Italian medical soldier jailed for saving cat’s life?


Doctor Barbara Balanzoni

Nearly a century ago, in World War I, British military top brass ordered a cat to be shot for treason.

Now, in 2013, an Italian woman doctor may have to spend a year or more in a military jail for saving a cat’s life.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Italian army reservist to be prosecuted for saving cat’s life in Kosovo

Barbara Balanzoni, who saved dying cat while serving as a medical officer at a Nato base, is charged with insubordination

John Hooper in Rome

Sunday 22 December 2013 15.35 GMT

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat.

Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anaesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.

It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals”. She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary.

Lt Balanzoni told the Guardian she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat – later named “Agata” – normally lived on the roof of a hut.

“There are lots of cats on the base,” she said. “In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there.”

Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene.”

She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die. “If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem.”

Lt Balanzoni’s trial is due to open in Rome on 7 February. Her case has been taken up by Italy’s oldest animal defence association, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali and a question to the defence minister is due to be tabled in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, when parliament reassembles after the Christmas break.

See also here.

French students’ mass pro-refugee movement


This video is called Student deportations spark protests in Paris.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 19 October 2013

FRENCH YOUTH ERUPT! – against deportations

TENS of thousands of French youth walked out of their classes and lectures and joined marches on Thursday protesting over the removal of two foreign students from France.

At least 20 secondary schools in Paris were closed by the walkout.

A rally took place between the city’s Bastille and Nation squares and there were also school walkouts in Marseille, Lyon and Rouen.

Anger in France erupted after one of the school students, Leonarda Dibrani, 15, was removed from a school bus to be expelled along with her family earlier this month.

They had been living in the eastern region of Doubs for several years.

There is also anger over the removal of Khatchik Kachatryan, a 19-year-old student in Paris who was expelled on Saturday to Armenia after reportedly being arrested.

Protesters have demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who has defended the expulsions and has been carrying out a tough policy towards Roma immigrants in general.

The row has created a crisis within the government of ‘Socialist’ President Francois Hollande.

Outside one school in central Paris, the Lycee Charlemagne, wheelie bins were used to block the entrance. A banner read ‘Jotters not ID papers’.

One schoolgirl, named as Amelie, said: ‘We got organised on Facebook yesterday evening – it was super easy!’

Leonarda and her family have been given a flat and a small allowance in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica, where they have been speaking to French journalists about the shock of being sent to a region where they are strangers, unable to speak Albanian.

A review of the case has been ordered in France, along with an investigation into the police response. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said the family will be allowed to return if ‘any fault is found’ with the expulsion order.

Students protested the eviction of both Kachatryan and Dibrani.

‘Bring back Khatchik and Leonarda, they belong here,’ the marching pupils chanted, holding up signs calling for Valls to resign and urging solidarity.

For her part, Dibrani has spoken out in multiple media interviews from Mitrovica asking to come back to France to continue her schooling.

The anti-refugee demonstrations are organized by the FIDL, a student organisation with links to the governing Socialist Party.

French students fight government’s anti-Roma racism


This video from France is called France: Mass student protest after Roma girl gets deported.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

French teens mount barricades after student deported

Thursday 17th October 2013

Hundreds rally after Kosovan seized during field trip

Hundreds of French teenagers erected barricades outside their schools and marched through Paris to protest against the expulsions of immigrant families – including their classmates.

A few clashed with police firing teargas but most marched peacefully.

Anger erupted this week over the treatment of 15-year-old Kosovan Roma Leonarda Dibrani who was detained in front of classmates on a field trip.

The government said her family had been denied asylum and was no longer allowed to stay in France.

Such expulsions occur regularly around France, but Ms Dibrani’s treatment touched a nerve, with students and left-wing politicians alike saying police had gone too far.

The students hope to press the government into allowing both Ms Dibrani and a recently expelled Armenian boy to return to France.

At one high school in Paris students piled green rubbish cans in front of the entrance and hung a banner saying “Education in Danger.”

“Everybody should have a chance. Everybody should have a job, work and have a family.

“When children try to achieve that and France refuses, that is not my country,” said protester Romain Desprez.

The Dibrani family fled Kosovo about five years ago because they faced discrimination.

“My home is in France,” Ms Dibrani said from the Kosovan city of Mitrovica. “I don’t speak the language here and I don’t know anyone.

“I’m frightened, I don’t speak Albanian. My life is in France.

“I don’t want to go to school here and I do not want to stay here.”

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls had defended the deportation of Ms Dibrani, her parents and five siblings as legal, but ordered officials to review the handling of the case.

But, confronted with an angry backlash from the left of the ruling Socialist party, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault promised the family would be brought back to France if Ms Dibrani’s rights were found to have been infringed.

And National Assembly speaker Claude Bartolone underlined the extent of disquiet in the Socialist camp.

“There is the law but there are also values on which the left must never compromise,” he said.

Reporting of the Greek ‘blonde angel’ case is all the more bitter for those who know the myths that have dogged Roma history: here.

The Swedish police force in the southern region of Skane has a database containing the details of over 4,000 Roma, including 1,000 children. The revelation came to light in a report from daily Dagens Nyheter at the end of September: here.

NATO pressure frees Croatian war criminals


This video says about itself:

Neo-Nazism In Croatia/ Obsession With Historical Paradox

Apr 4, 2008

Over 60,000 fans celebrating Croatia’s Nazi past with Hitler style hand salutes – “Sieg Heils”.

By Paul Mitchell:

Croatian war criminals released after appeal by Western military chiefs

11 December 2012

In April 2011, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Croatian general Ante Gotovina and Assistant Interior Minister Mladen Markac guilty of war crimes committed during 1995’s Operation Storm military offensive and sentenced them to 24 years’ and 18 years’ imprisonment, respectively.

The two leaders were accused of involvement in a “Joint Criminal Exercise” (JCE), led by late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, aimed at “the permanent removal of the Serb population from the Krajina region by force, fear or threat of force, persecution, forced displacement, transfer and deportation, appropriation and destruction of property or other means”. More than 150 Croatian Serbs died, hundreds disappeared and 200,000 fled in what was described as the biggest act of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan Wars. Half of the refugees have still not returned to their former homes.

In January 2012, 12 US, Canadian and British military experts, three of whom had served as judge advocate generals (senior military lawyers) and one as the top legal adviser to the US Army, launched an appeal to overturn the convictions. They argued that the court was wrong to use a “200-metre standard” by which artillery bomb craters located more than 200 metres from a legitimate military target were deemed evidence of unlawful indiscriminate attacks on civilians. If the standard became enshrined in international law, they declared, future Western military operations would be put in jeopardy and commanders would run the risk of being hauled in front of human rights courts accused of war crimes.

The appeal document concluded with a letter from General Ronald H. Griffith, vice chief of staff, the second highest officer in the US Army, from 1995 to 1997 and current executive vice president of the private military company Engility, formerly known as Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI). Griffith declared, “Should the standard of review adopted by the Trial Chamber gain traction as a controlling interpretation of international law it will ultimately expose commanders who have conducted military operations in compliance with accepted doctrinal principles and in a morally responsible manner to the threat of being brought before some international court and charged, as was General Gotovina, with war crimes.”

Last month, the ICTY Appeals Court overturned the convictions of Gotovina and Markac, declaring that the original court had “erred” by using the “200-metre standard”. The rest of the charges against the two war criminals fell like dominos. By a 3-to-2 majority, the court declared that the mass exodus of Serb civilians “cannot be qualified as deportation” and the existence of a JCE “cannot be sustained” and ordered Gotovina and Markac to be released.

Two of the five judges dissented from the majority opinion. Maltese judge Carmel Agius said that he “strongly disagreed” with almost all of the conclusions reached by the majority and was “distancing himself” from their decision. Italian judge Fausto Pocar insisted that the judgement “contradicts any sense of justice”.

Former ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte declared, “I am shocked, very surprised and astonished because it is absolutely unbelievable what happened after ruling the sentence of 24 years in prison to general Ante Gotovina.” Current chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said that “those affected by crime committed in connection with Operation Storm are not satisfied by the outcome and feel their suffering has not been acknowledged”. He hoped the Croatian authorities would use the evidence his office had gathered to prosecute those responsible.

Brammertz’s plea was quickly forgotten. After flying back to Croatia, Gotovina and Markac received a hero’s welcome from a crowd of 100,000 in the capital, Zagreb. President Ivo Josipovic welcomed the verdict, and other government figures and officials declared the men’s release was proof that no ethnic cleansing had occurred in Croatia. Gotovina declared that the “Homeland War is now clean, it belongs to our history, it is a basis on which we build our future.” Media reports suggest he will stand in the next presidential elections.

Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic denounced the Appeal Court’s decision as “scandalous,” declaring that it “will not contribute to stabilisation of the situation in the region but will reopen all wounds.” Russian United Nations ambassador Vitaly Churkin declared, “In its work, the ICTY demonstrates neither fairness nor effectiveness.”

The two have been released in the first instance because the Croatian army acted as Washington’s proxy against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, with President Bill Clinton’s special envoy Richard Holbrooke describing them as his “junkyard dogs”. In November 1994, MPRI was contracted to train the Croatian army at the time of a UN-monitored ceasefire. Photographs show Gotovina with US military personnel in front of a computer screen showing “Battle Staff Training Program” and “Welcome to Training Center Fort Irwin”. Franjo Tudjman’s son Miro, head of Croatian intelligence at the time, claims the Croatian and US governments enjoyed a “de facto partnership”.

In 2002, Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, was already warning that the ICTY could investigate officials who were “formulating and carrying out US government policy” in connection with Operation Storm. The Washington Times repeated Hyde’s warning and attacked the concept of command responsibility as a threat “to US national interests” and “Washington’s ability to project its power around the world.”

Such concerns also lay behind the release, a few days after that, of Gotovina and Markac, of Kosovo Liberation Army commander and former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and others accused of being members of a JCE involved in the torture and murder of Kosovo Serbs, Roma and Egyptians in a KLA compound in the village of Jabllanicë in 1998. A partial re-trial had been ordered because the original trial was surrounded by allegations that witnesses were subjected to systematic harassment and intimidation. Del Ponte was also forced to complain to the United Nations Security Council and UN secretary-general Kofi Annan about the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and its chief, Soren Jessen-Petersen, who, she said, protected Haradinaj. She asked, “How can the rule of law be implemented if UNMIK chiefs so openly support a person who is accused of some of the gravest crimes in international law?”

Both the Croatian and Kosovan Albanian leaders played a key role in ensuring US hegemony within the Balkan region. The US had been intent on preserving a unitary Yugoslav state as a bulwark against a Soviet thrust into the Mediterranean, but this changed with the collapse of the USSR and the reunification of Germany in 1991. When German imperialism, anxious to flex its political muscle, promoted secession in Slovenia and Croatia and rushed to extend recognition, both the US and the other western European powers reversed their previous opposition.

It was inevitable, given the history and politics of Yugoslavia, that the break-up of the federation would lead to civil war. The secession of provinces would suddenly deprive ethnic minorities of the constitutional protections they had enjoyed under the federation.

Stop one-sided NATO war propaganda in Belgium


From 18-27 October in Brussels, Belgium, there will be a so-called “Freedom Festival”, organized by the local government and NGOs.

At first sight, it looks promising:

Political and artistic, intercultural and creative, festive and subversive, Festival des Libertés returns each autumn to mobilise all forms of expression in order to offer an overview of the state of rights and freedoms around the world, to point out lurking dangers, to bring people together in a fun, relaxing atmosphere, to encourage resistance and to promote solidarity.

Resistance against what or against whom, one may ask?

This video from Britain is called Jamie Shea, NATO spin doctor.

As Belgian peace movement intal reports (translated from their Dutch):

The Freedom Festival on 22 October will give the floor to NATO spin doctor Jamie Shea. Title of the ‘debate’: «Should we intervene in Syria?». A strange ‘debate’, however, because in the panel there is no critical opponent of Shea. So Jamie Shea will get a platform without any speaker questioning NATO’s intervention policies.

We demand: there should be an opponent of Jamie Shea speaking, who should be able to criticize his views. The audience has a right to that.

For more information about Jamie Shea and how you can support this demand, please visit this link [in Dutch, but can be translated with Google Translate etc.]:

http://www.intal.be/nl/article/het-vrijheidsfestival+de-navo-verdient-een-echt-debat

You may of course publish this open letter on Facebook and other social media.

Part of the info on the intal site, translated from Dutch:

Who is Jamie Shea?

The world knows Jamie Shea as the public relations face of the Kosovo war of 1999, when NATO for 78 days and nights bombed Yugoslavia. That was an illegal war waged in violation of international law and without a UN mandate.

During its aggression NATO was guilty of numerous violations of the laws of war, including the deliberate bombing of civilian targets. Today no one can deny that this “humanitarian war” was based on lies, deception and manipulation – with anything but altruistic goals at stake.

Jamie Shea is still at NATO today, as Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges.