provoke a nuclear war, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement today on the official Korean Central News Agency. This came less than a day after North Korea threatened to attack South Korea at any time. The totalitarian state has repeatedly said the region is on the brink of war since testing a nuclear weapon in February in defiance of increased United Nations sanctions.(...more)
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
Ten years after the capture of Baghdad on 5 April 2003 by US troops, following an invasion of Iraq by US and UK forces, we are still awaiting the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry which was set up by the government of Gordon Brown in 2009. The report has been delayed at least until the end of 2013 due to the reluctance of the government to release key documents, but the outcome as regards the illegality of the invasion should not be in doubt.
Any student of international law, and the laws governing the use of force in particular (the jus ad bellum), knows the recognized exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force (self-defence and enforcement action taken under the authority of the UN Security Council) and that attempts by the US and the UK to fit their actions of 2003 into these exceptions were either exercises in political hubris or damage limitation by skilled lawyers. Rather than rehearse these debates, I’ll attempt to lay out a path to a clearer understanding of the Security Council as a recognized source of authority for using force (The invasion of Iraq was purportedly undertaken under the authority of that organ to enforce disarmament resolutions of that very same organ.) Given the calamitous effects of the ill-judged invasion of Iraq in 2003, where no Weapons of Mass Destruction were found, we should have expected profound changes in the work of the Security Council and the attitude of the permanent members towards collective security.
There has been some evidence of positive change. The main protagonists in favour of the use of military force against Libya in the spring of 2011, France and the UK, were clearly mindful of the lessons from Iraq, taking care that their actions were underpinned by legality by securing a clear authorising resolution (Resolution 1973) from the Security Council. This suggested a return to respect for the jus ad bellum but, as the operation against Libya unfolded, it became clear that some of the problems that undermined the legality and legitimacy of the invasion of Iraq remain.(...more)
The conflict in Mali threatens to spill over into the disputed territory of Western Sahara and the Polisario Front independence movement has warned the United Nations of the possibility of “terrorist infiltrations,” the U.N. chief said in a new report.(...more)
On Tuesday, 2 April 2013, after seven years of discussions and negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Arms Trade Treaty by an overwhelming margin — the first ever global agreement governing the transfer of conventional arms. A total of 154 States voted in favour of the resolution, three voted against, and 23 abstained. The treaty will now be opened for signature on 3 June 2013.
The treaty is a strong and balanced text that clearly enjoys very widespread support, and if adhered to and implemented in good faith it will significantly reduce the humanitarian impact from the irresponsible transfer of weapons. That it is a meaningful treaty is evidenced by the fact that in two successive diplomatic conferences, certain States blocked its adoption by consensus. First time around, in July 2012, it was the United States (followed by Russia) that asked for more time. In the ‘final’ diplomatic conference in late March 2013, three States — Iran, DPR Korea, and Syria — blocked the adoption of the text that had been skillfully negotiated by the new Conference President, Ambassador Peter Woolacott of Australia. These same three States went on to vote against the General Assembly resolution that adopted the treaty.(...more)
Derided by a number of major military powers when it was adopted, almost 16 years later the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is in pretty rude health. No fewer than 161 States have adhered to its provisions — the most recent being Poland in December 2012 – and few outside dare to use anti-personnel mines these days such is the stigmatisation of the weapon, even though a ban has not yet crystallised in customary law. There is little or no transfer of anti-personnel mines, and what little there is consists mainly of small-scale, illicit sales. As a result, large stockpiles in China and the USA lie dormant, and even Russia is no longer laying mines in Chechnya, so far as we know.(...more)
Monday, 1 April 2013
In the months leading up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the radio station Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines blanketed the country with anti-Tutsi propaganda, inciting its Hutu listeners to “exterminate the cockroaches.” During the genocide, the station took on an even more active role, reading out lists of people to be killed and their locations.
The role played by the station only became widely understood outside of Rwanda after the violence was over. Three of its former executives were eventually indicted by a U.N. tribunal for their part in the genocide, but what if the world had been monitoring Milles Collines before the killing started?(...more)
Sunday, 6 January 2013
Following the upgrade of Palestine as a non-member state at the United Nations last month, and in light of ongoing reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions, many people pin hopes on the possibility of a widespread campaign of strategic non-violent activism in the West Bank – and perhaps even the Gaza Strip. The methods advocated by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King could undoubtedly accomplish miracles, not only for the Palestinians but also for the Israelis. Unfortunately, the chances of success appear very slim in practice.(...more)
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will relinquish responsibility for governing the more than two million Palestinians in the West Bank to Israel if the current diplomatic stalemate persists, he said yesterday, in a sign of growing frustration with Israeli settlement expansion and financial penalties.
Mr Abbas said he would tell Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “take the keys and be responsible for the Palestinian Authority” if current conditions persist after Israel’s election on 22 January.
He also said there could be no renewal of peace negotiations unless Israel resumes the transfer of the Palestinian customs revenues it collects. The money is essential for the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of its 165,000 employees.
Israel suspended the tax transfers – which amount to more than £60m a month – in response to Palestine being granted statehood at the United Nations last month.(...more)
Friday, 14 December 2012
After a contentious closed-door vote, the Senate intelligence committee approved a long-awaited report Thursday concluding that harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs, officials said.
The 6,000-page document, which was not released to the public, was adopted by Democrats over the objections of most of the committee’s Republicans. The outcome reflects the level of partisan friction that continues to surround the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other severe interrogation techniques four years after they were banned.(...more)
Thursday, 13 December 2012
NYU student Josh Begley tried to tweet 10 years of US drone strikes in 10 minutes – but 12 hours later, he still hadn’t finished
On Tuesday, NYU student Josh Begley attempted to tweet the history of 10 years of US drone strikes in 10 minutes as part of a graduate project.
Twelve hours later, he had only reached March 2010.(...more)
Thursday, 6 December 2012
In a marked shift from his previously unqualified allegiance, Stephen Harper has told Benjamin Netanyahu that Canada does not support the Israeli government’s decision to revive plans for settlements east of Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister believes the settlements would further impair efforts to achieve peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples – a message he conveyed directly to the Israeli Prime Minister during a phone call Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Globe and Mail…
“The Palestinians’ actions last week were very unhelpful to the cause of peace, and the Israeli response of settlement expansion is very unhelpful to the cause of peace,” Mr. Baird said.(...more)
RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians will ask the U.N. Security Council to call for an Israeli settlement freeze, President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers decided Tuesday, as part of an escalating showdown over Israel’s new plans to build thousands more homes on war-won land in and around Jerusalem.
Such construction will destroy any lingering hopes of setting up a Palestinian state, Abbas aides warned, as international anger over the settlement construction snowballed.
Israel announced the new plans after the U.N. last week recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — lands Israel occupied in 1967 — as a non-member observer…
Israeli settlement construction lies at the heart of a four-year breakdown in peace talks, and was a major factor behind the Palestinians’ U.N. statehood bid. Since 1967, half a million Israelis have settled in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.(...more)
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
The real story behind Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza has not yet been investigated, but now that the explosions have stopped, we are obligated to delve into the truth. The decision to kill Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, which was the opening shot of the operation, was made even though he was involved in negotiations on signing a long-term cease-fire agreement.(...more)
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Fierce fighting on the battlefield and setbacks on the diplomatic front increased pressure on the embattled Syrian government as fresh signs emerged on Tuesday of a sustained battle for control of the capital…
The latest reports followed developments on Monday when a senior Turkish official said that Russia had agreed to a new diplomatic approach to seek ways to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, a possible weakening in Russia’s steadfast support for the government.(...more)
Friday, 30 November 2012
Rebels from the M23 group in the eastern DR Congo (DRC) say they have begun withdrawing from territory they captured from government troops.
The group’s full name – the March 23 Movement – refers to the date peace accords were signed in 2009 between the country’s government and the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel group comprised mostly of ethnic Tutsis.
About 500,000 people have fled their homes during seven months of fighting between the M23 rebels and government troops.
The US has dispatched a state department official to the region but has been careful to spare its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, anything beyond symbolic sanction – even though a UN report, released last week, concluded that the rebels have been backed by both neighbouring countries.(...more)