Europe
PKK flag

Belgian high court: PKK not ‘terrorist’ organization

The Court of Cassation of Belgium upheld a lower court’s judgement and ruled that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not a “terrorist organization.” The case, one of several in Belgium relating to the nature of the PKK, stems from an investigation into three local Kurdish supporters of the party by Belgian judicial authorities. The legality of the investigation was challenged, and in May 2017 the Court of Appeals ruled for the three activists. The Federal Prosecutor’s appeal of this ruling has now been rejected. One of the three targeted leaders, Zübeyir Aydar of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, said: “The Court of Cassation ruling recognizes the fact that the Kurdistan freedom struggle cannot be accused of terrorism, that what is in question is not terror but a war, and the PKK is a party of this war. This is a first in Europe and we hope it will set an example to other countries.” A case has been pending since November 2018 before the European Court of Justice challenging the European Union’s listing of the PKK as a “terrorist organization.” (Photo: ANF)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

UN rights office protests Trump military pardons

A spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that he is “very concerned” by President Donald Trump’s pardons of two army officers and restoration of rank of a Navy SEAL. The president granted full pardons to two officers accused of killing noncombatants or disarmed captives, and restored rank to a SEAL accused of posing with the body of a slain fighter in Iraq. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, said the pardons sent “a disturbing signal to militaries” around the globe, noting that international law requires the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, and that the pardons “simply void[ed]” the legal process. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Afghanistan

Trump-Taliban schmooze: don’t call it ‘peace’

The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. But the supposed “peace” talks with the Taliban completely sidelined Afghanistan’s actual government and civil society alike—and were bitterly protested by Afghan women and their advocates. It was to be a “peace” crafted by genocidal clerical-reactionaries and imperialists, with the actual aim to prosecute a war on their mutual enemy, the ISIS insirgency that has now emerged in the country.  ISIS are now the “bad” (undomesticated) clerical reactionaries, who will not abandon their ambitions to attack the West. This only sends the message (entirely accurate, from the imperial persepctive) that Western lives matter, and Afghan lives do not.  (Photo: Khaama Press)

Afghanistan
warplane

US allies maintain lead over Taliban in civilian deaths

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a midyear report detailing the 3,812 civilian casualties in Afghanistan since Jan. 1, 2019. According to this report, Afghan government forces and their allies killed 717 civilians, while the Taliban and other militant groups have killed 531 civilians. Nonetheless, there was an overall 27% decrease in civilian casualties from the same period of 2018, with the decrease attributed to a shift away from ground engagements and suicide bombers. Aerial operations continued to be a rising cause of civilian casualties. The report also states that women are disproportionately affected by the ongoing attacks, not only due to loss of life or serious injury, but also secondary effects such as economic insecurity and displacement. In addition, women are at a higher risk of sexual violence and gender-based violence. (Photo: USAF)

Watching the Shadows

SCOTUS lets stand Guantánamo detention

The Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, a Yemeni who has been held as an “enemy combatant” at Guantánamo since 2002. Al-Alwi was captured in Pakistan in late 2001, and the government concluded that he had fought in Afghanistan as part of a Qaeda-commanded unit. Al-Alwi denied this unsuccessfully during his original round of habeas corpus proceedings, and in 2015 initiated a new habeas case arguing that the nature of US involvement in Afghanistan had changed such that the use of military detention is no longer justified under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit disagreed, and the Supreme Court has now declined to review the appellate court’s conclusion. (Photo via Jurist)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Afghanistan war crimes victims appeal to ICC

Victims of war crimes in Afghanistan filed an appeal with the International Criminal Court (ICC) challenging the court’s recent decision not to pursue a war crimes investigation in Afghanistan. The appeal was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law on behalf of the victims. The victims claim that significant war crimes have taken place in Afghanistan and that failure to investigate will allow the perpetrators to escape justice. The victims further claim that the perpetrators will be free to continue committing war crimes and that the mandate of the ICC will be severely damaged if justice is not served. The victims emphasize that US officials have failed to comply with the court’s requests and, as such, have interfered with the effectiveness of the investigation and the ICC as a whole. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Sinai feared

Human Rights Watch detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into conditions facing civilians in Sinai. Abuses include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Africa

General Assembly: UK must return Chagos Islands

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the islands “as rapidly as possible.” The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally. The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a joint US-UK military base, which is still in place on the island of Diego Garcia. Before the UN vote, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth told the General Assembly the forcible eviction of Chagossians was akin to a crime against humanity. (Photo: WILPF)

Iran

US-Tehran terror-baiting tit-for-tat

In an amusingly grim development, Donald Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “foreign terrorist organization,” and Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately retaliated by declaring the Pentagon’s Central Command a “terrorist organization.” Both moves mark a first, applying the designation to government entities. The perverse irony, of course, is that both Trump and Tehran can be seen as perfectly correct. Left-secular forces in the Middle East have long decried that the region is caught between two poles of terrorism—that of political Islam and that of US imperialism. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are complicit with “sectarian cleansing” of Sunni Muslims in Syria. CENTCOM’s warplanes meanwhile virtually destroyed the city of Raqqa in the battle against ISIS—with civilian casualties nearly doubling after Trump took over. Yet in Iraq, the US and Iran were in a de facto alliance—both supporting Baghdad and fighting ISIS. And indeed, given Washington’s growing tilt to Assad in the Syrian war, an element of this alliance can be seen there as well. That’s why they call it a Great Game.

Afghanistan

Report: Afghan government control lowest yet

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction finds that the security situation is at an all-time low since monitoring began. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control in 2015, Afghan government-controlled or "influenced" districts have declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, areas of insurgent control or influence rose 5.5% while "contested" districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assessed that the Kabul government controls or influences 226 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the Taliban controls/influences 49. The remaining 132 districts are identified as "contested." Since the prior quarterly report, Operation Resolute Support downgraded eight districts from "government influenced" to "contested." SIGAR said Afghan security forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban" in the period covered by the report. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Watching the Shadows

Amnesty calls on UN to ban ‘killer robots’

Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on  the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)