Amnesty International: “Damning evidence” US may be complicit in Yemen war crimes

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US-made BLU-97 submunitions used by Saudi Arabia-led coallition in Saada, Yemen, on May 23 2015 clusterbombyemen1

 

Damning evidence of war crimes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which is armed by states including the USA, highlights the urgent need for independent, effective investigation of violations in Yemen and for the suspension of transfers of certain arms, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

‘Bombs fall from the sky day and night’: Civilians under fire in northern Yemen examines 13 deadly airstrikes by the coalition in Sa’da, north-eastern Yemen, which killed some 100 civilians, including 59 children. It also documents the use of internationally banned cluster bombs.

“This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser who headed the organization’s fact-finding mission to Yemen.

“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Amnesty International is calling for a suspension of transfers to members of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, that are participating in the military campaign, of weapons and munitions which have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes in Yemen: in particular, bombs from the MK (MARK) 80 series and other general purpose bombs, fighter jets, combat helicopters and their associated parts and components. […]

Read in full Yemen: Call for suspension of arms transfers to coalition and accountability for war crimes at Amnesty International

As a sovereign nation under international law, Novorossiya can bring Kiev’s war criminals to justice: Legal analysis from an international human rights lawyer

 

Dr. Jonathan Levy
Fri, 10 Oct 2014 11:24 UTC

 Previously published by Global Research

Flag of Novorossiya

Flag of Novorossiya

Under the influence of an intense disinformation campaign much of the world has tried its best to ignore the existence of the sovereign state of Novorossiya (Federativnoye Gosudarstvo Novorossiya). The Western media when it does mention Novorossiya applies denigrating terms like “self-declared state”, “unrecognized state” and even “puppet republic” to describe the status of Novorossiya. In fact, under international law, Novorossiya has the same status as any other member of the community nations – it is a sovereign independent nation.

The “gold standard” of statehood is the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States enacted in 1933. The Montevideo Convention requires an aspiring state to have it own territory, population, a functioning government and the ability to enter into relationships with other states. Novorossiya, while not currently in control of all its territory, has maintained an undisputed presence in Lugansk and Donetsk, backed up by a seasoned army and security forces. There is a sizeable population in Novorossiya, despite ethnic cleansing attempts by the Ukraine government. There is a functioning government and diplomatic efforts are ongoing, as evidenced by the Minsk process. In a just and fair world then, Novorossiya would be welcomed into the fold of sovereign nations as its newest member. But the world is neither just nor fair and Novorossiya is attacked by enemies in the West and blocked on other fronts by economic sanctions and diplomatic boycotts.

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Nonetheless, Novorossiya has friends. The Russian people of course overwhelmingly support this new nation and South Ossetia has welcomed Novorossiya by diplomatically recognizing it. Diplomatic recognition is an important first step towards international legitimacy since South Ossetia itself is recognized by four UN member states – Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nauru. More recognition for Novorossiya of course would be desirable but is not necessary to establish legitimacy. Somaliland, for example, which has been sovereign since 1991 and is recognized by no other country, yet has maintained its complete independence and conducts business worldwide, issues passports and currency, and defends itself without any disapproval from the major powers. Novorossiya, unlike Somaliland, is an industrialized nation in Europe and not on the periphery of Africa; its relevance as an independent nation is assured.

But how does this relate to war crimes committed by Kiev’s political elite, Ukrainian armed forces and so-called “volunteer brigades” of fascists? Before the brilliant tactical victory by the Novorossiya self-defence forces that broke the blockade of Dontesk and Lugansk in late August 2014, it appeared as if the entire command and political infrastructure of Novorossiya might be in real danger of liquidation, summary arrest or exile if Ukrainian forces and their foreign mercenaries stormed Donetsk and Lugansk. The very real scenario of another unfair UN-sponsored tribunal like the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) which mainly persecuted Serbs for defending themselves was looming large in the event Ukraine prevailed.

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Mass graves with hundreds of tortured victims, found with their hands bound near Donetsk, Novorossiya

Personally, on the 4 months anniversary of the Odessa massacre, I was thinking, “Shame on the ICC (International Criminal Court), which has ignored the snipers of the Maidan and the paid thugs who burned innocents alive in Odessa.” And God forbid the UN should set up show trials to demonize the defenders of Donetsk and Lugansk. As an international human rights lawyer I believed there had to be a way for justice to prevail. I wrote an article suggesting the Council of Europe, a separate organization from the biased European Union, of which both Ukraine and Russia are members, might be a possible sponsor of a war crimes tribunal.

One of the Council of Europe’s main organs is the European Court of Human Rights. I was thrilled when, the day after my article was published, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov met with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland. However, nothing concrete has emerged, and under heavy pressure from the United States the Council of Europe has proven itself no friend to Novorossiya through its inaction, and has seemingly become yet another loudspeaker for Kiev’s backers.

Nonetheless, a war crimes tribunal is an important weapon against fascism. Fascists thrive in dark places and times, and hide their identities behind masks and hoods; the threat of exposure of their identities and deeds scares them greatly. Even during the worst days of the Second World War, Himmler eased up on his murder of Jews in Hungary in fear of prosecution after the war. The cowards and the cravens in Kiev, who allow their forces to target schools and mass transit in Donetsk would likely modify their behaviour if they risked indictment for war crimes from a recognized tribunal. But the Kiev regime is currently well-protected by backers in United States and NATO, and consequently is emboldened in its attempts to intimidate the people of Novorossiya.

Therefore Novorossiya itself as a sovereign state must seize the initiative. Just as Novorossiya and only Novorossiya defended itself from Kiev, it is only Novorossiya that can move forward with a war crimes tribunal. Evidence and testimony has been already been collected, and it is abundant. Many of the perpetrators – both high and low – are known, and the rest will be discovered. The enablers, propagandists and funders of genocide outside Ukraine are also numbered, and known for the most part. There is no lack of allegations or suspects. What is lacking is the mechanism to bring them to justice.

Currently, Novorossiya is isolated. The threat of sanctions against the companies and persons of those who might help has unfortunately made the cause of justice take a back-seat to economics and politics. Yet Novorossiya can act against war criminals and not just symbolically. Section 107 of the Restatement (Second) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States [1965] states that:

“An entity not recognized as a state but meeting the requirements for recognition specified in § 100 [of controlling a territory and population and engaging in foreign relations], or an entity recognized as a state whose regime is not recognized as its government, has the rights of a state under international law in relation to a non-recognizing state…”

See also Article 74 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which states that: “The severance or absence of diplomatic or consular relations between two or more States does not prevent the conclusion of treaties between those States.” What all this means is that under international law Novorossiya may act avail itself of all the remedies under international law as long as some other states concur.

Novorossiya can set up not just a domestic tribunal but an international one that can reach beyond its borders. This is especially important because the war criminals are, for the most, except for their foot soldiers, not on the borders of Novorossiya or inside the territory of Novorossiya. The criminals are in Kharkiv, Denepetrovsk, Kiev, Lviv, Warsaw and beyond. International reach is the key. When the oppressed people of Ukraine finally wake out of their slumber and throw out the rascals in the Kiev government and cleanse the country of Nazis and corrupt oligarchs, the criminals will find a soft landing in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, just as many blood-stained Banderists did after Second World War. The Vatican, MI6, and the predecessor to the CIA did all they could to help certain useful Nazis and their collaborators escape justice via the ratlines and find a new life as assets abroad. A repeat of this travesty of justice must be avoided as these rotten apples have a way of resurfacing later with their message of hate and ultra-nationalism.

It is not enough to want justice for crimes. It is not enough to investigate war crimes. The guilty must eventually be chased down and brought back to face justice for these efforts to be credible. The task is even more daunting when most of the major powers in the world are on the side of the killers. Even the international organizations tasked with enforcing human rights, the ICC, the UN, and Council of Europe have abandoned their responsibilities to the people of Novorossiya. Is a war crimes tribunal therefore a mission impossible?

Kiev war criminals

Kiev war criminals

A Modest Proposal

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The Ukrainian Army firing thousands of rounds of mortars at residential buildings in Novorossiya

It is impressive that even in the midst of current battle for the Donetsk Airport, brave people are collecting and documenting evidence of war crimes committed in the Donbass. The news media and human right activists from Russia have been particularly helpful. But who should be the recipient of the evidence? If the investigation of the downed Malaysian jetliner, Flight MH-17, is an indication of the sort of justice that can be found outside Novorossiya, I have serious doubts. Evidence has been destroyed by the Ukrainian government, and unfounded allegations of the mass murder of the innocent passengers on Flight MH-17 has been levelled not only against Novorossiya but also the Russian government, which has been defamed by the press and politicians from Kiev to Kansas City. The Dutch team who are the lead investigators of the plane crash – and from a NATO member state – are susceptible to subtle and not-so-subtle pressure. Everyone has been kept in the dark through a lack of transparency throughout the process.

On the other hand, why not turn the evidence over to a friendly country like Russia? That also creates a problem. Sanctions will flow like wine at a wedding and any results denied and discredited by a thousand naysayers in the Western press. I suggest Novorossiya must act on its own initiative against war criminals, however, not just domestically but internationally too. As pointed out above, Novorossiya as a sovereign state may engage in foreign relations. It can sue in the courts of other countries because it is an independent sovereign state under international law and its agencies are legal entities. Novorossiya may file cases with international tribunals. However, it is also blocked from membership in the major international organizations and the existing tribunals seem heavily prejudiced against Novorossiya.

Novorossiya therefore must set up its very own International Tribunal and give it independence to act in lieu of the UN, ICC, and Council of Europe. This bold act will result in recognition of the tribunal even when states may still shy away from recognizing Novorossiya itself. Progressive states will recognize the tribunal and its power to seize property and extradite criminals. Perhaps a third-party country host can be found too.

But how can this be accomplished and who will do the work when the existence of Novorossiya still hangs in the balance? Much of the field investigation is being done already. However, the most important element is: who will staff the Tribunal? Yes, people from Novorossiya and Russia, but also lawyers and jurists from around the world seeking to advance the cause of justice should be encouraged to participate. It is international participation and support that will give the proposed tribunal substance, even as the UN and ICC have failed the people of Donetsk and Lugansk.

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The Ukrainian Army firing thousands of rounds of mortars at residential buildings in Novorossiya

We live in a virtual world. While court rooms are still necessary, there exists the technology to supplement traditional methods of justice. Judges often conduct hearings via Internet while the accused are held elsewhere. Jurists and attorneys from around the world could act as judges and advocates for the defence and prosecution. International lawyers commissioned by Novorossiya could file actions to seize assets of blood-stained Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians with bank accounts and property outside Ukraine for the benefit of the victims and their families. There are dozens of international lawyers who would help and they in turn know dozens more.

The war criminals are smug in the thought they have powerful friends outside Ukraine who will help them escape justice if their plans to subvert Ukraine and destroy the Donbass ultimately fail. Let us unleash a volunteer corps of a thousand lawyers, linked by technology worldwide, and undeterred by their governments. Novorossiya must give to them the commission to hunt down the war criminals and seize their assets. Give us lawyers the right to sue the merchants of death and destruction, the purveyors of deadly agitprop, and even the old networks of Nazis who are behind the Banderists.

Lawfare is a strategy of using law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective – in this case bring war criminals to justice and deter future crimes. The present day legal hurdles are surprisingly low and the proliferation of potential forums adds to the attractiveness of lawfare. Novorossiya can demonstrate standing and jurisdiction and is especially well-situated to take advantage of lawfare. Legal action can be accomplished without loss of life or large-scale deployment of assets. The only requirements are potential standing and a knowledgeable legal representative. A court filing often generates as much or more publicity than a military skirmish.

The world and its organizations have largely ignored, covered up, or even condoned the war crimes committed against the people of Novorossiya. The backers of fascism think they can act with impunity just as they did after the Second World War when Nazi war criminals used the Vatican-run “ratline” to escape to South America and Spain. But the world has changed, technology and access to information has levelled the playing field. Novorossiya has demonstrated it can prevail against great odds on the battle field, now let the members of the international community who abhor war crimes use their skills and technology to make the seemingly impossible happen – to bring Kiev’s war criminals to justice.

About the author
Dr. Jonathan Levy, is an attorney member of the International Criminal Bar. Dr Levy holds a PhD in Political Science and is a Senior Adjunct faculty member at two North American universities.

U.S.’s Refusal to Face the Hard Moral Issues of War

 

America’s Refusal to Face the Hard Moral Issues of War

By: Monday April 20, 2015

COUNTERPUNCH

Monday April 20, 2015

 

kobane1(Today we feature, with permission, a guest post by Daniel N. White. The post originally appeared on Contrary Perspective. All opinions are the author’s.)

James Fallows, a noted journalist and author of National Defense (1981), is tits on a boar useless these days.

 

That’s my conclusion after reading his Atlantic Monthly cover story, The Tragedy of the American Military, in which he asks, “Why do the best soldiers in the world keep losing?” It is a truly terrible article that, regrettably, is mainstream U.S. journalism’s best effort by one of their better talents to answer a vitally important question.

Right off the bat, I’m going to have to say that the U.S. Army doesn’t produce “the world’s best soldiers” — and it never has. Americans don’t do infantry as well as others do. This is reasonably well known. Anyone who wants to dispute the point has to dispute not me but General George Patton, who in 1944 said: “According to Napoleon, the weaker the infantry the stronger the artillery must be. Thank God we’ve got the world’s best artillery.” Operational analysis of us by the German Wehrmacht and the PLA (China) said the same thing. We should know that about ourselves by now and we don’t, and the fact that we don’t, particularly after a chain of military defeats by lesser powers, says a good deal bad about us as a people and society. The Atlantic and James Fallows are both professionally derelict to continue printing these canards about our infantry prowess. “The world’s best” — there is no excuse for such hyperbolic boasting.

Why the U.S. keeps losing its wars, and why James Fallows has no clue as to why, is revealing of the American moment. It’s painfully obvious the U.S. has lost its most recent wars because it has lacked coherent and achievable objectives for them. (Or no objectives that our ruling elites were willing to share with us.)

Just what, exactly, was the end result supposed to be from invading Iraq in 2003? If the Taliban were willing as they stated to hand over Osama Bin Laden to us, why did we invade Afghanistan? Why did we then start a new war in Afghanistan once we overthrew the Taliban?

Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent history that the U.S. has fought wars with no coherent rationale. Vietnam had the same problem. The Pentagon Papers showed that insofar as we had a rationale it was to continue the war for sufficiently long enough to show the rest of the world we weren’t to be trifled with, even if we didn’t actually win it. Dick Nixon was quite upfront in private about this too; that’s documented in the Nixon tapes.

Not having clear and achievable political objectives in a war or major military campaign is a guarantee of military failure. Here’s what arguably the best Allied general in WWII had to say about this, William Slim, from his superlative memoirs, Defeat into Victory, writing of the Allied defeat in Burma, 1942:

Of these causes [of the defeat], one affected all our efforts and contributed much to turning our defeat into disaster — the failure, after the fall of Rangoon, to give the forces in the field a clear strategic object for the campaign… Yet a realistic assessment of possibilities there and a firm, clear directive would have made a great deal of difference to us and to the way we fought. Burma was not the first, nor was it to be the last, campaign that had been launched on no very clear realization of its political or military objects. A study of such campaigns points emphatically to the almost inevitable disaster that must follow. Commanders in the field, in fairness to them and their troops, must be clear and definitely told what is the object they are locally to attain.

Anyone who wishes to dispute the lack of clear and achievable objectives for America’s wars should try to answer the question of what a U.S. victory in Iraq or Afghanistan would look like. What would be different in the two countries from a U.S. victory? How would the application of force by the U.S. military have yielded these desired results, whatever they were?

I invite anyone to answer these questions. They should have been asked, and answered, a long time ago. All the parties concerned — the political class, the intelligentsia, the moral leadership, and the military’s senior officer corps — in America have failed, stupendously, by not doing so.

Indeed, the lack of coherent objectives for these wars stems from the fraudulence of our pretenses for starting them. Even senior U.S. and UK leaders have acknowledged the stage-management of falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction for a rationale for war with Iraq. When wars are started on falsehoods, it isn’t reasonable to expect them to have honest (or moral) objectives.

The question then arises: What were the real objectives of these wars? Economic determinists/Marxists look to oil as the underlying reason, but this can’t be it. None of the economic determinist explanations for the Vietnam War made a lick of sense then or now, and any arguments about war for oil make an assumption, admittedly a remotely possible one, about the ruling elites in the U.S. and UK not being able to read a financial balance sheet. The most cursory run of the financials under the best possible assumptions of the promoters of the wars showed Iraq as a giant money loser, world’s third largest oil reserves or not. Economic reasons for a war in Afghanistan? Nobody could ever be that dumb, not even broadcast journalists.

Judging from the results, the real intent of our political leadership was to create a state of permanent war, for narrow, behind the scenes, domestic political reasons. The wars were/are stage-managed domestic political theater for current political ruling elites. The main domestic objective sought was a Cold-War like freezing of political power and authority in current form by both locking up large areas of political debate as off-limits and increasing the current distribution of societal resources toward economic elites. This was the real objective of both sides in the Cold War, Americans and Russians both, once things settled out after 1953, and most historians just lack the ability and perspective to see it.

A related factor Americans aren’t supposed to discuss is how much of the drive to war was neo-con war promotion manipulated by Israel. There’s no getting around the high percentage of Jewish neo-cons inside the Beltway. There’s a seven decade-long history of American country-cousin Jews being manipulated by their Israeli city-slicker relations, too, but I’d call this a contributing factor and not a causative one. But the willingness of American neo-cons to do Israel’s bidding and launch a war against Iraq is most disturbing and does require more research. (They all seem to be willing to do it again in Iran – was there ever a neo-con ever against an Iran war ever? Just look at the current situation vis-à-vis Iran, and the direct intervention by the Israeli Prime Minister into American foreign policy.)

There is one other possibility: that America’s leaders actually believed their own PR about spreading democracy. That’s been known to happen, but under present circumstances, their coming to believe their own PR knowing it was false from the git-go would be something truly unique and horrifying. But not impossible, I’m afraid.

Cui Bono? (To whose benefit) is always the question we need to ask and with 13 years of war the beneficiaries should be obvious enough. Just follow the money, and follow those whose powers get increased. James Fallows, and everyone else in the mainstream news media, hasn’t.

But the most pressing issue isn’t any of the above. The most pressing issue is moral, and most importantly of all our society’s unwillingness to face the hard moral questions of war.

Above all else, war is a moral issue; undoubtedly the most profound one a society has to face. Wars are the acme of moral obscenity. Terrible moral bills inevitably accrue from the vile actions that warfare entails. It has always been so. As long as there has been civilization there has always been great debate as to what political or social wrongs warrant the commission of the crimes and horrors of war. About the only definitively conceded moral rationale for war is self-defense against external attack. Domestic political theater is nothing new as a reason for war, but it has been universally condemned as grotesquely immoral throughout recorded history.

Our country is ostrich-like in its refusal to acknowledge the moral obscenity of war and its moral costs. Insofar as your average American is willing to engage with these moral issues, it is at the level of “I support our troops” to each other, combined with the “Thank you for your service” to anyone in uniform. Moral engagement on the biggest moral issue there is, war, with these tiresome tropes is profoundly infantile. It isn’t moral engagement; it is a (partially subconscious) willful evasion.

The Hollywood sugarcoated picture of what war is hasn’t helped here; blindness due to American Exceptionalism hasn’t helped either. Our intellectual and moral leadership—churches in particular—have been entirely AWOL on the moral failings of our wars and the moral debts and bills from them we have accrued and continue to accrue. And these bills will come due some day, with terrible interest accrued. Anyone paying attention to how the rest of the world thinks knows that we currently incur the world’s contumely for our failings here on this issue.

Mr. Fallows and the Atlantic are both equally blind and AWOL on the moral issues of our wars. The moral issues, and failings, of the wars are paramount and are completely undiscussed in the article, and the magazine, and always have been since before the wars began. Mr. Fallows, and the Atlantic, by framing the war issue in terms of “why the best (sic) soldiers in the world keep losing our wars” are avoiding them in a somewhat more sophisticated way than the “Thank you for your service” simpletons are. They should know better and they don’t, and they lack the situational- and self-awareness to understand that they are doing this. They deserve our contempt for it. They certainly have mine.

The issue isn’t why the world’s best (sic) soldiers keep losing our wars. The issue is why we started and fought wars this stupid and wrong and show every sign of continuing to do so in the future. Why do we learn nothing from our military defeats? How can we remain so willfully and morally blind? Well, types like James Fallows and The Atlantic Monthly are a large part of why.

Missing the biggest political and moral question in our lifetimes, for this many years, well, hell, The Atlantic Monthly and James Fallows are just tits on a boar useless these days.