US President Donald Trump signed a new immigration executive order March 6, which contains several departures from the original January executive order. Notably, Iraqi citizens are no longer ineligible to receive new visas. The order also sets out classes of people eligible to apply for case-by-case waivers to the order, including those who were previously admitted to the US for "a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity," those with "significant business or professional obligations" and those seeking to visit or live with family. However, the other six Muslim-majority countries listed on the original ban will continue to be blocked from obtaining new visas. Furthermore, the refugee program will be suspended for 120 days, and will accept no more than 50,000 refugees a year, down from the 110,000 set by the Obama administration. The order will take effect on March 16.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on March 3 called for the US to adopt a consistent approach to indigenous land rights in pipeline projects. The Special Rapporteur voiced concerns about how indigenous peoples were not fully consulted on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). She said that after a fact-finding trip to the US, she was disturbed by reports "regarding the criminalization of indigenous peoples asserting their right to protest in the now-world famous struggle of several tribes" in opposition to the DAPL. While the protests "have been almost completely non-violent and peaceful, there has been a militarized, at times violent, escalation of force by local law enforcement and private security forces."
In response to the mass execution of 15 prisoners in Jordan on March 4, several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemned the hangings as secretive and conducted "without transparency." This mass execution was largest ever in one day in Jordan's history. Samah Hadid of Amnesty's regional office in Beirut called the executions "a big step backwards on human rights protection in Jordan." Among the executed, 10 had been convicted for some form of terrorist activity, but Hadid expressed concern that some may have made their confessions under torture or duress. Over the past several years, more than 100 have been sentenced to death in Jordan, in hopes of deterring terrorist activities.
Human Rights Watch has issued an urgent statement calling on Philippine authorities to drop "politically motivated" charges against one of the country's only lawmakers openly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's blood-drenched "war on drugs," which has claimed more than 7,000 lives since he took office last June. Sen. Leila de Lima, a former secretary of justice, was arrested Feb. 24 on drug-trafficking charges.
A former journalist named Juan Thompson, who was sacked by the Intercept last year for inventing sources, has been arrested after the FBI traced back to him multiple bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and one against the New York headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League. Authorities are claiming psycho-sexual motives, saying he attempted to pin the threats on an ex-girlfriend who dumped him. In true troll fashion, NBC reports that he even feigned outrage over the threats on his own Twitter account. And while some of the threats were in the name of his ex, some were in his own name in an apparent attempt to frame his ex for framing him. Plenty twisted, but none too bright. Reports in the Riverfront Times, of Thompson's hometown St. Louis, delineate his long history of improbable inventions about himself on social media, revealing an inveterate liar with a pathological antipathy to the truth rivaling that of our incumbent president. The fact that he worked for the lefty Intercept, and that he is African American, makes this a propaganda windfall for the right. So, are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?
The Benghazi Defense Brigades seized Libya's key oil ports from warlord Khalifa Haftar’s Operation Dignity forces, and urged the Tripoli-based "official" Government of National Accord to take control of the country's long-contested "oil crescent." The militia apparently took Ras Lanuf and other key oil terminals to press demands for displaced persons from Benghazi, long contested by Haftar’s forces and Islamist factions, to be able to safely return to their homes. "We will not stay inside the oil crescent region, once we secure it back from Haftar’s mercenaries, we will hand it over to the legitimate official authorities," the Benghazi Defense Brigades said in a statement. (Libyan Express, March 4)
US warplanes and drones struck supposed al-Qaeda targets in Yemen for a second straight day March 3, killing at least 12 suspected militants, according to local officials. The Pentagon said it had carried out more than 20 strikes overnight targeting al-Qaeda positions in the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, and the central province of Baida. In the latest strikes, US fighter jets hit three houses in the Yashbam Valley before dawn, one of them reportedly the home of al-Qaeda's Shabwa province commander, Saad Atef, local sources said. Tribal sources said that several civilians were wounded, including women and children. One resident said it had been a "terrifying night." (Middle East Online, Al Jazeera, BBC News)
The Egypt Court of Cassation on March 2 acquitted former president Hosni Mubarak in a retrial of charges that he ordered the killing of protesters during the civil uprising of 2011 that ended his 30-year reign. Mubarak was initially convicted on these charges and sentenced to life in prison in 2012. But he strenuously maintained his innocence over the years, and an appeals court later ordered a retrial that ultimately brought the case to the Cassation Court. The retrial was postponed in November as it was moved from the high court building in Cairo to a different location. The Court rejected demands from lawyers for the victims and their families to initiate or reopen civil suits, which means that any remaining option for appeal or retrial is now closed.