Archive | June 5th, 2014

Obama condemns Russian ‘dark tactics’ against Ukraine

NOVANEWS

 unclesam

‘Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small,’ president says after announcing U.S. assistance to Ukraine armed forces.

Haaretz

U.S. President Barack Obama held up 25 years of Polish democracy as a beacon for neighboring Ukraine in a public celebration Wednesday, warning Russia that the free world is united against its “dark tactics” to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“We stand together because we believe that people and nations have the right to determine their own destiny — and that includes the people of Ukraine,” Obama said before a crowd of more than 6,000 that spilled into the streets before Royal Castle, a symbol of Polish independence.

“Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia,” Obama said. “Because after investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?”

Obama spoke just after announcing new U.S. assistance for Ukraine’s armed forces, including body armor and night vision goggles — the first such delivery of tools that would directly help Ukrainian troops in their battle against pro-Russian separatists.

Speaking from behind protective glass, Obama declared that “the days of empires and spheres of influence are over.” He cast the people of Ukraine as heirs to the push for democracy in Poland that helped bring an end to communism in Europe.

“Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small, or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings,” Obama said. “And the stroke of a pen can never legitimize the theft of a neighbor’s land. So we will not accept Russia’s occupation of Crimea or its violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Holding his first extended meeting earlier Wednesday with Ukraine’s President-elect Petro Poroshenko, Obama praised the billionaire candy maker as a “wise selection.” He said he was impressed by Poroshenko’s business expertise and confident he can handle Ukraine’s formidable economic and political challenges as he takes office on Saturday.

Obama offered Poroshenko $5 million in new U.S. aid as Ukraine’s military continues to suffer casualties in its confrontation with pro-Russian insurgents in the country’s east. More significant than the dollar amount was the nature of the new aid. Until now, the U.S. had only provided other nonlethal forms of aid like clothes, food and radios.

Obama told reporters allowed into the end of their meeting at a Marriott hotel that the international community must stand with Poroshenko to make sure that Russia is no longer supporting separatists. Poroshenko thanked the U.S. for its support and said the next phase is crucial to starting a peaceful process out of Ukraine’s political crisis.

Obama’s meeting with Poroshenko came 10 days after he became Ukraine’s first elected leader since its pro-Russian president fled and Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula, in the confrontation that’s reignited old global divisions.

World leaders excluded Putin from a Group of 7 meeting starting Wednesday night in Brussels that was originally slated to include Putin and take place in Sochi, Russia. But in recent days, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany have scheduled face-to-face talks with the Russian leader, exposing divisions among Western nations that had united to isolate Russia over its aggressive moves against Ukraine.

Obama and Putin have spoken by phone multiple times — but not in person — since Russia annexed Crimea and stationed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine. Obama said Tuesday he maintains a “businesslike relationship” with Putin and is certain to encounter him in France on Friday during events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. But they have no formal talks scheduled.

Obama announced upon his arrival in Poland on Tuesday that he’s asking Congress for up to $1 billion to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe in the face of Russia’s aggression. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Poland’s security under the NATO alliance — a message he repeated to the Polish people and that U.S. leaders have echoed across the region.

“These are not just words,” Obama said. “They are unbreakable commitments, backed by the strongest alliance in the world and by the armed forces of the United States of America: the most powerful military in history.”

Posted in USA, Russia, UkraineComments Off on Obama condemns Russian ‘dark tactics’ against Ukraine

PM ‘deeply troubled’ by US acceptance of PA leaders

NOVANEWS

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Naziyahu says Washington must take a stand against a Hamas-backed Palestinian government

Ed note–bs. Netanyahu couldn’t be happier.  It gives him a justifiable excuse to avoid ‘peace talks’ with the Palestinians, bolsters his support base of rightwing nutcases in Israel and around the world and sets the strange for Israel smashing in military action against the West Bank when the first rocket comes flying out of Gaza. TUT

Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he is “deeply troubled” by the US decision to maintain relations with the new Palestinian unity government, urging Washington to tell the Palestinian president that his alliance with the Hamas militant group is unacceptable.

The blunt language used by Netanyahu reflected the Israeli government’s disappointment and frustration over the international community’s embrace of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s new unity government.

Netanyahu has urged the world to shun the government because it is backed by Hamas, an Islamic group that has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks over the past two decades. But late Tuesday, both the US and European Union said they would give Abbas a chance.

“I’m deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas,” Netanyahu told The Associated Press, saying the group has murdered “countless innocent civilians.”

“All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’s embrace of Hamas, and most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Israel and the West have branded Hamas a terrorist group. But Israel’s allies in Washington and Europe have said they will maintain ties to the new government — and continue sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid — as long as it renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Abbas says the new Cabinet is committed to these principles. It is made up of apolitical technocrats who have no ties to Hamas.

Hamas, which remains sworn to Israel’s destruction, has agreed to support the government from the outside.

Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas formed the new government Monday in a major step toward ending a seven-year rift that left the Palestinians divided between two governments. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s forces in June 2007, leaving him only in control of autonomous areas of the West Bank. The division is considered a major obstacle to any future peace agreement.

Netanyahu’s comments were the latest salvo in a competition between Israel and the Palestinians to win over international opinion following the collapse of Mideast peace talks in late April. Each side has been eager to portray the other as the intransigent party that led to the failure.

Abbas’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, told reporters Tuesday that the government is committed to all agreements previously reached with Israel and would continue the president’s “programs of peace,” aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“We call on the international community to immediately recognize the government and continue to support the Palestinian political leadership efforts to enable the government to face all political challenges, especially the Israeli policies that hinder the political and economic stability in the region,” Hamdallah said.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on PM ‘deeply troubled’ by US acceptance of PA leaders

US ‘looks forward’ to working with Egypt’s el-Sissi

NOVANEWS

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White House says Obama will speak with president-elect in coming days, urges rights reforms

 

Times of Israel

 The United States said Wednesday it looks forward to working with the government of Egyptian president-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, while urging him to carry out human rights reforms.

President Barack Obama will speak with the former army chief in the coming days, the White House said in a statement.

Washington looked forward to working with Sisi “to advance our strategic partnership and the many interests shared by the United States and Egypt,” it said.

Sisi took a sweeping 96.9 percent of the vote in an election held nearly a year after he toppled president Mohamed Morsi, whose Islamist allies boycotted the polls.

The United States firmly refrained from calling the change of government a coup. That assessment would have forced it under US law to stop providing Egypt with billions in annual aid.

In the statement, the White House said observers found the elections were held in accordance with Egyptian law.

But it also expressed concern about what it called the “restrictive political environment” in which the vote took place and urged Sisi’s new government to step up rights reforms.

“We have consistently expressed our concerns about limits on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and call upon the government to ensure these freedoms as well as due process rights for all Egyptians,” it said.

The statement added: “We urge the President-elect and the government to adopt the reforms that are needed to govern with accountability and transparency, ensure justice for every individual, and demonstrate a commitment to the protection of the universal rights of all Egyptians.”

As Egypt looks ahead to parliamentary elections later this year, Washington urged the country to consider ways to improve how future elections are held.

“True democracy is built on a foundation of rule of law, civil liberties, and open political discourse,” the statement said.

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Hezbollah criticizes Lebanese Patriarch’s efforts to return Zio-Nazi Dogs

NOVANEWS

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Hezbollah MP Ali Meqdad criticized on Saturday Patriarch Beshara Rai, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, for his visit to Israel, saying his efforts to bring back “Israeli agents” living in Israel was unacceptable.

The church leader defied warnings from Hezbollah by accompanying Pope Francis on his visit to Israel last week. He returned to Lebanon on Saturday.

Branded as traitors in Lebanon, former South Lebanon Army soldiers and their relatives fear to return to their country and want Rai to intercede on their behalf in Beirut.

“There is an issue that really irked me. Some people went to occupied Palestine to convince [Israeli] agents who withdrew with the Israeli enemy in 2000 to come back to Lebanon, and their response was that they have become Israeli citizens now and do not want either the Lebanese or Arab identity,” said Meqdad according to a report in the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper.

“The resistance was very careful after liberation and it did not take revenge or hold any of the agents or their families accountable but left things up to the judiciary,” he said.

“We tell those who are preparing a draft law or a proposal to bring back those agents who betrayed the country… We do not want Israeli agents among us here in Lebanon.”

Around 10,000 Maronites live in Israel, including 2,000 former SLA men and their families, who fled there during the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

“We suffered enough from them during the occupation. They are not even proud of their Lebanese citizen-ship and we are not proud to call them Lebanese,” added Meqdad.

Lebanon’s security forces arrested a suspect a couple weeks ago who confessed to working with regional intelligence agencies in a plot to assassinate Rai, security sources told the Lebanese newspaper on Wednesday.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, LebanonComments Off on Hezbollah criticizes Lebanese Patriarch’s efforts to return Zio-Nazi Dogs

Zio-Nazi Bennett: PA government made up of ‘terrorists in suits’

NOVANEWS

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Left-right divide seen in Zio-Nazi reactions to Palestinian unity government; Yair Lapid warns against overreaction

Times of Israel

The swearing in of a new Palestinian unity government on Monday elicited strong reactions from Israeli leaders, with right-wing cabinet ministers condemning the alliance of “terrorists in suits,” and centrists urging a more cautious approach.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) set the tone for many, insisting that Hamas’s membership in the Palestinian Authority government meant that “the prospect of a Palestinian state ran into the wall of reality today. It’s time to switch from defense to the attack and do what is good for Israel.”

He said the new administration was “a government of terrorists in suits” and called it “an illegitimate government.” On his Facebook page, Bennett quoted anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist passages from the Hamas charter, asking, “So is there someone out there that still thinks that this is a partner?”

While Bennett’s comments were echoed by many in the coalition, others, such as Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid, urged caution.

“This is not a time for overreaction. I urge my friends in the government and the Knesset not to give Hamas the opportunity to turn the fire back at us just for the sake of a headline in the domestic political arena,” Lapid said in a thinly veiled reference to the comments from the right.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, also of Jewish Home, condemned Abbas for establishing “a government of terror with common murderers,” adding that he “proved today once again that he is not interested in peace with the State of Israel.”

Ariel called on the government to respond to the Palestinian move by lifting the partial construction freeze in Jewish settlements.

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said the unity government was established on the principle of refusing to recognize Israel, and reiterated calls by his party to “strengthen” Israel’s presence in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli administrative control.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon echoed Bennett’s charge against the Palestinian government and warned foreign governments against giving aid to the PA.

“The suits of the [unity government] ministers are just pretty casings for the acts of terror that they have overseen,” he said. “As of now all aid given to the Palestinians by the United States and other countries directly contributes to harming the State of Israel,” Danon said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman mocked Israel’s response, and seemed to take a surprisingly conciliatory tone for a famously hawkish politician.

“Every minister in the government has his own strategy, but the government of Israel has no strategy,” he said, according to Channel 10. “We need to reach an agreement for a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. To leave Jews in a Palestinian state would not be responsible.”

Liberman criticized the Jewish Home party for not accepting the premise of a Palestinian state, as well as Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for her willingness to negotiate a Palestinian state “at any price.”

Labor MK Nachman Shai said the establishment of the new Palestinian government presents “not only a risk, but also a chance” to take a different course. But, he added, the government’s proposed steps — including a refusal to recognize the new government and the cutting of funds to its coffers — “will be a further deterioration of the situation from both a diplomatic and security standpoint.”

Hatnua MK Amram Mitzna called for introspection, saying that “Hamas does not abet terrorism. In our government as well, we aren’t all peaceful.”

Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas ended several years of animosity when they reached an agreement in late April to form an interim unity government of technocrats, with full elections by year’s end.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also alluded to possible “unilateral steps” in response to the failure of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu ended peace talks with Abbas after the unity government was announced, and has repeatedly stated that Israel will not work with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, which Israel and much of the West consider a terror group. On Monday, Netanyahu hit out at European governments for condemning a shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels while responding with “ambiguity” to Palestinian reconciliation.

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Palestinians hail unity as new government sworn in

NOVANEWS

Abbas praises ‘end of Palestinian division,’ indicates Ramallah will continue statehood drive; ceremony goes ahead after last-minute dispute

Ed note–”realizing full well that this is easy for us to say,  given the fact we aren’t living under the (same kind of) Zionist occupation as they are,  nevertheless the Palestinians must realize where this unity deal is going to go. As Netanyahu himself started in a news piece a few days ago,  the PA will be held responsible for everything that Hamas does. 

What this means is that Netanyahu and his people WILL, NOT MIGHT, initiate acts of provocation from Gaza, make it look as though Hamas were responsible and use this as a pretext for military action against the West Bank, which is the real prize Israel seeks”. TUT

Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swore in the ministers of a new unity government Monday afternoon after Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Abbas’s Fatah resolved a last-minute disagreement over a key government ministry.

Abbas hailed the “end” of Palestinian division, saying: “Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case.”

“This black page in the history (of the Palestinians) has been turned forever, and we will not allow it to come back,” he added

Hamas praised the “national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” the movement’s spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told AFP.

The swearing in marked the end of years of division between the rival Palestinian factions, with the technocratic government planned to set up elections in the next six months.

Israel has skewered the unity deal, accusing Abbas of preferring a pact with the Islamist Hamas movement over peace with Israel and threatening punitive measures.

At the swearing in, Abbas lashed out as Israel’s refusal to recognize the government, indicating the Palestinians would continue efforts for statehood, put on hold over the past year during peace talks with Israel. “We won’t stand with our hands folded in the face of punitive measures, and we will use every legal and diplomatic tool at our disposal in the international community,” he said according to a Haaretz report.

In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the “historic” move.

Hours before the swearing-in ceremony, Hamas had said that it would not recognize the unity government if it did not include a minister for prisoners affairs. At the last minute, the two sides agreed to have Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah man the post.

Abbas had left the position off the roster with the intention of delegating the matter to a committee.

The new government has 17 ministers, five of them from Gaza. Hamdallah, the current premier in the West Bank, will also hold the interior portfolio.

Abbas has already pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace Quartet that call for recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and abiding by all existing agreements. However, Hamas has yet to ratify those conditions.

Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas ended several years of animosity when they reached an agreement in late April to form an interim unity government of technocrats, with full elections by year’s end.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended peace talks with Abbas after the unity government was announced, and has repeatedly stated that Israel will not work with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, which Israel and much of the West consider a terror group. On Monday, Netanyahu hit out at European governments for condemning a shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels while responding with “ambiguity” to Palestinian reconciliation.

“It is puzzling to me that governments in Europe that strongly criticize this act of murder speak with ambiguity and even friendliness about a unity government with Hamas, a terror organisation that carries out crimes like these,” he said.

Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Abbas to express “concern about Hamas’s role in any such government,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Sunday, saying he had again stressed the importance of its acceptance of the Quartet principles.

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US delays Nicaraguan lawmakers’ trip to Iran

NOVANEWS

Parliamentarians held up at Miami airport en route to Syria conference in Tehran

 

Times of Israel

The Nicaraguan ambassador to Iran said a group of parliamentarians who were on their way to Tehran in a show of support for Syria were delayed by US security officials in Miami’s airport.

Ambassador Mario Antonio Barquero Baltodano told the Friends of Syria conference in Tehran that the lawmakers would eventually arrive later that evening, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

 

“The US security officials at Miami airport have prevented the Nicaraguan MPs from traveling to Iran, and the delegation will arrive in Tehran with a delay,” Baltodano said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. “Therefore, our lawmakers will try to participate in the Tehran conference this evening.”

The conference, the second of its kind, is hosting national security and foreign policy representatives from over 30 countries that maintain good relations with the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif, who attended the Syrian support conference, demanded that Western powers stop meddling in the conflict in Syria.

“The foreign powers should give up the illusion of attaining their own strategic wishes and aspirations in Syria through military means and accept that the Syrian crisis has no way but a political solution based on the resolve and will of the Syrian people which will be shown through the ballot box,” he said.

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Prosecuting Syrians for War Crimes Now

NOVANEWS

by Richard Falk

            A major undertaking of the victorious powers in World War II was to impose individual criminal accountability upon political and military leaders for alleged crimes committed during wartime before a tribunal convened by the victors that gave those accused a fair opportunity to present a defense. This application of this idea of accountability to German and Japanese surviving leaders at trials held in Nuremberg and Tokyo was hailed at the time as a major step in the direction of a ‘just peace.’ International law was treated as binding upon sovereign states and those that represented the government, conceived to be a major step in the direction of a global rule of law. The final decisions of these tribunals also produced a narrative as to why World War II was a necessary and just war. Such an outcome was both a vindication of the victory on the battlefield and a punitive repudiation of those who fought and lost. Significantly, this criminal process was formally initiated onlyafter the combat phase of the war had ended and Germany and Japan had surrendered.

            There were skeptics in 1945 that whispered ‘victors’ justice,’ and insisted that this ‘Nuremberg experience’ was a partisan exercise in truth-telling. Above the courtroom hung an invisible sign reading ‘only losers need enter here.’ The Nuremberg goddess of ‘war justice’ wore no blindfold, assessed with one eye the crimes of the losers and averted her other eye so as not to see the crimes of the winners. In the actual trials those whose criminality was being assessed were not accused of any crimes that resembled the practices of the winners, and were not allowed by the tribunal bring up in their defense any of their alleged crimes.

            Many wanted to overlook this flaw, and move on to create a justice system that would indeed operate on the basis of the nature of the act as criminal or not, and not make criminality depend on the identity of the actorBut moving toward the ideal of equality before the law has not been easy. It requires elevating international criminal law above the precepts of geopolitics. Yet the impulse to do so in form has surfaced strongly in the aftermath of the Cold War, but we have yet to see any corresponding substantivetransformation that must occur if equals are to be treated equally in international criminal law.

            Against such a background, the attempts to hold individuals, whether acting on behalf of governments or insurgencies, individually accountable for war crimes is treated as a core element of global justice. Since the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002, an institutional mechanism exists on a global level by which to apply international criminal law in an objective and authoritative manner. Further there exists convincing proof that horrifying atrocities have been committed in the course of the Syrian civil war, principally by the government and armed forces of Syria, and to a far lesser extent by various factions among the fragmented opposing rebel forces. In these circumstances, it would certainly seem appropriate to charge both Syrian government officials, including military commanders, and members of the insurgent opposition, with such crimes.

            France presented a resolution to the UN Security Council on 22 May calling upon the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes in Syria, and to proceed with prosecutions to the extent possible. The resolution was supported by a 13-2 vote, yet it failed to pass because the two dissenting votes were cast by Russia and China, countries enjoying a right of veto. As might be expected, there have been angry explanations of the result given by both sides. According to the Russian delegate, the French initiative was nothing more than ‘a publicity stunt’ that would hamper, or even preclude, the difficult search for a diplomatic end to the strife. The Western reaction, significantly endorsed by the UN Secretary General’s office, declared that such a use of the veto was ‘irresponsible,’ even ‘disgraceful.’ It amounted to a de facto grant of impunity to the worst perpetrators of state crime active on the planet at this time.

            I believe that both of these contrasting reactions are understandable, and can be given a qualified endorsement despite seeming to contradict one another. The Russian reaction reflects a view that the main motivations for such a resolution is to weaken the legitimacy of the Damascus regime in the midst of an unresolved struggle for control of the country, and in this sense is better interpreted geopolitically as an irresponsible propaganda move rather than as a genuine attempt to promote criminal justice. As well, it has been Moscow’s insistence all along that the only way to end the violence in Syria is by way of diplomatic compromise. Thus, any attempt to indict Syrian leaders as war criminals while the fighting persists weakens the already dim prospects of resolving the conflict by diplomacy. It gives Assad and other Syrian leaders, the circle of those that likely would have been indicted, strong incentives to rely on combat rather than take their chances with diplomacy.

            The French approach, strongly supported by the Western powers, especially the United States, focuses on the clear evidence of criminality attributable to the Damascus regime. Such behavior deserves to be formally criminalized, and the fact that the Assad regime remains in power enhances the urgency of doing so. There is no need to look beyond these facts, and taking such action may increase the pressure on the Syrian government to seek accommodation.

            Further along these lines, the argument that recourse to the ICC will end diplomatic efforts to end the violence is specious. Conventional diplomacy has been given many chances, and has failed. They claim that diplomacy has been repeatedly tried and failed, including reliance at the highest levels on the good offices of the UN and Arab League through the determined efforts by Special Envoys, first, Kofi Annan and the Lakhdar Brahimi. To act as if diplomacy might succeed in the future is mainly a diversionary tactic to discourage taking immediate steps that might bring the war to an end in ways that are helpful to the aspirations of the majority of Syrians. The supporters of the French resolution argue that activating the ICC will produce public indignation, swing support to the insurgent side, and produce a more politically and morally desirable end game to the conflict by discrediting the Damascus regime and empowering the opposition within Syria, the region, and the world. There are many uncertainties exposed by this debate. It is difficult to reach a clear conclusion as to which side is more persuasive, but there are a series of considerations that should be taken into account, and add weight to those who voice skepticism about the French initiative.

            Motivation. There are reasons to think that this effort at this time is mainly an expression of frustration and desperation, and as such a misuse of the ICC by Western powers. True, the crimes of the insurgent rebels as well as those of the Syrian government were included in the proposed resolution, but the motivation was to delegitimize the Damascus government. Yet the rationale for initiating a criminal investigation directed at the leadership of all participants in the midst of a civil war for the control of the country seems like a misdirected move that is made in the face of the failure of earlier Western efforts to intervene sufficiently on the insurgent side .to produce regime change

            Timing. To use the ICC in the midst of an ongoing civil war in Syria is to take sides, and thus interfere with an ongoing internal struggle for control of the state and society. Mentioned above, even the Allied Powers in World War II waited until the guns fell silent before initiating any criminal process. As such, acting in the present setting interferes with the right of self-determination enjoyed by the people of Syria. Yet since there has been already considerable interference through funding and material support, the preconditions for self-determination do not exist, making an end to the violence that has been so devastating for the population of the country a primary goal. This makes it seem that the most important question to ask is whether criminal indictments while the war rages is likely to hasten or delay an ending of the conflict. And since neither side has shown the ability to prevail, the Russians seem right in their insistence that despite disappointments with earlier efforts, diplomacy continues to be the only path forward, although it is admittedly narrow.

            Justice. Is justice served when the authority of the ICC is invoked as a political instrument to influence the outcome of a civil war? There are reasons to worry about the discrediting impact of double standards. Why was there never any initiative to pursue leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom during the course of the Iraq War, which also included many incidents that seemed to qualify as crimes against humanity? This question takes on greater weight when added to earlier criticisms of the profile of the ICC, which has pursued a variety of sub-Saharan African leaders, but few others. It is also relevant to recall that the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, was indicted in the midst of the Kosovo War in 1999 undertaken without UN authorization by NATO, again seemingly motivated by the urge to strengthen public support for the justness of a legally controversial military effort to end Serbian administration of Kosovo. Again in the NATO led military operation against the Libyan regime, the ICC issued arrest warrants for the Qaddafi leadership while NATO planes were bombing Tripoli. In effect, the allegation being made by critics of such war crimes prosecutions is that the whole undertaking has been politicized in ways that lead to a selective application of the law that seems inconsistent with claims of justice. In effect, the criticism of Nuremberg still applies—only losers and the weak are accountable. For the others, impunity.

            Feasibility. The unlikelihood of obtaining personal jurisdiction in relation to the principal perpetrators of war crimes in Syria, especially Bashar al-Assad and major political officials and military commanders, makes the claimed rationale for seeking indictments at this stage also suspect. Proceeding now seems to have as its main justification a means to add moral weight to the position of pro-insurgency governments that something more should be done to stop the criminality of the Assad-led government. Reinforcing this reasoning is a consensus that since military intervention is not feasible and diplomacy has failed, the only option left is to charge Syrian leaders with crimes against humanity. The ICC provides a venue to mobilize pressure for giving additional help to the rebels, and at the same time depriving the Damascus government of whatever is left of its legitimacy. The fact that the French resolution calls also for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity committed by the opposition, while not being frivolous, is nevertheless certain to receive far less attention in the event tha the UNSC had given the ICC a green light.

            There is a serious question as to whether it is appropriate to use the ICC to gather evidence and prepare an indictment in circumstances where prospects of prosecution are remote and an ongoing struggle for control of the Syrian state remains unresolved. Such limitations also would seem to reinforce concerns about the timing of this initiative. It makes recourse to ICC not only ineffectual as a means to pursue criminal justice, but damaging to the credibility of this fledgling international institution that was created, it should be remembered, to overcome the vagaries of geopolitics, not to serve as their instrument for engaging in maneuvers.

            Concluding Comment. There are two intertwined concerns: First, whether seeking criminal indictments of Syrians accused of crimes against humanity is on balance helpful or harmful in relation to the search for peace that has so far proved fruitless. This issue should be considered in relation to prospects for resolving the devastating conflict in Syria that has already lasted for more than three years.

            And secondly, whether such recourse to the ICC would strengthen or weaken this judicial institution, and its need to overcome the strong impression of operating on the basis of double standards in relation to criminal accountability. So far all efforts to use the ICC in response to crimes alleged against Western countries have been rebuffed, and Western leaders have enjoyed impunity and have minimized their own participation in the activities of the ICC except when it serves their interests in going after adversaries. A tiny opening is the recent indication that the ICC is formally investigating criminal charges relating to the abuse of Iraqi detainees by United Kingdom occupying forces in the years after 2003. Perhaps, the times are changing, after all!

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Allies of Syria praise presidential vote

NOVANEWS

Delegations of representatives from Iran, Russia and Venezuela hail ‘transparent’ and ‘democratic’ elections.

Haaretz

This week’s presidential elections in Syria were democratic, transparent, and will pave the way for “stability and national agreement,” a delegation of officials from more than 30 countries, led by allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said in a statement.

The delegation, including legislators and dignitaries from Iran, Russia and Venezuela, toured polling stations on Tuesday during Syria’s first multicandidate presidential election in more than four decades.

Assad is widely expected to win the vote that took place amid a civil war that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people. The United States and the European Union, which back the rebellion against Assad, have rejected the vote.

In a final statement read Wednesday by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security, the delegation blamed the U.S and its allies for “crimes committed against the Syrian people.”

“These elections have happened in its constitutional time and date in a transparent democratic way,” said the statement, which was released in Arabic and English.

State-run media reported that voting closed on midnight Tuesday, and said election officials had begun the process of checking the number of ballots against lists of registered voters.

Voting took place only in government-controlled areas, excluding much of northern and eastern Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians abroad voted last week, although many of the more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees across the region either abstained or were excluded by law.

Assad, 48, has ruled Syria since 2000, when he took over after the death of his father, Hafez, who ruled the country for the previous three decades. On Tuesday he faced two government-approved challengers, Maher Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri, both of whom were little known before declaring their candidacies in April.

The delegation said that for the “first time in the history of Syria” the elections had been carried out with “the participation of different opinions and political parties,” and “freedom and democracy.”

“These elections in Syria pave the way for a new stage of stability and national agreement in this country after more than three years of war imposed by foreign parties,” it said.

“In addition, we hope that it will pave the way for the return of the displaced and the Syrian refugees to their home, and to start the stage of building this country by the Syrian people and their government.”

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Secret trials: judges should be trusted to make right decisions, says Grayling

NOVANEWS
Justice secretary’s comments come after it emerges that case involving two terror suspects is set to be heard in secret
Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling said the default in the court system should be transparency but there were instances where it was right to hold hearings in secret. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has said judges should be trusted to make the right decisions in secret trials, after it emerged a major criminal case involving two terror suspects could be heard behind closed doors for the first time in modern history.

The senior Conservative said the default in the court system should be transparency but there were instances where it was right to hold hearings in secret.

He said this case was a matter for the courts but common law and statute did allow some rare cases in which trials could be heard in private.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We do entrust them with many parts of our national life … I believe passionately in the freedom of the press and I believe the circumstances in which the press do not have access to the trial process should be very, very rare indeed.

“But in this particular case, if there is a really good reason, if it is in the interests of justice for the judge to take a decision one way or the other, so be it; that’s why we have them. That’s why we trust the judges, that’s why we have them, to take the right decisions of behalf of all of us.”

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said: “A cloak of secrecy on this scale is unprecedented. Open justice isn’t some optional add on – transparency and openness are absolutely critical to the way our courts run. Deviating from this runs the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in justice being done and is a slippery slope. While there will always be exceptional circumstances in which parts of cases may need to be held in secret, very important questions need answering as to why in this instance the whole case needs be held in secret.”

Lawyers contesting the decision at the court of appeal on Wednesday said the plan amounted to “an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice” and was inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law.

Until now it has not even been possible to report the existence of the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD. But three appeal court judges lifted a gagging order allowing reporting of a hearing challenging the plans.

The trial would be the first criminal case to be held behind closed doors for hundreds of years. It involves two defendants who are charged with terrorism but whose names are being withheld from the public. Unless the appeal succeeds, journalists will be banned from being present in court to report the proceedings on 16 June or the outcome of the trial.

The men will be tried by a jury but no report of the case will be made public and no members of the media or public will be given access to the court.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, condemned the secrecy. She said: “Transparency isn’t an optional luxury in the justice system – it’s key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law.

“This case is a worrying high water mark for secrecy in our courts – extensive restrictions set without robust reasons or a time limit. There must be clearer explanations before the door is shut on press and public.”

The Guardian and other media organisations made a last-ditch challenge to the secrecy surrounding the terror trial at the court of appeal. Anthony Hudson, representing the media, said the decision to withhold the identities of the men and carry out the entire proceedings in private was a legal departure.

The court was told that the crown has sought and obtained legal orders on the grounds of national security, arguing that if the trial were held in public the prosecution might not proceed with the case.

Mari Reid, unit head of the counter-terrorism team in the special crime and counter-terrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service, gave evidence during the crown application that there was a “serious possibility that the trial may not be able to go ahead” if it had to be held in public.

Counsel for the crown detailed evidence to back its case in private with the three court of appeal judges: Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett.

Appealing against orders made by Mr Justice Nicol at an earlier hearing last month, Hudson said the secrecy around the trial was wholly unprecedented.

He added: “No order has ever been made which requires an entire criminal trial to be in private with the media excluded and the defendants unnamed. We submit that the orders made involve such a significant departure from the principle of open justice that they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability.”

He said that national security could not be pursued without regard to the values of the society it was seeking to protect.

Richard Whittam, QC, for the crown, told the court the case involved clearly exceptional circumstances which had led to the “exceptional procedures” that had been approved by Nicol on 19 May.

He said while the crown entirely supported open justice, the exceptional nature of the case made it necessary for the unprecedented procedures to be put in place.

“It is quite clear that there is jurisdiction for the defendants to be anonymous and there is jurisdiction for a court to sit in private. Whether or not it is appropriate to do so is evidence-dependent,” he said.

But the evidence on which the crown relied to argue for the secret trial could not be presented in open court, he added. Whittam instead presented the evidence in private to the appeal court judges during part of the hearing on Wednesday.

The court heard that AB and CD were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and had been charged with serious terrorism offences.

AB is charged with engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between February 2012 and October 2013. He is further charged with CD of being in possession of documents or records containing information of the kind likely to be used by a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

This relates to the pair’s alleged possession of a document entitled “Bombmaking”. CD is also charged with possession of an improperly obtained UK passport.

Gross said he would give the court’s decision on the appeal by the media in a few days and a full judgment at a later date.

The trial of AB and CD is due to open in London on 16 June.

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