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South African bodies call for Israel to be excluded from diamond processing over ‘war crimes’

RT | June 6, 2013

South African human rights groups, trade unions and major civil society organisations are calling for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme* to exclude Israel from diamond processing.

The certification scheme is designed to stop ‘conflict diamonds’ from entering the mainstream diamond market and was set up in 2003. The organisation which runs the scheme is currently meeting in South Africa.

The coalition of organisations such as South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers, the country’s largest trade union federation COSATU; South African Students Congress; the Coalition for a Free Palestine and BDS South Africa say that “billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds exported via Israel are a major source of revenue for the Israeli military, which stands accused of war crimes.”

The coalition is calling for Israel to be excluded from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme due to its human rights record against Palestinians, and to end all exports of rough diamonds to Israel immediately.

The organizations also wants to ban diamond polishing and cutting in Israel. They claim excluding Israel from the diamond processing would be a great chance for the South African authorities to display “moral vision and political leadership”.

“The Kimberley Process has played an important role over the past decade in resolving conflicts linked to the diamond trade but there is no doubt that it has to be reformed… [by] expanding the definition of conflict to include human rights abuses linked to diamond extraction perpetrated by governments and companies; and expanding downstream monitoring so that the process covers not just the rough diamond trade but also the international movement and polishing of diamonds,” Southern Africa Resource Watch director Claude Kabemba told the Business Day newspaper.

The coalition also pointed to the local benefits of such a move, claiming it could bring more diamond processing jobs back to South Africa. “Consumers will have a clear conscience that their diamonds are not funding, assisting or in any way involved with the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, and more jobs will be created locally for our people by bringing this diamond processing back home instead of it being done in Israel,” South African activist Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is quoted by the Middle East Monitor as saying.

The Kimberley Process, established a decade ago to help resolve international diamond trade conflicts and to ensure that the diamond trade is not used as an instrument to fund military rebellions and other violence interfering with human rights. The organization includes 54 participants representing 90 countries while its members account for about 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds, the Middle East Monitor reports.

* The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the process to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market. Established by UN GA Resolution 55/56 in 2003, the process is aimed “to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.” In order for a country to be a participant, it must ensure that any diamond originating from the country does not finance a rebel group or other entity seeking to overthrow a UN-recognized government, that every diamond export be accompanied by a Kimberley Process certificate and that no diamond is imported from, or exported to, a non-member of the scheme. As of 30 November 2012, there were 54 participants in the KPCS representing 80 countries, with the European Union counting as a single participant.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nicaragua: New Plans to Build Canal are Announced

By Kari Paul | The Argentina Independent | June 6, 2013

Rene Nuñez, president of Nicaragua’s national assembly, announced today that a Chinese investment firm will fund construction of a channel through Nicaragua, an alternative trade route to the Panama Canal.

The new channel will link the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea, and will be built by a “consortium of investors combined into one firm,” Nuñez, who declined to give more information on the group, said.

The government of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has introduced two bills to streamline the environmental impact study on the new works, so that the channel can be constructed as soon as possible.

“This is a project that is very important to the country, so we are pursuing it with urgency,” Nuñez said.

President Ortega said that the channel will serve as an alternative to the overcrowded Panama Canal, which is currently undergoing a US$5.2bn expansion project. He also stressed that the Nicaragua Canal will bring jobs to the impoverished in Nicaragua and other Central American countries.

Others oppose the canal, saying the government is pursuing it recklessly.

“I don’t know what is the rush, especially with such a sensitive topic,” said congressman Luis Callejas. “There should be a full consultation with the people, I do not understand why they are rushing the decision.”

Originally the channel was planned to go through the San Juan River, but now Ortega announced it would be built further north, through the waters of Lake Nicaragua.

“Lake Nicaragua should be a source of drinking water for Nicaragua and South America,” argued Environmental Affairs Chair Jaime Incer. He said the lake is currently protected as a “potable water reserve” by a law that Ortega himself passed.

The Nicaraguan National Assembly will debate the two bills on the project, taking into account the environmental impact, on Friday.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Brazil: Soldiers Sent to Indigenous Occupied Land

By Emily Tarbuck | The Argentina Independent | June 6, 2013

The Brazilian government has announced that it will send around 200 soldiers to land occupied by indigenous groups in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The move comes after a member of the Terena indigenous group was killed whilst police attempted to evict the occupiers last week. The groups believe the land belongs to their indigenous ancestral territory, which is currently recognised as the property of local politician, Ricardo Bacha, and have occupied the land for over two weeks.

The announcement from the government detailed how the soldiers were being sent to the farm in order to prevent the problem from escalating. Brazil’s Justice minister Jose Cardozo said: “We’re not going to put out the flames by pouring alcohol on the bonfire…we must avoid radicalising a situation that goes back a long way in Brazilian history.”

Cardozo also announced that he would be travelling to Mato Grosso do Sul in order to oversee the deployment of soldiers, and that the soldiers from the National Force were being sent in order to support the local police force.

It was revealed that the call for soldier interception came from the governor of Mato Grosso do Sol, André Puccinelli, and that soldiers have been steadily deployed by land and air to the area since Tuesday.

Dozens of other indigenous groups have marched around Mato Grosso do Sul in the Sidronlandia region in support of the Terena people. A date has not been set for the withdrawal of the soldiers.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Philadelphia adopting ‘doomsday’ school-slashing plan despite $400 million prison project

RT | June 6, 2013

Days after Philadelphia officials pushed the city one step closer to a so-called “doomsday” education plan that would see two dozen schools close, construction began on a $400-million prison said to be the second-most expensive state project ever.

Pennsylvania’s School Reform Commission voted on June 1 to approve a $2.4 billion budget, ignoring hours of pleas from students, parents, educators and community members who warned the budget would cripple city schools.

The plan would close 23 public schools, roughly 10 per cent of the city’s total. Commissioners rejected a proposal that would have only closed four of the 27 schools that were on the block for closure.

Without the means to cover a $304 million debt, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, students can expect to go back to school in September without new books, paper, counselors, clubs, librarians, assistant principals or secretaries. All athletics, art and music programs would be eliminated and as many as 3,000 people could lose their jobs.

Only one of five state commissioners voted against the proposal, warning that Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s administration had not looked hard enough elsewhere for proper funds.

That $304 million windfall is unlikely to be filled because the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently passed a tax break for corporations that will cost Pennsylvania residents an estimated $600 million to $800 million annually.

Newly unemployed teachers might consider submitting their resumes to the Department of Corrections, though, with the news that the supposedly cash-strapped government is digging deep to spend $400 million for the construction of State Correctional Institutions Phoenix I and II.

The penitentiary, which is technically two facilities, will supplement at least two existing jails, the Western Penitentiary at Pittsburgh and Fayette County Jail. Pittsburgh’s Western Penitentiary was built in 2003 with the original intention of replacing Fayette County Jail, but the prison has struggled with lawsuits claiming widespread physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.

Scheduled to be completed in 2015, the new prison’s cell blocks and classroom will be capable of housing almost 5,000 inmates. Officials said there will be buildings for female inmates, the mentally ill and a death row population.

Journalist Rhania Khalek noted that the racial disparities in the education system and prison complex, where 60 per cent of all people are of color, have created a literal “school-to-prison-pipeline.”

“In Philadelphia, black students comprise 81 per cent of those who will be impacted by the closings despite accounting for just 58 per cent of the overall student population,” she wrote. “In stark contrast, just 4 per cent of those affected are white kids who make up 14 per cent of Philly students. And though they make up 81 per cent of Philadelphia students, 93 per cent of kids affected by the closings are low-income.”

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Communication surveillance undermines privacy, freedom of expression – UN report

RT | June 6, 2013

The widespread use of surveillance technologies to monitor peoples’ communications violates the human rights to privacy and freedom of expression, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion stated in his report.

Rapporteur, Frank La Rue, presented his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.

The document underlined that there’s no way to ensure freedom of expression without respect of privacy in communications and called for global attention towards the increased use of surveillance technologies by many governments.

“The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas,” the report stated.

La Rue praised the technological innovations, which promote fast, anonymous, cross-cultural dialogues around the world, but warned that the same technologies can backfire as concerns about national security and criminal activity may lead to previously unseen scale of state surveillance intrusions.

“The Internet has facilitated the development of large amounts of transactional data by and about individuals. This information, known as communications data or metadata, includes personal information on individuals, their location and online activities, and logs and related information about the e-mails and messages they send or receive.”

The rapporteur stressed that this communications data is “storable, accessible and searchable” and when it’s combined and used by the state it can be “both highly revelatory and invasive”.

According to La Rue, governments are in possession of multiple instruments to breach communication privacy as access to the stored content of an individual’s e-mails and messages can be obtained through Internet companies and service providers.

Secret services can easily track the movements of mobile phones, identify all individuals with a mobile phone within a designated area and intercept calls and text messages.

The majority of digital communication information flows through fiber-optic cables, so by placing taps on them and applying word, voice and speech recognition, the governments can achieve almost complete control of communications, the report warns.

The document mentions Egypt and other governments confronted with the Arab Spring as one of the most recent examples of such technologies being used.

The report also noted that the surveillance of human rights defenders or journalists has been “well documented” by the governments of many countries.

“On these occasions, human rights defenders and political activists report having their phone calls and e-mails monitored, and their movements tracked. Journalists are also particularly vulnerable to becoming targets of communications surveillance because of their reliance on online communication. In order to receive and pursue information from confidential sources, including whistleblowers, journalists must be able to rely on the privacy, security and anonymity of their communications.”

La Rue urged governments worldwide to review their national laws regulating surveillance as they are often inadequate or simply don’t exist – to ensuring privacy in communication is protected.

“Communications surveillance should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society. Legislation must stipulate that State surveillance of communications must only occur under the most exceptional circumstances and exclusively under the supervision of an independent judicial authority.”

The document stressed that individuals should be allowed all technological means to secure their communications and governments “should not interfere with the use of encryption technologies, nor compel the provision of encryption keys”.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Top-secret court order reveals NSA’s daily data collection on millions of Americans

RT | June 06, 2013

The US National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of unwitting individuals via a secret court order issued in April obtained by The Guardian newspaper, which has posted it online.

Unlike warrants that have been issued to collect the information of suspects targeted by intelligence agencies, the newly disclosed top secret order requires Verizon, one of the largest telecom agencies in the US, to provide both the FBI and the NSA information on all telephone calls made through its systems, both domestically and to foreign countries.

According to a copy of the order, Verizon is required to disclose the numbers of both parties during a call, as well as location, call duration, and other unique data on an “ongoing, daily basis.” Meaning that, regardless of whether an individual is suspected of or linked to any crime, the data of all Verizon customers is currently being delivered in bulk to the intelligence agency.

As to the authority claimed by the government via this order, that is specifically cited to fall under the “business records” provision of the PATRIOT Act of 2001, which was granted a four-year extension by President Obama in May of 2011.

It remains unclear as to whether the order, which spans a three-month period, represents a single instance, or is indicative of recurring cases of Verizon and other telephony providers being ordered to disclose all their clients’ call records.

The order itself, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, prohibits Verizon from alerting its customers of the FBI’s request for their records.

According to The Guardian, its reporters approached Verizon, the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment ahead of its story, though all declined.

Though the agencies have yet to respond to the publication of the secret order, justification for the thus far unprecedented, warrantless request made to Verizon in April would fall under the interpretation of such “business records.” The latter applies to a wide-ranging amount of electronic “metadata,” though not the actual content of texts and voice calls.

The order seems likely to be associated with the NSA’s longstanding collection program over telephone, Internet and email data, which was secretly authorized by former president Bush in 2001, though not disclosed publicly until a 2006 USA Today report. That particular authorization applied to multiple carriers: AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, and was intended to allow US intelligence services “to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.”

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the libertarian Cato Institute who spoke to The Guardian believes that the newly disclosed court order undermines the legal definition of reasonable suspicion.

“We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretense of constraint or particularized suspicion,” said Sanchez.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Years Ago Obama Promised to Investigate Afghan Massacre. Has Anything Happened Since?

Physicians for Human Rights sent forensic experts to conduct a preliminary forensic assessment of various mass graves in northern Afghanistan, including the one at Dasht-e-Leili. (Physicians for Human Rights)

By Cora Currier | ProPublica | June 4, 2013

In his first year in office, President Barack Obama pledged to “collect the facts” on the death of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war at the hands of U.S.-allied Afghan forces in late 2001.

Almost four years later, there’s no sign of progress.

When asked by ProPublica about the state of the investigation, the White House says it is still “looking into” the apparent massacre. Yet no facts have been released and it’s far from clear what, if any, facts have been collected.

Human rights researchers who originally uncovered the case say they’ve seen no evidence of an active investigation.

The deaths happened as Taliban forces were collapsing in the wake of the American invasion of Afghanistan. Thousands of Taliban prisoners had surrendered to the forces of a U.S.-supported warlord named Abdul Rashid Dostum. The prisoners, say survivors and other witnesses, were stuffed into shipping containers without food or water. Many died of suffocation. Others were allegedly killed when Dostum’s men shot at the containers.

A few months later, a mass grave was found nearby in Dasht-i-Leili, a desert region of northern Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported in 2009 that the Bush administration, sensitive to criticism of a U.S. ally, had discouraged investigations into the incident. In response, Obama told CNN that “if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, I think that we have to know about that.”

A White House spokeswoman told ProPublica that there has indeed been some kind of review – and that it’s still ongoing: “At the direction of the President, his national security team is continuing its work looking into the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.” She declined to provide more details.

“This seems quite half-hearted and cynical,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy at Physicians for Human Rights, the group that discovered the grave site in 2002 and since then has pushed for an investigation.

The group sent a letter to the president in December 2011, the tenth anniversary of the incident. In a follow-up meeting some months later, senior State Department officials told Physicians for Human Rights that there was nothing new to share.

“This has been a hot potato that no one wanted to deal with, and now it’s gone cold,” said Norah Niland, former director of human rights for the United Nations in Afghanistan.

Human rights advocates have long said the responsibility for a comprehensive investigation lies with the U.S., because American forces were allied with Dostum and his men at the time. Surviving prisoners have also claimed that Americans were present when the containers were loaded, though that’s never been corroborated.

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that the Department of Defense “found no evidence of U.S. service member participation, knowledge, or presence. A broader review of the facts is beyond D.O.D.’s purview.” That initial review has never been made public.

At this point, say advocates, an investigation should address not just the question of U.S. involvement, but also what the U.S. did in the years that followed to foster accountability.

“I’m not saying Dostum ordered these people killed, and I’m not saying U.S. troops participated,” said Stefan Schmitt, a forensic specialist with Physicians for Human Rights. “All I’m saying is there are hundreds if not thousands of people that went missing. In a country that’s looking to have peace, to be under the rule of law, you need to answer these questions.”

Initially excited by Obama’s statement, researchers with Physicians for Human Rights peppered the administration with their findings. But the response was “murky at best,” said Sirkin.

“We were never very clear on who within the administration was delegated the task,” she said. Current and former administration officials interviewed by ProPublica couldn’t say which agency or department had the job.

Sirkin and others eventually resigned themselves to the fact that Obama, in his televised remarks, had not specifically called for a full investigation. With the U.S. now withdrawing from Afghanistan, many observers say it’s no surprise that investigating Dasht-i-Leili is no longer a priority.

Dostum still holds considerable sway in Northern Afghanistan, though he has fallen in and out of favor with the U.S. and with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The Times recently reported Dostum is one of several former warlords to whom Karzai passes on thousands of dollars in cash he receives from the CIA each month. (We were unable to reach Dostum himself for this story.)

The Obama administration has been cool toward him in recent years, saying ahead of Afghanistan’s elections in 2009 that the U.S. “maintains concerns about any leadership role for Mr. Dostum in today’s Afghanistan.”

Back in 2001, Dostum was far more important to the U.S. He was a U.S. proxy, fighting the Taliban as part of the Northern Alliance. American Special Forces famously rode on horseback alongside Dostum’s men, advising and calling in airstrikes. The alliance took the city of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban in one of the first major victories of the invasion in early November 2001.

The shipping container deaths occurred a few weeks later, when Taliban fighters who had surrendered to the Northern Alliance at the city of Kunduz were en route to a prison about 200 miles away.

That winter, Physicians for Human Rights discovered a mass grave at Dasht-i-Leili. A preliminary investigation exhumed several bodies that appeared to have died from suffocation. Stories began to circulate in the region and Newsweek and others published detailed accounts from surviving prisoners, truck drivers, and other witnesses.

The Times also reported that an FBI agent interviewing new Afghan arrivals to Guantanamo Bay prison in early 2002 heard consistent accounts of prisoners “stacked like cordwood,” and death by suffocation and shooting. When the agent pressed for an investigation, he was reportedly told it was not his responsibility.

Dostum has said that he would welcome an investigation. He said that some 200 prisoners had indeed died in transit, but that the deaths were unintentional, the result of battlefield wounds.

Other estimates put the toll much higher.

A widely cited State Department memo from fall 2002 said that “the actual number may approach 2,000.”

Around the same time, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell tasked his Ambassador for War Crimes, Pierre-Richard Prosper, with looking into Dasht-i-Leili. Prosper told ProPublica that due to the U.S. alliance with Dostum, Washington felt the U.S. should not take the lead in an investigation.

“We were in the middle of fighting, and we thought we should keep the lines clear, let someone else, the U.N. or Afghans, handle this,” said Prosper.

But the newly installed Afghan government had neither the will nor the resources for a thorough investigation, and U.N. officials said they could not guarantee security. Witnesses and others involved in Dasht-i-Leili had already been killed and harassed, according to State Department memos.

A declassified Defense Department memo from February 2003 indicates the U.S. was not providing security for an investigation. The memo’s author, Marshall Billingslea, told the Times in 2009, “I did get the sense that there was little appetite for this matter within parts of D.O.D.” (Billingslea did not respond to our requests for comment.)

As the years went by, no one from the U.S., the U.N., or Afghanistan guarded the grave site. In 2008, reporters and researchers found empty pits where they had once found human remains. Satellite photos obtained later showed what appeared to be earth-moving equipment in the desert in 2006. Locals told McClatchy that Dostum’s men had dug up the graves.

After Obama pledged in 2009 to look into the case, a parallel inquiry was begun the next year in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by current Secretary of State John Kerry.

The fate of that investigation is also unclear. The lead investigator, John Kiriakou, was a former CIA officer who was caught up in a criminal leak prosecution and is now in prison. Other Senate staffers could not provide details on Kiriakou’s efforts. Physicians for Human Rights says contact from the committee fizzled out within a year.

New attention to Dasht-i-Leili had also been sparked within the U.N.’s mission in Afghanistan and the organization’s High Commission on Human Rights, former U.N. officials said.

However, Peter Galbraith, who was the U.N.’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan until the fall of 2009, told ProPublica that “an investigation would’ve required a push from the U.S. It required the cooperation of the coalition forces.” (Neither the U.N. mission in Afghanistan nor the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights responded to our requests for comment.)

The mass grave at Dasht-i-Leili is one of many left unexamined in Afghanistan. In late 2011, the nation’s Independent Human Rights Commission concluded a massive report on decades of war crimes and human rights abuses, which reportedly documents 180 mass graves across the country. The region near Dasht-i-Leili is also believed to hold the remains of civilians massacred by the Taliban in 1998, in what Human Rights Watch called “one of the single worst examples of killings of civilians in Afghanistan’s twenty-year war.” In all, the report named 500 individuals responsible for mass killings – some of whom hold prominent government positions.

American and Afghan officials reportedly discouraged publication of the report, and the commission has still not made it public. “It’s going to reopen all the old wounds,” an American Embassy official told the New York Times last year. Afghanistan also recently adopted an amnesty law offering blanket immunity for past war crimes.

Nader Nadery, the commissioner responsible for the report, told ProPublica: “I haven’t seen any political or even rhetorical support of investigations into Dasht-i-Leili or any other investigation into past atrocities, from either Bush or Obama.”

A History of Inaction

Nov. 24, 2001: As Taliban forces surrender to the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, several thousand prisoners of war are transported in shipping containers. Survivors and witnesses later allege as many as 2,000 prisoners died — some suffocated while others were shot — and are buried in a grave site at Dasht-i-Leili.

February 2002: Physicians for Human Rights visits the graves at Dasht-i-Leili. That spring, under the auspices of the U.N., PHR conducts an initial forensic investigation of the graves, exhuming a number of recent remains that indicated death by suffocation.

Spring and Summer 2002: Media reports detail eyewitness allegations about deaths in the containers.

Fall 2002: U.S., U.N. and Afghan authorities say that a full investigation is warranted, but none gets off the ground.

2006: Satellite photos show disturbances at the grave sites at Dasht-i-Leili.

2008: Researchers and reporters find empty pits where graves had once been.

July 10, 2009: The New York Times reports that Bush administration officials had discouraged U.S. government investigations into Dasht-i-Leili.

July 13, 2009: Obama tells CNN, “I’ve asked my national security team to… collect the facts for me that are known.”

Early 2010: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins an inquiry into Dasht-i-Leili. The scope and result of that investigation is not clear.

May 2013: A White House spokesperson says that the president’s “national security team is continuing its work looking into the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.”

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rohingya Population Control: The Onslaught in Burma Continues

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | June 6 2013  

On April 21, the BBC obtained disturbing video footage shot in Burma. It confirmed extreme reports of what has been taking place in that country, even as it is being touted by the US and European governments as a success story pertaining to political reforms and democracy.

The BBC footage was difficult to watch even when faces of Muslim Rohingya victims were blurred. To say the least, the level of violence exhibited by their Arakan Buddhist attackers was frightening. “The Burmese police (stood) by as shops, homes and mosques are looted and burnt, and failing to intervene as Buddhist mobs, including monks, kill fleeing Muslims,” the BBC reported. A Rohingya man was set ablaze while still alive. The police watched.

To some extent, international media is finally noticing the plight of the Rohingyas who are experiencing what can only be described as genocide. And there are reasons for this. On one hand, the atrocities being carried out by the Burmese state, local police and mobs belonging to nationalist Buddhist groups in the northwestern Arakan State, are unambiguous attempts at removing all Rohingyas from Burma. The Rohingya numbers currently hover between 800,000 and one million. On the other hand, Burma (also known as Myanmar) has, as of late, been placed in the limelight for the wrong reasons – thanks in part to western governments breaking the political and economic siege of the country’s decades-long military dictatorship.

While the ‘new Burma’ is being rebranded in a new positive discourse in order to open Rangoon up for foreign investments and steer it way from growing Chinese influence, western governments are deliberately ignoring the fact that a human rights crisis of unprecedented proportions is taking place. This all being done with the active involvement and encouragement of the government.

In the eyes of many in Burma, the Rohingyas are considered subhumans, and are treated as such. Most Rohingya Muslims are native to the state of “Rohang” – also known as Rakhine or Arakan. The majority of them live in very poor townships – mainly Buthidaung and Maungdaw – in the northwestern part of Arakan, or live in refugee camps. Their population subsists between the nightmare of having no legal status (as they are still denied citizenship), little or no rights and the ethnic purges carried out by their neighbors. The worst of such violence in recent years took place between June and October 2012. However, the onslaught targeting Rohingyas is resurfacing and spreading. This time around the intensity and the parameters of violence grew to include other Muslim minority groups in the country.

The BBC footage is not only revealing in the sense that it confirmed the authorities’ complicity in the violence, but it also reflected the government’s general attitude towards this minority group, described by the UN as the ‘world’s most persecuted people’. Responding to the outcry against his country’s brutal treatment of its minorities, Burmese President Then Sein made an ‘offer’ to the UN last year where he was willing to send the Rohingyas “to any other country willing to accept them.”

This peculiar behavior by the Burmese government is problematic in more than one way. Rangoon doesn’t seem even slightly mindful of international humanitarian laws or simply wishes to ignore it altogether. Its legal frame of reference is hardly a reflection of a repented dictatorship. But what is even more dangerous is that Rangoon has been sending unmistakable messages to nationalist groups who are leading the ethnic purges, that their extremely violent behavior is in fact consistent with the central policies of their governments.

Groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) have become markedly more outspoken regarding the violence against the Rohingya. To quell growing criticism, perhaps fearing a backlash in terms of lucrative business contracts, the Burmese government decided to investigate the ‘sectarian violence’ through a supposed independent commission. Its recommendations were as equally disturbing as the violence itself.

The government Inquiry Commission on the Sectarian Violence in Rakhine State, assembled last August, was composed of 27-members, all Arkanese Buddhists, none of them from the Rohingya minority. The long-awaited report on the violence finally emerged on April 29, 2013. Its major findings included concerns over “rapid population growth” among Rohingya and Kaman Muslims. Its recommendations compelled a swift response from local authorities that moved in to limit the birth rate of Muslim Rohingya in two large townships.

On May 26, Arakan State spokesperson Win Myaing told journalists that the findings of the commission were consistent with the 2005 law that limits birth rate among Roghingya Muslims to two children per family. That discriminatory law goes back to 1994 where severe marriage restrictions were imposed on the Rohingya community, requiring long and complicated procedures. The BBC said, “it is not clear how (the ‘two-child policy’) will be enforced.”

Regardless of what sort of mechanisms Burmese authorities plan to put in place to implement the ‘law’, limiting population growth of the Rohingya people, is an abhorrent principle in and of itself. It even compelled celebrated ‘democracy icon’ Aung San Suu Kyi to break her silence regarding the violence against Rohingyas, however, she carefully selected her language.

“It is not good to have such discrimination. And it is not in line with human rights either,” Suu Kyi told reporters, although “she could not confirm whether the policy was being implemented,” reported the BBC online on May 27.

Considering the level of violence directed at Rohingyas and the fact that more than 125,000 Rohingya have already been pushed into internally displaced camps, (tens of thousands more have already been forced to flee the country and are scattered in refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia) one can only imagine the kind of sinister plans which are being put into action, amid the deafening international silence.

In fact, ‘silence’ is an understatement, for following the early wave of devastating violence, European officials welcomed the country’s ‘measured response’ and spokesperson for the EU’s high representative on foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, said on June 11: “We believe that the security forces are handling this difficult inter-communal violence in an appropriate way.”

Meanwhile, western countries led by the United States, are clamoring to divide the large Burmese economic cake amongst themselves. As Rohingya boats were floating (or sinking) in various waters, Burma’s President Sein met with Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in a ‘landmark’ visit in Oslo on February 26. Regarding the conflict in Arakan, Jens Stoltenberg unambiguously declared it to be an internal Burmese affair, reducing it to the most belittling statements. In regards to ‘disagreements’ over citizenship, he said, “we have encouraged dialogue, but we will not demand that Burma’s government give citizenship to the Rohingyas.” Moreover, to reward Sein for his supposedly bold democratic reforms, Norway took the lead by waving off nearly half of its debt and other countries followed suit, including Japan which dropped $3 billion last year.

Meanwhile, the Rohingyas are left to ponder their punishment for flouting one discriminatory law or another. “Fear of punishment under the two-child rule compel far too many Rohingya women to risk their lives and turn to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions,” Asia director at HRW, Brad Adams said in a report published May 28.

No words can suffice to describe the plight of the Rohingyas who are trying to survive an unprecedentedly violent ethnic purge, with support and complicity of the Burmese government and silence of the very western governments that never cease to preach democracy and human rights.

Matthew Smith is a researcher for HRW and author of the organization’s report, “All You Can Do is Pray”: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State.’ Concluding a commentary in CNN online, Smith wrote: “The world should not be blinded by the excitement of Myanmar’s political opening. Rohingya are paying for that approach with their lives.” Since then, more Rohingyas were killed, many more homes, mosques, shops and orphanages were burned to the ground and there has been no international uproar as of yet.

~

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of Palestine Chronicle His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Pentagon Removes Entire Peoples

By David Swanson | Dissident Voice | June 5th, 2013

If we think at all about our government’s military depopulating territory that it desires, we usually think of the long-ago replacement of native Americans with new settlements during the continental expansion of the United States westward.

Here in Virginia some of us are vaguely aware that back during the Great Depression poor people were evicted from their homes and their land where national parks were desired.  But we distract and comfort ourselves with the notion that such matters are deep in the past.

Occasionally we notice that environmental disasters are displacing people, often poor people or marginalized people, from their homes.  But these incidents seem like collateral damage rather than intentional ethnic cleansing.

If we’re aware of the 1,000 or so U.S. military bases standing today in some 175 foreign countries, we must realize that the land they occupy could serve some other purpose in the lives of those countries’ peoples.  But surely those countries’ peoples are still there, still living — if perhaps slightly inconvenienced — in their countries.

Yet the fact is that the U.S. military has displaced and continues to displace for the construction of its bases the entire populations of villages and islands, in blatant violation of international law, basic human decency, and principles we like to tell each other we stand for.  The United States also continues to deny displaced populations the right to return to their homelands.

At issue here are not the bombings or burnings of entire villages, which of course the United States engages in during its wars and its non-wars.  Nor are we dealing here with the millions of refugees created by wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan or by drone wars like the one in Pakistan.  Rather, the following are cases of the intentional displacement of particular populations moved out of the way of base construction and left alive to struggle as refugees in exile.

In the Philippines, the United States built bases on land belonging to the indigenous Aetas people, who “ended up combing military trash to survive.”

During World War II the U.S. Navy seized the small Hawaiian island of Koho’alawe for a weapons testing range and ordered its inhabitants to leave.  The island has been devastated.

In 1942, the Navy displaced Aleutian Islanders.

President Harry Truman made up his mind that the 170 native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll had no right to their island.  He had them evicted in February and March of 1946, and dumped as refugees on other islands without means of support or a social structure in place.  In the coming years, the United States would remove 147 people from Enewetak Atoll and all the people on Lib Island.  U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb testing rendered various depopulated and still-populated islands uninhabitable, leading to further displacements.  Up through the 1960s, the U.S. military displaced hundreds of people from Kwajalein Atoll.  A super-densely populated ghetto was created on Ebeye.

On Vieques, off Puerto Rico, the Navy displaced thousands of inhabitants between 1941 and 1947, announced plans to evict the remaining 8,000 in 1961, but was forced to back off and — in 2003 — to stop bombing the island.

On nearby Culebra, the Navy displaced thousands between 1948 and 1950 and attempted to remove those remaining up through the 1970s.

The Navy is right now looking at the island of Pagan as a possible replacement for Vieques, the population already having been removed by a volcanic eruption.  Of course, any possibility of return would be greatly diminished.

Beginning during World War II and continuing through the 1950s, the U.S. military displaced a quarter million Okinawans, or half the population, from their land, forcing people into refugee camps and shipping thousands of them off to Bolivia — where land and money were promised but not delivered.

In 1953, the United States made a deal with Denmark to remove 150 Inughuit people from Thule, Greenland, giving them four days to get out or face bulldozers.  They are being denied the right to return.

DIEGO GARCIA

The story of Diego Garcia is superbly told in David Vine’s book, Island of Shame.  Between 1968 and 1973, the United States and Great Britain exiled all 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants from this island in the Indian Ocean.  On orders from, and with funding from, the United States, the British forced the people onto overcrowded ships and dumped them on docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles — foreign and distant and unwelcoming lands for this indigenous population that had been part of Diego Garcia for centuries.  U.S. documents described this as “sweeping” and “sanitizing” the island.

Those responsible for the displacement of the people of Diego Garcia knew that what they were doing was widely considered barbaric and illegal.  They devised ways of creating “logical cover” for the process.  They persuaded the ever-compliant Washington Post to bury the story.  The Queen of England and her Privy Council bypassed Parliament.  The Pentagon lied to Congress and hid its payments to the British from Congress.  The planners even lied to themselves.  Having originally envisioned a communications station, they concluded that advances in technology had rendered that unhelpful.  So, Navy schemers decided that a fueling station for ships might offer a “suitable justification” for building a base that was actually a purposeless end in itself.  But the Pentagon ended up telling a reluctant Congress that the base would be a communications station, because that was something Congress would approve.

Those plotting the eviction of the island’s people created the fiction that the inhabitants were migrant workers not actually native to Diego Garcia.  Sir Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign Office of the U.K., dismissed the island’s people as “some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure.”  This stood in contrast to the respect and protection given to some other islands not chosen for bases because of the rare plants, birds, and animals resident there.

On January 24, 1971, remaining inhabitants of Diego Garcia were told they’d need to leave or be shot.  They were allowed to take a small box of possessions, but had to leave their homes, their gardens, their animals, their land, and their society.  Their dogs were rounded up and killed in a gas chamber as they watched, waiting  themselves to be loaded on ships for departure.  Arriving in Mauritius, they were housed in a prison.  Their fate has not much improved in the decades since.  David Vine describes them as very forgiving, wishing nothing but to be permitted to return.

Diego Garcia is purely a military base and in some ways more of a lawless zone than Guantanamo.  The United States has kept and may be keeping prisoners there, on the island or on ships in the harbor.  The Red Cross and journalists do not visit.  The United States has de facto control of Diego Garcia, while the U.K. has technical ownership.  The Pentagon is not interested in allowing the island’s people to return.

JEJU ISLAND

The South Korean government, at the behest of the U.S. Navy, is in the process of devastating a village, its coast, and 130 acres of farmland on Jeju Island with a massive military base.  This story is best told in Regis Tremblay’s new film The Ghosts of Jeju.  This is not a tragedy from the past to be remedied but a tragedy of this moment to be halted in its tracks.  You can help.  Tremblay’s film examines the history of decades of abuse of the people of Jeju, and the resistance movement that is currently inspiring other anti-base efforts around the globe.  The film begins somber and ends joyful.  I highly recommend creating an event around a screening of it.

PALESTINE

We should not neglect to note here that the United States funds and arms and protects the Israeli government’s ongoing displacement of Palestinians and denial of the right to return.

The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wrote William Faulkner.

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farming in Khuza’a, Gaza Strip

Gal.la | June 5, 2013

Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Farmers are working in Gaza buffer zone under threat of Israeli soldiers, tanks, bullets, etc. This video shows the difficulty of daily life for farmers in Khuza’a, south of Gaza Strip.

Spanish captions

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , | Leave a comment