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Syria referendum goes ahead amid military onslaught

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/violence-rages-syria-holds-referendum-030825956.html

By Alistair Lyon | Reuters – 1 hour 35 minutes ago

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least 31 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed on Sunday in bloodshed that coincided with a vote on a new constitution that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military bombardment of opposition districts in Homs, now in its fourth week, had killed nine civilians, while rebel fighters had killed four soldiers in clashes in the city.

The British-based Observatory said eight civilians and 10 members of the security forces were killed in violence elsewhere in Syria, scene of what has become an increasingly militarised revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

Voting was under way in the referendum on a constitution which Assad says will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months, but which his opponents see as a sick joke given the unrest convulsing the country.

“What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have,” said Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs.

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” he said.

“Baba Amro has had no food or water for three days,” Fares said of another besieged and battered district in the city. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.”

He said people in opposition areas of Homs had wanted to burn copies of the new constitution in protest at the referendum, but it was too dangerous to venture out of doors.

On Saturday security forces killed at least 100 people across Syria, including six women and 10 children, the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

HARROWING CONDITIONS

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt the carnage, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups”.

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the 11-month-old revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

The military onslaught on parts of Homs has created harrowing conditions for civilians, rebels and journalists.

A video posted by activists on YouTube showed Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Baba Amro, holding a 15-year-old boy hit in the neck by shrapnel and spitting blood.

“It is late at night and Baba Amro is still being bombarded. We can do nothing for this boy,” said the doctor, who has also been treating Western journalists wounded in the city.

American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the bombardment of Homs last week and two other Western journalists were wounded. The group is still trapped there despite Red Cross efforts to extract them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was still unable to evacuate distressed civilians from Baba Amro . After a day of talks with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters, it said there were “no concrete results”.

“We continue our negotiations, hoping that tomorrow (Sunday) we will be able to enter Baba Amro to carry out our life-saving operations,” spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

REVISED CONSTITUTION

Despite the violence in provincial cities across Syria, voting on the constitution went ahead in calmer areas.

If approved, it would drop an article making Assad’s Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Bassam Haddad, the director of one polling centre, said: “From the beginning the voting has been much better than we expected. We can say 200 percent above expectations.”

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote… I agree with the draft constitution, even if I object to some parts. Every Syrian must ride the wave of reform to achieve what he wants.”

Anti-Assad activists have called for a boycott of a vote they see as meaningless. They said they would try to hold protests near polling stations in Damascus and suburbs where troops drove out insurgents last month.

Some said security forces had stopped people venturing out to buy food in Homs on Saturday, confiscated their Interior Ministry-issued identification cards and informed them the cards could be retrieved at specified polling centres the next day.

“They want to force people to vote in this doctored, so-called referendum,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favour.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Erika Solomon and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Libya and the Big Lie: Using Human Rights Organizations to Launch Wars

Posted by Admin on September 30, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26848

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
 
Global Research, September 29, 2011
- 2011-09-24

The war against Libya is built on fraud. The United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions against Libya on the basis of unproven claims, specifically that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was killing his own people in Benghazi and Libya. The claim in its exact form was that Qaddafi had ordered Libyan forces to kill 6,000 people in Benghazi as well as in other parts of the country. These claims were widely disseminated, but always vaguely explained. It was on the basis of this claim that Libya was referred to the U.N. Security Council at U.N Headquarters in New York City and kicked out of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

False claims about African mercenary armies in Libya and about jet attacks on civilians were also used in a broad media campaign against Libya. These two claims have been sidelined and have become more and more murky. The massacre claims, however, were used in a legal, diplomatic, and military framework to justify NATO’s war on Libya.

Using Human Rights as a Pretext for War: The LLHR and its Unproven Claims

One of the main sources for the claim that Qaddafi was killing his own people is the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR). The LLHR was actually pivotal to getting the U.N. involved through its specific claims in Geneva. On February 21, 2011 the LLHR got the 70 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to sent letters to the President Obama, E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton., and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon demanding international action against Libya invoking the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. Only 25 members of this coalition actually assert that they are human rights groups.

The letter is as follows:

We, the undersigned non-governmental, human rights, and humanitarian organizations, urge you to mobilize the United Nations and the international community and take immediate action to halt the mass atrocities now being perpetrated by the Libyan government against its own people. The inexcusable silence cannot continue.

As you know, in the past several days, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s forces are estimated to have deliberately killed hundreds of peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders across the country. In the city of Benghazi alone, one doctor reported seeing at least 200 dead bodies. Witnesses report that a mixture of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and regime loyalists have attacked demonstrators with knives, assault rifles and heavy-caliber weapons.

Snipers are shooting peaceful protesters. Artillery and helicopter gunships have been used against crowds of demonstrators. Thugs armed with hammers and swords attacked families in their homes. Hospital officials report numerous victims shot in the head and chest, and one struck on the head by an anti-aircraft missile. Tanks are reported to be on the streets and crushing innocent bystanders. Witnesses report that mercenaries are shooting indiscriminately from helicopters and from the top of roofs. Women and children were seen jumping off Giuliana Bridge in Benghazi to escape. Many of them were killed by the impact of hitting the water, while others were drowned. The Libyan regime is seeking to hide all of these crimes by shutting off contact with the outside world. Foreign journalists have been refused entry. Internet and phone lines have been cut or disrupted.

There is no question here about intent. The government media has published open threats, promising that demonstrators would meet a “violent and thunderous response.”

Accordingly, the government of Libya is committing gross and systematic violations of the right to life as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Citizens seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are being massacred by the government.

Moreover, the government of Libya is committing crimes against humanity, as defined by the Explanatory Memorandum to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Libyan government’s mass killing of innocent civilians amount to particularly odious offences which constitute a serious attack on human dignity. As confirmed by numerous oral and video testimonies gathered by human rights organizations and news agencies, the Libyan government’s assault on its civilian population are not isolated or sporadic events. Rather, these actions constitute a widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities, intentionally committed, including murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts which reach the threshold of crimes against humanity.

Responsibility to Protect

Under the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, you have a clear and unambiguous responsibility to protect the people of Libya. The international community, through the United Nations, has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect the Libyan population. Because the Libyan national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from crimes against humanity, should peaceful means be inadequate, member states are obliged to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII.

In addition, we urge you to convene an emergency Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council, whose members have a duty, under UNGA Resolution 60/251, to address situations of gross and systematic violations of violations of human rights. The session should:

-Call for the General Assembly to suspend Libya’s Council membership, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, which applies to member states that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights.

-Strongly condemn, and demand an immediate end to, Libya’s massacre of its own citizens.

-Dispatch immediately an international mission of independent experts to collect relevant facts and document violations of international human rights law and crimes against humanity, in order to end the impunity of the Libyan government. The mission should include an independent medical investigation into the deaths, and an investigation of the unlawful interference by the Libyan government with the access to and treatment of wounded.

-Call on the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Council’s relevant Special Procedures to closely monitor the situation and take action as needed.

-Call on the Council to remain seized of the matter and address the Libyan situation at its upcoming 16th regular session in March.

Member states and high officials of the United Nations have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya from what are preventable crimes. We urge you to use all available measures and levers to end atrocities throughout the country.

We urge you to send a clear message that, collectively, the international community, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council will not be bystanders to these mass atrocities. The credibility of the United Nations — and many innocent lives — are at stake. [1]

According to Physicians for Human Rights: “[This letter was] prepared under the guidance of Mohamed Eljahmi, the noted Libyan human rights defender and brother of dissident Fathi Eljahmi, asserts that the widespread atrocities committed by Libya against its own people amount to war crimes, requiring member states to take action through the Security Council under the responsibility to protect doctrine.” [2]

The letters signatories included Francis Fukuyama, United Nations Watch (which looks out for Israel’s interests and according to Israeli sources organized the entire session against the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), B’nai B’rith Human Rights Commission, the Cuban Democratic Directorate, and a set of organizations at odds with the governments of Nicaragua, Cuba, Sudan, Russia, Venezuela, and Libya. Some of these organizations are viewed with hostility as organizations created to wage demonization campaigns against countries at odds with the U.S., Israel, and the European Union. Refer to the annex for the full list of signatories for consultation.

LLHR is tied to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which is based in France and has ties to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). FIDH is active in many places in Africa and in activities involving the National Endowment for Democracy in the African continent. Both the FIDH and LLHR also released a joint communiqué on February 21, 2011. In the communiqué both organizations asked for the international community to “mobilize” and mention the International Criminal Court while also making a contradictory claiming that over 400 to 600 people had died since February 15, 2011. [3] This of course was about 5,500 short of the claim that 6,000 people were massacred in Benghazi. The joint letter also promoted the false view that 80% of Qaddafi’s support came from foreign mercenaries, which is something that over half a year of fighting proves as untrue.

According to the General-Secretary of the LLHR, Dr. Sliman Bouchuiguir, the claims about the massacres in Benghazi could not be validated by the LLHR when he was challenged for proof. When asked how a group of 70 non-governmental organizations in Geneva could support the LLHR’s claims on Geneva, Dr. Buchuiguir has answered that a network of close relationship was the basis. This is a mockery.

Speculation is neither evidence nor grounds for starting a war with a bombing campaign that has lasted about half a year and taken many innocent civilian lives, including children and the elderly. What is important to note here is that the U.N. Security Council decided to sanction the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on the basis of this letter and the claims of the LLHR. Not once did the U.N. Security Council and the member states pushing for war once bother to even investigate the allegations. In one session in New York City, the Indian Ambassador to the U.N. actually pointed this out when his country abstained from voting. Thus, a so-called “humanitarian war” was launched without any evidence.


Global Research Editor’s Note: U.N. Watch which actively promoted the LLHR statement has informal ties to the U.S. State Department. It was established during the Clinton Administration in 1993 under the Chairmanship of Morris B. Abram, a former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. U.N. Watch is formally affiliated with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a powerful pro-Israeli political lobby organization based in New York City.


The Secret Relationship between the LLHR and the Transitional Council

The claims of the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR) were coordinated with the formation of the Transitional Council. This becomes clear when the close and cagey relationship of the LLHR and the Transitional Council becomes apparent. Logically, the Obama Administration and NATO had to also be a part of this.

Whatever the Transitional Council is and whatever the intent of some of its supporters, it is clear that it is being used as a tool by the U.S. and others. Moreover, five members of the LLHR were or would become members of the Transitional Council almost immediately after the claims against the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya were disseminated. According to Bouchuguir individuals with ties to the LLHR or who hold membership include Mahmoud Jibril and Ali Tarhouni.

Dr. Mahmoud Jibril is a Libyan regime figure brought into Libyan government circles by Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi. He would undemocratically be given the position of Transitional Council prime minister. His involvement with the LLHR raises some real questions about the organization.

The economist Ali Tarhouni on the other hand would become the minister for oil and finance for the Transitional Council. Tarhouni is Washington’s man in Libya. He was groomed in the United States and was present at all the major meetings about plans for regime change in Libya. As Minister of Oil and Finance the first acts he did were privatize and virtually handover Libya’s energy resources and economy to the foreign corporations and governments of the NATO-led coalition against Libya.

The General-Secretary of the LLHR, Sliman Bouchuiguir, has even privately admitted that many influential members of the Transitional Council are his friends. A real question of interests arises. Yet, the secret relationship between the LLHR and the Transitional Council is far more than a question of conflict of interest. It is a question of justice and manipulation.

Who is Sliman Bouchuiguir?

Sliman Bouchuguir is an unheard of figure for most, but he has authored a doctoral thesis that has been widely quoted and used in strategic circles in the United States. This thesis was published in 1979 as a book, The Use of Oil as a Political Weapon: A Case Study of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. The thesis is about the use of oil as an economic weapon by Arabs, but can easily be applied to the Russians, the Iranians, the Venezuelans, and others. It examines economic development and economic warfare and can also be applied to vast regions, including all of Africa.

Bouchuguir’s analytical thesis reflects an important line of thinking in Washington, as well as London and Tel Aviv. It is both the embodiment of a pre-existing mentality, which includes U.S. National Security Advisor George F. Kennan’s arguments for maintaining a position of disparity through a constant multi-faced war between the U.S. and its allies on one hand and the rest of the world on the other hand. The thesis can be drawn on for preventing the Arabs, or others, from becoming economic powers or threats. In strategic terms, rival economies are pinned as threats and as “weapons.” This has serious connotations.

Moreover, Bouchuiguir did his thesis at George Washington University under Bernard Reich. Reich is a political scientist and professor of international relations. He has worked and held positions at places like the U.S. Defense Intelligence College, the United States Air Force Special Operations School, the Marine Corps War College, and the Shiloah Center at Tel Aviv University. He has consulted on the Middle East for the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department and received grants such as the Defense Academic Research Support Program Research Grant and the German Marshal Fund Grant. Reich also was or is presently on the editorial boards of journals such as Israel Affairs (1994-present), Terrorism: An International Journal (1987-1994), and The New Middle East (1971-1973).

It is also clear that Reich is tied to Israeli interests. He has even written a book about the special relationship between the U.S and Israel. He has also been an advocate for a “New Middle East” which would be favourable to Israel. This includes careful consideration over North Africa. His work has also focused on the important strategic interface between the Soviet Union and the Middle East and also on Israeli policy in the continent of Africa.

It is clear why Bouchuiguir had his thesis supervised under Reich. On October 23, 1973, Reich gave a testimony at the U.S. Congress. The testimony has been named “The Impact of the October Middle East War” and is clearly tied to the 1973 oil embargo and Washington’s aim of pre-empting or managing any similar events in the future. It has to be asked, how much did Reich influence Bouchuiguir and if Bouchuiguir espouses the same strategic views as Reich?

The “New North Africa” and a “New Africa” – More than just a “New Middle East”

A “New Africa” is in the works, which will have its borders further drawn out in blood like in the past. The Obama Administration and its allies have opened the gateway for a new invasion of Africa. United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) opened the salvos of the war through Operation Odyssey Damn, before the war on Libya was transferred to NATO’s Operation Unified Protector.

The U.S. has used NATO to continue the occupation of post-Second World War Europe. It will now use AFRICOM to occupy Africa and create an African NATO. It is clear the U.S. wants an expanded military presence in Libya and Africa under the disguise of humanitarian aid missions and fighting terrorism – the same terrorism that it is fanning in Libya and Africa.

The way is being paved for intervention in Africa under the guise of fighting terrorism. General Carter Ham has stated: “If we were to launch a humanitarian operation, how do we do so effectively with air traffic control, airfield management, [and] those kind of activities?” [4] General Ham’s question is actually a sales pitch for fashioning African military partnerships and integration, as well as new bases that could include the use of more military drones against Libya and other African countries. The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have both made it clear that the Pentagon is actively trying to establish more drone bases in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to expand its wars. [5] In this context, the AFRICOM Commander says that there are ties between the Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa, and the Boko Harem in Nigeria. [6]

The War in Libya is a Fraud

General Ham has said: “I remain confident that had the U.N. not made the decision, had the U.S. not taken the lead with great support, I’m absolutely convinced there are many, many people in Benghazi alive today who would not be [alive].” [7] This is not true and a far stretch from reality. The war has cost more lives than it could have ever saved. It has ruined a country and opened the door into Africa for a neo-colonial project.

The claims of the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR) were never supported or verified. The credibility of the United Nations must be questioned as well as the credibility of many humanitarian and human rights organizations that have virtually pushed for a war. At best the U.N. Security Council is an irresponsible body, but it has clearly acted outside of due legal process. This pattern now appears to be repeating itself against the Syrian Arab Republic as unverified claims are being made by individuals and organizations supported by foreign powers that care nothing for authentic democratic reforms or liberty.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He specializes on the Middle East and Central Asia. He was on the ground in Libya for over two months and was also a Special Correspondent for Flashpoints, which is a program based in Berkeley, California.

NOTES

[1] United Nations Watch et al., “Urgent Appeal to Stop Atrocities in Libya: Sent by 70 NGOs to the US, EU, and UN,” February 21, 2011:

<http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1330815&ct=9135143>

[2] Physicians for Human Rights, “PHR and Human Rights Groups Call for Immediate Action in Libya,” February 22, 2011:

<http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/news-2011-02-22-libya.html>

[3] The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Libyan League for Human Rights (LLHR), “Massacres in Libya: The international community must urgently,” respond, February 21, 2011:

<http://www.fidh.org/IMG/article_PDF/article_a9183.pdf>

[4] Jim Garamone, “Africa Command Learns from Libya Operations,” American Forces Press Service, September 15, 2011:

<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=65344&reason=1>

[5] Gregory Miller and Craig Whitlock, “U.S. U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say,” The Washington Post, September 20, 2011; Julian E. Barnes, “U.S. Expands Drone Flights to Take Aim at East Africa,” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), September 21, 2011.

[6] Garamone, “Africa Command Learns,” Op. cit.

[7] Ibid.


ANNEX: SIGNATORIES OF THE URGENT LETTER FOR ACTION ON LIBYA

February 12, 2011 – Geneva, Switzerland

1. Hillel C. Neuer, United Nations Watch, Switzerland
2. Dr. Sliman Bouchuiguir, Libyan League for Human Rights, Switzerland
3. Mary Kay Stratis, Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc., USA
4. Carl Gershman, President, The National Endowment for Democracy, USA
5. Yang Jianli, Initiatives for China, USA – Former prisoner of conscience and survivor of Tiananmen Square massacre
6. Yang Kuanxing, YIbao – Chinese writer, original signatory to Charter 08, the manifesto calling for political reform in China
7. Matteo Mecacci, MP, Nonviolent Radical Party, Italy
8. Frank Donaghue, Physicians for Human Rights, USA
9. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Stop Child Executions, Canada
10. Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Gram Bharati Samiti, India
11. G. Jasper Cummeh, III, Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives, Liberia
12. Michel Monod, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Switzerland
13. Esohe Aghatise, Associazione Iroko Onlus, Italy
14. Harris O. Schoenberg, UN Reform Advocates, USA
15. Myrna Lachenal, World Federation for Mental Health, Switzerland
16. Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland
17. Sylvia G. Iriondo, Mothers and Women against Repression (M.A.R. Por Cuba), USA
18. David Littman, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Switzerland
19. Barrister Festus Okoye, Human Rights Monitor, Nigeria
20. Theodor Rathgeber, Forum Human Rights, Germany
21. Derik Uya Alfred, Kwoto Cultural Center, Juba – Southern Sudan
22. Carlos E Tinoco, Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia, A.C., Venezuela
23. Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Center for Youth and Democracy, Somalia
24. Dr. Vanee Meisinger, Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association, Thailand
25. Simone Abel, René Cassin, United Kingdom
26. Dr. Francois Ullmann, Ingenieurs du Monde, Switzerland
27. Sr Catherine Waters, Catholic International Education Office, USA
28. Gibreil Hamid, Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland
29. Nino Sergi, INTERSOS – Humanitarian Aid Organization, Italy
30. Daniel Feng, Foundation for China in the 21st Century
31. Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign, USA
32. Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
33. Chandika Gautam, Nepal International Consumers Union, Nepal
34. Zohra Yusuf, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan
35. Sekou Doumbia, Femmes & Droits Humains, Mali
36. Cyrille Rolande Bechon, Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme, Cameroon
37. Zainab Al-Suwaij, American Islamic Congress, USA
38. Valnora Edwin, Campaign for Good Governance, Sierra Leone
39. Patrick Mpedzisi, African Democracy Forum, South Africa
40. Phil ya Nangoloh, NamRights, Namibia
41. Jaime Vintimilla, Centro Sobre Derecho y Sociedad (CIDES), Ecuador
42. Tilder Kumichii Ndichia, Gender Empowerment and Development, Cameroon
43. Amina Bouayach, Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights, Morocco
44. Abdullahi Mohamoud Nur, CEPID-Horn Africa, Somalia
45. Delly Mawazo Sesete, Resarch Center on Environment, Democracy & Human Rights, DR Congo
46. Joseph Rahall, Green Scenery, Sierra Leone
47. Arnold Djuma, Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix, Rwanda
48. Panayote Dimitras, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greece
49. Carlos E. Ponce, Latina American and Caribbean Network for Democracy, Venezuela
50. Fr. Paul Lansu, Pax Christi International, Belgium
51. Tharsika Pakeerathan, Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils, Switzerland
52. Ibrahima Niang, Commission des Droits Humains du Mouvement Citoyen, Senegal
53. Virginia Swain, Center for Global Community and World Law, USA
54. Dr Yael Danieli, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, USA
55. Savita Gokhale, Loksadhana, India
56. Hasan Dheeree, Biland Awdal Organization, Somalia
57. Pacifique Nininahazwe, Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile, Burundi
58. Derik Uya Alfred, Kwoto Cultural Center, Southern Sudan
59. Michel Golubnichy, International Association of Peace Foundations, Russia
60. Edward Ladu Terso, Multi Media Training Center, Sudan
61. Hafiz Mohammed, Justice Africa Sudan, Sudan
62. Sammy Eppel, B’nai B’rith Human Rights Commission, Venezuela
63. Jack Jeffery, International Humanist and Ethical Union, United Kingdom
64. Duy Hoang, Viet Tan, Vietnam
65. Promotion de la Democratie et Protection des Droits Humains, DR Congo
66. Radwan A. Masmoudi, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy, USA
67. María José Zamora Solórzano, Movimiento por Nicaragua, Nicaragua
68. John Suarez, Cuban Democratic Directorate, USA
69. Mohamed Abdul Malek, Libya Watch, United Kingdom
70. Journalists Union of Russia, Russia
71. Sindi Medar-Gould, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Nigeria
72. Derik Uya Alfred, Kwoto Cultural Centre, Sudan
73. Sr. Anne Shaym, Presentation Sisters, Australia
74. Joseph Rahad, Green Scenery, Sierra Leone
75. Fahma Yusuf Essa, Women in Journalism Association, Somalia
76. Hayder Ibrahim Ali, Sudanese Studies Center, Sudan
77. Marcel Claude Kabongo, Good Governance and Human Rights NGO, DR Congo
78. Frank Weston, International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization (IMSCO), USA
79. Fatima Alaoui, Maghrebin Forum for environment and development, Morocco
80. Ted Brooks, Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy, Liberia
81. Felly Fwamba, Cerveau Chrétien, DR Congo
82. Jane Rutledge, CIVICUS: World Alliance of Citizen Participation, South Africa
83. Ali AlAhmed, The Institute for Gulf Affairs, USA
84. Daniel Ozoukou, Martin Luther King Center for Peace and Social Justice, Cote d’Ivoire
85. Dan T. Saryee, Liberia Democratic Institute (LDI), Liberia

Individuals
Dr. Frene Ginwala, former Speaker of the South African National Assembly
Philosopher Francis Fukuyama
Mohamed Eljahmi, Libyan human rights activist
Glenn P. Johnson, Jr., Treasurer, Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc., father of Beth Ann Johnson, victim of Lockerbie bombing

Source: U.N. Watch (Refer to note 1)

Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

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Syrian tanks reach city where crackdown killed 65

Posted by Admin on June 5, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110604/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria;_ylt=ApEOPeh1TMz.kgBFSZUnVGFvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJldDZ1cWZlBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNjA0L21sX3N5cmlhBHBvcwMxMQRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA3N5cmlhbnRhbmtzcg&#8211;

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press 27 mins ago

BEIRUT – Syrian tanks rolled toward a tense central city mourning the deaths of dozens of protesters, reaching the outskirts late Saturday hours after a funeral procession through streets lined with shuttered shops and uniformed security forces, witnesses said.

The government lifted its stranglehold on the Internet, which has been key to motivating people to join the 11-week uprising, but the crackdown that has left over 1,200 dead since March did not relent: Troops killed at least six protesters in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which helps organize and document the protests calling for an end to the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Syria‘s state-run news agency, SANA, said “armed criminal groups” attacked several police stations in Jisr al-Shughour, killing two policeman. It said the attackers captured weapons from the stations. The Syrian government blames armed gangs and religious extremists for the violence.

More than 70 protesters were killed across Syria on Friday, in what appeared to be among the largest demonstrations yet in the country. At least 65 of those were in Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The tanks at the entrance to Hama caused new alarm. The city rose up against Assad’s father in 1982, only to be crushed by a three-week bombing campaign that killed thousands, memories of those days are still raw.

“Dozens of tanks are reaching the southern outskirts of the city,” said an activist who lives in a nearby town. “They will probably lay a siege then storm Hama.”

A Hama resident confirmed tanks reached the outskirts of the city. He said he had not yet seen them, but others had.

“May God protect us,” the man said, his voice shaking.

The Local Coordination Committees says at least 1,270 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested since the uprising began in March.

The move toward Hama could mean that the army is preparing for a major operation there, similar to offensives in other areas in the past weeks such as the southern city of Daraa, the coastal city of Banias and the central town of Rastan where operations are still under way.

After noon prayers — and before the arrival of the tanks — tens of thousands of people streamed out of mosques carrying coffins of the dead and headed toward the two main cemeteries, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the rights group’s director.

As they marched in the streets carrying the coffins, the protesters chanted “our souls, our blood we sacrifice to you martyr.” They later passed by hundreds of uniformed security members guarding a statue of the late President Hafez Assad, the father and predecessor of the current president, at the southern entrance of the city, witnesses said.

Some of the dead where from nearby villages and were taken for burial in their hometowns, they said.

The witnesses said that in addition to the tight security near the statue, hundreds of security agents guarded the local office of the ruling Baath party and the nearby police headquarters. But there was no overt friction between protesters and the troops.

Residents said most shops in Hama were closed since the morning to protest the shootings.

“People are in a state of shock,” a resident, who like many in Syria spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.

The Syrian government has severely restricted the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify what is happening there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said authorities released a leading opposition figure Saturday. Ali Abdullah of the Damascus Declaration Group had been jailed since 2007 and was among hundreds of political prisoners freed this week after Assad issued a general amnesty.

Assad also created a committee that he said would pave the way for a national dialogue, hoping the concessions would satisfy the revolt, which is posing the most serious challenge to the Assad family‘s 40-year rule. What began as a disparate movement demanding reforms has grown into a resilient uprising seeking Assad’s ouster.

Assad has invited officials from 12 outlawed Kurdish parties to meet him, said Mohammed Moussa of the Kurdish Leftist Party, whose group was invited. He said the meeting is expected in the coming days.

Such a move would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. Assad granted citizenship two months ago to stateless Kurds in eastern Syria — aimed at addressing protesters’ grievances.

About 1.5 million of Syria’s 22 million people are Kurds. Syria’s Kurdish minority has long complained of discrimination.

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Uruguay removing amnesty for dictatorship crimes

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110412/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_uruguay_amnesty;_ylt=Ap.D.0pcDuBUGDinJ8VdTpFvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJvcDExNGxtBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNDEyL2x0X3VydWd1YXlfYW1uZXN0eQRwb3MDMTQEc2VjA3luX2FydGljbGVfc3VtbWFyeV9saXN0BHNsawN1cnVndWF5cmVtb3Y-

Jose Mujica
In this Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica attends a press conference
By RAUL O. GARCES, Associated Press Raul O. Garces, Associated Press Tue Apr 12, 2:31 am ET

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Uruguay’s senate is expected on Tuesday to annul an amnesty for crimes against humanity committed during the 1973-85 dictatorship, overturning the view of voters who upheld the law in two referendums.

Backed by leftist President Jose Mujica, the measure would then return to the lower house for minor changes and could become law by May 20 — the day Uruguay honors the 174 political prisoners who were kidnapped and killed during the military junta’s crackdown on leftists.

Courts could then prosecute human rights violations committed on Uruguayan soil, fulfilling a key demand of the leftist wing of the governing Broad Front coalition and complying with a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that found the amnesty unconstitutional.

Opposition parties on the right and Uruguay’s retired military are angry at the change, and the issue has roiled the governing coalition as well, challenging a common political ground this small nation has built through nearly a quarter-century of democracy.

While Argentina has made a priority of prosecuting “dirty war” crimes and Chileans are proud of the human rights prosecutions by their independent judiciary, Uruguay has largely avoided probing old wounds.

The military amnesty law — passed in 1986 as a complement to an earlier amnesty for crimes by leftists — has protected most uniformed officials ever since. Only exceptional crimes and murders of Uruguayans committed outside the country have been prosecuted, leading to prison terms for about a dozen officials.

The 75-year-old Mujica, who as a Tupamaro guerrilla leader survived imprisonment during the 12-year dictatorship when more than 100 political prisoners died behind bars, was elected president with a 53 percent majority in 2009.

In that election, Uruguayans also voted by 52 percent to uphold the amnesty — only slightly narrower than the 54 percent who favored amnesty in a plebiscite 20 years earlier.

While Mujica has ruled from the center in his presidency, he seems determined to undo the amnesty and keep his promise to the most strident leftists in the Broad Front, which brings together some 20 parties and social organizations.

Mujica’s predecessor as president, Tabare Vazquez, who didn’t challenge the amnesty even though he had congressional majorities during his tenure, also now backs the change. “Majorities aren’t always correct in matters of human rights,” Vazquez said last month.

The governing coalition believes it has at least 16 votes in the 30-member senate in favor of overturning amnesty, including the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Danilo Astori.

The only governing coalition senator committed to backing the retention of amnesty is Jorge Saravia. His view contributed to his ouster from Mujica’s Popular Participation Movement. “I respect the opinion of the people,” he said.

Saravia predicted that overturning amnesty could hurt the Broad Front.

The issue is sensitive because abuses were committed on both sides. The leftist Tupamaros declared armed insurrection in 1963 against democratic governments, and their actions led to dozens of murders, kidnappings, robberies, arsons and other attacks. Vanquished by the military a decade later, they were still one of the principal arguments for the military coup in June 1973.

Uruguay’s current army chief, Gen. Jorge Rosales, has said “there’s nervousness” that now-retired military members will be tried for murders, tortures and disappearances.

All three opposition parties — the center-right National Party, the right-wing Colorados and the Independent Party — also are against overturning the amnesty.

Despite the potential for divisiveness, analysts think Uruguayans aren’t likely to react by upending the middle-of-the-road politics they’ve built since the end of the dictatorship.

“Of course there’s uneasiness … you can’t discard the possibility of some isolated episodes,” said Adolfo Garce, a political scientist at Uruguay’s University of the Republic. But, he added, “An institutional breakdown cannot happen in this country.”

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HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY IN IRAN

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Table of contents:

1.      Introduction;

2.      Outline;

3.      Limitations of this study;

4.      The road to democracy;

5.      Democracy in Iran;

6.       Human rights in Iran;

7.      Conclusion.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

1. Introduction:

This paper looks at human rights and democracy in Iran in the wake of political reforms being implemented there since the late 1980’s/early 90’s. It proceeds on the important premise that before preparing a marks sheet on Iran’s progress in these two areas, it is necessary to bear in mind that these two concepts have a unique dimension shaped by a chain of events that ushered them in Iran. It would not make much sense to make sweeping and generalised statements about democracy and human rights, essentially Western concepts, when they are applied in one of the world’s oldest civilisations, in which an Islamic form of government is very much at the centre of power. “In Iran as in other Muslim countries, paths to human rights lie within Islam, to the extent that dialogue can grow between traditionalists and innovators” (Gustafson & Juviler, 1999, p. 9). Any discourse on democracy and human rights in Iran has to be understood in relation to the country’s circumstance, which is that the reform movement, which tried to infuse these ideas into the country, was basically a reaction to the failure of the Revolution to sustain the goal it sought to achieve in the face of the changing dynamics in international relations in the post-Gulf War and Iran –Iraq war. Thus, one has to understand that there exists a unique paradigm for democracy and human rights in Iran, which is at variance from what the West broadly perceives as universal values for all mankind. Keeping this consideration in mind, this paper looks at the progress made on these two fronts, guaranteeing and denying which is the leitmotif of the opposing camps, the reformists and the conservatives, respectively.

2. Outline:

This paper takes off by detailing how democracy has been introduced in stages. The most striking feature of this country’s process of democratisation has been the reluctance of the ruling establishment to give in to the moderates, who have sought to implement democracy. Thus, the study of the democratisation of Iran has been chiefly characterised by the tussles that have been taking place in the country’s political establishment between those who want to introduce democracy and those who want to abort it. Hence, a considerable portion of this paper is devoted to sketching the long series of battles in the war between the reformists and the conservatives. Human rights in Iran, an offshoot of attempts at launching democracy, and its corollary, are detailed here. Mention is made of the efforts at bettering human rights in the country by Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Finally, this paper offers its conclusions, in which it tries to prognosticate prospects and pitfalls for democracy and human rights in the country.

3. Limitations of this study:

A complete study of the actual progress made in the transition of the political system in any country would be truly comprehensive and complete if one were to keep one’s ears to the ground; in the absence of this factor, this paper relies heavily on the writings of opinion-makers emanating from that country. This is not to doubt their authenticity, but most of these opinion makers have their own agendas to carry out, and as such, their objectivity is not indubitable. A thorough and objective study is best arrived at by measuring the impact of democracy and human rights at the grassroots level. In the absence of this exercise, this paper is prone to get swayed by the (at times) emotive nature of the sources from which it bases its study. In other words, the most objective and scholarly work on human rights and democracy in Iran would be one that is seen from Iranian, not Western or Western-oriented eyes, a requirement not met by this paper. Some attention is given to reports of human rights violations from Amnesty International, whose objectivity has never been proven.

Another important shortfall of this paper is that it looks at human rights in Iran only from the time the new regime has taken power, i.e., after the death of the Ayatollah, who led the Revolution. Although gross human rights violations took place during the time the Revolution installed an Islamic-type government and the Shah’s regime it overthrew, this paper does not look at those, and chooses the period from the start of the new regime, only because this is when democratisation started in the political system. Finally, since the two are closely interrelated, there may be some overlaps in describing the events pertaining to these two. Another very important aspect to be borne in mind is that this paper was written just a few weeks prior to the presidential election of 2005, when the tussles between the conservatives and moderates were at their peak. The result of this election has not been reflected in this paper.

4. The road to democracy:

The reform movement in Iran, which has been spearheading the implementation of democracy and human rights in the country, was born in the wake of the failure of the Revolution to spread benefits to the masses. (Kazemi, 2003) Although the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an event whose importance has deeply impacted modern Iranian history, ironically, the country’s two earlier revolutions, those of 1906 and 1953, took place for the furtherance of democracy. (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) They resulted in the establishment of monarchies. The latest revolution, the root of the current tussle for democratisation, at first was followed by major international political and economic problems. (Wright, 1996) The Revolution took place in very violent circumstances, whose culmination was the overthrow of the corrupt, unflinchingly pro-Western Shah. (Seliktar, 2000, p. 73-90) For all the tumult and convulsion that major event precipitated, the direct effect it produced, that of total Islamic rule, lasted no more than a little over a decade. The regime had to soon slowly either abandon or dilute some of its core ideals. This was due to the variety of unforeseen changes that unfurled on the international scene. One of the ideals that had to inevitably become a product of the changed situation was democracy. “In the 1990s, several factors contributed to the intensification of the debate over democracy and democratic institutions in Iranian society. These include the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, the disillusionment of a substantial portion of Iranian society with government policies, especially in the areas of liberty and individual rights, the imposition of more restrictions over freedom, and authoritarian infringement of people’s constitutional rights. The advocates of reformist Islam launched afresh a campaign to promote democratic values in government and society.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) The first concrete step towards the latest round of democratisation was the elevation of the moderate reformist, Hashemi Rafsanjani from Speaker of the parliament, the Majlis, to the office of the president in 1989. Rafsanjani had assumed office at a time when “…the struggle to determine the true revolutionary path had entered a new phase, involving major policy reevaluation”. (Ayalon, 1995, p. 317)

5. Democracy in Iran:

To undo the highly ensconced politico- religious system in a matter of two presidential terms was no easy task. After the end of his two four- year terms, the mantle of presidency now passed on to his successor and like-minded reformist, Mohammed Khatami, who “…emphasized the country’s need for national unity, respect for the law and civil rights, the creation of a vibrant civil society, and the eradication of poverty.” (Amuzegar, 1998, p. 76) His efforts at reform of the political system, aimed at bringing about democracy were well received at first, as they were representative of the change the people were yearning for. (Yasin, 2002) Initially, Khatami seemed to have taken off from where his predecessor had left. He enjoyed massive support from the least thinkable constituencies in the earlier theocratic regime –youth and women. One of the most drastic changes he sought to implement was in the area of religious governance; he went about altering the structure of the clergy, something that was unimaginable earlier. Changes were implemented in some of the most important institutions, such as those of the supreme leader, the Faqih, the presidency, the judiciary and the Majlis. Khatami carried out amendments to the 1979 Islamic constitution, which had come into effect because of the Revolution. Dictated by the need of the hour, brought about by the death of the architect of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the most tangible steps towards democratisation of the ruling clergy was “…a significant revision in the qualifications for the holder of this omnipotent office. The all-important and stringent religious qualifications were reduced.” (Kazemi, 2003)

After Khatami’s re-election in 2001 with a reduced majority, the pace of democratic reform lost some of its earlier tempo. The opposition to his democratisation process has been growing steadily, especially since the hardliner conservatives have enjoyed greater numerical superiority in the Majlis. The hardliners have stepped up the ante in opposition to the various reforms he has initiated. With a greater say in the Majlis, they have intensified their opposition to Khatami’s reforms. “Khatami’s victory ushered great hope for progress toward democratisation and reform of the rigid political system. This hope has been largely dashed as the conservative supporters of the Islamic Republic have prevented meaningful political reform…[t]he forces of opposition to Khatami are made up of a disparate but powerful set of institutions and actors with entrenched political, economic and ideological interests. While cognizant of Khatami’s massive electoral victories and popular support, they can find other means of thwarting his reform agenda, through the country’s major institutions” (Kazemi, 2003) Another area of discomfort for Khatami has been in the constituency on whose back he rode to power –students. Their earlier support for him dissipated when he tried to implement a major reform– privatisation of universities. Protests by student bodies at this proposal spilled on to the streets, in the form of massive demonstrations against the president as well as the clergy, on two occasions, once in July 1999, and on the fourth anniversary of this event.  (“Student Heroes Take on,” 2003, p. 23)

In another important round of their row, in February 2004, the conservatives gained an upper hand, disqualifying 2300 candidates belonging to the reformist camp from general elections later that year. With the conservatives gaining a comfortable majority in these elections, the process of democratisation has suffered a major setback, with the presidency, at that time being the only reformist position in the government. (Deccan Herald, 23rd Feb. 2004, p.8) In the words of US president Bush, “[s]uch measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people’s desire to freely choose their leaders.” (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.) Yet another major setback to democratisation has opened up as recently as on May 22, 2005, with barely a month to go for the presidential elections slated for June 17, 2005. The Council of Guardians barred from standing in the election the reformist camp’s candidate for president, Mostafa Moin. Additionally, in the same breath, it disqualified each and every of the 89 women candidates saying women are unfit to lead the country. Even as the reformists cried hoarse at the move, saying it has amounted to a coup d’ etat, and saying this move undermines the spirit of election to the presidency in that it would virtually amount to having an appointed president, one silver lining for the reformist camp is that of the six candidates allowed to contest the presidential election out of the 1014 who threw their hat in the ring, one is Hashemi Rafsanjani himself. The other consolation is that they have control over the Interior Ministry. (The Hindu, 24th May 2005, p.10)

6. Human rights in Iran:

Despite the avowed aim of the reformists in Iran to bring about democracy and respect for human rights, there are everyday occurrences of incidents in which amputations and floggings are commonplace, and pregnant women and children are routinely executed. (The Washington Post, 5th January 2005, p. A12)

If the reformists and the conservatives are united over one issue, it is their antipathy to any reference to human rights in the country. They are unanimous and vehement in their opinion that America is seeking to use international human rights organisations to criticise Iranian human rights. They believe that the US is trying to establish its hegemony by interfering with the internal affairs of strategically important countries such as Iran. They accuse the Americans of being selective in their criticism of human rights violations in different countries. (Karabell, 2000, pp. 212) The Iranian government allowed the Red Cross and the UN to inspect the country’s human rights situation in 1990 for the first time in its history. (Kamminga, 1992, p. 99) The Red Cross and the UN had reported that 113,000 women had been arrested in Teheran alone either for improperly wearing their headdress or for moral corruption; the UN had also reported an increase in executions, suppression of minorities and the press, and summary executions of anti-government demonstrators. (Mohaddessin, 1993, p. 142) The government reacted very angrily when America accused the Iranian government of expelling the members of the Red Cross on grounds of complicity with America. It came out heavily against the Human Rights Commission envoy. When the topic was reinvigorated in 1996, reflecting the general opinion in the country, an editorial in the Teheran Times said:

“Criteria for human rights are respected by everyone; however, any judgement on the situation of human rights in a country should be harmonious with the nation’s culture, religion and traditions. The special envoy should not surrender to direct and indirect pressures from the United States and other Western powers, whose aims are to use human rights as a leverage against Iran…”(Karabell, 2000, pp. 212, 213) Arguments and counter arguments between human rights organizations and the government continue with regularity.

The confrontation between the conservatives and reformists in the Majlis has also contributed to violations of human rights: Khatami’s reform of the clergy was based on the idea of undermining the six-member ‘Council of Guardians’, a powerful clerical body in the power structure of the ruling elite by exposing their corruption.  This earned him the scorn of those in power: this Council hit back by hounding his aides, who were seen as moderates. Hojjat-al-Islam Mohsin Kadivar, a well-known liberal writer, Gholam-Hussein Karbaschi, the then mayor of Teheran and Abdollah Nouri, the former interior minister, were among those in the reformist camp that the conservative clerics persecuted. The leftist, pro-Khatami newspaper, Salam, also suffered a similar fate, and was forced to close down. This brought students to the streets in support of Khatami on July 9, 1999. To quell this mob, the police had to open fire; Khatami thus unwittingly ended up antagonising the very constituency that took to the streets to support him. (Sardar, 1999)

Amnesty International, in its report on human rights violations in Iran came out with some scathing observations, which it attributes to the feud between the reformists and the conservatives. Its summary reads thus: “Scores of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to serve sentences imposed in previous years following unfair trials. Scores more were arrested in 2003, often arbitrarily and many following student demonstrations. At least a dozen political prisoners arrested during the year were detained without charge, trial or regular access to their families and lawyers. Judicial authorities curtailed freedoms of expression, opinion and association, including of ethnic minorities; scores of publications were closed, Internet sites were filtered and journalists were imprisoned. At least one detainee died in custody, reportedly after being beaten. During the year the pattern of harassment of political prisoners’ family members re-emerged. At least 108 executions were carried out, including of long-term political prisoners and frequently in public. At least four prisoners were sentenced to death by stoning while at least 197 people were sentenced to be flogged and 11 were sentenced to amputation of fingers and limbs. The true numbers may have been considerably higher.”(Amnesty International, Report 2004)

A look at the field of human rights in Iran would be incomplete without a mention of the efforts of the Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Her efforts have been primarily focussed on the improvement of human rights in the areas concerning women and children in over the past three decades. Inspired to work for the improvement of human rights in her country following her demotion under the Revolution from the position as the country’s first woman judge, she believes that guaranteeing human rights in an Islamic society is not at all impossible. The two are never incompatible, she feels, saying that the important question is not the law of Islamic jurisprudence, the Shariat in itself, but its interpretation. Some of her major accomplishments have been the victories she has secured in getting important reforms done to the family law, the legal age at which girls can marry, and the rights of illegitimate children. Another significant victory of hers in improving human rights in Iran has been in pressurising the government to reveal the identities of the student demonstrators that were killed in the police violence of July 9, 1999. (Lancaster, 2003)

7.      Conclusion:

The road to democracy and human rights continues to be bumpy in Iran, so long as the tussle for supremacy continues within the Majlis between the conservatives and the moderates.  Seen in the overall sense, the speed of change towards democracy has been rather slow-paced.

This is perhaps understandable in an ancient country in which till recently, authoritarianism was so pervasive that most of the country’s resources were held by a thousand or so families. (Lytle, 1987, p. 1) Another major reason for democracy to take more than the expected time to gain ground in feudalistic societies such as Iran is that by its very nature, it cannot be planted violently in the system, in the way the Revolution of 1979 was. If it were to supplant the existing system and take its place by coercion, that would have to be done by adopting undemocratic means, thus defeating its very nature and ending up being an oxymoron!

Seen in this overall sense of the country’s difficult path to democratisation, despite the relative slowness being taken for democratisation to take root, there is still a lot of scope for optimism, as this observation by Momayesi (2000) best sums up the situation: “It is perhaps appropriate to view the current situation as an ongoing, step-by-step struggle and conflict over reform, rather than simply a stagnation under the grip of vested conservative clerical interests. It is evident that Iran shows some signs of movement toward a stable constitutional definition of governmental powers and processes. It seems more apt to see the glass of freedom in Iran as half full rather than half empty… [w]e must think in terms of a long march rather than a simple transition to democracy. Democracy and human rights must be adapted to suit countries with a distinctive culture and experiences, rather than simply being transplanted from existing democracies, East or West. The diversity and the range of democratization alongside persistent authoritarianism sometimes gets lost in the selective media coverage of Islamic Iran. But new freedoms pose difficult challenges to the most capable of leaders everywhere.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) Thus, “…democracy, an element external or internal to Islam, was originally planted in the foundations of Islamism and is emerging, although extremely slowly, as a far more potent element of the Iranian revolution than it had been.” (Usman, 2002)

Having said this, the picture for human rights may not be as rosy: the crackdown on human rights is a major setback to the government, negating as it does important moves to draw foreign investment that the country can ill-afford to forego. For instance, prior to the moves by the conservatives in February 2004, some leading companies, such as the French car giant, Renault, the Turkish communications giant, Turkcell, and some Japanese companies, which would develop the country’s oil fields at an eventual cost of some $ 2 billion, were in the process of investing huge amounts in the economy, which was opened up for the first time since the Revolution. These actions by the government place the investors under pressure to withdraw, as they would not like to be seen to be investing in tyrannical governments. They also throw the intentions of the government in doubt, as they prompt the foreign investors to pack their baggage. (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.)

Unfortunately, it often happens in Iran that for the hardened attitudes of the clergy, it is the moderates who take the blame. Their attempts to undo the years of reactionary policies are often frowned at. For instance, the Second of Khordad, a reformist party that is seen as Khatami’s most important aide, along with its close allies, has been all for “…economic liberalization and privatization, as well as increased personal freedoms, including those of women, and have criticized the corruption and arbitrary power of the ruling clerics. But the front has been unable to implement policies that would address the country’s high unemployment rate or the high poverty rate (40 percent). Reformers have been unable to improve the lot of most Iranians, either because they have been blocked by conservative clerics or because they do not make bread-and-butter issues their top priority.” (Cole, 2004, p. 7)

A major test of the triumph or defeat of democracy would be the presidential elections scheduled for June 17, 2005. Its victors would play a decisive role in shaping the democratic process in the country. A sustained effort at this would be necessary for further democratisation and furtherance of human rights if the moderates were to come to power. But if they have to continue the process Rafsanjani and Khatami have set in motion, there would have to be installed a new reformist president who has considerable freedom to implement the reforms; or else, he too, would go the Khatami way, forever fettered by a conservative parliament.

On the other hand, should the conservatives pull off another coup and get one of their own elected as president, that would almost certainly neutralise all the efforts at democratisation and furtherance of human rights that have been taking place till now. Whether Iran would emerge as a champion of democracy and human rights or go back to being an inheritor of a theocratic government brought about by violent revolution, only the upcoming presidential elections would say. If the upper hand the conservatives have been gaining till now in its tiff with the moderates is any indication, the second scenario seems to have a slightly higher chance of materialising.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

References

 

 

Amnesty International, Report 2004. Available: http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/Irn-summary-eng (Accessed 2005, May 25)

 

Amuzegar, J.,1998, Khatami’s Iran, One Year Later. Middle East Policy, Vol. 6, No.2, 76-94.

 

Ayalon, A. (Ed.), 1995, Middle East Contemporary Survey: 1993, Vol. 17, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

 

Cole, J., Iran’s Tainted Elections. The Nation, Vol. 278, No. 7. (2004, March 1) Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Gustafson, C. & Juviler, P. (Eds.). 1999, Competing Claims? Competing Claims? M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY.

 

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Kazemi, F., 2003, The Precarious Revolution: Unchanging Institutions and the Fate of Reform in Iran Iranian Politics Is a System Made by the Clerics for the Clerics, and for Their Supporters Who Possess a near Monopoly on the Spoils of the Revolution and the Country’s Resources. Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 57, No.1, p. 81+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Lancaster, P., “A Worthy Winner: The News That Iran’s Shirin Ebadi Was the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Came as a Surprise to Many, Not Least the Peace Laureate Herself”, The Middle East, , November 2003, p. 32+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Lytle, M. H..1987, The Origins of the Iranian-American Alliance, 1941-1953, Holmes & Meier, New York.

 

Mohaddessin, M.,1993,  Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat, Seven Locks Press, Washington, DC.

 

Momayesi, N., 2000, “Iran’s Struggle for Democracy”, International Journal on World Peace, Vol. 17, No.4, p.41. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Sardar, Z., “Iranians Hold a Dress Rehearsal for Revolution”. New Statesman, 1999, July 26, Vol. 128, p.12+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Seliktar, O.,2000, Failing the Crystal Ball Test: The Carter Administration and the Fundamentalist Revolution in Iran, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT

 

“Student Heroes Take on Mullahs; the Pro-Democracy Movement in Iran Continues to Gather Momentum despite the Ruthless Tactics Employed by the Ruling Islamic Theocracy to Hold on to Power”,  July 22, 2003. Insight on the News, No. 23. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Usman, J., 2002, “The Evolution of Iranian Islamism from the Revolution through the Contemporary Reformers” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol.35, No. 5, p. 1679+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Wright, R., 1996 Summer, “Dateline Tehran: A Revolution Implodes”, Foreign Policy, p.161+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

 

Yasin, T.,2002, “Knocked off Axis? Iranian Reform Challenged” Harvard International Review, Vol. 24, No.2, p.12+. Retrieved May 25, 2005, from Questia database, http://www.questia.com.

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Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War

Posted by Admin on December 26, 2010

Sunday 26 December 2010

by: Jose L. Gomez del Prado, UN Working Group on Mercenaries, t r u t h o u t | Report

Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War


(Photo: FRVMED)

The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the 19th and 20th centuries, reappeared in the 1960s during the decolonization period, operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations, a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additionally, Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the 21st century operate in extremely blurred situations, where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations, recruiting former military as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive-defensive to an active-offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law, either, since they are not part of the army or in the armed forces chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries, for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs, which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Private military and security companies operate in a legal vacuum: they pose a threat to civilians and to international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Council has entrusted the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, principally via the following mandate:

To monitor and study the effects of the activities of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market on the enjoyment of human Rights … and to prepare draft international basic principles that encourage respect for human rights on the part of those companies in their activities.

During the past five years, the Working Group has been studying emerging issues, manifestations and trends regarding private military and security companies. In our reports, we have informed the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly about these issues. Of particular importance are the reports of the Working Group to the last session of the Human Rights Council, held in September 2010, on the Mission to the United States of America, on the Mission to Afghanistan and the general report of the Working Group containing the draft of a possible Convention on Private Military and Security Companies for consideration and action by the Human Rights Council.

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicates the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors,” “private soldiers” or “guns for hire,” whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals who are employed by private military and security companies as civilians but are also generally heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of the companies the Working Group has examined, one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention, trafficking of persons and serious health damages caused by PMSC employee activities, as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their own basic rights and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.

Summary executions

On September 16, 2007 in Baghdad, employees of the US-based firm Blackwater [1] were involved in a shooting incident in Nisoor Square in which 17 civilians were killed and more than 20 other persons were wounded, including women and children. Local eyewitness accounts substantiate that the attack included the use of firearms from vehicles and rocket fire from a helicopter belonging to Blackwater.

There are also concerns about the activities and approach of PMSC personnel, their convoys of armored vehicles and their conduct in traffic – in particular, their use of lethal force. The Nisoor Square incident was neither the first of its kind, nor the first involving Blackwater.

According to a Congressional report on the behavior of Xe/Blackwater in Iraq, Xe/Blackwater guards were found to have been involved in nearly 200 escalation-of-force incidents that involved the firing of shots since 2005. Despite the terms of the contracts, which provided that the company could engage in defensive use of force only, the company reported that in over 80 percent of the shooting incidents, its forces fired the first shots.

In Najaf in April 2004 and on several other occasions, employees of this company took part in direct hostilities. In May 2007, another incident reportedly occurred in which guards belonging to the company and forces belonging to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior allegedly exchanged gunfire in a sector of Baghdad.

On October 9, 2007 in central Baghdad, the shooting of employees of the PMSC Unity Resources Group (URG)[2] , who were protecting a convoy, killed two Armenian women, Genevia Antranick and Mary Awanis, when their car came too close to a protected convoy. Antranick’s family was offered no compensation and has begun court proceedings against URG in the United States.

URG was also involved in the shooting of 72-year-old Australian Kays Juma. Professor Juma was shot in March 2006 as he approached an intersection that was being blockaded for a convoy URG was protecting. Juma, a 25-year resident of Baghdad who drove through the city every day, allegedly sped up his vehicle as he approached the guards and did not heed warnings to stop, including hand signals, flares, warning shots into the body of his car and floodlights. The incident occurred at 10 AM.[3]

Torture

Two US-based corporations, CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan Corporation), were involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. CACI and L-3 Services were contracted by the US government and were responsible for interrogation and translation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq.

Seventy-two Iraqi citizens who were formerly detained at military prisons in Iraq have sued L-3 and Adel Nakhla, a former L-3 employee who served as one of its translators there under the Alien Tort Statute. The plaintiffs allege having been tortured and physically and mentally abused during their detention and maintain that the defendants should be held liable in damages for their actions. They assert 20 causes of action, including: torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; assault and battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4]

Arbitrary detention

A number of reports indicate that private security guards have played central roles in some of the most sensitive activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), such as the arbitrary detention of and clandestine raids against alleged insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan [5] , CIA rendition flights [6] , and joint covert operations.[7] Employees of PMSCs would have been involved in transporting detainees in rendition flights from “pick-up points” (such as Tuzla, Islamabad or Skopje) to drop-off points (such as Cairo, Rabat, Bucharest, Amman or Guantanamo) as well as in the construction, equipping and staffing of CIA “black sites.”

Within this context, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in May 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., a subsidiary company of Boeing, on behalf of five persons who were kidnapped by the CIA and disappeared into US secret services prisons overseas. Jeppesen would have participated in the rendition by providing flight planning and logistical support. The five persons were tortured during their arbitrary detention.[8]

Health

DynCorp International’s 2009 annual report refers to four lawsuits on behalf of three Ecuadorian provinces and 3,266 plaintiffs concerning the spraying of narcotic plant crops along the Colombian border adjacent to Ecuador.[9]

From 1991, the US Department of State contracted DynCorp to supply services for this air-spraying program against narcotics in the Andean region. In accordance with the subscribed contract of January 30, 1998, DynCorp provides the essential logistics to the anti-drug Office of Activities of Colombia in conformity with three main objectives: eradication of cultivations of illicit drugs, training of the army and of personnel of the country and dismantling of illicit drug laboratories and illicit drug-trafficking networks.

A nongovernmental organization (NGO) report documented the consequences the spraying, which was carried out within the Plan Colombia framework, had on persons living in the frontier region.[10] One-third of the 47 women in the study exposed to the spraying showed cells with some genetic damage. The study established the relationship between Plan Colombia air fumigations and damage to genetic material. The study demonstrates that when the population is subjected to fumigations, “the risk of cellular damage can increase and that, once permanent, the cases of cancerous mutations and important embryonic alterations are increased, that prompt among other possibilities the rise in abortions in the area.”

This example is particularly important given that Plan Colombia has served as the model for the arrangements that the US would apply later to Iraq and Afghanistan. Plan Colombia provides immunity to the employees of the contracted PMSC (DynCorp), just as Order 14 of the Coalition Provisional Authority did in Iraq.

Self-determination

The 2004 attempted coup d’etat perpetrated in Equatorial Guinea is a clear example of the link between the phenomenon of mercenaries and PMSCs as a means of violating the sovereignty of states. In this case, the mercenaries involved were mostly former directors and personnel of Executive Outcomes, a PMSC that became famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone. The team of mercenaries also included security guards who were still employed by PMSCs, as was the case with two employees of the company Meteoric Tactical Systems – which provided security to diplomats of western embassies in Baghdad, including the ambassador of Switzerland – and a security guard who had previously worked for the PMSC Steele Foundation and had given protection to Haiti’s President Aristide and escorted him to the plane that took him to exile.[11]

Trafficking in persons

In 2005, 105 Chileans were providing or undergoing military training in the former army base of Lepaterique in Honduras, where they were instructed in anti-guerrilla tactics, such as anticipating possible ambushes and deactivation and avoidance of explosives and mortars. The Chileans had entered Honduras as tourists and their presence in the country was illegal. They used high-caliber weapons, such as M-16 rifles and light machine guns. They had been contracted by a subsidiary of a company called Triple Canopy.

The Chileans were part of a group that also included 189 Hondurans recruited and trained in Honduras. Triple Canopy had been awarded a contract by the US Department of State. The contingent left the country by air from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in several groups, stopping over in Iceland and, upon reaching the Middle East, were smuggled into Iraq.[12]

The majority of the Chileans and Hondurans were engaged as security guards at fixed facilities in Iraq. They had been contracted by Your Solutions Honduras SRL, a local agent of Your Solutions Incorporated, registered in the US state of Illinois. Your Solutions had in turn been subcontracted by the Chicago-based Triple Canopy. Some of the Chileans are presently working in Baghdad, providing security to the Embassy of Australia under a contract with Unity Resources Group (URG).

Human rights violations committed by PMSCs against their employees

PMSCs often put their contracted private guards in vulnerable and dangerous situations, such as the one faced by the Blackwater “private contractors” killed in Fallujah in 2004. Their fate was allegedly due to the lack of the necessary safety means – which Blackwater was supposed to provide – in order to carry out their mission.

It should not be forgotten that this incident dramatically changed the course of the war and of the United States’ occupation in Iraq. In fact, it may be considered the turning point in the occupation of Iraq. The incident led to an abortive US operation to recapture control of the city and the successful November 2004 recapture operation, known as Operation Phantom Fury, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. Approximately 95 American troops were killed and another 560 were wounded.

The US military first denied that it had used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later retracted that denial and admitted to using the incendiary in the city as an offensive weapon. Reports following the events of November 2004 have alleged war crimes and a massacre by US personnel, including indiscriminate violence against civilians and children. This point of view is presented in the 2005 documentary film, “Fallujah, the Hidden Massacre.” In 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a leading medical journal, published a study that shows that the rates of cancer, infant mortality and leukemia in Fallujah exceed those reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[13]

The over 300,000 classified military documents made public by Wikileak’s show that the “Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq,” as has been widely reported by the international media recently.

The United States continues to rely heavily on private military and security contractors in conducting its military operations. The US used private security contractors to conduct narcotics intervention operations in Colombia in the 1990s and recently signed a supplemental agreement that authorizes it to deploy troops and contractors in seven Colombian military bases. During the conflict in the Balkans, the US used a private security contractor to train Croat troops to conduct operations against Serbian troops. Currently, most of the US’s massive contracting of security functions to private firms takes place in the context of its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2009, the Department of Defense employed 218,000 private contractor personnel, while there were 195,000 uniformed personnel. According to the figures, about 8 percent of these contractors are armed security contractors, or about 20,000 armed guards. If one includes other theatres of operations, the figure rises to 242,657, a figure comprised of 54,387 United States citizens, 94,260 third-country nationals and 94,010 host-country nationals.

The State Department relies on about 2,000 private security contractors to provide US personnel and facilities with personal protection and guard services in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Pakistan, and to provide aviation services in Iraq. The contracts for protective services were awarded in 2005 to three PMSCs: Triple Canopy, DynCorp International and the US Training Center, part of the Xe (then-Blackwater) group of companies. These three companies still hold the State Department protective services contracts today.

Lack of transparency

The information accessible to the public on the scope and type of US-PMSC contracts is scarce and opaque. The lack of transparency is particularly significant when contracting companies subcontract to others. Often, despite the US’s extensive freedom of information rules, the contracts with PMSCs are not disclosed to the public, either because they contain confidential commercial information or based on the argument that non-disclosure is in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. The situation is particularly opaque when United States intelligence agencies contract PMSCs.

Lack of accountability

Despite their involvement in grave human rights violations, not a single PMSC or PMSC employee has been sanctioned.

In the course of litigation, several recurring legal arguments have been used in the defense of PMSCs and their personnel, including the government contractor defense, the political question doctrine and derivative immunity arguments. PMSCs are using the government contractor defense to argue that they were operating under the exclusive control of the government of the United States when the alleged acts were committed and therefore cannot be held liable for their actions.

It looks as though when acts questionable under international law are committed by agents of the government, they are considered human rights violations, but when these same acts are perpetrated by PMSCs, it is “business as usual.”

Human rights violations perpetrated by private military and security companies are indications of the threat posed to the foundations of democracy when inherently public functions – such as the monopoly on the legitimate use of force – become privatized. In this connection, I cannot help but to refer to the final speech of former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1961, Eisenhower warned the American public against the growing danger of a military-industrial complex:

[W]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Fifty years later on September 8, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld, in his speech to the Department of Defense, warned the Pentagon military against:

an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. … Let’s make no mistake: The modernization of the Department of Defense is … a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American’s. … The adversary [is] the Pentagon bureaucracy. … That’s why we’re here today challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth. We know the adversary. We know the threat. And with the same firmness of purpose that any effort against a determined adversary demands, we must get at it and stay at it. Some might ask, how in the world could the Secretary of Defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people? To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself.

Rumsfeld should have been more specific and cited the shift of the Pentagon’s resources from bureaucracy to the private sector. Indeed, that shift had been accelerated by the Bush administration: the number of persons employed by contracts that the Pentagon had outsourced was already four times more than at the Department of Defense.

It is not a military-industrial complex anymore, but, as Noam Chomsky has said, “just the industrial system operating under one or another pretext.” Dana Priest and William M. Arkin’s July 2010 article in the Washington Post, “Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control,” shows the extent that “the top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive, that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

The investigation’s findings include that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, and that an estimated 854,000 people – nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. – hold top-secret security clearances. A number of private military and security companies are among the security and intelligence agencies mentioned in the Post’s report.

The Working Group received information from several sources that up to 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is spent on contractors. These contracts are classified, and very little information is available to the public on the nature of the activities contractors carry out.

The privatization of war has created a structural dynamic that responds to the commercial logic of the industry.

A short look at the careers of the current managers of BAE Systems, as well as at their address books, confirms that we are no longer dealing with a normal corporation, but with a cartel that unites high-tech weaponry (BAE Systems, United Defense Industries, Lockheed Martin), speculative financiers (Lazard Freres, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank) and raw material cartels (British Petroleum, Shell Oil) with on-the-ground, private military and security companies.[14]

The majority of private military and security companies have been created, or are managed by, former military members or ex-police-officers, for whom PMSCs are big business. Just to give an example, Military Professional Resources Incorporation (MPRI) was created by four former United States Army generals when they were due for retirement.[15] The same is true for Blackwater and its affiliate companies or subsidiaries, which employ former directors of the CIA.[16] Social scientists refer to this phenomenon as the revolving door syndrome.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

Without contractors: (1) the military engagement would have had to be smaller – a strategically problematic alternative; (2) the United States would have had to deploy its finite number of active personnel for even longer tours of duty – a politically dicey and short-sighted option; (3) the United States would have had to consider a civilian draft or boost retention and recruitment by raising military pay significantly – two politically untenable options; or (4) the need for greater commitments from other nations would have arisen and with it, the United States would have had to make more concessions to build and sustain a truly multinational effort. Thus, the tangible differences in the type of war waged, the effect on military personnel, and the need for coalition partners are greatly magnified when the government has the option to supplement its troops with contractors.[17]

The military cannot do without them. There are more contractors overall than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

Conclusions of the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the impact of private security contracting on US goals in Afghanistan[18]

Conclusion 1: The proliferation of private security personnel in Afghanistan is inconsistent with the counterinsurgency strategy. In May 2010, the U.S. Central Command’s Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate reported that there were more than 26,000 private security contractor personnel operating in Afghanistan. Many of those private security personnel are associated with armed groups that operate outside government control.

Conclusion 2: Afghan warlords and strongmen operating as force providers to private security contractors have acted against U.S. and Afghan government interests. Warlords and strongmen associated with U.S.-funded security contractors have been linked to anti-Coalition activities, murder, bribery, and kidnapping. The Committee’s examination of the U.S.-funded security contract with ArmorGroup at Shindand Airbase in Afghanistan revealed that ArmorGroup relied on a series of warlords to provide armed men to act as security guards at the Airbase.

Open-ended intergovernmental working group established by the HR Council

Because of their impact in the enjoyment of human rights, the Working Group on Mercenaries, in its 2010 reports to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, has recommended a legally binding instrument to regulate and monitor PMSC’s activities at the national and international level.

The motion to create an open-ended intergovernmental working group has been the object of lengthy negotiations in the Human Rights Council, led by South Africa, in order to accommodate the concerns of the Western Group, but primarily those of the United States and the United Kingdom; considerable pressure was also exerted in the capitals of African countries supporting the draft resolution. The text of the resolution was weakened in order to pass it by consensus, but, even so, the position of the Western States has been a “fin de non recevoir” – a complete demurral.

The resolution was adopted by a majority of 32 in favor, 12 against and 3 abstentions. Among the supporters of this initiative are four out of the five members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) in addition to the African Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab Group.

The adoption of this resolution opens an interesting process in the UN Human Rights Council in which civil society can participate in the elaboration of an international framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies. The new open-ended intergovernmental working group will be the forum for all stakeholders to receive inputs – not only the draft text of a possible convention and the elements elaborated by the UN Working Group on mercenaries, but also other initiatives, such as the proposal submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Montreux Document and the international code of conduct being elaborated under the Swiss Initiative.

However, the negative vote of the delegations of the Western Group indicates that the interests of the new staggering security industry – its annual market revenue is estimated to be over USD one hundred billion – have been quite well-defended, as was the case on a number of other occasions. It also shows that Western governments will be absent from the start in a full, in-depth discussion of the issues raised by the activities of PMSCs.

We urge all states to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new open-ended intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.

The participation of the UK and the US, the main exporters of these activities (it is estimated that these two countries’ firms control 70 percent of the security industry), as well as other Western countries where the new industry is expanding is of particular importance.

The Working Group also urges the United States Government to implement the recommendations we made, in particular, to:

· Support the US Congress’s Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which clearly defines the functions that are inherently governmental and that cannot be outsourced to the private sector.

· Rescind immunity to contractors carrying out activities in other countries under bilateral agreements.

· Carry out prompt and effective investigations of human rights violations committed by PMSCs and prosecute alleged perpetrators.

· Ensure that the oversight of private military and security contractors is not outsourced to PMSCs.

· Establish a specific system of federal licensing of PMSCs for their activities abroad.

· Set up a vetting procedure for awarding contracts to PMSCs.

· Ensure that United States criminal jurisdiction applies to private military and security companies contracted by the government to carry out activities abroad.

· Respond to pending communications from the Working Group.

1. Blackwater Worldwide abandoned its tarnished brand name in order to shake its reputation, which was battered by its criticized work in Iraq. Blackwater renamed its family of two-dozen businesses under the name “Xe.” See Mike Baker, “Blackwater dumps tarnished brand name,” AP News Break, February 13, 2009.

2. URG, an Australian private military and security company, uses a number of ex-military Chileans to provide security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad. Recently, one of those “private guards” shot himself. ABC News, reported by La Tercera, Chile, September 16, 2010.

3. J. Mendes and S. Mitchell, “Who is Unity Resources Group?” ABC News Australia, September 16, 2010.

4. Case 8:08-cv-01696-PJM, Document 103, filed July 29, 2010. Defendants have filed motions to dismiss on a number of grounds. They argue that the suit must be dismissed in its entirety because they are immune under the laws of war, because the suit raises non-justiciable political questions and because they possess derivative sovereign immunity. They seek dismissal of the state law claims on the basis of government contractor immunity, premised on the notion that plaintiffs cannot proceed on state law claims, which arise out of combatant activities of the military. The United States District Court for the district of Maryland Greenbelt Division has decided to proceed with the case against L-3 Services, Inc. It has not accepted the motions to dismiss, allowing the case to go forward.

5. Mission to the United States of America, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/15/25/Add.3, paragraph 22.

6. James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater guards tied to secret C.I.A. raids”, New York Times, December 10, 2009.

7. Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, contractor, soldier, spy”, Vanity Fair, January 2010. See also Claim No. HQ08X02800 in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Binyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen UK Ltd, report of James Gavin Simpson, May 26, 2009.

8. ACLU Press Release: “UN Report Underscores Lack of Accountability and Oversight for Military and Security Contractors”, New York, September 14, 2010.

9. The report also indicates that the DynCorp revenues were 1,966,993 USD in 2006 and 3,101,093 USD in 2009.

10 Mission to Ecuador, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, United Nations document, A/HRC/4/42/Add.2

11. A number of the persons involved in the attempted coup were arrested in Zimbabwe, others in Equatorial Guinea itself, where the coup was intended to overthrow the government and put another in its place in order to gain access to rich resources in oil. In 2004 and 2008, the trials of those arrested in connection with the coup attempt took place in Equatorial Guinea; defendants included British citizen Simon Mann and the South African Nick du Toit. The president of Equatorial Guinea pardoned all foreigners linked to the coup attempt in November 2009. A number of reports indicated that trials failed to comply with international human rights standards and that some of the accused had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The government of Equatorial Guinea has three ongoing trials in the United Kingdom, Spain and Lebanon against the persons who were behind the attempted coup.

12 Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Mission to Honduras, United Nations document A/HRC/4/42/Add.1.

13. Wikipedia

14. Mercenaries without borders by Karel Vereycken, September 21, 2007.

15. Including General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of the Army during the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama, General Crosbie E. Saint, former Commander in Chief of the US Army in Europe, and General Ron Griffith. The president of MPRI is General Bantant J. Craddock.

16. Such as Cofer Black, former chief of the Counter Terrorism Center; Enrique Prado, former chief of operations, and Rof Richter, second in command of the Clandestine Services of the company.

17. “Privatization’s Pretensions”, University of Chicago Law Review, Jon D. Michaels.

18. Inquiry into the role and oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan, report together with additional views of the Committee on
Armed Services, United States Senate, September 28, 2010.

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