Syria
Aleppo ruins

Russian rights groups protest Syria war crimes

The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups has been released, highlighting the role of Moscow’s military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, “A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War,” is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Syria
free-syria

Landmark verdict against Syrian ex-officer

A court in Germany convicted a former officer of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Eyad A., on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity—specifically, torture and deprivation of liberty committed against 30 persons. Eyad received a sentence of four years and six months for his role in arresting people who were later tortured. The 30 persons, who were all civilians, had been participating in anti-government protests in Douma in 2011 when they were rounded up and sent to Branch 251, or the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus. At Branch 251, they suffered grave physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. The verdict marks the first time that a court anywhere in the world has ruled on torture inflicted by the Syrian regime, and it sets the stage for the prosecution of high-ranking officers. The trial of the officer who headed Branch 251 is pending before the same court. (Photo of early Arab Revolution protest in Syria via Fightback)

North America

Did Biden cave to ICE mutiny?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo with “temporary guidelines for enforcement and removal operations” by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving ICE agents discretion on enforcement actions and overturning the “100-day pause on certain removals” instated by President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 20. The move was protestedby the ACLU as a “disappointing step backward.” But litigation was already pending over the “pause.” A federal judge in Corpus Christi had granted a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, in a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had filed a lawsuitagainst the “pause.” After this, ICE agents resumed deportations that had been blocked by Biden’s Jan. 20 order—in open defiance of White House policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Watching the Shadows
Gitmo

Biden launches review of Gitmo prison camp

The Biden administration launched a review of the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine the facility’s fate over the next four years. White House spokespersons told reporters that the administration is considering an executive action to close the prison camp by the end of Biden’s term. When asked whether the administration would close the prison within that timeframe, a White House spokesperson replied, “That certainly is our goal and our intention.” A National Security Council spokesperson reaffirmed this goal, saying, “We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantánamo.” (Photo via Jurist)

North America
detrumpification

Podcast: for total de-Trumpification

In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn’t (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country’s progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of “winning” and denigration of “weakness.” The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Mike Maguire/WikiMedia)

Central Asia
uighur-women

China-Turkey extradition treaty to target Uighurs

China announced the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey that it intends to use,inter alia, to accelerate the return of refugees and Uighur Muslims suspected of “terrorism.” Since the 1950s, Turkey has welcomed Uighurs fleeing persecution in China. Uighurs and Turks have linguistic, cultural and religious ties. Currently, more than 50,000 Uighurs call Turkey home. While the treaty does provide grounds for refusal of extradition on the basis of Turkish citizenship, it is feared by many Uighurs that Chinese persecution will follow them to Turkey. “This extradition treaty will cause worry among Uighurs who have fled China and do not yet have Turkish citizenship,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, told AFP. (Photo of Uighur women in Xinjiang: mikepryan via Wikimedia)

North America
travel ban protest

Cameroonian asylum-seekers ‘tortured’ by ICE

A group of Cameroonian asylum-seekers has alleged that officers from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tortured them into signing deportation orders. The men say they were choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed into fingerprinting or signing removal papers in a Mississippi detention center. The migrants had refused to sign, fearing death at the hands of Cameroonian government forces, and because they had asylum hearings pending. Lawyers and activists told The Guardian that efforts to speed up US deportations have “accelerated” in the run-up to the presidential election, which could bring new leadership to ICE and a potential change of policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

South Asia
rohingya camp

Bangladesh rings Rohingya camps with barbed wire

Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a “prison.” Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Burma. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. “The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained,” the UN Refugee Agency warned. (Photo: Dhaka Tribune)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Central Asia
Chamdo

Report: forced labor and relocation in Tibet

A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, a DC-based policy think-tank, has found evidence of a system of forced displacement and labor in Tibet, mirroring that put in place over the past two years in Xiinjiang. The report, entitled “Xinjiang’s Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet,” finds that over half a million people received instruction at “military-style” training centers as part of the program in the first seven months of 2020—around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred to jobs away from their homes within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid labor, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Those targeted for the program are designated “rural surplus laborers,” which according to the report usually refers to traditional pastoralists and nomads. (Photo: military-style training of “rural surplus laborers” in the Chamdo region of Tibet, June 2016, via Phayul)

North America
ICDC

Forced sterilizations in ICE custody: reports

More than 170 members of the House of Representatives are demanding that the Department of Homeland Security carry out an immediate investigation into claims of “mass hysterectomies” at an Immigration & Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia. The allegations stem from a whistleblower complaint filed by advocacy group Project South on behalf of Dawn Wooten, a nurse who formerly worked full-time at the Irwin County Detention Center. “We are horrified to see reports of mass hysterectomies performed on detained women in the facility, without their full, informed consent and request that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct an immediate investigation,” a bloc of Democratic lawmakers wrote. Responding to the claims, Amnesty International emphasized that “forced sterilization can constitute a crime against humanity under international law.” (Photo via Texas Impact)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Rights groups warn: Uighurs face ‘genocide’

Several human rights organizations signed an open letter declaring that China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province “strongly suggests that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place.” The letter cited a recent UN report that raised concerns over “increasing practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, absence of judicial oversight and procedural safeguards.” The letter additionally cited evidence of widespread forced labor, forced sterilizations and abortions, separation of children from their families, and destruction of religious and cultural sites. The authors of the letter urged states to call on the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the situation in Xinjiang. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)