Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fortify Rights on Myanmar genocide of the Rohingya people

(YANGON and WASHINGTON D.C., August 27, 2018)— The United Nations Security Council should urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities against ethnic Kachin, Rohingya, and Shan civilians, said Fortify Rights today. The U.N. Fact-Finding-Mission today released its final report concluding that Myanmar’s top military generals should be prosecuted for genocide against Rohingya in Rakhine State as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan states.
“These findings are devastating and highly significant,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights. “This will necessarily shift the thinking of U.N. member states— business as usual is no longer an option. The next logical step is for member states to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”
The Fact-Finding-Mission found evidence of genocidal intent and compiled a “non-exhaustive list of alleged perpetrators of crimes under international law, indicating priority subjects for investigation and prosecution,” including Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win.

August 25 marked the one-year anniversary of the start of a large-scale Myanmar Army-led attack on indigenous Rohingya civilians in all three townships of northern Rakhine State.

Mohammed H., 23, carries his father Abdu S., 60, blind and unable to walk since fleeing their village in Buthidaung Township. Stranded in Myanmar on the banks of the Naf River for one month, they left behind three surviving family members suffering from illness.
Patrick Brown © Panos/UNICEF 2018

Myanmar soldiers, police, and civilian perpetrators hacked Rohingya, slit throats, and fatally shot and burned alive thousands of men, women, and children while torching and destroying hundreds of villages. More than 720,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh in a matter of weeks, adding to the more than 74,000 Rohingya refugees who fled similar attacks in Maungdaw Township in Rakhine State in October 2016.

In July, Fortify Rights published a 160-page report exposing how the Myanmar authorities made “extensive and systematic preparations” for attacks against Rohingya civilians during the weeks and months before Rohingya militants attacked police on August 25, 2017. The report—“They Gave Them Long Swords”—finds “reasonable grounds” that the crimes against Rohingya constitute genocide and crimes against humanity, and it identifies 22 Myanmar Army and police officials who should be criminally investigated for their roles in atrocities.

At least 27 Myanmar Army battalions and three combat police battalions, comprising an estimated 11,000 soldiers and 900 police personnel, were involved in the August 2017 attacks in northern Rakhine State, according to the Fortify Rights report.

Members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) are also responsible for abuses. ARSA threatened, beat, and, in some cases, killed Rohingya they suspected of being government informants.

The Fact-Finding-Mission made its conclusions based on the “reasonable grounds” standard of proof.

The Myanmar Army has also committed atrocities against Kachin and Shan civilians in Kachin and northern Shan states during ongoing armed-conflict with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and other non-state ethnic armed groups. The Fact-Finding-Mission found that the Myanmar military’s operations in Kachin and Shan states are “characterized by systematic attacks directed at civilians and civilian objects, and indiscriminate attacks.”

The fighting between the Myanmar Army and KIA forcibly displaced more than 100,000 civilians in Kachin and northern Shan states since 2011 more than 100,000 civilians were forcibly displaced since 2011, including thousands this year. Myanmar Army soldiers killed, raped, and tortured Kachin civilians with impunity, used human shields, destroyed non-military targets such as homes and Christian churches, and willfully denied humanitarian aid to displaced populations. The KIA also committed abuses, including through the use of landmines and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The U.N. Human Rights Council created the Independent International Fact-Finding-Mission through a resolution on March 24, 2017. The mission was tasked to “establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces . . . with a view to ensure full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.” It was mandated to focus on the situation of human rights in Rakhine as well as Kachin and Shan states.

A Rohingya refugee uses one of the many man-made dams in Balokhali 2 refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh.
Patrick Brown © Panos/UNICEF 2018

To date, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refused to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission. In May 2017, 59 Myanmar-based civil society organizations called on their government to reverse course and fully cooperate with the mission.

The Fact-Finding-Mission documented a vast amount of information from primary sources, including 875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, satellite imagery, authenticated documents, photographs, and videos.
The Government of Myanmar continues to deny aid groups, journalists, and human rights monitors—including the Fact-Finding Mission—access to areas of northern Rakhine State. There are an estimated 550,000 Rohingya still living in Rakhine State, many in desperate need of humanitarian aid. The Government of Myanmar continues to deny them freedom of movement and equal access to citizenship rights, and confines more than 125,000 Rohingya—mostly Muslim survivors of 2012 violence—in more than 20 internment camps in five townships in Rakhine State.
“People are dying,” an aid worker in Maungdaw Township told Fortify Rights in August 2017. “They are going to starve. There is no food available.”
In September, the United States takes the seat of the president of the U.N. Security Council, a position that rotates every month between Security Council member states. Among other duties, the president is responsible for setting the agenda of the Council.

The Security Council should also urgently issue a global arms embargo on Myanmar, said Fortify Rights.

In addition to a referral to the ICC, the U.S. and U.N. member states should support the establishment of a new U.N. mechanism to build on the work of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission and ensure the collection and preservation of evidence that may be used for future prosecutions, Fortify Rights said. This new mechanism should focus on international crimes in at least Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states and involve and engage local communities from its onset.
“The international community needs to address the root causes of these crises, beginning with military impunity,” said Matthew Smith. “It’s too late for a wait-and-see approach. The Myanmar authorities proved that domestic remedies are exhausted.”

Cate Blanchett calls for Rohingyas to be protected

Mother-of-four Miss Blanchett, 49, said the World had “failed the Rohingya before” during an impassioned speech before the UN Security Council in New York earlier this week.
A shocking UN report stated Myanmar’s military had carried out mass killings, gang rapes and burnt down whole villages since the attacks begun last August.
And the actress, who is also a UN goodwill ambassador declared on the first anniversary of the outbreak of violence: “Please, let us not fail them again.”
She recalled “gut-wrenching accounts” of torture, rape, people seeing loved ones killed in front of them and children being thrown onto fires.
“I am a mother, and I saw my children in the eyes of every single refugee child I met,” she said.
“I saw myself in every parent. How can any mother endure seeing her child thrown into a fire?
“Their experiences will never leave me.”
The UN report recommended the country’s commander in chief and five generals be prosecuted for orchestrating genocide.
Military action in response to civil unrest, included attacks from insurgents, was “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”, it said.
And Miss Blanchett told ambassadors about 90-year-old Gul Zahar who had twice before fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

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The actress said the world had 'failed the Rohingya before' during her speech (Image: GETTY)
Gul is “sadly” a refugee living in poverty in Bangladesh “with the sole wish that her great grandchildren will have a better future”.
She added: “The need for this future to transpire inside Burma has never been more urgent.
“If we fail to act now, Gul’s grandchildren, like thousands of others, will be unable to escape this relentless cycle that generations of Rohingya have experienced.
“We have failed the Rohingya before,” Miss Blanchett said. “Please, let us not fail them again.”
Britain implored the UN Security Council, comprised of 15 members, to take “concerted action” over crimes committed during the conflict.
Minister for the UN Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said there had been “grave violations” of the Rohingya’s human rights after a report detailed widespread crimes, including rape and murder, committed by the Burmese military,
This Council should shoulder its responsibility and do justice to the gravity of the attacks on the Rohingya community”, he said. “We should not be just discussing and debating.
“We need to be acting, acting to bring an end to the appalling ethnic cleansing, to help those suffering refugees, and bring justice for the victims of appalling crimes.”
Lord Ahmad, who is the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, called on the council to “act for the sake of humanity”.
Sweden and Holland called for the council to refer the crimes to the International Criminal Court.

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The UK’s ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, had said she was “not confident” the UN Security Council would unanimously back referral to the International Criminal Court.
Speaking after the session, she said the report had set out “reasonable grounds to call for an investigation and prosecution”.
She said: “It is not in itself an assessment mission designed to apportion blame. There needs to be a full judicial investigation.
“So we will be talking to our friends and partners on the Security Council and elsewhere about how to do justice to the very grave crimes and the need for accountability that the FFM report so graphically outlines.”

Cure that hurts: the case of Pharma giant J&J

That Johnson and Johnson could get away without paying compensation after implanting faulty hip replacement devices points to a regulatory deficit, and lack of medical ethics.

An important expose (IE, August 25) has revealed that the Indian arm of Johnson and Johnson (J&J), a leading global pharma major, “suppressed” key facts on the harmful aftermath of surgeries conducted on hundreds of patients in the country using “faulty” hip replacement systems imported by the company. The report also revealed that J&J did not provide compensation to all the affected patients. An expert committee of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had recommended that the pharma giant provide compensation to the patients who had undergone a surgery to implant the faulty device.
In fact, J&J did not even provide a list of all the 4,700 patients who had undergone the surgery to the concerned committee. This is a breach of medical ethics and moral principles and J&J stands exposed as a classical example of corporate high handedness, emboldened by administrative flaws and poor procedures of accountability.
It is important to unravel this violation of patients’ rights because that will help us be vigilant against future malpractices by international pharma firms. The J&J case makes for an interesting study of the factors that interact to “manufacture” a public health catastrophe.
First, there is a booming market for joint replacement in India. A recent survey projects that the joint replacement market will grow at an annual rate of around 25 per cent to 30 per cent over the next five to seven years. These are impressive figures and billions of dollars are at stake. It would be naive to believe that such a market would remain untouched by multinationals like J&J.
Joint replacement, like cardiac stenting, is a robust and useful technology. However, the need for a medical implant is governed not just by its utility and ease of use but also by the hype generated around it. A interesting study based, on the data of the Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry published in November 2017, revealed that a greater number of hip replacements happens in the more advantaged groups as compared to the disadvantaged population with a similar incidence of disease. This makes a physician’s offer of hip replacement to a patient more arbitrary than has been thought so far
It is important to remember that two important events accelerated the country’s decent into a healthcare nightmare: The uncontrolled opening up of Indian markets in the 1990s and the country ratifying the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which led to it becoming fully compliant with Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in January 2005. The latter made it easy for pharma companies to carry out clinical trials in the country. There was an influx of international companies who claimed to provide the state-of-the-art drugs, implants and technologies to doctors and patients, mostly in the garb of clinical trials. The absence of rigorous regulations led to serious violations of patients’ rights, as was evident from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine Clinical Trial Scam in 2009. It is believed that between 2005 and 2012, more than 2,000 patients have died across the country while participating in clinical trials conducted by pharma companies.
Second, it is critical to note that J&J in the US behaves much better than it does in India. The company has settled more than 9,000 lawsuits over the defective hip model in question for around $4.4 billion between 2013 and 2015. Since 2015, juries in the US have awarded $1.7 billion as compensation over the hip implants. So why does the pharma major behave as it does in India? Why has the company been high-handed and careless, as the MoHWF expert committee suggests? Much of this has to do with with the regulatory deficit in the medical devices market. The data suggests that technology assessment for medical devices and quality control methods in the country do not compare well with those in the Western world.
Unfortunately, the National Medical Device Policy 2015 is still being debated in policy circles.
Finally, poor regulation of clinical practices is a reason for errant medical giants going unpunished. It is no secret that pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers sponsor foreign trips, national and international conferences and even vacations of physicians. Doctors serve on the payrolls of medical device companies. They promote implants, including the faulty hip replacement device in question. It would thus be naïve to expect criticism of faulty implants or reporting of a serious side effect by surgeons or physicians obliged to the companies that manufacture them. Poor regulation of clinical practice not only emboldens pharma giants like J&J but also reduces the burden of their guilt. The poor medical ethics of the Indian physician serves their interests well.
The unethical behaviour of J&J is neither the first nor the last episode in ongoing tragedy that is the saga of the poor Indian patient. With a poor regulatory mechanism, a corrupt healthcare system and a greedy doctor at their doorstep, such companies and their businesses stand to thrive in the graveyard of India’s healthcare. The medical community must decide: Do we want to be part of the colossal injustice heaped on the patient, or call out suspected malpractices when we see them? After all, even the most comprehensive ethical system is of no use if the people it is meant for lack the will to do what’s right.

Worse than Emergency

The latest arrests represent a new and extremely dangerous phase in the steady erosion of civil liberties, fundamental rights and indeed democracy in India.
Written by Prashant Bhushan | New Delhi | Updated: August 30, 2018 9:49:33 am
Pune police arrested (Clockwise) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai.
On Tuesday, the Maharashtra Police arrested some of India’s finest human rights activists from five cities across the country on completely fabricated charges under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the IPC. The activists arrested are Sudha Bharadwaj, a civil rights activist and labour lawyer from Chattisgarh, presently teaching at the National Law University, Delhi, Gautam Navlakha, former president of the People’s Union for Democratic Reforms, Varavara Rao, a poet-activist, Vernon Gonsalves, human rights activist, and Arun Ferreira, a civil rights activist and lawyer based in Mumbai.
Residences and offices of other activists were raided, and laptops and mobiles seized. These include pro-democracy activists who have been leading peoples’ resistance movements for several years, such as Father Stan Swamy, an Adivasi rights activist based in Ranchi, Anand Teltumbde, a management expert, intellectual and writer, and Susan Abraham, civil liberties lawyer and a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights. The arrests and raids are outrageous attempts to stifle voices of dissent and curb peaceful struggles against this government’s anti-people ideology. Democracy is under siege in India.
The Pune police have purportedly arrested these activists on the basis of the ongoing investigations into the Bhima Koregaon violence that broke out in January this year during a march by Dalit activists. The march was preceded by a conclave called the Elgaar Parishad, which was organised by Former Supreme Court judge Justice P B Sawant and former High Court judge Justice Kolse Patil. The police initially filed FIRs on January 4 against Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Rao Bhide, based on eyewitness accounts that they and their lieutenants had incited the violence against the Dalit congregation.
But this investigation was shelved. The police instead embarked on a process of arresting a large number of activists, lawyers and journalists by first alleging that Maoists were involved in the Bhima Koregaon violence and then claiming that these activists lawyers and journalists were their urban supporters — the term, Urban Maoists has been coined to describe these activists. Shoma Sen, a professor of the Nagpur University, Surendra Gadling, a well-known human rights lawyer who has been defending G N Saibaba, Sudhir Dhawale, editor of a magazine, Rona Wilson, member of the Committee for the Protection of Political Prisoners and Mahesh Raut, a prominent anti-displacement activist, were arrested in June under sections of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for inciting violence and communal enmity.
After they were arrested, some media organisations claimed that a letter was found on Wilson’s computer addressed to a “Comrade Prakash” and signed by “R”, which apparently talked of “senior comrades” proposing concrete steps to end the Modi-era and a “Rajiv Gandhi-type” incident being planned to assassinate the prime minister. That letter was clearly fabricated. Justice Patil and Justice Sawant, the organisers of the Elgar Parishad, condemned this letter as fake.
The letter was never produced as evidence in court. Justice Patil and Justice Sawant have claimed that the government saw a threat in the Elgaar Parishad as it mobilised people to raise their voice against the establishment. Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, who have now been arrested, were earlier accused of Naxalite connections, but they were acquitted of all charges. Republic TV earlier ran an “exclusive breaking news” levelling unsubstantiated allegations against Sudha Bharadwaj. She was accused as having links with Maoists.
The activists arrested in June, and on Tuesday, are well-respected human rights crusaders. Their writings, advocacy of the rights of the poor and oppressed and fight for civil rights are a testimony to their selflessness and dedication. They are being systematically targeted and maliciously charged with an “intent to strike terror in the people of India” or “intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security or sovereignty of India”. These activists have never been accused of any act of violence or criminal activity earlier (except Ferreira and Gonzalves who were acquitted).
In contrast, lynchers have been given a free hand. Instead of arresting them, the police is targeting people who have been speaking up against the increasing lawlessness, intolerance and violation of human rights in the country.
The coining of the term “Urban Maoists” is like the earlier coining of the term, “Tukde Tukde Gang” in connection with the protests in JNU. Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested in connection with these protests but even after three years, no chargesheet has been filed against them by the Delhi Police. Many of the videos run by the news channels that showed the students slogans, insinuating the break up of India, were found to be fabricated.
However, a narrative was built up according to which these students were anti-national and wanted to dismember India. Though the police did not find any evidence against them, this narrative created a climate in which Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked at the Patiala House, despite security and despite the Supreme Court’s orders for his protection. In a similar vein, the narrative on Urban Maoists is being used by the police to raid activists and arrest them on bogus charges.
The latest arrests represent a new and extremely dangerous phase in the steady erosion of civil liberties, fundamental rights and indeed democracy in India. A recent book by two Harvard professors, Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, How Democracies Die, underlines that in recent times, most democracies have not been brought to an end by a coup but by a steady erosion of fundamental rights and civil liberties, a drumming up of the “anti-national” narrative by the government and a compliant media. It is time for every citizen who values democracy and liberty to stand up at this moment, and signal their intention to resist this Fascist onslaught, which in many ways is more dangerous than the Emergency of 1975.

Buddhist rapist monk arrested in Gaya in India

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Bangladeshi Buddhist monk Bhante Sangh Priya, accused of sexually abusing a minor girl, being produced in a court in Gaya.

Muslim Man Beaten To Death Over Suspicion Of Buffalo Stealing

Muslim Man Beaten To Death Over Suspicion Of Buffalo Stealing
Shahrukh Khan and three of his friends were allegedly trying to steal a buffalo and they were caught by the villagers who allegedly started beating him.
A 22-year-old Muslim man was lynched to death by a mob of over 50 villagers after he and his friends were allegedly caught trying to steal a buffalo in the early hours of Wednesday.
"We reached the spot and took him to the hospital where he died. Investigations are underway," NTDV quoted the city Superintendent of Police Abhinandan Singh as saying.
According to the reports, the incident occurred at Bholapur Hindoliya village in Bareilly district when Shahrukh Khan and three of his friends were allegedly trying to steal a buffalo and they were caught by the villagers who allegedly started beating him.
The victim, however, succumbed to his injuries later in the evening.
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Khan, who had come from Dubai a month back used to work at an embroidery unit and had been out of India for a while now.
According to the investigation by the police, family members of the victim said that Khan got a call from one of his friends at night and he went out, however, when Khan didn't return home by morning his family got worried. Later, the victim’s family received a call from the police who informed them of the incident.
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"Khan had alleged that he and his three friends had managed to get away with a buffalo at around 2:30 am when they were spotted by some villagers. Though his friends escaped quickly, however, he was trapped by the angry mob who thrashed him," said police.
However, the victim’s family has denied Khan's involvement in the cattle theft case.

On July 21, a 28-year-old man was allegedly lynched by a group of people on suspicion that he was smuggling cows in Rajasthan's Alwar district, a police official.
The Supreme Court had urged the Parliament to consider enacting a separate law to deal with mob lynchings, saying "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm.

When Illness is a ‘Death Sentence’: The Victimization of Gaza Women

By Ramzy Baroud

Hanan al-Khoudari resorted to Facebook in a cry for help when Israeli authorities rejected her request to accompany her three-year-old son, Louay, to his chemotherapy treatment in East Jerusalem.
The boy is suffering from an ‘aggressive soft tissue sarcoma’. Israeli authorities then justified their decision based on a vague claim that one of Hannan’s relatives is a ‘Hamas operative.”
The rights group, Gisha reported that the state remains unwilling to define precisely what it means to be a ‘Hamas operative.’ Even if an explanation is offered, denying gravely ill Palestinians from receiving life-saving treatment remains an immoral and illegal act.
“The state is sentencing the petitioners to death or a lifetime of suffering,” said Muna Haddad, an advocate with Gisha. By ‘petitioners’, she was referring to seven Gaza women who were denied access to urgent medical treatment by Israel, which required them to leave the besieged Gaza Strip.
The suffering of Gaza women rarely makes headlines. When Palestinian women are not invisible in Western media coverage, they are seen as hapless victims of circumstances beyond their control.
The fact that a woman from Gaza is ‘sentenced to death’ simply because a male relative is shunned by Israel is quite typical behavior from a country that oddly presents itself internationally as an oasis for equality and women rights.
It feeds into the false notion that Palestinian women are trapped in a “conflict” in which they play no part. Such misrepresentations undermine the political and humanitarian urgency of the plight of Palestinian women and the Palestinian people, as a whole.
In truth, Palestinian women are hardly bystanders in the collective victimization. They deserve to be made visible and understood within the larger context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The seven women who petitioned the Israeli court, and the story of Hanan al-Khoudari, are but a small representation of thousands of women who are suffering in Gaza without legal advocates or media coverage.
I spoke to several of these women – whose suffering is only matched by their incredible resilience – who deserve more than mere recognition, but an urgent remedy as well.
Shaima Tayseer Ibrahim, 19, from the town of Rafah in southern Gaza, can hardly speak. Her brain tumor has affected her mobility and her ability to express herself. Yet, she is determined to pursue her degree in Basic Education at Al-Quds Open University in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
The pain that this 19-year-old is enduring is extraordinary even by the standards of poor, isolated Gaza. She is the oldest of five children in a family that fell into poverty following the Israeli siege. Her father is retired and the family has been struggling but, nevertheless, Shaima has been determined to get an education.
She was engaged to be married after her graduation from university. Hope still has a way of making it into the hearts of the Palestinians of Gaza and Shaima was hoping for a brighter future for herself and her family.
But March 12 changed all of that.
On that day, Shaima was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. Just before her first surgery at Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem on April 4, her fiancé broke off the engagement.
The surgery left Shaima with partial paralysis. She speaks and moves with great difficulty. But there was more bad news; further tests in a Gaza hospital showed that the tumor was not fully removed and it must be quickly extracted before it spreads any further.
To make matters worse, on August 12, the Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients in the Israel-besieged enclave.
Shaima is now fighting for her life as she awaits Israeli permission to cross the Beit Hanoun checkpoint (called the Erez Crossing by Israel) to the West Bank, through Israel, for an urgent surgery.
Many Gazans have perished that way, waiting for pieces of paper, a permission, that never materialized. Shaima, however, remains hopeful, while her whole family constantly prays that their eldest daughter prevails in her fight against cancer and resumes her pursuit of a university degree.
On the other side of Gaza, Dwlat Fawzi Younis, 33 from Beit Hanoun is living a similar experience. Dwlat, however also looks after a family of 11, including her nephews and her gravely ill father.
She had to become the main breadwinner of her family when her father, 55, suffered kidney failure and was unable to work.
She would look after the entire family with the money she earned as a hairdresser. Her brothers and sisters are all unemployed. She used to help them, too, whenever she could.
Dwlat is a strong person; she has always been that way. Perhaps it was her experience on November 3, 2006, that strengthened her resolve. An Israeli soldier shot her while she was protesting with a group of women against the Israeli attack and destruction of the historic Umm Al-Nasr mosque in Beit Hanoun. Two women were killed that day. Dwlat was hit by a bullet in her pelvis, but she survived.
After months of treatment, she recovered and resumed her daily struggle. She also never missed a chance to raise her voice in solidarity with her people at protests.
On May 14, 2018, when the United States officially transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, 60 Palestinian protesters were killed and nearly 3,000 were wounded at the Gaza-Israel fence. Dwlat was shot in her right thigh, the bullet penetrating the bone and cutting through the artery.
Her health has deteriorated quickly since then, and she is now unable to work. But Israel still has not approved her application to be transferred to Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem to receive treatment.
Yet, Dwlat insists she will continue to be an active and empowered member of the Gaza community, even if it means joining the protests along the Gaza fence on crutches.
In truth, these women embody the remarkable spirit and courage of every Palestinian woman living under Israeli Occupation and siege in the West Bank and Gaza.
They endure and persist, despite the massive price they pay, and continue the struggle of generations of courageous Palestinian women who came before them.

Israel is Building Another 1,000 Homes on Palestinian land. Where’s the Outrage?

By Robert Fisk
In the week that Uri Avnery, the scourge of colonialism, died in Tel Aviv, the Israeli government announced a further enlargement of its massive colonial project in the occupied West Bank. Plans were now advanced, it said on Wednesday, for a further 1,000 “homes” in Jewish “settlements” – still the word we must use for such acts of land theft – and final approval had been given for another 382. Today, 600,000 Jewish Israelis live in about 140 colonies constructed on land belonging to another people, the Palestinians, either in the West Bank or east Jerusalem.
There is a state of normalcy about all this, the world’s last colonial conflict; a weariness with the figures, a lacklustre response to the huge construction enterprise on Palestinian territory. Charting the spread of red roofs across the hilltops of the West Bank, the swimming pools and the lawns and smart roadways, the supermarkets and orchards – all encircled by acres of barbed wire and now also by the grotesque Wall – has become not so much a “story” for us reporters covering the Middle East, but a tired routine, a tally, a scorecard of land theft, a tale to be updated with each new “settlement” announcement and subsequent protest from Palestinians whose land is taken from them, and from the woeful and corrupt Palestinian Authority. The same is true of the small Israeli activist and leftist groups – B’Tselem, for example and Avnery’s own Gush Shalom – who have bravely fought on, when even Israel stopped listening, to tell the truth of this unique form of aggression.
Never in the field of human rights has so much been owed by so many, to so few. The number of Jewish colonists living on Palestinian land – illegally under international law – rose from 80,000 at the time of the Oslo agreement in 1993, to 150,000 within seven years. Every one of those 70,000 new Jewish colonists was making a forbidden “unilateral step” – to use the Oslo prose for continued land seizures – when he or she crossed the threshold of their new home, but it mattered not.
Article 49 of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s 1949 Geneva Conventions is quite specific: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The UN security council and general assembly, the ICRC and the International Court of Justice agreed Article 49 applied to Israeli-occupied territories. This too, mattered not.
Enlarging the colonies in the West Bank was sometimes publicly stated to be not just a return to the Biblical land of Israel but a punishment for Palestinians. The Israeli government specifically stated in 2012 that an announcement of 3,000 new “settler” homes in the West Bank was a response to the UN decision to grant Palestine non member observer status. This week Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister – whose language has embarrassed his own right wing colleagues – said he would build 400 Jewish housing units as a response to the murder of an Israeli civilian by a Palestinian in the Adam colony.
No one disputes the violence of Palestinian groups – nor that the monstrous wall which encompasses even more Palestinian land has prevented suicide bombers from entering what we call “Israel proper” – the West Bank presumably being “Israel improper”. Indeed the wall and the colonies have become a concomitant part of the occupation. Cambridge scholar Yonatan Mendel has given us an explanation of the phenomenon which is breathtaking in its simplicity and honesty:
“A single settlement only marked the beginning of a ‘securing’ project: it was not enough in itself. Logic required that more settlements be built around it. Then, in order to secure the newly established blocks of settlements, a secure network of roads was needed to run between them. But in order to secure the roads, more settlements needed to be constructed along them. Which is not to forget the wall that is needed to secure Israelis from the Palestinians, as well as securing the army patrols that secure the fences around the settlements, which secure the roads that altogether, in a bizarre way, secure Israeli citizens living in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beer Sheba.”
This evolving masterplan, Mendel wrote, which “ends with layer upon layer of security to secure security, ignores the crucial fact that the settlers and settlements were the central cause of security threats, and a major incitement to Palestinians. In other words, the security imperative is one of the greatest threats to Israel’s security.”
If this almost burlesque analysis prevents journalism from its primary task of explaining the facts in a comprehensible way – since the official Israeli and American version of the colonisation is so different from the reality – the response of the US government to the illegal act of dispossession has only added to our unwillingness to confront the truth.
Take then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s pusillanimous remarks during a Middle East tour in 1997. She urged Israel to “refrain from unilateral acts”, including “what Palestinians perceive as the provocative expansion of settlements, land confiscation, home demolitions and confiscation of IDs”. Colonies, property theft – confiscation – and the taking of identity papers, in the Albright lexicon, had become merely “what Palestinians perceive as provocative”. Did she not see these internationally illegal and morally disgraceful deeds as cruel and wicked, let alone provocative? How could she, when Ariel Sharon himself would describe “settlers” in 2001 as “a quality component of Israeli society”?
And thus we were confronted by the special language of colonisation: “facts on the ground”, a phrase coined by the Israelis, “new realities on the ground”, said George W Bush in his infamous 2004 letter to Sharon, “settlements”, “neighbourhoods”, “suburbs”, ”population centres” – all in a West Bank no longer to be referred to as the “occupied territories” according to a prohibition by former US secretary of state Colin Powell, but rather: “disputed territories”. And if Israelis were not present in “occupied” territories – only in “disputed” territories – surely the Geneva Conventions did not apply. And so it went on.
In these disputed territories, of course, there were “terrorist attacks” when Palestinians assaulted Israelis – but “deadly clashes” when Israelis shot Palestinians. The wall was not a wall but a “barrier” or ”fence”, or ”security barrier” or a “security fence” or ”separation barrier”. A halt to colonisation would become a “freeze”, a “moratorium”, or – my personal favourite – a “time out”.
So why, the innocent reader or viewer might ask of us – we who reported this nonsensical stuff – did Arabs use violence against an innocent “settlement” on land which was “disputed” and marked off by a fence, something normally used to mark the boundary between gardens and fields? Surely, all this – neighbourhoods, fences, disputes – could be solved over a cup of tea or by resorting to lawyers? We had desemanticised this terrible conflict. Even Barack Obama, in his panegyric in Cairo nine years ago, spoke of the “displacement” and “dislocation” of Palestinians, rather than their dispossession and exile; as if they awoke one morning, checked the weather and decided to visit the beach in Gaza or enjoy a weekend in Lebanon, but then couldn’t get home again.
The statistics – dull, boring and indeed familiar – are available to all who wish to know. And the figure today is 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – and in the West Bank, of course, another 1,000 families on their way – all participating in what Avnery believed was a suicidal project which will create an apartheid Israeli state, because if a minority of Jews is to rule over a disenfranchised majority of Arabs – currently upwards of 2.75 million people – that will be the result.
Back to Avnery, I suppose.
Six years ago he told me things looked “pretty discouraging”. More so in the week of his death, I fear. He raged against Netanyahu, Trump, the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Lieberman. He didn’t support the boycott campaign, by the way, but said in 2012: “I do believe there will be a break and a complete change along the way, something like the fall of the Berlin Wall, which no-one expected the day before.” And he used to love repeating Donald Rumsfeld’s most infamous expression: “Stuff happens!”
Right now, I’m not sure I agree.

Unrepentant Israeli killer boasts of repeating crime

Elor Azara claims only reason he did time for killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant was miscarriage of justice, implies lies by the Israeli army top brass.
Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in Hebron in 2016, said he has no remorse and would do it again.
Speaking to Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom on Wednesday, the former army medic said "I have no doubt. Bring me back to those same seconds of the incident in Hebron – I would have done exactly the same thing. Because that is what needed to be done."
Azaria, who finished his nine-month incarceration in May, added that "I have no remorse. I am completely at peace with myself. I acted as needed. I went with my own [inner] truth. I acted in the most proper way possible and what happened afterwards [his trial and conviction] should not have happened."
Azaria had served as a medic with the Kfir Brigade's Shimshon Battalion and was alerted to the Hebron site after a fellow soldier in his brigade was stabbed by two Palestinians. One was shot and killed. Azaria was convicted of shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif on March 24, 2016 while the latter was prostrate on the ground. Sharif had stabbed a soldier and was shot six times and subdued before Azaria killed him. Eleven minutes had passed between the time the soldiers subdued Sharif and the moment Azaria shot him to death.
The military court sentenced Azaria to 18 months in prison, stating that Azaria did not shoot out of a sense of danger, but because he decided that "the terrorist deserved to die." The Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of his conviction and the severity of the sentence. The prosecution's appeal was also rejected.

ARNO press release

ARNO welcomes the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
The Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) welcomes the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. The report acknowledges the continued and “systematic oppression” of the Rohingya people, the complicity of Myanmar Security forces and other actors in the continued violence that precipitated and directly caused the events of August 2017, in addition recognizes genocidal intent exists to warrant an investigation and prosecution of military officials within Myanmar.
The ARNO welcomes the recommendations made by the Mission which emphasizes the need for pursuing justice for genocide and crimes against humanity in addition calling upon state parties to engage Myanmar to change these practices which are a direct violation of international law.
The ARNO participated in the Fact Finding mission with a general communication to the panel emphasizing the need for justice and a submission concerning child rights violations. The ARNO hopes that other countries will follow suit and call the situation in the Rakhine by its true legal character, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The ARNO calls upon the Myanmar government to cease its continued denial of genocide and crimes against humanity and cooperate fully with UN institutions and other state parties to recognize the Rohingya of Burma as a legal ethnic group and afford us full citizenship status in our home country of Burma.
For more details, please contact:
Australia: Dr. Hla Myint + 61-423381904
Canada: Nur Hasim +1-519-5725359
Japan: Zaw Min Htut + 81-8030835327
U.K. Ronnie: +44-7783118354
U.S.A: Dr. Habibullah: +1-4438158609

Monday, August 27, 2018

Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

Myanmar: Tatmadaw leaders must be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes – UN report
GENEVA (27 August 2018) – Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, a report by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar* today urged.
The Mission, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”, principally by Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, but also by other security forces.
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages. The Tatmadaw’s tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar,” the report states.
“They are shocking for the level of denial, normalcy and impunity that is attached to them. The Tatmadaw’s contempt for human life, integrity and freedom, and for international law generally, should be a cause of concern for the entire population.”
The crimes against humanity committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States include murder; imprisonment; enforced disappearance; torture; rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence; persecution and enslavement. In addition, in Rakhine State, the elements of the crimes against humanity of extermination and deportation are also present.
The Mission also concluded “there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.”
“The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” the report states. “Factors pointing at such intent include the broader oppressive context and hate rhetoric; specific utterances of commanders and direct perpetrators; exclusionary policies, including to alter the demographic composition of Rakhine State; the level of organization indicating a plan for destruction; and the extreme scale and brutality of the violence.”
The Mission has drawn up a list of alleged perpetrators as priority subjects for investigation and prosecution, whom it believes had effective control and bear the greatest responsibility. Responsibility starts at the top, with the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. Five other military commanders are also named in the report: the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice Senior-General Soe Win; the Commander, Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw; the Commander, Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe; the Commander, 33rd Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Aung Aung; the Commander, 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo. A longer list of names will be kept in the custody of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and can be shared with any competent and credible body pursuing accountability in line with international norms and standards.
The report notes that civilian authorities had little scope to control the actions of the Tatmadaw. It also finds that “through their acts and omissions, the civilian authorities have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
“The State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine State,” the report states.
“Impunity is deeply entrenched in Myanmar’s political and legal system, effectively placing the Tatmadaw above the law,” the report states, adding that justice has therefore remained elusive for victims in the country for decades. “The impetus for accountability must come from the international community.”
The Mission called for the situation in Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court or for an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to be created. In the interim, it called for an independent, impartial mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of violations. It also recommended targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.
The report states that the massive violence and consequent mass exodus sparked by the events of 25 August 2017 – when the armed group, ARSA led attacks on military and security outposts across northern Rakhine State and the army responded with massive force – was “a catastrophe looming for decades”. The report notes that this was the inevitable result of “severe, systemic and institutionalized oppression from birth to death” and an exclusionary vision, including the persistent denial of citizenship and severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Against this backdrop, the violence in Rakhine State in 2012 created the conditions that led to large-scale violence in 2016 and the human rights crisis that unfolded in 2017.
The Mission documented mass killings, the scorching of Rohingya settlements and large-scale gang rape and other sexual violence by Tatmadaw soldiers. The poignant testimony of one survivor laid bare the monstrous extent of sexual violence: “I was lucky, I was only raped by three men,” she said. Rapes were often in public spaces in front of families, including children. The Mission also met many children with visible injuries matching accounts of being shot, stabbed or burned. Satellite imagery corroborates accounts of widespread, systematic, deliberate and targeted destruction, during which Rohingya populated-areas were burned down with nearby ethnic Rakhine settlements left unscathed.
“The Government and the Tatmadaw have fostered a climate in which hate speech thrives, human rights violations are legitimized, and incitement to discrimination and violence facilitated,” the report states. The Mission found numerous examples of hate speech and incitement to violence, including when in November 2012 a leading Rakhine political party cited Hitler, arguing that “inhuman acts” were sometimes necessary to “maintain a race”.
The security forces’ response to the ARSA attacks in August 2017 started within hours, “was immediate, brutal and grossly disproportionate”, suggesting “a level of preplanning and design” consistent with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s stated vision to finish “the unfinished job” of solving “the long-standing Bengali problem”. The Mission also found that a large build-up of troops and other military assets across northern Rakhine had already begun in early August 2017.
The report also highlights serious human rights violations by security forces against the ethnic Rakhine, including sexual violence, noting that the pattern of violations against them is highly underreported.
In Kachin and Shan States, the Mission verified a number of incidents in the context of armed conflicts, confirming consistent patterns of violations of international law. The report finds that Tatmadaw operations in northern Myanmar are “characterized by systematic attacks directed at civilians” and conducted “in flagrant disregard for life, property and well-being of civilians.”
Such attacks serve as a catalyst for a wide range of other violations, including killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances, forced labour, land grabbing, and the burning of villages. Tatmadaw operations have a devastating impact on the population.
The Mission also confirmed that violations and abuses were committed by non-State armed groups. This includes the “ethnic armed organizations” in Kachin and Shan States, and ARSA in Rakhine State.
While the Mission was never granted access to Myanmar, the team amassed a vast amount of information from primary sources, including through 875 in-depth interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, satellite imagery and authenticated documents, photographs and videos. Specialist advice was sought on sexual and gender-based violence, psychology, military affairs and forensics. Only verified and corroborated information was taken on board. The Mission travelled to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
A fuller report, containing detailed factual information and legal analysis will be published and presented to the Human Rights Council on 18 September. It will include a significant amount of satellite imagery analysis.
  • Marzuki Darusman, a lawyer and human rights campaigner and former Attorney-General of Indonesia, is chair of the fact-finding mission. The other two members of the fact-finding mission are Radhika Coomaraswamy, a lawyer and former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; and Christopher Sidoti, an Australian human rights consultant, specializing in the international human rights system and in national human rights institutions.
Contact information: Nathan Thompson, +41 76 691 0799; Rolando Gomez, +41 79 477 4411,; Helen Ardiff, +41 22 917 9218,

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Short History of Collective Punishment: From the British Empire to Gaza

"Throughout history, during times of armed conflict and occupation, military forces have repeatedly used acts of collective punishment on groups of persons without regard to whether or not they bore personal responsibility for the very acts, it was claimed, that required a response. The use of collective punishments and infliction of cruel punitive measures upon civil populations is not new. For many years, belligerent reprisals have been little more than illegal means of repression or intimidation often imposed under the guise of legitimate law enforcement.
Unable to locate insurgents responsible for so-called hostile acts, invading armies and occupation powers have long used collective punishment in the hopes of suppressing resistance and ensuring willful obedience. Ultimately, the goal of deterrence is little more than a pretext for tyranny," writes Stanley Cohen.
He also writes, "In April of 1919, peaceful protestors defied a government ban and demonstrated against British Colonial rule in India. Trapped inside a walled off garden, they were fired upon by Gurkha soldiers who kept shooting until they ran out of ammunition. After 10 minutes, the firing stopped… leaving upwards of a thousand protestors dead and another 1,100 injured.
Although precise figures are unknown, it is estimated between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation, while under the control of the British Empire… as millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain even while famine raged throughout India.
In 1943, up to four million Bengalis starved to death when Winston Churchill diverted food to British soldiers and countries such as Greece while a deadly famine swept through Bengal. When asked about the famine Churchill said: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

As to the Palestinians, he writes:
The Israeli Punishment…
Collective punishment is the alluring call of the desperate tyrant. It is a shameless group stab that targets communities when a despot’s aim, at the few, falls short of their coveted mark. To them, how much easier it is to break a people’s step by spreading anguish among all… the young, the old, those waiting to take their turn.
Collective punishment comes in many shapes. Some short, explosive and deadly. Others the kind that hang heavy like an amorphous throb that just never seems to go away… an ache always there to remind that there’s something about your race, religion or heritage that panics tyranny. And, then, there is the kind that confronts every breath you take, every step you make… day in and out… generation after generation. The sort that demands you walk or run off into the past and never return to a future that is yours to claim. No tomorrow. No vision. No voice. No hope.
That is the collective punishment begun by European Zionists decades before the United Nations ripped Palestine from Palestine… when they unleashed a spree of death, dispossession and destruction that has continued unabated for more than ninety years. No modern collective punishment has been as long, as public or as perversely proud.
Though the Nakba began on May 14, 1948, it unfolded decades before when Balfour issued an open invitation to terrorists such as the Irgun, Palmach or Lehi (the Stern Gang) to commence a deadly colonial project that came to know no bounds.
In Palestine the use of collective punishment began long ago through a rampage of indiscriminate bombings, kidnappings, arson and random shootings that targeted civil society. After the establishment of Israel, population displacement and exile turned upwards of eighty percent of the indigenous community into stateless refugees. Ethnic cleansing was then well underway.
In the years since the Irgun became the IDF, collective punishment has become very much the norm as the Israeli military has routinely embraced mass murder and reprisal as a strategic weapon of choice in Gaza. Wholesale destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, houses of worship and essential infrastructure has become very much the wretched political norm in Israel.
At the same time, Israel has imposed an embargo on the import of necessary food, medicine, water, and reconstruction materials and placed a stranglehold on a once flourishing maritime industry while reducing movement in and out of Gaza to a trickle. Beginning more than a decade ago, these steps were imposed against the entire civil society of Gaza as punishment for its political will and for the lawful resistance acts of the few.
Although qualitatively different, collective punishment in the occupied West Bank is no less pernicious, every bit as illegal and, beyond question, another conscious step by Israel to strip millions of occupied people of their indigenous identity and rights in violation of international law.
As in Gaza, there is no shortage of evidence of Israel’s decade’s old systematic attack upon the civil society and institutions of the occupied West Bank. As in Gaza, ultimately, all Israeli policies there are driven by the subterfuge of necessity.
Whether it is forced population displacement or the ever present dividing walls and checkpoints or a dozen other illegal military sanctions, Israel punishes some two and a half-million civilians for the drive of their political will or the legitimate military resistance of the relatively few.
Simply put collective punishment at its worst.
Thus, since the occupation began in 1967 mass incarceration has become the norm with more than 800,000 Palestinians from the West Bank imprisoned. Almost all have been denied any modicum of due process and were prosecuted, tried and convicted by military tribunals. Jews living in the Occupied Territory are, of course, prosecuted in civil courts and receive the full panoply of their civil criminal rights.
Most of the 800,000 were charged on the basis of unreliable secret evidence. Using the talisman of “security,” those imprisoned over the years include many tens of thousands prosecuted for little more than their politics beliefs, or their speech, association or movement.
Prisons come in many forms. There are those with cellblocks and bunks and others with walls and checkpoints which keep those at liberty nonetheless prisoner to their plight. Throughout the West Bank these walls and checkpoints not only limit movement and illegally divide families into crafted segregated communities, but deny students equal education and the frail and infirm quality medical care.
Throughout the occupation mass displacement of indigenous communities, including those of Bedouin families and neighborhoods, in East Jerusalem that date back millennium, have been undertaken or razed to accommodate illegal settlements.
To date, more than 800,000 settlers reside in the West bank with much of it now annexed in clear violation of international law. Often Muslims, and increasingly Christian Palestinians, are denied the right to exercise their religious beliefs due to their age, through embargoes on travel or closure of Mosques or churches due to “security” … including the Al Aqsa Mosque and compound. It has become common place for settlers or Israeli soldiers or police to attack Al Aqsa causing damage to the third holiest site in Islam or casualties, including death, to those in prayer.
During other periods, East Jerusalem has been hard hit by Israeli “security” steps… including dozens of military checkpoints and concrete roadblocks at entrances to various neighborhoods and internal community roads causing great disruption to the lives of several hundred thousand Palestinian residents.
Typically, as an adjunct to such neighborhood closures, policing operations are undertaken in which thousands of residents, of all ages, are stopped, searched and questioned for nothing more than living on a given street. More than a few reported abusive encounters with Israeli police and soldiers including sexual harassment either by comments or physical contact.
These measures, which arbitrarily targeted large segments of the East Jerusalem population, bear no nexus to the commission of attacks that had occurred earlier, elsewhere, in East Jerusalem. As a result tens of thousands of Palestinians had their rights to freedom of movement, access to healthcare and to maintain their standard of living unreasonably disrupted.
While many of these restrictions have been lifted, some neighborhoods continue to suffer from on-going and severe access restrictions as well as abusive policing operations.  Overall, these arbitrary security measures have adversely impacted the local and whole Palestinian economies and reduced employment opportunities to a community already suffering from high rates of joblessness.
On occasion, entire villages or towns have been sealed off in the West Bank because of military operations, once again unrelated to local acts of violence, thereby disrupting the lives and livelihoods of their residents.  These measures constitute prohibited collective punishment.
Elsewhere, other Palestinians have not been so “fortunate” as to merely suffer from checkpoint harassment on their way back home. Punitive home demolitions have long been a mainstay of the Israeli military targeting the families and relatives of Palestinians allegedly involved in attacks, even in the absence of any evidence that the families had any prior knowledge of, or participated in, them. Although intermittent, these demolitions have destroyed dozens of homes leaving several hundred Palestinians homeless… including almost one-hundred children.
Punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes also violate a number of core human rights including the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to family life, the right to freedom of movement and physical and mental health.
Although the practice eventually reached the Israeli High Court, it was upheld on the basis that the destruction was necessary on “deterrence and security grounds.” It was not the first time the Court ignored well-settled international prohibitions against collective punishment and if history is, indeed, the guidepost of what is yet to come… it will not be the last.
What greater crime can there be than to steal a child’s smile… to snatch their hope, health and happiness. Yet, today, that heartless theft has become so much the norm throughout the world.  Neither warrior, nor foe, they have become the soft side of hard hearts that embrace collective punishment as the sure path to conquest.
In the last three months alone, 23 Palestinian children have been murdered by Israeli snipers; their crime… the audacity to march for a dream. Just last week, in Yemen, 40 children lost their future to a bomb dropped on a school bus by a Saudi Jet supplied by a US company. Last year 50,000 Yemini children lost their lives to a measured more twisted death, one caused by starvation or disease through an embargo that has long denied its civil population food, medicine and water. In Syria it is estimated children are one out of every four who have lost their lives to bombing campaigns of the United States and Russia. Tens of thousands of others have been killed by guns and ground explosives. Greater than four hundred thousand Rohingya children now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, fleeing genocide in Myanmar. Thousands are orphans… many of them work in the sprawling sex trade having been greeted in their flight by utter poverty and rape.
This is the face of collective punishment in all its horror. Our collective future lost to our failed past.
Battered and bruised, more than a hundred and fifty years ago, some in the community of nations began to ponder the madness that had long consumed non combatants for the folly of a fight that was not theirs to pick.
In the midst of the mayhem that was the US Civil War, the nascent Red Cross began to speak of humanitarian relief. In Europe, others stunned by seeming decades of on-going, widespread conflict began to explore the plight of the wounded.
From this discussion grew the Geneva Convention of 1864.  Other conventions and protocols were soon to follow ultimately extending to the protection of civilians in enemy and occupied territories. Known simply as a ban on collective punishment, it was to be the wishful panacea that would protect most of the world from the ravage of the few. It has failed.
To walk down these roads from afar is a painful journey as so much a witness to events and places that have unfolded with tragic eyes before us, but not nearly as difficult and destructive as it has been for those who have lived it.
We of exceptional position, whether born of race, opportunity or mere providence, are witness today to an unprecedented attack on the most vulnerable among us… millions lost to the callous crosshairs of dispute and despair, some age-old, others of recent vintage.
Long ago, at the opening of the war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, a simple question was posed that remains no less probative or powerful today than it was more than seventy years ago:
“Under the law of all civilized peoples, it has been a crime for one man with his bare knuckles to assault another. How did it come that multiplying this crime by a million, and adding fire arms to bare knuckles, makes it a legally innocent act?”
Prohibition of collective punishment is the long settled law of the international community. Yet it remains very much but a tease… a sanction without a herald.
It is a message lost to the powerful.  But as we approach the midnight of our shared fate there is still time for it to become our collective call.
If not… we are all doomed, deserving victims to our own indifference.
Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.
To read his full article, click here.

US Muslim woman subjected to humiliating screening at airport by TSA officials

A Muslim woman is fighting back the long-standing custom of unforeseen screenings at the airport of all those sharing her faith.
As per reports, Zainab Merchant after continual screenings at the airport since the past two years broke her silence after things got out of hand with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) going in for a wider search, forced her to show her sanitary napkin which was in use.
According to the Harvard graduate, she was taken in for a screening by an officer who, amidst the search, had called for a deeper probe after his focus landed on her groin area.
In spite of her explaining that she was on her menstrual cycle, Zainab was summoned in for an additional private search where she was forced to strip the lower half of her body, to prove the explanation she had been giving all along.
Following the private search, Zainab had inquired the officers about their identities but was given no response by them, as they left covering their badges, Huffington Post reported.
After the incident, the 27-year-old has filed a complaint against one of the many tribulations she had to endure, to the Department of Homeland Security through the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Talking to Huffington Post, Zainab revealed: “Every single time, I was being put through extra screening. It was the same exact thing every time. By the third time it happened, I realized this is not random. There is definitely a pattern to this, and I’m on some kind of list that is making me go through this again and again.”