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Israeli Supreme Court to Hear Rachel Corrie Appeal on May 21

Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice | May 12, 2014

Nine years after filing a civil suit against the State of Israel for the wrongful death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, her family will have their appeal heard before the Israeli Supreme Court on May 21 at 11:30 a.m. in Jerusalem. The appeal, which will be argued by attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, challenges the Haifa District Court’s August 2012 ruling which concluded that the Israeli military was not responsible for Rachel’s death and that it conducted a credible investigation.

“During the past nine years, we have sought accountability in the Israeli courts for Rachel’s killing but were handed a verdict that showed blind indifference to the rights of the victim and little interest in seeking truth and justice,” said Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father.

The Corrie family appeal focuses on serious flaws in the lower court verdict which erred by ignoring and misinterpreting essential facts and misapplying legal norms. The appeal also challenges the lower court’s total disregard of international law obligations as well as procedural advantages that were regularly granted to the state during the proceedings. Lawyers for the Corries and the State of Israel have submitted their arguments in writing to the panel of three justices – Deputy-President of the Court Miriam Naor, Esther Hayut, and Zvi Zylbertal.

Speaking of his family’s hopes, Craig Corrie said, “It is a tragedy when the law is broken, but far, far worse when it is abandoned altogether.  The Supreme Court now has a choice, to either show the world that the Israeli legal system honors the most basic principles of human rights and can hold its military accountable, or to add to mounting evidence that justice can not be found in Israel.”

Rachel, a 23-year-old human rights defender from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death March 16, 2003, by an Israeli military bulldozer while nonviolently protesting demolition of Palestinian civilian homes in Rafah, Gaza. The following day, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President George W. Bush a “thorough, credible, and transparent” investigation into Rachel’s killing. In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff informed the Corrie family of the U.S. Government’s position that the Israeli investigation did not meet these standards and advised them to “use the Israeli court system.” The Corries filed suit in 2005, charging the State of Israel and its Ministry of Defense with responsibility for Rachel’s killing.

The civil trial before Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon began March 10, 2010, and 23 witnesses testified in 15 hearings, spread over 16 months. Each session was attended by the Corrie family, American Embassy officials, and numerous legal and human rights observers.

Testimony exposed serious chain-of-command failures in relation to civilian killings, as well as indiscriminate destruction of civilian property at the hands of the Israeli military in southern Gaza. Four eyewitnesses from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) testified that Rachel was visible to soldiers in the bulldozer as it approached. Military witnesses testified that they saw ISM protesters in the area; and the on-site commander asked to stop operations due to their presence, but was ordered to continue working. An Israeli colonel testified that there are no civilians in war, and the lead military police investigator, himself, stated his belief that the Israeli military was at war with all in Gaza, including peace activists.

Testimony also revealed serious flaws in the military’s investigation into Rachel’s killing. Investigators failed to question key military witnesses, including those recording communications; failed to secure the military video, allowing it to be taken for nearly a week by senior commanders with only segments submitted to court; failed to address conflicting testimony given by soldiers; and ignored damning statements in the military log confirming a “shoot to kill” order and a command mentality to continue work in order to avoid setting a precedent with international activists.

On August 28, 2012, Judge Gershon ruled against the Corrie family, handing down a verdict stating the Israeli military was not to blame for Rachel’s death and that she alone was responsible for her demise. The Judge lauded the military police investigation and dismissed the case, adopting the Israeli Government’s position that the military should be fully absolved of civil liability, because soldiers were engaged in operational activities in a war zone.

The verdict was widely condemned by legal and human rights organizations monitoring the case, citing misrepresentation of facts and the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property.  President Jimmy Carter stated that the court’s decision confirmed “a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

Seating in the courtroom is limited, and members of the press are advised to arrive early with press credentials.  Proceedings will be in Hebrew. The family is seeking permission from the Court to provide simultaneous translation for court observers.  However, pending the Court’s decision, journalists should make plans to bring their own translator. Cameras and audio recording equipment will not be permitted once proceedings begin.  Photos may be taken before the judges enter the room.

A performance of My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play drawn from the diaries and e-mails of Rachel and staged around the world, will be presented in Hebrew on Monday, May 19 at 21:00 at the Arab-Hebrew Theatre in Jaffa. It will be followed by a panel discussion with the Corrie family, moderated by human rights lawyer Michael Sfard. For more information, visit The Coalition of Women for Peace, which is sponsoring the event.

For more information please visit http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/trial

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Government’s Antipathy Towards Transparency Has Made FOIA Lawsuits The Default Process

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | May 12, 2014

This is default mode for the Freedom of Information Act.

In a federal FOIA complaint, the ACLU and University of Arizona Professor Derek Bambauer and Associate Professor Jane Yakowitz Bambauer claim that the Department of Homeland Security has failed to respond to requests made in January and February for records that may “shed light on Border Patrol’s extensive but largely opaque interior enforcement operations.”

The professors seek “records related to U.S. Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations in Tucson and Yuma Sectors, including relevant agency policies, stop data, and complaint records.”

The CBP (Border Patrol) operates far inland these days with the blessing of the DHS. To live in states bordering Mexico is to have your freedom to travel within the country needlessly interrupted by uniformed officers inquiring about your country of origin.

The CBP’s surveillance technology has also wandered much further inland, far past the so-called “Constitution-Free Zone” that extends 100 miles in from the country’s borders. Its drones, which are specifically to be used for border surveillance, have been loaned out to an assortment of federal agencies and local law enforcement.

The CBP has also become a deadlier force, responsible for 27 fatalities in the last three years. This number has increased dramatically, in part because CBP agents seemed to be looking for reasons to open fire — like standing directly in the path of escaping vehicles.

But this isn’t so much about the CBP as it is about the government’s betrayal of the ideals behind the Freedom of Information Act.

“We shouldn’t have to go as far as filing a lawsuit to get these records,” Professor Bambauer said in a statement. “This is public information about a matter of pressing public concern. We cannot allow DHS and Border Patrol to continue operating in our communities without being subject to public scrutiny.”

No, citizens shouldn’t have to file lawsuits just to get the government to turn over responsive records. And, yet, this has become the expected route to freeing information. Nearly every document handed out by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been prompted by a lawsuit. The CBP drone documents mentioned above? Those are also tied to a FOIA lawsuit. Without the court’s prompting, it’s highly unlikely any of the documents the CBP “failed” to turn up during its first FOIA search would ever have been made public.

This is now the standard process for obtaining information from the government, whether at the federal level or below. There are many agencies that handle requests with few problems. But the agencies leaning towards the law enforcement/counterterrorism end of the spectrum are far from compliant. They resist, stall or simply ignore requests, pushing inquiring entities towards the courtroom.

This is completely wrong. A FOIA lawsuit is a remedy. Now, it’s just standard practice. And this goes far past simply unacceptable into sickening territory.

Government agencies are supposed to be accountable to the public that pays for everything they do. The FOIA law is simply a tool of accountability that can be wielded by any citizen. But these agencies have perverted the FOIA system so thoroughly that what was supposed to be a last resort (a lawsuit) is now just another step in the FOIA process.

The DOJ likely has no problem with the DHS, CBP and others blowing off FOIA requests until the judicial system orders them to turn over the requested info. After all, in its ridiculous argument for warrantless cellphone searches, it stated that if people felt the police shouldn’t have had access to their cellphone contents, they could always argue for suppression in court. This is the same mentality. Instead of respecting the limitations set by the Fourth Amendment, the DOJ suggests people should use a remedy (suppression) to hold cops accountable rather than expecting the police to police themselves and avoid violating citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

These agencies know that not everyone has the time or money to battle for the release of documents, so their exposure is limited should they choose not to comply. It’s extremely hard for a nation’s citizens to hold its government accountable if the government is going to use the citizens’ own money against them.

ACLU, EPIC and the EFF have gone to court time and time again with no greater goal than getting government agencies to comply with a federal law. This ongoing subversion of the FOIA is completely unacceptable. This government is giving the public the finger, letting it know that it will only be accountable when forced to.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Flotilla Update: “We Will Sail in the Fall!”

Statement from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition regarding the attack on Gaza’s Ark | May 12, 2014

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition met in London over the last two days to discuss future plans in the wake of the terrorist attack on Gaza’s Ark in the port of Gaza, as well as future plans to struggle against the blockade of Gaza

The attack, which occurred on April 29th, caused substantial damage to the hull of the boat. These hull damages and others caused by the explosion need a minimum of 2 months work to repair at a cost of approximately US $30,000.

In response to this attack we will increase our efforts to challenge the blockade through non-violent direct action. We now plan to sail Gaza’s Ark early in the fall of 2014.

The authorities have not yet concluded their investigations of the incident, so it is premature to blame anyone, but it is well known who enforces the blockade on Gaza and who doesn’t want it challenged.

Preliminary results of the investigation and inspection by our partners indicate that the materials which were used in the attack are not readily found in Gaza.

Freedom Flotilla boats have been sabotaged before in the ports of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, over the last 5 years, as they were preparing to sail to Gaza to challenge the blockade.

Boats that sailed to Gaza have been attacked by the Israeli Navy in international water, in one case lethally, and in others with force which caused a boat to sink. Boats that were not sabotaged (over half a dozen) were hijacked and towed to Ashdod.

This attack on Gaza’s Ark took place as Israel is under increased legal pressure for its deadly attack on the first Freedom Flotilla in 2010 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and in Turkish courts.

It also happens as Israel is increasing pressure against all Palestinians in retaliation against efforts at national reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition commits to continue its work against the blockade of Gaza in all ways and by all non-violent means possible, including supporting the May 31st International Freedom Day for Gaza.

For further information:
Ehab Lotayef +44 (753) 877 0353 or +1 (514) 941 9792
Ann Ighe +46 (70) 974 0739
Zaher Birawi +44 (785) 089 6057

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

US VP’s son joins Ukrainian gas group board

RT | May 13, 2014

BnhIg5CCIAE1sjAHunter Biden, son of US Vice President Joe Biden, will join the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer. The statement comes amid Ukraine’s growing gas crisis.

“Hunter Biden will be in charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the Company among international organizations,” said the company’s official statement.

Biden, commenting on his appointment, said that his assistance in consulting Burisma Holdings “on matters of transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities will contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.”

“Burisma’s track record of innovations and industry leadership in the field of natural gas means that it can be a strong driver of a strong economy in Ukraine,” he added.

The appointment announcement comes on the same day as Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom, switched to a prepayment system with Ukraine and sent Naftogaz, Ukraine’s gas and oil company, a $1.66 billion gas bill for June supplies. Kiev must pay the bill by June 2, otherwise, it may risk a halt in natural gas supplies on June 3, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller said.

Ukraine, currently has about 9 billion cubic meters of gas in storage, and by the winter needs 18.5bcm to keep factories open and households warm, Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Vitaly Markelov said on Tuesday. In 2013, Ukraine bought 27.7 billion cubic meters from Gazprom.

Under the present terms, Kiev has to pay $485 per 1,000 cubic meters. The price was raised in April from $268.50, when Russia withdrew all discounts it provided for Ukraine after the crisis-torn country failed to pay for gas. According to Gazprom’s CEO, Kiev already owes the company more than $3.5 billion.

Kiev has rejected the new price as “politically motivated” and has been refusing to pay back the debt until Gazprom cancels the “unjustified and unacceptable hike.”

Meanwhile, the US may use the critical energy situation in the country to promote its shale energy in Ukraine.

Hunter Biden, 44, is a partner at Rosemont Seneca Partners, business development and policy advisory firm, and is counsel to Boies, Schiller, Flexner, a New York based-law firm. He is also an adjunct professor on Georgetown University’s Master’s Program in the School of Foreign Service.

Biden is on the Chairman’s Advisory Board for the National Democratic Institute, and is also a director for the Center for National Policy and the US Global Leadership Coalition, an influential, broad-based organization formed by a coalition of 400 American businesses and NGOs, senior national security and foreign policy experts.

Meanwhile, former US President Bill Clinton appointed him an Executive Director of E-Commerce Policy Coordination under Secretary of Commerce William Daley. Biden was also honorary co-chair of the 2008 Obama-Biden Inaugural Committee.

Hunter Biden is also known in the political world. He is on the boards of the World Food Program USA, and the Truman National Security Project, a US organization, based in Washington, D.C, that recruits, trains, and positions specialists across America.

Burisma Holdings, a private oil and gas company in Ukraine which was set up back in 2002 and has grown rapidly since. Its licenses cover the Ukraine’s three key hydrocarbon basins, including Dnieper-Donets, Carpathian and Azov-Kuban.

In 2013, daily gas production amounted to 11.6 thousand BOE (barrel of oil equivalent), a unit of energy based on the approximate energy released by burning one barrel (158.98 liters of crude oil), or 1.8 million cubic meters of natural gas. The company sells these volumes in the domestic market, both via traders and directly to consumers.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | 1 Comment

Russia disappointed over additional EU sanctions

RT | May 13, 2014

Moscow expressed disappointment over the EU’s newly imposed sanctions against Russia, stressing that it is not worthy of the European Union.

“Instead of trying to solve the situation through de-escalation, disarmament of the Right Sector, improvement of dialogue between Kiev’s authorities and Ukrainian regions, EU colleagues are demonstrating a one-sided and one-dimensional policy, not worthy of the European Union,” Itar-Tass quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as saying.

Further sanctions were introduced on Monday following the results of referendums that have been announced in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, showing the majority of voters support self-rule, amid an intensified military operation by Kiev which resulted in several deaths.

EU foreign ministers have expanded their sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, adding two Crimean companies and 13 people to the bloc’s blacklist, EU diplomats stated.

The sanctions will come into effect Tuesday. Earlier, 48 Russians and Ukrainians were targeted by EU asset freezes and visa bans over Crimea joining Russia in March.

Among the individuals banned entry to the EU are the chief prosecutor of Crimea and Internet sensation Natalia Poklonskaya and her colleague from Sevastopol, Igor Shevchenko. Also the list includes influential individuals such as the deputy head of the presidential administration, Vyacheslav Volodin, the Commander of airborne troops Vladimir Shamanov, State Duma deputy Vladimir Pligin, Crimean administration chiefs and six pro-autonomy activists in eastern Ukraine, reported Itar-Tass.

Following the referendum results, Donetsk People’s Republic has proclaimed itself a sovereign state and has asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, the Republic’s council said.

Russia is taking its time before reacting to Donetsk People’s Republic’s plea while calling for dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow not in rush to respond Donetsk People’s Republic’s plea of accession

RT | May 12, 2014

Russia is taking its time before reacting to Donetsk People’s Republic’s plea to consider its accession into Russia while calling for dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions.

The Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told Kommersant newspaper Russia does not yet have a response to the plea.

Earlier on Monday the Kremlin’s press service issued a statement, saying: “Moscow respects the will of the people in Donetsk and Lugansk and hopes that the practical realization of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner.”

It stressed the necessity of a “dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.”

On Monday, Donetsk People’s Republic proclaimed itself a sovereign state and asked Moscow to consider its accession into Russia, the Republic’s council said.

Earlier in the day, the results of referendums were announced in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, showing the majority of voters support self-rule, amid an intensified military operation by Kiev which resulted in several deaths.

Experts on the issue have weighed in with their view on Russia’s response.

International legal expert Alexander Mercouris told RT that Moscow’s reaction was consistent with its previous policy on Ukraine.

“Moscow is following what has been its consistent policy right from the start, right from the moment when the coup took place in Kiev in February, which has been pressing for negotiations between Kiev and the actual true democratic representatives of the eastern regions in order to achieve constitutional change,” Mercouris told RT. “I do not think Moscow’s position has changed. But I think Moscow’s position may change in the future.”

International relations expert and senior lecturer at Moscow State University Mark Sleboda also told to RT that he does not view Moscow’s reaction as contradicting its previous stance.

“Moscow’s reaction to the referendum – they of course recommended that it be postponed, and they had a somewhat tepid reaction to it. But at the same time they did not completely disown it either,” Sleboda said.

“The first statement out of Moscow this morning that it looked forward to a dialogue between Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev to resolve the situation and implement the people’s will was a very strong indication that Russia is still really trying for dialogue with Kiev,” Sleboda added.

Professor of History and Politics in Berlin Ronald Suni noted that Russia’s slow response will indeed provide room for international dialogue, which may help the situation.

“Vladimir Putin and his advisors decided a few days ago that we’ve got to pull back, that we’ve got to slow things down. That all these people acting in their own interest, out of their own emotions and passions could lead to some very dangerous situations – civil war or international war,” Suni told RT.

“So, why not postpone the referendum, which of course the locals did not want to do, recognize the May 25 elections, which part of Ukraine probably won’t do, and pull troops back from the frontier, which Putin did. Even so, these actions have not led to a response, on both sides it would allow for some kind of international negotiation,” he added.

Mercouris also explained the referendum results are a valid statement of opinion. “Yes, they were organized in great haste, in civil war, revolutionary conditions, but even people who are present, who are hostile to these referendums, from the Western media now accept that these are in fact representative of the powerful mass movement,” he said.

Sleboda stated that when examining Donetsk and Lugansk referendums, one must pay attention to three things. “One, the extremely large turnout, which is nearly impossible to deny. The overwhelming landslide victory – since the vote was essentially public with the glass ballot boxes and the Western journalists who served in place of international monitors, we could say, who clearly informally polled on the ground the strength of support for the independence vote.”

“And three, we have to remember that this did indeed happen under the barrel of a gun – but not the barrel of the gun of the self-defense forces, but under the barrel of the gun of this Kiev regime who was actually killing voters as they tried to vote against it on the referendum day,” he argued.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment