Wednesday, 28 August 2013

ICC: Could the Security Council Refer Only Assad’s Use of Chemical Weapons? | Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:48 PDT

An interesting discussion recently broke out on twitter about whether the Security Council could refer the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — and only the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — to the ICC…


Syria: War is looming, but is justice possible?

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:41 PDT

Despite two years of an incessant civil war that has claimed at least 80,000 people, the United Nations Security Council has been mired in deadlock on how to respond to the violence in Syria. Yet the images and videos of civilians attacked with chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus has rocked the Syrian status quo. As Jon Western suggests, the chemical weapons attack may constitute “Syria’s Srebrenica,” galvanizing the international community into taking action in a war they can no longer afford to ignore…

In the case of Syria, however, there have been no calls from the Security Council for chemical weapons attacks to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted an “outrageous crime” that could not be met with impunity, there were no calls for the Council to refer Syria to the ICC. This begs the question: if the use of chemical weapons against thousands of civilians is a crime, why the silence on Syria and the ICC?


Monday, 19 August 2013

Remembering Sergio Vieira de Mello Ten Years After the Attack on the UN in Baghdad

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:30 PDT

August 19 is the tenth anniversary of the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq. De Mello, considered by many as the most suitable successor to Kofi Annan, was a victim of the terrorist attack on our political mission in Baghdad in the first — and so far, the most serious — attack on the UN since it was founded in 1945. There were twenty-one other victims, and more than 200 injured. As a survivor of the attack and partner of Sergio Vieira de Mello, I can say that to this day none of us understands why an attack of such magnitude did not warrant a rigorous investigation. Instead, the circumstances of the incident were buried under statues and memorial speeches.

On this anniversary we should take a moment to reflect on the life of a UN official who was truly committed to the ideals and principles of peace. However, we must also demand an independent investigation, doing justice to the memory of the people who lost their lives in Baghdad on August 19, 2003.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

How Much Hospitality Can Lebanon Offer Syrian Refugees?

Filed under: Human Rights,Humanitarian work,International Law: War,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:50 PDT

The Lebanese interior minister stated recently that, at the current rate of Syrian refugees crossing the border into Lebanon, by the end of the year Lebanon would be host to 2 million Syrian refugees.

The latest U.N. statistics indicate that close to 700,000 refugees have officially registered with the U.N. There are at least another 100,000 who refuse to register out of fear.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Prayers for an Intrepid Priest Missing in Syria

Filed under: Middle East,Peaceworkers in the news,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 23:07 PDT

On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which he belongs. The pope paused to remember those Jesuit priests who had given their lives in service of their faith. “I’m thinking of Padre Paolo,” he said.

At the moment, no one in the room knew if Father Paolo Dall’Oglio was still alive.

Two days before the pope’s prayer, Father Paolo, an Italian Jesuit priest associated with the Syrian opposition, had been seen walking the streets of Raqqa, a rebel-controlled area in northern Syria. Then he disappeared. Activists reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group affiliated with al Qaeda, had kidnapped him. Contradicting reports soon emerged. Had Father Paolo been kidnapped, or had he purposefully met with the group to negotiate the release of hostages and to broker a truce between Kurds and Islamic extremists fighting in the north?


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Nonviolence Goes Mainstream: A Surprising Result of the Syrian Tragedy – Part I

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:50 PDT

Part I: The Failure of the Military Option

It may seem odd to speak of nonviolence in the same sentence as Syria, one of the bloodiest and most tragic destructions of a state and a culture in contemporary history. But the fact is that we are inching closer to a mainstream and politically realist understanding of nonviolence as a legitimate course of political change… full article

Monday, 1 July 2013

McDonald’s Refuses to Operate in Jewish Settlement

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 12:29 PDT

JERUSALEM — The McDonald’s restaurant chain refused to open a branch in a West Bank Jewish settlement, the company said Thursday, adding a prominent name to an international movement to boycott Israel’s settlements.

Irina Shalmor, spokeswoman for McDonald’s Israel, said the owners of a planned mall in the Ariel settlement asked McDonald’s to open a branch there about six months ago. Shalmor said the chain refused because the owner of McDonald’s Israel has a policy of staying out of the occupied territories. The decision was not coordinated with McDonald’s headquarters in the U.S., she said. In an email, the headquarters said “our partner in Israel has determined that this particular location is not part of his growth plan.”

The Israeli branch’s owner and franchisee, Omri Padan, is a founder of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes all settlements and views them as obstacles to peace. The group said Padan is no longer a member.


Sunday, 30 June 2013

Turkey’s ‘standing man’ and the iconography of non-violence

Filed under: Art of Peacework,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Nonviolence,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:17 PDT

Turkey’s “standing man” protester, created by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, is a brilliant addition to the iconography of non-violence. It’s not a long list. The image catalogue of aggressive resistance is much longer. It includes the knight errant on his horse, with a lance; the lone rider in the old west; the private eye pacing the mean streets, taking down crime and corruption; the guerrilla fighter in the hills. They all pack weapons. Gunduz had only a backpack and when the cops checked inside, whatever they found was harmless.


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

‘Standing man’ inspires silent demonstration in Turkey

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:10 PDT

Istanbul (CNN) — A man stood silently in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for hours Monday night, defying police who had broken up weekend anti-government protests with tear gas and water cannon and drawing hundreds of others to emulate his vigil.

For more than five hours, he appeared to stare at a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, on the side of the Ataturk Cultural Center. Police eventually moved in to arrest many of those who had joined him, but it was unclear Tuesday whether Erdem Gunduz — a performance artist quickly dubbed the “standing man” — was in custody.

Turkey has been wracked by more than two weeks of protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But many of those who joined Gunduz late Monday said they were standing only for peace, not taking sides.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Civil Disobedience on a Turkish Game Show

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:37 PDT

While most of Turkey’s journalists were carefully avoiding mention of the tens of thousands of protesters who poured into the streets this week, in a show of deference to the government that enraged supporters of the demonstrations, the host of one Turkish game show found a way to raise the issue not once but 70 times during a broadcast on Monday night.


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Palestinian Non-Violence Subject Of New Graphic Novel

Filed under: children and youth,gender,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 16:17 PDT

Amid the Western media’s obsessive search for a Palestinian Gandhi, many stories of peaceful, non-violent resistance are often overlooked. One such story is that of Budrus, a small West Bank village — dotted with ancient olive trees and cacti — lying very close to the Green Line (the internationally-recognized border separating Israel from the West Bank). In 2003, Budrus’ residents found out that Israel’s separation wall would swallow chunks of their land. It was then that the villagers decided to employ non-violent tactics to protect their trees and land.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

What Muslims Around the World Think About Women’s Rights, in Charts

We often talk about “the Islamic world,” or the “Muslim community,” but sometimes it takes being smacked with an enormous, amazing data dump to remind us that Muslims are actually an incredibly diverse group — if you can call them a group — who adhere to views that are informed by their cultural and political context as much as their religion.

For their mammoth new study about the world’s Muslims, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed more than 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries on topics ranging from morality, to politics and justice, and the relationships between the sexes.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

How Kids Cope With Occupation

Filed under: children and youth,Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 19:49 PDT


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.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Lessons from Iraq 10 years on

Filed under: International Law: War,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 06:16 PDT

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.


The Arms Trade Treaty: a major achievement

Filed under: Disarmament,Human Rights,International Law: War,Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 06:01 PDT

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.


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

What Current And Former Israeli Security Officials Think About A Potential War With Iran

Filed under: Middle East — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:38 PDT

Members of Congress have been intensifying their Iran-war rhetoric in recent days. For example, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are planning to introduce a resolution that urges the United States government to support Israel — militarily, economically and diplomatically — should the Jewish state be “compelled to take military action” against Iran.

While it appears that Congress, still struggling to shake the neocons’ influence, tends to favor a more militaristic approach toward the Islamic Republic, the Obama administration has focused on a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis, while pledging to take no options off the table and also warning about what war with Iran would look like.

But given now the Graham-Menendez resolution, what do the Israelis think about war with Iran? It’s no secret the current Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is the most vocal about pushing a military option with Iran, but over the past two years, numerous former and current high-level members of Israel’s security establishment have pushed back. Below is a compilation of those statements:

“Mr. Netanyahu has been playing the role of irresponsible player in the region [with his threats against Iran].That raises the questions: Does he mean it? And what is the price?” — Ami Ayalon, former head of the Shin Bet, [10/25/12]

They talk too much, they talk too loud. They are creating an atmosphere and a momentum that may go out of their control.” — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, [04/30/12]

I don’t think Israel should use the military option. I don’t agree with some of my colleagues who support a military strike. An attack on Iran wouldn’t add anything to our security.” — Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, [04/16/12]

“An attack on Iran before you’re exploring all other approaches is not the right way how to do it.” — Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, [03/08/12]

. . . more



Friday, 1 March 2013

Is Oscar-nominated 5 Broken Cameras an Israeli or a Palestinian film?

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:03 PDT

As a film, 5 Broken Cameras works on both an artistic and a political level. It’s a deeply personal film to Burnat in many ways, while also being a chronicle of the struggle of his village, Bilin, against Israel’s apartheid wall and policies of dispossession.


Friday, 22 February 2013

Dozens Injured As Army Attacks Nonviolent Protesters In Hebron

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:03 PDT

The Radio Bethlehem 2000 has reported that dozens of residents have been injured after Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest demanding the army to reopen a main street it blockaded 12 years ago, in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.


Egypt and the Nonviolence Conundrum

Filed under: Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:02 PDT

The two-year anniversary of Egypt’s revolution has not been a happy one. Anti-government protests have once again swept through the country, and as activists have begun to resort to violence, President Mohamed Morsi has chosen to respond in kind. Cairo’s economy is in shambles, its alliances with the West are in question, and its newly ratified constitution leaves secularists, women and minorities on the political sidelines for the foreseeable future. Simply put, those who predicted a rosy future for Egypt are left to scratch their heads, wondering how their prophecies could have turned out so wrong.

As the world witnesses Egypt’s depressing slide two years on, now is an opportune time to re-examine the nonviolent protests that unintentionally paved the way for it…


Documentary: “Five Broken Cameras”: A bloody look at non-violent resistence

Filed under: Film, video, audio,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:01 PDT

IN 2005 Emad Burnat was given a video camera to record the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. It was while he dutifully chronicled the formative years of his son that Mr Burnat unexpectedly became the film-maker behind “Five Broken Cameras”, a sombre documentary about the struggle of his native West Bank village of Bil’in against Israel’s construction of the separation wall.

The film’s premiere in the Palestinian territories took place recently at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, a multimillion-dollar centre unmatched in its size and facilities in the territories. The audience featured mainly young Palestinians and foreign expatriates, a common mix in a city that has become the West Bank’s administrative capital.

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