Greater Middle East

House resolution to end Yemen military aid

The US House of Representatives passed Joint Resolution 37, calling for the withdrawal of US armed forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen. The resolution states that only Congress has the authority to declare war, and notes that Congress has not made any declaration of war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are the target of Saudi-led forces. US armed forces have supported Saudi Arabia through aerial targeting assistance, intelligence sharing, and mid-flight aerial refueling. The resolution gives President Trump 30 days to withdraw forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen. Forces which are involved in operations directed at al-Qaeda in the region are exempt from the resolution. The resolution also does not restrict the sharing of intelligence. It also specifies that the resolution does not impact military operations undertaken in cooperation with Israel. (Photo via Jurist)

Greater Middle East

Bahrain upholds life sentence of opposition leader

Bahrain’s highest court  upheld a life sentence for Shi'ite cleric and opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, for spying on behalf of neighboring Qatar. According to Amnesty International, the case is based on conversations that Salman had in 2011 with then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani. Salman was initially acquitted, but sentenced to life in November 2018 by the court of appeals. This term has now been affirmed by the Cassation Court. Amnesty International called the verdict a "bitter blow to freedom of expression." The organization's Middle East director Samah Hadid said it "exposes the country's justice system as a complete farce. The decision to uphold Sheikh Ali Salman's conviction and life prison sentence following an unfair trial highlights the authorities' determination to silence critical voices." (Photo: Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain)

Greater Middle East

Turkey: two years for signing peace petition

A Turkish court sentenced academic Müge Ayan to two years and one month in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization for signing a petition calling for a peaceful end to Turkey's decades-old conflict with Kurdish rebels. A former anthropology professor at ?stanbul’s Bilgi Univresity, Ayan is among the 1,128 of signatories of a petition which criticized heavy-handed tactics employed by the Turkish army in predominantly Kurdish cities in the country, including long curfews and the use of heavy weaponry, after a two-and-a-half year ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party broke down in 2015. (Photo: Ahval)

Greater Middle East

UN: Saudi Arabia torturing imprisoned activists

The UN Committee Against Torture issued a letter that calls on Saudi Arabia to release over a dozen imprisoned activists and cites credible claims of improper treatment, sexual assault and torture. The UN group charged with overseeing compliance with the Convention Against Torture claims that seven activists have been held without charge since May 2018 and subjected to inhumane treatment. The monitoring group also called for another six peaceful activists to be released, including Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been publicly lashed and is currently serving a 10-year term for expressing dissenting opinions. The letter also requests additional information on investigations Saudi Arabia has undertaken into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to ensure they are impartial and address allegations that high-level officials were involved. (Photo: Committee to Protect Journalists)

Greater Middle East

Saudi authorities admit: Khashoggi was killed

Saudi Arabia's attorney general confirmed that prominent journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi died in the country's Istanbul consulate. A statement said that Khashoggi was killed after a fight inside the consulate, and that 18 Saudis are detained pending an investigation. Turkish officials believe Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi. His body has not been found. "Now the same government that lied to the world, claiming for weeks that it had no knowledge of Khashoggi's fate, expects us to believe he died in a fight," said the Committee to Protect Journalists. "This ridiculous assertion is further evidence of a cover-up. We need an international investigation and relentless pressure on Saudi Arabia from the Trump administration, if we ever hope to get to the truth." (Photo: CPJ)

Greater Middle East

Saudi regime pressured over missing journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Saudi Arabia to immediately account for the whereabouts of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this week. Multiple news outlets report that Turkish authorities, who have been investigating his disappearance, believe that Khashoggi is dead and was killed inside the consulate. "CPJ is alarmed by media reports that Jamal Khashoggi may have been killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul," said CPJ Deputy executive director Robert Mahoney. "The Saudi authorities must immediately give a full and credible accounting of what happened to Khashoggi inside its diplomatic mission. The country has stepped up its repression of critical journalists in the past year at home. We hope this has not now spread abroad." (Photo via CPJ)

Greater Middle East

Human rights lawyer ‘disappeared’ in Egypt

Human Rights Watch called on the Egyptian government to immediately identify the whereabouts of and free Ezzat Ghoneim, a prominent human rights lawyer who has been missing for approximately three weeks. Ghoneim was arrested in March along with a blogger, three journalists and a student on charges of spreading false news and "supporting a terrorist group." A month ago, a judge ordered Ghoneim's release conditioned on his reporting to a police station every two weeks. However, according to his wife, police refused to release him, citing the need for further "instructions from the National Security Agency." When his wife again reported to the police station where he was being held a few days after this, she was told that he had already been released. She claims that neither she nor any of their friends have seen him since his supposed release. HRW is now asserting that Ghoneim has been forcibly disappeared. The actual activity that resulted in charges against Ghoneim and his co-defendants was documenting police brutality at protest demonstrations. (Photo via Jurist)

Greater Middle East

Turkish court upholds life sentences for journalists

An Istanbul Court of Appeals upheld the life sentences of six individuals, including prominent journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, on charges of assisting the plotters of a failed military coup in 2016. The journalists were originally sentenced in February, along with 221 other defendants, and appealed to the higher court for their release. All defendants were charged with being linked to a US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt. Since the coup attempt, tthe Turkish government has been carrying out purges and arrests aimed at removing supposed Gulen supporters from state institutions and society generally. (Map: CIA)

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)

Greater Middle East

UN rights experts protest Egypt death sentences

Six UN Special Rapporteurs called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to respond to a recent Egyptian court decision that condemned 75 protesters to death. The court sentenced another 47 protesters to life in prison. The protesters were charged with illegal gathering, involvement in violence, and incitement to break the law. The Special Rapporteurs state that those who have been sentenced did not receive a fair trial, as they were not given the right to present evidence in their defense. The UNHRC was called upon to "send a strong message to all States that they have a duty under international law to investigate arbitrary killings and prosecute those responsible as well as to apply due process and fair trial standards." The rapporteurs called the executions "arbitrary deprivations of life." (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Greater Middle East

Russian naval build-up ahead of Idlib offensive

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement explaining its unprecedented build-up of naval force in the Mediterranean as part of a week-long exercise would begin on 1 September. It said the exercise would involve 26 warships and naval vessels, including two submarines, with 34 aircraft, including missile-armed long-range bombers. But it is obvious that this build-up is timed to coincide (at least) with the planned Assad regime offensive on Idlib, the last Syrian province that remains under opposition control. Russia will certainly be massively backing the regime offensive, which the UN warns could spark a humanitarian catastrophe. With Turkey closing its borders to new refugees, it is unclear that civilians have any place left to flee. Many are already living in camps in Idlib under desperate conditions, with two million in need of humanitarian aid. (Photo: Syria News)

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)