Aletho News


UK supports Dubai police fair, despite UAE torture record

Reprieve | October 28, 2015

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is supporting a trade fair hosted by the Dubai police this week, despite widespread use of police torture in the UAE.

The event, the Emirates Security Exhibition and Conference (Emsec), is said by its organizers to be ‘designed to support and encourage UK exports’. It is officially hosted by the Dubai police, though UKTI has organized a reception at the British embassy in Dubai for UK companies taking part.

Human rights organization Reprieve – which assists British and other victims of police torture in the Emirates – has previously raised concerns with UKTI about its support for the event. Reprieve’s research has found that some 75 per cent of prisoners in Dubai Central Jail reported having been tortured into ‘confessing’. They include British citizens who say they were subjected to electric shocks. Despite this, a recommended ‘product requirement list’ given to UK companies ahead of this week’s event included the category ‘Public Order Equipment – Electronic’.

British student Ahmad Zeidan, from Reading, was arrested and tortured in December 2013, and was eventually convicted on the sole basis of a ‘confession’ he signed in Arabic – a language he neither reads nor writes. Ahmad, who initially faced a potential death sentence, recently learned that he was not included in a royal pardon that saw hundreds of other prisoners freed – despite his requests to the UK Foreign Office to support his case.

A 2013 UKTI strategy document unearthed by Reprieve lists security export events such as Emsec as a new priority for the Government, and a Reprieve Freedom of Information request has revealed that last year the government spent £12,000 on encouraging British companies to attend.

The event comes as the UAE was expected to secure re-relection to the United Nations Human Rights Council, in a vote today. In a submission to the body in support of their bid, Emirati representatives said: “Our wish to serve a second term on this esteemed body reflects our view that societies that uphold human rights are more resilient, more sustainable and more secure.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “The Emirati authorities have boasted to the UN about their human rights record, but the reality is dismal. The UAE systematically uses torture to secure convictions – and death sentences – based on bogus statements. British student Ahmad Zeidan is still languishing in prison after he was forced to sign one of these ‘confessions’. Instead of lending UK support to the Emirati police responsible for his torture, the British Government should make clear that we want no part in such abuses – and should demand the release of victims like Ahmad without delay.”

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

UN Farce: Saudi Arabia to Head Human Rights Council

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | September 23, 2015

All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.

— Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, 12 March 2007, Opening of the 4th Human Rights Council Session.

Article 55 of United Nations Charter includes:

Universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

In diametrical opposition to these fine founding aspirations, the UN has appointed Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council to head (or should that be “behead”) an influential human rights panel. The appointment was seemingly made in June, but only came to light on September 17th, due to documents obtained by UN Watch.

… Mr Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was elected as Chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council.

As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a mandate on human rights.

Such experts are often described as the “crown jewels” of the HRC, according to UN Watch.

The “crown jewels” have been handed to a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. Saudi Arabia will head a Consultative Group of five Ambassadors empowered to select applicants globally for more than seventy-seven positions to deal with human rights violations and mandates.

In a spectacular new low for even a UN whose former Secretary General, Kofi Annan, took eighteen months to admit publicly that the 2003 invasion of, bombardment and near destruction of, Iraq was illegal, UN Watch points out that the UN has chosen “a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be head of a key Human Rights panel …”

In May, just prior to the appointment, the Saudi government advertised for eight extra executioners to “… carry out an increasing number of death sentences, which are usually beheadings, carried out in public”.

Seemingly “no special qualifications are needed.” The main function would be executing, but job description “also involves performing amputations …”

The advert was posted on the website of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of the Civil Service.

By June 15th this year executions reached 100, “far exceeding last year’s tally and putting (the country) on course for a new record” according to The Independent (June 15.) The paper adds that the Kingdom is set to beat its own grisly, primitive record of 192 executions in 1995.

The paper notes that “…the rise in executions can be directly linked to the new King Salman and his recently-appointed inner circle …”

In August 2014, Human Rights Watch reported nineteen executions in seventeen days – including one for “sorcery.” Adultery and apostasy can also be punished by death.

In a supreme irony, on the death of King Salman’s head-chopping predecessor, Salman’s half bother King Abdullah, in January (still current decapitation record holder) UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered flags flown at half mast, including at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, leading one MP to question: “On the day that flags at Whitehall are flying at half-mast for King Abdullah, how many public executions will there be?”

Cameron apparently had not read his own Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report citing Saudi as “a country of concern.”

Reacting to a swathe of criticism, a spokesperson for Westminster Abbey responded:

For us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the King of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

The Abbey’s representative appears to have been either breathtakingly ignorant or stunningly uninformed. In December 2009 in a US Embassy cable the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wrote that:

While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.


… donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … engagement is needed to … encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.

At home women are forbidden “from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian.” (HRW Report, 2014.) Saudi is also, of course, the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.

The country is currently preparing to behead twenty-one year old Ali Mohammed al-Nimr. He was arrested aged seventeen for participating in anti-government protests and possessing firearms — the latter charge has been consistently denied. Human rights groups are appalled at the sentence and the flimsy case against him, but pointing out that neither “factors are unusual in today’s Saudi Arabia.”

Following the beheading, al-Nimr’s headless body will be allegedly mounted “on to a crucifix for public viewing.”

What was that mantra issued unceasingly from US and UK government Departments in justification for blitzkriegs, invasions and slaughters in countries who “kill their own people”?

Numerous reports cite torture as being widespread, despite Saudi having subscribed to the UN Convention Against Torture.

There are protests at Saudi embassies across the world highlighting the case of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to a thousand lashes – fifty lashes a week after Friday prayers – and ten years in prison for blogging about free speech.

Since March, Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen — with no UN mandate — destroying schools, hospitals, homes, a hotel, public buildings, an Internally Displaced Persons camp, historical jewels, generating “a trail of civilian death and destruction” which may have amounted to war crimes, according to Amnesty International. “Unlawful airstrikes” have failed to distinguish between military targets and civilian objects. “Nowhere safe for civilians”, states Amnesty.

Further, the conflict … has killed close to 4,000 people, half of them civilians including hundreds of children, and displaced over one million since 25 March 2015. There has been:

… a flagrant disregard for civilian lives and fundamental principles of international humanitarian law (killing and injuring) hundreds of civilians not involved in the conflict, many of them children and women, in unlawful (disproportionate and indiscriminate) ground and air attacks.

It is alleged that US-supplied cluster bombs have also been used. One hundred and seventeen States have joined the Convention to ban these lethal, indiscriminate munitions since December 2008. Saudi Arabia, of course, is not amongst them.

Saudi was also one of the countries which bombed Iraq in 2003, an action now widely accepted as illegal. It is perhaps indicative of their closeness to the US that the bombardment of Yemen is mirror-named from the Pentagon’s Silly Titles for Killing People lexicon: “Operation Decisive Storm.” Iraq 1991 was, of course, “Operation Desert Storm”.

Saudi is also ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. All in all, Saudi leading the Human Rights Council at the UN is straight out of another of George Orwell’s most nightmarish political fantasies.

Oh, and, of course, we are told that nineteen of the hijackers of the ‘plane that hit the World Trade Centre were Saudis – for which swathes of Afghanistan and region, Middle East and North Africa are still paying the bloodiest, genocidal price for the “War on Terror”– whilst Saudi’s representatives stroll into the sunlight of the UN Human Rights body.

On the UN Human Right’s Council’s website is stated:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

Way to go, folks!

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Western allies seek permanent inclusion of Israel in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 21, 2013

Following Israel’s resumption of ties with the United Nations Human Rights Council, six Western countries; the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States are pressuring the United Nations to allow Israel to permanently join the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). The text of the letter, which has been made available online, states: “we, the undersigned, would like by this letter to recall Israel’s long standing request to join the WEOG regional group in Geneva. We are strongly supportive of Israel’s membership at the earliest opportunity.” The letter also exhorts a sense of urgency, requesting inclusion of the matter in the next meeting to be held in Geneva.

Exclusive treatment in Israel’s regard, ostensibly in return for its continuous human rights violations, remains a priority for the colonising power’s allies. Israel’s return to the Human Rights Council was characterised by negotiated leniency, including a concession preventing countries from criticising Israel’s human rights violations – a stipulation valid for the next two years during which any comments relating to Israel’s infringements on human rights will be deemed ‘empty of content’.

Discourse regarding political and regional isolation applied to Israel has been propagated, depicting an ongoing contrivance to enhance Israel’s victimised stance. In 2007 Canada deemed Item 7 as specific targeting of a particular country in a “politicised, selective, partial and subjective” manner which breaches the United Nations’ objectivity. In 2010 the US echoed similar sentiment, declaring the stipulation as a “disproportionate focus on Israel … the Council has too often been exploited to unfairly single out Israel, while ignoring significant human rights situations elsewhere”. This stance has been described as “working constructively on aspects that need change”. The hypocrisy within human rights discourse is easy to decipher – it is inadmissible to challenge Israel’s human rights violations. Instead, the international community should devise the means through which Israel is allowed to oppress with impunity – a trend which it has been perfecting for decades.

There is no justification for the removal of Item 7 – the only requirements are flawed reasoning, international complicity and oblivion. Claims that Israel fails to achieve support for its actions are erroneous and should be examined within the exclusive impunity bequeathed to Zionist ideology prior to the establishment of the illegal state. The depiction of Israel as a politically disadvantaged country has been utilised to the point of exhaustion, yet the deceitful reasoning is still upheld as inviolable, thus diverting attention from the problems faced daily by Palestinians whose rights have yet to be acknowledged, let alone implemented. According to conventional rhetoric, equality should only be applied when the issues at stake do not restrain Israel’s ability to perfect its oppression. Any objectivity and justified impartiality is vehemently rejected, lest Israel should declare a fictitious and detrimental isolation. Far from remaining isolated within the international community due to a degree of extra scrutiny, the coloniser has been embraced by world powers on account of its compatibility in maintaining the exploitation of land, people and countless human rights charters.

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Comments Off on Western allies seek permanent inclusion of Israel in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Appeasement dooms Palestinians to everlasting misery

By Stuart Littlewood | Intifada – Palestine | November 6, 2013

Later this month Palestinians will be celebrating an important anniversary, namely the decision by the UN General Assembly a year ago to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state.

But not with much joy, I suspect.

Its upgraded status enables Palestine to now take part in UN debates and join bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC). Predictably, Israel flew into a rage at the prospect and said the move pushed the peace process “backwards”, while the US said it was “unfortunate”.

So what has the Palestinian leadership done with this precious gift of empowerment from the international community?


In March this year the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, concluding four years of investigations, called for the ICC to investigate “crimes” committed by Israel in the occupied territories. The Tribunal said it would “support all initiatives from civil society and international organisations aimed at bringing Israel in front of the International Criminal Court”. Since Palestine was awarded observer status at the UN the previous November, it could file complaints on its own behalf against Israel with the Court. The tribunal also called on the ICC to recognise Palestinian jurisdiction and for an extraordinary session of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, set up for South Africa, to examine the Israeli case.

Also in March the United Nations Human Rights Council said Israeli settlements in the West Bank were  a “creeping form of annexation” and the international community should take steps to halt business ties with those communities.  Their report claimed that Israel could be culpable for these acts before the International Criminal Court. The mission asked Israel to withdraw its settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and urged the international community to comply with their obligation under international law to act.

In April senior Palestinian officials were saying that if Israel began construction in the area designated “E-1″ , a piece of land in the West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem seized by Israel in 1967, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would join the ICC and seek indictments on war crimes charges. It is believed that Israel’s administration had just given provisional permission to build some 3,300 Jewish homes on E-1.

Palestinians say that Israeli construction there would make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible because it would cut off East Jerusalem (which is Palestinian) from the rest of the West Bank.

But why is Abbas waiting for the bulldozers to go into E-1 when there’s a long list of other examples of criminal settlement building and atrocities that Israel ought to be charged with?

In June Dr. Saeb Erekat, Palestine’s chief negotiator, was criticising the policies being pushed by Israeli PM Netanyahu “including aggressive settlement activity, home demolitions, evictions and ID revocations. This is part of Israel’s plan to destroy any possibility for a Palestinian State, by annexing and changing the status quo of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and other vast areas of the Occupied State of Palestine”.

The Israeli government, with its destructive policies, was determined to make US Secretary Kerry’s efforts fail, he said. Israel’s actions made it clear they were declaring the end of the two-state solution. The international community should be pushing Israel to implement previous agreements and adhere to international law instead of calling for a resumption of negotiations.  “There is a new urgency to face reality and finally hold Israel accountable for destroying the prospects of justice and peace.”

Israel was turning up its aggression against the Palestinian people while we were trying to reach a negotiated solution, grumbled Erekat. “After the announcement to intensify negotiations made by US Secretary John Kerry, Israel destroyed the village of Khirbet Makhoul for the fourth time and approved further settlement expansion aimed at sealing Occupied East Jerusalem from Ramallah.”

Palestinian leadership shows no sign of starting the justice ball rolling

“Our position is clear and in line with international law: all Israeli settlements in Palestine are illegal…  and undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. If Israel is serious about peace, they must cease all settlement activities.” Erekat again demanded action by the rest of the world “to make Israel pay the price for its institutionalized defiance of international law and UN resolutions”.

But there was still no sign of his own people – the Palestinian Authority and the PLO – taking action on their own account, or at least starting the ball rolling, even though the international community had given them the wherewithall to do so.

Now I hear that Israel is drilling into 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves straddling the armistice  ‘green line’, most of it lying under the West Bank. According to official agreements, says Al-Jazeera, “Israel is obligated to coordinate any exploration for natural resources in shared territory with the Palestinian Authority, and reach agreements on how to divide the benefits.”

Ashraf Khatib, an official at the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations support unit, described the oil field as part of Israel’s “general theft of Palestinian national resources…  the occupation is not just about settlements and land confiscation. Israel is also massively profiting from exploiting our resources. There’s lots of money in it for Israel, which is why the occupation has become so prolonged.”

And, of course, the world knows how the Palestinians are prevented from benefiting from their offshore gas field and how, if Israel has its way, they’ll never get a sniff of their own gas either.

‘Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle’

Since the beginning of the Oslo process over 20 years ago, the rights of the Palestinian people have been sacrificed on the altar of so-called political progress, the glittering prize being ‘peace and security’. But that was never really on the cards. All we’ve seen is a continuous slide downhill for the Palestinians while the Israelis’ colonisation and expansion programme goes from strength to strength. “In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements continues relentlessly, while the illegal Annexation Wall creates a situation that is completely at odds with both international law and the stated goals of the peace process,” says Shawan Jabarin in an excellent article Time for the ICC to act on Palestine.

“Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle: generals and politicians know that they can violate the law with impunity, fuelling a continuous cycle of violations and suffering. The result has been an increase in war crimes committed against innocent civilians. Throughout Palestine we are struggling for the right to live, and the right to live in dignity.”

Talking of the right to live in dignity, only today I was reading how some of the Palestinian villages are used by Israel for military training exercises in which soldiers enjoy virtual impunity with regard to their cruel behavior in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the pretext being that the Israeli military is the sovereign authority over the whole territory. “This edict contradicts international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that question the Israeli claim to sovereignty over all Palestinian land,” reports IMEMC .

The Israeli military frequently invades Palestinian towns and villages, with soldiers running through streets and alleys with loaded automatic weapons, ransacking homes and terrorizing residents, for the purposes of ‘training’. Residents and the human rights groups representing them have provided numerous examples of the soldiers tearing through homes and yards, breaking into houses, running up and down stairs and taking over rooftops of family homes as part of these exercises.

It’s bad enough that villages experience actual Israeli military invasions on a regular basis. Now, since the military makes no attempt to differentiate between an invasion and a ‘training exercise’, the villagers are just as terrorized as they are during real raids.

Wasting that all-important empowerment on a dumb promise

International justice remains out of reach for millions of civilians because the corrupt US, UK and EU political establishments conspire to ‘persuade’ Palestine not to join the ICC or press war crimes charges and other complaints against racist Israel. The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC, meanwhile, is waiting for Palestine to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court and become a full member if it wishes to commence proceedings.

To pretend there is something wrong with pursuing a brutal oppressor for war crimes through the proper channels – that is, the ICC – while talking peace, is absurd. No peace is sustainable unless it’s underpinned by international law and justice.

So a week ago I sent a ‘press enquiry’ to the Palestinian Embassy in London, addressed to Ambassador Hassassian. It said:

“What is the PA/PLO doing, please, to regularise its position regarding the ICC statute and satisfy any remaining requirements for exercising its membership rights and bringing charges against Israel for its crimes?

“What still remains to be done and why the continuing delay after the international community cleared the way and unpgraded Palestine’s status?”

No reply, no acknowledgement, despite follow-up phone messages. Silence speaks volumes and is par for the course when dealing with Palestinian officials.

However, I’ve heard it said that Abbas promised Kerry not to seek justice through the ICC during the nine months or more the going-nowhere peace talks will be… well, going nowhere. That takes us by my reckoning to May next year, or beyond. And he gave the undertaking without wringing from the Israelis a corresponding promise to halt settlement planning, construction and enlargement.

Welcome to the Palestinian School of Appeasement.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Appeasement dooms Palestinians to everlasting misery

Israel defines release of Palestinian prisoners as commitment to peace

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | October 31, 2013

At the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Israeli ambassador Eviatar Manor stated that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails defines the Jewish state’s attitude towards peace. “Their release, I believe, illustrates Israel’s determination to reach an agreement with our Palestinian neighbours that will, once and for all, end the conflict.” As usual, Israel’s discourse contains various illusions, including references to ‘conflict’, which implies no hegemonic disparity between both parties.

Reference to Palestinians as ‘neighbours’ and human rights violation as ‘conflict’ portrays the manipulative use of language to distort the reality of a colonisation project which has prevailed for decades. There is no conflict between Palestinians and Israel, which renders the concept of negotiations a convenient farce for the belligerent occupation and its allies – a project of alienation which is easily converted into fodder for consumers of corporate media. In discourse which would reflect the ongoing situation, Israel should be depicted as the epitome of colonialism – an illegal state which has plundered land, people and resources to sustain fabrications of nationhood and the right to land. In place of negotiations, the international community should be clamouring for Israel to be held accountable and face the ramifications of accountability, including the dismantling of illegalities which would allow Palestinians to reclaim and assert their rights over land and nationhood.

Israel’s participation in the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review comes after vehement rejection of the council’s alleged bias against the occupying power. The indefinite boycott of the session was discussed in May by deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin, who agreed to diplomatic discussions while “ensuring that fair play and international standards are applied towards Israel”. A Jerusalem Post opinion article about the UNHRC expounds upon the alleged bias against Israel, stating that “The majority of its 47 members are from the third World, which not only guarantees massive anti-Israel bias but makes mockery of human rights”. What it fails to mention is that Third World countries have experienced the ramifications of colonialism and exploitation, camouflaged within the West as implementation of forced democracy through various forms of intervention sanctioned by governments who are never held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

While the debate focused on Israel’s appalling treatment of Palestinians, including that of Bedouins in the Negev, Israel attempted to manipulate the discourse away from the wider framework by concentrating on the prisoner release and portraying the decision as a commitment towards peace, despite the state’s preoccupation with security concerns which, according to Manor, ‘strain the delicate balance between effective steps necessary to overcome the various threats to a state’s security and the protection of human rights”.

The release of Palestinian prisoners has been transformed into nothing more than a bargaining over land compensated with lives which Israel deems expendable. While their freedom is undoubtedly cherished by Palestinians, official rhetoric from Israeli and Palestinian representation has created an additional realm where negotiations are equivalent to prisoner release. Abbas recently declared that the Israeli concept of life in prison has deteriorated, yet nothing is uttered regarding the continuous usurpation of Palestinian land. While Netanyahu triumphantly approves further illegal settlement construction as ‘compensation’ for releasing Palestinian prisoners, Abbas remains committed to relinquishing Palestine in return for freedom which can be easily revoked within Israel’s system of administrative detention.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Israel defines release of Palestinian prisoners as commitment to peace

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 | , , , , | Comments Off on Communication surveillance undermines privacy, freedom of expression – UN report

Briefing: Beyond the E-1 Israeli settlement

IRIN | March 18, 2013

JERUSALEM – Last month, an international fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council found that settlements constituted a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and called on Israel to stop all expansions immediately and withdraw from settlements.

A controversial Israeli plan, known as E-1, to build thousands of housing units and hotel rooms near the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, has garnered much attention in the media because it would sever Palestinian East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. (See IRIN’s briefing on E-1 here.)

But at the same time, Israel has been moving forward with equally controversial settlement plans under less scrutiny and with unusual speed.

As US President Barack Obama prepares to visit the region this week, IRIN takes a look at some of the details that have been overlooked in the discussion.

What’s the Giv’at HaMatos plan?

According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim (“City of Nations”), which works to preserve Jerusalem as a home for both Jews and Palestinians, one settlement plan of “critical importance” is Giv’at HaMatos.

In a sense, Giv’at HaMatos does in the south what E-1 does in the east. The planned large housing and hotel complex at the southern perimeter of Jerusalem would further disrupt the contiguity of land between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank required for a future Palestinian state, seriously impeding a two-state solution, research and rights groups say. It would also mark the first new settlement construction in Jerusalem since 1997.

“All construction is problematic but there are several plans that are, in our view, more dangerous if implemented,” Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch project at the Israeli NGO Peace Now, told IRIN. “Giv’at HaMatos is the most dangerous plan that is now approved.”

Part of the plan – to build 2,612 units – was approved by the Jerusalem Regional Planning Committee on 19 December.

Most of Giv’at HaMatos is currently uninhabited, but according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), which recently released a two-part report on the future of East Jerusalem, its build-up would cut off Arab neighbourhoods in southern Jerusalem, like Beit Safafa and Sharafat, rendering them “Palestinian enclaves”.

Giv’at HaMatos would connect the dots of several other planned or expanding settlements along southern Jerusalem – including Giv’at Yael in the southwest; and Har Homa and East Talpiyot in the southeast – forming “a long Jewish continuum severing Bethlehem’s urban continuum from Palestinian Jerusalem”, ICG said. Last year, the Israeli government also approved more than 2,000 new units in neighbouring Gilo.

This kind of attachment to Jewish expansions could make peace negotiations even harder.

“From an Israeli public opinion perspective, Giv’at HaMatos is in the municipal border of Jerusalem,” Ofran said. “It’s considered a legitimate part of Israel.”

Barak Cohen, the Jerusalem Municipality’s adviser for foreign affairs and media, told IRIN Giv’at HaMatos is part of Jerusalem’s “natural and much-needed growth”, allowing both Arab and Jewish landowners to develop their properties.

Indeed, part of the Giv’at HaMatos plan, approved on 18 December, allows for the building of 549 units for Palestinians – though Betty Herschman, director of international relations and advocacy at Ir Amim, points out much of it retroactively legalizes building that has already been completed. The figures, she added, amount to just over one-fifth of the Jewish expansion.

“For many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”

Still, Cohen insisted, the development would benefit Jerusalem as a whole: “Not planning and developing Jerusalem neighbourhoods ultimately harms all residents and landowners – Arabs and Jews alike.”

Last year, Israel also issued tenders for the construction of 606 new housing units north of East Jerusalem, in the Ramot settlement, just north of the Green Line marking the border between Israel and the West Bank, and approved another 1,500 units in the neighbouring settlement of Ramot Shlomo, according to Ir Amim.

What other settlements are planned?

Beyond Jerusalem, there was movement on a number of other settlements projects in disputed areas, according to Settlement Watch.

In June 2012, the Israeli government announced it would build 851 new units in the West Bank, including more than 230 in the controversial settlements of Ariel and Efrat. Like Giv’at HaMatos, these two settlements make a contiguous Palestinian territory impossible, Settlement Watch says.

Overall, settlements expanded much faster than usual last year.

In 2012 the Israeli government approved the construction of 6,676 settler housing units in the West Bank, compared with 1,607 in 2011 and several hundred in 2010, according to Peace Now.

For plans that were already approved, it issued more than 3,000 tenders to construction contractors – more than any other year in the last decade, Peace Now said. Construction has actually begun on 1,747 homes.

Regardless of the settlements, Palestinians, especially in Area C, are under immense pressure. Recent weeks have seen a considerable upswing in demolitions of Palestinian structures. According to the Displacement Working Group, a grouping of aid agencies helping displaced families, Israeli forces destroyed 139 Palestinian structures, including 59 homes, in January – almost triple 2012’s monthly average. The demolitions occurred in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – with a majority taking place in Area C – and left 251 Palestinians, including over 150 children, displaced.

The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories (COGAT) told IRIN there was no connection between the removal of unauthorized buildings and the construction of Israeli settlements. “All construction in the West Bank is subject to building codes and planning laws and unauthorized constructions are dealt with accordingly,” the office said in an email.

What are the knock-on effects?

Settlements are often discussed through the lens of their illegality under international law or as obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But everything associated with the settlements – including Israeli-only infrastructure, the separation barrier, military checkpoints, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement, suppression of freedom of expression and political life, and control of Palestinian natural resources – causes a ripple effect through Palestinian society, adversely impacting the people.

The UN estimates there are now 520,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with 43 percent of the land there allocated to local and regional settlement councils. According to the UN Secretary-General, Israel has transferred roughly 8 percent of its citizens into OPT since the 1970s, altering the demographic composition of the territory and furthering the Palestinian people from their right to self-determination.

Baker, of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, said a future Palestinian state should include a Jewish minority. “The assumption behind this… is that Jews have no right to live in the West Bank, an assumption that we reject. In fact we see ourselves as the true indigenous people of this land.”

But Israeli settlements have violated Palestinian rights to equality under the law, to religious freedom and to freedom of movement, according to the UN fact-finding mission. They have also eroded Palestinian access to water and to agricultural assets, and the ability to develop economically, it said.

Photo: OCHAView larger version of map here

For example, Bedouins from the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, northeast of E-1, cannot sell their dairy products at their traditional Souq Al Ahmar market any more. Because of movement restrictions (they hold West Bank IDs and lack the proper permits to enter East Jerusalem), they cannot get there.

The UN secretary-general has said that Palestinians “have virtually no control” over the water resources in the West Bank, with 86 percent of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea under the de facto jurisdiction of the settlement regional councils.

There is a statistical correlation between Palestinians’ proximity to settlements and their rates of food insecurity, according to a UN and government survey, which found that one quarter of Palestinians who live in Area C, home to the largest number of settlements in the West Bank, are food insecure. In Areas A and B, the average rate of food insecurity is 17 percent.

In addition, “all spheres of Palestinian life are being significantly affected by a minority of settlers who are engaged in violence and intimidation with the aim of forcing Palestinians off their land,” the mission said.

Operation Dove, an international organization working in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills, reported that Palestinian children have a very hard time going to school due to settler attacks.

The UN and rights groups say radical settlers use violence against Palestinians with impunity and their illegal outposts are often recognized and retroactively legalized by the government.

Since the occupation began, Israel has detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, some of them without charge, and some of them children. Most of the minors are arrested “at friction points, such as a village near a settlement or a road used by the army or settlers”, the fact-finding mission said.

Israel uses what they term “administrative detention” when it considers the detainee a threat to the security of the state.

Ir Amim’s Herschman says Israel is also attempting to create a “greater Jerusalem” through additional means, for example: the Israeli separation barrier, planned national parks, and the construction of highways dividing villages, dispossessing Palestinians of their land and making it harder for them to access services like schools and mosques.

In recent weeks, residents of the Palestinian village of Beit Safafa have been protesting against the planned extension of the Begin Highway that would divide their village in order to connect major Israeli settlement blocks outside the city to Jerusalem.

The planned root of the separation barrier, in addition to a potential national park around the perimeter of the barrier would also close off nearby Palestinian village al-Wallajeh.

The planned route of the barrier extends all the way around and far beyond Muale Adummim and in other areas south and north of Jerusalem. “These lines are a unilateral declaration of a much greater Jerusalem, a unilateral expanding of the boundaries, an exponential increase,” she told IRIN.

Or as the ICG put it, “for many Arab East Jerusalemites, the battle for their city is all but lost.”

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pakistan’s “Red Lines” That America Crosses Everyday

By Peter Chamberlin | There Are No Sunglasses | February 6, 2013

The government of Pakistan claims that there are “red lines” which drones and ground soldiers dare not cross (US urged not to cross ‘red line’ in Fata). This is another lie. In reality, US drones (and possibly “private contractors”) cross those lines everyday. Just another day in the multi-faceted psychological war games, that are fought-out in FATA everyday.

This new public relations ploy, to allow the families of drone victims to prosecute American Predator war crimes builds a new line of defense for the Pak Army, while enhancing its credibility.  This is part of Pakistan’s new “Plan B” for Waziristan, where the civilian administration attempts to use Western courts to stop daily drone attacks upon the Wazir tribes in both North and South Waziristan, since military persuasion has failed miserably in that respect.  Military reluctance to interfere with US plans for Pakistan’s militants has derived not from a common desire to see the CIA … Pakistanis, but from a desire NOT to piss-off the paymaster, which is interpreted by the people as complicity in the attacks (SEE:  US embassy cables: Pakistan backs US drone attacks on tribal areas (23 Aug. 2008, 14:12)). Even the targeted militant leaders are aware of Army complicity in drone targetting.  I am referring here to the testimony of the recently assassinated Waziri leader Nazir (SEE: As-Sahab: English transcript of the interview with Mulla Nazeer Ahmad, the amir of the mujahideen in the South Waziristan).

The outrageous death of Nazir and his friends clarified for the other militants, along with the entire Wazir tribe, that the Pak Army is obviously complicit in the drone attacks, otherwise actions would have been taken to put an end to the air incursions (SEE: India/Pakistani Detente’ Went Into the Ground with Mullah Nazir).  As long as the Army continued to maintain its duplicitous drone acceptance/rejection strategy, denying involvement in the drone targeting (which consistently hit the pro-Army Wazirs and not the anti-Pakistan Mehsuds in both North and South Waziristan), the Wazirs continued to participate in the Pak/US development strategy of infrastructural bribery, based on building ”Quick Impact Projects” in areas previously cleared of Mehsud terrorists.

Since the UAV murder of Mullah Nazir near Wana, working in tandem with the development strategy, the Army is allowing lawsuits (Case No: CO/2599/2012) to go forward on one of the most heinous drone attacks upon the Wazirs, the March 17th, 2011 attack upon a Waziri Jirga in Datta Khel, N. Waziristan, which killed 50 (SEE: Waziristan tribesmen to move ICJ against drone hits).  This move may be a compromise between the government and the Wazir tribe, to avoid a companion lawsuit (which is coming-up for a hearing on Feb. 13) that has been filed in Peshawar High Court, which forces the government of Pakistan’s hand.  The Peshawar suit makes the following demands:

  1. Confirm the Pakistani government’s complete opposition to US drone strikes in the tribal areas as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty under Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.
  2. Approach the United Nations Security Council and demand adoption of a resolution condemning drone strikes and requiring the US to end the strikes in Pakistan.
  3. Issue a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions as the fundamental right to life is being breached by US drone strikes. 
  4. Publicly encourage victims of drone stacks to file complaints to the UNHRC so that the UN Secretary General can list this issue on the Council agenda for discussion. 
  5. Notify the US government of Pakistan’s intention to seek relief in the International Court of Justice for the US’s illegal operation of drones in Pakistan.
  6. Sign the Rome Treaty so that the International Criminal Court can have jurisdiction to prosecute the drone attacks as international law crimes.

The Wazir experiment was intended to reinforce existing agreements that have been made between the Army and the Tribal Authorities, which have previously delegated the policing function to the Tribes.  Under those peace deals, Tribal Leaders had agreed to keep “terrorists” and foreigners out of their territory, referring to Taliban and the Uzbek and “al-CIA-da” forces.  The Wazir Tribe has been held responsible for the terrorist attacks within their neighborhoods since this agreement was signed in 2007.  Under the agreement, the Mehsuds were to have been run-out of Wana.  The Wazirs resisted taking this extreme step for the Army, because they were forced to travel roads through Mehsud territory and obviously didn’t want to start a Tribal feud (SEE:  Pak Army Uses US Money To Build Road for Ahmadzai Wazirs To Run Mehsuds Out of Wana On).

View Map

The Wazir were expected to run the remaining 1,000 or so Mehsud out of Wana, just as soon as the new Kaur-Gomal-Tanai-Wana road was inagurated.  Mullah Nazir led a tribal jirga, which voted to run them out on December 5 (SEE:  1000 Mehsud Refugees Run-Out of Wana ).  Three weeks later, Nazir was killed in a flurry of Hellfire missiles which were fired by three or four drones (SEE:  They Had A Funeral In Wana for Mullah Nazir and 10,000 People Showed-Up–where were the drones then?).  After years of trying and  countless near-misses, the CIA finally killed the lynchpin of Pak Army plans for peace through development, by gifting him with a Quran containing a drone tracking chip.  The man who was the most feared, as well as the most effective anti-Taliban tribal leader/fighter, was the centerpiece of Pakistani peace efforts, who hopefully would inspire all of the tribes to build their own effective anti-Taliban “Lashkars.”

The S. Waziristan development projects were a type of reward for supporting govt. efforts.  The Army officials took their peace efforts so seriously that they rolled-up their sleeves and helped to build homes for the returnees, teach gardening skills, classes in fish farming, poultry and livestock handling.  They have even organized an off-road rally in South Waziristan, hoping to draw people into an entertainment venue and thereby possibly enhance their communal feelings.  The Army is whole-heartedly into the idea of “winning hearts and minds” in South Waziristan, following American counter-insurgency tactics to the letter.  But they are finding-out the hard way that it might be impossible to smooth relations with people whose homes and schools you have just flattened, not to mention overcoming those hard feelings harbored over family members who were killed by the Army’s zealous pulverizing of parts of South Waziristan.

rehabilitation zone

As you can see from this WSJ article clip, the rehabilitation effort, centered on Kotkai village (Hakeemullah Mehsud’s hometown), is not having the desired effect or speed of development.  With the killing of the Wazir leader, how much further will the Tribal elders be willing to go in trusting the Army to deal fairly?

The lawsuit in British courts against the UK Govt., for their participation in the American drone strike of the Wazir jirga will serve as a largely symbolic test which could possibly enable judicial interference to handicap further drone strikes.  The suit filed in Peshawar could prove to be a very significant test of govt. loyalty, to document whether Pakistan supports its own citizens (who are being systematically deprived of their inalienable rights to Life), or the rights of the Imperial powers to murder them at will.  A wrong choice on the Army’s part could cost them all of their remaining friends in the Tribal Regions.  It would force the govt. hand, requiring public opposition to drone strikes, as well as taking the people’s case to the UN and filing formal Human Rights violations.  In addition to this, it would force govt.  to allow charges to be filed in the ICJ (International Court of Justice).  If any of these actions are taken, they would be sufficient to suspend all further American payments to Pakistan.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pakistan’s “Red Lines” That America Crosses Everyday

Israel must remove all Jewish settlers from occupied West Bank – UN inquiry

RT | January 31, 2013

A UN human rights inquiry has called on Israel to remove all Jewish settlers from the West Bank and cease expansion. The report said the settlements violate international law, and are an attempt to drive out Palestinians through intimidation.

­”Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” the report read, adding that Israel must immediately begin to withdraw all settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).

The inquiry prompted a strong reaction from Israel who slammed the report as biased.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” said spokesman Yigal Palmor in a statement.

The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into an occupied area – such an act could constitute war crimes if brought before the International Criminal Court. Following the UN’s de facto recognition of Palestine last December, Israel announced plans to build thousands of homes in the OPT.

In response, Palestine wrote to the UN warning that Israel’s planned expansion into the occupied territories would lead to more war crimes being committed.

The UN investigators interviewed over 50 people who were driven from their homes. They described how their livelihoods were destroyed and their land was confiscated, and how they were subjected to continuous violence from Jewish settlers.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” said the report.

The report has the potential to significantly worsen the UN’s already-strained relationship with Israel, particularly after Israeli representatives failed to appear at a UN human rights review two days ago.

The Israeli government has repeatedly ignored international condemnations of its settlements in the occupied territories, and continues to bar the entry of a Human Rights Council probe to assess the impact of the settlements. Israel has insisted that the organization is biased in favor of the Palestinians, and claimed that historic and biblical ties justify its claim to the territories.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel boycotts UN forum, first state in history to ignore human rights review

RT | January, 2013

Israel has boycotted the UN human rights forum over fears of scrutiny of its treatment of residents of the occupied territories. Israel is now the first state in history to win a deferment of the periodical review of its human rights record.

Tel Aviv has refused to send a delegation on Tuesday to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review procedure where UN member states have their human rights record evaluated every four years.

Israel’s cooperation with the council stopped last March after the UN set up a committee to inspect the effects of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians.

Israel which earlier accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias reiterated its stance, recalling that the council has passed more resolutions against Israel than all other countries combined.

“After a series of votes and statements and incidents we have decided to suspend our working relations with that body,” Yigal Palmor, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told the Financial Times. “I can confirm that there is no change in that policy.”

“There have been more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world put together,” an Israeli government official said on Tuesday. “It’s not a fair game – it’s not even a game.”

Following the Israeli decision, the council has decided to postpone its review until no later than November.

The Council president has also called on the body to adopt a draft response to an unprecedented move by Israel.

Egypt’s representative meanwhile has warned that a “soft” approach would create a dangerous precedent and leave “a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation,” the AFP quoted.

Activist groups have lashed out against Israel’s disregard for international law.

“By not participating in its own review, Israel is setting a dangerous precedent,” Eilis Ni Chaithnia, an advocacy officer with al-Haq, a human rights organisation based in Ramallah has told the FT. “This is the first time any country has made a determined effort not to attend.”

Others thought that the council’s decision to delay gives Tel Aviv the opportunity to make amends. Eight Israeli human rights organizations issued a statement saying, “Israel now has a golden opportunity to reverse its decision not to participate,” adding “it is legitimate for Israel to express criticism of the work of the Council and its recommendations, but Israel should do so through engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, as it has done in previous sessions,” JTA quotes.

The investigation into Israel’s Human Rights record began in 2007, but last year the UN started to pay particular attention to Israel’s activities in the West Bank.

The probe at the time prompted an angry response from the country’s leader.

“This is a hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Senior Israeli officials announced last month that Israel does not intend to cancel plans to accelerate settlement construction.

Netanyahu himself said in an interview with Israeli Channel 2 last month that the … area “is not occupied territory” and that he “does not care” what the UN thinks about it.

Around 500,000 Israelis and 2.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, areas that, along with Gaza, the Palestinians want for a future state.

The United Nations regards all Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Tel Aviv last attended the human rights review in 2008. Israel is not a member of the Council, which is comprised of 47 UN member states.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel plans boycott of UN human rights review

Al-Akhbar | January 29, 2013

Israel planned on boycotting a routine review of its human rights situation by the United Nations Tuesday, despite threats of “unspecified action” by the UN Human Rights Council if it did not cooperate.

According to Israeli media, Israel would be the only UN member state to ever boycott the yearly UNHRC Universal Periodic Review since the process’ inception in 2006.

Israel unilaterally severed ties with UNHRC in March 2012 over a planned fact-finding mission over illegal West Bank settlements.

According to news website The Times of Israel, Israel has participated in the first round of reviews in October 2011, before asking the council to postpone Israel’s review with no justification.

Israel later accused the Human Rights Council of “anti-Israel moves.”

“We are under an ongoing policy of suspension of all our contacts with the Human Rights Council in Geneva and all its branches after their sequence of systematically anti-Israel moves, which have come to contradict the mission statement of the organizations and sheer common sense” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel Sunday.

Israel’s review is still scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon, and it remains unclear as to whether a representative of the Jewish state will actually attend the meeting.

If Israel follows through with its boycott, it could set a negative precedent for other countries unwilling to respond to accusations of human rights violations.

The website for the UPR specifies that in case of “persistent non-cooperation,” “the Human Rights Council will decide on the measures it would need to take” against the offending state.

UNHRC spokesman Rolando Gomez warned that “if a delegation from the country was not to attend then action, as yet unspecified, would be taken.”

The UNHRC review of Israel is overseen by the Maldives, Sierra Leone and Venezuela.

Israel has fought back and criticized many investigations into its treatment of Palestinians, including on illegal settlements and the use of drones.

Its relationship with the Human Rights Council has been tense for years, most notably since 2007, when the council made Israel’s actions in Occupied Palestine a permanent item on the agenda.

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on Israel plans boycott of UN human rights review