Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

The displaced Libyans reported theft, arrests, torture and forcible disappearances at the hands of groups linked to the Haftar-led LNA.

Thousands denied return to Benghazi by Libya general's allies Thursday 1 February 2018

Armed groups, some linked to the self-styled Libyan National Army, have prevented thousands of internally displaced families from returning to their homes in the eastern city of Benghazi, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The displaced Libyans reported theft of property, arrests, torture and forcible disappearances at the hands of groups linked to the LNA, which is led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar, HRW said in a statement

According to the rights group, an estimated 13,000 families fled Benghazi after Haftar launched a campaign against militants in 2014. It called on Haftar to "act resolutely to end the attacks on civilians in Benghazi".

"Senior LNA commanders who have stood by since 2014 while their forces torture and disappear people and plunder their property can and should be held to account by local or international courts," HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Eric Goldstein, said.

In January, Haftar instructed his forces to facilitate the return of those who were displaced and denounced forced displacement and assaults on private property.

The Misrata municipal council has also called on the UN-backed government to postpone its decision to allow internally displaced people to return to Tawergha. The town was used as a staging ground for attacks on Misrata during the 2011 uprising that eventually toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The Tripoli-based government announced in December that Tawergha residents would be allowed to return in February. The decision followed a reconciliation deal between representatives of Tawergha and the city of Misrata.

Tawergha, located some 38 kilometres (23 miles) south of Misrata, has been a ghost town since anti-Gaddafi militias, mainly from Misrata, ransacked the town and drove out its residents, believing they had aided his forces during the uprising.

Wednesday's statement by the Misrata city council said the postponement was necessary because "media escalation from some parties" disrupted security arrangements.

Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising and is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by myriad militias.

Armed groups, some linked with prominent Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, are preventing thousands of displaced families from returning to the eastern city of Benghazi, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Thursday.

HRW: East Libyan groups targeting displaced families, preventing returns February 1, 2018

Groups affiliated to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) have seized property from displaced families, and tortured, abducted or arrested people who tried to resist, HRW said it had heard from their relatives.

The LNA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last month, Haftar issued a statement denouncing attacks on private property and calling for LNA forces to help the displaced return.

The LNA prevailed last year in a long military campaign against Islamists and other opponents of Haftar for control of Benghazi. Haftar has emerged as the dominant figure in eastern Libya and is a likely presidential candidate in elections that the United Nations says it wants to hold by the end of the year.

The war in Benghazi was part of a wider conflict that developed in Libya after a 2011 uprising ended more than four decades of rule by Muammar Gaddafi, and has seen tens of thousands of people displaced across the country.

Since the start of Haftar’s “Dignity Operation” in May 2014, around 13,000 families have fled Benghazi, and at least 3,700 families are being blocked from returning, HRW said, citing local activists.

The rights group called on Haftar to end the attacks against civilians. “Senior LNA commanders who have stood by since 2014 while their forces torture and disappear people and plunder their property can and should be held to account by local or international courts,” Eric Goldstein, HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement.

Some displaced families interviewed by HRW said they were unable to return to Benghazi due to threats even though none of their relatives had fought against the LNA. Most said their families had been targeted on the pretext that they or their relatives were linked to Islamic State.

HRW said five relatives of interviewees were among 36 victims found in the town of Al-Abyar in October, the worst in a series of such incidents.

“We are now seeing a very frightening acceleration of extra-judicial killing, or people who appear to be prisoners, appear to be alive when they are caught, and the family loses track of them and then they turn up dead,” HRW senior Libya researcher Hanan Salah said by phone.

“We are continuously documenting the exact same cases of people who disappear at night, whose parents are then afraid to go look for them, and who turn up dead in a dump.”

In some cases, the fact that families long resident in Benghazi had origins in western Libya and particularly in Misrata, a bastion of opposition to Haftar, was used against them, said Salah.

“This is going to make any future settlement very difficult, and future reconciliation or accountability very, very difficult,” she said.

Taner Kilic had been granted conditional release after spending eight months in detention.

Turkey detains Amnesty chief after court orders release Thursday 1 February 2018

Turkish police took back into custody the head of rights group Amnesty International in Turkey, hours after an Istanbul court ordered his conditional release, the rights group said on Thursday.

Taner Kilic has been held since June 2017, when he was detained on suspicion of being part of the group led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kilic has consistently denied the claims, while Amnesty has branded them as "baseless".

The Turkish authorities refers to the Gulen movement as a "terrorist organisation" but Gulen strongly denies any link to the coup bid.

Kilic's supporters were relieved on Wednesday when the Istanbul court ordered his release from a jail in the Aegean city of Izmir under judicial control.

But hours later, a new arrest warrant was issued for Kilic, and he was taken back into custody, Amnesty said.

"We flew to Izmir and drove to the prison, hoping to witness Taner's release with his family. Instead, around midnight, Amnesty International witnessed Taner being taken from the Izmir prison into gendarmerie custody in a station nearby," Amnesty's Europe director, Gauri van Gulik, said on Twitter.

'Odd legal manoeuvres' - Gulik said Kilic's lawyers discovered the prosecutor had appealed the court's decision.

While the Istanbul court rejected the appeal, it nonetheless sent the application to another court for a decision on Kilic's detention.

"While no formal decision was communicated to lawyers, gendarmerie said there is an arrest warrant out for him," she said.

Gulik denounced the "odd legal manoeuvres... used to keep him behind bars", adding that Kilic would be taken to court later on Thursday for a ruling.

Kilic had been on trial along with 10 other rights activists including Amnesty's Turkey director, Idil Eser, German activist Peter Steudtner and Swedish colleague Ali Gharavi.

The other 10 were all released last year though their trial continues, with the next hearing set for 21 June.

The 10 are accused of links to Gulen and other outlawed groups including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey.

Following the 2016 failed coup, Turkey introduced a state of emergency which was renewed last month for the sixth time.

More than 55,000 people have been taken into custody over suspected links to Gulen and for alleged support for "terrorism" under the state of emergency.

Amnesty's researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, said ahead of the Wednesday verdict that the human rights environment "continues to be as bad or worse than before" in Turkey and that Kilic's case was "not unique".

"Human rights defenders are on trial in Ankara, Diyarbakir, Istanbul and elsewhere," he told AFP.

"The overall environment is of course very negative and in these cases it is very hard to believe that a fair trial will be respected."
Group also criticized Ankara for returning Syrian refugees to a war zone.

Turkey must end 'lethal force' against fleeing Syrians: HRW Saturday 3 February 2018

Human Rights Watch called on Ankara on Saturday to stop using "lethal force" against Syrians trying to cross into Turkey, urging it to open its border to those seeking asylum.

A major offensive waged by Syrian government troops in the northwestern province of Idlib has displaced more than 270,000 people since mid-December, according to the United Nations.

Many have tried to flee into Turkey, but border guards have been "indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning Syrian asylum seekers," HRW said.

Turkey, which hosts an estimated 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has tried to push back anyone trying to enter across its southern border since August 2015.

Some Syrians have managed to cross by resorting to the services of smugglers, including more than a dozen who crossed between May and December 2017 and shared their accounts with HRW .

"Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse," HRW's deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih said.

Others described being detained, beaten and prevented from seeking medical attention, and said at least 10 people, including a child, were killed by fire from Turkish border guards.

"The Turkish government should issue standard instructions to the border guards at all crossing points that lethal force must not be used against asylum seekers and no asylum seeker is to be mistreated, but should be given access to medical aid when required," HRW said.

"It should ensure that all crossing points comply with these core legal obligations, as well as the ban on refoulement," the return of refugees to a country where they could be persecuted.

Speaking to HRW , refugees said that aside from the danger of being shot at by border guards, their journeys were marked by landmines, steep climbs, narrow paths along ravines, and valleys.

Public debate on the return of Syrian refugees has been growing in Turkey, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan, which also host large numbers.

But HRW warned that Syria remained too dangerous for civilians to be sent back, particularly after Turkey opened up a new front in the conflict last month with a cross-border assault on Kurdish militia in the Afrin enclave.

"Conditions in Syria are not safe for refugee returns," Fakih said.

"With hostilities in Afrin contributing to the growing displacement crisis in the country, Turkey should allow the thousands of desperate Syrians seeking refuge to cross the border."

The Al Khalifa regime has deported eight people to war-torn Iraq after revoking their citizenship and making them stateless, Human Rights Watch said Sunday.

Bahrain Deports 8 after Revoking Their Citizenship: HRW February, 04, 2018

The eight were deported to Iraq's southern Shiite city of Najaf on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 after being stripped of their nationality in 2012, the New York-based watchdog said.

"Bahraini authorities have dropped all pretense of pluralism and tolerance for dissent and are clearly stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable," HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said, AFP reported.

"Bahrainis who dare speak out for change now risk not only arbitrary detention and torture but statelessness and deportation to an uncertain future," she said.

The eight deportees were among 31 Bahraini activists and human rights lawyers whose citizenship was revoked in November 2012 on the grounds of damaging national security, HRW said.

Only five of those 31 defendants had dual citizenship, HRW said, leaving the majority stateless.

"Bahrain should immediately put an end to these arbitrary deportations and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless or whose citizenship was revoked unfairly or arbitrarily," the watchdog said in a statement.

Under Bahrain's citizenship law, amended after anti-regime protests broke out in 2011, individuals who engage in acts deemed "disloyal" to the state can be stripped of their nationality.

HRW has called on Bahrain to repeal its citizenship laws.

BEIRUT: Arpi Kruzian has lived on the coastline east of Beirut for three decades. But now her balcony has a different view: A massive mound of trash rising on the Mediterranean.

No end to crisis in sight as Lebanon’s garbage mountains grow Sunday 4 February 2018

This used to be the sea,” she said outside her home. “One day we looked out, we couldn’t see the sea.”
Trucks and bulldozers have piled waste at a land reclamation site there since last year. “In the summer, we died from the stench,” she said. “You can’t control the smell ... it seeps in from under the doors.”

Landfills and dumpsites — many infamously known as “garbage mountains” — have mushroomed across Lebanon since the 1990s.

The mess peaked in 2015 when the capital’s main landfill shut down, after running well beyond its expiry date.

Heaps of rubbish festered in the summer heat for months. Politicians wrangled over what to do, and the trash crisis of 2015 sparked a protest movement. It became a glaring symbol of a sectarian power system unable to meet basic needs like electricity and water.

The government has since managed to get the waste off the streets and out of Beirut, partly through more landfills. But residents and environmentalists accuse it of failing to reach a permanent solution — warning of dire consequences on the Mediterranean and public health.

Last month, the Cabinet agreed to expand two seaside landfills at the outskirts of Beirut. Both had started as stop-gaps to resolve the 2015 crisis.
“Lebanon seems to be addicted to these coastal landfills,” said Bassam Khawaja, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “They cannot keep jumping from one emergency solution to the next ... It is remarkable that we don’t have a national law regulating waste.”
Authorities have not conducted any studies on the environmental impact of the two dumps, near the Beirut airport and the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood, he said.

The expansion will include a composting plant at the landfill by the airport — which Khawaja said would be “an important step if it actually happens.”
Lebanon has relied on a string of temporary fixes since an emergency waste plan in the late 1990s, after the end of its 15-year civil war, he said. The government has left local municipal councils to their own devices without the right resources or funding, especially outside the capital.

For residents and activists, the mess stems from corruption and gridlock at the heart of government, where private firms allied to politicians routinely fight over lucrative contracts.

A HRW report in December said hundreds of unsanitary, makeshift dumps have spread across the country. The US-based group said 150 of them burn rubbish out in the open every week. Government officials have repeatedly banned open burning.

The environment ministry could not be reached for comment after repeated requests.

The ministry has crafted an outline for a waste system that focuses on recycling and gradually closing dumpsites, which Cabinet approved this month.

Environment Minister Tarek Khatib says his office is fulfilling its duties. “We will launch a garbage plan in cooperation with the municipalities,” he said last week, when piles of refuse washed up on the shore north of Beirut.

Photos circulated widely showed plastic bags and rot covering the beach after a storm. Officials have traded blame over such incidents in the run-up to parliamentary elections in May.

Over the past year, Joe Salem has watched the hill of rubbish growing on the coast east of Beirut from his window. He gave the workers at his aluminum factory surgical masks and filled the place with air fresheners. “When a customer comes in, the smell of scum and dirt enters,” he said, pointing at the dumpsite behind the mall in the Dora suburbs. “We can’t open the windows. We spend our time with the rats,” Salem added. “It’s a catastrophe for the environment, for the people who live in the street.”

But complaining to authorities is hopeless, he said. “People (object) and shut roads and do this and that. Nobody answers them.”
Report: Hundreds of thousands of refugees being pushed to return to Syria Mon. February 5, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are at risk of being pushed to return to Syria this year despite ongoing violence endangering the lives of civilians, leading humanitarian agencies warned in a report released today.

The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) cautioned that misleading rhetoric about the reality in Syria is prompting neighbouring governments, as well as Europe and the United States, to consider closing their borders and forcing Syrian refugees back.

However, bombing is continuing to take place on a daily basis in many civilian areas, particularly in the northern provinces of Idlib and Hama, as well as the suburb of Eastern Ghouta outside of Damascus. Both regions were designated de-escalation zones in order to stem the bloodshed, a status the UN has called to be respected in the wake of an intensified assault in recent months.

Forces allied to the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have also been found to be in violation of international law on multiple occasions in using chemical weaponry against civilians and targeting hospitals treating the wounded. The regime has also been accused of implementing a “surrender or starve” strategy, imposing a siege on opposition-held areas and refusing to admit humanitarian aid, which according to Amnesty International, amounts to a war crime.

The report found that for every Syrian who returned home last year, three more were newly displaced.

“The majority of Syrian refugees and internally displaced live under terrible conditions and want to return home, but their return must be informed, voluntary, safe, assisted and protected. Now, return would neither be safe nor voluntary for the vast majority who fled the war and the violence,” NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said in a statement.

Some 2.4 million Syrians were forced from their homes in the first nine months of 2017 and remain in the country according to the Whole of Syria Protection Needs Overview, and 629,000 more fled to neighbouring nations according to UNHCR figures.

The report found that wealthier countries have failed to meet their commitments to take in those fleeing the conflict; so far only three per cent of Syrian refugees have been resettled in developed countries.

Last year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees more than halved submissions for resettling Syrian refugees to rich countries compared with the previous year, largely due to US President Donald Trump’s cap on refugees. However, politicians in Europe, notably in Denmark and Germany, are also now discussing the deportation of refugees back to Syria.

Neighbouring nations have also started to transport refugees back to Syria. Between January and October last year, around 250,000 people were forced back at the Turkish border, whilst Jordanian authorities reportedly deported about 400 refugees a month, often separating families in the process. In Lebanon, up to 10,000 refugees are estimated to have been returned to Syria by bus; it is unknown whether such a move was voluntary or forced.

The report comes amid new claims that Syrians fleeing the Turkish offensive on the Afrin region, have been turned away from the border with Turkish guards indiscriminately shooting at those attempting to cross into the country.

Of 16 refugees interviewed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), 13 allege that Turkish border guards had shot towards them. Turkish officials have denied that such events took place, as the country has maintained an open door policy since the start of the war in 2011.

HRW called on the Turkish government to issue standard instructions to border guards at all crossing points that lethal force must not be used against asylum seekers and that no asylum seeker is to be mistreated.

The conflict in Syria, now entering its eighth year, has displaced over half the pre-war population; 6.1 million people are internally displaced, over five million are refugees in neighbouring countries, and more than a million have fled to Europe.

Human Rights Watch accused the Iraqi authorities of forcing 235 families to flee their areas west of Kirkuk to refugee camps on suspicion that they had links to Daesh militants.

HRW: Iraq forcefully displaced 235 families over Daesh ties February 5, 2018

“Officials, camp management and three international organizations have confirmed that in early January 2018, Iraqi forces forcibly displaced at least 235 families of suspected affiliates of the Islamic State [Daesh],” the rights group said in a report.

Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, added: “By forcibly displacing these families, the Iraqi authorities destine their members to a grim future, under difficult economic conditions, limited educational opportunities, and poor living conditions in the camps.”

The manager of Daqouq camp, located 30 kilometres south of Kirkuk, told HRW that 220 families had been received since 4 January; all were from villages in the Hawija area, west of Kirkuk, and were brought over by Iraqi forces because they were alleged relatives of Daesh members.

According to the report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 24 people from 19 families who said they were brought to the camp between 4-9 January from ten villages.

According to them, “the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilisation Forces gathered the families without warning, in a coordinated manner based on lists they had and brought them to the camp after screening them in military bases”.

Iraqi forces recaptured the Hawija district from Daesh on 8 October last year.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) today slammed the Bahraini government over deporting citizens after being arbitrarily stripped of their nationality.

HRW: Bahrain punishes opponents through revoking citizenship, deportation February 5, 2018

“Bahraini authorities have deported eight stateless Bahrainis, whom they had previously stripped of their citizenship on 28 January 2018,” HRW said.

The deportations followed an appeals court decision to uphold a 2012 ruling that ordered the deportation and stripping of citizenship of nine Bahraini nationals for “damaging state security.”

“Bahraini authorities have dropped all pretense of pluralism and tolerance for dissent and are clearly stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable,” HRW’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said.

“Bahrainis who dare speak out for change now risk not only arbitrary detention and torture but statelessness and deportation to an uncertain future,” Whitson added.

“By slapping human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars with arbitrary citizenship revocations and deportations, Bahraini authorities are reducing courts to rubber-stamps on their quest to stifle dissent completely,” she noted.

The New York-based watchdog pointed out that the authorities had deported six of the stateless Bahrainis to the Iraqi city of Najaf, while the two others were deported to Iran.

Since 2012, the Bahraini authorities have stripped 578 nationals of their citizenship, leaving many stateless. On 31 January, the Fourth High Criminal Court stripped 47 people of their citizenship on terrorism related charges, while on 1 February the same court stripped another 27 people of their citizenship, according to the rights organization.

“Bahrain should immediately put an end to these arbitrary deportations and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless or whose citizenship was revoked unfairly or arbitrarily,” the watchdog stressed.

Citing recent bomb attacks and shootings at Bahraini security forces over the past seven years, the Bahraini government says it faces threats from Iranian-backed militants. It has also accused Iran of backing the 2011 protests and attempting to overthrow the current administration.

Turkish guards at the border with Syria are indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning asylum seekers attempting to cross into Turkey,Human Rights Watch said.

Turkey denies report border guards shot at fleeing Syrians February 4, 2018

A senior Turkish government official denied the report on Saturday, repeating that Turkey had taken in 3.5 million war refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Syrians were now fleeing heightened violence in the northwestern province of Idlib to seek refuge near Turkey’s border, which remains closed to all but critical medical cases.

Syrian armed forces have thrust deeper into the mainly rebel-held province in recent months and Turkey last month launched military action in the nearby Afrin region, targeting Kurdish YPG militia fighters.

“Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse,” Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, asked about the HRW statement, told reporters that Turkish soldiers were there to protect these people and that Ankara has had an “open-door policy” since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011.

A senior government official later told Reuters: There has been absolutely no case of civilians being fired upon at the border.

HRW cited UN figures saying 247,000 Syrians were displaced to the border area between December 15 and January 15.

“As fighting in Idlib and Afrin displaces thousands more, the number of Syrians trapped along the border willing to risk their lives to reach Turkey is only likely to increase,” Fakih said.

In the latest fighting in Afrin, five Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday when their tank was hit in an attack carried out by YPG fighters, Turkey’s armed forces said.
Iraqi Kurdish soldiers have been accused of conducting mass executions of captured Daesh fighters by Human Rights Watch (HRW.) The alleged massacre occurred after a clash between the two groups near the Iraqi-Syrian border in late August through early September.

Iraqi Kurds Systematically Executed Hundreds of Captured Daesh Fighters- Report 09.02.2018

HRW said on Friday that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters detained Daesh fighters at a school in Sahel al-Maliha, a town 45 miles northwest of Mosul — the site of one of the last major battles against Daesh in Iraq. Coalition forces, including many Kurdish fighters, wrested control of the city from Daesh in July 2017.

"The evidence suggests that Asayish security forces [the Kurdistani security force] conducted mass executions of captured [Daesh] suspects night after night for a week, perhaps killing scores or even hundreds of male detainees," said Lama Fakih, HRW's deputy Middle East director in the statement.

"Iraqi and KRG [Kurdish Regional Government] authorities should urgently and transparently investigate the allegations of mass executions and hold those responsible to account."

HRW was not able to find any witnesses to confirm their report, but a retired Asayish fighter told them that he had spoken to Peshmergas who had participated in the mass executions. The former fighter, who went by the pseudonym "Nadim," said he was told by one of the Asayish that they had executed at least 170 captives, possibly more.

"Because the mass grave site is located within the flood zone of the Mosul Dam reservoir, it is critically important to urgently allow international forensic experts to conduct a detailed exhumation of the site before seasonal rains fill the reservoir again later this year," the HRW report said.

Asayish leaders denied the report when asked about it. Kurdish official Dindar Zebari said that in their report of the incident, the Asayish claimed to have been chasing the militants as they were trying to flee across the Syrian border.

The bodies discovered by HRW were from that battle, Zebari added. "The corpses of the killed [Daesh] members in this fighting were probably brought to one place to be buried," he said.

But HRW cast their doubts on the Peshmerga version of the events. They argued that the bodies were discovered around 25 miles from the site of the alleged battle, and the conditions of the corpses did not suggest that they were killed in pitched combat.

"This explanation does not match the state the bodies were found in, shot in the head" and buried "in a solitary desert area, far from where any fighting had occurred," the watchdog group said.

Mosul acted as the de facto capital of Daesh's presence in Iraq while they remained a territory-holding entity. The nine-month-long campaign to retake the city heralded the beginning of the end for Daesh, as they lost the last of their Iraqi territory in December 2017.

However, Daesh survives as a guerrilla and terrorist group. Their highest profile attack since then was in mid-January when a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad left 27 dead.

The mass execution of at least 100 suspected IS fighters by Asayish security forces could amount to war crimes.

KRG accused of mass executions of suspected IS militants Friday 9 February 2018

Security forces loyal to the Kurdish Regional Government carried out mass executions of suspected Islamic State fighters in its custody near Mosul, at the height of its campaign against the militant group.

Human Rights Watch said it had new evidence that showed members of the Asayish security force killing at least 100 suspected IS militants under its custody and burying them in two mass graves.

The rights group said that the Asayish force's actions of killing individuals in its custody could amount to war crimes.

Some of the suspected IS fighters allegedly died from the cold after being loaded into large refrigerator trucks by the Asayish and kept there for seven hours.

Other suspected militants suffocated to death after being thrown into a mass grave.

And suspected fighters were shot dead and buried in the mass graves, alongside other suspected militants who were still alive, according to testimony given by residents to HRW.

Based on satellite imagery, visits to the alleged mass grave sites, and testimony from a retired KRG security member and residents, the rights group claimed that the mass executions took place between August and September 2017.

Nadim, a retired KRG security force member, told HRW that Asayish members he was in regular contact with confirmed to him that they took part in the executions.

The retired fighter claimed that in August 2017, a friend of his in the Asayish said that he and other KRG fighters had taken about 80 detainees suspected of being affiliated with IS from the Shilga prison in northern Iraq, and had executed them outside the village of Tal Ahmad Agha al-Kabir.

Other suspected IS fighters killed by the Asayish were executed outside the village of Bardiya, according to Nadim.

Photographic evidence from social media and another witness statement also "partially" corroborated Nadim's statement.

Researchers from HRW also analysed video and photographic evidence, including geotagged photos of bodies and satellite imagery showing the apparent mass grave was created between July and September 2017 by bulldozers.

They also interviewed locals who supported the claims made by Nadim and said that they saw Kurdish forces drive through the area with two large white refrigerator trucks.

Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, urged the KRG to investigate the claims and "hold those responsible to account."

"The evidence suggests that Asayish security forces conducted mass executions of captured ISIS suspects night after night for a week, perhaps killing scores or even hundreds of male detainees," Fakih said in a statement.
Some 800 women who had joined Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) are being detained in the Kurdish regions of Northern Syria with their children, German newspaper Die Welt reported on Saturday, citing a terrorism expert from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

800 Female ISIL Terrorists Detained in Northern Syria Sat Feb 10, 2018

Among the 800 were 15 German women, HRW's Nadim Houry said. He told the paper he had met and spoken to the women in January. The female Daesh members and their children were detained across several camps in the region, he added, Daily Sabah reported.

The women were from 40 different countries including Canada, France, Britain, Turkey and Australia, Houry stressed.

"These women are in a very difficult situation," he said, adding that "Especially for the small children the conditions are by no means good."

The women wanted to return home even if that meant having to face prosecution, he added, calling on European governments to allow the children to return.

"The children have not committed any crimes, they are the victims of the war and often their radicalized parents," he underlined.
In its first-ever nursing home report, Human Rights Watch slams the "massive" nonconsensual drugging of residents, enabled by a government enforcement system that coddles violators.

Report Finds Widespread Human Rights Violations in Nursing Homes Feb. 5, 2018

The report is a comprehensive overview of the reasons for, and outcomes of, the terrible overuse of psychotropic drugs as chemical restraints to sedate and subdue residents. The reasons for the epidemic are:

- Weak enforcement of rules to prevent inappropriate drugging. Over 97% of the violations reviewed by HRW resulted in low level deficiency findings of "no harm."

- Managers of nursing home chains and facilities who permit a drug-first culture to keep residents docile.

- Chronic understaffing causing resident needs to go unmet.

These factors, along with others, have led to poor care and sad outcomes for residents illustrated in the report. Their stories highlight the real world consequences of a nursing home industry that gives psychotropic drugs to nearly two-thirds of residents.

For the past few years, regulators have trumpeted slow drugging reductions generated by a national campaign to improve dementia care. The campaign has withered in recent years and drugging reductions have come to a standstill since 2016. Many nursing homes have actually increased their drugging during the campaign, which should stand as an industry embarrassment.

Hopefully the HRW report will reenergize the flagging national campaign and call needed attention to the human rights deprivations that characterize care in a lot of nursing homes. The report can be read here:

A short accompanying video can be seen here:

(Comment: Long report with HRW dotted through out the article.)
Human rights watchdog urges Kuwait to agree on new worker safeguards with the Philippines Thursday 22 February 2018

Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait to agree to greater protection for migrant workers as a Philippine delegation was due in the emirate Thursday to discuss an outcry over alleged abuses of Filipinos.

But the New York-based watchdog also criticized a ban imposed by the Philippines last week on migrants leaving to work in Kuwait, saying it was likely to increase the number resorting to unregulated channels that exposed them to a greater risk of abuse.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed the ban in response to the murder of a Filipino maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this month.

He triggered a diplomatic row with Kuwait by alleging that Arab employers routinely raped their Filipino workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day and fed them scraps.

“Kuwait should confront the outcry over deaths, beatings and rapes of domestic workers by taking immediate steps to reform the kafala system, which traps workers with abusive employers,” HRW’s Middle East women’s rights researcher Rothna Begum said in a statement late Wednesday.

The kafala or sponsorship system, widely prevalent in the oil-rich Gulf states, ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving or changing jobs without prior consent. “The Philippines should work with Kuwait to protect workers rather than ban them from migrating, which is more likely to cause harm than to help,” Begum said.

“Both Kuwait and the Philippines have an opportunity to work together to increase protections for domestic workers and fix the gaps that are leaving workers vulnerable to extreme abuse.”

Kuwait has said it is investigating reported deaths and abuses, and insisted there were only a small number considering that there are more than 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait.

It has invited Duterte to visit the emirate but he has yet to respond.

The Philippine delegation due in Kuwait later on Thursday is headed by Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad.

It is due to travel on to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two other Gulf states with large Philippine migrant workforces.

In all, there are more than two million Filipinos working in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.

Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the delegation to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.

Duterte also wants Filipinos to have access to cellphones so they can call for help in case of abuse, Lagunzad said.

The deteriorating human rights situation in the US cannot be fully assigned to the policies of incumbent President Donald Trump, as he inherited a number of issues from previous administrations, senior director for research at the Amnesty International human rights watchdog,

Human Rights Issues Deepen Under Trump, Yet Stem From Other Presidents - Amnesty 22.02.2018

"What is happening in the United States now has not been there for many years, not under Democratic, not under Republican presidents. But part of the problem, in particular Guantanamo, was not invented by Trump," Anna Neistat, senior director for research at the Amnesty International human rights watchdog said, referring to a detention camp established by then US President George W. Bush's administration in 2002.

Earlier in the day, Amnesty International released its annual report in the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 2018. The report indicates that the human rights situation in the United States has deteriorated since Trump took office in January 2017. In particular, the report accuses Trump of "hate-filled rhetoric" and condemns his administration's immigration policies that bar people of certain countries from seeking asylum in the United States and threats to increase detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Trump's presidency did worsen problems like violence in prisons and the illegal use of weapons by the police but has not been the root cause, Neistat stressed.

"We see that [Trump] is not ready to take any steps to solve this [Guantanamo] problem… or the problem of violence in prisons, the problem with police using weapons — in many cases illegally. All these problems that his presidency has aggravated, but did not introduce," Neistat said.

Neistat stated that Amnesty International was conducting a major project in the United States dedicated to gun violence. One of the main issues surrounding this problem, according to the watchdog, lies between the internationally recognized right to life and the right to bear arms that is cemented in the US Constitution.

"We do not compare the right to carry arms with the right to life, but nevertheless, we have to remember that the right to carry arms is specifically American, it is anchored in the Constitution and is not related to international human rights. The right to life is protected by the international system of human rights, part of which is the United States. So, we do not talk about actions made by individuals, we talk about state system, which allows these actions to take lives of other people," Neistat said.

The Amnesty International report, released on Friday, also slammed the Trump administration's bid to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border; and decisions to end several programs for immigrants, such as the Central American Minors program that allowed children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to request refugee status, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The government of Afghanistan and US military deployed in the country must investigate reports of alleged executions of civilians by Afghan forces in Kandahar province during military operations held late on January 31, a prominent non-governmental human rights organization said on Wednesday.

HRW Urges Afghan Gov't, US to Probe Alleged Executions of Civilians 21.02.2018

The alleged deaths of at least twenty civilians in Band-e Timor demands a prompt and impartial investigation. Summarily executing people in custody, whether they are fighters or civilians, is a war crime. Only a full investigation can uncover all who may be responsible," Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher in Human Rights Watch, said.

The Afghan government's inability to investigate past crimes by security forces of Kandahar makes an investigation of the incident even more important, Gossman stressed. "Unlawful killings won’t stop unless there is real accountability," she said.

On January 31, the Special Forces Unit of the Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS), backed by US airstrikes, started an offensive against Taliban militants in the Band-e Timor area of Maiwand district and the Reg area of Panjwai district in the province of Kandahar.

According to Human Rights Watch, during the operation, Afghan security forces opened fire on men as they attempted to flee, killing about 50 Taliban militants and at least 20 civilians.

Last August, US President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy, in which he pledged to continue US support for the Afghan government and military. Trump also said the mandate of US troops to target terrorists in Afghanistan would be expanded and approved sending an additional 4,000 troops to the country.

Afghanistan has been suffering for decades from activities of terrorist groups on its soil, including Taliban and Daesh.
Monday 23 April 2018 - Egypt fight against Islamic State could spark humanitarian crisis, says HRW
Egypt fight against Islamic State could spark humanitarian crisis, says HRW

Egypt's military operations against an affiliate of the Islamic State group in North Sinai is threatening to spark a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The offensive launched on 9 February "has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid," said the New York-based organization.

The campaign "has included imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of" North Sinai, HRW said in a report.

"Residents say they have experienced sharply diminished supplies of available food, medicine, cooking gas, and other essential commercial goods."

The authorities conducting the campaign, dubbed "Sinai 2018", have also banned the sale of gasoline for cars in the area "and cut telecommunication services for several days at a time," the report said.

Human Rights Watch also said authorities had "cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed."

"A counterterrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the organisation's Middle East and North Africa director.

"The Egyptian army's actions border on collective punishment," she added.

Since the launch of the offensive, the military has distributed images of forces providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the area.

According to the military, residents support the campaign and many have come forward with useful information to help the authorities neutralise the militants.

Security forces have stepped up efforts to quell attacks by an Egyptian militant group that later declared allegiance to IS. Attacks increased following the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt.

More than 100 militants and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing operation, according to army figures.
Sat Apr 28, 2018 - Amnesty International Calls on Europeans to Come Clean about Aiding Unlawful US Drone Strikes

Amnesty International warned that European nations assisting the US with its killer drone program could be made responsible for the unlawful killings it results in, calling for more transparency on their part and its reassessment.

This week’s report from the international rights organization focused on its long-held concern over the use of armed drones by the US to kill people throughout the world, RT reported.

Lacking a clear legal justification, conducted with few restraints and shrouded in secrecy, the program has resulted in numerous civilian deaths, some of which may amount to war crimes or extrajudicial executions, the report said.

The European countries that contribute essential assistance to the program should evaluate whether their help makes them complicit in such killings and work to make the program more transparent to public scrutiny, Amnesty stated.

Started under George W. Bush and given a significant boost under Barack Obama, the lethal drone killings have reportedly been further escalated by US President Donald Trump's administration, which rolled back the few restrictions adopted by his predecessor and gave the Pentagon more freedom in deploying armed drones.

Amnesty singled out four European nations; the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy as contributing most to the American program.

The assistance includes providing intelligence for the US to choose targets and hosting critical elements of the infrastructure that ensures the global communication needed to deliver drone attacks.

Italy allows the US to fly drone sorties over Libya from a base in Sicily, while the UK deploys RAF pilots on the command of the US air force’s 432d Wing, which operates drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which may indicate that British pilots take part in those missions, the report said.

Amnesty warned that the four nations may be held accountable under international law for whatever violations the Americans have committed with their help.

“Given the well-known and serious concerns regarding the US lethal drone program’s compliance with international law, providing material or intelligence support to US strikes could mean that the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy are responsible for assisting in potentially unlawful US drone operations and may have violated their own obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” the report stressed, suggesting a number of moves the European nations may take to address the concerns.

The secretive nature of the drone program and the frequently disputed count of militants among those killed in the strike have resulted in widely ranging estimates of the number of civilians killed.

The number of civilians killed in Pakistan since 2004, for example, varies between 424 and 969, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

A similar picture is reported in other countries, which are affected by the US drone program – starting from 2015, at least 137 civilians have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, while the maximum number of casualties might amount to 332.
10 May, 2018 - Israel kicks out high-ranking HRW official over past BDS activism
Israel kicks out high-ranking HRW official over past BDS activism

Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and Palestine Omar Shakir is being deported by Israeli authorities. They accuse him of supporting the boycott movement as HRW decries the move as an attempt to shun criticism.

Shakir's work permit has been revoked and he has to leave Israel within the next 14 days, the Interior Ministry informed HRW in a letter earlier this week. The ruling was based on an Israeli dossier compiled against Shakir, which claimed that the US citizen of Iraqi origin, "has actively and consistently supported strategies calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS), since his early days as a student and into the present. He often retweets and shares content on BDS against Israel."

Shakir has been ordered to start packing despite the fact that the majority of his activities mentioned in the dossier took place before his employment with HRW as a foreign expert in 2016. The ministry specified that the decision relates solely to Shakir and "does not constitute a principled or sweeping refusal for the organization to employ a foreign expert."

It is "unacceptable that a boycott activist gets a permit to stay in Israel in order that [he] can act in every way possible to harm the state," Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said, as quoted by The Times of Israel. "I will work to remove such people from Israel by all means at my disposal and therefore Omar Shakir will leave Israel," Deri added.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who was the one to recommend the revocation of Shakir's work permit, argued that human rights activism was a "false pose" of the HRW official and some others willing to harm the Jewish state.

Shakir's initial application to represent HRW in Israel had been turned down in February 2017, as the country argued that the entire human rights organization's "public activities and reports have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda." Shakir was eventually granted a work visa in late April last year.

Human Rights Watch said on its website that it is going to appeal against the deportation of its employee in court. "Israeli authorities should reverse the decision," the group stressed.

The statement insisted that neither HRW nor Shakir as an individual are engaged in promoting boycotts of Israel. BDS is an international campaign that was launched in Palestine in 2005 in order to persuade Israel to cease the occupation of the West Bank through academic, business and cultural boycotts, as well as other measures.

"This is not about Shakir, but rather about muzzling Human Rights Watch and shutting down criticism of Israel's rights record," Iain Levine, the deputy executive director for program at Human Rights Watch , said.

HRW noted that Israeli authorities are actively working to hamper the activities of human rights organizations in the country. Local advocacy groups have been accused of "slander" and have been put under extensive financial monitoring, while the "Palestinian rights defenders have received anonymous death threats and have been subject to travel restrictions and even arrest and criminal charges."

In late April, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Vincent Warren and CCR board chair Katherine Franke were denied entry to Israel. The rights advocates were detained for 14 hours and interrogated at the Ben Gurion Airport before being sent back to the US.

"The Israeli government denied us entry, apparently because it feared letting in people who might challenge its policies," Warren said after the incident. In 2016, the CCR filed war crimes lawsuits against former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon and former head of Shin Bet security agency Avi Dichter over the deadly Israeli shelling of a UN compound in Lebanon in 1996.
Tue May 15, 2018 - Amnesty: Gaza Killings Constitute 'War Crimes'

The Amnesty International stressed that the attacks on Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday are “willful killings constituting war crimes", as at least 59 Palestinians were shot dead and over 2,700 wounded by snipers who were positioned along the fence.

“This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes,” Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa of the human rights watchdog, said in a statement, Middle East News reported.

“Today’s footage from Gaza is extremely troubling, and as violence continues to spiral out of control, the Israeli authorities must immediately rein in the military to prevent the further loss of life and serious injuries,” Luther added.

He stated that “only last month, Amnesty International called on the international community to stop delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel. The rising toll of deaths and injuries today only serves to highlight the urgent need for an arms embargo".
“While some protestors may have engaged in some form of violence, this still does not justify the use of live ammunition," he said, adding that “under international law, firearms can only be used to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury”.

Thousands of Palestinians have gathered on Gaza Strip’s Eastern border since early Monday morning to take part in protests aimed to commemorate the Nakba anniversary and protest relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

According to Gaza health officials, at least 59 Palestinians were shot dead and over 2,700 wounded by Israeli snipers who were positioned along the fence.

Tue May 15, 2018 - HRW Accuses Turkey of Creating ‘Climate of Fear’ after Coup Attempt

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the government in Ankara of undermining academic freedom and creating a "climate of fear" with the dismissal of thousands of academics and the prosecution of hundreds more following a 2016 abortive coup to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The New York-based rights organization said in a report published on Monday that the mass dismissals and prosecutions along with the Turkish government’s interference in academics’ work and student protests had resulted in self-censorship and curtailed academic freedom in the country, presstv reported.

"The authorities are interfering with student protests on campus, and prosecuting student activists. And officials are interfering with academic research on controversial topics," Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, stated.

"Together these actions are creating a climate of fear and self-censorship on campus, and breaching Turkey's obligations under human rights law to respect and protect academic freedom and freedom of expression," he added.

HRW stressed that that more than 5,800 academics had been sacked from public universities under the state of emergency since the botched putsch in mid-July 2016.

"The Turkish government's crackdown is targeting academics and damaging its universities," Williamson said, adding that "academics and students should be free to express, teach, and research controversial and critical ideas without risking dismissal or imprisonment.”

The rights organization announced that the report was released after interviewing 15 academics and four students from different universities across Turkey.

During the coup attempt, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed over a course of two days.

Ankara has since accused the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police, and the judiciary. The 76-year-old cleric has denounced the “despicable putsch” and claimed that he had no role in it.

Turkey has cracked down on those believed to have played a role in the coup attempt.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
17.05.2018 - Soros-Backed HRW "Trying to make Russia Look Bad" Ahead of World Cup = Lawmaker
Soros-Backed HRW 'Trying to Make Russia Look Bad' Ahead of World Cup - Lawmaker

The New York-based NGO has issued a 49-page "guide for reporters" devoted to what it says is Russia's "deteriorating human rights situation" ahead of the World Cup. Commenting on the report, Spanish journalist Ignacio Ortega and German lawmaker Petr Briston told Sputnik they were disappointed to see this attempt to politicize a sports celebration.

The HRW report, released this week, features page upon page of claims about a Russian "crackdown" on freedom of expression and assembly, a "human rights crisis in Chechnya," "discrimination and violence against the LGBT community," and other issues. It is accompanied by a news article-style piece titled "Russia: Repression, Discrimination Ahead of World Cup," and urges FIFA to "stand up for rights one month before kickoff."

Russia: Repression, Discrimination Ahead of World Cup

Commenting on the report, Mr. Ignacio Ortega, Moscow bureau journalist for Spain's EFE news agency, said that while it's true that Russia has its human rights issues, HRW's report seems like an attempt to mar the World Cup.

"What HRW wants is clear – for people to speak about this issue, and not only about football during the Cup," the journalist said. "Of course I don't think that one should be completely uncritical. But football is football, the Mundial is the Mundial; it should be a holiday…I think there should be two currents [for journalists]: not to give up on any criticism, but at the same time to remember that football is football, and concentrate on this when undertaking to write about the World Cup. This does not mean of course that social problems should be forgotten."

Offering advice to his fellow journalists, Ortega, a veteran resident of Moscow who has lived here for well over a decade, recommended that they "come and see the events with their own eyes, and after that, if you have some problems, to criticize things freely."

As for safety concerns, brought up by HRW and other Western organizations in recent weeks, Ortega stressed that only those looking for trouble will find it. "Take Moscow for example: this city is much safer than let's say Madrid or Barcelona – this is a 100% fact. And in my 14 years here nothing has ever happened to me. I have gone home late after work many times at night or even at dawn…and nothing ever happened. What am I, some sort of anomaly? Nothing of the kind! It's just that Moscow is a massive city with great infrastructure; the same can be said of St. Petersburg."

Petr Briston, the head of the AfD's foreign council group in the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee, offered much harsher criticism of HRW 's World Cup report.

"Human Rights Watch is a left-wing lobby group that is funded by George Soros," the lawmaker pointed out. "They have received $100 million from Soros since 2010, and criticize all conservative governments, whether it's Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu."

The AfD, according to Briston, has no doubt that "EU governments, media and NGOs like Human Rights Watch will work together to make Russia look bad during the World Cup. It's too bad, because countries should be coming together to enjoy the World Cup, but Soros and the EU will do everything they can to divide us and sow hatred in the name of 'human rights'."

Russia will host the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15. The international sporting event will take place at 12 stadiums across 11 Russian cities. Moscow alone expects up to one million fans during the event, with FIFA preparing for sold out arenas across the host cities. Thirty-two teams from across Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia will take part in the championship.

Additional recent "Soros HRW articles against Russia":

May 16, 2018 - Russia Press Freedom Reversal Shows FIFA Has Leverage and Should Use It
Russia Press Freedom Reversal Shows FIFA Has Leverage and Should Use It

May 15, 2018 - Russia: Repression, Discrimination Ahead of World Cup
Russia: Repression, Discrimination Ahead of World Cup

May 15, 2018 - To Free a Human Rights Defender in Russia’s Chechnya
To Free a Human Rights Defender in Russia’s Chechnya

May 3, 2018 - Russia: FIFA Should Urge Kremlin to Free Chechen Activist
Russia: FIFA Should Urge Kremlin to Free Chechen Activist

FIFA Should Help Free Oyub Titiev
Uploaded on May 2, 2018

April 30, 2018 - Russia: Assault on Internet Freedom, Cybersecurity
Russia: Assault on Internet Freedom, Cybersecurity

April 24, 2018 - Russia’s Internet War and its Collateral Damage
Russia’s Internet War and its Collateral Damage

April 13, 2018 - Telegram Loses Free Expression Battle to Russian Authorities
Telegram Loses Free Expression Battle to Russian Authorities

March 21, 2018 - Are you ready for the World Cup of shame?
Are you ready for the World Cup of shame?

March 18, 2018 - Russia Backs Syria in Unlawful Attacks on Eastern Ghouta
Russia Backs Syria in Unlawful Attacks on Eastern Ghouta

March 7, 2018 - UN Security Council Should Protect Eastern Ghouta

March 2, 2018 - Past Time to End Impunity for Atrocities in Eastern Ghouta

February 22, 2018 - Syria/Russia: International Inaction as Civilians Die

February 9, 2018 - Letter to FIFA Regarding Detention, Torture, and Killing of LGBT People in Russia’s Chechen Republic and Threats against Independent Russian Media

January 9, 2018 - UN Security Council Action Over Syria Chemical Attacks Overdue

Amnesty International articles against Russia:

5 May 2018 - Russia: Outrageous use of force against protesters in Moscow and all over the country

4 May 2018 - Russia: Authorities must allow peaceful protests ahead of Putin inauguration

15 March 2018 - Russia: Opposition activists face escalating crackdown as presidential election nears

15 March 2018 - Russian Federation: The right to freedom of peaceful assembly – freedom in all but name

7 October 2017 - Russia: Scores of peaceful protesters detained at rallies on Vladimir Putin’s birthday
Following a damning report on the US coalition’s military activities in Raqqa, journalist Vanessa Beeley announced that the US is trying to ethnically cleanse Syria in order to kill off Syrian nationalism and create an obedient state.

Thu Jun 07, 2018 - Journalist: US Using ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ to Set up Compliant State in Syria

The US, UK and French coalition is using proxy forces to cleanse certain areas of land in the war-torn country in an effort “to replace them with a proxy that will essentially create a US controlled state”, Beeley, an independent journalist who has covered the war in Syria extensively, told RT.

She was responding to a new Amnesty International report that strongly criticizes the actions of the US-led coalition in its campaign to liberate the previously ISIL-controlled city of Raqqa.

The Amnesty report accused the coalition and its Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proxies of creating “a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars”, and it says that the coalition’s claims that the bombings were “precise” and caused few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny.

Beeley said that The Amnesty report put “meat on the bones” of previous analysis from on-the-ground journalists and some Russian analysts and commentators. She added that despite the US-led campaign ostensibly being about ridding the area of ISIL terrorists, it was the terrorists “who were evacuated as priority over the civilians”.

“Civilian property and infrastructure, essential infrastructure like water taps, like water supply units that were keeping civilians alive during the campaign were also being targeted,” she said, adding that it was the SDF forces designating the targets for the US coalition.

“So there’s a degree of collusion here between the US coalition and its proxies forces on the ground,” she stated.

Beeley also criticized the reluctance of the British government, in particular, to admit to causing civilian deaths during its military campaign.

The UK Ministry of Defense, she said “did not even admit one civilian death as a result of their “precision” bombing — and then they only reluctantly admitted that they believe one civilian was killed by one of their drone strikes”.

Comparing the American-led military campaign in Raqqa to the Russian and Syrian-led military campaign to liberate East Aleppo, Beeley said that there were different standards set and attempts were made to protect Aleppo civilians.

“What we saw there were the provision of humanitarian corridors for civilians to be able to leave under the cover of the Syrian Arab Army and with the help of the Russian reconciliation teams negotiating with the terrorist and militant extremist factions to allow civilians to leave,” Beeley stressed.

“What we’ve seen in Raqqa is civilians paying smugglers to try and leave during the military campaign, having to cross minefields, being unable to afford the cost of those smuggling groups,” she stated.

Beeley also said that Syrian civilians were being forced to return to buildings and areas of Raqqa that had not yet been cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), booby traps and mines left by ISIL militants.

In contrast, the journalist announced that Russian forces “cleared thousands of hectares of those IEDs and booby traps” following their campaigns to liberate Aleppo and Ghouta.

“What we’re seeing here is a disgusting despicable disregard for human life both during the military campaign and even more importantly after the military campaign by the US coalition,” Beeley added.
Fri Jun 15, 2018 - HRW: Turkey-Backed Militants Loot, Destroy Civilian Property in Northern Syria

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Turkey-backed militants in the Syrian town of Afrin have looted and destroyed civilian property after taking control of the Kurdish-dominated region in March.

“Those who made the decision to take over Afrin also took on the responsibility of ensuring that both the residents of Afrin, and people there who have been displaced elsewhere have basic shelter in a way that doesn’t infringe on either of those groups’ rights,” HRW’s Acting Emergencies Director Priyanka Motaparthy said, press tv reported.

“So far it seems that they are failing to do the right thing by either group,” she added.

The HRW's report is based on interviews and eyewitness accounts of people who have been displaced from Afrin. They accuse Turkey-backed forces of moving their fighters from other parts of Syria into vacated homes and of taking over business premises without paying compensation.

Roni Seydo left Afrin in March but was told by a friend that an armed group had taken over his house, painting the word “seized” on the outside wall. He said his neighbors were questioned about his family and its possible links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Another former Afrin resident, photographer Ser Hussein, said one of his two studios was burned down and the other turned into a butcher's shop.

Turkey began the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20 to clear the Northern Syrian border of the US-backed Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), whom it associates with the homegrown PKK fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil.

The Turkish operation was launched without permission from the Syrian government. It has also pitted Ankara against Washington, which supports the Kurdish militants.

The Turkish military said on March 24 that it had established full control over Afrin after more than two months of battles with US-backed militants controlling Syria’s northern border regions.

Elsewhere in the report, the New York-based rights group noted that pillaging or forcibly taking private property for personal use is prohibited under the laws of war and can constitute a war crime.

The international rights body said owners should be compensated for the use and damage of their property and the rights of owners and returnees should be guaranteed.
Uncle Sam has a problem in his South American “backyard” with those uppity Venezuelans who insisted on democratically electing Nicolás Maduro as their president instead of by-passing the electoral process and installing the unelected US asset Juan Guaidó. No matter, Amnesty International has come to the rescue with a full-throated defense of US imperialism:

“Faced with grave human rights violations, shortages of medicines and food and generalized violence in Venezuela, there is an urgent hunger for justice. The crimes against humanity probably committed by the authorities must not go unpunished.” – Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire - Global Research

Amnesty International fails in its broadside to put its claims against the Maduro government in the context of a concerted regime-change campaign, which amounts to war, by the bully from the north. The US is waging an illegal war against Venezuela and Amnesty International’s broadside leaves out this inconvenient fact, egregiously even omitting any mention of sanctions.

As human rights activist Chuck Kaufman of the Alliance for Global Justice noted about Amnesty International (AI): “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” A more credible and honest account of what is unfolding in Venezuela, than the hatchet job presented in AI’s May 14thVenezuela: Crimes against humanity require a vigorous response from the international justice system, would have also noted along with the alleged transgressions of the Maduro government:

  • Grave human rights violations. Economists Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University recently reported that US sanctions on Venezuela are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. This is the price being exacted on Venezuela, with a prediction for worse to come, for the regime change that AI is implicitly promoting.
  • Shortages of medicines and food. Since 2015, when US President Obama first instituted them, the US has been imposing ever more crippling illegal sanctions on Venezuela expressly to create misery for the population in the hope that it would then turn against their own democratically electedgovernment. The sanctions are specifically designed to suffocate the economy so that Venezuela cannot address its problems. The US government boasts about the impacts of sanctions. Playing the good cop to the US role as bad cop, AI laments the very conditions they are tacitly promoting in asking for ever increasing “punishments.” New US sanctions on Venezuela were imposed on May 10th.
  • Generalized violence. The US government has repeatedly and unapologetically threatened military intervention in Venezuela if the elected government doesn’t abdicate. Short of attacking militarily, the US has waged war against Venezuela by economic and diplomatic means, not to mention low-intensity warfare such as cyber attacks. The extreme rightwing opposition has called for the extra-legal overthrow of the government and has eschewed electoral means for effecting political change. AI is correct in noting that since 2017 new violence has been inflicted on the Venezuelan people but fails to note the role of the opposition in provoking that violence with their guarimbas and other actions. Meanwhile Guaidó, whose popular support in Venezuela is bottoming out, is reported sending his envoy to meet with the US Southern Command to “coordinate.”
How is it possible that an organization purporting to stand for human rights and global justice can so blithely ignore facts that do not fit into their narrative and so obsequiously parrot the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton-Abrams talking points? Why would AI go so far as to meet with the self-appointed Guaidó and then within days issue a report condemning the Maduro government, without also investigating the other side in the conflict?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time AI has shown an imperial bias as it has regarding US-backed regime-change projects in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Nicaragua.

Objectively deconstructing the many allegations (e.g., “more than 8,000 extrajudicial executions by the security forces”) made against Venezuela in the AI broadside and its accompanying report remains to be done. Unfortunately, the Empire has a surfeit of resources to churn out propaganda compared to the ability to counter it by genuine humanitarian groups. AI alone has an annual budget of over $300 million. According to sources cited by Wikipedia, AI receives grants from the US State Department, the European Commission, and other governments along with the Rockefeller Foundation.

To conclude, AI’s broadside calls for justice about as often as it calls for punishment with the subtext that punishment of the Empire’s victims is justice. Were AI truly concerned about justice, rather than justifying another US regime-change operation, they would champion the following:

  • Ending the unilateral sanctions by the US on Venezuela, which are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
  • Supporting dialogue between the elected government and the opposition as has been promoted by Mexico, Uruguay, Pope Francis, and most recently by Norway.
  • Condemning regime-change activities and interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs and actively rejecting the US government’s aggressive stance as articulated by US VP Pence: “This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action.”
  • Respecting the sovereignty of Venezuela and restoring normal diplomatic relations between the US and Venezuela.
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