With two months still to go, deaths of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean so far this year have hit a record high, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Expressing alarm at the situation, UNHCR reported that 3,740 lives had been lost so far in 2016, just short of the 3,771 reported for the whole of 2015. "This is the worst we have ever seen," UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told a press briefing in Geneva. "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiralled to one in 88." Spindler said the high loss of life takes place despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year at least 1,015,078 people made the crossing. This year so far, crossings stand at 327,800.
A federal judge on Oct. 25 ordered (PDF) Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be tried on a charge of criminal contempt. Judge Susan Bolton of the US District Court for the District of Arizona made the order after determining that Arpaio disobeyed a court order in a racial profiling case. This comes after Judge G Murray Snow requested that the US Attorney's Office file criminal contempt charges against Arpaio. The criminal contempt charges are a result of a 2007 lawsuit claiming that Arpaio discriminated against Latinos in his enforcement of his immigration patrols. Bolton found that Snow had prohibited Arpaio from enforcing his immigration patrols, in which persons were detained without state charges, but that Arpaio continued to detain such persons and deliver them to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement when there were no charges to bring. Bolton ordered Arpaio's trial for Dec. 6 in Phoenix. The charges against Arpaio could result in fines or prison time if he is convicted.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova issued a statement Oct. 14 repudiating a resolution approved by the body's member states that had been harshly condemned by Israel. The resolution concerns threats to East Jerusalem's holy sites under Israeli occupation, and calls on UNESCO to appoint a permanent representative there to observe. What made it an easy target for Israeli criticism was its reference exclusively to "Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif"—not the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall. Israel froze cooperation with UNESCO after the resolution passed. Wrote Bokova: "The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list."
Bill Weinberg rants againt the bogus "anti-war" position that holds that Donald Trump, who would "bomb the shit out" of Syria, is the less dangerous candidate than Hillary Clinton—and especially Jill Stein's call for the US to actually join with Russia in the destruction of Syria. Calling this an "anti-war" position is another one to file under "Orwell would shit."
The desert town of Kidal in northern Mali is under siege, divided into hostile camps by rival Tuareg factions—the pro-government Platform coalition, led by the GATIA militia, and the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA). Jihadist insurgents meanwhile harass the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA in sporadic attacks from the desert. (Reuters, Oct. 17) Now there are signs that the jihadists are again trying to draw the separatist Tuarges into an alliance. On Oct. 9, renegade North African al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar issued an online statement eulogizing Sheikh ag-Aoussa, a CMA leader who was killed in an explosion in Kidal the day before. Ag Aoussa's car blew up as he was leaving a meeting at the town's MINUSMA compound. Authorities maintain the car hit a land mine, but CMA followers charge that Ag Aoussa was assassinated. (LWJ, Oct. 14)
ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban both claimed responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attack at a police academy in Quetta that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 120. But Pakistani officials claim another jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, carried out the assault. At least three fighters armed with assault weapons, grenades, and suicide vests attacked the dormitory of the academy as cadets were sleeping. Two of the suicide bombers detonated their vests, causing the bulk of the casualties, while the third was shot by security guards. Pakistan's Frontier Corps said that a cell of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi network carried out the attack, and claimed that the assault team communicated with handlers based in Afghanistan. The Islamic State's "Khorasan province" also took responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Amaq News Agency, the ISIS propaganda arm. The Karachi faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan likewise claimed credit for the attack. In an e-mail received by Long War Journal, the group said four of its "suicide fighters" executed the attack, which was carried to "avenge the martyrdom of our mujahideen." (LWJ, Oct. 25)
Rights activists and indigenous protesters clashed with riot police in Tegucigalpa Oct. 20 following the murder of two prominent campesino leaders—the latest in a wave of repressive terror. The protest at the Public Ministry was called to demand justice in the case of José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George of Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). The two were slain by unknown gunmen Oct. 18 as they left a community meeting in Tocoa, Colón department. Tocoa is in the Lower Aguán Valley, the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners accused of acquiring their lands in contravention of Honduras' agrarian reform laws. The two activists were supposedly under protective measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The orders were issued in May 2014 for several campesino leaders in the Aguán following a wave of killings and death threats. (Human Rights Watch, HispanTV, Oct. 21; Honduras Solidarity Network, Oct. 18)
The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled (PDF) Oct. 21 that former detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison may continue their torture lawsuit against civilian military contractors. Four former prisoners allege that they were subjected to various forms of torture at the hands of CACI Premier Technology contractors. The case had previously been dismissed under the "political question doctrine," but the court held the doctrine does not prevent the judiciary from deciding the case.