Afghanistan

Afghanistan war crimes victims appeal to ICC

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

Iran

Iran war fever: real or charade?

Trump retreats from military action against Iran after a US surveillance drone is shot down in the Strait of Hormuz. Was the man who destroyed Raqqa and Mosul suddenly concerned with a possible 150 human casualties, as he claimed in his tweet explaining the balk? Or do Washington and Tehran have too much invested in pursuing their common wars against ISIS and other Sunni militants in Syria and Iraq to want the encumbrance of war with each other? (Photo of Global Hawk drone via Wikipedia)

Afghanistan

US allies overtake Taliban in Afghan civilian deaths

Afghan government and NATO forces killed more civilians in the first three months of this year than the Taliban and other insurgent groups, according to the latest UN report on casualties in the conflcit. The findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that at least 305 civilians were killed by pro-government forces between January and March, constiuting 52.5% of total civilian deaths in this period. “UNAMA notes with concern that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than Anti-Government Elements during the first quarter of 2019,” the report states. (Photo: USAF)

Greater Middle East

Yemen war death toll surpasses 70,000

More than 10,000 people have been reported killed in Yemen over the last five months, bringing the war’s total death toll to over 70,000 since 2016, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). While overall reported fatalities have trended downward this year amid a UN-backed peace process, fighting continues across the country and has even intensified in some areas, including the governorates of Taiz and Hajjah. The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the highest number of reported civilian fatalities from direct targeting. (Photo: UNHCR via  New Humanitarian)

Afghanistan

ICC rejects investigation of Afghanistan war crimes

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected a request to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The request by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was turned down by Pre-Trial Chamber II, which decided that pursuing this investigation would not be an efficient use of the court’s resources. The statement from the Pre-Trial Chamber noted that the prosecutor has not obtained cooperation from sources in Afghanistan. The decision came four days after he US State Department revoked the entry visa for Fatou Bensouda. In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US would deny visas to ICC personnel investigating any allegations against the US or its allies. Bensouda had been making inquiries into allegations of war crimes against all participants in the Afghanistan conflict since the fall of 2017. (Photo: USAF)

Iran

US-Tehran terror-baiting tit-for-tat

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

Africa

US air-strikes target Shabaab ‘encampment’

More than 60 were killed in US air-strikes that targeted "a known al-Shabaab encampment" near southern Somalia's Gandarshe town. US Africa Command asserted that no civilians were killed and that the strikes were launched to "prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks." These were the deadliest air attacks in Somalia since November 2017 when the US said it killed 100 militants. The targeting of Shabaab increased after March 2017, when the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the US military to use force against the insurgent army. The US military has now struck Shabaab targets 45 times in 2018, compared with 31 times last year. The US has a huge military base in neighboring Djibouti, from where it launches air-raids on the militants. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

Syria

More than half million killed in Syria since 2011

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a statistical report on the number of Syrian war victims on the occasion of World Human Rights Day. The statistics show that 560,000 people have been killed since March 2011, including civilians, soldiers, rebel fighters, and “martyrs” who died under torture in the regime prisons. The Observatory found: “Over 93 months…Syrians have been crushed between the jaws of death, with each day declaring a decrease in their numbers…” The Observatory documented the deaths of 104,000 Syrians in the regime’s prisons, likely under torture in most cases, with 83% executed in these prisons between May 2013 and October 2015. In this period, 30,000 were killed in Saydnaya prison alone, according to the Observatory. The remainder of the total were killed in fighting, with civilians constituting a large plurality at 111,330. The rest were from various armed factions. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)

Syria

Amnesty protests US ‘denial’ over Raqqa casualties

The US-led Coalition’s ongoing failure to admit to, let alone adequately investigate, the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction it caused in Raqqa is a “slap in the face” for survivors trying to rebuild their lives and their city, said Amnesty International a year after the offensive to oust ISIS. In October 2017, following a fierce four-month battle, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the Coalition’s Kurdish-led partners on the ground—announced victory over ISIS, which had used civilians as human shields and committed other war crimes in besieged Raqqa. Winning the battle came at a terrible price—almost 80% of the city was destroyed and many hundreds of civilians lay dead, the majority killed by Coalition bombardment. In a September 2018 letter to Amnesty, the Pentagon made clear it accepts no liability for civilian casualties. The Coalition does not plan to compensate survivors and relatives of those killed in Raqqa, and refuses to provide further information about the circumstances behind strikes that killed and maimed civilians. (Photo: SDF)

Greater Middle East

UN experts: continue inquiry into Yemen conflict

Yemen war crime investigators called upon the UN Human Rights Council to renew their mandate and allow the continued inquiry into Yemen's internal conflict, calling the situation in the county "extremely alarming." The Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, in their initial report, released in August, found evidence that "members of the Saudi-led coalition, the Yemeni government, and the Houthi armed group have been committing abuses, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians, arbitrary and abusive detention, and recruitment of children." At the time of the report, the experts recommended that their mandate be renewed. However, Saudi Arabia and other coalition members have pressed the council to discontinue the inquiry. (Photo via WikiMedia Commons)

Afghanistan

US threatens sanctions against ICC

The White House announced that the US will consider imposing sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges and prosecutors if the ICC opens an investigation into the actions of United States service members and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan. The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC requested an investigation in November 2017 into alleged war crimes committed by the US in Afghanistan since May 2003, in addition to actions taken by the Afghan National Security Forces, the Taliban and the Haqqani network. In addition to sanctions, the US will also consider seeking to have the ICC's powers restricted by the UN Security Council. The US will also seek to strengthen agreements that would prevent other nations from surrendering US nationals to the ICC. (Photo: AiirSource Military)

Greater Middle East

UN experts see possible war crimes in Yemen

A UN human rights panel suggests that parties to the conflict in Yemen have been perpetuating crimes under international law. The Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country, and examine all possible war crimes since the war began in September 2014. The report concluded that air-strikes carried out by Yemen's government and its coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have caused a majority of the civilian casualties. Other violations included persistent sexual violence and enlistment of young children into the armed forces of both sides in the war, which pits the government and its allies against the Houthi rebel forces. (Photo via Wikipedia)