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Crimean self-defense squads enter Belbek airbase

RT | March 22, 2014

Crimean self-defense forces have surrounded Belbek airbase near Sevastopol after Ukrainian troops inside refused to lay down their arms and leave the base in accordance to the Crimean prime minister’s order.

The self-defense squads are now in control of the airbase while the Ukrainian troops have been given an opportunity to leave, Dmitry Osipenko, a journalist for Sevastopol news website ForPost who was present at the scene, told RT.

The commander of the airbase, Yuliy Mamchur, has been escorted to negotiations with Crimean authorities.

“After they refused [to leave the base] the Sevastopol self-defense troops tried to enter the territory of the base,” while gunfire was heard at the scene. “According to my information nobody was injured, but I’m not sure,” said Osipenko.

Osipenko claimed the gunfire was coming from the side of the Ukrainian troops. However, it is unclear who was shooting. “The self-defense forces hid behind cars and then a car rammed the gate [of the airbase],” he said.

He stated that apart from the self-defense squads, Sevastopol Cossaks were present.

The move follows the March 16 all-Crimean referendum which resulted in over 96 percent of voters opting for the autonomous republic to join Russia. Eighty-three percent of the Crimeans took part in the vote. The decision was sparked by bloody protests in Kiev that resulted in the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich and fears that the unrest might spread to Crimea.

Russia finalized the legal process of taking Crimea under its sovereignty on Friday, with President Vladimir Putin signing a law amending the Russian constitution to reflect the transition.

‘We are being abandoned’

Though Crimea is no longer part of Ukraine, Kiev authorities have not yet officially ordered Ukrainian troops to leave their bases in Crimea.

Ukrainian military troops stationed at Belbek criticized their leadership for abandoning them in a post on the airbase’s blog.

“We are being abandoned – most sadly by our own government,” it reads. “The most dangerous enemy appeared to be our leadership and our government.”

“Today I’ve found an interview with Acting Minister of Defense [Igor] Tenyukh where he says he maintains contact with all troops on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, that all relevant orders were given and the situation is under control. There were only two orders – ‘remain in place’ and ‘[you are ] allowed to use weapons.’ That’s it!”

“What is expected [of us] in case of an assault?” the military asked. ”There were no clear answers given to us.”

Meanwhile, most US financial assistance to Ukraine will focus on the formation and maintenance of the new military – the National Guard, said a source from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, as cited by Itar-Tass.

“Kiev is not planning to fund the army or navy which are in a deplorable state,” the source said.

The National Guard, the custodian of the coup-imposed government, is already in formation and will be comprised of 60,000 men and women from former and current Ukrainian troops and volunteers from Maidan self-defense squads. It will be appointed by the parliament upon the recommendation of the acting president.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Syria: Three Years of Lies – Diplomatic Negotiations

This is an episode from a planned series on several aspects of the Syrian conflict.
Full transcript and links available at: http://apophenia.altervista.org/syria…

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal’s genocide verdict against Israel sets a key precedent

By Nadezhda Kevorkova | RT | December 4, 2013

Until now, Israel has been getting away with anything it likes. A series of revolutions and counter-revolutions in the Arabic world has driven it into chaos, and seems to have pushed the Palestinian issue off the international agenda for good.

And yet Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has now called a tribunal for war crimes and produced a genocide ruling – against whom?

Not against Assad, as one might have expected, but against Israel, the state that considers itself to be beyond the jurisdiction of any court or tribunal.

In Hamlet, the message that the king killed his brother to marry his widow and seize the throne is delivered by the murdered king’s spirit – which literally means by someone who cannot testify in court. As a result, Prince Hamlet spends a long time tormenting himself about whether he should believe the spirit and avenge his father. After that, he undertakes a smart move – asking a troupe of actors to stage a play reenacting his father’s murder, while he watches the murderer’s reaction. At the end of the play, everyone dies, but Hamlet has gotten his revenge.

That’s how people’s justice usually works – it takes a long time, it’s messy and ultimately useless from a rational viewpoint. It would have been much more rational for Prince Hamlet to pay due honor to the new king and his new wife, Hamlet’s mother, pray for his deceased father, marry Ophelia and have lots of children, then inherit the throne in due time and just keep on living…

The spectators watch how the prince’s world and values are shattered to the ground. The father’s spirit has its word. The actors have played out their play, and the murderer has been betrayed by his reaction.

For the first time, an international war crimes tribunal has charged the State of Israel of genocide, an unprecedented event, as so far no international court or tribunal has ever delivered a verdict against Israel to date.

The International Tribunal convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Israel refused to send any representatives. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has no official ties to the UN and acknowledges that it has not authority to deliver punishment. Opinions differ on the subject of its jurisdiction, and the only sanction it has in its power is to enter the name and title of the party found guilty in the Tribunal’s registry and announce it publicly to the world. In 2011, the tribunal found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.

It seems that one could just as well ignore this tribunal; much like Israel ignores the condemning UN resolutions, protests, severed diplomatic relationships and all other kinds of protests against the military actions and acts of violence applied against the Palestinians on a daily basis. However, a detailed trial like this indicates that the mechanism has been set in motion, which will have consequences for the entire world, not just for Israel or the Middle East.

The International Tribunal is part of the Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes; however, these two institutions are not part of Malaysia’s judicial system, even though they employ judges and prosecutors of Malaysian background. Israel has no agreements signed with this or any other international court. Yet the Tribunal acts on the basis of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, which was signed and ratified by Israel. And this very signature, Israel’s membership in the UN and the fact that Israel owes its very existence to the UN and to the condemnation of genocide against Jews in the course of World War II – all this at the very least gives us the right to challenge and discuss whether Israel’s own actions could fall into the category of genocide.

Interestingly, the USA has been refusing to sign this document for 37 years, having reasonable fears that many lawyers would want to charge the USA itself with genocide of the Indians and African slaves, as well as the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese and many others. Israel, in its turn, did not foresee that the very convention it pushed the world to adopt after the war will one day be used against it. The very formation of the State of Israel was made possible by the agreement of the victorious powers to acknowledge that Jews were victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany and that only having a nation state of its own can guarantee them proper protection.

“The victims of genocide became themselves the source of it.” This is how Hedi Epstein sees the essence of the ruling against Israel. A German Jew who survived WWII, she lost her parents to a concentration camp. Epstein was a prosecution witness in the Nuremberg Trials. And in 1982, she learned that the Israeli Army occupied Lebanon and provoked mass executions in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. From that moment on, Epstein and hundreds of other Jews embarked on an anti-military and anti-Zionist campaign. However, Israel has refused to listen to their voices. They were labeled “self-hating” Jews and banned from the country which, incidentally, announced itself to be the homeland of all Jews in the world. Israel remained deaf to their warning that the Jews who survived genocide do not wish Israel to be committing genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people in their name.

Israel was convinced that the US would never cease to provide it with military and political assistance, so it had nothing to worry about. The Jewish “weirdos” are free to organize as many useless marches and “freedom flotillas” as they wish; no one will dare to find Israel guilty.

And now Israel has received its first wake-up call.

The hearings on the genocide lawsuit started in August 2013. But the news soon faded into the background as the media extensively covered the mass shooting of hundreds of Egyptians who disagreed with President Morsi’s arrest and the growing tensions around Syria due to a possible American missile strike.

On November 20-25, the final stage of the proceedings took place, initiated by a group of Palestinians, who reported a number of incidents.

The first one involved Israeli soldiers who killed 29 members of the extended Samouni family in the Zeitoun neighborhood of the Gaza Strip during the 22-day Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009.

This is the most notorious crime against Palestinians over the last few years. Judge Goldstone incorporated it into his report, which he submitted to the UN after the operation was over.

The Samounis were a large family of peaceful farmers. None of them had ever participated in armed resistance. They were some of the few Palestinians who got on well with the Israeli settlers and they were frustrated by the removal of the settlements from the Gaza Strip.

In January 2009, an Israeli helicopter landed on their field. A few gunmen demanded that the Samounis turn in the Hamas militants to them. The next thing they did was bring the whole family under one roof and shoot them down dead, including the infants. Those who survived were found under the bodies of their relatives.

One of the survivors was the children’s mother. She repeatedly tried to get a criminal case started in various courts of law, but failed to get any compensation or apologies from Israel.

The second story revolved around the mass shooting of women and children in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982.

Other incidents included:

– lethal firing of teargas canisters and rubber bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests;

– intensive, indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008;

– a university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper, firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;

– a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;

– a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism;

– a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada; and

– Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip, caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.

The Tribunal found the State of Israel guilty of genocide of the Palestinian people in each of these cases, blaming former general Amos Yaron for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

The Tribunal’s verdict reads as follows:

“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, [General] Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”

Even though the Israeli authorities ignored the summons, several highly experienced lawyers were appointed by the Tribunal to represent Israel.

So far we can only see separate elements without fully comprehending the full picture. There are several things worth noting here.

Israel’s case wasn’t brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague; in fact, it wasn’t a European court at all. In Europe, the guilt for failing to save the Jews from genocide 70 years ago is still alive and associated with Israel. Hearing this case in the Malaysian tribunal sends a message to the whole world that Israel should be treated like any other state, like Rwanda, Serbia, Libya or Cambodia.

The fact that the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal condemned Israel is hardly surprising – Malaysia actively supports the Palestinians. In early 2013 the Malaysian prime minister visited the Gaza Strip – there aren’t many political leaders who can afford to make such a provocative step.

Malaysian Islam is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that suffered such a crushing political defeat in Egypt. Malaysia’s ex-leader, Mahathir Mohamad, is a very influential figure in the Muslim world, especially among Muslim Brotherhood supporters, specifically in the part of the Muslim establishment that’s close to Britain.

Malaysia is even more determined to get revenge for the damage the Muslim Brotherhood sustained than Turkey, so this influential political faction dealt their opponents a glancing, but painful blow. It’s the first time an international tribunal convicted not individual generals, but the State of Israel of genocide. Israel’s main weapon has been turned against it.

It’s also important to note that a year ago Henry Kissinger, a key figure in US politics and architect of the Middle East peace deal, unexpectedly said that he perused a report by 16 American intelligence agencies which arrived at the conclusion that in 10 years’ time there will be no more Israel. The report itself, as well as Kissinger’s comment, can only be viewed as proof that a certain section of the American political elite intends to finish Project Israel. Otherwise, they would’ve kept the report under wraps and started working on a plan to save Israel. And most importantly, if saving Israel was on their agenda, no tribunal would be hearing this case.

Moreover, most of the Israel’s supporters wanted to believe that almost three years of revolutions in the Arab world and two years of fighting in Syria have pushed the Palestinian issue to the sidelines. Israel rejoiced that the focus shifted from the Palestinian issue, which united everyone, to the Syrian conflict, which became a bone of contention for the entire world.

Contrary to Israel’s expectations of two months ago, the Tribunal is not trying Assad for crimes against the Syrian people. Instead, it is trying Israel for genocide of the Palestinians. All of a sudden, Israel has lost its momentum. The Palestinians are back in the political spotlight, and the trap designed to lure Assad has turned into a trap for Israel.

Last but not least, many pundits rushed to argue that both the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and their fall is all the doing of the US. The veteran commentators would say that those who are to blame for the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will not go unpunished by the US and UK. The Israeli agents had put too much effort into cajoling major governments to support the Sisi-led coup to oust Mubarak and ignore the 3,000 deaths caused by the junta and the lies of the world media about the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly burning down the Coptic churches. Encouraged by the UK and Obama, full of arrogance and reluctance to reach any kind of compromise, Israel paved its own way to the genocide verdict.

Right now, Israel’s supporters are acting as though the Kuala Lumpur verdict can be neglected. But it won’t be long before they realize how dramatic the situation actually is: were the court to be situated in Europe, Israel would have lobbied its way out of the trial. But it did not reach as far as Kuala Lumpur. The precedent has been set.

Nadezhda Kevorkova is a war correspondent who has covered the events of the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts around the world, and the anti-globalization movement.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice votes in online poll to split from Italy

Press TV – March 22, 2014

People in Venice and its surrounding region have voted in an online poll to split from the rest of Italy and establish their own independent state.

More than two million residents of the Veneto region participated in the week-long survey, with 89 percent voting in favor of secession from Italy.

The online vote, organized by local pro-independence parties, is not legally binding but is only meant to muster support for a bill calling for a referendum.

The Indipendenza Veneta party behind the bill says the separatist campaign is driven by the Italian government’s alleged inability to stem corruption, protect Venice’s citizens from a debilitating recession and control waste water in the poorer south.

Supporters say the new Republic of Veneto would be inspired by the ancient Venetian Republic, which existed from the seventh century until its fall to Napoleon in 1797.

Critics argue that an attempt to break away from Italy could be unconstitutional.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

A Step Toward Justice in the Long “War on Terror”: Uruguay Offers to Welcome Guantanamo Detainees

By Benjamin Dangl | Toward Freedom | March 21, 2014

0-1-0-Mujica.2Under the Presidency of José “Pepe” Mujica, Uruguay has made a number of international headlines in recent years for progressive moves such as legalizing same sex marriage, abortion and marijuana cultivation and trade, as well as withdrawing its troops from Haiti. This week, Mujica offered to welcome detainees from the US’s detention center at its base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Uruguayan president accepted a proposal from the Obama administration to host the detainees. “They are coming as refugees and there will be a place for them in Uruguay if they want to bring their families,” Mujica explained. “If they want to make their nests and work in Uruguay, they can remain in the country.”

“I was imprisoned for many years and I know how it is,” he said. The left-leaning president is a former revolutionary guerilla who was jailed for 14 years before and during Uruguay’s 1973-1985 dictatorship. After his release, he ended his guerilla activities and entered politics, becoming the Minister of Agriculture in 2005 under the Tabaré Vázquez administration, and was elected to the presidency in 2010.

Mujica, who has been touted as the “world’s poorest president” due to his frugal lifestyle and the fact that he donates about 90% of his presidential salary to charities and social programs, still lives on a flower farm with his wife outside the capital, and drives a beat up Volkswagen Beetle to work. Earlier this year, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his progressive marijuana legalization program and views against excessive consumerism. His newest move against the human rights abuses of the “war on terror” has put him back in the global spotlight.

Standing Against a Symbol of the “War on Terror”

The detention center at the US base in Guantánamo Bay has long been a symbol of the human rights abuses that have come to define the so-called “war on terror.” After 9/11, the George W. Bush administration began using the facility to detain suspected terrorists. It quickly became notorious as a site of inhumane treatment, torture, and lawlessness; a decade later, many of the detainees have been held without charges or a trial.

Roughly 800 men and boys have been kept in Guantánamo as part of the US’s terror suspect roundup. Now only 154 remain, and the Obama administration, with support from Congress, is trying to make good on its promise to shut the detention center down. As part of those moves, Washington is seeking new countries to host the released detainees.

Uruguay is the first Latin American nation to accept Obama’s offer to welcome former prisoners onto its soil. Since Obama’s election, 38 Guantánamo detainees have been released to their home countries, and 43 have been resettled in 17 other countries. According to Human Rights Watch, the US wants to send detainees to countries that can provide the security the US seeks under the terms of the transfer. Uruguayan press reports that the transfer would likely involve five detainees who would have to stay within Uruguay for at least two years.

While Mujica and the US Ambassador are clear that the plans surrounding the transfer are not finalized, Mujica’s reasons for hosting the men are a sign that Uruguay is taking important steps toward justice against Washington’s long-standing “war on terror.”

For years, countless activists, governments and human rights groups have called for the closure of the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay. Last July, activist Andrés Conteris, who has worked for decades on human rights issues in Latin America,went on a hunger strike for over three months in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.

The strike denounced the inhumane and unlawful treatment of the detainees; numerous cases of physical, psychological, religious and medical torture against prisoners have been widely reported over the years. It is this treatment that President Mujica is standing against in his welcoming of the detainees.

“Given Pepe Mujica’s experience with long-term torture,” Conteris explained to me, referencing Mujica’s own imprisonment, “this gesture offering to resettle Guantánamo prisoners in Uruguay not only expresses his country’s commitment to human rights, but it shows a personal connection this president has with those suffering inhuman treatment perpetrated by military forces.”

***

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

An Extremely Newsworthy Op-Ed in Venezuela, or So One would Think

By Joe Emersberger | Zblogs | March 21, 2014

An op-ed in Ultimas Noticias (20/3/14), Venezuela’s largest circulating newspaper, stated that “One can’t keep playing around with Maduro’s assassin government and its insincere calls for peace”.

It goes on to state that Maduro’s government will go down in history as one of the most murderous and dictatorial ever, and makes a thinly veiled call for its unconstitutional ouster.

How does a vehemently anti-government op-ed like this appear in Venezuela’s largest newspaper when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Venezuela 116 out of 179 in its “freedom of expression” index?

The international corporate press eagerly bolsters RSF’s assessment and prominently reports any allegation of censorship by the Maduro government, as it did with the Chavez government. But if international reporters have integrity, and believe their own coverage, shouldn’t this op-ed be deemed extremely newsworthy? Doesn’t the appearance of this op-ed reveal a spectacular act of courage on the part of both the author and Ultimas Noticias ? In fact, it doesn’t.

The author of the op-ed appears regularly in Ultimas Noticas as do similar authors like [prominent opposition politician] Antonio Ledezma.  The op-ed is noteworthy only because it exposes the remarkable dishonesty of RSF and the international corporate media.

Ultimas Noticas also a published an investigative report in February that led to the arrests of government agents implicated in the killing of a protester. In May of last year, it published that transcript of a private conversation in which a prominent government supporter, Mario Silva, talked about corruption within government ranks and named prominent allies of Maduro’s government.

You can literally read Ultimas Noticas on any random day and find reporting and op-eds that completely demolish the lies peddled by RSF and international media about the state of press freedom in Venezuela.

Foreign reporters in Venezuela who are honest and not ideologically hostile to the Maduro government, may indeed face resource constraints that prevent them from seeking out some stories that contradict the prevailing distortions. Wealthy, urban based, English speaking government opponents have many ways to make their stories and opinions readily and economically available to foreign journalists. However, that can’t excuse failing to inform readers about what regularly appears in an outlet like Ultimas Noticias. If most people in English speaking countries believe that the media is far less free in Venezuela than in their own countries, it actually highlights the deplorable state of press freedom in their own.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment