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Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a┬ástatement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map:┬áPerry-Casta├▒eda Library)

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Cumhuriyet

Turkey convicts newspaper editor on ‘terrorism’ charges

Can D├╝ndar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found D├╝ndar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. D├╝ndar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey’s state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. D├╝ndar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, D├╝ndar fled the country while Turkish authorities ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts. He is now living in exile in Germany. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

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Selahattin Demirta┼č

Demand Turkey release detained Kurdish leader

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held┬áthat Turkey must take all necessary measures to secure the immediate release of Selahattin Demirta┼č, a Kurdish politician held by the government on terrorism charges. The Grand Chamber found that there had been multiple violations of the European Convention of Human Rights in his case. It also found no evidence supporting Demirta┼č’┬ádetention that linked his actions and the alleged offenses. The Court concluded that “the purposes put forward by the authorities for the applicant’s pre-trial detention were merely cover for an ulterior political purpose, which is a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy.” (Photo:┬áDemirta┼č’┬ápresidential campaign launched outside Edirne prison where he is incarcerated, May 2018, via Wikipedia)

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Egypt Police

Human rights leaders arrested in Egypt

Egyptian authorities arrested Gasser Abdel Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR),┬áone of the country’s leading human rights organizations and a┬áfrontline voice┬áagainst torture and persecution of dissidents.┬áMazek’s arrest closely follows the arrests of several other leaders of the organization, who have been charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “financing terrorism.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the arrests and called for Egyptian authorities to release the detained members of the group. (Photo: WikiMedia via┬áJurist)

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Levant Basin

Hydrocarbons at issue in Israel-Lebanon dispute

US-mediated talks opened between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon’s coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN. (Photo: US Energy Information Administration)

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Yemen

UN experts: refer Yemen war crimes to ICC

A UN group of experts has called on the Security Council to refer human rights violations and war crimes committed in the ongoing Yemen conflict to the International Criminal Court. The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen concluded in a new┬áreport┬áthat the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Southern Transitional Council are responsible for rights violations including “arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, including sexual violence, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the recruitment and use in hostilities of children.” The report also alleges thatde facto authorities” in the capital Sana’a (the Houthi rebels) are responsible for the same violations. (Map:┬áPerry-Casta├▒eda Library)

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Lujain al-Hathloul

Saudi detention state under scrutiny

Saudi Arabia has denied prominent detainees contact with their family members and lawyers for months, Human Rights Watch said in a letter requesting access to the country and private prison visits with detainees. The situation raises serious concerns for the detainees’┬ásafety and well-being, the rights group said. Saudi authorities have banned in-person visits with prisoners across the country since March to limit the spread of COVID-19. But Saudi activists and other sources say that authorities have also unduly denied numerous imprisoned dissidents and other detainees regular communication with the outside world.┬áProminent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been on hunger strike for six days before Saudi authorities finally allowed her parents to visit on Aug. 31, according to family members. Al-Hathloul had spent almost three months before that under incommunicado detention.┬á(Image:┬ásocial media post with the word “traitor”┬ástamped on the faces of activists detained in 2018, including Loujain al-Hathloul, top center. Via Middle East Eye.)

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Bierut blast

What Beirut blast could mean for battered Lebanon

As rescue workers continue to look for survivors amid the rubble of a massive explosion that killed a reported 130 people in Beirut’s port, the implications of the blast for Lebanon┬áappear grim.┬áLebanon’s economy has been in freefall for months, unemployment is rising, and the foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigned one day before the blast, warning that the country risks becoming a “failed state.” Now hundreds of thousands more have been left homeless, critical port facilities are destroyed, and local hospitals are overwhelmed.┬áLebanon was already battling COVID-19 before the blast, and last week it instituted a new lockdown to try to control a spike in new infections. (Photo via Beirut.com)

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al-bokari

Saudi Arabia imprisons Yemeni dissident blogger

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a Yemeni blogger to 10 months in prison, a fine of 10,000 riyals ($2,600) and deportation for a social media post supporting equal rights for people in same-sex relationships. Mohamad al-Bokari was arrested in Riyadh in April, after posting a video on social media, which authorities said contained “sexual references” and “violated public order and morals.” This was apparently a reference to the line: “Everyone has rights and should be able to practice them freely, including gay people.” Sources told Human Rights Watch that al-Bokari was subjected to a forced anal exam, an internationally discreditedpractice used to seek “proof” of homosexual conduct. HRW says the practice has no scientific basis, violates medical ethics, and constitutes cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that may rise to the level of torture. Al-Bokari was charged with “violating public morality” and “imitating women.” (Image: Amnesty International)

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bahrain

Bahrain upholds death penalty for protesters

The high court of Bahrain┬áupheld a decision to execute two protesters, despite evidence that suggests their confessions were unlawfully extracted. The two men, members of Bahrain’s traditionally excluded┬áShiite majority, were sentenced to death in 2014 for planting a bomb in the village of al-Deir that killed a police officer involved in repression of a riot in the village. After multiple appeals, the high court, known as the Court of Cassation, overturned the death sentences in 2018. The court accepted evidence of medical records showing signs of torture. However, in January a lower court successfully reinstated the death penalty, which the Cassation Court has now reaffirmed. (Photo of 2011 protests in Bahrain: Wikipedia)

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Yemen

Yemen: secret torture centers revealed

In an exhaustive report, the independent monitor Mwatana for Human Rights documents a chilling aspect of YemenÔÇÖs more than five-year war that has gone overlooked, precisely because of its secretive nature: “enforced disappearances,” torture, and killings at illegal detention centers across the country. The report documents abuses by all parties to Yemen’s war, some of which it says may constitute war crimes. The Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, and the Houthi┬árebels are all accused of running detention centersÔÇösome on military bases or intelligence compounds, some in cellars below private homes or requisitioned public buildings. (Map:┬áPerry-Casta├▒eda Library)

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hegazi

Egyptian LGBT activist a suicide in exile

Three years after her arrest and torture by security forces in her native country, Egyptian LGBT activist Sarah Hegazi killed herself in exile in Canada, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and anger on social media. Hegazi, 30, an openly gay woman and rights advocate, was among a group of activists arrested in September 2017 after raising a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert of the Lebanese indie band Mashrou Leila, which includes gay members. Hegazi was charged with joining an illegal group promoting “deviant thought.” She fled to Canada after being released on bail in January 2018. The incident was followed by a harsh crackdown on Egypt’s LGBT community. (Photo via Middle East Eye)