From our Daily Report:

North Africa
libya

UN releases evidence of mass graves in Libya

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released a report containing evidence of mass graves in the Libyan city of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli. The report estimates there could be as many as 100 undiscovered mass graves in the city. It claims that the al-Kaniyat militia, in power in Tarhuna from 2016 to 2020, is responsible for mass killings there. The militia is alleged to have used brutal torture methods on residents including women, children, the infirm, and the disabled. UNSMIL calls on Libyan authorities to “[e]stablish a Special Tribunal for Tarhuna to prosecute international crimes” and “[c]ontinue searching for the missing and for remaining mass graves…” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
Aleppo ruins

UN: more than 300,000 civilians dead in Syria war

More than 306,000 civilian were killed in Syria between March 2011 and March 2021, according to new estimates released by the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to the latest findings, civilians represent an overwhelming majority of the estimated 350,209 total deaths identified since the start of the civil conflict. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet emphasized that this “does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to healthcare, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights, which remain to be assessed.” This is compounded by estimates from the World Bank that more than half the country’s pre-war population has been displaced. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Central Asia
Karakalpakstan

Karakalpakstan retains right to secede after unrest

Following a day of angry protests that left 18 dead and hundreds wounded, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that he will not proceed with a planned constitutional change to revoke the right of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, in the country’s remote northeast, to secede via referendum. The announcement came as Mirziyoyev made an emergency visit to Nukus, the riot-stricken regional capital of Karakalpakstan. He also imposed a month-long state of emergency in the region, which has been ecologically devastated by the shrinking of the Aral Sea. (Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
Makhno

Ukrainian self-determination: Bandera or Makhno? II

In Episode 130 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his comparison of the two diametrically opposed exponents of Ukrainian armed resistance to Russian rule: the World War II-era right-wing nationalist Stepan Bandera and the World War I-era revolutionary anarchist Nestor Makhno. Contemporary left commentary in the West echoes Russian propaganda in portraying Bandera simply as a Nazi collaborator, while many contemporary anarchists (at least) glorify Makhno as a visionary of agrarian utopia. Much is left out of both narratives. Bandera was quickly betrayed by the Nazis and slapped in a concentration camp after he refused to renounce his declaration of Ukrainian independence. And while historians have had much to say about anti-Semitic pogroms by all factions in the multi-sided 1917-21 civil war in Ukraine, it is only recent scholarship that has brought to light atrocities by Makhno’s forces against Mennonite agricultural colonies. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Graphic: CounterVortex with images via Marxists Internet Archive, Ukrainian Youth Union)

The Caucasus
georgia

ICC issues warrants for crimes in Russo-Georgian War

The International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber issued arrest warrants for three individuals for alleged war crimes committed during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. Two Russian nationals and one Georgian national are charged with various war crimes, including illegal detention, torture and inhumane treatment, hostage-taking, and illegal transfer of civilians. The ICC says the crimes were committed in August 2008, when the three were fighting for the Russian-backed South Ossetian separatist forces. (Map: PLC)

Europe
antitank

Bill Weinberg slams ‘tankie’ pseudo-left on YouTube

In a series of brief interviews with vlogger and activist songster Geof Bard, CounterVortexproducer Bill Weinberg dissects the sinister “tankie” phenomenon on the contemporary Western “left,” which paradoxically supports Russian imperialism in the name of a misguided “anti-imperialism.” This absurd double standard is enabled by the so-called “Chomsky Rule,” which holds that we are only permitted to protest the crimes of US imperialism—and thereby renders the crimes of rival imperialisms invisible to the activist-left milieu. The pseudo-left betrayal of Ukraine to imperialist aggression actually undermines our moral authority to oppose the crimes of the US and its client states in places like Gaza and Yemen.

South Asia
gujarat

India: high court dismisses ‘conspiracy’ in Gujarat pogrom

The Supreme Court of India dismissed an appeal alleging a “larger conspiracy” by then-chief minister of Gujarat state (now prime minister) Narendra Modi and 62 other senior state officials in connection with anti-Muslim riots in 2002. The case was brought by Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, a Congress Party MP who was killed in the riots. One day after the ruling, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who was a co-litigant in the case, on allegations of fabricating evidence, forgery and criminal conspiracy. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, expressed “deep concern” over Setalvad’s detention, and called for her release. (Map: Google)

Watching the Shadows
Guantanamo

Afghan detainee released from Guantánamo

The US Department of Defense announced the release of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national, who had been held for 15 years without charge at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Gul was incarcerated at Guantánamo in 2007 on accusations of being a member of al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an insurgent group that fought against the US in Afghanistan. HIA signed a peace agreement with the US-backed Afghan government in 2016. Human rights organization Reprieve subsequently filed a habeas corpus petition demanding Gul’s release. (Photo: Gino Reyes/Wikimedia Commons)

The Caribbean
Otero Alcántara

Cuba: dissident artists get prison terms

The Popular Municipal Court of Central Havana sentenced artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántaraand Maykel Castillo Pérez to five and nine years in prison, respectively. Activist artist Otero Alcántara was sentenced for contempt, public disorder, and “insulting symbols of the homeland”—a reference to his public performances involving the Cuban flag. Rapper Maykel Castillo was found guilty of contempt, public disorder, and “defamation of institutions, heroes and martyrs.” The latter charge relates to a meme Castillo posted on social media last year criticizing Communist Party leaders. Amnesty International accused the Cuban government of “using the judicial system to criminalize critical voices.” (Photo: Hyperallergic)

Africa
Sudan

Wagner Group named in massacres on Sudan-CAR borderlands

Russian mercenaries are accused of carrying out a series of deadly attacks on artisanal miners in the lawless border zone between Sudan and the Central African Republic, in an apparent effort to establish dominance over outlaw gold mining operations with allied paramilitary factions. Dozens are said to have been killed in attacks on mining camps this year, allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group. Witnesses interviewed by The Guardian described “massacres” and looting by Wagner gunmen. The “Troika” diplomatic group that helps oversee the Sudan peace process released a report in March charging that the Wagner Group is engaged in illegal gold mining in collaboration with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group backed by the Sudanese regime. Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement denying the presence of the Wagner Group in the country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Europe
Ukraine

Podcast: Ukraine between East and West II

In Episode 129 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the book Ukraine & the Empire of Capital: From Marketisation to Armed Conflict by Yuliya Yurchenko of the Ukrainian left-opposition group Sotsialniy Rukh (Social Movement). In the book, written in 2018, Yurchenko takes a rigorous neither/nor position between Russia and the West, tracing the roots of the current crisis to the rise of regional oligarchs and a “criminal-political nexus” in the post-communist transition a generation ago. The West, in its rush to effect a crash capitalist conversion in the East, was deeply complicit in this. But these regional fiefdoms would be exploited by Vladimir Putin to effect a division of Ukraine as East-West rivalry re-emerged. This January, as Putin amassed forces on Ukraine’s borders, Sotsialniy Rukh issued a statement appealing for “anti-war solidarity.” In interviews since the invasion was launched, Yurchenko has been unequivocal in supporting Ukraine’s “popular resistance.” Similar statements from socialists and anarchists in Ukraine, Belarus and elsewhere in Eastern Europe have called, first and foremost, for the defeat of Putin’s neo-imperial project. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Central America
roe

El Salvador: warning for post-Roe US

The US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes six weeks after a court in El Salvador sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in termination of her pregnancy, according to a local advocacy group that was assisting in her defense. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (ACDATEE) denounced the sentence and said it would appeal the conviction. The woman, identified only as “Esme,” was held in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care at a hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (Photo: Debra Sweet/WikiMedia via Jurist)

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Featured Stories

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.

Continue ReadingRUSSIAN GENOCIDE OF THE UKRAINIAN NATION 
Crimea protest

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.

Continue ReadingLEGACY OF THE DEPORTATION 
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.

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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.

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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.

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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