From our Daily Report:

Europe
BALTOPS24

Baltic brinkmanship amid NATO war games

Sweden’s armed forces charged that a Russian SU-24 fighter plane violated the country’s airspace just east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, calling the act “unacceptable.” Just days before the incident, Sweden and other NATO allies were conducting naval exercises in the area as part of the annual Baltic Operations drill (BALTOPS). Amid the exercise, the Finnish military reported a similar airspace violation by four Russian warplanes over the Gulf of Finland. This was the first time Sweden and Finland had taken part in BALTOPS. (Photo: NATO)

Europe
demobilization

Russia’s ‘demobilization’ movement under attack

Russian citizens’ groups campaigning for “demobilization”—returning conscripts and reservists from the front in Ukraine—are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of the authorities. Last month, The Way Home, the most prominent organization campaigning to bring Russia’s mobilized reservists home, was branded a “foreign agent” by the Justice Ministry, as was one of its most prominent leaders. The label, reminiscent of the “enemy of the people” designation of the Soviet era, imposes harsh constraints on activities and requires sources of funding to be disclosed. But protests by the kin of mobilized soldiers have continued outside the Defense Ministry in Moscow—despite the threat of repression. (Photo: PauliaMobility/Telegram via Novaya Gazeta Europe)

Planet Watch
Chad

Record 117 million forcibly displaced worldwide: UN

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that a record number of 117.3 million people around the world were forcibly displaced as of the end of 2023. The agency expects this number to rise to over 120 million cases by the end of this year, especially noting the situations in Sudan, Burma and Palestine. The conflict in Sudan that began in April 2023 has led to 6 million becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs) with 1.2 million people forced into neighboring countries as refugees. In Burma, conflict since the military coup of 2021 has resulted in 1.2 million IDPs, while over 75% of the population in Gaza was displaced between October and December amid the ongoing bombardment of the enclave. (Photo of Sudanese refugees in Chad: Henry Wilkins/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
ethiopia

Ethiopian forces committed genocide in Tigray: report

There is “credible” evidence that Ethiopian forces committed genocide during the two-year war in northern Tigray region, a new report has concluded. Ethiopia’s National Defense Force and its allies—the paramilitary Amhara Special Forces and the Eritrean Defense Forces—are accused of committing “at least four acts” constituting genocide against Tigrayans, including: killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their destruction, and imposing measures intended to prevent childbirth. The report by the US-based New Lines Institute called for Ethiopia to be referred to the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice. (Map: Political Geography Now)

Palestine
Gaza

UN commission accuses Israel of war crimes

Israeli forces have committed war crimes and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and there are “reasonable grounds” to conclude Hamas and loyalists have done the same, a UN inquiry concluded in a new report. The report, which covers Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli civilians and the initial phase of Israel’s retaliatory invasion and bombardment of Gaza, was produced by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, & Israel (Commission). The UN Human Rights Council established the Commission in 2021 to monitor rights and humanitarian concerns in the region. (Photo: badwanart0/Pixabay via Jurist)

Africa
Fasher

Sudan: mass exodus from El Fasher

A mass exodus of civilians from El Fasher, capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state, is underway as the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) battle for control of the city. The month-long RSF siege of El Fasher has resulted in hundreds of casualties and triggered the massive wave of displacement, with an estimated 28,000 people fleeing their homes over the past weeks. Those fleeing have recounted harrowing experiences of escalating violence and dire living conditions. (Photo: Sudan Tribune)

The Caribbean
Cherizier

Haiti gangs profit from mission delay

The continually delayed deployment of a Kenya-led Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission has raised concerns over how prepared the UN-approved and US-bankrolled force will be to face the security crisis in Haiti. The violent gangs that now control most of Port-au-Prince have posted direct threats to the MSS force and paraded their heavy weaponry on social media. Amid reports of a large inventory of Colombian weapons being trafficked to Haitian gangs, some experts worry that the firepower of the gangs has been underestimated. One analysis warns that the gangs are exploiting the delays to “fortify what could be a fierce response.” (Photo: Haiti Liberte)

Palestine
Gaza

Hostage rescue for Israelis; ‘massacre’ for Palestinians

A joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet, and Israeli police in the Nuseirat refugee camp of central Gaza rescued four hostages—and killed over 200 Palestinians amid pitched gun-battles in a heavy populated area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “saluted” those involved in the operation, saying: “We will not relent until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home.” The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, described the operation as a “gruesome massacre.” Abbas has instructed Palestine’s envoy to the United Nations to request an emergency session of the Security Council over the matter. (Photo: WAFA via Jurist)

Mexico
Sheinbaum

Podcast: Mexico’s new presidenta and the human rights crisis

Mexico has made history with the election of its first woman president, former Mexico City mayor and environmental scientist Claudia Sheinbaum. But the ongoing human rights crisis that will obviously pose a grave challenge for Sheinbaum was dramatically exemplified by the record number of political assassinations that marred the elections. And she inherits a pending constitutional reform from her perceived political mentor, the incumbent populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which would further unleash the military to engage in internal law enforcement. Bill Weinberg explores in Episode 230 of the CounterVortex podcast. (Photo of Sheinbaum campaign rally in Mexico City via Twitter)

Southeast Asia
Burma

Burma: army accused in village massacre

Burmese junta soldiers reportedly killed at least 75 civilians in an attack on a village in Rakhine state, where the regime is facing a fierce insurgency by the rebel Arakan Army (AA). The AA said in a statement that it has a list of 53 victims, including two teenagers and five women. Over 100 soldiers entered Byian Phyu, near state capital Sittwe, forcing residents into a communal area in the center of the village, where scores of were summarily gunned down, survivors said. Burma’s military government has denied the accusation. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Wad Al-Noora

Sudan: RSF accused in village massacre

The local Resistance Committees in Madani, capital of Sudan’s al-Jazira state, reported that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) carried out a massacre at the nearby village of Wad al-Noora, killing nearly 100 people. The Resistance Committees released a video showing the burial of dozens of bodies in a public square amid a large gathering of village residents. Other videos circulating online show RSF fighters firing with automatic rifles and from “technicals,” pick-up trucks mounted with machine-guns. The RSF acknowledged operations in the area, but said it only targeted army positions on the village outskirts. Since taking control of Madani late last year, the RSF has been raiding villages in al-Jazira, with widespread atrocities reported, including killings of unarmed residents, abductions, forced displacements, and looting of properties, including crops and homes. (Photo: Sudan Tribune)

North America
border wall

Biden executive order restricts asylum seekers at border

President Joe Biden signed an executive order barring asylum claims from anyone who crosses the US-Mexico border illegally. The ban will be suspended if border agents observe a seven-day average of fewer than 1,500 “encounters,” which include apprehensions of undocumented migrants within 100 miles of the border or entry refusals at US-Mexico land border crossings. However, if border authorities record a seven-day average of 2,500 or more encounters, the restriction will be reinstated. Shortly after the proclamation was signed, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vowed to challenge it in court. The civil rights group said the order “will severely restrict people’s legal right to seek asylum, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk.” (Photo via FWS)

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Featured Stories

paramilitaries

CHIQUITA TO PAY FOR PARAMILITARY TERROR IN COLOMBIA

In 2007, Chiquita—one of the world’s largest banana producers—admitted that for years it had been knowingly paying a Colombian terrorist organization to protect its operations in the country. The consequence was predictably violent, resulting in thousands of murders, disappearances, and acts of torture. This week, nearly two decades later, a federal jury in South Florida ordered the company to pay upwards of $38 million in damages in the first of multiple waves of wrongful death and disappearance lawsuits. In an explainer for JURIST, Ingrid Burke Friedman explores the factors that drove the multinational to make these payments, the consequences, and the legal impact.

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EZLN

THE NEW ZAPATISTA AUTONOMY

Last week the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) released a declaration, setting out a new structure for the autonomous indigenous communities in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas. Uri Gordon of the British anarchist journal Freedom spoke to Bill Weinberg, a longtime radical journalist in New York City, for insight into this change and its significance. Weinberg’s book about the Zapatistas, Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico, was published by Verso in 2000. He spent much time in Chiapas and elsewhere in Mexico during the 1990s, covering the indigenous movements there, prominently including the Zapatistas. In recent decades he has reported widely from South America and is now completing a book about indigenous struggles in the Andes, particularly Peru. He continues to follow the Zapatistas and Chiapas closely, and covers world autonomy movements on his website CounterVortex. In this interview, he explores new pressures in the encroachment of narco-paramilitaries on their territories as a factor prompting the Zapatistas’ current re-organization, and how it actually represents a further localization and decentralization of the movement.

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Siberia Pipeline

GAS INTRIGUES, ECOLOGY AND THE UKRAINE WAR

Over the past decades, Russia has sought to expand natural gas exports, necessitating construction of pipelines to Europe and China. In addition to profits for the Russian state, fossil fuel exports are a valuable tool for Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions. Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014 and the full-scale invasion in 2022, the economic and political stakes have skyrocketed. Russia”s green movements had previously been able to mobilize effective campaigns, winning concessions on pipeline routes through natural areas. Since 2014, however, they have come under increasingly harsh scrutiny from the Russian government, with organizations branded “undesirable” or declared “foreign agents.” Control of pipelines routes through Ukraine itself are also a goad of the Russian war effort. Eugene Simonov and Jennifer Castner of the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group demonstrate how war fever and militarization threaten resources and ecology across the Russian Federation as well as in Ukraine.

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Ukraine tribunal

UKRAINE’S DIFFICULT PATH TO JUSTICE

This August, Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv hosted a large international conference entitled “Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine: Justice to be Served.” The conference was aimed at reinvigorating global efforts to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine—a crime which cannot be prosecuted under the current jurisdictional regime of the International Criminal Court. Many in Ukraine believe that justice can be served only when a fully-fledged international special tribunal for the crime of aggression is created. However, some of Ukraine’s most powerful allies endorse a “hybrid” tribunal, such as those created for Sierra Leone and Cambodia—which would rely in large part on Ukrainian national law and raise questions about the reach of jurisdiction. Despite optimistic expectations at the beginning of the year, disagreements between Ukraine and its allies have left some wondering: in the end, will justice indeed be served? International law scholars Mariia Lazareva of Ukraine’s Taras Shevchenko National University and Erik Kucherenko of Oxford provide an analysis for Jurist.

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Gaza attack

GAZA’S SHOCK ATTACK: UNVEILING THE CONTEXT

The shock attack from the Gaza Strip has terrified Israelis, and the government appears to be preparing a massive retaliation. But writing for Israel’s independent +972 Magazine, Haggai Matar insists that the current horror must bring home the overwhelming context. Contrary to what many Israelis are saying, this is not a “unilateral” or “unprovoked” attack. The dread Israelis feel now is a sliver of what Palestinians have experienced daily under the decades-long military regime in the West Bank, the siege and repeated assaults on Gaza. In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been marching for “democracy and equality” across the country, with many even saying they would refuse military service because of this government’s authoritarian turn. What those protestors and reserve soldiers need to understand—especially now, as many of them announce they will halt their protests to join the new war on Gaza—is that Palestinians have been struggling for those same demands for decades, facing an Israel that to them is already, and has always been, completely authoritarian.

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Crimean Tatars

CRIMEA: UKRAINE’S OTHER NATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLE

Many would-be “peacemakers” on the political right as well as on the political left have “very helpfully” suggested that Ukraine should give up some territories, which they describe as “Russian-speaking,” in order to appease the aggressor. When these self-styled “peacemakers” lay out exactly how Ukraine should be unmade piece by piece, Crimea is always the first territory mentioned. Crimea is, we are told, the most “Russian speaking” region in Ukraine, and voted for union with Russia in 2014. In an analysis for CounterVortex, Kyiv-born writer and activist Yevgeny Lerner debunks both these claims. Not only was the 2014 referendum illegitimate, but the “Russian speaking” majority in the region was effected through generations of ethnic cleansing of its indigenous inhabitants: the Crimean Tatars. The struggle of the Crimean Tatar people for land recovery and territorial autonomy is now unified with the general struggle of Ukraine for national survival against Russian aggression.

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kharkiv

UKRAINE: DEBUNKING RUSSIA’S WAR PROPAGANDA

In a special analysis for CounterVortex, Bill Weinberg debunks Vladimir Putin’s “de-Nazification” propaganda for his invasion of Ukraine, a paramount example of the ultra-cynical phenomenon of paradoxical fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. The Ukrainian state that he demonizes as “Nazi” has been experiencing a democratic renewal since the Maidan Revolution, as Russia has descended into autocratic dictatorship. Putin’s stated justifications for the Ukraine war are either paranoid delusions or outright lies. His real objectives are to rebuild the Russian Empire, re-establish the Russian dictatorship, and exterminate Ukraine as a cultural and political entity. These are the open aims of Alexander Dugin, the intellectual mastermind of Putin’s revanchist imperial project, and the political heir of Ivan Ilyin, the 20th century theorist of “Russian Fascism.”

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Kosovo-Serbs

RUSSIA’S STRATEGY TO DESTABILIZE THE BALKANS: IT’S WORKING

Putin’s aggression in Ukraine is emboldening Russia’s ally Serbia to press its claims on Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008. As ethnic Serbs launch violent protests in Kosovo, Serbian officials are threatening to launch a campaign to “de-nazify” the Balkans. Meanwhile, leaders of the autonomous Bosnian Serb Republic have announced their intention to secede from Bosnia & Herzegovina. The wars in the states to emerge from the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s were an early harbinger of the current conflagration in Ukraine. Now, in a grim historical cycle, the war in Ukraine could re-ignite the wars in the Balkans. Nicholas Velazquez, in an analysis for Geopolitical Monitor, sees an intentional Moscow design to destabilize the region.

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mariupol ruins

RUSSIAN GENOCIDE OF THE UKRAINIAN NATION

Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has sparked a strong international reaction, with most states referring to the actions of the Russian army as war crimes. A number of parliaments and heads of state have recognized that yet another international crime—genocide—is being committed by the occupation’s troops. Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, was the first to pass a resolution in March, strongly condemning “acts of genocide…committed on the territory of sovereign Ukraine by the Russian Federation armed forces, together with its allies, at the behest of military commanders being under the direct authority of President Vladimir Putin.” Since then, especially after the infamous Bucha massacre, other parliaments have joined Poland in condemning Russia’s actions as genocide, including those of Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Canada, Czechia and Ireland. However, the International Criminal Court investigation has been slow to examine charges of genocide, and any binding action by the UN against Russia is effectively blocked by its veto on the Security Council. The dilemma is explored by Ukrainian law student Nastya Moyseyenko in a commentary for Jurist.

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Crimea protest

CRIMEA: LEGACY OF THE DEPORTATION

May 18 is commemorated as a memorial day for the victims of the genocide of the Crimean Tatar people. On that day in 1944, Joseph Stalin began a mass deportation of the entire population of Crimean Tatars who survived the German occupation of the peninsula. Over 200,000 Tatars, baselessly accused of collaborating with the Nazis, were packed in railroad cattle-cars and sent to remote locations in Central Asia and Siberia. Over 46 percent of the Crimean Tatar people perished during the first two years of the exile due to harsh conditions. Only in 1989 did the USSR condemn the deportation, after which the indigenous people of Crimea started returning to their homeland. The deportation was recognized as a genocide by Ukraine in 2015, and later by Latvia, Lithuania and Canada. In a commentary for Ukraine’s Euromaidan Press, Olena Makarenko notes that today, thousands of Crimean Tatars have been forced once again to leave the Crimean Peninsula due to the Russian occupation of 2014; hundreds of those who stayed are persecuted.

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witches

APOLOGY TO THE ‘WITCHES’: WHY NOW?

Scotland and Catalonia have issued formal apologies for the burning of thousands of women as “witches” between the 15th and 18th centuries. An apology for a crime committed hundreds of years ago, with the victims and perpetrators alike both long dead, may seem like an empty exercise. However, the contemporary world still sees periodic frenzies of “witchcraft” hysteria, with women and the least powerful in society “tried” and lynched—especially in rural areas of Africa and Asia. Last year, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Cameroon calling for “Elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks.” New York area neo-pagan practitioner and commentator Carole Linda Gonzalez argues that, in this light, the new apologies are all too relevant.

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Kryuchki

ENVIRONMENTAL WAR CRIMES IN UKRAINE

The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, finding that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes have been committed. Media attention has, quite rightly, focused on the plight of individuals caught up in the carnage—many of whom have died in terrible circumstances. However, in the background, there is another victim of the invasion: the environment. Bombardment of oil depots, the release of radiation at the Chernobyl nuclear site, the forest fires engulfing the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve—these may constitute environmental war crimes under the Rome Statute. However, the criteria are rigorous, and the perpetrators ever standing trial seems contingent on a political upheaval in Russia. In a commentary for Jurist, international law scholar Elliot Winter of Newcastle University in the UK examines the odds for prosecution of such crimes in the Ukraine conflict.

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