In Other News

Ratko Mladic guilty in Bosnia genocide

Former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladić was sentenced to life imprisonment Nov. 22 by the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), for crimes committed during the Bosnian conflict from 1992 to 1996. Mladić was found guilty of two counts of genocide, crimes against humanity (five counts: persecutions; extermination; murder; deportation; and inhuman acts), and violations of the laws or customs of war (four counts: murder; terror; unlawful attacks on civilians; and taking of hostages).

Indigenous voice won in UN climate process

Indigenous groups claimed a victory at the UN climate talks in Bonn on Nov. 15 as governments acknowledged for the first time that they can play a leadership role in protecting forests and keeping global temperatures within safe levels. Participating governments ("Parties") agreed to create a platform to promote the voices and inclusion of indigenous peoples in the UN climate process, formally known as the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The "Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform" (PDF) states that "Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities," while "Emphasizing the role of local communities and indigenous peoples in achieving the targets and goals set in the Convention, the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizing their vulnerability to climate change."

Turkish officials ban LGTBI group events

Turkish officials on Nov. 20 banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) non-governmental groups in Ankara, the country's capital, asserting that the measure will ensure public security. Officials cited Article 11 of the State of Emergency Law, which allows for certain measures to be taken to ensure public safety, stating that these events may garner hostility, jeopardizing crime prevention, general health and morals, or the protection of rights and freedoms of others. Events such as cinema, theater, panels, interviews, exhibitions are banned until further notice, in deference to "social sensitivities."

Syria: 'de-escalation' zones become kill zones

When the Astana "peace" deal for Syria was announced earlier this year, we predicted that the proposed so-called "de-escalation" zones would actually become kill zones. A condition of every "ceasefire" agreement sponsored either by Russia (like the Astana pact) or the US is that the rebels declare war on the Qaeda-linked factions to have emerged from the (now ostensibly disbanded) Nusra Front. But already beseiged by the Assad regime and Russia, the rebels are in no plight to do so—they've been put in an untenable situation. It was clear the Astana plan was not about peace but about propaganda—providing a cover for continuance of the war. So we were grimly vindicated to see the Nov. 18 New York Times headline, "Marked for 'De-escalation,' Syrian Towns Endure Surge of Attacks."

UN calls for joint tribunal over Libyan war crimes

On Nov. 16, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, suggested to the United Nations Security Council that a joint tribunal should be considered to try individuals suspected of war crimes in Libya. In the speech to the Security Council, the chief expressed his concern that Libya is in a state of lawlessness, with crimes being committed each day. Salamé stated, "If Libyans alone cannot combat impunity for war crimes, it is time for the international community to consider mechanisms that can help them do so; possibly including joint tribunals."

Russia vetoes Syria chemwar investigation —again

The Russian Federation on Nov. 17 vetoed a measure before the UN Security Council (UNSC) that would have extended the mandate of a UN panel investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria for 30 days. The UNSC had established the Joint Investigative Mechanism with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in 2015 with a two-year mandate following the use of chemical weapons in Syria in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Duterte drug war de-escalation: how real?

The Philippines' notoriously ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte won rare favorable international headlines Oct. 12, when he said he would pull his National Police force out of his brutal "war on drugs," which has now reached the point of mass murder, with an estimated 8,000 slain since he took office last year. The move came in response to a wave of public outrage after the police slaying of an unarmed youth in the working-class Manila suburb of Caloocan City in August.

Yet another deadly prison uprising in Mexico

The latest grim manifestation of the unrelenting prison crisis in Latin America comes from the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León, where authorities confirmed Oct. 10 that 16 inmates were killed, and 25 wounded, in an uprising at the Penal de Cadereyta facility. Prison riots in Mexico are often related to struggles between rival narco-gangs, but this one started as an inmate protest over abysmal conditions at the overcrowded state lock-up. Prisoners took guards hostage to press such basic demands as adequate food and water. One prisoner was killed in fighting with guards before the state police were sent in. The inmates erected barricades of matresses and set them on fire, prompting police to respond with lethal force.

Mexico: cartels (or cops) kill yet another journalist

In the long string of Mexican journalists assassinated for covering police abuse and narco-corruption, the latest case is particularly egregious. On Oct. 6, authorities in San Luis Potosí found the body of Edgar Daniel Esqueda Castro outside the city's airport, dead of three gunshot wounds. He had been abducted by armed men in police uniforms the previous night.

Colombia: security forces 'massacre' cocaleros

Some 15 civilians were killed and more than 50 were injured when Colombian security forces opened fire during coca eradication operations in a hotly contested incident Oct. 5. Local cocaleros say a mixed force of army and National Police troops fired "indiscriminately" into a crowd of peaceful protesters, in what they are calling a "massacre." Police and military officials claim they fired in response to an attack by remnant FARC guerillas under a renegade commander who goes by the alias "Guacho."

CounterVortex on one-month hiatus

CounterVortex will be on hiatus through mid-November, as your editor Bill Weinberg will be traveling in Peru, gathering material on indigenous and campesino struggles against corporate land-grabs for oil and mineral exploitation. He may post some material from the road. But we will resume regular updates to the Daily Report and our weekly headline e-mails upon his return. We thank our readers for your continued support, and urge you to give what you can to sustain our efforts. We promise to be back in full swing within 30 days.

Indonesia unleashes 'shoot-to-kill' policy

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, following in the bloody footsteps of the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte, has issued a "shoot-on-sight" policy for drug suspects. The hardline policy comes amid a sudden media blitz about the drug "state of emergency" in the archipelago nation. The new policy is already taking its toll. Amnesty International says it believes at least 60 drug suspects (including at least eight foreigners) have been killed by Indonesian police so far this year—compared with just 18 in all of 2016.

Mauritania: press crackdown amid political crisis

The Mauritanian Radio and Television Broadcast Authority on Oct. 17 ordered Mauritania's five privately owned news stations to shut down for "failing to fulfill their financial agreements." The move is the latest sign of a crackdown on the independent press following a controversial referendum called by President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in August. The vote, boycotted by the opposition, approved abolition of the country's Senate after it ruled against expanding presidential powers. At least one station was removed from air. After the letters were sent , agents of the tax authority went to the office of al-Mourabitoun TV—a channel generally supportive of the opposition Islamist parties. Employees were ordered to leave, and the doors to the building were locked. The agents told staff that the channel owed 2 million ouguiyas (US$5,600), in tax, according to local media reports. (Committee to Protect Journalists)

SDF declare Raqqa 'fully liberated' from ISIS

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Oct. 17 announced that they have "fully cleared" Raqqa of jihadist fighters and "liberated" the city from ISIS. The last group of hold-outs reportedly surrendered. The operation, launched in June, was named for Adnan Abu Amjad, an Arab commander with the SDF who was killed in August in the battle for Raqqa. The SDF coordinated their offensive closely with the US-backed coalition. More than 3,000 bombs have landed on Raqqa since January, devastating schools, hospitals and residential buildings. Less than one percent of Raqqa's 300,000 pre-war population is thought to remain in the city. The city has no electricity or water, and its last functioning bakery was destroyed recently. The Syrian Network for Human Rights counts more than 900 civilians killed over the course of the operation, including at least 570 in coalition air-strikes.

Iraqi forces take Kirkuk, lower Kurdistan flag

Iraqi government forces, including elite troops of the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service and irregulars of the Shi'ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, began an attack on Peshmerga-controlled areas south and west of Kirkuk at midnight Oct. 15, and took the disputed city the following day. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces take down the Kurdistan flag in the city, and hoist only the Iraqi national flag. Iraqi forces have also taken control of the K-1 military base and Baba Gurgur oilfield outside the city, as well as the airport, and key infrastructure and roads. Thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled the city, heading toward Erbil and Sulaimani, within the official borders of the Kurdistan Region. Peshmerga forces are apparently abandoning their positions to avoid conflict, and no casualties are reported. US officials said they were "engaged with all parties in Iraq to de-escalate tension," while President Trump said the White House is "not taking sides." (Rudaw, BBC News)