Resources updated between Monday, February 16, 2015 and Sunday, February 22, 2015
February 22, 2015
"...This submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict is based on observations on the ground during the conflict, 29 years' military experience of conflicts of this type, intelligence work relating to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, knowledge of the IDF and Israeli intelligence services, study of the Israel-Palestine conflict and observations on the ground during the 2012 Gaza conflict. I should add that I have no formal, paid or unpaid, connection with the IDF or with any other organ of the Israeli government.
"In my opinion the actions taken by the IDF were necessary to defend the people of Israel from the ongoing, intensive and lethal attacks by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. It is the inalienable duty of every government to use its armed forces to protect its citizens and its terrain from external attack.
"In this case there was a sustained assault on the Israeli population from rockets and mortar bombs; attacks on Israeli military posts using tunnels; apparent plans to launch further attacks on Israeli military posts and on civilian settlements also using tunnels; and attempted attacks from the sea.
"As the Gaza Strip is effectively a separate state, outside of Israeli control, these actions amounted to an attack by a foreign country against Israeli territory. In these circumstances I know of no other realistic and effective means of suppressing an aggressor's missile fire than the methods used by the IDF, namely precision air and artillery strikes against the command and control structures, the fighters and the munitions of Hamas and the other groups in Gaza. Nor have I heard any other military expert from any country propose a viable alternative means of defence against such aggression..."
An armed group in South Sudan has abducted at least 89 boys in a northern state, the U.N. children's agency said Saturday.
The boys, some as young as 13, were abducted near Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state, according to a Unicef statement.
Malakal, which is currently under government control, has recently seen intense fighting between rebel forces and government troops who accuse each other of violating multiple peace agreements.
Armed men surrounded the community and searched house by house, forcibly taking boys older than 12, said witnesses, according to the Unicef statement, which said the latest abductions were carried out while the children were doing their exams in the Wau Shilluk area. The number of those abducted could be much higher, it added.
It is not clear which group carried out the abductions.
Last year 12,000 children were used as soldiers by armed forces and groups across South Sudan, according to Unicef.
"The recruitment and use of children by armed forces destroys families and communities. Children are exposed to incomprehensible levels of violence, they lose their families and their chance to go to school," said Jonathan Veitch, the Unicef representative in South Sudan.
Watchdog groups have persistently accused South Sudan's warring factions of actively recruiting and using child soldiers. South Sudan's military and rebels are actively enlisting children despite promises to the contrary, Human Rights Watch said in a report last week.
South Sudanese officials strongly denied the allegations, saying standing orders forbid the military from recruiting children. Rebels haven't responded to the charges.
South Sudan's current conflict started in December 2013 when forces led by former Vice President Riek Machar fought troops loyal to President Salva Kiir.
"Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel last summer, and hid its weapons in schools, including United Nations-run facilities and other civilian sites.
"Yet, in a July 2014 report issued by the U.N. Human Rights Council directly in the wake of the rocket attacks, the agency lambasted Israel, and rehashed every charge seemingly ever made against the Jewish state.
"And it is about to do it again in a report due next month.
"In last year's resolution – which ran four single-spaced pages -- Hamas, incredibly, was never cited by name.
"That 2014 resolution was the usual U.N. stew, referencing previous anti-Israel measures and new allegations about Israeli 'human rights violations.' It came out of yet another special Human Rights Council session unfairly attacking Israel. This, too, would not be unusual for the U.N. since nearly one-third of all special sessions of the Human Rights Council are devoted to the situation in the 'Occupied Palestinian Territories.'
"The initial resolution was notable for its focus on Gaza, with little regard for the impact of the indiscriminate firing on Israelis. The resolution charges Israel with indiscriminate attacks and grave 'human rights violations.' But there is no condemnation for all of the indiscriminate Hamas rocket barrages that ignited the conflict last summer or any note that Israelis have been the targets of indiscriminate Hamas rockets for well more than 10 years.
"What about the human rights of Israeli citizens?
"This willful and perverse omission of Hamas from the resolution was not only brazen, but also par for the course for the Human Rights Council, which, at a time of global turmoil, particularly in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, still devotes more time and attention to Israel than to human rights crises in such places as Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria.
"And now we are on the eve of results from yet another U.N.-sponsored "fact-finding" effort about Israel.
February 20, 2015
The UN Human Rights Council's March 2015 session is taking up the "Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran"
by the Secretary-General. The report includes:
"...Since the most recent report of the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly (A/69/306), the application of the death penalty, including in relation to political prisoners and juvenile offenders, has continued at a very high rate. Reports of the arbitrary detention and prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders and women rights activists have continued. Individuals have increasingly been targeted for their alleged contacts with United Nations human rights mechanisms, and members of minority groups have continued to face persistent discrimination and persecution. Women's rights remain a priority concern, particularly underage marriages and the underrepresentation of women in the labour force and in decision-making positions...
The Secretary-General continues to express his alarm at the increasing number of death sentences handed down and executions carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran. United Nations human rights mechanisms have repeatedly and consistently expressed their great concern at this persistent trend, and have urged the Government to end executions. A total of 41 of the 291 recommendations made to the Islamic Republic of Iran during its second cycle of universal periodic review concerned the death penalty..."
Saman's family have been told to collect his body on Saturday. Despite the international appeals to halt the execution, Saman Naseem was hanged on Thursday. Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns Saman Naseem's excution and holds the Iranian authorities' Supreme leader Ali Khamenei responsible for Saman's execution.
Iran Human Rights, February 20, 2015: The Kurdish political prisoner Saman Naseem who was sentenced to death for offences he allegedely committed at 17 years of age, was executed in the prison of Urmia (Northwest of Iran). Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported earlier that Saman's family were contacted by the authorities yesterday to meet at the prison to collect Saman's belongings on Saturday. According to several independent sources, Saman's family have been asked earlier today to collect Saman's body tomorrow, Saturday 21. February. It is still unclear whether Saman was executed yesterday (Thursday) or today.
IHR strongly condemns Saman Naseem's unlawful and inhumane execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR, said: Ali Khamenei, the Iranian authorities' Supreme leader must be held responsible for the inhumane treatment and execution of Saman Naseem.
We urge the international community to strongly condemn this execution. Saman Naseem's execution takes place despite repeated calls from the international community. Iran's continuous violations of the basic human rights must have consequences for the Iranian authorities".
Also FIDH (a founding member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty) and its Iranian member organisations, the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) and the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) have strongly condemned "the illegal execution of juvenile offender Saman Naseem that reportedly took place yesterday morning in Iran".
Saman Naseem was transferred together with five death row prisoners of conscience from his prison ward to an unknown location on Wednesday 18. February. There is no information about the other five death row political prisoners: Yunes Aghayan, Habibollah Afshari, Ali Afshari, Sirwan Najavi and Ebrahim Shapouri. There is increasing concern that also these prisoners may be executed soon.
Despite ratifying the United Nations' Convention for the Rights of the Child, Iran is the world's biggest executioner of juvenile offenders. Saman Naseem was sentenced to death in April 2013 by a criminal court in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province, for "enmity against God" (moharebeh) and "corruption on earth" ( ifsad fil-arz) because of his membership in the Kurdish armed opposition group PJAK, and for taking part in armed activities against the Revolutionary Guards. His death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
Has was 17 year old at the time of his arrest.
According to reports Saman Naseem didn't have access to his lawyer during early investigations and according to a letter he wrote from the prison he was tortured, which included the removal of his finger and toe nails and being hung upside down for several hours.
In the letter, Saman said: " During the first days, the level of torture was so severe that it left me unable to walk. All my body was black and blue. They hung me from my hands and feet for hours. I was blindfolded during the whole period of interrogations and torture, and could not see the interrogation and torture officers."
Police in camouflaged uniforms smashed into the office of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on Thursday and carried the opposition leader away in a move heightening political tensions in the socialist-run South American country.
President Nicolas Maduro announced that Ledezma, one of his most vocal critics, would be punished for his efforts to sow unrest.
Reports of the detention set off protests around the city, where people spontaneously banged pots from their windows or tapped rhythms on their car horns amid rush hour traffic. As night fell, a few dozen gathered to vent their anger in front of the headquarters of the intelligence service police where Ledezma is believed to be held.
"He'll be held accountable for all his crimes," Maduro said in comments that TV and radio stations across the country were required to carry.
Last week, Maduro named Ledezma among government critics and Western powers he accused of plotting a coup to bring down his socialist government, one of more than a dozen such denunciations Maduro has made since taking power in 2013. Ledezma mocked the accusation in multiple interviews, saying the real destabilizing force in Venezuela was the government's corruption.
Tensions have been running high in Venezuela this week, with the one-year anniversary of the start of weeks of anti-government street protests that choked the country with tear gas and smoke from flaming barricades and resulted in more than 40 deaths. National police arrested several other mayors and former mayors during last year's unrest, including Leopoldo Lopez, who is considered by human rights groups as Latin America's most high-profile political prisoner.
Allies of the 59-year-old mayor called for more protests Friday to demand his immediate release, a call echoed by Human Rights Watch.
The U.S. State Department called Venezuela's accusations of coup-plotting "baseless and false" and intended to direct attention away from mounting economic problems such as widespread shortages and galloping inflation that reached 68 percent last year.
"The Venezuelan government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces," the State Department said in a statement.
Ledezma has been a thorn in the side of the ruling party since he won the mayorship in 2008, beating out a member of the socialist party led by the late President Hugo Chavez.
The government subsequently transferred nearly all of Ledezma's powers, including control of police and schools, to a newly created government entity. Ledezma responded with a hunger strike that drew international attention and cemented his status as symbol for what the opposition calls the government's efforts to marginalize elected officials who do not fall in line.
His arrest was captured on surveillance video, clips of which rocketed around social media. A group of men in black and gray camouflage, wearing bulletproof vests, can be seen forcefully hustling the 59 year-old politician from his building.
A member of Ledezma's security team, who was not authorized to give his name, said the armed officers, some of them wearing masks, used their weapons to break the door to the mayor's office and haul him away.
February 19, 2015
A sickening new video has emerged showing hundreds of savage supporters of the Islamic State kicking, punching and stamping three terrified Syrian soldiers to death before dragging their bloodied corpses through the streets chained to the back of motorcycles.
The barbaric footage is believed to have been filmed in the terror group's de facto capital Raqqa and bears all the chilling hallmarks of ISIS' professionally produced and edited propaganda films.
The gruesome killing of three Syrian soldiers is just the latest in a long line of horrific filmed murders released by the Sunni Islamists since last summer's self-declaration of a caliphate in the vast areas of Syria and Iraq they control through a campaign of rape, massacre and brutal oppression.
ISIS' latest shocking murder video begins by showing hundreds of baying, bloodthirsty supporters of the terror group gathering in central Raqqa where a bearded cleric is seen breathlessly reading out charges against three Syrian soldiers dressed in military fatigues.
Laughing children are seen clambering on walls and on to the shoulders of their grinning fathers to get a better view of proceedings, while a large group of niqab-wearing women gather nearby.
The three prisoners are seen on their knees in the centre of a circle of the militants, who link arms to hold back the throng of young men intent on taking part in the savage triple murder.
The footage is edited so the cleric's feverish Arabic ranting reverberates and echoes as the crowd of young, T-shirt and baseball cap-wearing supporters push and shove to get closer to the victims.
Seconds later the crowd is unleashed on the men, surging forward and raining down kicks, punches and beatings with whatever objects are close at hand. So dense is the crowd desperate to take part in the brutal killings, that those on the periphery are more than a dozen rows back from the victims.
A capella religious singing and chanting - known as nasheeds - soundtracks the barbaric scene.
After showing the bloodthirsty crowd let loose on the men, the footage cuts to shots of their beaten and bloodied corpses being tied to the back of motorbikes.
In an act of shocking brutality, the bodies are then seen being dragged through the centre of Raqqa while cheering militants follow close behind in speeding 4x4s - a convoy of death, honking horns in support of the terror group's latest blood-soaked atrocity.
The heavily armed men riding the motorbikes are seen grinning and raising their index fingers in the air in a sign of religious devotion completely at odds with the sight of a chained and bloodied corpse bouncing along the road behind their vehicles.
The gruesome footage emerged as Syrian rebels captured another 32 soldiers and pro-government gunmen near the northern city of Aleppo, according to activists.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Aleppo-based activist Ahmad Hamed said the troops were seized in the village of Ratyan after it was retaken by the rebels yesterday.
The Observatory and Mr Hamed say intense clashes are taking outside a third village, Bashkoy, which was also taken by the government two days ago. The fighting comes as UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is trying to broker a truce for the war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria's largest city. More than 120,000 fighters supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been killed in the country's civil war since it began in 2011, the Observatory reported in December.
They said some 11,000 members of government forces and loyalist militias had been killed in the five months since Assad delivered an inauguration speech for a third presidential term.
In a breakdown of the casualties, the group said some 5,631 armed forces members have been killed in violence including shelling, gunfights, aircraft crashes, suicide attacks, snipers, executions and car bombs since the speech.
Another 4,492 fighters from loyalist militias had been killed, as well as 735 fighters of Arab, Asian and Iranian origin, and 91 from the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, the monitoring group said.
February 18, 2015
Islamic State (ISIS)'s "morality police" is enforcing modest dress through a reign of terror, human rights organizations claim Monday.
The Al-Merced NGO reports that the city Albuhamal in the Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria, the modesty squad attacked a woman because her eyes were too exposed to their liking. Two young men who tried to protect the woman were arrested as well.
In Mosul, a center for ISIS in Iraq, the city's morality police regularly beat women with iron rods who are not dressed modestly according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Recently, the group published a guide for Muslim women.
Among other things, it was explained in that girls as young as 9 years old can marry, and that the role of women is to stay home unless there is a real need to exit the house. Women are also permitted to be taken captives as prisoners of war, as are children.
ISIS has already explained that Islam calls for non-Muslim women to be forced into sexual slavery, and likewise recently stoned a woman accused of adultery.
Young women have been targeted over and over again by the terror group, which recruits women to support its male terrorists and serve as wives, baby-sitters, and mothers to future jihadists.
Despite the lack of equal rights for women within ISIS, scores of women from Syria and Iraq as well as from the West have volunteered to join the modesty squad - and appear to live relatively normal lives.
A 4-year-old Israeli girl who was critically injured in a car accident caused byPalestinian rock throwers two years ago died on Tuesday after a severe bout of pneumonia that relatives said was complicated by her neurological trauma.
The girl, Adele Biton, became a potent national symbol of the dangers that stones can cause after the March 2013 attack. Her family was driving home to the settlement of Yikar, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, when a rock hit their car, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a truck. Haaretz, an Israeli news site, reported Tuesday night that five Palestinian teenagers charged in the attack were still on trial.
"This serves as a reminder to everyone in Israel that rocks can kill," Gershon Mesika, a leader of the West Bank settlers' movement, said on Israeli television.
Naftali Bennett, the economy minister, posted on Facebook a photo of himself with Adele and her mother, Adva, who was also injured in the attack, and wrote, "There are no words."
"...I will not belabor the question of the legitimacy of your mission. I am certain that you are fully cognizant of the structural and historic bias of the UN Human Rights Council against Israel. If that and the prejudicial resolution establishing the mission did not deter you from accepting the position, nothing I say will convince you to resign. I assume you will at least acknowledge these predispositions, as Justice Goldstone did, even as you seek to assure that your group behaved even-handedly, its brief notwithstanding.
"One general admonition that can be derived from the 2009 report is that you -- the members of the mission whose name it will bear -- cannot simply accept as credible the drafts prepared by the staff hired to support you. It is very likely that many of the individuals volunteering or recruited for the task will have longstanding enmity towards Israel, as was the case in 2009 (although it was not known at that time). You may come under pressure to accept what they write because "they were the ones who spent the most time examining the evidence," but I hope you will be skeptical of anything that seems one-sided or is prejudicially phrased, lest you allow your reputation to be used to promote the agenda of others, as Justice Goldstone sadly did..."
February 17, 2015
"About a week after the end of Operation Protective Edge the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued a list of 17 names, allegedly of journalists who had been killed in the operation. The list was published by the PA's Wafa News Agency, which received it from the Hamas-controlled Gaza office of the ministry of information. As part of the ITIC's ongoing project concerning Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge, the 17 names were examined...
"The examination revealed that almost half (eight out of 17) were names of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist operatives, or were journalists who worked for the Hamas media. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and the Gaza office of the ministry of information tried to hide their military-terrorist identity, representing them only as journalists and media personnel. The examination revealed three levels of affiliation between the journalists and media personnel and the terrorist organizations (Hamas and the PIJ):
Former UN "expert" and notorious Israel-basher Richard Falk, has come to the defense of William Schabas. Schabas was the UN expert heading the Gaza inquiry that was launched by the UN Human Rights Council this past summer. He was forced to resign in early February after it was discovered he had worked for the PLO.
In an interview published on Falk's blog, Falk defends Schabas by describing him as "a modestly paid consultant" who wrote "a short technical report for the PLO." The so-called "technical" report was on the use of "the International Criminal Court (ICC)" to deal with alleged Israeli war crimes - the very subject of the UN's supposedly "independent" inquiry. Moreover, the existence of a conflict of interest does not turn on how much money changed hands. Which is why Schabas quit before the UN legal office rendered a formal opinion on his obvious breach of ethical standards.
Falk's interview reinforces the conclusion that the report, due in March, will be the fruit of the poison tree. Schabas's fingerprints are all over it, and all the evidence he amassed for his pre-determined anti-Israel ends was gathered almost entirely in secret. Here's Schabas: "...the Commission has not been very public in its activities. It has gathered a huge amount of material. It has also met with many individuals – victims, experts, human rights activists, UN officials, representatives of governments, diplomats – but these 'hearings' were not open to the public...[A]s a general rule, the identity of those who met with the Commission has not been divulged."
Schabas also admits to being present at the start of shaping the report, while attempting to minimize his involvement; he tells Falk about "the drafting of the report" - "that job was only beginning at the time of my resignation."
As Falk has done in the past, he supported Schabas by analogizing Israelis to Nazis and apartheid South Africa. He asked him: "...would a person who had been critical of Nazism or apartheid be rendered unfit to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity or racism?"
Schabas' response to the charge of a conflict of interest - having taken money as a paid legal advisor to the PLO - includes: "From beginning to end the whole matter lasted a couple of weeks. I received the request by e-mail and delivered the opinion by e-mail. I was paid a modest amount for my work. This is not a conflict of interest." We might call this new rule for lawyers like Schabas, the "William Schabas definition of a conflict of interest:" I was only a legal advisor to one side of a dispute that I was hired to judge impartially for a little while. Sure, I was paid by one side of the dispute, but what's a little grease? And emails don't count.
In another moral obscenity, Schabas analogizes his bias against Israel, and his unrepentant view that Netanyahu should be indicted by the ICC, to the bias of Israeli judges of German descent against Adolf Eichmann: "...the argument raised by Eichmann against the Israeli judges. There was never any suggestion that the three judges, all of them German Jews, did not have strong views about the Holocaust. It was assumed that they did."
In the Falk interview, Schabas casts himself as the poor victim, rather than the morally-challenged lawyer who has brought discredit to the UN, the Human Rights Council, and the entire Gaza "inquiry." Perhaps what stands out above all is the hubris of a man who literally claims, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. In his words: "This is a nasty, toxic matter. But the job must be done."
Schabas concludes by telling Falk: "What I would like to see is more pushback on these wrong and unfair charges of bias and conflict of interest. Some clarification on what is and what is not acceptable would make things clearer. I would like to see some UN guidelines..." Keep in mind, it was Schabas himself who prevented the UN legal office from issuing a legal opinion on the conflict of interest charge that would certainly have disqualified him.
He sums up his innocence this way: "...providing a legal opinion in the past on a matter not directly related to the subject-matter of a commission is not a conflict of interest."
Actually, the Schabas commission was charged with recommending measures of "accountability" for war crimes. The Schabas legal opinion encouraged Palestinian use of the ICC to further accountability for war crimes. The fact that Falk and Schabas do not see any conflict of interest here is a testament to the moral bankruptcy of the UN Human Rights Council and the people who appointed them UN "experts" in the first place.
February 16, 2015
A teenage female suicide bomber blew herself up at crowded bus station in northeast Nigeria on Sunday, killing at least 16 and wounding 30 others.
Most of the victims were children who had either been selling peanuts or begging for money at the time of the explosion, said witnesses.
The bomber managed to get through the security check at the entrance to the bus station in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, and detonated herself at 1 p.m. local time.
"It was an eyesore looking at the scene which is littered with chopped flesh and battered bodies of victims," said Hassan Umar. The suicide bomber was a teenager, said Mr. Umar, who said he saw her remains.
"The girl that carried out the suicide should be around 16 years old, because her face was a bit matured," he said.
N o one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing but it fits the pattern of violence by Boko Haram, Nigeria's homegrown Islamic extremist group that caused an estimated 10,000 deaths last year and is fighting to impose Islamic Shariah rule over Nigeria.
Last year, Boko Haram began using teenage females as suicide bombers, probably because they can evade security by hiding explosives under their hijab garments. In April, the extremists kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls who remain missing.
This is the first suicide bombing in Damaturu. The city of about 90,000 people in northeastern Nigeria has suffered several attacks by Boko Haram in past three years. On Dec. 1, Boko Haram attempted to seize Damuturu, but was repelled after a lengthy battle with many casualties.
In recent weeks Boko Haram have attacked the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Those countries and others are planning to form a joint force to help Nigeria battle the extremists.