Latest Developments, October 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone crimes I
Amnesty International has released a new report alleging that some US drone strikes in Pakistan may constitute war crimes:

“Contrary to official claims that those killed were ‘terrorists’, Amnesty International’s research indicates that the victims of these attacks were not involved in fighting and posed no threat to life.

Amnesty International also documented cases of so-called ‘rescuer attacks’ in which those who ran to the aid of the victims of an initial drone strike were themselves targeted in a rapid follow-on attack. While there may have been a presumption that the rescuers were members of the group being targeted, it is difficult to see how such distinctions could be made in the immediate and chaotic aftermath of a missile strike.

While the Pakistan government maintains it opposes the US drone program, Amnesty International is concerned that some officials and institutions in Pakistan and in other countries including Australia, Germany and the UK may be assisting the USA to carry out drone strikes that constitute human rights violations.”

Drone crimes II
Human Rights Watch has also released a new report on US drone strikes, which have allegedly “killed civilians in violation of international law”, this time in Yemen:

“The six strikes investigated by Human Rights Watch killed 82 people, at least 57 of them civilians.

During targeting operations, the US may be using an overly elastic definition of a fighter who may be lawfully attacked during an armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said. For example, a November 2012 drone strike in the military town of Beit al-Ahmar killed an alleged AQAP recruiter, but recruiting activities alone would not be sufficient grounds under the laws of war to target someone for attack.
The six strikes also did not meet US policy guidelines for targeted killings that Obama disclosed in May 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government has carried out hundreds of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In Yemen, the US is estimated to have conducted 81 targeted killing operations, one in 2002 and the rest since 2009.”

War on activism
The Financial Times reports that Bahrain’s use of 2 million tear gas projectiles since early 2011 is part of a growing global trend:

“The rise in global activism has spurred sales for non-lethal weapons as governments shift spending from counter terrorism to counter-activist policies.
‘It’s a cheap option when compared with other forms of crowd control,’ says Anna Feigenbaum, a lecturer at Bournemouth University whose research focuses on the use of tear gas.
‘Manufacturers are now bragging about how much tear gas they are selling, with promotional videos of uprisings and how much their products are needed,’ she says.

Globally, demand for so-called ‘dispersal non-lethal weapons,’ including tear gas and pepper spray, is estimated at $368m this year, and is likely to rise to $490m by 2018, [research group Markets and Markets] says.”

Price of exclusion
The Globe and Mail reports that First Nations leaders are warning that last week’s anti-fracking confrontation with Canadian police was “just the tip of the iceberg”:

“The protest against shale-gas exploration near the village of Rexton, N.B., took place as some aboriginal groups across the country are expressing frustration over being excluded from consultations, especially when it comes to resource development.

“We are not going to sit back, we’re not going to let the wealth leave our lands the way it has for the last 100 years, keeping us impoverished …” [Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak] said, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper is travelling the world “trying to sell Canadian resource wealth … and he’s doing that all in complete disrespect of the rights of indigenous people.””

Coherent future
The Guardian reports on the challenges that lie ahead for the UN diplomats assigned with designing the so-called sustainable development goals:

“To do this, [Kenya’s UN representative Macharia Kamau] and Csaba Kõrösi, his Hungarian counterpart, will have to bring together governments who disagree on issues such as women’s rights, diplomatically fend off demands from NGOs and campaign groups insistent that their issue takes priority, and grapple with country blocs and bureaucratic, inter-governmental processes.

One challenge, says Kamau, is to ensure that various goals, targets and indicators proposed do not contradict each other. ‘We have to make sure that there is consistency between what we’re doing on one aspect, say macroeconomic policy, with what we’re aspiring to in another aspect, say climate change, or consumption,’ he says. ‘The sum of all these pieces must make a coherent whole that is consistent with our aspirations for sustainable development.’ ”

New angle
The Mail and Guardian reports on the emergence of “new, apparently damning, footage” of South African police actions during last year’s Marikana massacre of striking miners:

“[Filmmaker Rehad Desai] said this new footage ‘put paid’ to the argument that police had acted in self-defence and was more suggestive of premeditated action on their part.
Desai also noted that the new footage shows ‘the police taking out their pistols from their holsters well before the alleged attack and before the miners arrived on the scene’.

The drawing and cocking of weapons, said Desai, was against police standing orders, which were explicit that guns should only be drawn in the case of ‘imminent danger’.”

Empty particpation
Lyndsay Stecher writes in Think Africa Press that the UN’s consultation process falls short of “genuine inclusivity” at the design stage of the post-2015 development agenda:

As [Participate’s Joanna Wheeler] puts it, ‘Citizen participation in the new global development framework is not just about a small global elite in the UN “hearing the voices of the poor”. Meaningful participation is about creating sustainable and long-term mechanisms for citizens to be involved in decision-making at all levels – from local to global’.

Ultimately then, inclusivity is about more than just coming up with technically-effective and efficient ways of gathering information in remote areas. It is about more than taking polls of the poor that can be cited in faraway international meetings. It is about more than adding a few extra voices to the growing hubbub clamouring to shape the post-2015 agenda. Genuine participation of the poorest is about politics and power. And the imbalances that have so far stymied meaningful participation are arguably the same ones underpinning the main problems with the UN’s post-2015 High-Level Panel – a failure to address the root causes of poverty; a preoccupation with the market rather than unemployment and deprivation; and a failure to tackle the inequality in wealth, resources and, crucially, power.”

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Latest Developments, September 4

In the latest news and analysis…

Democratic pledge
Le Monde reports on French President François Hollande’s shift toward possibly allowing MPs to vote on military intervention in Syria:

“French socialists have forged a doctrine on sending armed troops abroad. In a 2000 report, François Lamy, a Socialist MP from Essone, pointed to the example of other major democracies to call for a change to the constitution. He proposed it stipulate that ‘the use of French forces outside national territory be subject to parliamentary consultation beforehand’.
The report was presented by the defense commission, one of whose members was François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s first secretary at the time. In keeping with his own and his party’s earlier position, François Hollande called for a parliamentary vote on February 26, 2003 over the possibility of a French intervention in Iraq. Ten years later, with circumstances as they are, it is incumbent upon him to show that the president of the Republic is keeping faith with the pledges of the former first secretary of the Socialist Party.” [Translated from the French.]

War of choice
The Washington Post reports on a new poll suggesting that Americans “widely oppose” missile strikes against Syria:

“Nearly six in 10 oppose missile strikes in light of the U.S. government’s determination that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. Democrats and Republicans alike oppose strikes by double digit margins, and there is deep opposition among every political and demographic group in the survey. Political independents are among the most clearly opposed, with 66 percent saying they are against military action.

The public expresses even wider opposition to arming Syrian rebels, which President Obama authorized in June. Fully seven in 10 oppose arming rebels, including large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.”

Turning off the taps
The Associated Press reports that US President Barack Obama’s “top national security aides” have advised him to cut off it massive military aid to Egypt following July’s coup:

“Such a step would be a dramatic shift for an administration that has declined to label Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s July 3 ouster a coup and has argued that it is in U.S. national security interests to keep the aid flowing. It would also likely have profound implications for decades of close U.S.-Egyptian ties that have served as a bulwark of security and stability in the Middle East.
The officials say the recommendation has been with Obama for at least a week but they don’t expect him to make a decision until after the full Congress votes on his request for authorization for military strikes on Syria, which is not expected before Monday.”

Swedish asylum
The Local reports that Sweden has decided to let all its Syrian refugees stay in the country permanently:

“Sweden is the first country in the EU to offer permanent residency to refugees from Syria, news agency TT reported.
The decision covers all asylum seekers from Syria who have been granted temporary residency in Sweden for humanitarian protection.

The decision means that the roughly 8,000 Syrians who have temporary residency in Sweden will now be able to stay in the country permanently.
They will also have the right to bring their families to Sweden.”

Dwindling stockpiles
The Cluster Munition Coalition reports on the past year’s “record-breaking progress” toward eradicating the weapon that was widely banned by a 2008 treaty:

“During 2012, the Netherlands finished the total destruction of its once-massive stockpile of cluster munitions and together with Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and others, destroyed a total of 173,973 cluster munitions and 27 million submunitions—the most in a year since the convention’s adoption and far exceeding 2011 totals, when states destroyed a total of 107,000 cluster munitions and 17.6 million submunitions.

Major stockpilers have indicated they will complete destruction years in advance of the deadline, including Denmark and the UK (by the end of 2013), Italy and Sweden (in 2014), and Germany and Japan (in 2015).”

Costly objection
iPolitics reports that a First Nation in Western Canada may have to compensate the federal government for challenging a proposed Canada-China investment treaty:

“With just under a month to decide whether or not they’ll appeal a federal court dismissal of their Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) duty-to-consult legal challenge, the Hupacasath First Nation find themselves having to consider the possibility of a hefty cost award.

A government spokesperson told iPolitics that they’ve yet to determine their legal costs, but the Hupacasath have come up with their own rough estimates for what the government has spent defending the challenge.
‘They had five lawyers in the courtroom, compared to our two,’ said Brenda Sayers, an elected Hupacasath councillor.
Add to that the expert witnesses the government flew in from around the world, she said, such as Christopher Thomas — a research fellow at the National University of Singapore — and it starts to add up quickly.”

Taxes for Africa
The Africa Progress Panel has called on G20 countries, where most multinational companies are based, to take responsibility for “tax avoidance and evasion”:

“In Africa, tax avoidance and evasion cost billions of dollars every year. One single technique – transfer mispricing – costs the continent more than it receives in either international aid or foreign direct investment. Transfer mispricing includes the undervaluing exports in order to understate tax liability. Africa loses precious opportunities to invest in health, education, energy, and infrastructure.”

Institutional racism
The UN News Centre reports that a group of UN experts has called on the US government to examine laws that “could have discriminatory impact on African Americans”

“ ‘States are required to take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists,’ said the Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere.
According to the 2011 US Department of Justice Hate Crime Statistics, 71.9 per cent of the total number of victims of hate crimes reported to the nation’s law enforcement agencies were victims of an offender’s anti-black bias.”