Posts Tagged ‘International Criminal Court’

Israel should be brought before ICC for massacre of Palestinians, Turkey’s FM Çavuşoğlu says

May 17, 2018

Israel’s massacre of Palestinians should be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Thursday.

Speaking in an interview with state-broadcaster TRT Haber, Çavuşoğlu also said that an independent commission needs to prepare a report on the violence in Gaza and that Israel needs to stand before the law.

Turkey wants the United Nations General Assembly to pass a motion regarding Jerusalem, Çavuşoğlu said.

Image result for Çavuşoğlu, photos

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Israeli troops shot dead at least 63 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday as the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The main reason for the June 4 meeting with U.S. Secretary State Pompeo in Washington D.C. is the roadmap for northern Syria’s Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said.

There is a pre-agreement on the issue but there has been a loss of time for the approval, he added.

Despite Turkey’s objections, the People’s Protection Forces (YPG), the armed wing of the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian offshoot Democratic Unity Party (PYD), moved to capture Manbij in August 2016, shortly ahead of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield launched on Aug. 24, 2016, to drive Daesh terrorists away from its border areas and deny the YPG the chance to expand further west.

The YPG is the dominant group in the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls almost one-third of Syrian territory located east of the Euphrates River.

“It is important that the YPG retreats from Manbij but it is not enough, it is also important to stabilize all regions under YPG control,” Çavuşoğlu said.


UN Security Council envoy says Myanmar must hold a “proper investigation” into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya

May 1, 2018

Myanmar must hold a “proper investigation” into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya, a UN Security Council envoy said Tuesday, after the highest-level diplomatic visit to an area from which 700,000 members of the Muslim minority have been driven out.


© AFP / by Richard SARGENT | The UN delegates arrive at Sittwe airport in Rakhine

Refugees and rights groups say Myanmar’s army and vigilantes systematically raped and murdered civilians and torched villages during “clearance operations” in Rakhine state ostensibly targeting Rohingya militants.

That campaign launched last August in the mainly Buddhist nation sparked the exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh.

During the two-day trip to Myanmar, UN delegates travelled to Rakhine and also met both civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who heads an army accused by the UN of “ethnic cleansing”.

“In order to have accountability there must be a proper investigation,” Britain’s UN ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters, after envoys had visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and also Rakhine.

There were two ways to establish a full probe, “one is an ICC (International Criminal Court) referral”, she said. The other was for Myanmar’s government to hold its own comprehensive inquiry.

Last month the chief prosecutor for the ICC asked judges to consider whether the court’s jurisdiction extends to Myanmar, which is not a member of the panel.

Suu Kyi, pilloried outside her country for failing to speak up for the Rohingya, promised to “undertake a proper investigation” where evidence of atrocities was found, Pierce said.

“It doesn’t matter whether it (a probe) is international or domestic, as long as it’s credible,” she added.

During his meeting late Monday with the UN envoys, Myanmar’s army chief denied his forces had committed rape and other sexual abuses during the crackdown which he ordered.

“The Tatmadaw (army) is always disciplined… and takes action against anyone who breaks the law,” he told the delegates, according to a posting late Monday on his official Facebook page.

Rohingya women and girls in Bangladesh have provided consistent accounts of sexual violence — reports verified by conflict monitors — but Min Aung Hlaing said his forces have “no such history of sexual abuse.”

“It is unacceptable according to the culture and religion of our country,” he said, adding anyone found guilty of crimes would be punished.

– Speed up returns –

Min Aung Hlaing also repeated the official line that Myanmar was ready to take back those refugees who could be verified as residents, as per a repatriation deal with Bangladesh.

Several months after the deal was signed, no refugees have returned. They demand guarantees of safety, the right to return to their original villages and the granting of citizenship.

Another UN diplomat warned it would take “two or three years” for the refugees to be repatriated as the current timeframe to implement the deal continues to slip.

“There is a need to speed up the process,” said Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the UN, adding conditions must be “safe and dignified” for return.

Bangladeshi accuses Myanmar of buying time by pretending to cooperate over repatriation for the benefit of the international community.

Myanmar says its neighbour has only handed back 8,000 repatriation forms so far, many of them incomplete, delaying the return process.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship and accompanying rights.

Since 2012 it has driven out two-thirds of its roughly 1.5 million Rohingya population.

by Richard SARGENT

Philippines: Duterte’s Boracay closure and drug war — Self enrichment, corruption, or wooing China? — What are Duterte’s motives?

May 1, 2018

Mark R. Thompson says low-profile dealings with a Chinese company, selective prosecution of drug traffickers and targeting of political enemies suggest there may be less wholesome (and less populist) reasons for the Philippine president’s moves

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 1:12pm

With Boracay island’s white sands emptied of tourists after a six-month government-ordered closure late last week, the world again took notice of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s populist leadership style: melodramatic and personalised, with little concern for the consequences.

The shutdown played well to his fan base as another demonstration of his iron will to cleanse the country of its social ills. Promising to deal with Boracay’s “smelly waters” due to untreated sewage and other environmental hazards, Duterte again effectively portrayed himself as a strongman willing to stand up to corrupt local officials and dodgy businesses.

But his surprise decision largely ignored the local fallout, with 30,000 jobs affected in an island tourist trade worth over US$1 billion last year (with only limited compensation offered) while deflecting from his own political problems (revelations last February that the International Criminal Court had begun a preliminary investigation of his bloody “war on drugs” that has left thousands dead in his less than two years in office).

The way Duterte has dealt with Boracay’s problems is part of a larger pattern. He invokes graphic images to justify drastic decisions. He portrayed Boracay as a “cesspool” that must be closed. His 2016 presidential campaign was largely run on the narrative that drugs were ruining people’s lives and threatening to destroy the nation, with Duterte urging Filipinos to murder users and dealers whose dead bodies would fill Manila Bay until the fish grew fat. When rage is sufficiently aroused, extreme solutions become acceptable, even if the cost is lost jobs or even extrajudicial killings.

Duterte often announces his controversial decisions in speeches, usually before he gives marching orders to his cabinet. He revealed his Boracay shutdown decision in a February 9 speech, surprising his audience and the nation and leaving his cabinet secretaries scrambling to find a way to implement the order within a very short time frame.

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay is also an example of what University of Pennsylvania academic Denise van der Kamp terms “blunt force” regulation, typical of many developing countries, including China. It takes an all-or-nothing approach to a problem caused by non-enforcement of rules due to local corruption but in a manner that impacts equally those who obeyed regulations and those who did not.

In the case of Boracay, Philippine economist Solita Collas Monsod estimates that nearly two-thirds of hotels and other businesses complied with environmental regulations, but all establishments have been closed whether they played by the rules or not. Instead of working to improve the enforcement of existing regulations to deal with violators, Duterte chose a top-down solution, shutting down the entire island, leading to mass lay-offs and forgone revenues.

But there is another side of Duterte’s decision that has been overlooked. He has professed ignorance about recent government approval of plans by a Chinese firm to build a casino on the island. This raises questions of double standards, as presidential spokesman Harry Roque reported that Duterte was even threatening to dynamite structures on the island that threaten the environment. While Duterte has spoken of land reform in Boracay, returning land to the original farming community, it seems the opposite will happen, with the new casino and other high-end properties turning Boracay into a playground for the elite. 

 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte impressed many when he met and chatted to Philippine domestic workers at a Jollibee restaurant in Hong Kong in April during his visit. Photo: Facebook

In his mid-April visit to Hong Kong, Duterte generated considerable sympathy among local Filipinos by meeting domestic helpers at a Hong Kong branch of the Philippine fast-food chain Jollibee. But he also hosted a dinner for the owners of leading migrant employment agencies at a time when there was controversy around the abrupt recall of Philippine labour attaché Jalilo Dela Torre, who had investigated recruiter abuses. Despite long-standing promises to help workers in the Philippines itself, Duterte recently decided against issuing an executive order to put an end to widespread short-term contractualisation that keeps many working Filipinos poor.

Even his motives in the “war on drugs” have been questioned, with his son Paolo accused of having connections to a major drug-smuggling ring and the dismissal of charges against two major drug kingpins by his secretary of justice, whom Duterte was forced to fire.

The Boracay closure comes as the Philippines enters a political crossroads – with worries mounting that the country’s liberal institutions are being further eroded. Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom Duterte has called “an enemy” is likely to be removed from office soon, vice-president and presidential critic Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo is facing an electoral challenge from Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and a new constitution is in the making.

It is far from clear how effective the improvised clean-up of Boracay will be and whether it can be sustained in the long term. Analyst Matt Gebbie points out that “proactive” environmental protection is a far more effective alternative to such a reactive solution. But even assuming the shutdown does bring real improvements to perhaps the country’s most famous white sand beach, the Philippines will have paid a high price in terms of local jobs and lost revenue with tourists from around the world angered by cancelled bookings through this further demonstration of Duterte’s personalistic and arbitrary rule.

Mark R. Thompson is professor

‘I will arrest you’: Duterte warns ICC lawyer to steer clear of Philippines

April 13, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor if she conducts activities in his country, arguing it was no longer an ICC member so the court had no right to do any investigating.

Hitting out at what he said was an international effort to paint him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights”, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s Rome Statute a month ago and promised to continue his crackdown on drugs, in which thousands have been killed.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February announced the start of a preliminary examination into a complaint by a Philippine lawyer which accuses Duterte and top officials of crimes against humanity, and of killing criminals as a policy.

Image may contain: 2 people
Left: Rodrigo Duterte; Right: ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Duterte has cited numerous reasons why he believes the ICC has no jurisdiction over him, and on Friday suggested that any doubts about that should have been dispelled by his withdrawal.

“What is your authority now? If we are not members of the treaty, why are you … in this country?,” told reporters, in comments aimed at Bensouda.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents and police arrest an alleged drug dealer during a drug raid in Maharlika Village, Taguig, south of Manila on February 28, 2018. (AFP)

“You cannot exercise any proceedings here without basis. That is illegal and I will arrest you.”

It is not clear whether Bensouda or the ICC has carried out any activities in the Philippines related to the complaint against Duterte.

The office of the prosecutor in The Hague and the Philippine foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police have since July 2016 killed more than 4,000 people they say are drug dealers who resisted arrest. Activists say many of those were executions, which police deny.

Duterte has told security forces not to cooperate with any foreign investigators and last month said he would convince other ICC members to withdraw.

Duterte had earlier vowed to face the ICC and critics say pulling out is futile, because the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed in the period from when the Philippines joined in 2011 to when its withdrawal takes effect in March 2019.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can step in and exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate suspected crimes.

But the mercurial former mayor and his legal aides argue that technically, the Philippines never actually joined the ICC, because it was not announced in the country’s official gazette.

“If there is no publication, it is as if there is no law at all,” Duterte said on Friday.

‘We hope you come to your senses’: Russia warns US against illegal Syria strike — No signs of a chemical attack have been found in Douma — Plus: The U.N. Is Broken and Needs To Be Fixed

April 11, 2018

Russia Today (RT)

Image may contain: 1 person

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya. © Ruptly

The US’ reaction to the alleged chemical incident in the town of Douma has clearly shown it was the long-sought pretext to attack Syria, which was finally provided by the “White Helmets’ provocateurs,” the Russian UN envoy said.

The alleged chemical incident in Douma was only beneficial for the militants, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said, urging his Western counterparts to explain why Damascus would decide to do so. The purported attack was reported on Saturday, amid the evacuation of militants from the besieged town.

“This provocation was like a breeze of the fresh air needed by militants who received such timely support from the US and other Western countries,” Nebenzia said at the UNSC meeting on Tuesday. He warned the US and its allies against launching a military action in Syria, bypassing the UN.

“If you made a decision to carry out an illegal military endeavor, we hope, hope that you will come to your senses. You will be responsible for it yourselves,” Nebenzia said.

The allegation of a chemical attack, pushed by the pro-militant sources, has been eagerly supported by the US and other Western countries, who squarely pinned the blame for the unverified incident on Damascus. Russian military specialists, in the meantime, visited the site of the purported incident, which was surrendered by the militants, and found no signs of a chemical attack or any victims of it.

Nebenzia has called for supporting the international chemical watchdog’s investigation on the ground in Syria before jumping to any conclusions. However, he believes that those seeking to topple the legitimate government of Syrian President Bashar Assad would not wait for the results of the investigation, claiming they are instead seeking to launch a strike.

“You don’t want to hear that no signs of a chemical attack have been found in Douma. You’ve only sought a pretext and it was eagerly provided by the White Helmets’ provocateurs,” Nebenzia said.

Includes video:




The UN doesn’t work. Here’s a fix

AFTER 70 YEARS, THE United Nations has become a vast, sprawling conglomerate, overwhelmed by unsustainable ambitions, inadequate capacities, and plain reality. Characterized by speeches, meetings, reports, resolutions, and endless ways to spend money, the UN has managed to construct a large carbon footprint. What else it actually accomplishes is a different issue.

None of this is new. In his Oct. 22, 1961, diary entry, Arthur Schlesinger, close adviser to President John Kennedy and good friend of then UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, wrote, “I cannot resist the feeling that the UN world is really an immense and picturesque form of make-believe and that its problems and crises are remote from the serious issues of the day.” Although Schlesinger hoped he was mistaken in the long run, that day is not yet in sight.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

Undoubtedly, many UN specialized agencies do important work in fields as diverse as maritime affairs, civil air transport, and telecommunications. Almost from their creation, however, the UN’s political decision-making entities — the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the various “human-rights” organizations — have largely been failures.

Many Americans, watching decade after decade of cascading failures and scandals like the oil-for-food program, ask why we simply shouldn’t withdraw. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was once asked this question. After pausing to reflect, she responded, “It’s not worth the trouble.”

Staying in, of course, brings its own share of trouble, thanks to the feckless decisions by one UN governing body after another and the attendant financial consequences for American taxpayers. If UN agencies and councils merely adopted resolutions filled with rhetoric, we would be irritated, but those authorizing treaties, programs, and conferences with budget implications irritate us more tangibly. Given the UN Charter’s “one nation, one vote” principle, we are basically guaranteed to be permanently irritated.

Periodically, Congress has responded to the UN’s sustained inability to control its budget by withholding American funds. Since Washington now pays for 22 percent of most UN activities through “assessed” contributions (26 percent for peacekeeping missions), withholding can be a powerful signal. In the 1980s, for example, Nancy Kassebaum, the Republican senator from Kansas, led a successful legislative effort to withhold one-fifth of US-assessed contributions from any UN agency that did not adequately take heed of the disproportionate American share of UN budget requirements.

Kassebaum’s effort had some effect, but not for long. More sustainably, Washington should announce that, henceforth, all US financial support would be treated as voluntary rather than assessed. Some of the most successful UN agencies, such as the World Food Program, the High Commissioner for Refugees, and UNAIDS, are already funded voluntarily, and very generously, by America. These programs have demonstrated records of good management, and not surprisingly. When international organizations — like businesses or private charities — have to demonstrate competence, efficiency, and effectiveness, they either perform or disappear. This would be an extraordinarily valuable lesson for the entire UN to learn. The United States should also never forget that withdrawal from certain UN agencies is an available option, as Ronald Reagan proved by leaving UNESCO.

Shifting to voluntary contributions means adopting two principles that, at the UN at least, would be profoundly revolutionary. We would pay only for what we want, and we would insist that we get what we pay for — that is, real performance. And, of course, we should vigorously encourage other UN members (especially large contributors like Japan, Germany, Britain, and France) to join us in moving to entirely voluntary contributions.

These revolutionary principles would be like a tsunami unleashed within the UN system. We should seek as much support as possible, engaging in extensive diplomacy, public and private, to counter the inevitable opposition. But howls of outrage from agencies whose budgets will diminish, and from nations that have benefited from America meekly complying with their priorities, should not deter us from really improving this world body.

Opponents will carp that we are violating international law, which is untrue. Yet the consequence, even in the worst-case scenario, is merely losing our vote in the General Assembly. Since that vote is effectively meaningless now, it would be a small inconvenience on the path to true reform. Remember, our Security Council vote — and veto — can never be taken away except by amending the UN Charter, which we would, of course, veto.

The UN’s strongest advocates should not fear criticism of the UN’s performance, pressure for its improvement, or increased accountability. Their propensity to apologize for the UN rather than actually try to fix it, however, helps explain why so many other Americans are ready to take measures far more drastic than that suggested here. Think about it.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the US permanent representative to the United Nations.

Divided UN falters in response to alleged Syria chemical attack — Plus Russia’s 12 UN vetoes on Syria

April 11, 2018


Russia vetoes resolution to investigate apparent toxic gas assault; Nikki Haley: ‘Russia has trashed the credibility of the council’

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia votes against US resolution to create an investigation of the use of weapons in Syria, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia votes against US resolution to create an investigation of the use of weapons in Syria, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Russia on Tuesday vetoed a US-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution that would have set up an investigation into chemical weapons use in Syria following an alleged toxic gas attack in rebel-held Douma.

It was the 12th time that Russia has used its veto power at the council to block action targeting its Syrian ally.

A rival measure put forward by Moscow failed to garner enough votes for adoption, laying bare the divisions within the council over Syria as the threat of Western military action loomed large.

President Donald Trump has warned that there will be a “big price to pay” for the alleged use of toxic gas in Douma that killed at least 40 people, according to Syrian medics and rescuers.

As the showdown between Russia and the United States got underway, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of “planting this resolution” as a “pretext” to justify action against Syria.

“We are using the veto in order to protect international rule of law, peace and security, to make sure that you do not drag the Security Council into your adventures,” Nebenzia said.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 10, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Hector RETAMAL)

US Ambassador Nikki Haley shot back, saying “Russia has trashed the credibility of the council.”

“Whenever we propose anything meaningful on Syria, Russia vetoes it. It is a travesty,” she said.

Twelve of the 15 council members backed the US-drafted measure. Bolivia voted against it alongside Russia, while China abstained.

Britain, France and the United States were among the seven countries that voted against the Russian proposal which they argued would not create an independent panel to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use.

Haley dismissed the Russian draft as “all about protecting the Assad regime” because of provisions that would have required the Security Council to endorse its findings.

 Russia warns US over military action

After warning Monday of “grave repercussions” of US military action, the Russian ambassador urged the United States to “come to your senses” and refrain from ordering strikes on Syria.

“If you took the decision to carry out an illegal military adventure — and we do hope that you will come to your senses — well then you will have to bare responsibility for it,” said Nebenzia.

This image released Sunday, April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following an alleged poison gas attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian rescuers and medics said the attack on Douma killed at least 40 people. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

China backed Russia’s measure along with four other countries, while two others abstained.

A draft resolution requires nine votes to be adopted in the 15-member council and no veto from the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Russia has presented a third draft resolution that would support an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but would not create a mechanism to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks.

Diplomats said that measure was not expected to pass either.

After both proposals failed to win adoption, Sweden called for a closed-door meeting before the vote on the third measure to discuss the way forward.

Russia and Syria have called for the OPCW to send its experts to the rebel-held town of Douma, where toxic gas was allegedly used in an attack on Saturday that killed dozens.

The OPCW has said the team of experts will deploy to Syria shortly.

The US proposal would have revived the work of a previous panel, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), that shut down in November when Russian vetoed the renewal of its mandate.

That panel had found that the Syrian air force had dropped sarin on the village of Khan Sheikhun in April of last year.



Russia’s 12 UN vetoes on Syria

United Nations: Russia used its veto power for the 12th time Tuesday at the UN Security Council to block action directed at its Syrian ally.

The latest veto prevented the adoption of US-drafted resolution to investigate chemical weapons use in Syria aimed at identifying the perpetrators.

Here’s a look at Russia’s 12 vetoes on Syria:
In all, Russia used it veto four times to block draft resolutions seeking to establish investigations of chemical weapons use in Syria’s seven-year war. A fifth veto was used to prevent a Western bid to impose sanctions over chemical weapons use.

April 10, 2018: Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution after 12 countries backed the measure. China abstained, while Bolivia voted against.

November 16-17/October 24, 2017: In less than a month, Russia used its veto three times to block draft resolutions on renewing a UN-led probe of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) died on November 17 after several attempts by the Security Council to save the panel failed to meet Russian demands.

April 12, 2017: Russia vetoed a draft resolution demanding that President Bashar Assad’s government cooperate with an investigation into the deadly suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun on April 4. China abstained.

February 28, 2017: Russia and China again vetoed a UN resolution, drafted by Britain, France and the United States that would have imposed sanctions on Syria over chemical weapons use in the conflict

December 5, 2016: A resolution that calls for a truce in Aleppo is vetoed by both China and Russia. Egypt, New Zealand and Spain presented the measure. The vote was 11 to 3 with one abstention from Angola. Venezuela voted against, alongside China and Russia.

October 8, 2016: Russia alone vetoes a text proposed by France and Spain to halt the bombing of Aleppo, after presenting a rival draft that urged a cease-fire but made no mention of barring military flights over the city. China abstained in that vote, the first time it did not veto a Syria draft resolution alongside Russia.

May 22, 2014: Beijing and Moscow block a French-drafted proposal for the Security Council to refer Syrian crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC) is blocked. All 13 other council members backed the measure.

Russia accused Britain, France and the United States of hypocrisy in not wanting war crimes in Iraq referred to the ICC.

July 19, 2012: Beijing and Moscow again veto a Western-backed resolution that threatens Damascus with sanctions if it does not stop using heavy weapons.

February 4, 2012: Russia and China again vetoed a draft resolution that condemns a Syrian government crackdown on the opposition, while the Security Council’s other members voted in favor.

The veto sparked an international outcry, especially because it came a few hours after Syrian forces bomb the protest city of Homs, killing hundreds of people.

October 4, 2011: Six months after the Syrian conflict began, Russia and China blocked a proposed UN resolution condemning grave human rights violations in Syria and threatening measures against President Bashar Assad’s government.

Philippines President Duterte calls UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein ’empty-headed son of a whore’

April 4, 2018
 / 12:30 PM April 04, 2018
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, closeup and indoor

President Rodrigo Duterte. (AFP FILE PHOTO)

President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a foul-mouthed attack on the United Nations (UN) human rights chief, calling him “empty-headed” in a row over international criticism of his deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, had last month said Duterte needed “psychiatric evaluation,” and that his verbal attacks on a UN rapporteur, who condemned his anti-drug crackdown could not go unanswered.

“Hey son of a whore, you commissioner, I need to go to a psychiatrist?” asked Duterte in a speech late Tuesday.

“The psychiatrist told me: ‘You are okay, mayor. You are just fond of cursing,’” Duterte said, referring to his former title.

The Philippine leader added he had been advised to refrain from commenting on the remarks of Zeid, a Jordanian prince, but he wanted to “seek revenge”.

“Look, you have a big head but it’s empty. There is no grey matter between your ears. It’s hollow. It’s empty. It cannot even sustain a nutrient for your hair to grow because his hair here is gone,” Duterte said as he touched his head.

Duterte, 73, has launched curse-laden tirades on world leaders, including former United States President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, as well as critics of his anti-crime crackdown.

Duterte won a presidential election in mid-2016 after promising to eradicate drugs in society within six months by killing tens of thousands of users and dealers.

Philippine police said they have killed roughly 4,100 suspects, who fought back during arrest, but rights groups alleged the actual number is three times higher and accused authorities of murder.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a “preliminary examination” into the alleged killings in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and beard

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last month, Zeid, who has criticized alleged extrajudicial killings in the drug war, said Duterte’s remarks about a UN rapporteur seeking to investigate the matter were “absolutely disgraceful”.

He likewise condemned Duterte’s statement ordering troops to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

In Tuesday’s speech, Duterte defended the comments along with his so-called war on drugs.

“I am rude? I am really rude. There is nothing I can do about that,” Duterte said. “I kill people? Yes, I really kill people… go ahead and do drugs there. I already told you to stop.”

Addressing human rights groups, Duterte said: “You are dreaming if you think you can jail me.”                        /kga

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook



Philippines: 7 killed, 811 arrested in Holy Week drug ops

April 2, 2018
By: – Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
 / 11:40 AM April 02, 2018
Image may contain: 3 people


Seven individuals were killed while 811 others were arrested in the five-day Holy Week anti-illegal drugs operations of the police force, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa disclosed on Monday.

“There was no letup in our anti-drug operations during the Lenten Season,” De la Rosa said in a press conference.

He noted that the PNP conducted 505 anti-illegal drugs operations nationwide from Holy Wednesday to Easter Sunday or March 28 to April 1.

Of the seven people killed, four were from Region 3; and one each from Region 4-A, Region 12, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the PNP chief said.

But De la Rosa did not mention the circumstances that led to the killing of the seven drug suspects.

Often, however, police would say that drug suspects were killed as they fought back law enforcers during anti-drug operations.

De la Rosa also said there were no Tokhang operations during the Holy Week in keeping with the PNP’s commitment that its house-to-house visits to drug suspects would only be conducted during office hours starting last January.

The so-called war on drugs is being subjected to a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity committed by Mr. Duterte for supposedly directing police to carry out the ruthless campaign that purportedly victimized mostly the poor.

Earlier this year, the PNP reported that 65 drug suspects were killed from December 5, 2017 to February 14 after Duterte ordered the police back at the helm of the government’s anti-drug drive. Duterte briefly tasked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead the campaign.

Also during Monday’s press conference, the PNP highlighted the social reintegration program for the drug surrenderers with De la Rosa receiving P1.5 million worth of donations in cash and livelihood starter tools.

To benefit from these donations were the community-based reformation centers initiated by the PNP and supported by the local government units, and other volunteers.

The Rotary Club of Camp Crame, led by its president, Police Director Ramon Puruganan, PNP Director for Comptrollership, under the club’s “Katok sa Puso Advocacy Program,” donated P500,000.

The other P500,000 came from proceeds of the 1st Chief PNP Run “Takbo Kontra Droga,” which was initiated by the Police Community Relations Group in partnership with Run Manila and other non-government organizations (NGOs).

The livelihood starter tools worth another P500,000 were donated by 7-11 convenience stores, the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Funds, Inc. (PSMBFI), Globe Telecom, Police Cavalier Association, Inc. (PCAI), and 37 other different NGOs affiliated with the Association of Chiefs of Police of the Philippines, Inc. /kga

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


2 British IS members say hostage beheadings were a ‘mistake’

March 31, 2018
 / 08:05 AM March 31, 2018

A Kurdish security officer takes off the face masks from Alexanda Amon Kotey, left, and El Shafee Elsheikh, who were allegedly among four British jihadists who made up a brutal Islamic State cell dubbed “The Beatles,” for an interview with The Associated Press at a security center in Kobani, Syria, Friday, March 30, 2018. The men said that their home country’s revoking of their citizenship denies them fair trial. “The Beatles” terror cell is believed to have captured, tortured and killed hostages including American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

KOBANI, Syria—Two British militants believed to have been part of an Islamic State group cell notorious for beheading hostages in Syria were unapologetic in their first interview since their capture, denouncing the U.S. and Britain as “hypocrites” who will not give them a fair trial.

The men, along with two other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed “The Beatles” by surviving captives because of their English accents.

The nickname belied the cell’s brutality. In 2014 and 2015, it held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

Speaking to The Associated Press at a Kurdish security center, the two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, repeatedly refused to address allegations they were part of the cell — clearly having a future trial in mind. They complained that they could “disappear” after Britain reportedly revoked their citizenship.

They were captured in January in eastern Syria by the Kurdish-led, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces amid the collapse of IS. Their detention has set off a debate in the U.S. and Europe over how to prosecute their citizens who joined IS — as the Kurds pressure the West to take them back to relieve overcrowding in prisons.

The two said the killings of the captives were a mistake — but for tactical reasons.

Many in IS “would have disagreed” with the killings “on the grounds that there is probably more benefit in them being political prisoners,” Kotey said.

“I didn’t see any benefit (in killing them). It was something that was regrettable.” He also blamed Western governments for failing to negotiate, noting that some hostages were released for ransoms.

Elsheikh said the killings were a “mistake” and might not have been justified. But, he said, they were in retaliation for killings of civilians by the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS. He said the militants shouldn’t have initially threatened to kill the hostages because then they had to go ahead with it or else “your credibility may go.”

The beheadings, often carried out on camera, horrified the world soon after IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The group also committed widescale atrocities including massacring thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians and taking sex slaves.

The first victim was American journalist James Foley, followed by fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

Speaking to the AP on Friday, Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, called on the international community and U.S. government “to have the courage to hold these men accountable in an open trial where we can face them and they can hear all the pain and suffering they’ve inflicted on the world. And so that the rest of the world can understand the atrocity of their crimes.”

She said she opposes the death penalty for them since it feeds jihadi “desire for martyrdom and heroic afterlife.”

“These men do not deserve that. They deserve to be held in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.”

The leader of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, was dubbed “Jihadi John” in the British media after he appeared, masked, in the videos, sometimes performing the butchery. He was killed in a U.S.-led coalition drone strike in 2015 in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto IS capital. Another member, Aine Lesley Davis, was arrested in Turkey and convicted there in 2017, sentenced to seven years in prison.

Elsheikh, whose family came to Britain from Sudan when he was a child, was a mechanic from White City in west London.

He traveled to Syria in 2012, initially joining al-Qaida’s branch before moving on to IS, according to the U.S. State Department’s listing of the two men for terrorism sanctions. It said he “earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions and crucifixions while serving as an (IS) jailer.”

Kotey, who is of Ghanaian and Greek-Cypriot descent and converted to Islam in his 20s, is from London’s Paddington neighborhood.

Serving in the IS cell as a guard, he “likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods,” the State Department said. It also said he was an IS recruiter who brought other Britons into the group.

Elsheikh and Kotey spoke to the AP at a Kurdish security building in the town of Kobani, where they were brought, initially in handcuffs and face covers that were removed. They appeared to speak openly with no signs of duress and were friendly with SDF security who came in and out of the room.

They were both initially confrontational but over the interview became more conversational. Kotey often cracked jokes — when asked whether IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive, he joked that some people thought Elvis never died and Tupac Shakur is still alive. Elsheikh was straightlaced and reserved, referring more often to Islamic texts.

They were unrepentant about belonging to IS — though they said they did not agree with everything it did. Kotey said he did not think suicide bombings were permissible in Islam. Elsheikh said IS’s killing of a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him alive in a cage was “atrocious.”

But they seemed dismissive of the idea that IS was egregious in brutality.

“I am not here to justify or shun every act IS did,” Elsheikh said, arguing that nationals of a country can’t be held responsible for crimes by the state.

They scoffed at the idea that that they were a cell and refused to comment whether they had worked as jailors, had ever seen any hostages or knew Emwazi.

They depicted the allegations as created by media and foreign intelligence — “so the world can say this is the bad guy and kill the bad guy,” Elsheikh said.

“No fair trial, when I am ‘the Beatle’ in the media. No fair trial,” he added.

They said they had been questioned repeatedly by U.S. military officials and the FBI — daily interrogations for a month, then frequent ones for weeks after.

The U.S. has been pressing for the home countries of foreign jihadis in Iraq and Syria to take their nationals for trial. Britain’s defense secretary has said they should not be allowed back into the country. Former captives of the cell and families of its victims have called on Elsheikh and Kotey to be given a fair trial, whether in the United States or Britain, arguing that locking them away in a a facility like Guantanamo Bay would only fuel further radicalism.

Kurdish officials complain they are being left to deal with the IS legacy, including overburdened prisons full of militants, including foreign fighters whose home countries don’t want to take them back.

Elsheikh and Kotey are held in an undisclosed location. Kotey said he shares a cell with 70 others, all but four of them Syrians, and that they are sleeping like “sardines, literally head to toe, head to toe.” Despite the overcrowding, he said, they get fresh air, play games and have classes.

Kotey said the U.S. and Britain were not upholding their own laws of due process. “Where are they now or are they just applicable when they suit you?” he said. “It just looks very hypocritical, double standards.”

The two denounced as “illegal” the British government’s reported decision in February to strip them of citizenship. The decision was widely reported in British media, though officials have not confirmed or denied it, citing privacy rules.

The revocation exposes them to “rendition and torture,” Elsheikh said.

“When you have these two guys who don’t even have any citizenship …if we just disappear one day, where is my mom going to go and say where is my son,” he said.

“I found it strange that they could actually do that, revoke the citizenship of a person,” Kotey said.

“I was born in the UK,” he said. “My mother was born in the UK. I have a daughter there in the UK. … I probably never left the UK more than 3 months” before coming to Syria.

Kotey said the fairest venue for a trial may be the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. “That would be the logical solution.” /jpv

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


German lawyer says Berlin cannot extradite former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

March 29, 2018

A former German Supreme Court justice has been representing the ex-Catalan leader since his arrest. He says deporting Puigdemont would allow Spanish conflicts over Catalan independence to play out on German soil.

Carles Puigdemont

A lawyer for the embattled ex-president of Catalonia called on German officials on Wednesday to publicly confirm that they will not extradite Carles Puigdemont to Spain. Attorney Wolfgang Schomburg told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily that Germany must act “without delay.”

Otherwise, Schomburg said, Berlin risks “letting Spanish conflicts of interest be carried out on German soil.”

Read more: Catalan independence – What you need to know

The lawyer also pointed out that, in order to participate in Spain’s “request for judicial assistance,” it would have to be specifically approved by Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

And Schomburg isn’t just any defense lawyer. He is a one-time German Supreme Court justice, and the first German elected by the UN as a judge for the International Criminal Court, serving on tribunals of cases involving the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Schomburg has been representing Puigdemont since he was arrested in northern Germany on Sunday as he was returning to Belgium from Finland. On Monday, German officials announced they won’t make a decision about releasing the former president before the weekend. His supporters have blocked roads in Barcelona and called for mass demonstrations in protest of his detention.

Companions arrested

Puigdemont had been living in exile in Belgium since last October. He fled Catalonia after being charged with rebellion for declaring the region independent from Spain following a controversial independence referendum.

Earlier on Wednesday, three of the men who were accompanying Puigdemont from Finland were arrested in Spain for “sheltering a criminal.” Two of three are Catalan regional policemen.

A number of Puigdemont’s former ministers have also been jailed for inciting rebellion.

In a symbolic show of defiance to Madrid, Catalonia’s parliament voted on Wednesday to keep Puigdemont on as president, despite the fact that he cannot serve as he sits behind bars in Germany.