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 19

In the latest news and analysis…

French drone strike?
Xinhua quotes an anonymous “security source” as saying a French drone has killed six people in northern Mali, which if true, would be the first-ever drone killings by France:

“The source said that the Algerian army detected the drone, confirming that the strike took place near the border, on the Malian side.
The six combatants killed were allegedly plotting an attack against the military base at Tessalit, controlled since February by French and Chadian forces.” [Translated from the French.]

Welcome mat
Reuters report that on the same day as the alleged French strike, Niger’s foreign minister said he wanted armed drones to operate in his country:

“ ‘I would really welcome armed drones to shoot down drug traffickers, and all those who live from activities linked to drug trafficking. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be possible,’ [Mohamed Bazoum] said.”

Security state
The International Crisis Group has published a new report in which it expresses concern that Niger’s Western allies are pushing “a security strategy that has already shown its limitations elsewhere in the Sahel”:

“ ‘Niger has been included in security strategies that protect it but over which it has little influence’, says Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Crisis Group Sahel Senior Analyst. ‘Encouraged by its allies to upgrade its security apparatus, the Nigerien government has also substantially increased its military expenditure. But such a security focus could lead to a reallocation of resources at the expense of already weak social sectors’.
‘Rather than a security state, the people of Niger need a government that provides services, an economy that creates employment and a reinforced democratic system”, says Jonathan Prentice, Crisis Group’s Chief Policy Officer.”

Incoherent policy
The Guardian reports that a group of NGOs has accused the EU of breaking the law by letting European firms dodge “at least $100bn a year” in taxes owed to poor countries:

“The EU is the only region of the world to have a legally binding commitment to policy coherence for development, set out in the 2009 Lisbon treaty. Under the PCD, the aims of EU development co-operation should not be undermined by other EU policies on climate, trade, energy, agriculture, migration and finance.

On taxes, Concord calls on the European council – the group of EU leaders – to extend the automatic exchange of tax information among European countries to the developing world.”

Massacre cover-up
The Associated Press reports that a South African government commission investigating last year’s shooting deaths at the Marikana platinum mine has accused the police of lying:

“In a statement issued Thursday, the Marikana commission said it had to search computer hard drives of officers to discover documents about the 2012 shootings that riveted South Africa and recalled the worst excesses of the apartheid era.
The commission said documents show the police version of events at the platinum mine ‘is in material respects not the truth.’
The statement said the thousands of pages of new evidence include documents the police had previously said did not exist and material which should have been disclosed earlier by police.”

Small consolation
The Inquirer reports that Canada’s Barrick Gold is being accused of offering “crumbs” as compensation for a toxic spill in the Philippines:

“After nearly a decade of battling it out in a United States state court, the province of Marinduque has come close to signing a deal worth $20 million with the mining company that bought the firm being held responsible for unleashing toxic wastes into Marinduque’s Boac River in a case considered to be the country’s worst mining disaster.
The compensation offer of $20 million, however, is way below the $100-million claim for damages that the Marinduque government is demanding from Barrick in a 2006 lawsuit.

The amount, however, would further be reduced to $13.5 million after litigation expenses had been paid.”

Looming divorce
Reuters reports that African leaders will meet next month to discuss the future of the continent’s relationship with the International Criminal Court:

“So far there does not seem to be much support for it, but heads of state from the 54-member African Union (AU) may still discuss the possibility of a pullout by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created the tribunal.
Last week’s start of the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity – with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial due in November – has fuelled a growing backlash against the Hague-based court from some African governments, which see it as a tool of Western powers.
‘The Kenyans have been criss-crossing Africa in search of support for their cause, even before their parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC,’ an AU official told Reuters.
‘An extraordinary summit will now take place to discuss the issue. A complete walk-out of signatories (to the Rome Statute) is certainly a possibility, but other requests maybe made.’”

House of cards
The Associated Press reports that Pope Francis has said he wants the Catholic church to become less fixated on “small-minded rules”:

“But his vision of what the church should be stands out, primarily because it contrasts so sharply with many of the priorities of his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals around the globe.
Francis said the dogmatic and the moral teachings of the church were not all equivalent.
‘The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,’ Francis said. ‘We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.’ ”

Latest Developments, August 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Coup admission
The National Security Archive has published what it believes to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that it helped plan and carry out the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister 60 years ago today:

“The document was first released in 1981, but with most of it excised, including all of Section III, entitled ‘Covert Action’ — the part that describes the coup itself. Most of that section remains under wraps, but this new version does formally make public, for the first time that we know of, the fact of the agency’s participation: ‘[T]he military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy,’ the history reads. The risk of leaving Iran ‘open to Soviet aggression,’ it adds, ‘compelled the United States … in planning and executing TPAJAX.’
TPAJAX was the CIA’s codename for the overthrow plot, which relied on local collaborators at every stage. It consisted of several steps: using propaganda to undermine [Mohammed] Mossadegh politically, inducing the Shah to cooperate, bribing members of parliament, organizing the security forces, and ginning up public demonstrations. The initial attempt actually failed, but after a mad scramble the coup forces pulled themselves together and came through on their second try, on August 19.”

Coup consequences
The New York Times reports that the US is “curtailing” financial, but not military, aid to Egypt following a security-forces crackdown that killed hundreds of protesters:

“Military aid to Egypt dwarfs civilian aid: of the $1.55 billion in total assistance the White House has requested for 2014, $1.3 billion is military and $250 million is economic. The civilian aid goes to such things as training programs and projects run by the United States Agency for International Development.

Among the programs affected, the official said, would be training programs in the United States for Egyptian government workers, teachers or hospital administrators. Depending on how events in Egypt unfold, and on how lawmakers react when they return from August recess, the economic aid could resume later, the official said.
There are fewer legal restrictions on the $585 million in military aid — the amount remaining from the original $1.3 billion appropriation.”

Marikana apology
The BBC reports that a UK-based mining company has said “sorry” on the first anniversary of South Africa’s deadliest police violence since the end of apartheid:

“The owner of the South African mine where 34 striking workers were shot dead by police a year ago has apologised to relatives.
‘We will never replace your loved ones and I say we are truly sorry for that,’ Lonmin boss Ben Magara said.
He was speaking to thousands of people gathered to mark the anniversary of the deaths at the Marikana platinum mine.”

FISA limits
The Washington Post reports that the secret US court tasked with oversight of the country’s surveillance programs “must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans”

“The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules that aim to protect Americans’ privacy. Without taking drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of the government’s assertions that the violations its staff members report are unintentional mistakes.

The court’s description of its practical limitations contrasts with repeated assurances from the Obama administration and intelligence agency leaders that the court provides central checks and balances on the government’s broad spying efforts.”

Negative mattering
AllAfrica reports on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Kingsley Moghalu’s assessment of Africa’s economic prospects:

“Acknowledging that Africa has several of the world’s fastest growing economies – often cited by Africa champions as a sign of ‘Africa rising’ – Moghalu argues that economic growth based on cyclical and unsustainable extractive industries and commodity sales conveys ‘a false sense of arrival’.
Pointing to a syndrome he called ‘negative mattering’, he said Africa matters to the world today primarily for the same reason it did during the slave trade and the colonial period: for what can be extracted and exported.

Africa as a ‘last frontier’ often means a continent ripe for profit-making through international trade and investment, Moghalu said.”

Miranda rights
The Guardian reports that the partner of the journalist at the centre of the Edward Snowden affair has been detained at Heathrow airport under UK anti-terror laws:

“The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.
[David] Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

[Labour MP Tom Watson] said: ‘It’s almost impossible, even without full knowledge of the case, to conclude that Glenn Greenwald’s partner was a terrorist suspect.’ ”

Lived gender
The Guardian also reports that Germany is set to become the first European country to allow babies with ambiguous genitalia to be registered as “a third or ‘undetermined’ sex”:

“The change is being seen as the country’s first legal acknowledgment that it is possible for a human to be neither male nor female – which could have far-reaching consequences in many legal areas.

The German decision to recognise a third gender was based on a recommendation by the constitutional court, which sees legal recognition of a person’s experienced and ‘lived’ gender as a personal human right.”

Behind the scenes
Le Monde reports on an apparent quid pro quo between France and Mali’s Tuareg separatist rebels since the country’s 2012 coup:

“Hoping to shift Bamako’s position, northern Mali’s communities seem to expect much from France which, despite its denials, still secretly controls the agenda.

According to a member of the French intelligence community, the MNLA supplied GPS positions allowing French bombers to hit their targets, particularly in the towns controlled by Islamists: Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. It was, moreover, the MNLA that recently helped recover the body of French hostage Philippe Verdon.

According to our sources, France supplied a plane carrying 70,000 litres of fuel and airdropped weapons to support MNLA troops after their eviction by al Qaeda jihadists in the summer of 2012.” [Translated from the French.]