Aletho News


Mercosur suspends Paraguay from trade bloc over Lugo ouster

Press TV – June 29, 2012

South American foreign ministers have suspended Paraguay from the regional trade bloc, Mercosur, over last week’s ouster of former President Fernando Lugo.

However, the bloc stopped short of imposing economic sanctions on Paraguay, which is one of the four founding members of the Mercosur bloc, along with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Paraguay was banned from this week’s summit held in Mendoza, Argenita, as the regional leaders considered the removal of the country’s first left-wing president as a parliamentary coup.

“Through a unanimous decision by Mercosur’s permanent and associate members, it has been decided– because of the events that occurred last Friday– to suspend Paraguay’s participation in this presidential summit,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said on Friday at a news conference.

Last week Paraguay’s Senate removed Lugo from office after a five-hour impeachment trial. He was accused of mishandling an armed clash over a land dispute in which seven police officers and ten landless farmers were killed on June 15.

Lugo was immediately replaced by his pro-US deputy, Federico Franco. The move has prompted harsh criticism inside the country and among its neighboring nations.

South American officials said that the suspension of Paraguay will stand until “democracy is fully restored” to the country.

Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced his concerns over what happened in Paraguay, saying that his country will not “recognize a dictatorship in paraguay.”

Several South American nations have recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay’s capital Asuncion, permanently or for consultation, in a bid to show their opposition to the dismissal of a democratically elected president.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Mercosur suspends Paraguay from trade bloc over Lugo ouster

NO to War in Syria

By Mairead Maguire | June 29, 2012

People around the world are deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Syria.

While we are being presented with some perspective of what is occurring on the ground to the people of Syria, the door seems closed to others. We search for voices we can trust, voices which point to a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict. We search for truth because it is truth which will set the Syrian people free. Truth is difficult to find, so through the haze of conflicting narratives we must inevitably hear the voices and wisdom of men and women of peace in Syria.

Many may believe that there is a fight going on in Syria for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. We can be seduced into thinking there is a magic wand or instant formula to mix that will create a democratic country, but there are none. If it is a democracy a people want they must strive for it in their own way. It is said the Greek idea of democracy was that people would be equally valued. This is something every society has to strive for at every point in its history; it itself is a ‘revolutionary’ concept and a nonviolent revolutionary action. Strive to value everyone equally. It is an idea, a motivation for a better world that doesn’t require blood; it requires the hard work of people and the nurturing of a community spirit; a constant growing of peace and it starts within each human heart.

Who are the voices of peace in regard to the crisis in Syria? Many of them we cannot hear from where we are standing. They are the mothers and fathers and children who want to leave their homes to walk to market or to school without fear. They are the people, who have been working hard for Syria, for the idea of Syria as a secular and modern country.

There are some Syrian voices that have been heard consistently since the beginning of the crisis. Many of them are anonymous and they speak to us about injustices and atrocities. Numbers are given and fingers are pointed. The blame may be apportioned correctly or it may not. Everything is happening too quickly; commentators and politicians are making decisions with haste and looking only in one corner for support for their certainty. But in the heat of the madness of violent ethnic/political conflict we must listen and ask questions and hear and speak with some uncertainty because it is certainty that can take a people and a country in a rush to war.

The face of the Mufti of Syria is hardly known in the western world, but if we have learned anything from past conflict, it is the importance of all inclusive dialogue. He and many other Syrians who have peace in their hearts should be invited to sit with a council of elders from other countries, to tell of their stories and proposals for ways forward for the Syrian people. The United Nations was not set up to provide an arena for the voices and games of the powerful; rather it should be a forum for such Syrian voices to be heard. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people and find peaceful ways forward in order to stop this mad rush towards a war the mothers and fathers and children of Syria do not want and do not deserve.

We all know there are imams, priests and nuns, fathers, mother, young people all over Syria crying out for peace and when the women in hijabs shout to the world after a bombing or a massacre in Syria ‘haram, haram’ let us hear and listen to them.

We are sure there are many heroes in Syria among them, christian patriarchs, bishops, priests, and religious. A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnes Mariam*. In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme. But Mother Agnes Mariam’s concerns, irrespective of religion, are for all the victims of the terror and conflict, as ours must be.

In all our hearts we know War is not the answer for Syria (Nor for Iran). Intervention in Syria would only make things worse. I believe all sides are committing war crimes and the provision of arms will only result in further death. The US/UK/NATO and all foreign governments should stay out of Syria and keep their funding and troops out of Syria.

We should support those Syrians who work for peace in Syria and who seek a way of helping the 22 million or so people of Syria to resolve their own conflict without furthering the chaos or violence.

* Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Greek-Catholic (Melkite) nun of Lebanese / Palestinian descent and has lived and worked in Syria for 18 years. She restored the ancient ruined monastery of St. James the Mutilated at Qara, in Homs province where she founded an order which serves the local and wider community. In 2010 the monastery welcomed 25,000 visitors both Syrian and international.


Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate with The Peace People.
The Peace People, 224 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 6GE, Northern Ireland
Phone: 0044 (0) 28 9066 346

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Comments Off on NO to War in Syria

Framing Hezbollah: STL Moves to Washington

By Legal Affairs Editor | Al Akhbar | June 29, 2012

Fearing that defense lawyers may succeed in undermining the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague, Washington is cooking up its own case against Hezbollah involving drug trafficking and money laundering.

“The Joumaa network is a sophisticated multinational money-laundering ring, which launders the proceeds of drug trafficking for the benefit of criminals and the terrorist group Hezbollah,” thus declared David Cohen, under-secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence in the US, two days ago.

“We and our partners will continue to aggressively map, expose, and disable this network, as we are doing with today’s sanctions,” he warned.

These new threats to Hezbollah coincide with the faltering of the process set up by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) charged with prosecuting the assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The team defending the four defendants from Hezbollah, who had been accused by [STL Prosecutor] Daniel Bellemare of involvement in the crime, recently launched three campaigns targeting the legitimacy of the establishment of the court and the legality of the indictment.

These campaigns caused a stir at the Hague and has made Washington worried. This led the US administration to renew its attempts to create an alternative international legal process targeting Hezbollah.

On Wednesday, the US Treasury released a statement titled “Treasury Targets Major Money Laundering Network Linked to Drug Trafficker Ayman Joumaa and a Key Hezbollah Supporter in South America.”

It pointed to 12 Lebanese citizens working in three groups, each made up of a commercial and a financial company accused of being involved in a multi-million US dollar drug trade to support Hezbollah.

The statement charged Ali M. S. with supporting the party and accused Ayman S. J. of moving more than a million US dollars in 2010 into the account of Abbas H., a Lebanese holding a Venezuelan passport living in Colombia.

It also claimed that a Lebanese bank branch manager was involved in the process and evoked the “February 2011 action against Lebanese Canadian Bank.” The statement focused on a “money laundering enterprise that has reach throughout the Americas and the Middle East with links to Hezbollah.”

Before going into the content of the memo, we should recall the statement released by the US Embassy in Beirut during the visit of US treasury official Daniel Glaser to Lebanon in November 2011. It had stressed his call “for Lebanon to meet all of its international obligations, including cooperating with and funding the STL.”

Documents published by WikiLeaks had indicated a high level of cooperation and information sharing between the US Embassy in Beirut, on one side, and the International Independent Investigation Commission and Bellemare’s office, on the other.

The indictment issued by Bellemare, following pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen’s approval, on 10 June 2011 had adopted the point of view of the US administration by describing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (Item 59).

Hezbollah’s branding as terrorist in the US Department of State was developed in three stages. The first was in 23 January 1995, categorizing it as a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Then, the party was included in the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

The final classification was announced on 31 October 2001 through an Executive Order of the State Department (#13224), calling Hezbollah a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”

The latest US Treasury statement targets Ali M. S. as “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” due to his role in “acting for or on behalf of and providing financial, material, or technological support to Hezbollah” and directing and coordinating Hezbollah activity in Colombia.

The memo maintained that “he is a former Hezbollah fighter with knowledge of Hezbollah operations plans.”

“As of July 2010, Saleh was a contact of Hezbollah’s Foreign Relations Department and has maintained communication with suspected Hezbollah operatives in Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia,” it said.

The Illegality of the STL

The renewed US legal offensive against Hezbollah coincides with the blowing apart of the legality of establishing the STL by the four legal teams defending Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra.

In this respect, the lawyers initiated three consecutive campaigns. First it challenged the legality of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1757 on 30 May 2007, which established the court, considering that the 14 February 2005 crime did not pose a threat to international peace and security.

This meant that the Security Council had overstepped its authority provided by late Judge Antonio Cassese during his presidency of the international court for the former Yugoslavia (the Tadich case).

The evidence was provided by defense lawyers Antoine Korkmaz, Eugene O’Sullivan, Emile Aoun, Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse, Dr. Guenael Mettraux, and David Young to the judges of the Trial Chamber in the Hague on the 13th and 14th of this month.

The decision of judges Robert Roth, Micheline Braidi, David Re, Walid Akoum, and Janet Nosworthy is expected in the next few weeks.

The second campaign was initiated by Korkmaz, who was later joined by the other seven lawyers. It refers to the illegality of the indictment which was issued by Bellemare in 2011.

The argument stressed that Bellemare’s appointment as international prosecutor was for one year, ending on 13 November 2010. Therefore, he did not have the legal authority to issue the indictment.

STL officials told Al-Akhbar that the challenge to the legality of the indictment caused a stir in the hallways of the court’s headquarters at the Hague. It hit the prosecutor’s office bureaucracy where it hurt.

The third – and not necessarily the final – campaign was initiated by Oneissi’s defense lawyers Courcelle-Labrousse and Yasser Hassan and Assad Sabra’s lawyers Mettraux and Young. It challenged some of the formal aspects of the indictment which violate the legal standards that can safeguard justice.

The challenges focused on the following points.

1- The four suspects were not informed of the details of the indictment nor did they choose their defense lawyers. This infringes on international judicial standards that can guarantee justice, violating several articles.

The first is Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights which says that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; (b) to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence; (c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing” (Paragraph 3).

The second violated Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (c) To be tried without undue delay” (Paragraph 3).

The third violation was of Article 131 of the Lebanese Law of Criminal Procedure that states that the indictment should contain “a clear and detailed account of the facts of the case” and “an itemized list of the evidence,” both of which were absent from Bellemare’s decision.

2- An indictment based on circumstantial evidence requires a high level of accuracy, but this also does not apply to Bellemare’s decision.

The third article of the indictment declares that it was “built in large part on circumstantial evidence.” But the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia had defined circumstantial evidence “as being evidence of circumstances surrounding an event or an offence from which a fact at issue may be reasonably inferred” (Decision of the Appeals Chamber on 20 February 2001).

It also defines it as “evidence of a number of different circumstances which, taken in combination, point to the existence of a particular fact upon which the guilt of the accused person depends because they would usually exist in combination only because a particular fact did exist” (Decision of the Trial Chamber on 15 March 2002 in the Krnojelac case).

But the defense maintains that they were not informed clearly and accurately of the evidence on which the indictment was based, an infringement of legal standards.

The defense insists on the need to be informed of all the details of the accusation due to the absence of the suspects and their inability to communicate with their defense lawyers.

This is in addition to the acute shortage of sources for the defense and the narrow margin of cooperation, which is limited to the Lebanese authorities without any cooperation of other states.

3- Some phrases used in the indictment, such as “during this period” (Item 32c.), “a number of days prior to the attack” (Item 33), “surveillance occurred on at least 15 days” (Item 34), and “on at least 20 days between 11 November 2004 and 14 February 2005,” are unacceptable by legal standards.

They are enigmatic and lack an accurate identification of circumstances that Bellemare claims are true.

In addition, there were more than 60 challenges to the indictment on formalities. Here are a few examples:

Item 5 states that “the four Accused participated in a conspiracy with others aimed at committing a terrorist act.” The word “others” is not defined, in violation to accepted standards in drafting indictments.

Item 30 states that “Oneissi used at least one phone,” but the decision does not mention the use of any other phone by Oneissi.

Item 35 states that Oneissi “falsely” called himself “Mohammed” without mentioning where and when he did that, or any evidence of its use. The same item mentions that Bellemare does not designate the time of Oneissi’s presence in the mosque (in Tariq al-Jdideh).

Article 59 says that “all four Accused are supporters of Hezbollah” without mentioning the type of support or its relationship to their alleged involvement in the crime.

View diagram #1

View diagram #2

Accusations Built on a Void

Former prosecutor Daniel Bellemare presented the preliminary judge Daniel Fransen with the first draft of the indictment on 17 January 2011. The judge found that it does not fulfill legal standards and asked for its amendment.

On 21 January 2011, Fransen directed several questions related to the interpretation of the Lebanese laws used in the appeals chamber. The court allowed itself to expound on some articles of the Lebanese code without going back to the Lebanese parliament, the main authority charged with the law.

It announced its understanding of the law on 16 February 2011. Bellemare published the amended draft of the indictment on 11 March 2011. Based on these explanations, he added the accusations against Oneissi and Sabra to those of Ayyash from the first draft, and requested the issuing of warrants against the three suspects accordingly.

But he later incorporated several other changes from the second draft in May 2011, adding the accusation against Badreddine. He also asked to remove the supporting documents from the first draft, in order to prevent the defense team from using them.

On 9 June 2011, Judge Fransen requested some formal amendments to the indictment before approving it tentatively on June 28 and issuing warrants against the four suspects.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Framing Hezbollah: STL Moves to Washington

Does Israel really fear Jihad terrorism from a post-Assad Syria?

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | June 29, 2012

According to an article yesterday in Ynet, the Israeli military fears that “global Jihad terrorists will launch attacks from Syria” if President Bashar Assad’s regime falls. The Israeli newspaper reported:

Army officials are not ruling [sic] a situation whereby terrorists will take advantage of the chaos that may follow a regime change in Damascus to seize control of the border region, as was the case in the Sinai Peninsula after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

Over the past few months the 36th Armored Division (Ga’ash), which is in charge of security along the border, has been gearing for a number of possible scenarios, including a cross-border attack by global jihad, which is operating in Syria against Assad’s regime.

The IDF fears the Horan region, near the border with Israel, will become a “no man’s land” and a hotbed of terrorism. Military officials are not ruling out the possibility of rocket fire from Syria and attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

But if Israel is so concerned about global Jihad terrorists getting a foothold in Syria, then why is its American lobby leading the push for regime change in Damascus? Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to websites such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Foreign Policy Initiative or Foundation for Defense of Democracies over the past year and a half knows how fervently pro-Israelis have been urging Washington to topple Assad.

To cite but one example, in November last year Foreign Policy Initiative and Foundation for Defense of Democracies jointly issued a discussion paper that outlined “policy options for the United States and like-minded nations to further assist the anti-regime Syrian opposition.” Entitled “Towards a Post-Assad Syria,” the paper advocated imposing “crippling sanctions” on the regime and providing assistance to opposition groups, including no-fly/no-go zones.

Foreign Policy Initiative co-founder Bill Kristol also heads the Emergency Committee for Israel, which specializes in producing videos attacking any politician, including President Obama, it deems to be insufficiently supportive of the Jewish state. Unless Kristol et al. are pursuing an agenda on Syria opposed by Tel Aviv — which is most unlikely — then why have they been promoting a policy that the IDF says will lead to global Jihad terrorists launching attacks on Israel? Could they be that stupid? Or could it be that Israeli strategists welcome the chaos that its army officials supposedly fear?

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Deception | , , | Comments Off on Does Israel really fear Jihad terrorism from a post-Assad Syria?

US shuns Bahrain condemnation at UN

Al Akhbar | June 28, 2012

The United States and the United Kingdom on Thursday declined to sign a UN document condemning the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

The UN Human Rights Council document, which was signed by major European countries including Germany and France, calls on the Gulf state to do more to protect civil liberties in the country.

“We express our concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain, both the violations that took place in February and March 2011 as well as the related ongoing ones,” the document said.

“We are particularly concerned about the consequences faced by those who protested for democratic change in a peaceful manner,” it adds.

Bahraini forces, backed by Saudi troops, crushed a pro-democracy uprising in early 2011, but protests have reemerged in recent months despite repression.

The US has remained quiet on the human rights situation in the country, which is the host of its Fifth Fleet, while condemning government crackdowns in Syria and elsewhere.

Bahraini activists have accused global bodies such as the Human Rights Council of being pressured into silence on the issue.

Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, welcomed the ruling.

“This is the first step in showing that the Human Rights Council will not allow the implementation of double standards, although they have allowed it this long,” she said.

However she condemned the decision by the US and Britain to not sign the treaty as evidence of “double standards” on human rights.

“The thing that disappoints us most is the fact that the United Kingdom and the United States decided not to sign, which to us says a lot more about how they are insisting on implementing double standards when it comes to supporting or standing against human rights violations in different countries.”

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Armed rebels abduct 14 Palestinian Liberation Army members in Syria

Press TV – June 28, 2012

Fourteen members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) have been kidnapped in northern Syria by anti-government armed groups.

The incident occurred on Thursday in the city of Aleppo, where gunmen seized and took away the PLA members at gunpoint.

There were not immediately any reports about the destination the kidnapped men where transported to.

The PLA, considered as the military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was established at the 1964 Arab League summit in Alexandria, with the mission of countering the Israel regime.

Syria has always been deemed as in the frontline of the anti-Israeli resistance and has been praised by Palestinians and the Lebanese for its unflagging support for the resistance in the passage of years.

The country has been plagued by more than a year of rampant violence and bloodshed, which Damascus blames on terrorist elements funded and masterminded from abroad.

In May, Syrian militants abducted 13 Lebanese nationals near the town of Aazaz, which is on the border with Turkey.

The Lebanese were returning to Lebanon after visiting Shia shrines in Iran when the militants reportedly hijacked their bus, then kidnapped the men onboard the vehicle.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Comments Off on Armed rebels abduct 14 Palestinian Liberation Army members in Syria

Quebec court upholds law limiting student protests

Press TV – June 28, 2012

Students in the Canadian province of Quebec have pledged to continue protests after a court rejected a petition to scrap parts of a law that was passed to crush student protest over tuition hikes.

The controversial law was passed in May in the wake of clashes between police and students fighting an 82 percent hike in tuition fees in the French speaking province.

Judge Francois Rolland said on Wednesday that the parts in question do “not prevent protests, even if certain limitations are imposed.”

Students and their lawyers rejected the court’s ruling, saying they would consider appealing.

Under Special Law 78, the organizers must inform the police about the timing and locations of marches at least eight hours before they stage a protest. It also allows imposing heavy fines on protesters who fail to do so.

Critics believe the law breaches rights of assembly and free expression. Police have arrested many people since the start of the protests more than four month ago.

University students and student unions have been protesting since mid-February to draw international attention to the government’s announced plans to raise tuition fees and the passing of the controversial law.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Comments Off on Quebec court upholds law limiting student protests

China, Singapore to be exempted from Iran sanctions

By Jamie Crawford | Jeenyus Corner | June 28, 2012

China and Singapore will receive exemptions from U.S. sanctions scheduled to go into effect Thursday that would have cut off banks in those countries from the U.S. financial system for handling Iranian oil transactions, a source in the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, a source in the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) tells Security Clearance.

Secretary of State Clinton called Senator Menendez earlier today to inform him.

Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama In December, the United States will take action against countries that continue buying large volumes of Iranian oil through Iran’s Central Bank by cutting off financial institutions engaged in those transactions from the U.S. banking system.

– State Department released a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Today I have made the determination that two additional countries, China and Singapore, have significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran. As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245(d)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 will not apply to their financial institutions for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.

A total of 20 world economies have now qualified for such an exception. Their cumulative actions are a clear demonstration to Iran’s government that Iran’s continued violation of its international nuclear obligations carries an enormous economic cost. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Iran’s crude oil exports in 2011 were approximately 2.5 million barrels per day, and have dropped to roughly 1.5 million barrels per day, which in real terms means almost $8 billion in lost revenues every quarter. When the European Union oil embargo goes into effect July 1, Iran’s leaders will understand even more fully the urgency of the choice they face and the unity of the international community.

Today marks an important milestone in the implementation of the NDAA and U.S. sanctions toward Iran. Following the President’s determinations on March 30 and June 11 on the availability of non-Iranian supplies of oil, as of today, any foreign financial institution based in a country that has not received an NDAA exception is subject to U.S. sanctions if it knowingly conducts a significant transaction with the Central Bank of Iran for the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products to or from Iran.

We have been clear all along that there is a path for Iran to fully re-join the global economy. Iran’s leaders have the opportunity to address international concerns by engaging seriously and substantively in negotiations with the P5+1. I urge Iran to demonstrate its willingness to take concrete steps toward resolving the nuclear issue during the expert-level talks scheduled in Istanbul on July 3. Failure to do so will result in continuing pressure and isolation from the international community.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Comments Off on China, Singapore to be exempted from Iran sanctions

Daniel Yergin: Excess oil capacity seen as adequate to weather sanctions impacts

| Jun 27, 2012 

On the 1st of July Europe will cease importing oil from Iran and new US sanctions will also come into place. To talk about how this will affect the energy market RT is joined by prize-winning author and energy specialist Daniel Yergin.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Video | , , , | Comments Off on Daniel Yergin: Excess oil capacity seen as adequate to weather sanctions impacts

UK Report finds Israel breaches International Law in treatment of Palestinian children

By Julie Webb-Pullman – Scoop – 27/06/2012

A group of nine British lawyers lawyers from the fields of human rights, crime and child welfare released the Children in Military Custody report on Tuesday, concluding that Israel is in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Fourth Geneva Convention in its treatment of Palestinian children.

The Report compared Israeli domestic law as it applies to Israeli children, and Israeli military law as it applies to Palestinian children, and found significant differences.

“What is important is that, whatever the offence charged, an Israeli child and a Palestinian child should from start to finish be treated by the Israeli justice system, whether civilian or military in form, according to the same principles and procedures,” the Report states.

Practices criticised in the report included discrimination, failure to observe the child’s best interests, premature resort to detention, confining children with adult prisoners, delayed access to lawyers, and the use of shackles. The group also considered that other practices they were informed of, if proven, would constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Report contains a litany of abuses of Palestinian children at every stage of the process, from arrest through interrogation, bail hearings and plea bargains, trial, sentencing, detention and complaints.

One section (Section 36, of the 120 in the Report) describing only the detention process, states:
“…those who have been identified as offenders or suspects are arrested by soldiers, usually in nighttime raids on their homes are blindfolded, and, with their wrists painfully bound behind them, are then transported to interrogation centres, sometimes face-down on the floor of military vehicles. The majority are verbally and / or physically abused and, without being informed of their right to silence or the right to see a lawyer, are sometimes held in solitary confinement, pressured to inculpate themselves and others, and are often made to sign statements which they cannot read because they are written in Hebrew. Interrogations are not, save on rare occasions, audio-visually recorded, and those tapes that do exist are almost impossible to obtain by defence lawyers representing the children.”

The details of these detentions, as well as the remand and jail conditions, make horrifying reading.

The project was funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the reporting group was comprised by The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, The Rt Hon the Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal QC, Frances Oldham QC, Marianna Hildyard QC, Judy Khan QC, Jayne Harrill, Jude Lanchin, Greg Davies and Marc Mason.

The stature of the reporting group, and the fact that “a substantial and balanced body of relevant information was collated” from key parties, including Israeli Government departments and the military, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, UN agencies, former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian children, gives some hope that international pressure will be brought upon Israel to end these illegal and inhumane practices.

Whether Israel bows to the pressure, and observes international law, is quite another matter.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt ex-minister sentenced to 15 years over Israel gas deal

Press TV – | June 28, 2012

An Egyptian court has sentenced the country’s former oil minister and a fugitive businessman to 15 years in prison each over selling natural gas to Israel at below-market rates.

The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced former oil minister, Sameh Fahmi, and fugitive businessman, Hussein Salem, to 15 years in prison each over the (Israel) gas deal,” a judicial source said on Thursday, AFP reported.

According to the source, five other former high-ranking oil and gas officials also received jail sentences ranging from three to 10 years on similar charges.

Salem, who fled to Spain after Egypt’s popular revolution in February 2011 that toppled his close friend and the country’s then dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was also sentenced in absentia in October 2011 to seven years in jail for profiteering.

Gas exports to Israel were launched in 2008 and came under heavy criticism at the time from Egypt’s then banned Muslim Brotherhood.

In December 2010, Israel signed a 20-year contract with Egypt worth more than $10 billion (7.4 billion euros) — much cheaper than global prices — to import Egyptian natural gas.

Egypt accounts for roughly 40 percent of Israel’s gas supplies.

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Government Fails to Carry Out Terms of Prisoner Agreement

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC News | June 28, 2012

Palestinian and international rights groups have condemned the Israeli government’s failure to live up to the agreement made one month ago in order to end the month-long hunger strike of over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners.

The promises made by the Israeli government in order to end the hunger strike included an end to solitary confinement, improved living conditions for prisoners, proper medical care and increased family visits. A month after the hunger strike was declared over, however, the Israeli authorities have yet to implement these agreed-upon terms.

The one item that Israeli authorities did carry out was the return of 91 bodies from the so-called ‘Numbers’ cemetery in Israel – a cemetery made up of Palestinians who died or were killed inside Israel. Although Israel has always denied the existence of this cemetery, mocking those Palestinians who insisted that it did exist, the release of the bodies constituted an admission by the Israeli government that the Numbers cemetery does exist. Those 91 bodies are not all of the Palestinians buried in the Numbers cemetery, but no one on the Palestinian side knows how many bodies remain, and Israel has refused to release any data.

Some prisoner rights groups are blaming the Palestinian Authority for giving in to easily during negotiations with the Israelis regarding the hunger striking prisoners, and for failing to pressure Israel to live up to its end of the bargain.

In fact, there is no mechanism by which the Palestinian Authority can force Israel to carry out its promises regarding prisoners, as Palestinians have no legal recourse to take the Israeli government to court.

One of the promises made by the Israeli government was hailed at the time as a success for prisoners, but prisoner rights groups including Addameer have cautioned that it does not constitute a real change in policy. That is the decision to not extend so-called ‘administrative detention’ orders under which Palestinians are held without charges. The caveat, however, is that Israel can extend those orders if there is ‘new information’ in the case. Since the charges and trial in these cases are held in secret, with no possibility of mounting a defense, this caveat makes the change in policy virtually meaningless.

One representative of Addameer, Mourad Jadallah, told reporters with the Ma’an news agency, “Israel also does not want Palestinians to feel they reached something with the hunger strike or let the prisoners movement feel like they reached their demands. They want to say: We can control everything.”

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment