Syrian Armenians threatened by opposition paramilitaries


This video from California in the USA is called Valley Armenians demand action! In Syria rebel forces attack Armenians.

By Patrick J. McDonnell in the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

Ethnic Armenians tell of flight from Kasab, their town in Syria

‘We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,’ says one man who made it to safety in Lebanon as rebels advanced from Turkey, a situation with historic parallels.

April 9, 2014, 5:30 a.m.

BEIRUT — They fled Kasab at daybreak, amid the clamor of artillery and word that Islamist rebels were advancing toward them from Turkey.

About 2,500 residents, most of them ethnic Armenians, gathered documents and what few possessions they could carry. They piled into cars and minibuses that carried them 40 miles down mountain roads to the government-held city of Latakia. Only some elderly remained behind, residents said.

“We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon.

Many had heard reports of atrocities committed in August by other rebels elsewhere in Latakia province. Armenian Christians have lived in Kasab since the days of the Ottoman Empire, but they feared for their lives if they remained.

“We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,” said George, 45, a displaced Kasab resident now living in Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood. He was among a number of Armenian exiles who asked that their surnames not be used for security reasons.

Coming close to the centennial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, last month’s wholesale flight of Armenian Christians drew global attention. Kasab is among the last remaining Armenian-populated towns that survived a genocide that began in 1915, in the waning days of the empire.

Armenians worldwide have come to Kasab’s defense, drawing attention to the historic parallels.

“What happened to Kasab is a continuation of the genocide which was in 1915 carefully planned and executed against Armenians,” said His Holiness Aram I, Beirut-based pontiff of the Armenian church and spiritual leader of the Armenian diaspora.

Since Kasab’s fall to Syrian rebels March 21, activists have headed to the region in a bid to provide assistance.

“The preservation of this village and its people is of utmost importance to the Armenian people,” said Garo Ghazarian, an Encino-based attorney and chairman of the Armenian Bar Assn., who traveled to Beirut on a fact-finding trip about Kasab.

Turkish officials deny mass extermination of Armenians, which the U.S. House of Representatives and several nations have labeled genocide. Turkey says the millions of deaths in the early 20th century were the result of war, displacement, disease and other factors.

While Armenian activists try to avert Kasab’s destruction and press for residents’ safe return, pro-government Syrian forces are fighting to recapture Kasab. Meanwhile, a virtual battle has ensued.

Armenian groups have marshaled a massive Web campaign to denounce what they call Turkish-backed abuses in Kasab, but pro-opposition media activists have said that rebels in Kasab have gone out of their way to evacuate civilians and respect property rights.

On Tuesday, lawmakers from California, home to several hundred thousand people of Armenian heritage, spoke on Capitol Hill of the dangers facing Armenians and other Christians in Syria.

Given the widespread devastation during more than three years of war that has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and destroyed scores of towns in Syria, sparing Kasab from ruin will probably be a difficult task.

Uncertainty hangs over the newest residents of Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood, a cluttered, animated district of narrow streets and multi-story apartment buildings that is a signature Armenian diaspora community.

Like so many other displaced Syrians, the Kasab exiles don’t know when, or if, they will go home. Even before the rebel onslaught, the war had wiped out the lucrative tourism business in Kasab, once a popular summer retreat because of its altitude and relatively cool weather. Many had already returned to the business of their ancestors: tending fruit orchards.

“We all went back to farming,” said Rafi, 44.

Some Kasab exiles call for an international solution that will force a rebel withdrawal or even create a demilitarized zone. But prospects for such a deal appear dim amid the geopolitical crosscurrents of the Syrian war.

Turkey is a close U.S. ally and the eastern bulwark of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Washington, like Ankara, seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has provided assistance to anti-Assad rebels.

A more likely scenario — a protracted government offensive to recapture the town — could leave Kasab in ruins. Government and opposition forces have been fighting in territory outside the town.

Kasab exiles say their ancestral homes are occupied by rebels, including elements of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabat al Nusra, or Al Nusra Front, whose ranks include non-Syrian fighters. A Moroccan fighter and former inmate at the U.S. lockup on Guantanamo Bay was among those killed in the Kasab area in recent fighting, various websites reported.

“I telephoned my house and someone answered, ‘We are Jabat al Nusra,’” recalled Maral, 40, still stunned at the turmoil that has torn apart her once tranquil family life. “They are helping themselves to our food, to our homes.”

The day of the attack, she noted, was Mother’s Day in Syria. Many had prepared pastries and other treats.

She and others bemoan their current predicament: dependence on the generosity of relatives and friends, the inability to enroll children in schools, the absence of homes where most resided all their lives — all of the unfortunate realities of life as a refugee, now so familiar to multitudes of Syrians. That they are better off than many Syrian refugees living in tents and abandoned buildings is of little consolation.

“People have been very kind to us, they are sharing everything,” said Maral, a mother of three. “But Kasab is our home, not here. We all dream about Kasab. We dream about what we left behind.”

See also (in French): here.

Climate change-fueled droughts are about to make Syria even more hellish: here.

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Dutch priest murdered in Syria


This video from Syria, in Arabic, says about itself:

Wake up Call: Frans van der Lugt s.j./S.O.S.from Homs

January 27th 2014

Jesuit Father Frans Van Der Lugt does an emergency call from his church in Homs.

That day was [supposed] to enable and agree to Red Cross aid to women and children to leave the city. That didn’t seem to be fulfilled.

The last contact of the father with the home front would have been a week before Jan. 27. The date of the recording is not exactly known.

He talks about hunger and that it is the case that adults find street food for their children, he says: it may not be true that the world does nothing. We want to live!

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Dutch priest killed in Syria

Update: Monday 7 May 2014, 13:37

Dutch Father Frans van der Lugt (75) was shot dead this morning in the Syrian city of Homs. The order of Jesuits [Van der Lugt's order] said he was dragged away from his home by armed men. They have beaten him and then shot him in the head.

Van der Lugt gave several interviews in recent months, in which he said he was determined to stay in the country. He was concerned about the dire situation in the country and said that people needed urgent help.

The father lived for nearly 50 years in a monastery in Homs, where he housed people with disabilities.

This NOS TV Internet item does not mention, though the NOS TV news broadcast did, that a NOS correspondent said that Van der Lugt’s murderers may have been either pro-government or pro-opposition fighters in the Syrian civil war. The correspondent thought they were probably on the opposition side.

UPDATE: according to Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Van der Lugt’s murderers were members of the Al-Nusra Front, an armed opposition group, linked to Al-Qaeda.

Van der Lugt wrote critically abou the armed opposition.

United States weapons for Syrian opposition: here.

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Sarin gas attack in Syria and the Turkish government


This video from the USA is called Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry Picked” Intel on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (1 of 2).

And this is Part 2.

By Patrick Martin:

New exposé by Seymour Hersh: Turkey staged gas attack to provoke US war on Syria

7 April 2014

In a lengthy article published Sunday by the London Review of Books, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports that the sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21, 2013 was actually carried out by Syrian “rebel” forces acting at the behest of Turkey, for the purpose of providing a pretext for a US attack on Syria.

The gas attack killed many hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, and the Obama administration and the corporate-controlled US media immediately blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the atrocity. The New York Times, in particular, published a lengthy analysis by its military “expert,” C. J. Chivers, which purported to show, based on rocket trajectories, prevailing winds and other technical factors, that the gas shells could only have been fired from Syrian army artillery positions.

For several weeks, the Ghouta attack became the pretext for a warmongering campaign by the White House and the US and European media. Obama threatened immediate air strikes, claiming that the Syrian government had crossed a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons, which he had laid down in 2012.

The US president then abruptly reversed himself and announced he would seek congressional approval first, only to call off any overt military action in favor of a deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Assad agreed to the supervised dismantling of his chemical weapons stockpiles.

By Hersh’s account, “Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff… As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.”

The US military leadership also knew that White House claims that there could be no other source for the sarin gas than the Syrian army were false. “The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons,” Hersh reports. “On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell…”

Hersh quotes extensively from this US government document, which the office of the US director of national intelligence now denies ever existed:

Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW [chemical weapons] aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future… Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators… were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.”

Hersh notes that members of al-Nusra were arrested in Turkey last May in possession of two kilograms of sarin. They were charged in a 130-page indictment with “attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin.” All have since been released pending trial, or had charges dropped altogether.

Those arrests followed chemical weapons attacks in Syria in March and April 2013, where a UN investigation found evidence implicating the Syrian “rebels.” One source told Hersh, “Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.”

The “no one,” of course, was the US government, its European allies, and its UN stooges—as well as their political apologists in the media and the pseudo-left groups such as the International Socialist Organization that were either openly campaigning for military intervention in Syria or justifying it by portraying the US-financed “rebels” as the bearers of a democratic revolution.

When the August 21 attack took place, Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing Syria, and, as a former intelligence official told Hersh, “the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently ‘painful’ to the Assad regime.”

The US bombing plan ultimately envisioned “a monster strike” involving two wings of B-52 bombers equipped with 2,000-pound bombs, as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from submarines and surface warships.

Hersh continues: “The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had,’ the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.”

The bombing attack drawn up at the direction of the Obama White House would have itself constituted a war crime, causing thousands if not tens of thousands of casualties and crippling Syria as a functioning society.

Hersh then passes on to his most important revelation: that US officials believed the Turkish government, or its intelligence agencies, had instigated the gas attack in Ghouta.

He cites concerns among US military and intelligence leaders that “there were some in the Turkish government” who supported “dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria—and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

This was reinforced by the British military intelligence finding on the type of gas used in Ghouta. This included a message to the Americans: “We’re being set up here.” This was followed by a further message about the Ghouta attack that “a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime [i.e., Assad]’. UK & US know this.”

Hersh suggests that the bitter controversy over the attack on a US consulate and CIA mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, which killed four Americans including the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, is directly linked to the infighting over Syria.

It has been widely reported that the CIA organized the shipment of Libyan weapons stockpiles from Benghazi to the Syrian rebels. Hersh cites a “highly classified annex” to the report of the Senate committee that investigated the Benghazi attack.

This document “described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and [Turkish] Erdogan administrations… By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer.”

According to Hersh, after the Benghazi fiasco, the CIA was pulled out, but the Libya to Turkey to Syria pipeline continued, possibly including “manpads”—portable surface-to-air missile launchers, which the Obama administration had opposed supplying the rebels out of concern that they would be used to attack civilian airliners.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tasked Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) with engineering a provocation that would give a pretext for direct US military intervention. Hersh quotes his source: “‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training—including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there… Erdogan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’”

Two sources described to Hersh a working dinner during Erdogan’s visit to Washington in May 2013 in which Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon met Erdogan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and MIT chief Hakan Fidan. Erdogan appealed for Obama to attack Syria, telling him “your red line has been crossed.” Obama then pointed at Fidan and said, “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.”

Hersh cites a “US intelligence consultant” who describes a classified briefing for Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, prepared before the August 21 gas attack. The briefing noted “the acute anxiety” in the Erdogan regime over the military setbacks for the Syrian rebels and warned that the Turkish leadership felt “the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response.”

In the period following the gas attack, Hersh’s former intelligence official source explained, communications intercepts and other data supported the suspicion that Turkey had organized the Ghouta attack. “We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’—who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas—‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey—that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’”

Only a week ago, evidence surfaced that supports the credibility of Hersh’s report. A video was posted on YouTube of a meeting of Turkish officials, including Fikan, in which the intelligence chief suggests that Turkish agents should mount an attack on a Muslim shrine inside Syria to provide a pretext for a Turkish invasion of the country.

Hersh’s account is his second long exposé in four months of the “false flag” gas attack in Damascus. Both articles were published in the British journal because no major US newspaper or magazine will any longer publish material from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Beginning with his reporting of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam for the New York Times, Hersh has specialized in developing sources in the US military and intelligence apparatus, frequently those with policy differences with the current administration in Washington. Hersh left the Times for Newsday, and then wrote for the New Yorker for many years.

Both the New Yorker and the Washington Post refused to publish his first report on the Ghouta gas attack, which charged that the sarin attack had been carried out by Syrian rebels in the al-Nusra Front, forcing Hersh to find a British publisher for his account. The US press was largely silent on that report, and it has so far blacked out the latest exposure.

The author also recommends:

Seymour Hersh exposes US government lies on Syrian sarin attack
[10 December 2013]

The war drive against Syria
[26 August 2013]

Syria chemical warfare claims aim to provoke Western intervention
[22 August 2013]

“If you’re inside the bureaucracy, you can’t tell the White House something they don’t want to know.” -Seymour Hersh: here.

Media blacks out Seymour Hersh exposé of US lies on Syrian gas attack: here.

US officials say they have a plan to supply the “moderate opposition” in Syria with weapons that are to be channelled through Washington’s regional allies: here.

Syria, Russia and Ukraine: here.

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Dutch parents fear daughters forced into prostitution in Syria


This video from the USA is called Washington Post: CIA Delivering Weapons To Rebels In Syria.

Translated from Janny Groen, in Dutch daily De Volkskrant:

Parents of Muslim girls fear ‘jihad prostitution’

03/06/14, 07:01

“These girls going to Syria will end up in prostitution.” Without hesitation Rachma el Hamdaoui (over 50) of the The Hague Mother and Daughter Foundation explains the greatest fear of parents of prospective jihad brides.

El Hamdaoui has in the The Hague Schilderswijk neighbourhood a discussion group with girls who walk around with jihad plans; and now, she speaks at a meeting of Muslim women in Gouda.

According to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) twenty Dutch Muslim women are in Syria. Five of them come from Gouda. They marry without parental consent. Not in the mosque, but for example in an apartment, a Gouda district police officer knows. Such marriages are invalid according to Islamic rules which their parents use.

The young women travel after their man, the mujahid (warrior). Or they are persuaded via WhatsApp messages from the front area to come to Syria to marry their hero. They have most often met him through jihadi social media. …

Sex with twenty, thirty, a hundred rebels

But there are also other views. In September last year the Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo sounded the alarm. He wanted to put an end to the jihad al-nikah, also described as sex jihad. Young women traveling to the Chaimbi Mountains in Tunisia, where Al Qaeda fighters are fighting against the Tunisian regime; and especially to Syria to satisfy warriors. Some girls, according to the minister, have sex with twenty, thirty or even a hundred rebels. …

Pubescent girls traveling

In Dutch Muslim communities there is fear that their daughters landed in Syria in a very different world than the one they were dreaming about. El Hamdaoui: “They are often teenagers who want to travel. They know nothing, they cannot estimate the consequences of their actions.”

Muslim parents read disturbing stories on Arabic sites. They read about young women who are married (briefly) before sexual activity, and then divorce immediately afterwards. There are indications that the sex jihad is not entirely a figment of the imiginations of evil spirits. Thus, the prominent Tunisian Muslim scholar Sheikh Farred Elba stated (to the BBC and others) that he knew young women who had got trapped in this. He said there was medical evidence of that as well.

There are no signals that Dutch girls are in sexual jihad in Syria and go from hand to hand, according to the Gouda police district officer. However, what does happen is that, if it does not click between the “lovers” , the girl is married off to another mujahid. And if that man is killed, another warrior is quickly brought in.

In the eyes of the Muslim women who were gathered in Gouda, that smells like prostitution. As one of them says: “Our prophet has never meant that.”

Turkey and war in Syria: here. And here.

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Drowning refugees and nazis in Greece


This video says about itself:

Greece: Families of survivors from “Greek Lampedusa” arrive

23 Jan 2014

A total of 16 Afghan and Syrian refugees arrived at the port of Piraeus, Thursday, after 12 people drowned following an incident involving the Greek coast guard pulling a refugee boat towards the Turkish coast. As the refugees arrived, they were greeted by sympathisers and protesters, some of whom holding banners comparing the incident to the tragic incident in Lampedusa, when more than 350 refugees drowned off the coast of Italy.

Refugees had tried to land their boat at Farmakonisi, a Greek island in the eastern Mediterranean. A total of three women and nine children drowned in the incident. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) has condemned the Greek coast guard following interviews with survivors, who said their boat capsized while they were being pulled back to the Turkish coast.

From I Can’t Relax in Greece blog:

Migrant drowns off Rhodes

Posted on 04/02/2014 by icantrelaxingreece

Man, believed to be Syrian, died while trying to swim ashore …

The man’s death comes two weeks to the day after a dozen people, including three women and nine children, drowned when their vessel capsized while being towed in a controversial coastguard operation near the island of Farmakonisi, also in the eastern Aegean.

Behind the Coast Guard officers and illegal ‘refoulements’, there is the government which provokes anyone seeking clarifications about the Farmakonisi affair: here.

UN’s High Commissioner Muiznieks expressed concern about the escalation of anti-migrant rhetoric in Greece: here.

The German press speaks of relations between Golden Dawn and neo-nazi organizations from the south of Germany, while it is noted that a delegation of fascist organizations participated in the Golden Dawn demonstration on the anniversary of the Imia crisis: here.

Greece’s Golden Dawn to form new party if banned from polls. Far-right activists say they will form National Dawn to contest elections if they are prevented from standing in elections: here.

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Tony Blair’s ministers in Iraq war crimes case


This video is called ‘Beatings & Burning’: Dossier accusing UK of Iraq war crimes goes to ICC.

It says about itself:

14 Jan 2014

The ICC has been urged to investigate the alleged war crimes of UK politicians during the Iraq conflict. A dossier detailing reports of sexual assault, torture and mock executions carried out by British soldiers in Iraq has been submitted to the Court. READ MORE: here.

By Jean Shaoul in Britain:

Ex-UK minister of defence and former army chief of staff named in Iraq war crimes case

21 January 2014

Britain has been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague over allegations of war crimes committed during the occupation of Iraq. There was a call for an ICC investigation under Article 15 of the Rome Statute into the actions of senior British officials during the conflict.

The submission specifically names the former chief of staff General Sir Peter Wall and two ministers in Tony Blair’s Labour government, former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and former defence minister Adam Ingram, as officials who should have to answer claims about the systematic use of torture and cruelty.

The secretary general of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Wolfgang Kaleck, said, “With the current communication to the ICC we want to move forward the criminal prosecution against those political and military leaders in the UK who bear the most responsibility for systematic torture in Iraq.”

The formal complaint, The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008, was lodged by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the ECCHR with the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor. It says that its 250-page submission, the result of years of work by both organisations, “is the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes allegedly committed by British forces in Iraq.”

The ECCHR said that given the scope and scale of the crimes carried out between 2003 and 2008, the responsibility and blame lay at the feet of “individuals at the highest levels” of the British Army and political system. UK military commanders “knew or should have known” that forces under their control “were committing or about to commit war crimes,” but failed to act. “Civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq.”

The report cites evidence from more than 400 Iraqis, representing “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. They included “hooding” prisoners, burning, electric shocks, “cultural and religious humiliation”, sexual assault, mock executions, threats of rape, death, and torture, both against the victims and their families.

There is, according to the authors, evidence of the “systematic use of brutal violence that in some cases led to the death of detainees while in the custody of UK Services Personnel.”

It claims “there is evidence of brutality combined with cruelty and forms of sadism, including sexual abuse, and sexual and religious humiliation”, and points to the widespread use of hooding, forcing people to remain in painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, noise bombardment and deprivation of food and water.

One victim who suffered more than 60 punches to his head said that a soldier brought the prisoner’s eight-year-old son into the room and started slapping the boy about the face and shouting at him. Another victim who was hooded said, “Sand kept coming into the hood. It was extremely uncomfortable and difficult to breathe…. We were left to kneel in the sun for hours. If I moved position and bent my head forward at all, a soldier would come and kick me hard.”

These interrogation techniques were widely used by British soldiers against IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland until public outrage led to their being banned in 1972. The army ignored the ban, and it was not included in the 2001 Ministry of Defence guidelines on the treatment of prisoners.

The report says that there are “clear patterns” of the banned techniques being used “in a variety of different UK facilities [in Iraq]…from 2003 to 2008,” and that “failures to follow-up on or ensure accountability for ending such practices became a cause of further abuse. The obvious conclusion is that such mistreatment was systematic.”

This pattern of abuse by UK military services personnel continued over almost six years of military occupation.

Britain’s practices were not very different from those of the infamous US torture prison, Abu Ghraib.

In submitting his report, Kaleck made the point, “The International Criminal Court in The Hague is the last resort for victims of torture and mistreatment to achieve justice. Double standards in international criminal justice must end. War crimes and other severe violations of human rights must be investigated and prosecuted, regardless of whether they are committed by the most powerful.”

Almost all or most of the ICC’s indictees have been African head of states or officials, while the US, which is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and the other major powers get off scot-free and use the court to target figures hostile to their interests. The ICC has turned a blind eye to the most blatant human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the West Bank and Gaza, where their perpetrators are protected by a US veto at the United Nations Security Council.

In 2006, the ICC’s then-prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that he had received more than 240 complaints relating to alleged war crimes during the Iraq war and occupation, mostly by the US and Britain. He concluded that there was little doubt that wilful killing and inhuman treatment, crimes that fell within the ICC’s jurisdiction, had been committed. He refused to mount an investigation because of the small number of cases—fewer than 20. Since then, hundreds of other claims have surfaced, making a mockery of his decision.

Legal experts have backed the referral to the ICC. Professor William Schabas, an expert on human rights law at Middlesex University, said, “There is definitely a case for an investigation by the ICC.” Professor Andrew Williams, a law expert at the University of Warwick, said the complaint amounts to “a prima facie investigation mapped out for the prosecutor” and is “supported by sophisticated legal argument which adheres to the requirements of the [ICC].” Williams is the author of A Very British Killing: the Death of Baha Mousa.

The officials concerned, Wall, Hoon and Ingram, have declined to comment.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was no need for the ICC to investigate the allegations. “These allegations are either under investigation already or have been dealt with already in a variety of ways, through the historic abuses system that has been established, through public inquiries, through the UK courts or the European courts.”

“There have been some cases of abuse that have been acknowledged and apologies and compensation have been paid appropriately,” he added. “But the government has always been clear and the armed forces have been clear that they absolutely reject allegations of systematic abuses by the British armed forces.” The Ministry of Defence said, “We reject the suggestion the UK’s Armed Forces—who operate in line with domestic and international law—have systematically tortured detainees.”

They are all lying through their teeth. The government has resisted every effort to be held to account for its infamous practices in Iraq.

Baha Mousa, a hotel worker, was brutally beaten to death while in British custody on September 15, 2003. Corporal Donald Payne was found guilty at a court martial in 2007 of inhumane treatment. He was sentenced to just one year in jail. Six of his colleagues, including his commanding officer, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, were cleared of serious charges relating to Mousa’s death. The government was forced to hold a public inquiry, which when it reported in 2011 was a whitewash.

Apart from this one conviction, as Phil Shiner, the lead lawyer in PIL, which compiled the report, said: “Nobody has been found guilty of anything of any seriousness at all.”

Yet in July 2010, the High Court ruled in response to an appeal case brought by Shiner to order a public inquiry into claims by more than 200 Iraqi civilians that they were systematically abused and mistreated while in detention, “There is an arguable case that the alleged ill-treatment [of Iraqis] was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers.”

The government was forced to establish the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) in 2010. In three years, it has spent £15 million hiring former detectives employed by multinational security corporations to investigate. It has completed just 6 out of 144 cases on its books, fining one soldier a measly £3,000 fine for badly beating an Iraqi, which was captured on video.

This is in addition to the long-running Al-Sweady inquiry into incidents of mistreatment after the Battle of Danny Boy in southern Iraq in May 2004.

Last month, the Daily Telegraph disclosed 11 new inquest-style inquiries are due to begin into abuses by British troops in Iraq after a human rights ruling by the High Court to fulfil the requirements of Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), requiring an investigation of suspicious deaths involving the state.

A comment on this by Ray Comeau says:

It is about time. But, now these people accused of war crimes need to fees up and point fingers at those who gave them the orders and means to commit such atrocities, and those were: Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al. If the International Criminal court does not indict these people, then it is true they only want to convict African leaders which is a blatant racist act! And we will require purging the International Criminal court and reconstruct an honest one!

Blair’s outreach to Muammar al-Qaddafi while in office may have been justifiable at the time, but reports that he considered asking the Queen to bestow honorary knighthood on Bashar al-Assad are a bit more embarrassing. More recently, Blair urged Western governments to stop “wringing our hands” and intervene militarily in Syria: here.

Iraq: Sectarian violence the legacy of West’s war: here.

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Eritrean elephant mystery in ancient Gaza battle solved


This video is called The Elephant Documentary.

From LiveScience:

Elephant Mystery at Ancient Syrian Battle Solved

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer

January 21, 2014 08:01am ET

The mystery of an ancient battle between two warring troops of elephants has been solved, thanks to a modern genetic analysis of the lumbering beasts.

Researchers have now found that Eritrean elephants, which live in the northeastern portion of Africa, are savanna elephants, and are not related to the more diminutive forest elephants that live in the jungles of central Africa.

That, in turn, discounts an ancient Greek account of how a battle between two warring empires played out, with one side’s elephants refusing to fight and running away, the scientists report in the January issue of the Journal of Heredity. [10 Epic Battles That Changed the Course of History]

Ancient battle

In the third century B.C., the Greek historian Polybius described the epic Battle of Raphia, which took place around 217 B.C. in what is now the Gaza Strip, as part of the Syrian Wars. During these wars, Seleucid ruler Antiochus III the Great fought against  Ptolemy IV Philopator, the fourth ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt, whose last leader was Cleopatra. The matchup included tens of thousands of troops, thousands of cavalry and dozens of war elephants on each side.

The elephants were the “ace in the hole,” able to trample the enemy and sow terror with their massive size.

“Elephants were considered the tanks of the time, until eventually the Romans figured out how to defeat war elephants,” in later times, said study co-author Alfred Roca, an animal scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Antiochus had easy access to Asian elephants from India, but Ptolemy didn’t. Instead, he set up outposts in what is now modern-day Eritrea to get African elephants.

Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t work out so well: According to Polybius’ account, the African elephants turned tail and ran when they saw how gigantic the Asian elephants were. Ptolemy, however, was able to recover due to missteps by Antiochus and eventually won the battle.

African elephants

In reality, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, so some historians speculated that perhaps the Ptolemies were using African forest elephants, which tend to be smaller, Roca said.

So Roca and his colleagues conducted a thorough genetic analysis of the elephants found in Eritrea, the descendants of the losers in the ancient battle.

“We showed using pretty much every genetic marker, that they were savanna elephants,” Roca told LiveScience. “This was contrary to some speculation that there may be forest elephants present in that part of the world.”

Ancient myths

The findings suggest that Polybius had it wrong, and the African elephants got spooked for some other reason than the overpowering size of the Asian elephants.

In other ancient documents, “There were these ancient semi-mythical accounts of India, and they claimed that India had the biggest elephants in the world,” Roca said.

Polybius, who wasn’t actually at the battle, likely read those accounts and surmised the Asian elephants’ bigger size caused their opponents to panic.

In fact, until about the 1700s, when scientists actually measured the two, most people still thought Asian elephants were the larger species, Roca said. (And even now, games such as Age of Empires that recreate the Battle of Raphia depict the Ptolemaic elephants as smaller.)

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