From our Daily Report:

Europe
bucha

Ukraine preparing multiple war crime cases

Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova announced that her office is preparing war crimes cases against 41 suspects, on charges including “the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape and looting.” Venediktova said her office is investigating more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving more than 600 suspects. The first war crime trial since the start of the invasion has opened in Kyiv. The suspect is a Russian soldier accused of killing an elderly Ukrainian civilian riding his bicycle in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. He has been charged with both international war crimes and with premeditated murder under Ukraine’s penal code. The Ministry of Defense has identified 10 other Russian soldiers who may be charged for mass killings in the city of Bucha. (Photo: Vigilant News via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
khazaria

Podcast: whither Khazaria?

In Episode 123 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the history of Khazaria, the medieval Turko-Jewish empire in what is now southern Russia and eastern Ukraine. While the fate of the mysterious Khazars has won much attention from scholars—and controversy—because of what it may reveal about the origin of the Jews of Eastern Europe, this question also touches on the origins of the Ukrainian people and state. Whatever the validity of the “Khazar Thesis” about the ethnogenesis of the Ashkenazim, it is the Ukrainian Jews—such as President Volodymyr Zelensky—who are the most likely to trace a lineage of the Khazars. In 2021, Zelenksy and the Ukrainian parliament passed a law recognizing the cultural and autonomous rights of three indigenous peoples of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula: the Muslim Tatars and the Jewish Krymchaks and Karaites. Of any Jews on Earth, it is these last two groups that have the best claim to the Khazar inheritance—and are now a part of the struggle for a free and multicultural Ukraine, in repudiation of the Russian neo-imperialist project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Fanciful rendering of Khazaria flag via AlternateHistory.com)

Africa
Africa mining

Artisanal gold miners massacred in DRC

At least 35 people were killed when armed men raided a gold mining camp in Ituri province, in the conflicted northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local authorities at the rural commune of Mungwalu blamed the attack on the CODECO rebel militia. A four-month-old baby was among the dead. The militiamen also looted and torched homes at Camp Blanquette, and seized quantities of extracted gold. Informal mines in the eastern DRC provide much of the country’s output of gold, cobalt and other minerals used in the global electronics industry. The minerals, extracted under dangerous and oppressive conditions, continue to be a goad to internal warfare by rival armed factions. (Photo via Africa Up Close)

Mexico
madres

Mothers of the disappeared march in Mexico

On Mexico’s Day of the Mother, thousands of mothers and other family members of the disappeared held a March for National Dignity in the capital, calling for action on their missing loved ones. The march, which filled the main avenues of Mexico City, was organized by a coalition of 60 regional collectives of survivors of the disappeared from around the country. In the days before the march, a group camped out at the National Palace, demanding a dialogue with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (Photo via Twitter)

Iraq
ybs

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq’s Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (Photo: A poster commemorating a slain YBS fighter on a bombed-out building in Sinjar. Credit: TNH)

North Africa
Libya detainee

Libya: militia accused of grave abuses against migrants

A report from Amnesty International finds that a militia funded and backed by Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Unity is responsible for a litany of crimes, including unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labor, and the interception and return of migrants and refugees to the country’s notorious detention centers. Created by government decree in January 2021, the Stability Support Authority (SSA) is commanded by one of the most powerful militia leaders in Tripoli, Abdel Ghani al-Kikli AKA “Gheniwa.” who was appointed despite a well-documented history of crimes and other serious human rights violations committed by forces under his command. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Afghanistan
Chadari

Afghanistan: Taliban diktat imposes burqa

At a press conference in Kabul, the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue & Prevention of Vice released a statement from the Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, stating that women outside the home must cover their faces. The all-encompassing blue burqa, or chadari, which became a global symbol of the Taliban’s previous extremist rule from 1996 to 2001, was proposed as a suitable covering. The text of the decree calls such covering “obligatory” for all “mature and noble” women. The mandate is imposed “in order to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not mahram,” or immediate family. Tellingly, the order does not impose penalties on women themselves but on their male guardians. The fathers and husbands of women accused of going barefaced are to be summoned and, on repeat offenses, fired from government jobs or imprisoned. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Africa
Somalia

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that “government-controlled” Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the “recognized” Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite fo everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Central African Republic

Russian mercenaries accused in CAR atrocities

Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, “appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019,” Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. The United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed last month in the CAR’s northeast, with reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. HRW documents other such claims. Last July , apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, also in the CAR’s conflicted north. HRW is calling upon the CAR’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to “investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution.” (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Oceania
Vanuatu

Coalition backs Vanuatu case on climate justice

Some 1,500 advocacy groups from over 130 countries have formed a global alliance to support a Vanuatu government proposal seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change. The government plans to put the proposal to the UN General Assembly for a vote later this year. Prime Minister Bob Loughman said the Pacific Island nations can’t survive if rich corporations and governments continue to put profits ahead of people and the planet. Addressing members of the new International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (ICJAO) coalition, he said: “The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. Civil society and friends, this is not a crisis that I or my people will continue to accept; not before we have done everything within our powers to stop it. We, the smallest nations of the world do have power.” (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
congo

Confused DRC peace dialogue in Kenya

The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn’t invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn’t attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The talks followed an East African Community summit in which heads of state agreed to set up a regional military force to fight rebels unwilling to lay down their arms. A UN peacekeeping mission operates in the DRC but is making drawdown plans. The Ugandan army is also intervening in the country, while martial law has been declared in the volatile eastern provinces for a year. Rebel attacks and abuses by soldiers continue, and nearly three million people were displaced last year alone. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
niger

French forces out of Mali, into Niger

Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region. (Map: PCL)

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Featured Stories

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.

Continue ReadingAPOLOGY TO THE ‘WITCHES’: WHY NOW? 
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.

Continue ReadingENVIRONMENTAL WAR CRIMES IN UKRAINE 
mariupol

ECHOES OF SYRIA, AS PUTIN BOMBS HOSPITALS IN UKRAINE

Many Syrians are experiencing heart-wrenching flashbacks as they watch the mounting devastation in Ukraine, the millions of refugees fleeing—and the targeting of hospitals by Russian bombs, as so recently and repeatedly happened in their own country. Physicians for Human Rights have documented hundreds of attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria over 11 years of war, and no perpetrator has been held accountable for these crimes. Just a month into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the figure already stands at over 100. But with timely action by the UN and International Criminal Court, things can be different in Ukraine. In a commentary for The New Humanitarian, Dr Houssam al-Nahhas, a Syrian physician and a researcher at Physicians for Human Rights, urges: “Whether a hospital is bombed in Mariupol or Aleppo, in Sana’a or in Kunduz, those responsible must be held to account.”

Continue ReadingECHOES OF SYRIA, AS PUTIN BOMBS HOSPITALS IN UKRAINE 
deportations

THE CRIMEAN CLAUSE OF THE UKRAINE QUESTION

The current Russian-Ukrainian war started eight years ago with the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which fell with hardly a shot fired, and largely without notice in the world at large. The most important thing to understand about Crimea is that it is indigenous land, and that the Crimean Tatars are its people. The Crimean Tatars overwhelmingly favor Kyiv over Moscow, but a large majority of the peninsula’s population has been Russian since 1944. Stalin’s genocidal forced relocation of the Tatars that year was carried out under a pretext of “denazification.” Under the new Russian occupation, the Tatars have again become a terrorized minority,  their language and culture again threatened by policies of Russification and “denazification.” In an analysis for CounterVortex, Kyiv-born writer and activist Yevgeny Lerner sees a foreboding historical cycle at work.

Continue ReadingTHE CRIMEAN CLAUSE OF THE UKRAINE QUESTION 
Taliban

AFGHANISTAN: GOING BACK TO ZERO

The international community and the United States spent billions of dollars on rebuilding the Afghan legal and judicial system and improving the rule of law and governance over the past two decades. However, after the Taliban takeover, any such progress quickly disappeared, and the foundations for the Afghan legal system that had been expensively rebuilt over the last 20 years are in state of collapse—approaching the state of lawlessness that existed prior to 2001. In a commentary for Jurist, Mahir Hazim argues that is the responsibility of the United Nations and countries engaging with the Taliban to make rescuing the legal system and ensuring rule of law a top priority when they negotiate with the regime.

Continue ReadingAFGHANISTAN: GOING BACK TO ZERO 
LFJL

LIBYA: INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT WORSENING PROSPECTS FOR PEACE

Eleven years ago, courageous women and men took to the streets of Libya with an unflinching desire for rights, justice, and democracy. They were met with an unprecedented international response, ostensibly to protect them. The UN Security Council quickly established a no-fly zone, while NATO launched airstrikes. On the anniversary of the start of the uprising against Qaddafi, the country’s future could not be more precarious. Amid delayed elections and fragmented governance, the UN-led political process for Libya is unravelling. The international community has dramatically failed to live up to its promises to Libya. In fact, as geopolitical interests take center stage, it is making things worse. Writing in The New Humanitarian, Elham Saudi and Cristina Orsini of Lawyers for Justice in Libya say the international community must urgently refocus on human rights and accountability.

Continue ReadingLIBYA: INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT WORSENING PROSPECTS FOR PEACE 
Ukraine anarchists

UKRAINE: KHARKOV ANARCHISTS SPEAK

Ukraine is in the world headlines now as a frontline of confrontation between Russia and the West. Putin is implicitly threatening to invade the country if his demands are not met for a guarantee that it will not be granted NATO membership. Amid the geopolitical chess-game, few recall that during the Russian Revolution and the preceding years, Ukraine had one of the most powerful anarchist movements that the world has seen. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, anarchist groups have started to re-emerge in Ukraine, intransigently rejecting the regimes in Kiev and Moscow, and the power blocs around NATO and Russia, alike. CounterVortex communicated via email with one such group, the newly formed Assembly, which mostly functions as a media collective, reporting on labor and social struggles in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkov.

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thantlang

MYANMAR: CRISES SPIRAL ONE YEAR AFTER COUP

Volatile new conflict zones, aerial bombardment, rising hunger, and hundreds of thousands uprooted: A year after the military coup, crises are spiralling across Myanmar. But aid blockades by the junta are cutting off assistance to stricken areas even as humanitarian needs reach record levels. Irwin Loy of The New Humanitarian takes stock of what is fast becoming a forgotten disaster, relegated to “tier-two” by the world media.

Continue ReadingMYANMAR: CRISES SPIRAL ONE YEAR AFTER COUP 
Social Movement

STATEMENT FROM UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS

As the Russian army masses its forces on the Ukrainian border and  threatens to intervene if the US and NATO do not meet the Kremlin’s demands, Ukrainian socialists call on the international left to condemn the imperialist policies of the Putin government and to show solidarity with the people who will suffer from an escalation of the war. In an international call for anti-war solidarity, Ukraine’s democratic-left Social Movement exposes the revival of Russian imperialism, describes the situation in the conflicted Donbas region, and proposes steps to ensure peace.

Continue ReadingSTATEMENT FROM UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS 
oromo

ON THE ETHIOPIAN CIVIL WAR

In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched full-scale war on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which governed Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state. He claimed this was a mere police operation against terrorists, and lied that no troops from the neighboring country of Eritrea were involved. Since then, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have attacked the Tigrayan people as a whole, by looting farms, factories and hospitals, burning crops and food supplies, and raping women. Some 60,000 Tigrayans have fled to Sudan as refugees, and more than two million Ethiopians are now internally displaced. Abiy has used mass starvation as an instrument of war, which has left some 900,000 Tigrayans haunted by famine. Frank Arango of Seattle Workers’ Voice traces the conflict to rival visions of a federal versus unitary state system for Ethiopia over the course of successive regimes, going all the way back to the empire of Haile Selassie. He urges support for the current struggle for a democratic and federalist future for the country, rejecting the new drive for a unitary state under the war criminal Abiy Ahmed.

Continue ReadingON THE ETHIOPIAN CIVIL WAR 
naga

INDIA: OUTCRY AGAINST ‘SPECIAL POWERS’ AFTER NAGALAND MASSACRE

Northeast India’s conflicted state of Nagaland, on the Burmese border, is seeing a mass public outcry against long-standing emergency measures in the wake of an army massacre of civilian mine workers. Army and paramilitary troops laid an “ambush” on a truck on a rural road, opening fire when it failed to stop. Troops apparently believed the truck was carrying a unit of one of the militant groups that have for generations waged an insurgency seeking independence for Nagaland. In fact, the truck was carrying coal miners returning from work. At least 14 were killed. The massacre sparked an immediate upsurge among the villagers of the area, who vented their rage at the security forces. Since the bloody incident, the state has seen continuing protests and strikes demanding repeal of India’s 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the military broad power to use deadly force without judicial review. A special report for CounterVortex from reporter Nava Thakuria in Northeast India.

Continue ReadingINDIA: OUTCRY AGAINST ‘SPECIAL POWERS’ AFTER NAGALAND MASSACRE 
Row, NH

‘WHAT MUST BE DONE’ FOR THE PLANET

The regional coalition No Coal No Gas has launched a direct-action campaign to shut down New England’s last coal-burning power plant, Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire. In an October civil disobedience, campaign members planted gardens on company property, including a bed hacked out with pickaxes in the middle of an access road. Rail lines to the plant were occupied, while a flotilla of “kayaktivists” on the Merrimack River blocked the plant’s access to the waterfront. Several were arrested by state police troops in full riot gear. But campaigners have also organized an ongoing utility bill payment strike to pressure local utility Granite Shore Power. Arnie Alpert, a longtime nonviolent action trainer in New Hampshire, provides a first-hand account of this uncompromising grassroots response to the global climate crisis for Waging Nonviolence.

Continue Reading‘WHAT MUST BE DONE’ FOR THE PLANET