Saturday, September 13, 2014

HRW: Israeli attacks on Gaza schools were war crimes

US slams Israel over deadly airstike on UN school in Gaza
The attack on the school in Jabaliya. Palestinians are looking for body parts in a damaged classroom. (Photo AP, 30 July 2014)

Three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a report publihe on Thursday. In the first in-depth documentation of the violations, Human Rights Watch investigated the three attacks, which occurred on July 24 and 30, and August 3, 2014, and killed 45 people, including 17 children.
“The Israeli military carried out attacks on or near three well-marked schools where it knew hundreds of people were taking shelter, killing and wounding scores of civilians,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage.”
Two of the three attacks Human Rights Watch investigated – in Beit Hanoun and Jabalya – did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate. The third attack in Rafah was unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate. Unlawful attacks carried out willfully – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HRW: Israel illegally coerced some 7.000 African refugees to leave
Hundreds of African asylum seekers leave the detention centre in Holot (South Israel) in protest against their detention in a so called ''open facility''. (Photo June 2014)

Israeli authorities have unlawfully coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into returning to their home countries where they risk serious abuse. Some returning Sudanese have faced torture, arbitrary detention, and treason charges in Sudan for setting foot in Israel, while returning Eritreans also face a serious risk of abuse.
That is what Human Rights Watch says in a 83-page report, “‘Make Their Lives Miserable:’ Israel’s Coercion of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers to Leave Israel,” that was released on Tuesday. It documents how Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a “threat”, branded them “infiltrators,” denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Iraqi parliament approves new government

Iraq"s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, attends the Parliament session to submit his government in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 8
Haider al-Abadi enters the parliament. (Photo AP)

Iraq's parliament approved a new government headed by Haider al-Abadi as prime minister on Monday night, in a bid to rescue Iraq from collapse, with sectarianism and Arab-Kurdish tensions on the rise.
Abadi, a Shi'ite Islamist, included members of Iraq's Shi'ite majority and its Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his cabinet as he started his uphill task to unify the country after this summer's devastating loss of territory across northernto Islamic State fighters.
Adel Abdel Mehdi from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq was named oil minister while Ibrahim Jafaari, a former premier, was named foreign minister. Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, was named finance minister. No interior or defense minister was named but Abadi pledged to do so within a week, bringing the cabinet to 37 posts. Abadi's deputy prime ministers are Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd and Iraq's only post-Saddam Hussein foreign minister, Saleh Mutlaq, a secular Sunni Muslim who served in the same position in the last government, and Baha Arraji, a Shi'ite Islamist and former lawmaker.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Arab League vows to take action against Islamic State

Arab League foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to take all necessary measures to confront Daesh (Islamic State) and cooperate with international, regional and national efforts to combat militants who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The Arab League also endorsed in the closing statement of its meeting in Cairo a UN Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to "act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria".
The final text did not directly endorse either the Iraqi or U.S. campaign against Islamic State, but diplomatic sources said the wording clearly offered Arab cooperation to U.S. and Iraqi efforts and could be read as a tacit agreement to back Washington's campaign against the group.

Friday, September 5, 2014

HRW: IS execute three times more people in Tikrit than previously thought

<p>Ali, one of the few survivors of a mass execution at the Presidential Palace in Tikrit, is visible among more than 60 captives prior to execution in a still frame from a YouTube video posted by Islamic State.</p>Still from an IS video. The man between the lines is Ali, one of HRW´s witnesses. 
Human Rights Watch has found new evidence that the Islamic State (IS) in Tikrit after it seized the city in June 2014, in fact carried out three times more executions than earlier was estimated. Information from a survivor and analysis of videos and satellite imagery has confirmed the existence of three more mass execution sites, bringing the total to five, and the number of dead to between 560 and 770 men, all or most of them apparently captured Iraqi army soldiers.
Islamic State fighters took control of Tikrit on June 11. The next day it claimed to have executed 1,700 “Shi’a members of the army,” posting videos of hundreds of captured men in civilian clothes, who it claimed had surrendered at the nearby Iraqi Speicher military base.
Photos later posted on social media showed IS fighters loading captives in civilian clothes onto trucks and forcing them to lie in three shallow trenches with their hands bound. Some images showed masked gunmen firing weapons at these men.
Based on an analysis of satellite imagery and photographs available at the time, Human Rights Watch concluded on June 27 that two of the trenches were in a field about 100 meters north of the Water Palace in Tikrit. The location of the third trench was not identified.After analyzing a recently released Islamic State video of the execution of detainees and satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch has identified three new execution sites from that period, with an additional death toll of between 285 and 440. The locations of two of the sites have been precisely identified based on the imagery and witness evidence, while the location of the third site remains approximate based on the account of a survivor.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yemeni president proposes to disband government and reinstate fuel subsidies, but Houthis continue protest

Supporters of the Shi'ite Houthi movement block a road as part of an anti-government protest in Sanaa September 3, 2014. Yemen's president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi dismissed his government on Tuesday, proposed a national unity administration and suggested reinstating fuel subsidies, government sources said, in moves to quell weeks of unrest by the rebel movement. REUTERS- Khaled Abdullah
Houthi supporters block a road in Sanaa on 3 September. The Houthis have been protesting in Sanaa for weeks. (Foto Reuters)

Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi dismissed the government Tuesday and agreed to reinstate fuel subsidies, in addition to other economic reforms, seeking to end weeks of tense protests led by tens of thousands of Houthi loyalists in the capital, Sanaa.
Government sources told Reuters that Hadi had dismissed his government, suggested a national unity administration and planned to reduce petrol and diesel prices by 30 percent to offset unpopular cuts to fuel subsidies, which had drained Yemeni coffers but buoyed impoverished citizens.
However, rte Houthis dismissed the move. Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi, said in a statement on his Facebook page: "We do not agree to it. Our position is still that we (stand) by the Yemeni people who have gone out in a blessed popular revolution to demand their legitimate and just rights."
A member of the Houthis' political bureau, Abdel Malik al-Ijri, told Reuters: "What was demanded was a cancellation of the fuel price rise, and the lowering which was announced today represents nothing."

Improper restauration threatens Egypt's oldest pyramid at Saqqara

 A pirâmide Sakkara tem mais de 4600 anos e localiza-se a cerca de 30 quilómetros da cidade do Cairo (Reuters)
 Egyptian activists have launched an attack against the Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty after assigning a company with the  restoration of Egypt's oldest pyramid at Saqqara. The same company worked on the project till October 2012 and  caused a major deterioration of the pyramid that even caused part of it to collapse, Al-Masry al-Youm reported. 
Amir Gamal, representative of the ‘Non-stop Robberies’ movement, told the paper that the company, called Shurbagy, worked on the Saqqara pyramid until October 2012, at which moment the ministry stopped the restoration due to a lack of funds. Gamal said that Shurbagy has been working for nine years and has not been successful in any of the six projects it has worked on, adding that all are being investigated.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Libyan government admits having lost control of Tripoli

Militiamen from ´´Fajr Libya´´ enjoy their stay at the compound of the American embassy in Tripoli. They plunge from the balcony into the swimming pool. (Still from YouTube video)

Libya's powerless outgoing government admitted Monday from its safe refuge in the east of the country that it has in effect lost control of Tripoli to armed militias. The interim government led by prime minister Abdullah al-Thani, which resigned last week, said armed groups, mostly Islamist militias, were in control of ministries and blocking access to government workers.
"Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been occupied by armed militias who are preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors," the government said in a statement.
It said the interim government was in contact with officials and "trying to ensure the continuity of services from afar."

Iraqi Kurds retake another town form IS a day after Amerli was freed

'It is a humanitarian disaster': Nearly 20,000 Shi'ite Muslim Iraqis face starvation in the town of Amerli after two months of living under siege by ISIS militants. The shaded zone shows ISIS-controlled areas 
The shaded area is territory held by IS. (Map Daily Mail)

Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militiamen retook the town of Sulaiman Bek from militants on Monday, removing a key stronghold they have held for over 11 weeks, officials said. Fighting to retake the village of Yankaja, also located in Salaheddin province, northeast of Baghdad, is ongoing.  Sulaiman Bek is located near Amerli, where thousands of mainly Shiite Turkmen civilians were trapped by a jihadist. Iraqi forces backed by thousands of volunteers on Sunday broke this siege the Islamic State.
Thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces also took part in the operation on Saturday to lift the IS-imposed blockade of the town, which is located about 180 km north of Baghdad. Iraqi planes have been targeting the militants positions since the forces started mobilizing against the extremists there.The residents of the town are facing a shortage of food and water and the humanitarian condition has been described as dire. UN had earlier warned that Shia Turkmen residents of the volatile town who are besieged by the IS could be massacred if urgent action was not taken to rescue them.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bahrain detains human rights activist at the airport

Maryam al-Khawaja

Bahraini authorities detained prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja on Saturday on her arrival at the Gulf state's airport, her mother told Reuters.
Maryam is the daughter of Shi'ite Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been detained in the Sunni monarchy since 2011 and is on hunger strike.
"Maryam told me that she will be transferred to the court tomorrow," her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told Reuters, adding that her daughter, who holds dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, was coming back from Denmark.
Charges against al-Khawaja include insulting Bahrain's king, and assaulting a policewoman at the airport, her mother said.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam dies

Seif al-Islam

Prominent Egyptian activist and human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam has died Wednesday at 63 years old, after a long struggle with heart problems. He had been in coma for nearly two weeks after an open heart operation.
Seif was involved in political activism since his student days, but studied law and became a human rights defender following his detention in 1983, during which time he was reportedly tortured.
After being released, he was involved in important human rights-related cases. In 1999 he founded, with other rights advocates, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre to challenge human rights violations in Egypt and to offer support to victims through legal assistance in and outside courts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

IS captures airbase in Raqqa, the last remaining government outpost in this province

 An Islamic State militant uses a loud-hailer to announce that Tabqa air base has fallen, in Raqqa city August 24
IS uses loudhailers to announce to the population Raqqa the capture of the airbase. (Photo Reuters)

ISIS fighters captured Sunday a major military air base in Syria’s northeast, eliminating the last regime-held outpost in a province otherwise dominated by the jihadist group. Tabqa airfield – home to several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition bunkers – is the third military base in the area to fall to the militants since last month.
The jihadists launched their long-anticipated offensive last week to seize the sprawling Tabqa facility, located some 45 kms from the extremists’ stronghold in the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River. After several failed efforts to breach the walls in recent days, fighters managed to punch through and storm the air base Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group. Government warplanes carried out waves of airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, but those ultimately proved unable to stem the assault. “Some of the Syrian regime troops pulled out, and now [ISIS] is in full control of Tabqa,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said. “This makes Raqqa province the first to fully fall out of government hands.”