Modern Christmas Structure Sparks Protest in Brussels

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – This year, an 82-foot abstract tree of lights was installed in Brussels to replace the traditional Christmas pine tree that is normally displayed on the Grand Place. Consequentially, the new structure sparked controversy and protest demanding respect for “values and traditions.”

The new Christmas structure in Brussels sparks criticism and protest. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Critics accuse officials of parting from traditional ways because of fear of offending non-Christians, especially Muslims.

Despite the criticism, the municipality defended the structure and said it wanted to “blend the modern and the traditional to show off the city’s annual winter fair.”

President of Brussels Tourism, Philippe Close, said, “Let’s be clear, there’ll be a Christmas tree and a nativity scene. Christmas traditions will be respected. The theme this year is “winter pleasures” at the huge Christmas market that has a worldwide reputation. We wanted to emphasize culture and modernity, so asked artists to reinvent the Christmas tree, which is actually a pagan symbol.”

However, Bianca Debaets, a city councilor from the Christian Democrat and Flemish party sparked the controversy when she claimed “the Socialist-run municipality was pandering to the sensitivities of non-Christians by scrapping the traditional tree.  “What next? Will Easter eggs be banned from the city because they make us think of Easter,” she asked.

Erik Maxwell, a Brussels citizen, offered his opinion, “We think the tree has been put up for cultural reasons. A tree is for Christmas and Christians but now there are a lot of Muslims here in Brussels. So to avoid discussions they have just replaced a tree with a couple of cubes! I am more traditional, I prefer the usual tree. That’s better for the Belgian people.”

In response to Bianca Debaets comments, Semsettin Ugurlu, chairman of the Belgian Muslim Executive, maintained that his organization did not harbor any issues with any kind of Christmas tree. He stated, “We know we are living in a country with a Christian culture, we take no offense over a traditional Christmas tree.”

The online protest has acquired over 11,000 signatures, and also triggered a Facebook page attacking the new feature.

For further information, please see:

EuroNews – Many are not fans of Brussels’ modern art Christmas tree – 11 December 2012

The Christian Post – Belgian Christians Protest Muslim-Friendly Tree of Lights – 10 December 2012

The New York Times – Christmas Tree Controversy Fires Multicultural Belgium – 1 December 2012

BBC News – Abstract Christmas tree sparks protests in Brussels – 30 November 2012

Morsi Grants Army Temporary Arrest Powers

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt — On Wednesday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a new decree granting the military the power to arrest anyone for a temporary period, in what is seen as a response to protests regarding the recent constitutional decree.

Morsi’s decree grants the army the power to arrest any civilian temporarily. (Photo Courtesy of Al Bawaba)

Last Saturday, Morsi participated in a national dialogue and rescinded the constitutional decree issued last November which received criticism for its granting of executive powers.  Morsi issued a new constitutional decree, which will be the subject of a referendum scheduled to proceed on December 15 despite protests demanding its cancellation.

Morsi’s intention in granting arresting powers to the army was to ensure “the protection of vital installations in the country.”  The army will have the right to arrest civilians until the results of the constitutional referendum are announced.

Opponents fear that the decree is an indication that Egypt may move back into military rule, but Morsi said that the intention of the decree is to assist the police force which is considered to have weakened considerably since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.  The decree itself  requests the military to coordinate with the police for the sake of keeping the peace until the referendum passes, stating that “[T]he armed forces must support the police service in complete cooperation in order to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period…”

Mohamed Lofty from Amnesty International Egypt said that it is necessary to read the law in conjunction with the powers granted to the general prosecutor, which Lofty said, “allows detainees to be held for six months in an effort to “protect the revolution.”  Lofty believes that the crimes considered to harm the revolution “are broadly defined and therefore threaten the freedom of the media, the freedom to assemble, and the freedom of workers to strike.”  “Along with the new law for the military,” said Lofty, “it is a dangerous combination.”

Last Monday, the military increased their presence near the presidential palace,deploying tanks and building a concrete wall to seal off the palace, where a majority of the protesting has occurred.

Opposition groups remain unfazed, and have called for protests against the referendum to continue on Tuesday.  In an interview with the BBC, former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa  said that the opposition’s goal was to not topple Morsi, but to let him know their demands for a better constitution.  “The National Salvation Front announces its total rejection to the referendum and will not legitimize this referendum which will definitely lead to more strife,” said Same Ashour on behalf of the coalition of Opposition Parties.

For further information, please see:

Al Bawaba — Morsi’s Military Might Grants Egypt’s Army Power to Arrest Protesters — 10 December 2012

BBC News — Egypt Crisis: Morsi Gives Army Arrest Powers Before Vote — 10 December 2012

The Daily News Egypt — Army Officers can Temporarily Arrest Civilians — 10 December 2012

Foreign Policy — Morsi Gives the Egyptian Army the Authority to Make Arrests — 10 December 2012

The Statesman — Morsi Gives Army ‘Police Powers’ Ahead of Referendum — 10 December 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest: Sunday, 9 December 2012

Recipe for Disaster!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 9, 2012 

A policy of hoping for the best and preparing for nothing seems to be the modus operandi now for many western governments with regard to the ongoing crisis in Syria. At a time when credible security reports proliferate regarding the potential use of chemical weapons by the regime, this is nothing short of a recipe for disaster, in a region that may not be able to handle a new one.

Today’s Death Toll: 116 (including 4 women and 10 children)

41 in Damascus and suburbs, 32 in Aleppo (including 20 burned near the Air Force Intelligence branch), 22 in Idlib (including 7 members of a single family), 8 in Homs, 8 in Daraa, and 5 in Deir Ezzor

Points of Random Shelling: 257

Clashes97

The most significant clashes took place in Damascus and suburbs. Rebels struck Port Said checkpoint in Qadam and a defense factory in Sayeda Zainab. In Hama, they struck the northern checkpoint at Shayzar Palace. In Aleppo, rebels stormed the 111th Brigade (LCC).

 

News

Syrian rebels get new leadership in bid to unite, increase coordination

Report: Syrian Army seals off Damascus following attacks on the capital

Syria opposition military council by next week: top official

Syria activists: Nine state judges, prosecutors defect to opposition

Romania withdraws ambassador from Syria because of war

Syria’s civil war spills into Lebanon again, 4 killed in gun battles

Ya’alon: No sign Syria may use WMDs against Israel

Israeli Ambassador: Syria Transfer of WMD to Militants Would Be ‘Game Changer’

U.S. and Russia still back Syria settlement: UN envoy

Russia arms Syria with powerful ballistic missiles

Prince Harry Could Be Sent To Syria

Illness forces Clinton to briefly delay trip to meeting on Syria

Arwa Damon reports on the misery of daily life in Aleppo, Syria.

Syria in Ruins – A Reuters Slideshow

 

Special Reports

McManus: A call to arms for Syria’s rebels
It’s not about them; it’s about us — and the influence we’ll have when they win.

In Syria, marriage as defiance
Mohammad Jumbaz and Ayat Al-Qassab got married in Syria despite the violence around them.

Syria: Rebel Prisoners On Their Religious War
Sky’s Tim Marshall gains rare access to a prison where he finds evidence that international jihadists are operating in Syria.

As Syria war widens, a divided Lebanon struggles to remain neutral
… the passions unleashed by what is happening next door are proving harder and harder for Lebanon to contain, adding to concerns that it, too, could become enmeshed in the bloodshed.

Syria’s civil war could approach a turning point
The outskirts of Damascus have become a battleground, with some of the fiercest fighting the city has seen yet. Syrian rebels say they’re closing in on the capital, street by street.

Fighting Drives an Old Sense of Peace From Damascus
… the rumble of distant artillery echoes through the city, and its residents are afraid to leave their neighborhoods. Cocooned behind rows of concrete blocks that close off routes to the center, they huddle in fear of a prolonged battle that could bring destruction and division to a place where secular and religious Syrians from many sects — Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Christian and others — have long lived peacefully.

Sham II: New fighting machine of Syria rebels
The fully-enclosed vehicle made from light steel is about four meters in length and two meters across, mounted with a 7.62 mm machine gun controlled from inside the cabin. The vehicle has five cameras: three at the front, one in the back and another attached to the gun. The crew inside the cabin are fully protected, with the driver maneuvering the vehicle by watching a screen which displays video from the cameras.

As Syria’s rebels close in, Assad has three options
The most likely option, however, and one that appears already to be under way, is for the regime and the core of the army and security forces to retreat to the Alawite-populated mountains on the Mediterranean coast. Diplomatic sources say that there are unconfirmed reports that the regime is planning to register all Sunnis who live in the coastal cities of Tartous, Banias, and Latakia which could potentially form part of an Alawite-dominated enclave. The coastal cities are predominantly Sunni-populated while the mountain hinterland is mainly Alawite.

Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War
Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters. The group is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, which has contributed veteran fighters and weapons.

Report: Syrian gov’t divided on use of WMDs
Assad’s security and intelligence chiefs believe the rebels’ convergence on the capital provides a unique “opportunity to exterminate them,” the source said. The Iraqi Sadrist leader said the Syrian regime’s political military and security factions have become more desperate as rebel forces converge on Damascus, and therefore the regime won’t hesitate to use “any weapon” against the opposition, Al-Seyassah reported.

Watching Syria’s descent
Better to hold out in an enclave, the minority ruling sect will conclude, than risk annihilation at the hands of vengeful Sunnis. Better to be a spoiler in an anarchic Syria, figures Shiite Iran, than to see a strategic ally flip over to the opposing Sunni bloc. If Syria’s war takes this most likely of courses, how will the United States and its allies protect their interests? Officials seem to have no plan, other than to hope that the scenarios they are thinking about won’t happen.

How the U.S. Can Save Syria
Newsweek experts weigh in on what the U.S. must do to stop the bloodshed.

Regime/opposition: throwing the dice for Syria’s future
… the de-throning of Assad doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the battle, but it will mark the start of a long weary road to weed out corruption. In a future Syria, the presence of mutual interests between those who fancy themselves as opposition leaders and regime remnants will threaten our dream of truly attaining democracy and equality.

 

Syria Deeply

EXCLUSIVE: US Trains Rebel Brigades to Secure Chemical Weapons

What’s Happening in Damascus

The Bride Price of Syria’s Refugees

Interview: Yassin Al Haj Saleh

This clip circulating making the round on the internet is troubling indeed, for it seems to come as part of ongoing preparations by the regime for covering up a potential recourse to chemical weapons.

The clip shows an alleged Jihadi scientist mixing up chemicals to create toxic fumes that kill two laboratory rabbits. The Jihadist, then, threatened to do the same to the Nusairis, the Jihadi derogatory name for Alawiteshttp://youtu.be/WNYSD6wNz3k

While western governments and foreign reporters may not buy the lie, the main audience here is, as always, the regime’s supporters who needs these crimes to be committed without having to feel guilty, and what better way for them than to believe that the crimes have actually been perpetrated by the enemies themselves as part of the ongoing conspiracy? This is what’s been happening all along in fact. Most massacres have been blamed by regime supporters on Jihadi infiltrators, and occasionally, some members of the western media has been taken in by that, as we have seen in the case of the Houla Massacre.

This video might also be aimed at Russians who could use it. FM Lavrov’s recent statements on this matter might signal a willingness to blame the militants:

“According to our information, and this information we pass to our US colleagues, and European colleagues, [the Syrian] government does not have such intentions and cannot have, because this is all very serious… True danger from Syrian chemical weapons is if militants acquire them.”

And so the Great Game continues.

 

Video Highlights

Sfeira, Aleppo: is this evidence of use of chemical weapons, or are these “simple” burnshttp://youtu.be/SN5Zo7ggHNc

A barrel bomb causes a fire that locals have difficulty extinguishing, as water and soil keep boilinghttp://youtu.be/K3emnVCMZwc

9 judges from Idlib Province announce their defection http://youtu.be/qB7yyXa7IOA

Dr. Eyad Qunaibi, an Islamist Jordanian preacher, addresses his followers to try to explain the implications of having Jabhat Al-Nusra declared as a terrorist group. This move, he says, means that working for the establishment of an Islamic state is a terrorist project in itself for the U.S. and the international community http://youtu.be/bk4CvVrsiZ0Secular elements are all considered agents of the West, and he denounces the establishment of the National Coalition http://youtu.be/iFLSZ0Cs2j4  Even though, Dr. Qunaibi is Jordanian, his views represent those of the domestic, regional and international backers of Al-Nusra. Attempts to isolate Al-Nusra will be portrayed as part of the ongoing war on Islam. At this stage in the conflict, this message will resonate among certain segments of the population on the home front, as well as among expatriate and refugee communities.

Islamist Rebels affiliated with Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, succeed in controlling the Air-Defense Base 608 in Aleppo, coming into possession of few surface-to-air missiles known as Volga or SAM 2http://youtu.be/uHdSHl4r3XE

An explosive barrel dropped over the town of Daraya, Damascus, fails to explode. It looks different from previous examples http://youtu.be/v1e_YY06zsY

The battles in and around Harasta and the Eastern Ghoutah Region, Damascus, continuehttp://youtu.be/gthJ64tmiuM  , http://youtu.be/SQVdCleECq8

Rebels in Utaya, Damascus, take control of a mobile missile launcher http://youtu.be/ONK3ZvJMzGY

MiGs pound the neighborhood of Deir Baalbah in Homs http://youtu.be/0rRSI3ETvQE , http://youtu.be/BRhMaxvxjQ8Indeed, the battles in and around Homs are resuming their earlier intensity, perhaps as part of the preparation for a fallback position should Damascus fall into rebel hands. Jobar http://youtu.be/zBin6bsYSpo

Ethiopian Women Allegedly Coerced to Take Oral Contraception

By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—Ethiopian women who have immigrated to Israel are allegedly being subjected to coerced long-term birth control. The contraceptive, Depo Provera, is given by injection and must be given every three months. Many doctors consider this method to be a last resort since the drug is known to have many uncomfortable side effects including severe headaches and abdominal pains.

Ethiopian women arrive in Israel along with their children. (Photo Courtesy of The Times of Israel)

These women, known as Falash Mura, who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia just eight years ago told an Israeli Educational Television reporter that they were forced to receive these injections as a condition to allowing their immigration. The women also claimed that representatives from the Israeli Joint Distribution Committee as well as the Health Ministry coerced them by telling that raising large families in Israel is quite difficult. They also, allegedly said that if these women have too many children, it would be hard for them (the women) to find work to support them and that many landlords would refuse to rent apartments or homes to such large families.

The Falash Mura women further claimed that they were told that they must take certain vaccinations if they desired to continue to receive medical care from the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and continue with their plans to immigrate. One of these women told the television show Vacuum that she had been receiving the injections for over four years without being warned by doctors that the medicine may be dangerous for those taking it.

In the past ten years 50,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel. In this time frame, the birthrate of this group has dropped by 50 percent.

In investigating these claims, a hidden camera was installed in an Israeli health clinic. The video revealed an Ethiopian woman being advised by a nurse that the injection is given only to Ethiopian women. The nurse was recorded saying, “It’s given primarily to Ethiopian women, because they forget, they don’t understand, and it’s hard to explain to them so it’s best that they receive a shot once every three months…basically they don’t understand anything.”

The government and Israeli authorities denied all of these allegations. David Yaso, the director of the Immigration Ministry’s Ethiopian Department noted that no women were ever told that they were forbidden to have large families in Israel. He also said that none of them were coerced into taking contraceptive shots against their will.

Professor Daniel Seidman, the chairman of the Israel Society for Contraception and Sexual Health, offered two explanations for the drop in the Ethiopian birth rate. He said that either the women are not better educated and are looking to have careers and not quite as many children, or they now recognize that with limited finances, they cannot afford to have very large families.

A member of the ADC also noted that “the medical team does not intervene directly or indirectly with economic aid and the Joint is not involved” in these types of procedures.

 

For further information, please see:

FailedMessiah.com – Forced Sterilizations? Ethiopian Women Claim the JDC and the Israel Health Ministry Forced Them to Take Sterilization Shots – 9 December 2012

Haaretz – Why is the Birth Rate in Israel’s Ethiopian Community Declining? – 9 December 2012

The Times of Israel – Ethiopian Women Claim Israel Forced Them to Use Birth Control Before Letting Them Immigrate – 9 December 2012

Topix.com – Israel Subjecting Ethiopian Women to Long Term Birth Control – 7 January 2010

Extensive Police Corruption Uncovered In Rio

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil -Following London and South Africa, Brazil is set to take the world wide spot light as they are slated to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But while London and Johannesburg questioned their infrastructure, Rio de Janeiro is worried about their police. Authorities wrapping up a year long investigation have ordered the arrest of over 60 officers stationed in the Brazilian paradise for accepting bribes related to drug trafficking.

Brazilian mounted police patrol in wake of Operation Purification. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

The allure of bribery is easy to see. Underpaid, officers can supplement their meager paychecks by looking the other way. According to the investigation, an officer could receive approximately $1,200 while patrolling certain areas.

Police Force Commander Erir Ribeiro commanded “We can no longer accept the humiliation of deviant conduct practiced by a few.” Their effort in Operation Purification was intended to ensure the security and restore lost legitimacy to Rio De Janeiro infamous corrupt police force. In a quick sweep, a   total of Operation Purification arrested a total of 63 police officers and 11 drug traffickers were brought into custody and currently await trial. Another 2 Police officers and 7 alleged drug traffickers currently have warrants out for them. All arrested officers were members of the same police battalion in Duque de Caxias, located within Rio de Janeiro’s police jurisdiction.

Charges against these officers range from accepting monthly bribes from the Red Command, one of Rio’s most influential and dangerous drug organizations, to racketeering, weapon smuggling, kidnapping  and extortion from kidnapping drug dealers and ransoming them back.

Operation Purification is just the latest in Brazil’s attempt to clean up the country before the international community shines its spot light on the Latin American paradise. In early October, police raided the slums of Rio de Janeiro in an attempt to seize weapons and arrest those involved. However they announced their raid to the community days in advance. While police claim that this reduces violence, the effectiveness of the strategy leaves quite a bit to be desired, with critics noting that this official police practice simply gives criminals a chance to escape.

Earlier this week the heads of the Sao Paulo police force were fired after the bloodiest week in the cities recent history. As drug violence continues to run rampant throughout the country many are convinced that only drastic change will make them ready for the international limelight.

Public Security Secretary expects at the very least those arrested during Operation Purification will be expelled from the force.

For further information, please see:

Atlanta Black Star – Dozens Of Brazilian Police Arrested For Corruption And Drug Trafficking – 5 December 2012

CNN – Brazil: Dozens Of Police Officers Arrested, Accused Of Taking Bribes – 5 December 2012

Belfast Telegraph – Brazil Police Held In Graft Probe – 4 December 2012

New York Times – What’s Killing Brazil’s Police? – 1 December 2012

Associated Press – Heads Of Police Force Replaced In Brazil’s Largest City – 27 November 2012

15 African Countries Ratify Treaty for Internally Displaced Persons

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

KAMPALA, Uganda – On Thursday, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa took effect in 15 African countries. The first of its kind, this treaty is a legally binding instrument that compels states to protect and assist IDPs within the African region.

A camp for internally displaced persons in Kabo, Central African Republic. (Photo courtesy of Think Africa Press/Pierre Holtz)

While refugees are given special status under international law since 1951, IDP’s haven’t been provided any such protection and assistance in spite of the fact that there are at least twice as many IDP’s in the world as refugees. Thus, sometime in 2009, the African Union conceived this treaty, otherwise known as the Kampala Convention, with the aim to provide standards for the protection of people from arbitrary displacement as well as the protection of IDPs while they are displaced. The Kampala Convention also aims to offer durable solutions for displacement.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, nearly 10 million people are internally displaced across Africa. These individuals make up one third of the world’s internally displaced population. Most of them were forced to leave their villages to escape increasing famine and continuing violence resulting from ethnic wars and other brutal conflicts in countries like Congo, Burundi, and Uganda.

In the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, when the rebel group M23 took over Goma last month,
some 300,000 local residents were displaced. According to Sebastian Albuja, IDMC’s Head of Africa Development, when M23 raided an internally displaced persons camp, the Kanyarucinya camp, around 50,000 people were forced to flee within a few hours.

With the ratification of the Kampala Convention, members of the AU hope to put an end to what Albuja describes as a “cycle of violence and displacement”. Bruce Mokaya Orina of the International Committee of the Red Cross said the treaty actually “represents a significant step forward in the protection and assistance of internally displaced people” across Africa since it will be “potentially binding on all African countries – a quarter of world’s states.”

The Kampala Convention builds on international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, promoting and strengthening regional and national measures to prevent, mitigate, prohibit, and eliminate the root causes of internal displacement. It sets out the rules and standards that determine the responsibilities of the African Union, multinational companies and private security actors in handling IDP cases.

37 of 53 countries in the AU have signed the convention, but have not yet ratified it. Among them are South Africa and the DRC.

 

For further information, please see:

Associated Press – African treaty to aid the displaced takes effect – 7 December 2012

Daily Maverick – Internally displaced people: An African solution to a huge African problem – 6 December 2012

Fox News – African treaty to aid the internally displaced comes into force 2 years after it was adopted – 6 December 2012

Think Africa Press – The Kampala Convention Enters Into Force Tomorrow – 5 December 2012

Russia Attempts to Ban Book on Chechen War Crimes

By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia – A book on Chechen war crimes, co-authored and edited by Russian-Chechen human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievsky, may be banned by the Russian government as “extremist.”

Stanislav Dmitrievsky’s monograph on human rights crimes in Chechnya may be banned by Russian authorities. (Photo Courtesy of RFE/RL)

On November 28, 2012, Dmitrievsky received an official summons to appear before the Dzerzhinsk City Court in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia on December 6 for a ban hearing.  The summons did not include the prosecutor’s claim; therefore, what portions of the book have been labeled as “extreme” are unknown.

However, the summons did indicate that the petition to ban the book was based on a federal law “on countering extremist activities.”  Human Rights Watch (HRW) has characterized the case as “part of the growing misuse of anti-extremism legislation against civil society activists” and suggests that this application of the law is in violation of Russia’s legal obligations to respect and protect freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Dmitrievsky’s book is a 1,200-page monograph entitled International Tribunal for Chechnya. Prospects of Bringing to Justice Individuals Suspected of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity During the Armed Conflict in the Chechen Republic.  700 print copies were originally published in July 2009 and it was made the independent news website Novaya Gazeta.

HRW describes the book as “a detailed analysis of the violations by all parties during the conflict in Chechnya from the standpoint of international criminal law.”  The main argument is described as “emphasiz[ing] the chain of command and responsibility of top Russian leadership.”

Attempts to ban the book in 2009 failed for lack of sufficient grounds to open a criminal inquiry.  However, if the court decides to ban the book this time, copies will be removed from stores and liberties, and digital versions will be deleted from websites.

The human rights activist has had difficulty with Russian authorities in the past.  He has been convicted of fomenting national hatred for publishing articles by Chechen separatist leaders in 2006 and sentenced to nine days of administrative arrest for disobeying police orders during a protest rally in March 2012.  He has also been targeted due to his work.  A brick was thrown through in his apartment window in 2008, and earlier this year, the Group of Free People in Nizhny Novgorod, with which he works, was the subject of an arson attack.

In early November, the apartments of his family and eldest daughter were attacked.  While Dmitrievsky was away in Sweden, two men attacked his apartment at 4:30 in the morning, waking his wife and teenage daughter. The men, armed with hammers, wore hooded jackets, face masks, and gloves; broke the apartment windows; poured cement into the door lock so his family could not leave; and ripped out security cameras.  The lock on the apartment door of Dmitrievsky’s eldest daughter was similarly manipulated the same night.

Police arrived at Dmitrievsky’s apartment 40 minutes later and refused to call an investigator.  Investigators were finally called two hours later.  The investigations results so far have been inconclusive.

The HRW director of the Europe and Central Asia division, Hugh Williamson, has said: “Dmitrievsky’s book is based on meticulous desk research and is an important source of information on the Chechen conflict. The authorities’ efforts to ban the book as “extremist” have no basis in international human rights law and seem aimed at punishing Dmitrievsky for his human rights work.”

Williamson concludes that the attempt to ban Dmitrievsky’s book is symptomatic of the Russian government’s recent moves to suppress human rights and civil society type organizations.  “There has been an unprecedented crackdown on civil society in the past six months, and this seems to have sent the authorities a signal that it’s all right to go after Dmitrievsky with a new zeal. In the past, he clearly demonstrated that he wouldn’t be intimidated into silence by arrests and attacks, so now they’re trying to silence him by banning his monograph, which Dmitrievsky considers his life’s work.”

For further information, please see:

RFE/RL – Tenacious Russian Activist Girds For Yet Another Battle – 4 December 2012

Human Rights Watch – Russia: Stop Efforts to Ban Human Rights Book – 3 December 2012

Human Rights Watch — Russia: Investigate Attack on Rights Group – 7 November 2012

HRO in English – Attack on the Apartment of Stanislav Dmitrievsky – 6 November 2012

Charles Taylor Appeals Hearing Postponed

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – The Special Court for Sierra Leone postponed the appeals hearing in the case of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The hearing was supposed to take place this week, but judges of the Special Court announced that it has now been moved to next year, January 22.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of serious crimes including rape, murder, and destruction of civilian property on April 26, 2012.(Photo courtesy of Times Live/Gallo Images)

A possible reason for the postponement of Taylor’s appeals hearing is inadequate funding. According to recent press releases from the UN, the Special Court for Sierra Leone only has enough money alloted until the end of October 2012 since it never had a fixed annual budget from the government. By November this year, it will have to depend on pledges and contributions from countries like the United States, Switzerland, and Ireland to continue its work for a month.

If the Special Court will not be able to resolve its financial crisis, human rights groups and international organizations fear that Taylor’s appeal might be compromised. In a recent phone interview, the Special Court’s registrar, Binta Mansaray, said, “it [the appeals] will be affected, definitely, if the money doesn’t come through.”

Mariana Goetz, deputy director of programs at the London-based human rights and torture survivors advocacy organization REDRESS, expressed the same concern on the issue saying that the lack of funds could affect the prosecutor’s and defense counsel’s ability to prepare their teams despite the fact that the appeals briefs for both sides have already been filed and replies are due by the end of October. The lawyers have yet to present the grounds for their appeals in court. The appeals judgment will then follow next fall.

Much is at stake in an unprecedented case like Taylor’s. “It is the first time a head of state is convicted for 11 counts of international crimes, including rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence,” Goetz said in an interview. “This case, as well as others . . .  are slowly ensuring that violence against women in the conflict contexts are not laughed off in patriarchal societies as private acts.”

Without the necessary funds, the victims of Charles Taylor will have to wait for justice from the Special Court when the appeals case is finally over. “If we don’t get that funding we can’t fulfill the promises that we make to the people of Sierra Leone,” the Special Court’s president, Justice Shireen Avis Fisher, told the media.

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon appealed to the Security Council for $14 million to fund Charles Taylor’s appeal. According to him, the unavailability of funds greatly affect the development of good governance in the region. “As I have said before, the legacy of the Special Court and the progress that has been made towards ensuring accountability and restoring peace and security in Sierra Leone and the region would be at risk,” the UN Secretary said.

 

For further information, please see:

All Africa – Sierra Leone: Taylor Appeals Hearing Postponed – 7 December 2012

Swit Salone – Sierra Leone Special Court is Broke – 6 December 2012

All Africa – Liberia: Appeals Hearing in Taylor Case Postponed – 5 December 2012

Times Live – Former Liberian president Taylor should be a “free man” – judge – 25 November 2012

WeNews – World Court Struggles to Finish Mass Rape Cases – 21 November 2012

All Africa – Liberia: 45 Legal Errors Identify in Taylor’s Verdict – 9 November 2012

Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami Jailed for Life in Qatar

By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

DOHA, Qatar –  A week ago, the poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was handed a life sentence after a five-minute hearing in which no law was allegedly broken, Ajami was not present, and his lawyer was kept from entering any defense. Najib al-Nuaimi, Ajami’s attorney claims that the judge made the whole trial secret.

The poet Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami has received a life sentence for offending the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

Ajami was arrested in November 2011 and ultimately convicted for “insulting” Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and “inciting to overthrow the ruling system.” These claims came after a video was posted on the internet of Ajami reciting his poem, Tunisian Jasmine.

The poem extols Tunisia’s uprising which kicked off the Arab Spring. One line of the poem stated that, “we are all Tunisia in the face of repressive coteries.”The poem further criticizes governments who restrict its people’s freedoms.

Qatar’s authorities interpreted the poem as criticizing the emir for not doing his job properly and encouraging attempts at a coup. Ajami contested this claim to the police whom arrested him, stating that if they had continued to read the poem they would see that he was thanking the emir.

Nevertheless, the police had Ajami arrested, and he’s been detained in solitary confinement since November 17, 2011.

Qatar holds itself out as a defender of human rights. It is a member of the Arab Charter on Human Rights and in Article 47 of Qatar’s constitution it guarantees freedom of expression. Furthermore, Qatar made efforts to establish a center for media freedom.

Despite the facade that Qatar is a safe haven for freedom of expression, Article 134 of Qatar’s penal code carries a five-year sentence for “anyone who challenged by any public means the exercise by the Emir of his rights or authorities or criticizes him.”Based on the sentence Ajami was given, it seems much more likely that he was convicted under Article 130 for trying “to overthrow the regime of the country.”

Deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork, has said that “Qatar, after all its posturing as a supporter of freedom, turns out to be determined to keep its citizens quiet.”

He adds, “Ibn al-Dheeb’s alleged mockery of Qatar’s rulers can hardly compare to the mockery this judgment makes of the country’s posture as a regional center for media freedom.”

Al-Nuaimi has already filed an appeal, and Ajami’s case will be heard on December 30th. In the meantime, there will be pressure on the emir to pardon Ajami.

For further information, please see:

Democracy Now – Qatari Human Rights Official Defends Life Sentence for Poet who Praised Arab Spring Uprisings – 7 December 2012

Crescent – Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami and Sattar Beheshti: Agenda Driven Reporting – 4 December 2012

Human Rights Watch – Qatar: Poet’s Conviction Violates Free Expression – 4 December 2012

Guardian – Qatari Poet Jailed for Life After Writing Verse Inspired by Arab Spring – 29 November 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States — The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider, during its current term, two challenges to federal and state laws that only permit marriage between a man and a woman.

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review two cases regarding same-sex marriage. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The high court announced on Friday that it would hear a case challenging a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as well as a case challenging California’s Proposition 8, or Prop 8, a gay marriage ban that voters approved in 2008.

These cases mark the first time the Supreme Court will consider the issue of same-sex marriage.  The hearings are expected to take place in March, with the justices delivering their opinions by the end of June.

The issue has become a politically charged debate in recent years.  Just last month, three states joined a small number of states where gay marriage is legal.  Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington passed laws legalizing gay marriage, bringing the total to nine states plus the District of Columbia.  Of the other 41 states, 31 have passed constitutional amendments banning it.

And even where it is legal, married same-sex couples do not qualify for many federal benefits because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

Edith Windsor was “delirious with joy” upon hearing the Supreme Court would hear her DOMA case, reports The Guardian.   Windsor, 83, was forced to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes after her the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer, in 2009 because federal law did not recognize their marriage.

“I think DOMA is wrong for all of the various ways in which it discriminates against same-sex married couples and against gays altogether,” Windsor said.  “It’s enormously satisfying and fulfilling and exciting to be where we are now.”

Four lower federal courts and two federal appellate courts have ruled against DOMA.  Last October, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court ruling in Windsor’s case that a portion of DOMA was unconstitutional.  The provision in question, Section 3, denies gays and lesbians married under state laws benefits such as Social Security survivor payments and the right to file joint federal tax returns.

The Prop 8 case involves a review of California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban.  It passed in November 2008, months after a state supreme court ruled that same-sex marriages were legal.

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Prop 8 was unconstitutional.  The reasoning was that California could not take away the right to same-sex marriage after previously allowing it.  But the judges’ ruling was narrow; it only affected California and not any other states.

Supreme Court observers said it is unlikely that the justices will recognize a federal right to marriage equality.  Instead, many expect the high court’s ruling will be in the same narrow fashion—applying it only to California, regardless of the outcome.

For further information, please see:

The Guardian — US Supreme Court Agrees to Take up Two Gay Marriage Cases — 7 December 2012

Reuters — Supreme Court Takes up Same-Sex Marriage for First Time — 7 December 2012

SCOTUSblog.com — On Same-Sex Marriage, Options Open — 7 December 2012

The Washington Times — High Court Sets up Showdown over Gay Marriage — 7 December 2012

Russia Plans Retaliation After US Passes Magnitsky Bill

By Alexandra Sandacz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe 

MOSCOW, Russia – On Thursday, the United States Congress passed a bill to stabilize trade with Russia. However, the bill will also simultaneously penalize Russian officials who are linked to human rights violations.

Sergei Magnitsky’s tombstone in a cemetery in Moscow. (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

In August, Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), and as a result, opened its market and reduced tariffs under the terms of its membership.

The new United States trade legislation, which passed by large majorities in the House and Senate, replaces a 1974 provision, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, that connected trade relations with the former Soviet Union to the emigration of Jews and other Soviet minorities. Before the new trade provision was passed, the US was the only WTO member that could not take advantage of Russia’s newly modified market.

Under the Magnitsky bill, named after Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison three years ago after allegedly being tortured, the United States will release a list of Russian officials suspected to be involved with human rights violations and withhold their visas and freeze their financial assets.

The bill currently awaits President Barack Obama’s signature. President Obama, expressing his desire to sign the law, stated, “The legislation will ensure that American businesses and workers are able to take full advantage of the WTO rules and market access commitments that the United States worked so hard to negotiate.

He continued, “My administration will continue to work with Congress and our partners to support those seeking a free and democratic future for Russia and promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world.”

Furthermore, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a supporter of the Magnitsky bill, said, “Today, we close a chapter in U.S. history. It served its purpose. Today, we open a new chapter in U.S. leadership for human rights.”

However, despite the optimism in the United States, Moscow does not favor the human rights portion of the trade bill. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the bill “a performance in the theatre of the absurd”.

The Ministry also said, “It’s strange and wild to hear such claims about human rights addressed to us by politicians of the very state where in the 21st Century torture and the kidnapping of people all over the world were officially legalized.”

Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, warned that the Magnitsky provision will provoke a “symmetrical and asymmetrical reaction” from Russia. He continued, “It’s inadmissible when one country tries to dictate its will to another.”

As a response, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced Moscow’s plan to retaliate by barring “entry to Americans who are in fact guilty of human rights violations.”

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Russia to retaliate over US Magnitsky rights act – 7 December 2012

Reuters – US trade-human rights link tests Obama-Russia ties – 7 December 2012

BBC News – US Congress passes ‘Magnitsky’ rule on Russia trade law – 6 December 2012

The Washington Post – Russia fumes as U.S. Senate passes Magnitsky law aimed at human rights – 6 December 2012

Report Alleges Abuse by Indian Officials in Kashmir

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – On Thursday, a 354 page report  published by human rights groups, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and Srinagar-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), alleged that more than 500 members of India’s armed forces are in violation of human rights in India-administered Kashmir.

Soldiers in Kashmir Valley. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Specifically, the report entitled “Alleged Perpetrators – Stories of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir” names nine colonels, three brigadiers of Indian Army, three lieutenant colonels, seventy eight majors, twenty five captains, and thirty seven senior officials of the federal Paramilitary forces as agents of countless human rights violations: rape, torture, custody deaths, and abduction.

“While we believe in fixing the responsibility on the individuals, we have highlighted the culpability of the Indian state in shielding the perpetrators,” stated APDP’s chief Parvez Imroz.

According to BBC News, human rights lawyer Kartik Murukutla and an author of the report relayed that India’s urgency in Kashmir was to “control the territory, not pursue justice.”

“For the victims, the wait for proper justice seems perpetual. In its approach to justice, the Indian state has not moved beyond cash relief or the promise of re-investigation.  The state has willfully lowered the standard of justice as well as the crimes perpetrated,” shared Mr. Murukutla.

IPTK and APDP had gathered information through India’s new freedom of information laws from the police and interviews with families and others.

“This report prepared over two years using information gleaned mostly from official State documents, portrays the state of impunity prevalent in J&K where identities of the individual perpetrators of crime are known,” read an executive summary released four days in advance of World Human Rights Day.

According to BBC News, an army spokesman relayed that he was unaware of such a report.  “If they have sent it to the defense ministry we have not received it so far.  We can respond after proper perusal of the document,” said Lt-Col HS Brar.

Since 1989, thousands have died in a separatist insurgency in Kashmir, a disputed region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

For more information, please see:

The Hindu – Top Army, police officials involved in human rights abuse in Kashmir – 7 December 2012

BBC – India Officials accused of Kashmir rights abuses – 6 December 2012

Kafila – Full report: Alleged Perpetrators – Stories of Impunity in Jammu & Kashmir – 6 December – 2012

 

 

 

Policemen Arrested For Disappering Youths During Chile’s Dictatorship

By Brendan Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile –  The fight against the human rights abuses committed under General Augusto Pinochet’s reign as President of Chile continues as a Chilean judge ordered the arrest and imprisonment of seven police officers for their alleged involvement in the disappearance and murder of 3 men and a child in 1973.

Judge Solis, continuing the fight against the active participants who aided General Pinochet’s reign as Chile’s President. (Photo Courtesy of La Nacion)

This is just the latest in Minister Alejandro Solis’ fight against impunity. In his final days as a judge, [he will be 75 before the end of the year] Solis has decided to prosecute seven police officers for their disappearance of Perez Godoy, 15, Jose Ramirez Diaz, 20, Catalan Pena, 20, and Vergara Gonzalez, 22.

According to judge Solis it is a crime against humanity to be affiliated with a “criminal organization which had, as its sole objective, to crack down on opponents of the military dictatorship, considered political enemies of president Augusto Pinochet.” While the victims in the particular set of offenses can hardly be considered political, their arrests and disappearance were made with such indifference and malice as to be considered a violation of human rights.

While details are sketchy it has been established that two of the victims, Vergara Gonzalez and Catalan Pena were eventually killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the month after the fall of President Salvador Allende and establishment of the military dictatorship of Pinochet, Gonzalez and Pena were travelling by van with Miriam Conteras Bell, the personal secretary of Allende. Their van was stopped by two of the now-detained officers – dressed as civilians – before being brought to a local Police station. In the days following the arrest the police denied they had been arrested, then changed their story claiming they had been released. After that all traces were lost, until their remains were identified 30 years later.

These arrests are just the latest in Chile’s fight against the remnants of Pinochet’s reign. The alleged officers who all worked at a Santiago neighborhood police station in Ñuñoa, were brought out of retirement to face charges; they were immediately detained by the PDI and brought to a detention center. This level of security was initiated as Judge Solis declared them a “danger to the security of society.”

The victims were discovered in 1991 in a mass grave in the General Cemetery of Santiago. Buried along with them were hundreds of other unidentified bodies, their bodies only having been identified in 2003 via DNA testing.

For further information, please see:

Cooperativa – Seven Former Policemen Were Remanded In Custody By Cases DD.DD. – 7 December, 2012

La Nacion – 7 Ex Police Processed By Kidnappings And Executions Of People – 7 December, 2012

La Republica – Chile: Detention Of 7 Excarabineros Ordered Death Of Four Youths in 1973 – 7 December, 2012

Terra Noticias – Court Orders Arrest Of 7 Excarabinerous Chilean Death Of 4 Young People In 1973 – 7 December, 2012

I Love Chile – Former DINA Agents Prosecuted For Crimes Against Humanity – 6 December, 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Assad the Terrorist!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 5, 2012 

The rise of Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria is a worrying phenomenon indeed, but their terrorist activities, the real and the mostly imagined, pale in comparison to those currently championed by Assad and his supporters who now seem poised to perpetrate a massacre of alarming proportions using chemical weapons. It’s Assad’s brand of terrorism that gave rise to Jabhat Al-Nusra, and it’s his terrorist activities that plague our lives today. So far, the world has done little to stop Assad. Had the world lived up to its moral obligations towards Syrians last year, we would not be steering into the abyss today. As we plan for the day after with its myriad challenges and strife, let’s not neglect the immense challenges still confronting us today. Assad must be stopped.

Today’s Death Toll: 107 (including 8 women and 6 children)

45 in Damascus and suburbs, 20 in Aleppo, 22 in Idlib, 8 in Daraa, 4 in Raqqa, 3 in Lattakia, 3 in Deir Ezzor, and 2 in Homs

Points of Random Shelling: 188

Clashes:93

Rebels were able to take control of the Aqraba Military Airport   in Damascus and repelled several attempts at storming towns in Eastern Ghoutah (LCC)

 

News

Syria loads chemical weapons into bombs; military awaits Assad’s order The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

Activists Tell Damascus Residents To Prepare For The ‘Zero Hour’

Blackouts, diesel shortages get worse in Damascus

Syrian fighting decimates tourism industry

Report: Armed men kill Moroccan honorary consul in Syrian city of Aleppo

Syria pound fall suggests currency crisis

92 Senators vote to require Pentagon to report on Syria military options The resolution does not explicitly call for the Assad to step down in Syria, a matter of contention when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution on Syria earlier this year. It also explicitly does not authorize the use of military force in Syria. The legislation does say that any U.S. military activity with regard to Syria should be done in conjunction with allies, should not involve U.S. boots on the ground, and should minimize the risk to U.S. forces as well as financial costs to U.S. taxpayers.

Syria’s rebels in new effort to unite ranks Final deals over the new structure were still being hammered out late on Wednesday at a secret meeting in Turkey which brought together a diverse array of rebel units long plagued by deep divisions and bitter rivalries that defy coordination.

Syria conflict threatens U.N. troops on Golan ceasefire line The U.N. force deployed after the 1973 Middle East war, in which Syria failed to recapture the Golan Heights taken by Israel seven years before and later annexed by the Jewish state in a move never recognized internationally.

Russia, Turkey discuss new ideas on Syria: Kremlin Putin and Erdogan agreed to differ on Syria at Monday’s talks in Istanbul but Russia has distanced itself from President Bashar al-Assad and tried to position itself for his potential exit from power.

Syria’s Civil War Spills Into Lebanon Gunmen loyal to opposite sides in Syria’s civil war battled Wednesday in the streets of the Lebanese city of Tripoli. The fighting has killed six people and wounded nearly 60 since Monday, security officials said.

 

Special Reports

Chemical red lines on Syria
Although CBW’s lethality and indiscriminate nature gives rise to terrorism concerns, the United States should distance itself from self-interested interventions reminiscent of the Bush doctrine. Instead, any red lines in the Syrian sand should be drawn in accordance with 21st century notions of international responsibilities to protect.

Are Americans ready to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons?
On Monday, Obama strongly warned Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as rebels advance on Damascus. What is the national interest in threatening US action? Obama must sort out the moral purpose.

Chemical weapons in Syria: What can Latin America do about it?
Some Latin American nations voted against a UN resolution condemning violence in Syria this year. But the region can still send a message that the use of chemical weapons will end their support.

Syria’s ‘Operation Fairy Tale’: Reading in War Zones and Other Initiatives
Some might say this is the last thing Syrians need now; that what they need are basic necessities like water, food and a safe home. But any diversion from an ugly and harsh reality — if only for a few minutes — could do wonders.

Nine days in Syria: “I wanted to give with my hands,” Lahey Clinic doctor says
Acash left on Thanksgiving for Idlib, in northwest Syria on the Turkish border, where thousands of refugees have gathered in tents and a school building has been transformed into a field hospital. Volunteers there ring the school’s bell to summon doctors when a new wave of injured people arrive, some from cities and towns nearly 150 miles away.

Rape is shredding Syria’s social fabric
In an attempt to not lose a single story that could be used as possible evidence for future war crimes trials, we are documenting reports of sexualized violence on a live, crowd-sourced map on Syria. We know, however, that evidence of crimes is being destroyed every day: More than 20% of the women in our reports are found dead or are killed after rape.

Jihadists make their presence felt in Syria’s Aleppo
Their ferocity and fighting skills have made the jihadist “Al-Nusra Front the dominant force in Aleppo now,” eclipsing the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Liwa al-Tawhid, once the strongest brigade in the city, said another, Mustafa. Islamist militants are known not only for their discretion, but also for their selflessness in combat, prompting protesters on Friday to urge the FSA to man the front lines instead of staying in commandeered quarters.

U.S. might name Syrian rebel Nusra Front a foreign terrorist group
Nusra first made its mark by claiming responsibility for a series of car and suicide bombings in Damascus that killed dozens last January and that U.S. officials later said bore the mark of the group al Qaida in Iraq. Since then, Nusra has become essential to the rebels’ battlefield operations.

Syria after Assad: Heading toward a Hard Fall?
Rather than ending Syria’s civil war, the regime’s fall might herald a new, more dangerous phase, and the United States should prepare accordingly.

The New Normal on the Turkish-Syrian Border
Ankara does not want the conflict to escalate, but it cannot live with the civil war in Syria and the continued cross-border shelling it breeds, accidental or not.

How Would Assad Use Chemical Weapons?
Amid new chemical weapons activity in Syria, Washington must prepare for the practical implications of acting on its warnings.

Syria: first state with WMDs to topple? (+video)
Never before has a country with Weapons of Mass Destruction been on the verge of collapse, says an arms control expert who argues for regional coordination to prevent a catastrophe.

War Drives Businesses of Aleppo Into Exile
Only a half-decade after Iraqi businessmen fled civil war in their country, a second exodus is depleting another stronghold of Mesopotamian enterprise. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a key hub on the old Silk Road, is the country’s industrial and commercial turbine.

The Syrian Sarin Threat
Whatever the regime’s real intentions with regards to its chemical weapons, the next chapter in Syria will be an ugly one, and before it is all over, many people are going to die—from bullets and bombs if not from sarin gas. Thanks to the boy-who-cried-wolf legacy of the Iraq invasion and the W.M.D.-that-weren’t, it is not surprising that the alleged Syrian chemical weapons threat has thus far failed to cause panic in international circles. This could prove to be an unfortunate historical lesson, for, as things stand, there is no guarantee that they won’t be deployed. And if they are used, Syria’s conflict will become a threshold conflict in more ways than one.

Follow this link to register for FDD’s Washington Forum 2012 “Dictators & Dissidents”

 

Video Highlights

The pounding of Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus with MiGs continues: Douma http://youtu.be/Xw1IP8bK6sY ,http://youtu.be/1O1iPtLrZYY , http://youtu.be/LLehie30b7Y

Rebels lay siege to the Mayadeen Military Airport in Deir Ezzor http://youtu.be/EOTfIs56WLY ,http://youtu.be/336vFkQTrW0 , http://youtu.be/h_ONu1_6Lk4

Scenes from the havoc in Deir Ezzor City http://youtu.be/5RkcN26xxak , http://youtu.be/yVT7fQTaydU ,http://youtu.be/Va4VZBuUMzo

Scenes from the clashes in Al-Jabal Al-Wistani in Idlib http://youtu.be/Xz_sTKeGytc , http://youtu.be/boB-VpejpNY ,http://youtu.be/sTYtP-UPapY , http://youtu.be/NmDtLDvk7NM