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Red Cross to help Russian aid convoy into Ukraine

The BRICS Post | August 14, 2014

A day after Ukraine’s government said it would not permit the Russian humanitarian aid convoy to enter its territory, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would hold talks in Kiev and Moscow to help Russian aid reach residents trapped by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had said on Wednesday Ukraine would only accept humanitarian aid from the Red Cross.

A Reuters report quoted Anastasia Isyuk, an ICRC spokesperson on Thursday as saying a senior official will travel to Kiev and Moscow for talks.

Laurent Corbaz, head of ICRC Operations for Europe and Central Asia, who will leave Geneva today said “the delivery of aid should not be politicized”.

“The question of border crossing procedures and customs clearance (for the aid convoy) still have to be clarified between the two sides,” Isyuk said.

Kremlin aid Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the Russian aid convoy with 280 trucks was continuing to move through Russia towards Ukrainian borders.

The Russian aid consisted of food items like cereals, sugar, infant food, medical drugs, sleeping bags and power generators and was meant for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.

The UN says more than 2000 people have been killed since Kiev launched its crackdown against pro-Russia rebels.

Meanwhile, a Deutsche Welle report said on Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel intends to continue the talks on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite the sanctions imposed on Moscow.

Several rounds of US and EU sanctions have already targeted Russia’s defense, energy and banking sectors, punishing Moscow for its alleged support to rebels in eastern Ukraine.

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Jonathon Cook: Why I accuse the Red Cross of being gutless

By Jonathon Cook | June 18, 2014

I have had further thoughts about my brief Facebook comments attacking the International Committee of the Red Cross. I accused the organisation of hypocrisy for calling for the immediate release of the three abducted Israeli teenagers while refusing to call for a similar release of the nearly 200 Palestinian children effectively taken hostage by a member state of the UN (Israel) while in their own territory (Palestine) and then illegally transferred into foreign territory (Israel). …

I stand by my earlier accusation that the ICRC has proved itself to be serially gutless in remaining silent over decades about Israel’s belligerent occupation, but I should have set out the reasons for my criticism more fully.

Back in 2003, rumours started to surface that Israel was running a secret prison where Arabs seized by its security services overseas (mostly from Lebanon) were being held and horrifically abused. It was Israel’s Abu Ghraib. The Israeli media even reported later on a court case in which a Lebanese Shia leader, Mustafa Dirani, who was held in this secret jail, revealed that he had been repeatedly sodomised with a wooden baton during interrogations.

The prison, known only as Facility 1391, started to come to light only because of a small oversight by Israel. Following the mass round-ups of Palestinians as the second intifada reached its peak, Israel ran out of space in its normal prisons and started to put a few Palestinians into the secret jail, or possibly jails. However, Israel had habeas corpus-style obligations, even according to its own legal codes, to report the whereabouts of Palestinian prisoners to their lawyers (not true for the other Arab inmates, who had no legal representation). Some leading Israeli human rights lawyers started to work out that these few Palestinian prisoners had effectively been disappeared.

I began working on the story, and published it (here, here and here). During the research I was told that the ICRC knew about 1391 and were aware of its location.

When I called their office in Jerusalem to speak to them about it, they refused to say anything on the record. In fact they pretty much refused to say anything at all, apart from confirming that they knew of the prison’s existence, although they claimed not to have had access to it.

Their justification for refusing to speak further or to criticise Israel for the gross violation of international law the prison represented was that they believed it was more important to maintain a position of absolute political neutrality. They told me it was vitally in the interests of the Palestinian prison population that they keep the trust of Israel so that their access would not be withdrawn. That was not a view I shared, but it was one I could believe was honourably held.

But the principle of “absolute political neutrality” that was so important to the ICRC back in 2003 – and has apparently directed their policy for decades, given their almost complete silence on Israel’s belligerent occupation – has now been jettisoned with casual abandon when it comes to defending the rights of three Israeli teenagers. What about “absolute political neutrality” towards the Palestinians?

This is hypocrisy of the highest order, and why I continue to call the ICRC gutless – more concerned about the might of the Israel lobby than the rights of Palestinians under occupation.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Nuclear Weapons: Hope at Last

By Jim McCluskey | Dissident Voice | February 19, 2014 

The US, the UK, Russia, China and France are rebuilding or upgrading their arsenals of nuclear weapons. The other four nuclear states too are ‘improving’ their arsenals. As we discuss the statistics and strategies of ‘nuclear arsenals’ and ‘nuclear deterrence’ it can be hard to keep in mind the reality underlying the abstract discussions. The nine nuclear states have over 10,000 nuclear weapons in their stockpiles. This is enough to wipe out the entire population of the planet many times over together with all other life forms. Is this sane? Has the human race lost its senses? A single United States thermonuclear warhead, designated W88, has an estimated ‘yield’ of 475 kilotons. The ‘yield’ is the destructive power expressed in tons of TNT equivalent. The W88 is over 30 times more destructive than the bomb which wiped out Hiroshima. A single W88 could completely destroy London, Moscow or New York. Each bomb on a major city would kill millions of people; women, children, babies, old people, everyone. The suffering would be indescribable and for many would go on for months and years before death. No emergency services could begin to cope There would be no relief. What sort of people would do such a thing? What kind of human would threaten such an atrocity?

The US government has 5 nuclear submarines on patrol at all times carrying 1000 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Is it possible to imagine the degree of paranoia represented by such a standing threat? The UK government has started to spend one hundred billion pounds on rebuilding its Trident fleet of nuclear submarines, each one with the capacity to incinerate over 40 million people. This is being done at a time when many citizens are suffering from inadequate defences against flooding and when the social services are being radically cut back.

The situation is being rendered even more insanely dangerous by the US and Russia which keep 1,800 weapons on high alert atop long-range ballistic missiles that are ready to launch 5 to 15 minutes after receiving an order!

It is ironic that the worst offenders are the five permanent members of the Security’ Council of the United Nations. They have had 69 years to get rid of their nuclear weapons while all that the citizens of the world hear from them are windy speeches around purported good intentions which never come to fruition.

Citizens of the world have simultaneously become aware that the nuclear states do not intend to get rid of their nuclear weapons and that their existence imposes a permanent and intolerable threat to us all. The existence of nuclear weapons means they could be used by accident, by misunderstanding or by malicious intent. How can we ever be sure that some deranged psychopath will not gain power in one of the nuclear states and deceive him/herself into believing that it is in their best interests to make a first strike? How can we ever be sure that some terrorist organisations will not hack into the electronic control systems and carry out the launching themselves? And we now know that even a small nuclear exchange could be a lethal threat to everyone on the planet. In a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan 20 million people would die from the nuclear blasts, fires, and radioactive fallout. And the fallout would have global consequences that would kill millions of people, disrupt climate patterns, and threaten global agricultural collapse.

Furthermore decent people round the globe know that the existence of nuclear weapons is a brooding evil which undermines the moral integrity of humankind. As the great moral leader Desmond Tutu wrote “Nuclear weapons are an obscenity. They are the very antithesis of humanity”…

The only remedy is an enforced world ban on the existence of nuclear weapons. The other weapons of mass destruction have already been banned. It is the turn of the last and most destructive of them all.

And finally there is hope. The huge burgeoning of awareness in the citizens of the world is bearing fruit.

There are 9 nuclear states and there are 183 non-nuclear states. The security of the non-nuclear states is threatened by the irresponsible and self-focused behaviour of the 9 others. But these 9 are outnumbered by 20 to one. The non-nuclear majority which do not feel the need for a lethal ‘security’ crutch have decided to take the initiative. And rather than focus on the numbers and ‘yields’ of the weapons it was wisely decided to concentrate on the effects on humanity of the use of nuclear weapons. The next logical development, as the nuclear states continue to deny their obligations to shed their arsenals, is for the non-nuclear states to proceed independently to enact a treaty outlawing these weapons internationally. By focusing attention on the humanitarian consequences of their use they are well on their way to doing so.

The first International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was held in 2013. Humanity owes a great debt to Norway for this initiative.

This ground-breaking and historic conference was attended by delegates from 127 countries and 70 nongovernmental organizations. The nuclear states were invited but declined to attend. It is not easy to face up to the implications of these arsenals especially if you bear the primary responsibility. India and Pakistan sent observers.

After hearing presentations from a wide range of experts on the various effects of nuclear weapon detonations the conference concluded that it is unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected.” Conference members also agreed that the effects of a nuclear weapon detonation will not be constrained by national borders but will produce significant negative regional and global effects.

Mexico offered to host a follow-up meeting to this conference and such is the vital importance of this approach that other states declared their intention to organise additional events on this subject.

The Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons was held in Nayarit, Mexico, on 13 and 14 February 2014. It included delegations representing 146 States, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and civil society organizations.

The powerful summary statement of the conference Chair pointed out that the broad participation of states and civil society reflected the burgeoning awareness that this issue is of the utmost importance to all the peoples of the world. Due to “…proliferation, the vulnerability of nuclear command and control networks to cyber-attacks and to human error and potential access to nuclear weapons by non-state actors, in particularly terrorist groups” the risks are “growing globally”. The risks of “accidental, mistaken, unauthorised or intentional use is growing significantly due to more countries holding weapons on higher levels of combat readiness”. As awareness of the humanitarian impact grows hearts and minds are being changed worldwide. These weapons must be outlawed. “In the past, weapons have been eliminated after they have been outlawed. We believe this is the path to achieve a world without nuclear weapons”. He called for a “legally binding instrument” and declared that the “time has come to initiate a diplomatic process conducive to this goal. Our belief is that this process should comprise a specific time frame, the definition of the most appropriate fora, and a clear and substantive framework, making the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the essence of disarmament efforts. It is time to take action.”

The Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons will be held in Austria later this year. The movement for an international ban is unstoppable.

The International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of over 350 organisations in 90 countries. Ray Acheson, in his closing statement on behalf of ICAN to the Second Conference included the words:  “The claim by some states that they continue to need these weapons to deter their adversaries has been exposed by the evidence presented at this conference and in Oslo as a reckless and unsanctionable gamble with our future.”

He went on to explain that the use against cities of less than one percent of existing weapons would put billions of lives in jeopardy and have a long lasting detrimental effect on both the planet’s climate and agriculture. He insisted that we must act to get rid of them or they will be used by accident, misunderstanding or malicious intent. Getting rid of them will take courageous leadership by states but such leadership will have the support of civil society. He concluded:  “It is time to change the status quo. It is time we ban nuclear weapons.”

So with these and other major forces at work there is an unstoppable movement towards banning these Armageddon machines. The nuclear states have become a sorry sight. Frozen in a realm of outdated thinking which was always inhuman; their leaders frightened and paranoid and prepared to put the survival of humanity in jeopardy simply in order to feel important and powerful as they strut, uncomprehending, on the world stage.

Their brief and nightmarish ascendancy is over. The world has moved on.

~

Jim McCluskey is the author of The Nuclear Threat.

February 19, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Israeli soldiers rough up EU diplomat, confiscate aid supplies for Palestinians

Al-Akhbar | September 20, 2013

bum69cxcuaayoazIsraeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.

“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.

The Israeli army and police declined to comment.

Locals said Khirbet al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where they say their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

“It’s shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments,” said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.

“(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren’t being protected,” he said.

In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israeli forces regularly demolish Palestinian homes, claiming they do not have the proper construction permits. However, the Israeli government regularly announces the expansion of settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

“What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,” the unnamed EU diplomat said.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment