Drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen are war crimes, Amnesty says


This video from the USA is called Drone Strikes Kill Numerous Civilians – Report.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Amnesty says US officials should face war crimes charges over drone strikes

Joint report with Human Rights Watch judges attacks in Yemen and Pakistan to have broken international human rights law

Jon Boone in Islamabad

Tuesday 22 October 2013

US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones.

The reports are being published while Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.

Getting to the bottom of individual strikes is exceptionally difficult in the restive areas bordering Afghanistan, where thousands of militants have settled. People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.

There is also a risk of militants attempting to skew outside research by forcing interviewees into “providing false or inaccurate information”, the report said.

But Amnesty mounted a major effort to investigate nine of the many attacks to have struck the region over the last 18 months, including one that killed 18 labourers in North Waziristan as they waited to eat dinner in an area of heavy Taliban influence in July 2012. All those interviewed by Amnesty strongly denied any of the men had been involved in militancy. Even if they were members of a banned group, that would not be enough to justify killing them, the report said.

“Amnesty International has serious concerns that this attack violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial executions,” the report said. It called for those responsible to stand trial.

The US has repeatedly claimed very few civilians have been killed by drones. It argues its campaign is conducted “consistent with all applicable domestic and international law”.

The Amnesty report supports media accounts from October last year that a 68-year-old woman called Mamana Bibi was killed by a missile fired from a drone while she was picking okra outside her home in North Waziristan with her grandchildren nearby. A second strike minutes later injured family members tending her.

If true, the case is striking failure of a technology much vaunted for its accuracy. It is claimed the remote-controlled planes are able to observe their targets for hours or even days to verify them, and that the explosive force of the missiles is designed to limit collateral damage. As with other controversial drone strikes, the US has refused to acknowledge or explain what happened.

Amnesty said it accepts some US drone strikes may not violate the law, “but it is impossible to reach any firm assessment without a full disclosure of the facts surrounding individual attacks and their legal basis. The USA appears to be exploiting the lawless and remote nature of the region to evade accountability for its violations,” it said.

In Yemen, another country where US drones are active, Human Rights Watch highlighted six incidents, two of which were a “clear violation of international humanitarian law”. The remaining four may have broken the laws of armed conflict because the targets were illegitimate or because not enough was done to minimise civilian harm, the report said.

It also argued that some of the Yemen attacks breach the guidelines announced by Obama earlier this year in his first major speech on a programme that is officially top secret. For example, the pledge to kill suspects only when it is impossible to capture them appears to have been ignored on 17 April this year when an al-Qaida leader was blown up in a township in Dhamar province in central Yemen, Human Rights Watch said.

An attack on a truck driving 12 miles south of the capital Sana’a reportedly killed two al-Qaida suspects but also two civilians who had been hired by the other men. That means the attack could have been illegal because it “may have caused disproportionate harm to civilians”.

The legal arguments over drones are extremely complex, with much controversy focusing on whether or not the places where they are used amount to war zones.

Amnesty said some of the strikes in Pakistan might be covered by that claim, but rejected a “global war doctrine” that allows the US to attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world.

“To accept such a policy would be to endorse state practices that fundamentally undermine crucial human rights protections that have been painstakingly developed over more than a century of international law-making,” the report said.

See also here.

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals: here.

On Syria, Obama went to Congress over military action. But in Yemen, the US has joined a counter-insurgency without a word: here.

NSA spying and global drone war


This video is called 80% of drone strike victims innocent civilians.

By Thomas Gaist:

NSA surveillance programs facilitate global drone war

18 October 2013

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published in the Washington Post Wednesday show that NSA surveillance operations play a key role in the global campaign of assassinations being waged by the Obama administration.

The Post’s report, “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program,” testifies to the integration of the surveillance apparatus exposed in recent months into US imperialism’s global military operations. Officials cited by the Post said that the NSA has deployed analysts to work along side Central Intelligence Agency personnel at the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at “every major US embassy or military base overseas.”

The report further documents the NSA’s systematic attempts to overcome encryption, including the extraction of PGP encryption keys from targets. …

According to the report, the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations,” a cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering program, conducts surveillance of targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and throughout Africa. TAO runs programs such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR, which launch cyber attacks using “software implants” to grab sensitive data such as keystroke logs and audio files.

ArsTechnica reported in August that advanced software used by TAO enables operatives to tap directly into hardware such as “routers, switches and firewalls,” and that TAO’s activities are integrated into data systems such as XKeyscore.

Information gathered by the NSA has been used in particular in the course of the CIA’s drone war in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. As summarized by the Post, the NSA has “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan.” One US intelligence official told the Post, “NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA.” To date, at least 3,000 people have been killed as a result of US drone operations in Pakistan, including hundreds of civilians.

Both the NSA surveillance and the policy of drone war that it facilitates are criminal operations, carried out in violation of international law. The Obama administration asserts the right to kill anyone in the world without due process, including US citizens, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Among those killed have been US citizens including Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

A full accounting of the Pakistanis murdered by US drones may never be completed. However, a study published by Stanford University and New York University earlier this year showed that large sections of the population living in the FATA suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the buzzing of drones overhead and the never-ending barrage of ordnance raining down on the area.

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson wrote in March of this year, “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent, and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The Post described the leaked NSA documents as “self-congratulatory in tone” and “drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities.” According to Fox News, the Post withheld substantial information about the drone strikes “at the request of US intelligence officials.”

The Post report highlights the case of Hassan Ghul, who was killed as a direct result of intelligence acquired through electronic surveillance operations run by the NSA. After his capture in 2004, Ghul was held at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe until 2006, where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), including slapping, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

In 2006, Ghul was transferred to Pakistan, where he was released and rejoined Al Qaeda militants in Waziristan. Ghul worked to set up logistical networks for Al Qaeda after being freed, according to a Treasury Department document from 2011. No explanation has been offered by US or Pakistani authorities for Ghul’s release.

Ghul was then killed in 2012 by a drone strike in Mir Ali, after having been monitored for a year prior to his death by a secret NSA unit called the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC), which specializes in finding high priority targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Ghul’s location was discovered through analysis of an email sent to him by his wife. His death was never officially acknowledged by the US government, despite the fact that his interrogation supposedly provided intelligence about an Al Qaeda courier named al-Kuwaiti, which supposedly led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The scope of the integration of the NSA, CIA, military and police agencies extends far beyond what is taking place in Pakistan. The entire world is the subject both of the intelligence-gathering operations of the NSA and the drone strikes of the CIA.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA’s surveillance operations gather the communications of every telephone and Internet user on the planet, US citizens and non-citizens alike. This week has already seen new evidence emerge that the NSA is stealing address books—which often contain large amounts of personal information—from various web platforms and storing them in its archives. (See “ NSA ‘harvesting’ electronic address books and contact lists”)

The possibility of strikes being launched against American targets has been raised by top officials, and drones are already deployed on non-strike missions over the US. In a letter of March 4, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial,” saying that in certain cases such action would be “necessary and appropriate.”

If and when such operations are initiated, the state will have no shortage of data with which to target Americans, whose communications are subject to constant scrutiny by the surveillance apparatus.

NSA spying on 35 foreign leaders: here.

Pakistani drone survivor teacher not allowed to speak in the USA


Robert Greenwald from the USA writes about this video:

Let them speak

It’s been almost a year since I traveled to Pakistan to investigate, film, and interview drone victims and their families. While there, I met Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, who shared with me the story of how Rafiq’s 67 year-old mother, the children’s grandmother, was killed by a drone strike. Not only did Rafiq lose his mother that day, but his daughter Nebila, 9, and son Zubiar, 13, were also injured.

Rafiq’s situation moved me deeply. It was clear that this was no abstract instance of collateral damage. As a father of four, I am haunted daily by the stories of children being injured or killed by drone strikes. The story of Rafiq and his children was so powerful that I wanted to be sure that Congress heard it from Rafiq and his heroic lawyer, Shahzad Akbar. All applied for visas to enter the U.S., to share their story with members of Congress and the American public. Reprieve, an international organization fighting for justice across the globe, has been working tirelessly to get the necessary documents so that we in the U.S. can hear first hand from a family whose loved one was killed by a U.S. drone strike.

While Rafiq and his children’s visas were approved, the visa request for their lawyer, guide, and mentor, Shahzad Akbar, has been held up in “administrative processing.” This means that their ad-hoc hearing has been indefinitely postponed, as the Department of State has delayed approval of his visa, despite Congressional interest. Without Shahzad, Rafiq and his family will be unable to come to DC, and their story will never be heard. You can help Rafiq speak with members of Congress – but we need you to act today.

Is the State Department delaying approval of Shazhad Akbar’s visa to try to silence drone victims? Shazhad used to regularly travel to the United States and was even a consultant with USAID. It wasn’t until 2010, when he began representing drone victims and their families, that the Department of State began holding up his visa requests.

The State Department needs to hear from us now, here are three simple ways to help with the campaign:

  1. Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
  2. Follow up with an email demanding the State Dept. issue a visa for Shahzad
  3. And sign our petition now to demand that the drone victims be allowed to speak in the U.S.

Congressman Alan Grayson issued this statement: “I encourage the State Department to approve Shahzad Akbar’s visa immediately, so that Rafiq ur Rehman and his family can share their stories with Congress and the American public.” The time for Rafiq and his family to speak in front of Congress is running out.  Sign the petition and join with others to urge the Department of State to immediately approve Shazhad Akbar’s visa. Without it, Rafiq and his children won’t be heard.

See also here.

News of the world is becoming palpably more relevant to the day-to-day experiences of American readers, and it is rapidly disappearing: here.

Greek nazis and Greek police update


Golden Dawn graffiti: 'Greece belongs to the Greeks. Anarchists and communists, we will turn you into soap’ reads this graffiti outside a high school in Athens (photo: AFP)

This Golden Dawn graffiti says : ‘Greece belongs to the Greeks. Anarchists and communists, we will turn you into soap’ (like Adolf Hitler did with Jews in the 1940s).

From EnetEnglish in Greece, 23 September 2013:

Two senior police officers have resigned following a barrage of revelations into neonazi Golden Dawn and its activities.

They are Lieutenant General Yiannis Dikopoulos, inspector general of the police in southern Greece, and Major General Apostolos Kaskanis, general police director of Central Greece.

The two officers submitted their resignations to the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, on Monday.

Both men stated that they were resigning for personal reasons, but their departure is being widely interpreted as being related to revelations into the activities of neonazi Golden Dawn since the murder last week of Pavlos Fyssas by one of its members.

Moreover, the chief of police has suspended four officers and launched a sworn administrative enquiry into an incident on 20 September in Halkida, in Evia.

The officers are accused of failing to intervene at the sight of Golden Dawn members transporting weapons – namely batons, shields and helmets – into the local party offices, which is located a few hundred meters from the police station.

The four officers are also accused of failing to inform their superiors.

The inquiry will also examine whether there were failures in a subsequent police investigation into weapons found during a search of the Golden Dawn offices.

Infiltration

Dendias has also ordered the police’s internal affairs division to investigate whether the force’s ranks have been infiltrated by Golden Dawn.

“In order to facilitate the objectivity” [of] this investigation, the chief of police also announced the transfer of seven officers:

- the major general who heads the security (detective) division of the Hellenic Police
- the colonel in command of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (Ekam)
- the colonel who heads the subdirectorate for organised crime and human trafficking of the Attica police directorate
- the lieutenant colonel in charge of the department for arms and explosives of the subdirectorate for state security of the Attica police directorate
- the head of the YAT riot police platoon of Keratsini, whose members were seen throwing stones at demonstrators during the riot on 18 September
- the commander of the Delta motorbike-mounted police unit
- the police chief of Nikea police station

See also here.

Golden Dawn member identified in riot near police lines against anti-fascists: here.

From Dawn of the Greeks blog, 24 September 2013:

Nine hundred migrants have fallen victim to neonazi attacks in the last three years, the head of the country’s Pakistani community has claimed, also accusing police of generally refusing to record racist incidents and, in one case, of joining in on a racist attack by Golden Dawn thugs.

In an interview with Monday’s issue of Eleftherotypia, Javed Aslam said neonazis have “played football with our heads” in scores of incidents that are rarely reported in the media or to the police.

Also from Dawn of the Greeks blog:

On May 8, 2012, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, representing the Greek Jewry, in its press release announced that “the election of the followers of Fascism and Nazism in the Greek Parliament on May 6, was a strong hit against Greek Democracy”, and called upon all democratic forces of the Greek Parliament to join forces in order to “preserve our dignity and safeguard the principles of freedom, democracy and humanism”.

On September 17, 2013, Pavlos Fyssas, a defender of Democracy, was murdered by a sworn follower of Nazism. Our dignity, our freedom, our democracy, our humanism were literally violated. The punishment of the perpetrators is not enough.

We urge the Prime Minister, as well as all the leaders of the democratic parties to work together in the struggle against the “morphemes” of Nazism and Fascism in Greece, to cooperate for the voting of a strong and effective legislation that will combat racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism and undertake all necessary steps in order to ban from contesting elections individuals and / or organizations that profess nazi methods and have committed crimes against Democracy and society. All parties have to turn their promises into legislative action and finally stop those who seek the return of the darkest period of our history.

Those who deny the Holocaust, the ultimate crime against Humanity, do not just preach Anti-Semitism, they incite to hatred against the political opponent, the immigrant, the Roma, the black, the yellow, the DIFFERENT. Pavlos Fyssas was one of the ‘different’, he was a political opponent of Nazism and this is why he was murdered.

It is our duty to defend our dignity, the principles of freedom, democracy and humanism

Athens, September 23, 2013

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

Local Golden Dawn office in Ierapetra (Crete) closes after murder of Pavlos Fyssas: here.

Golden Dawn’s secret army: here.

Athens: Shop owner kicking a Roma girl with her leg: here.

Strikes and demonstrations against social cuts and fascist terror are continuing in Greece: here.

Golden Dawn popularity in decline following Fyssas murder: here.

Greece anti-fascist protests: share your stories, video and images: here.

More British drone strikes in Afghanistan


This video from the USA is called Drone Strikes Kill Numerous Civilians.

From AFP news agency, September 6, 2013:

Sharp rise in British drone use in Afghanistan

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions

The British military fired nearly seven times as many missiles from unmanned drones in Afghanistan last year as it did five years earlier, according to official data released on Friday.

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions — more than 10 percent of all sorties, junior defence minister Andrew Robathan said in a written statement to parliament.This compares to 2008 when the hi-tech unmanned Reaper aircraft flew 296 missions, firing weapons just five percent of the time, on 14 occasions.Used to target suspected insurgents in Afghanistan, Britain’s Reaper drones are capable of carrying laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

Heavy use of drones by the United States has been one of the most controversial aspects of its fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond.

Drone fire has killed top leaders from both Islamist networks, but it has also been blamed for scores of civilian deaths.

Snow leopard on camera in Kyrgyzstan


This video is called (1/6) Snow Leopard of Pakistan – Beyond the Myth.

From BirdLife:

First snow leopard caught on NABU camera in Kyrgyzstan

Tue, Sep 3, 2013

A stately snow leopard has been caught on one of the 18 cameras recently set up by NABU (BirdLife in Germany) in the Tian Shan mountains, in Kyrgyzstan, one of the species’ last refuges. Nobody knows exactly how many of these endangered cats still live in the wilderness, but experts estimate that there are about 4,080 to 6,590 snow leopards that roam across an enormous area of 2 million square kilometres in Central Asia.

In the mid-1980s, between 1,200 and 1,400 animals still lived in Kyrgyzstan, at that time a large part of the world’s snow leopard population. Today, however, there are only approximately 200 to 300.“Even though there are laws to protect the snow leopard, many animals still fall victim to poachers”, NABU vice-president Thomas Tennhardt said. NABU has been committed to the protection of snow leopards in Kyrgyzstan since the early 1990s. “The cameras will help us observe snow leopards in the wild and to track the animals. In the long run, this will allow us to provide a more precise estimate of their overall population size”, Tennhardt explained.

Sharing knowledge and strengthening the conservation of the snow leopard will play a central role during the first Global Snow Leopard Forum in October. Initiated by NABU, this international conference will hopefully contribute to saving the species from extinction. At the invitation of Kyrgyz president Almasbek Atambajew, representatives of all twelve states to which the snow leopard is native, will come together for the first time. “The aim is to exchange experiences in the protection of snow leopards and to agree on an international, binding conservation plan”, Tennhardt said.

For more information: please contact Boris Tichomirow, Head of Central Asia programs at NABU.

Ex-dictator Musharraf charged with murdering Benazir Bhutto


This video says about itself:

Aug 20, 2013

Pakistan‘s former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has been indicted for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

At the time of her death the government sought to blame Taliban militants for her murder.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Musharraf charged with Bhutto assassination

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Ex-President and army chief Pervez Musharraf was charged today with murder over the assassination of prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

The decision by a court in Rawalpindi was the first time General Musharraf, or any former army chief in Pakistan, has been charged with a crime.

He took power in a 1999 and stepped down in disgrace nearly a decade later.

Gen Musharraf is currently under house arrest in connection with another case.

He has been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitation of murder, said prosecutor Chaudry Muhammed Azhar.

Ms Bhutto was killed in 2007 in a gun and bomb attack at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

Prosecutors have said that Gen Musharraf, who was president at the time, failed to properly protect her.

Ms Bhutto was the daughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was himself executed in 1977 after a coup.

Gen Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after nearly four years outside the country and vowed to take part in the country’s May elections.

But he found little popular support and has since faced a litany of legal problems related to his rule.

See also here.

A Pakistani court yesterday issued an arrest warrant for the former US-backed military strongman Pervez Musharraf, who is on trial for treason over his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007. The court hearing the case, a special treason tribunal, also refused to allow him to travel abroad for medical treatment for a heart condition that he complained of suffering while travelling to the tribunal on January 2: here.

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Greek nazi anti-Pakistani violence


This video is called Golden Dawn and the anti-fascist movement in Greece.

From I Can’t Relax in Greece blog:

Golden Dawners stab immigrants in Heraklion

Posted on 14/08/2013 by icantrelaxingreece

Two young people, 18 to 20 years old, are the new victims of the neonazis’ brutality. The reason is simple: their reponse to the question “Where are you from?” was “From Pakistan”.

Another violent attack by Golden Dawners against immigrants took place on Monday night in Heraklion, Crete. The attack reveals the Minister’s of Citizen Protection understanding of anti-racist-policy (to which he claims to be committed): the very moment that far-right murderers go around free and unpunished while the victims cannot turn to the police or even the health services out of fear of getting deported.

This time it was two teenager immigrants aged 18 to 20 who became the victims of the neonazis’ brutality in an incident that took place in Heraklion, where a group of Golden Dawners had a gathering to celebrate the one year since the opening of the local Golden Dawn offices. The gathering had taken place just a bit before the attack and was also attended by Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas.

“Where are you from?”

In more detail, at around 3 on Tuesday morning the two immigrants were walking in Giofyro, just outside the ‘Jumbo’ store on their way back home. Suddenly a group of men in black arrived with five-six cars and ten motorbikes. They stopped and most of them got off their vehicles and asked the usual question: “Where are you from?”

When the immigrants responded “From Pakistan”, three Golden Dawners pulled knives. One of them cut the veins of the older immigrant’s wrist, as he was trying to defend himself. Another made a cut on the other immigrant’s neck just over the carotid artery, leaving a three centimetre scar. The immigrants fell on the ground and the rest of the Golden Dawners started kicking them furiously till they got tired and decided to leave.

Too scared to go to the hospital

The victims dragged themselves to their apartment and waited there till Tuesday afternoon when they were found terrified by a friend. They were too scared to go to the hospital because they did not have papers. As expected, they did not even dare to think of going to the police. Eventually they managed to find a doctor who took note of the injuries on their arms and necks and also the bruises on their ribs caused by the strikes.

“Is this where we are going to in Greece? How is it possible that two victims of a violent attack are not able to go to the hospital due to fear of deportation? Can someone get stripped of their basic human rights just because their stay in the country is irregular?” asks Katerina Hasouraki, coordinator of the local Amnesty International branch, after meeting with the victims.

Translated from ‘Efimerida ton Syntakton’ newspaper, 13/08/2013. Available online at: http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=91357.