Africa

General Assembly: UK must return Chagos Islands

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the islands “as rapidly as possible.” The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally. The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a joint US-UK military base, which is still in place on the island of Diego Garcia. Before the UN vote, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth told the General Assembly the forcible eviction of Chagossians was akin to a crime against humanity. (Photo: WILPF)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Julian Assange, agent of fascism

In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin’s grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo Libcom.org)

Africa

ICJ urges UK to end rule over Chagos islands

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion outlining the legal consequences of separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. The UK detached the Chagos Archipelago form Mauritius upon decolonization and established the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The British subsequently allowed the United States to establish a military base on the island Diego Garcia, with many inhabitants forcibly removed, and those who left voluntarily prevented from returning. The ICJ opinion says the UK did not lawfully decolonize the islands, and urges the UK to end its continued administration over Chagos Archipelago: “[T]he United Kingdom has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible." (Photo: WILPF)

Syria

Idlib still threatened as Assad escalates genocide

Assad regime artillery struck areas of Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province after militants allegedly tried to infiltrate regime-held areas. The shelling was reportedly focused on the town of Tamanaa, which was seized from Turkish-backed rebels by jihadist forces earlier in the week. The was apparently part of a ceasefire agreement ending an internal conflict between rival opposition forces in Idlib, which saw jihadists taking over much of the province. These ominous developments may spell an end to Idlib’s reprieve from the threatened Assad offensiive on the province since establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian buffer zone there. To make this all more sobering still, the Assad regime appears to be escalating its campaign of genocide in the areas of Syria it has re-conquered, stepping up its mass extermination of detainees. The Syrian Network For Human Rights said in a year-end report that nearly a thousand died, presumably under torture, in regime prisons in 2018.  (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

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)

Syria

Turkey sentences Brit volunteer for fighting ISIS

A Turkish court sentenced a former British soldier to seven-and-a-half years for alleged links to Syria’s Kurdish YPG militia, considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara. Joe Robinson of Leeds was arrested in Turkey last year after he apparently posted photos of himself in camouflage, posing beside fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. The Afghanistan veteran was among many volunteers who joined the YPG’s campaign against ISIS. A court in Turkey’s western city of Aydin sentenced the 25-year-old for “membership in a terrorist organization.” Robinson is currently on bail and planning an appeal. His Bulgarian fiancée Mira Rojkan, arrested along with him, was sentenced to two years for “terrorist propaganda.” (Photo via Defense Post)

Planet Watch

Refugee resettlement hits 10-year low

Some 50,000 to 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution will start a new life and be on track for a new passport in 2018, but it will be the fewest number of refugees resettled globally any year since 2007, UN figures show. The drop is mainly due to President Donald Trump’s administration slashing the US quota. The United States took in 68% of the 770,000 refugees permanently resettled in the last 10 years, according to the UN—an average of about 51,000 per year. But, this calendar year, fewer than 10,000 had made the journey to the United States by the end of July. Developing regions host 85% of the world’s refugees, according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR. (Photo: IRIN)

Watching the Shadows

Amnesty calls on UN to ban ‘killer robots’

Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on  the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)

Africa

World Court hears Mauritius claim against UK

The government of the island nation of Mauritius presented its claim to the International Court of Justice that the British government forced the transfer of the Chagos Islands as a condition of independence in 1965. The UK leased the island of Diego Garcia within the archipelago to the US in 1966, which was used to build a military base that required the forced removal of around 1,500 people. The population has yet to be allowed to return home. Former prime minister of Mauritius and current parliamentarian Anerood Jugnauth told the ICJ, “The choice we were faced with was no choice at all: it was independence with detachment [of the Chagos archipelago] or no independence with detachment anyway.” The location of the Chagos Islands in the central Indian Ocean is seen as strategic for policing the Persian Gulf. In 2016 the US lease for the base was extended until 2036. (Photo: WILPF)

Planet Watch

Global revolt against automotive terror

Bangladesh has seen huge demonstrations over the past week, as tens of thousands of university students and schoolchildren protest lax traffic enforcement after two young students were killed by a speeding bus. The protests have for days paralyzed Dhaka, with roadblocks erected on major thoroughfares. Meanwhile, in southern Italy's Puglia region, hundreds of African farmworkers downed tools and marched from the fields after 16 migrant workers were killed when their vans were hit by trucks hauling produce. Authorities pledge a crackdown on the "mafia" that controls agribusiness in Puglia, but the farmworkers have continued to press their protests. (Photo:  Dinamopress via El Salto)

Europe

‘Left’ joins with Euro-fascists to betray political prisoners in Russia

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russian authorities to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and all the other "illegally detained Ukrainian citizens" in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea. Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a Russian prison since May 14, demanding the release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners. Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. The 76 MEPs who voted against the resolution are either of far-right formations such as the French National Front, Germany's Alternative für Deutschland, the Greek Golden Dawn, Italy's Northern League, the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, and Britain's UK Independence Party; or "leftist" parties such as the French Left Front, Germany's Die Linke, the Greek Syriza, Italy's The Other Europe, and Spain's Podemos. (Photo via Kyiv Post)

Greater Middle East

Syria: gas attacks, air-strikes and hypocrisy —again

Just over a year after Trump's air-strikes on an Assad regime airbase in response to a chemical attack, we witness a repeat of this episode—although this time the air-strikes were on wider targets, and carried out in conjunction with British and French forces. In response to last week's chemical attack on Douma in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, missiles and warplanes from the USS Donald Cook in the eastern Mediterranean carried out the first Western strikes on targets around the Damascus area. The targets were chemical warfare and military facilities, with no deaths or civilian casualties yet reported. "Anti-war" hypocrites who were silent during Trump's massive bombardment of civilians in Raqqa and Mosul, silent during the Assad-Purtin destruction of Aleppo, and silent (at best) over the Douma chemical attack, are now protesting air-strikes on Assad's machinery of death. Such "anti-war" depravity is part of the problem. (Image: Syria Solidarity NYC)