Europe
ISIS

French firm charged with abetting ISIS atrocities

France’s highest court overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity against cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying ISIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists. The Paris Court of Appeal accepted the company’s argument that the payments were not aimed at abetting ISIS atrocities. But the Cassation Court found that “one can be complicit in crimes against humanity even if one doesn’t have the intention of being associated with the crimes committed. Knowingly paying several million dollars to an organization whose sole purpose was exclusively criminal suffices to constitute complicity, regardless of whether the party concerned was acting to pursue a commercial activity.” (Photo via MEMO)

The Caribbean
haiti-quake-rubble

Haiti: gang warfare hinders earthquake recovery

More than 500,000 are in need of emergency assistance in Haiti’s southern peninsula, where a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 12,200. Aid and medical efforts are hampered by debris-strewn roads, rain from Tropical Storm Grace, a shortage of working hospitals, and gang violence. A hospital in Port-au-Prince was closed by a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping of two doctorsViolent gangs patrol many of the country’s transport routes. The southern peninsula has yet to recover from Hurricane Matthew, which killed hundreds in 2016. Prime Minister Ariel Henryhas promised to speed up aid efforts—more than 30,000 families are displaced, and there are fears of cholera due to lack of safe water, sanitation, and shelter. (Photo: Evens Mary/The New Humanitarian)

Planet Watch
BLM

UN: end systemic racism in law enforcement

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged states to dismantle systematic racism against African and African-descendent peoples, in a report focusing on law enforcement around the world. The report features an analysis of 190 deaths at the hands of law enforcement, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the United States, as well as cases in the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Colombia. “The status quo is untenable,” Bachelet said. “Systemic racism needs a systemic response… We need a transformative approach that tackles the interconnected areas that drive racism, and lead to repeated, wholly avoidable, tragedies like the death of George Floyd.” (Photo: The Village Sun)

Africa
Sahel

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said there would be a “profound transformation” of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane’s 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
fact

Chad: president killed as rebels advance

President Idriss Déby of Chad died following injuries sustained in fighting against rebels in the country’s north, authorities announced. The president’s son, Gen. Mahamat Kaka, is said to be serving as interim president. Déby had just been declared provisional winner of another presidential term, with nearly 80% of the vote. He had been in power for three decades. The rebel Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT) invaded the country from its bases across the border in Libya, in an attempt to disrupt the elections. Both sides are claiming victory after clashes in the northern region of Kanem, and FACT says that its forces are advancing on the capital, N’Djamena. (Image via Twitter)

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

Outrage over French air-strike in Mali

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration in a remote Malian village, according to an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA. The report based its findings on hundreds of interviews, satellite images, and evidence gathered from a trip to Bounti, the village hit by the January strike. The French defense ministry rejected the report, maintaining the casualties were Islamist militants. French troops were hailed as heroes by many Malians when they drove out militant groups from the country’s desert north in 2013. But criticism has grown as a 5,000-strong regional counterinsurgency force—called Operation Barkhane—has failed to prevent militants from regrouping and expanding across West Africa’s Sahel. Despite recent battlefield gains, the operation is drawing increasing comparisons to the US war in Afghanistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

Iran
Iran-Missiles

Can Iran nuclear deal be salvaged?

President Joe Biden’s pledge to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal is already deteriorating into a deadlock—a testament to the effectiveness of the Trump-era intrigues that sabotaged the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Biden and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have each traded “You Go First” statements—the White House demanding Tehran return to compliance with the JCPOA and Khamenei insisting the US lift the sanctions that were re-imposed by Trump. There is indeed a case that the US, having abrogated the pact first, should now be the party to “blink” in the stand-off, and lift the sanctions as a good-faith measure. (Image via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)

Europe
NCRI

Belgium: Iranian diplomat on trial over bomb plot

Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and three Iranian-Belgians went on trial in Antwerp, Belgium, marking the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. The four are charged with planning an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. The NCRI is political wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Assadi served at Tehran’s embassy in Vienna and is believed to have been working for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. (Photo of 2018 rally in Paris via NCRI)

Europe
paris protest

France: mass protests over new security law

Police and demonstrators clashed in Paris as some 45,000 filled the streets to protest a new security law, with large mobilizations also seen in Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier and Nantes. The new law would severely restrict publishing of the images of police officers. The issue was given greater urgency by video footage of Paris police savagely beating local Black music producer Michel Zecler days earlier. President Emmanuel Macron said the images “shame us,” but critics point out that their release could have been barred if his new security law had already been in force. (Photo: @T_Bouhafs)