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Amnesty International Is Weaponizing Human Rights For The U.S., NATO

TeleSUR

August 13, 2017

by Tortilla con Sal

 

Nicaragua’s current Sandinista government has been the most successful ever in reducing poverty and defending the right of all Nicaraguans to a dignified life.

Over the last year, in Latin America, Amnesty International has taken their collusion in support of NATO government foreign policy down to new depths of falsehood and bad faith, attacking Venezuela and, most recently, Nicaragua. The multi-million dollar Western NGO claims, “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.”

That claim is extremely dishonest. Many of Amnesty International’s board and most of the senior staff in its secretariat, which produces the organization’s reports, are individuals with a deeply ideologically committed background in corporate dominated NGOs like PurposeOpen Society InstituteHuman Rights Watch, and many others.

Mexico has over 36,000 people disappeared and abuses by the security forces are constant. Colombia has over four million internally displaced people with over 53 community activists murdered just in 2017. Amnesty International generally puts that horrific reality in context by including criticism of forces challenging those countries’ authorities. By contrast, its reporting on Venezuela and Nicaragua, like those of other similar Western NGOs, reproduces the false claims of those countries’ minority political opposition forces, all supported one way or another by NATO country governments.

In Venezuela and Nicaragua, Western human rights organizations exaggerate alleged government violations while minimizing abuses and provocations by the opposition. This screenshot of Amnesty International’s three main news items on Venezuela from Aug. 9 gives a fair idea of the organization’s heavily politicized, bad faith coverage of recent events.

This is identical false coverage to that of Western mainstream corporate media and most Western alternative media outlets too. Amnesty International’s coverage minimizes opposition murders of ordinary Venezuelans, setting many people on fire, violent attacks on hospitals, universities and even preschools and innumerable acts of intimidation of the general population. That headline “Venezuela: Lethal violence, a state policy to strangle dissent” is a pernicious lie. President Nicolas Maduro explicitly banned the use of lethal force against opposition demonstrations from the start of the latest phase of the opposition’s long drawn out attempted coup back in early April this year.

Likewise, against Nicaragua, Amnesty’s latest report, kicking off their global campaign to stop Nicaragua’s proposed Interoceanic Canal, also begins with a demonstrable lie: “Nicaragua has pushed ahead with the approval and design of a mega-project that puts the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, without consultation and in a process shrouded in silence” That claim is completely false. Even prior to September 2015, the international consultants’ impact study found that the government and the HKND company in charge of building the canal had organized consultations with, among others, over 4,000 people from rural communities in addition to 475 people from Indigenous communities along the route of the canal and its subsidiary projects. There has been very extensive media discussion and coverage of the project ever since it was announced.

That extremely prestigious ERM consultants’ Environmental and Social Impact study, which together with associated studies cost well over US$100 million, is publicly available in Spanish and in English. Two years ago, it anticipated all the criticisms made by Amnesty International and was accepted by the Nicaraguan government, leading to a long period of analysis and revision that is still under way. Amnesty International excludes that information. Recently, government spokesperson Telemaco Talavera said the continuing process involves a total of 26 further studies. Until the studies are complete, the government is clearly right to avoid commenting on the proposed canal, because the new studies may radically change the overall project.

Amnesty International states, “According to independent studies of civil society organizations, along the announced route of the canal, approximately 24,100 households (some 119,200 people) in the area will be directly impacted.” But, the ERM study notes, “HKND conducted a census of the population living in the Project Affected Areas. The census determined that approximately 30,000 people (or 7,210 families) would need to be physically or economically displaced.” But Amnesty International’s report omits that contradictory detail, demonstrating how irrationally committed they are to the false propaganda of Nicaragua’s political opposition.

Amnesty International claim their research team interviewed “at least 190 people” concerned about the effects of the canal. By contrast, the Nicaraguan government and the HKND company have discussed the project with around 6,000 people in the areas along the route of the canal. In that regard, even the local church hierarchy has criticized the way the Nicaraguan opposition have manipulated rural families on the issue of the Canal. But that fact too, Amnesty International omits. Their whole report is tailor made to supplement the political opposition’s campaign for U.S. intervention via the notorious NICA Act.

The Nicaraguan government has made an express commitment to a fair and just resolution of the issue of expropriations. Its 2015 report on the canal in the context of its National Development Plan, states: “The Nicaraguan government and HKND will guarantee that persons and families on the route of the canal’s construction will have living conditions superior to those they currently have (without the canal). To that end, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, via the Project’s Commission, will guarantee not just a fair and transparent indemnification of their properties, via negotiations and direct agreements with each family affected, but furthermore will promote actions to improve their economic conditions, health care, education, housing and employment.”

But the Amnesty International report systematically excludes that and any other sources giving the government’s point of view, claiming it was unable to access primary sources either from the government itself or from among the canal’s numerous advocates. However, secondary sources abound that categorically contradict Amnesty’s advocacy against the canal. The report specifically and extensively attacks the Law 840, facilitating the construction of the canal and its sub-projects, but cynically omits a fundamental, crucial detail, while also failing completely to give relevant social and economic context.

The crucial detail is that Law 840’s Article 18 specifically states the canal project “cannot require any Government Entity to take any action that violates the Political Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua or the terms of any international treaty of which the State of the Republic of Nicaragua is a party.” Amnesty International completely omits that absolutely crucial part of Law 840 from their report because it makes redundant their advocacy of opposition claims attacking the equity and legality of the Canal’s legal framework. The same is true of the relevant political, social and economic context.

Nicaragua’s political culture is based on dialogue, consensus, and respect for international law. All the main business organizations in Nicaragua and all the main international financial and humanitarian institutions acknowledge that. President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo enjoy levels of approval of over 70 percent. There is a good reason for that massive majority approval. Among many other factors, the precedents of how the Nicaraguan authorities have resolved the relocation of populations affected by large projects, for example, the Tumarin hydroelectric project, completely contradict the scaremongering of the Nicaraguan opposition propaganda, so glibly recycled by Amnesty International.

Nicaragua’s current Sandinista government has been the most successful ever in reducing poverty and defending the right of all Nicaraguans to a dignified life. To do so, among many other initiatives, it has mobilized record levels of direct foreign investment. In that context, Law 840 explicitly protects the huge potential investments in the proposed canal, while at the same time implicitly guaranteeing constitutional protections. Similarly, ever since the announcement of the canal, Ortega has repeatedly, publicly reassured people in Nicaragua that any families who may eventually be relocated should the canal go ahead will get every necessary help and assistance from the government.

Just as it has done in the case of Venezuela, on Nicaragua, Amnesty International misrepresents the facts, cynically promoting the positions of the country’s right wing political opposition. In Latin America, under cover of phony concern for peoples’ basic rights, in practice Amnesty International, like almost all the big multi-millionaire Western NGOs, gives spurious humanitarian cover to the political agenda of the US and allied country corporate elites and their governments. The destructive, catastrophic effects of Amnesty International’s recent role in the crises affecting Syria, Ukraine and now Venezuela, are living proof of that.

 

[Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.]

Global False Witness – Targeting Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

August 2, 2017

 

“Models attend Alexander Soros Foundation’s Global Witness ‘Unmasked’ Gala on July 7, 2012 in Bridgehampton, New York.” Source: Getty Images [Further reading].

Global Witness is a well-established environmental and human rights non-governmental organization based in Britain. As with many other similar organizations, its reports often figure in news media as authoritative sources on international issues. Ever since the 1980s and, increasingly so, after the turn of the century, the status of NGOs as trustworthy information sources on foreign affairs has become increasingly untenable as they have been more and more co-opted by corporate interests and governments to promote the Western elites’ neocolonial global policy agenda.

In the case of Nicaragua, in 2016 Global Witness produced a brief, flawed and unreliable account of land conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region in a report called “On Dangerous Ground”. In June 2017, they produced a report called “Defenders of the Earth”, with a section on Nicaragua even more poorly researched and false than the previous one.Three main reasons stand out to dismiss the latest Global Witness report on Nicaragua as unreliable and in bad faith.

Firstly, the report itself is clearly biased and flawed, from even a cursory analysis of its references and their sources by anyone familiar with Nicaragua. Secondly, the organization’s human and material resources all come from a very narrow managerial class and corporate funding base, overwhelmingly advocating the foreign policy positions of the United States government and its allies. Thirdly, the history of Global Witness clearly indicates its categorical bias in favor of NATO country governments’ policy positions in the countries that figure in its reports and too its systemic defense of the very corporate capitalism whose destructive effects Global Witness superficially and selectively criticizes.

Global Witness sources on Nicaragua

Before looking at the text of the false Global Witness attack on Nicaragua, it is worth looking at the sources they identify in their footnotes, of which there are 23, composed of a total of 44 references. For anyone familiar with Nicaraguan politics and society since the war of the 1980s many of the sources are wearily familiar and readily identifiable as anti-Sandinista, for example, the virulently anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper. Some of the references are duplicates and some disguise the fact that while apparently distinct, ultimately the information they provide comes from one single source. (Here’s a link to the relevant spreadsheet for anyone interested in a more detailed analysis.)

Of the 44 references, some of which are duplicates, not one represents the view of the Nicaraguan authorities or others criticized in the report or any source sympathetic to them. 16 references are to sources inside Nicaragua politically opposed to the Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. 25 of the sources are external to Nicaragua but with a long record identifying them as ideologically opposed to the Sandinista government. Of those 25 sources, one might argue that the Washington-based Interamerican Commission for Human Rights or the EFE Spanish language news agency are impartial, but their record is indisputably biased against Nicaragua’s Sandinista authorities.

For all but imperialist ideologues, the Paris based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has been discredited in particular, most recently, by its flagrant partisan bias in favor of NATO country government policies attacking the populations of Libya and Syria. One source, a reference to the law authorizing Nicaragua’s Canal, is completely neutral. Only one media source, El Nuevo Diario, is generally independent. Two references are to sources within the Western environmental scientific lobby, which has its own set of highly questionable biases, prejudices and neocolonial hypocrisy.

Methodology”

As if by way of justifying this desperately unfair selection of sources, Global Witness also offer an account of what they call their “methodology”. They aver, “We have recorded data about the cases using the HURIDOCS Event Standard Formats and Micro-Thesauri, an approach which is widely used to manage and analyse material of this nature.”

That Global Witness claim is demonstrably untrue. Whatever their aspirations they certainly did not use the HURIDOCS approach.

HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International) is a European NGO established in 1982 to facilitate networking between human rights organizations around the world. HURIDOCS says its ?specific role in this capacity-building process lies in improving access to and the dissemination of human rights information through more effective, appropriate and compatible methods and techniques of information handling. HURIDOCS recognises that we live in an age of tremendous advances in information and communication technologies. There is the need to master these technologies to aid us in our human rights work. At the same time, we must be conscious of the fact that the technologies to be applied should be appropriate and responsive to the main focus of the mandates of human rights organisation”

HURIDOCS exposition of their approach includes the following definitions:

Fact-finding is the process of identifying the violations in one event, and establishing the facts relevant to these violations. Fact-finding and investigation are terms that are used interchangeably.

Documentation is the process of systematically recording the results of an investigation or fact-finding in relation to an event or number of events. Fact-finding and documentation are organically related and should not be viewed as separate processes.

Monitoring is closely observing a given situation in society over a long period of time to see whether human rights standards are met. To carry out monitoring, investigation and documentation of a large and/or representative number of events are conducted.”

Global Witness are not in compliance with the HURIDOCS approach because their practice in their reporting on Nicaragua demonstrably violates all of these definitions.

Their fact-finding or investigation is so heavily biased as to make it impossible for them to establish the facts. Consequently, thanks to this gross fact finding bias, their documentation is partial, often inaccurate and categorically incomplete. Nor do they show any sign of having done due diligence in monitoring consistently over time via ” investigation and documentation of a large and/or representative number of events” or the context of those events in Nicaragua.

Other theoretical considerations

Apart from these chronic procedural failures, other theoretical considerations cry out for clarification.

Global Witness say, “This report is based on research on killings and enforced disappearances of land and environmental defenders, who we define as people who take peaceful action to protect land or environmental rights”.

But in a bitter property dispute between competing communities, clarifying who is defending whose rights becomes a fundamentally important question. Certainly in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, unscrupulous Miskito community leaders are themselves involved in provoking these property disputes by illegally selling land to rural families migrating in search of a better life. Miskito gangs have attacked and murdered many such people, a factor not even mentioned by Global Witness. They completely evade the issue of identifying in a responsible, proportionate way whose rights are being violated.

Similarly, Global Witness state, “cases were identified by searching and reviewing reliable sources of publicly online information”. But  Global Witness obviously used heavily politicized criteria for deciding what is a reliable source, because not one single reference in their report on Nicaragua gives the Nicaraguan authorities’ side of the story and only one reference can fairly be described as ideologically independent. That renders completely incredible the phony Global Witness claim to systematic research.

They claim their investigation is systematic because “We set up search engine alerts using keywords and conducted other searches online to identify relevant cases across the world.” However, in the case of a small country like Nicaragua, a genuinely systematic search can readily be done covering a much wider range of sources than those accessed by Global Witness without recourse to modish, geeky “search engine alerts”. The poverty of sources evident in the report’s footnotes make Global Witness’s procedure look ridiculous.

Global Witness claim they “verify” the results of their investigation because “Where possible, we checked with in-country or regional partners to gather further information”. But they only cross-checked with ideologically and politically biased organizations, apparently using the same highly questionable, politically compromised sources they cite in their report.

Karl Popper, philosophical darling of the Open Society ideology embraced by Global Witness, explained over 50 years ago in “Conjectures and Refutations”  that verification is essentially authoritarian. He argued that a truly scientific investigation requires conjecture and falsification, a search for errors rather than for  justification.

If one goes along with Popper, it should surprise no one that Global Witness uses an essentially authoritarian methodology. Self-evidently, their job is not to discover the facts or to impartially establish the truth via a hypothetic-deductive Popper-style process , but to project a manipulative version of events justifying ideologically loaded interpretations favored by their corporate funders, an inherent bias understandably unacknowledged by Global Witness.

Nor is it surprising to learn from their account of their methodology, “While we have made every effort to identify and investigate cases in line with the methodology and criteria, it is important to add that our research mostly relies on public information and that we have not been able to conduct detailed national-level searches in all countries.”

That is not true either. Global Witness did not make “every effort” to investigate cases in line with their alleged methodology and criteria because they are flagrantly out of compliance with the definitions advanced by HURIDOCS.

A broader range of sources

Nor is is true that they were unable to conduct a detailed national-level search in the case of Nicaragua, because they could easily have included references from sources that contradict much of the information in the Global Witness report. The following is a brief sample of many other relevant sources, gleaned in a few hours searching on the Internet :

 

Even this very limited sample of sources, put together from just a few hours searching on the Internet, gives a very different picture to the one presented by Global Witness. So it is false of Global Witness to suggest they lack the resources to be able to stress test and falsify the version of events they have published in their report. Given the tremendous resources and the numerous skilled, experienced, talented people working at Global Witness, only abject intellectual dishonesty explains their failure to report faithfully on Nicaragua

Incoherent claims

Be that as it may, based on their cynically biased sources and their absurdly deficient methodology, Global Witness proceed in their report to make the following claims:

* 11 defenders killed in 2016 – making Nicaragua the most dangerous country in the world per capita

But, as independent journalist John Perry and others have pointed out, none of those people killed can fairly be described as having being killed for defending the environment. They were in property disputes and all of them were killed either directly or indirectly  in the course of those property conflicts. This is true in particular of the case cited by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) , that of Bernicia Dixon Peralta, her husband Feliciano Benlis Flores and their 11 year old son Feliciano Benlis Dixon. Perry mentions some of the context. More context of the property disputes in the RAAN can be found herehere and here. Not a single person mentioned by Global Witness died in Nicaragua for defending the environment in the way that someone like Berta Cáceres did. Even so Global Witness have tended disingenuously to implicitly compare the situation in Nicaragua with that in Honduras, in particular with Berta’s murder.

The bad faith with which they do so is clear from the second claim in their report on Nicaragua:

* 10 of those murdered were indigenous people, with most killed in conflicts with settler communities over land. Meanwhile rural ‘campesino’ defenders faced threats, harassment and attacks, including for opposing the construction of an inter-oceanic canal.

Global Witness fails to make clear that groups from the indigenous Miskito people, whom Global Witness inaccurately portray as defenseless environmental defenders, are themselves guilty of murderous attacks against migrants settling land which in many cases the migrants apparently believed they had bought legitimately. Furthermore, the Global Witness report deliberately and falsely confuses the very specific situation of these property conflicts in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast with protests over the possible displacement of communities along the still to be exactly defined route of the proposed Inter-oceanic Canal 300 kilometers to the south. Global Witness unscrupulously frame their distorted version of events in the two regions to give the impression that in both cases the Nicaraguan authorities may in some way be directly or indirectly responsible for the violence.

In fact, even the New York Times has acknowledged in their otherwise generally hostile anti-Sandinista reporting that the Nicaraguan authorities do what they can with limited resources to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in the Northern Carribean Autonomous Region.

The situation along the route of the Canal is very different from that in the RAAN. Protests against the Canal are exploited by Nicaragua’s political opposition and groups participating in the protest demonstrations have damaged property and attacked police officers. In relation to this situation, completely separate from the property disputes more than 300km to the north, Global Witness claims:

* Activists were increasingly criminalized: foreign environmentalists were expelled, community leaders arrested and legislation passed restricting freedoms of speech and association.

However in the very next paragraph, the report quotes anti-Canal activist Francisca Ramirez saying, ““We have carried out 87 marches, demanding that they respect our rights and we have had no response. The only response we have had is the bullet.”

Thus, the Global Witness allegation that rights to freedom of association are restricted is immediately contradicted by Francisca Ramirez declaring her group has organized over 80 public demonstrations to express their views.

Similarly, Ramirez claims “The only response we have had is the bullet.” But, in the next paragraph, we learn “a member of her community lost an eye and another was shot in the stomach”.

Thus, after 87 demonstrations, some of which supposedly involved many thousands of participants and in which “The only response we have had is the bullet”, Ramirez cites precisely two people suffering serious injury and only one of them with a gunshot wound. Ramirez omits that the protesters on the marches she organizes go armed with machetes and home-made mortars. They block highways, intimidate ordinary people going about their business, damage property and attack police officers.

In no Western country would that be tolerated without, to put it mildly, a robust response from the police and security forces. Even so, Global Witness promote Francisca Ramirez’s account as if she and her movement were non-political and non-violent, which they are not. But Global Witness excludes those facts.

Likewise, as John Perry has pointed out, the foreign environmentalists expelled from Nicaragua were involved in a suspicious incident involving a small explosion. Again, a reasonable question to Global Witness is why they excluded this highly relevant information given that in Britain or the United States any foreigner, especially any non-white foreigner, involved in such a suspicious incident would face prosecution and a potential jail term under those countries wide-ranging anti-terrorist laws.

Inaccuracies and falsehoods

Mixed in with these disingenuous, incoherent claims, Global Witness also allege, presumably as supporting context, that the proposed Canal “would force up to 120,000 indigenous people from their land”. This outrageous falsehood is sourced from the pro-NATO, right-wing dominated European Parliament, but is categorically contradicted by the relevant multi-million dollar Environmental and Social Impact report by the extremely prestigious ERM company based in the UK. The falsity of that claim is further confirmed by the Canal concessionary HKND company’s representative Bill Wild who argues that the route of the Canal has been altered to take local concerns into account in such a way that fewer than thirty indigenous families will be directly affected.

Overall, ERM reckons that up to 7210 families or around 30,000 people are likely to be displaced along the whole route of the Canal, over 270 kilometres. The scandalously untrue figure quoted by Global Witness is propaganda from Nicaragua’s political opposition who are exploiting Ramirez’s quasi-celebrity status among Western environmentalists to amplify overseas the marginal support for their unpopular position against the Canal in Nicaragua. That fact is reflected in the incoherence of the arguments set out by Ramirez and her backers in Nicaragua’s political opposition.

If 120,000 people were really going to be displaced by the proposed Canal then the figure of 30,000 protestors from around the country the same political opposition regularly quote to describe national opposition to the Canal just does not add up. Quoting that same opposition figure, Global Witness state, “Francisca has rallied campesino groups from around the country who will be adversely affected by the canal to call for a meaningful say in its development. In June 2015, 30,000 people gathered for an anti-canal protest – Francisca organized 40 trucks so her community could attend.”

In Nicaragua, the cost of hiring a truck or a bus to carry 60 people or a similar amount of material goods on a round trip of 100km is around US$120, while a round trip of 300km costs about US$175. So hiring 40 diesel-guzzling trucks and buses with their drivers will have cost a minimum of US$4000. But Ramirez is an impoverished mother of five from a similarly impoverished community. Even if only one quarter of the more than 80 protests Ramirez says she has helped organized involved similar costs, the total amount involved runs into tens of thousands of dollars just for Ramirez’s community. Whatever the exact financial accounting, Ramirez is clearly supported by a great deal more than her own resources and those of her community.

Even so, Global Witness completely evade the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that incoherence implicit in their report. Namely, that Francisca Ramirez, far from being a simple altruistic community organizer defending her home is in fact a savvy political opposition activist promoting an inaccurate image of herself as well as concealing her real political agenda. Ramirez alleges that she and her family have been attacked and harassed. Supposing those accusations are true, no convincing evidence points to involvement of the government or the security forces and certainly not the HKND company in charge of planning and building the Canal. That contrasts with the situation of activists in Honduras or Guatemala who can in most cases offer reliable details with corroboration from witnesses to identify their assailants.

The press report cited by Global Witness contains no credible evidence from Ramirez except her say so, no corroborating evidence, no witnesses. Likewise the report’s reference to Frontline Defenders’ advocacy for Ramirez links to a summary profile including the false opposition propaganda, repeated by Global Witness, that the proposed inter-oceanic Canal has been imposed without consultation. But in fact preliminary consultations took place in July 2014 and subsequently a continuing consultative process has developed both before and after the publication of ERM’s Environmental and Social Impact Study, which recommended improvements to the consultation process which both HKND and the government accepted.

The Study did also criticize the handling of the expropriation issue and recommended that international standards be applied to any expropriation of land (reckoned to total 1359km2 of dry land out of Nicaragua’s total  area of 139,375km2) that may eventually be decided. Those ERM recommendations were accepted by the  government and HKND, and the subsequent consultative process has led to several important changes in the precise route of the Canal and to more detailed environmental studies which have been one reason for the delay in the Canal’s construction.

Frontline Defenders’ advocacy of Ramirez, cited by Global Witness, is based on her own account of events with no apparent attempt at corroboration despite the role of Ramirez as a front person for an anti-government campaign openly supported and facilitated by Nicaragua’s political opposition. In the course of framing their benign, heroic account of Francisca Ramirez, Global Witness present an account of the Canal’s origins and procedural progress which repeats virtually word for word the extremely hostile and systematically disingenuous interpretation of Nicaragua’s political opposition.

Garbage in – Garbage out

Winding up their version of the falsehoods, disinformation and propaganda copied from Nicaragua’s political opposition, Global Witness assert, “Resistance to the canal takes place against a terrifying backdrop of multiple murders in indigenous communities elsewhere in the country which have stood up against the arrival of agricultural settlers and demanded the government guarantee their land rights. Even requests by the Inter-American human rights system haven’t spurred the government into protecting community activists from being disappeared, mutilated and murdered.”

But, as is clear from reviewing a wider selection of sources of information in relation to the complicated land situation in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, indigenous people themselves are responsible for murderous violence and their own leaders are implicated in corrupt land dealings. It is simply untrue to label the murders as being generically the result of attacks on community activists in the sense in which that term is commonly understood. The general consensus is that the Nicaraguan government has done more than any government in the region, with the possible exception of Venezuela, to protect indigenous people’s land rights with almost a third of the national territory designated as indigenous peoples’ communal land. Global Witness’s allegations on that score are demonstrably inaccurate and grossly unfair.

Similarly, the suggestion that the Canal protest movement is vulnerable to the kind of murderous violence prevalent in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region is egregiously false. The protesters themselves have used violence and intimidation against the general population to carry out their protest actions, so far, thankfully, with no fatalities.

In summary, the Global Witness report in its section on Nicaragua uses politically and ideologically prejudiced sources which could readily have been supplemented with sources offering a contradictory account. The sources used themselves do not always corroborate the claims made in the report. Apart from the ideological bias, various substantive inaccuracies render the report extremely unreliable. The report’s conclusions are flawed because its initial premises are false – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

It remains true that there are serious property conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region which the government is attempting to address despite a lack of administrative, judicial and security resources, against an intricate social, economic and political context and also the constantly changing opportunistic interaction of corrupt business interests with local indigenous peoples’ leaders, and unscrupulous local officials.

In the case of Nicaragua’s proposed Interoceanic Canal, it is true various issues, including the issue of expropriation, have to be clarified. Protestors claim they want dialog, but Francisca Ramirez sets the precondition that the Canal be scrapped.

The Canal’s critics never acknowledge that Nicaragua is already suffering chronic environmental degradation. The government and many environmentalists argue that the Canal will provide Nicaragua with the resources it needs to reforest deforested areas, better manage its water resources and reverse the current deterioration in Lake Nicaragua, while at the same time helping to reduce poverty.

Foreign and national environmentalists offer no viable proposals to enable Nicaragua to reverse the socio-economic and climate processes already driving accelerating environmental degradation in the country.

Protestors against the Canal exaggerate the number of people likely to be displaced by its construction and often dishonestly claim people affected by displacement will not be compensated. Meanwhile, they themselves are among those responsible for the environmental degradation that will definitely get progressively worse without the resources the Canal is projected to provide.

Corporate funders and the elite NGO revolving door

Featured photo in the Washington Life Magazine (“The insider’s guide to power. philanthropy and society since 1991”) by Tony Powell. Global Witness CEO Gillian Caldwell (far right) sits beside Manana Freyre. Freyre is the 20th General Counsel and Senior Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. [Source] Berim Fellows Program. Hendi Residence. November 21, 2014.

Manana Freyre, Gillian Caldwell. Photo by Tony Powell. Berim Fellows Program. Hendi Residence. November 21, 2014. “WASHINGTON LIFE is the premier luxury-lifestyle magazine in the National Capital Region, published since 1991 by well-connected life-long Washingtonians who have exceptional insight into the community. Through our established social networks, loyal readership base and long standing relationships, WASHINGTON LIFE offers its advertisers a unique way to target discerning consumers.”
 

Few plausible explanations except intellectual dishonesty offer themselves for the desperate failure of Global Witness, firstly to adequately research the issues involved or, secondly, supposing they in fact did so, to acknowledge the complexity of the issues they examine. Global Witness frankly explain in their financial statement for 2016, they had income of over US$13 million. So they do not lack resources. Similarly, their Board, their Advisory Board and their CEO are all very experienced, smart, talented people. So even if they depend on younger inexperienced staff to do the research, their senior staff presumably review the product before publication. Lack of experience is not a reasonable explanation for the report’s glib dishonesty and inaccuracy.

A review of Global Witness funders reveals that for 2016 the two biggest funders were the Open Society Foundation of George Soros associated with the numerous so called color revolutions in support of NATO country government foreign policy objectives and the Omidyar Network of Pierre Omidyar whose links with US intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton are well known. Less well known is Omidyar’s support for NGOs that fomented the successful right wing coup in Ukraine. The complete list of Global Witness funders is available in the financial statement for 2016 on their web site. That document reports that in 2016 Global Witness received US$3.4 million from the George Soros Open Society Foundation, US$1.5 million from Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, US$840,000 from the Ford Foundation and over US$3 million from various European NATO governments plus Sweden.

All of these funding sources are unrelenting ideological opponents of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. A broad pro-NATO bias is very clear in the composition of the Global Witness Board and Advisory Board and CEO. Their profiles make clear they are almost all luminaries from the Western elite neocolonial non governmental sector, while many have a strong corporate business background as well. Just as there is a revolving door between government and corporate business and finance in North America and Europe, so too there is also a revolving door within that region’s elite NGO sector, a sector very clearly serving NATO country foreign policy goals.

Cory Morningstar has exposed the pro-NATO global political agenda of organizations like US based organizations like Avaaz and Purpose. In the case of Global Witness, their Board member Jessie Tolka is also a board member of Purpose and too of 350.org: Current Global Witness CEO Gillian Caldwell was also a very successful Campaigns Director of Sky1, now merged into 350.0rg. Cory Morningstar argues, “the most vital purpose of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) has not been to destroy the ecocidal economic system that enslaves us while perpetuating and ensuring infinite wars. Rather, the key purpose of the NPIC is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose from being dismantled. Hence the trillions of dollars pumped into the NPIC by the establishment.”

Confirmation of Cory Morningstar’s argument can be found in the history of Global Witness itself. For example on Libya, despite their superficial anti-corporate gloss, Global Witness relentlessly apply NATO country government criteria here and here. Also on Ukraine, Global Witness project the same anti-corporate message while simultaneously reinforcing NATO country government propaganda. Global Witness has also received US National Endowment for Democracy grants in Cambodia and in Liberia.

Also, a decade ago, writers Keith Harmon Snow and Rick Hines questioned Global Witness’ corporate links in relation to the “Blood Diamonds” controversy and the organization’s role in relation to De Beers and also Maurice Templesman’s diamond companies. No doubt more thorough research would reveal information casting similar doubt on Global Witness’s integrity and independence.

Conclusion

This latest Global Witness report in relation to Nicaragua is  important because it is so readily falsifiable. It thus presents a clear litmus test : no news and information media can use the Global Witness report’s material in relation to Nicaragua without compromising their credibility.

The bias and inaccuracies in the section on Nicaragua in the Global Witness 2017 report call into doubt the integrity of the whole report. No news or information media interested in accuracy or honest reporting can conscientiously rely on Global Witness as a source without thorough cross checking and systematically comparing, contrasting and evaluating information from sources giving a different account of the events and issues in question.

Global Witness is neither independent nor trustworthy. It clearly has a strong but unacknowledged neocolonial political agenda promoting the regional policy goals of NATO country governments, while, conversely, attacking governments and other regional actors opposed to those goals.

NGOs like Global Witness, International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International and so many others, self-evidently fabricate psychological warfare inputs serving NATO country government policy, itself shaped by the same corporate elites that fund the class of NGOS of which Global Witness is a part.

They operate as the soft, extramural arm of NATO country governments’ foreign policy psychological warfare offensives, targeting liberal and progressive audiences to ensure their acquiescence in overseas aggression and intimidation against governments and movements targeted by NATO. To that end, they deceitfully exploit liberal and progressive susceptibilities in relation to environmental, humanitarian and human rights issues.

Their psychological warfare role supporting the NATO government’s aggressive destabilization of Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria in 2011, of Ukraine in 2014,  and the NATO country government’s low intensity war against Venezuela ever since 2013, as well as the campaign against Cuba over five decades, has been unmistakable.

More broadly their systemic ideological role is very obviously to protect and defend global corporate capitalism while superficially and selectively questioning and criticizing some of its worst abuses. Cory Morningstar’s insight bears repeating “the key purpose of the non-profit industrial complex is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose”.

The coverage of Nicaragua in the latest 2017 Global Witness report is a text book example of that sinister fact.

Usual Suspects

Public Good

June 26, 2017

by Jay Taber

“Automaton Conformity” by Erich Fromm

As noted at WKOG, the most recent fake news about chemical weapons attacks in Syria recycles the 2015 myth–propagated by the NATO-funded, White Helmets terrorist acting troupe–with ongoing assistance from the Soros-funded NGO, Human Rights Watch.

Before one jumps on the pro-war bipartisan bandwagon, as a reaction to alleged chemical warfare in Syria, one should examine the record of falsehoods created by the humanitarian-military-industrial complex. A good place to start is The Wall Will Fall. The US/UK intervention has been a Wag the Dog show since the outset.

As UK Professor Tim Hayward notes in his op-ed at WKOG, he, like many former Amnesty International supporters, took AI at its word when alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria. Reviewing the basis for such claims, Hayward easily discovered that AI had no evidence for them, and in so doing violated its own protocol to “collect evidence with our own staff on the ground,” thus failing to ensure that “every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking,” as stated by Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley, independent journalists who covered the mainstream media fraud in Syria, shoot holes in the BBC/CNN/FOX promotion of terrorists as heroes.

The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: totalitarian control of social media, and the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

As I noted in Preventing Discursive Monoculture, the financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of Indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. More recently, in A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali, Burundi, Libya and Syria—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya & Syria—where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making Communication: The Invisible Environment.

In Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex, Patrick Henningsen reveals ‘perception management’ by the NGO sector as ‘co-marketing’ of foreign policy objectives of the US State Department, Pentagon and NATO. As Henningsen notes, leading human rights organizations—such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—“have become virtual clearinghouses for interventionist propaganda”.

Says Henningsen, in the Balkans, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen—where they supported regime change—“NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France”. To successfully frame geopolitical narratives on which these NGOs derive their fundraising campaigns, the lucrative revolving door between NGOs, government and media “converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance”.

Underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations, these organizations have well-developed links “leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex”. Blinded by the fog of mass media and bombarded with faux moral imperatives, public opinion is led by these NGOs into supporting western-backed rebels and terrorists “under the banner of ‘human rights’.”

 

Swedish Doctors for Human Rights: White Helmets Video, Macabre Manipulation of Dead Children and Staged Chemical Weapons Attack to Justify a “No-Fly Zone” in Syria

March 2017 issue

By Prof Marcello Ferrada de Noli, chairman, Swedish Doctors for Human Rights – SWEDHR

 

An examination of a White Helmets video, conducted by Swedish medical doctors, specialists in various fields, including paediatrics, have revealed that the life-saving procedures seen in the film are incorrect – in fact life-threatening – or simply fake, including simulated emergency resuscitation techniques being used on already lifeless children.

New findings published March 17, 2017: White Helmets Movies: Updated Evidence From Swedish Doctors Confirm Fake ‘Lifesaving’ and Malpractices on Children

I

The Alleged Sarmin Attack

There has been a recent, intense, publicity campaign that has capitalised on the Oscar for best documentary being awarded to the NATO and Gulf state funded organization, the White Helmets and their Netflix documentary producers. [1] The White Helmets had previously been winners of the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, given to them in Sweden in 2016. [2] These various awards have ensured that the White Helmet fictitious “saving-children-lives” videos have been re-circulating across corporate and social media, a major PR coup for the sponsors of this questionable organization.

Central to this PR campaign and just prior to the Oscar award ceremony, Human Rights Watch published a “retrospective” report on February 13th 2017, focusing on spurious accounts of chemical attacks on the recently liberated city of Aleppo. This familiar HRW propaganda piece recycled a previous report from April 2015 detailing an alleged chlorine gas attack in Sarmin, Idlib [4].

Footage of the aftermath of this attack was provided, at the time, by none other than the White Helmets, which brings us to the macabre video, uploaded by this alleged first responder NGO to YouTube on March 15th 2015. [5]

 

 

Kenneth Roth’s obsessed ‘denouncing’ of unverified chlorine gas attacks, allegedly, carried out by the Syrian state against its own people

Ken Roth has waged a longstanding campaign for military intervention in Syria and the No Fly Zone, effectively a declaration of war

 

The “Sarmin attack” report published by HRW in April 2015 is, in itself, a remarkable feat of evidence engineering. HRW refers to two witnesses – anonymous “Sarmin residents” – stating they have “heard” helicopters “shortly before the attack”. They heard them but did not see them. Both witnesses also reported hearing “no explosions”. [4] In the entire HRW report there is not one reported sighting of a helicopter, the existence of which should be an essential element of the White Helmet claims, uncritically reproduced by HRW and never questioned by the UN.

One of the key witnesses cited in the HRW, April 2015, report is a White Helmet operative by the name of Leith Fares: [6]

“Leith Fares, a rescue worker with Syrian Civil Defence, told Human Rights Watch. “A helicopter always drops two barrels.” “You know, we were at first actually happy,” Fares said. “It is usually good news when there is no explosion.” [4]

A notably peculiar factor of the White Helmet footage of this alleged attack is that they do not film any external shots of the attack itself, despite their declared anticipation of being targeted, having “heard” helicopters.

Instead, the only footage is of an enclosed indoor space with no contextual filming to evidence where they are in Syria or that an attack has just taken place. The indoor environment certainly resembles a makeshift hospital emergency room. White Helmet “rescuers” parade in and out, manhandling and maneuvering the limp, lifeless bodies of three children. The naked bodies of these children have no external, visible injuries and do not respond when the various “medics” perform all manner of ostensibly “life-saving” procedures, in a haphazard effort to resuscitate these children.

II

“A Macabre Scene”

In order to obtain qualified clinical opinions, I sent the video uploaded by White Helmets to eminent Swedish medical specialists. I stressed that, particular attention, must be paid to the Syringe needle procedure (seemingly, intracardiac injection) carried out on one of the children.  [Click on the image for a clip from the video, showing the syringe-needle scene]:

cover3-The-Indicter-6-march-2017

[The scenes shown in the video above form part of the full video uploaded by White Helmets in YouTube, found here.]

Dr Leif Elinder, a known Swedish medical doctor profile, author and specialist in paediatrics, summarised the following in his reply: [7]

“After examination of the video material, I found that the measures inflicted upon those children, some of them lifeless, are bizarre, non-medical, non-lifesaving, and even counterproductive in terms of life-saving purposes of children”.

Further, I received a detailed clinical statement from Dr Lena Oske, a Swedish medical doctor and general practitioner. In her statement, Dr Oske referred to the presumed, adrenaline injection, performed in the White Helmet video (excerpt in the photo above). Her specialist opinion dismisses the procedure conducted in the White Helmet video, as unqualified and incorrect. Furthermore, she describes the earlier assessment of the procedure by a colleague who had exclaimed:

“If not already dead, this injection would have killed the child!”

Excerpts from Dr Lena Oske’s statement to SWEDHR: [8]

Intracutaneous injection with adrenalin may be used if any other resuscitation measure does not succeed. Especially under precarious circumstances – such as in field emergency settings– where safer ways for the administration of medication (i.e. endotracheal, intravenous, or intraosseus) might be difficult or unavailable. But not in the way shown in the video”.

“In order to perform the injection, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) has to be interrupted, and then the CPR resumed immediately after. Which is not done in the procedures shown in the video.”

And referring to a correct medical procedure, the Swedish specialist MD adds:

“The technique is simple. Long needle, syringe with 1 mg adrenaline, find the 4th or 5th intercostal space and insert the needle just adjacent to the sternum, left side, deposit the medication after checking you are in the right position (aspiration of blood and no resistance), take out the needle and immediately resume CPR! So, the doctor who wrote the comment, ‘If not already dead, this injection would have killed the child’ was right! What a macabre scene; and how sad.” [8]

[Both colleagues, doctors Leif Elinder and Lena Oske, are senior members of SWEDHR, and on behalf of the SWEDHR board I fully endorse each other’s statements.]

 

III

‘White Helmets’ Associations with Nusra-Front, Al-Qaeda in Syria

It is also important to highlight that the so called White Helmets who have bestowed upon themselves, the title of Syria Civil Defence, are actually fraudulently mimicking the REAL Syria Civil Defence, established in Syria (not in Turkey) in 1953 and the only Syria Civil Defence officially recognised as such, by the (UN affiliated) International Civil Defence Organisation, based in Geneva.

This UK/US shadow state building project, in Syria, has been extensively investigated in the prominent work of independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley. [9] The authentic Syria Civil Defence serves an estimated 80 percent of the Syrian population inside Syria that lives under the protection of the Syrian state in Syrian government held territory.

Conversely, the White Helmets operate exclusively in Nusra Front and ISIS terrorist-controlled areas and therefore would service less than 20 percent of the remaining Syrian civilian population, when one takes into account the sheer numbers of foreign mercenaries and militants who also occupy those areas. Added to which, these “moderate” extremist held areas are continuously dwindling as the Syrian armed forces and their allies inexorably reconquer the national territory of Syria and release it from the grip of externally funded terrorism. As the terrorist factions are pushed out of liberated areas, such as East Aleppo, we clearly see the White Helmets depart in tandem.

Evidence of the White Helmet affiliation to the various terrorist factions is extensively documented. There are evidenced reports on one of the more prominent White Helmet leaders, Mustafa al Haj Yussef, in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib where many of the East Aleppo terrorists and their civil defence have fled. [11] These reports detail his declarations of allegiance to various extremist factions such as Ahrar Al Sham, responsible for many of the ethnic cleansing pogroms across Syria. Yussef has openly called for the shelling of civilians in Damascus during the 2014 elections. He has advocated robbery, looting and sectarian punishments and murder under certain circumstances. Imagine a Red Cross official calling for such reprisals, and you can understand how extraordinary this behaviour is for an Oscar winning, “neutral, apolitical, impartial” allegedly, humanitarian NGO.

Yusef’s affiliations and behaviour are not the exception, the majority of White Helmet operatives have demonstrated the same ideological allegiances to extremist, armed groups in Syria.

The UN Theatre of the Macabre

The final scene of this “drama” is the closed-door session at the UN Security Council, where the White Helmet video we have referred to, took centre stage at a performance by former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power.

Predictably, the shocking scenes of children’s lifeless bodies being crudely manipulated and “arranged” combined with the theatrical and entirely ineffectual “life-saving” interventions – as depicted by the White Helmet movie – emotionally impacted upon the UN decision makers. In Samantha Power’s words:

“I saw no one in the room without tears. If there was a dry eye in the room, I didn’t see it” [12]

Unfortunately, UN officials were so distracted by the macabre performance they had just witnessed, that they did not think to ask for a translation of the various instructions being issued by the “medics” in the film. A rudimentary element of any investigation process must be to clarify context, particularly when the results have potential to precipitate a terrifying conflict escalation between the US and Russia on Syrian soil.

SWEDHR took the time to get the dialogue in the White Helmet movie translated. At 1:16 the doctor in full light green and a gray & black jumper says:

”Include in the picture (meaning in the film or the frame -translators note) the mother should be underneath and the children on top of her, hey! Make sure the mother is underneath.”

Perhaps, if the video had been subtitled, the UN officials might have queried this overt staging of an event that one must assume, was chaotic, harrowing and stressful. Perhaps, they would have found it strange, that in the midst of a “chemical weapon” attack, one of the medics, attempting to save the lives of three Syrian children, would be concerned with the positioning of their bodies for the camera.

Objective: No Fly Zone

The UNSC showing of the White Helmet footage, coincided with a universal call for a No-Fly Zone from NATO and Gulf state funded “moderate rebel” and terrorist groups, who depend upon the White Helmets for their civil defence. This international No-Fly-Zone campaign gathered momentum on the back of the UNSC tears over the White Helmet video of the alleged Sarmin chlorine gas attack, and was even supported in the Swedish media. [13]

In a later Channel 4 report on the alleged Sarmin chlorine gas attacks, during which they aired a brief, sanitized segment of the White Helmet video, Samantha Power declared:

“This document that we record now will be used at some point in a court of law, and the perpetrators of this crime need to have that in mind” [14]

In addition to calls for a No-Fly Zone and the analogous term ‘Safe Zones’, it should not be overlooked that all of the dubious and misrepresented media reporting emanating from the White Helmets is also being used to justify a continuous program of crippling US-led sanctions against Syria. According to a 2016 leaked UN internal report [15], US and EU economic sanctions on Syria are causing ‘huge suffering among ordinary Syrians’ and prohibiting the delivery of essential, humanitarian aid.

Conclusion

UN representatives were moved to tears by the spectacle presented to them by the White Helmets. An appropriate response, to the black art performance of the White Helmets, whose acting talents have propelled them onto Hollywood’s red carpet. In any sane world, however, the ‘misuse’, the propaganda abuse, of the children being exploited as props in a war that will inevitably kill more children, should also qualify the White Helmets for due process in a court of law and condemn their sponsors to prosecution in the European Court of Human Rights.

As for war-hawk, Samantha Power’s threats, echoed by her puppet human rights organisations, controlled by western corporate elites, I would like to mention that the war in Syria started when the US and NATO states, in unholy alliance with Gulf State tyrannies, funded, trained and armed the “moderate” extremist forces which have since invaded and terrorized the Syrian state and its people, who have steadfastly stood with their elected government against the tide of regime change propaganda and proxy military intervention.

In the final judgement, when the international court for war crimes puts the immoral warmongers on trial, they will be condemned and found guilty of abhorrent crimes against Humanity by all the decent people of this world.

[Update: Second part of this analysis here: “Updated Evidence From Swedish Doctors Confirm Fake ‘Lifesaving’ and Malpractices on Children

The author wish to thank independent journalist Vanessa Beeley for invaluable feedback.

 

References, Notes.

[1] The nomination done by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took place January 27, 2017. The award decision was taken February 26. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report sustaining the not-proved allegations by the White Helmets against the government of Syria was published Feb 13, 2017, right in the middle of the period between the nomination and the decision of the Oscar award to the film White Helmets.

[2] M Ferrada de Noli, “Why Is Sweden Giving the “Alternative Nobel Prize” to Syria’s ‘White Helmets’?” The Indicter Magazine, 25 November 2016.

[3] “Syria: Coordinated Chemical Attacks on Aleppo“. HRW, 13 February 2017.

[4] “Syria: Chemicals Used in Idlib Attacks”. HRW, 13 April 2015.

[5] “ ?????? ?????? ????_?????:?????? ?????? ??????? ??? ??????? ?????? ???????? 26_3_2015”. Uploaded by ?????? ?????? ?????? ?? ?????? ???? [“Syrian Civil Defence, Idlib”]. YouTube video published 16 March 2015.

[6] Leith (or Laith) Fares is repeatedly found in both Arab and Western news giving statements –from a variety of locations in Syria– to visiting Western journalists. For instance, while in the Human Rights Watch report Fares gives the notion of being present at the alleged event in Sarmin, in Arab News is given that Leith Fares is “a rescue worker in Ariha”, and that “(Fares) told AFP his team had pulled at least 20 wounded people out of the rubble.”

‘Laith Fares’ keeps also an uploading account in You Tube with anti-Syria propaganda videos, and on behalf of White Helmets political positions. [5]

Laith Fares’ YouTube account reaches 204 upload videos.

[7] Dr Leif Elinder’s email communication to the author, 4 March 2017.

[8] Dr Lena Oske’s email communication to the author, 4 March 2017.

[9] Vanessa Beeley, “The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters“. 21st Century Wire, 23 September 2016.

[10] Vanessa Beeley, ” Syria White Helmets Hand In Hand With Al Qaeda”. YouTube, published 22 January 2017.

[11] Vanessa Beeley, ” ‘President’ Raed Saleh’s Terrorist Connections within White Helmet Leadership“. 21st Century Wire, 10 December 2016.

[12] Nick Logan, “UN officials in tears watching video from alleged chlorine attack in Syria”. Global News, 17 April 2017.

[13] See video “Sweden’s elites endorse H. Clinton No Fly Zone War with Russia & Syria”. The Indicter Channel, YouTube, published 22 November 2016.

[14] Quoted from ”UN tears over Syria chlorine attack video”. Channel 4 News. YouTube video published 17 April 2015.

[15] Patrick Cockburn, US and EU sanctions are ruining ordinary Syrians’ lives, yet Bashar al-Assad hangs on to power, The Independent (UK), October 2016.

 

[Professor Dr med Marcello Ferrada de Noli, formerly at the Karoilinska Institute and ex Research Fellow Harvard Medical School, is the founder and chairman of Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights and editor-in-chief of The Indicter. Also publisher of The Professors’ Blog, and CEO of Libertarian Books – Sweden. Author of “Sweden VS. Assange – Human Rights Issues.” Apart of research works published in scientific journals,  his op-ed articles have been published in Dagens Nyheter (DN), Svenska Dagbladet (Svd), Aftonbladet, Västerbotten Kuriren, Dagens Medicin,  Läkartidningen and other Swedish media. He also has had exclusive interviews in DN, Expressen, SvD and Aftonbladet, and in Swedish TV channels (Svt 2, TV4, TV5) as well as international TV and media (e.g. Norway, Italy TG, Cuba, Chile, DW, Sputnik, RT, Izvestia, etc.).]

 

Further Reading:

Swedish Doctors: George Clooney Has Syrian Blood On His Hands

Human Rights Industry Protects Imperialism

Black Agenda Report

February 15, 2017

When so-called Human Rights organizations are financed by the one percent they dependably echo the priorities and prejudices of their influential sponsors.  So it is that Amnesty International is an energetic source of war propaganda on behalf of US imperial efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Their “report” of a supposed “human slaughterhouse” operated by the Syrian regime is the latest installment in a campaign to justify US intervention in the Middle East.

Humanity is in desperate need of individuals and organizations to speak up for their right to live free from the threat of state violence. Instead we have a human rights industrial complex which speaks for the powerful and tells lies in order to justify their aggressions. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are at the top of this infamous list. They have a pattern and practice of giving cover for regime change schemes hatched by the United States, NATO partners and gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International recently released a report “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison Syria” which claimed that the Syrian government executed between 5,000 and 13,000 people over a five-year period. The report is based on anonymous sources outside of Syria, hearsay, and the dubious use of satellite photos reminiscent of Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003. There is plenty of hyperbolic language like “slaughterhouse” and “extermination” but scant evidence of the serious charges being made.

Human Rights Watch joined the fray just days later, with claims that the Syrian government used chlorine gas against civilians fleeing Aleppo. Once again, the claims had little evidence, just mud thrown against a wall in the hope that some of it will stick. It is the al Nusra front which attacked the Aleppo refugees as they struggled to get within the Syrian army lines. One day there is a report on execution, another day chemical weapons, barrel bombs the next day and so on. These phony organizations never mention that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria was brought about by western intervention and its head chopping jihadist allies.

The Syrian war isn’t over, but that government and its allies are winning and they will determine the future of that nation. It is Russia, Turkey and Iran who are convening peace talks between Syria and the opposition and that is why the effort to discredit them goes on.

Beginning in 2011 the United States used a tried and true method of getting support for imperialism. A foreign leader is accused of being a tyrant who terrorizes his nation. The claims silence critics, get buy in from corporate media and cynical politicians and ultimately lead to death at the hands of the so-called saviors. There are 9 million Syrian refugees precisely because of collusion between the west and its gulf monarchy allies. The suffering of the civilian population is the fault of these parties and it is only the determination of the Syrians and help from their allies which prevented it from going the way of Libya.

Now that the jihadists are on the run and their one-time backer Turkey has switched sides, the jig is up. But the imperialists will not go away quietly. That is why Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reappear at a crucial moment.

New president Donald Trump is quite literally a wild card. During his campaign he claimed he would not support regime change but his personality and policy are erratic. It is never clear what he means or wants. His staff are equally amateurish and the direction of American foreign policy is anyone’s guess. One day he wants better relations with Russia and the next he makes a futile demand that it return Crimea to its neo-Nazi overlords. But republicans and democrats in the war party are quite clear on their plans. They are not giving up in their quest for hegemony and they need all the credibility they can get. Enter Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to provide propaganda at just the right moment.

If they were at all serious in their stated goal of giving voice to the abused, they could use their ample resources to criticize the United States domestically and around the world. When president George Bush instigated the invasion or Iraq in 1991 they repeated the fable of soldiers killing babies in incubators. They never explained or apologized for their actions. They continued their awful partnership in 2011 when they provided cover for the Obama administration’s attack on and destruction of Libya.

Neither organization will denounce the American carceral state, the world’s worst. They might attack the modern-day police slave patrol which kills three people every day. They could ask why the United States has an implicit right to decide that Libya or Syria or Somalia can be destroyed and their populations be forced to suffer. But taking on those issues would be in defiance of their true mission, creating the conditions necessary to allow the United States to commit aggressions without fear of public opposition.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are not friendly to the people of the world. They pick on the weak and the targets of imperialist attack and tell lies on behalf of those who violate human rights on a mass scale. Despite playing a lead role in the Syrian disaster, the United States was invited to be an observer at the upcoming peace talks. Enter AI and HRW to help make sure that if the Trump administration should participate, it won’t be making any changes they need worry about. The human rights industrial complex is dependably on the side of the evil doers and their dirty deeds.

 

[Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley (at)BlackAgendaReport.com]

How We Were Misled About Syria: Amnesty International

Tim Hayward

January 23, 2017

 

Most of us living outside Syria know very little of the country or its recent history. What we think we know comes via the media. Information that comes with the endorsement of an organisation like Amnesty International we may tend to assume is reliable. Certainly, I always trusted Amnesty International implicitly, believing I understood and shared its moral commitments.

As a decades-long supporter, I never thought to check the reliability of its reporting. Only on seeing the organisation last year relaying messages from the infamous White Helmets did questions arise for me.[1] Having since discovered a problem about the witness testimonies provided by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I felt a need to look more closely at Amnesty International’s reporting.[2] Amnesty had been influential in forming public moral judgements about the rights and wrongs of the war in Syria.

What if Amnesty’s reporting on the situation in Syria was based on something other than verified evidence?[3] What if misleading reports were instrumental in fuelling military conflicts that might otherwise have been more contained, or even avoided?

c_scalefl_progressiveq_80w_800

Amnesty International first alleged war crimes in Syria, against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, in June 2012.[4] If a war crime involves a breach of the laws of war, and application of those laws presupposes a war, it is relevant to know how long the Syrian government had been at war, assuming it was. The UN referred to a ‘situation close to civil war’ in December 2011.[5] Amnesty International’s war crimes in Syria were therefore reported on the basis of evidence that would have been gathered, analysed, written up, checked, approved and published within six months.[6] That is astonishingly – and worryingly – quick.

The report does not detail its research methods, but a press release quotes at length, and exclusively, the words of Donatella Rovera who ‘spent several weeks investigating human rights violations in northern Syria.’ lutherAs far as I can tell, the fresh evidence advertised in the report was gathered through conversations and tours Rovera had in those weeks.[7] Her report mentions that Amnesty International ‘had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria’.[8]

I am no lawyer, but I find it inconceivable that allegations of war crimes made on this basis would be taken seriously. Rovera herself was later to speak of problems with the investigation in Syria: in a reflective article published two years afterwards,[9] she gives examples of both material evidence and witness statements that had misled the investigation.[10]  Such reservations did not appear on Amnesty’s website; I am not aware of Amnesty having relayed any caveats about the report, nor of its reviewing the war crimes allegations.  What I find of greater concern, though, given that accusations of crimes already committed can in due course be tried, is that Amnesty also did not temper its calls for prospective action.  On the contrary.

In support of its surprisingly quick and decisive stance on intervention, Amnesty International was also accusing the Syrian government of crimes against humanity. Already before Deadly Reprisals, the report Deadly Detention had alleged these. Such allegations can have grave implications because they can be taken as warrant for armed intervention.[11] Whereas war crimes do not occur unless there is a war, crimes against humanity can be considered a justification for going to war. And in war, atrocities can occur that would otherwise not have occurred.

I find this thought deeply troubling, particularly as a supporter of Amnesty International at the time it called for action, the foreseeable consequences of which included fighting and possible war crimes, by whomsoever committed, that might otherwise never have been. Personally, I cannot quite escape the thought that in willing the means to an end one also shares some responsibility for their unintended consequences.[12]

If Amnesty International considered the moral risk of indirect complicity in creating war crimes a lesser one than keeping silent about what it believed it had found in Syria, then it must have had very great confidence in the findings. Was that confidence justified?

If we go back to human rights reports on Syria for the year 2010, before the conflict began, we find Amnesty International recorded a number of cases of wrongful detention and brutality.[13]Deadly Reprisals.png In the ten years Bashar Al-Assad had been president, the human rights situation seemed to Western observers not to have improved as markedly as they had hoped. Human Rights Watch spoke of 2000-2010 as a ‘wasted decade’.[14] The consistent tenor of reports was disappointment: advances achieved in some areas had to be set against continued problems in others. We also know that in some rural parts of Syria, there was real frustration at the government’s priorities and policies.[15] An agricultural economy hobbled by the poorly managed effects of severe drought had left the worst off feeling marginalized. Life may have been good for many in vibrant cities, but it was far from idyllic for everyone, and there remained scope to improve the human rights record. The government’s robust approach to groups seeking an end to the secular state of Syria was widely understood to need monitoring for reported excesses. Still, the pre-war findings of monitors, are a long way from any suggestion of crimes against humanity. That includes the findings of Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights.

A report published just three months later portrays a dramatically different situation.[16]In the period from April to August 2011, events on the ground had certainly moved quickly in the wake of anti-government protests in parts of the country, but so had Amnesty.

deadly-detention

In promoting the new report, Deadly Detention, Amnesty International USA notes with pride how the organisation is now providing ‘real-time documentation of human rights abuses committed by government forces’. Not only is it providing rapid reporting, it is also making strong claims. Instead of measured statements suggesting necessary reforms, it now condemns Assad’s government for ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’ The Syrian government is accused of ‘crimes against humanity’.[17]

The speed and confidence – as well as the implied depth of insight – of the report are remarkable. The report is worrying, too, given how portentous is its damning finding against the government: Amnesty International ‘called on the UN Security Council to not only condemn, in a firm and legally binding manner, the mass human rights violations being committed in Syria but also to take other measures to hold those responsible to account, including by referring the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. As well, Amnesty International continues to urge the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria and to immediately freeze the assets of President al-Assad and other officials suspected of responsibility for crimes against humanity.’ With such strongly-worded statements as this, especially in a context where powerful foreign states are already calling for ‘regime change’ in Syria, Amnesty’s contribution could be seen as throwing fuel on a fire.

Since it is not just the strength of the condemnation that is noteworthy, but the swiftness of its delivery – in ‘real-time’ – a question that Amnesty International supporters might consider is how the organisation can provide instantaneous coverage of events while also fully investigating and verifying the evidence.

 JORDAN-SYRIA-CONFLICT-REFUGEES

Amnesty International’s reputation rests on the quality of its research. The organisation’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, has clearly stated the principles and methods adhered to when gathering evidence:

‘we do it in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.’[18]

Amnesty thus sets itself rigorous standards of research, and assures the public that it is scrupulous in adhering to them. This is only to be expected, I think, especially when grave charges are to be levelled against a government.

Did Amnesty follow its own research protocol in preparing the Deadly Detention report? Was it: systematic, primary, collected by Amnesty’s own staff, on the ground, with every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration and by cross-checking with all parties concerned?

In the analysis appended here as a note [ – [19] –] I show, point by point, that the report admits failing to fulfil some of these criteria and fails to show it has met any of them.

Given that the findings could be used to support calls for humanitarian intervention in Syria, the least to expect of the organization would be application of its own prescribed standards of proof.

Lest it be thought that focusing on the technicalities of research methodology risks letting the government off the hook for egregious crimes, it really needs to be stressed – as was originally axiomatic for Amnesty International – that we should never make a presumption of guilt without evidence or trial.[20] Quite aside from technical questions, getting it wrong about who is the perpetrator of war crimes could lead to the all too real consequences of mistakenly intervening on the side of the actual perpetrators.

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Suppose it nevertheless be insisted that the evidence clearly enough shows Assad to be presiding over mass destruction of his own country and slaughter in his own people: surely the ‘international community’ should intervene on the people’s behalf against this alleged ‘mass murderer’?[21] In the climate of opinion and with the state of knowledge abroad at the time, that may have sounded a plausible proposition. It was not the only plausible proposition, however, and certainly not in Syria itself. Another was that the best sort of support to offer the people of Syria would lie in pressing the government more firmly towards reforms while assisting it, as was becoming increasingly necessary, in ridding the territory of terrorist insurgents who had fomented and then exploited the tensions in the original protests of Spring 2011.[22] For even supposing the government’s agents of internal security needed greater restraint, the best way to achieve this is not necessarily to undermine the very government that would be uniquely well-placed, with support and constructive incentives, to apply it.

I do not find it obvious that Amnesty was either obliged or competent to decide between these alternative hypotheses. Since it nevertheless chose to do so, we have to ask why it pre-emptively dismissed the method of deciding proposed by President Al-Assad himself. This was his undertaking to hold an election to ask the people whether they wanted him to stay or go.

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Although not widely reported in the West, and virtually ignored by Amnesty[23] – a presidential election was held in 2014, with the result being a landslide victory for Bashar Al-Assad. He won 10,319,723 votes – 88.7% of the vote – with a turnout put at 73.42%.[24]

Western observers did not challenge those numbers or allege voting irregularities,[25] with the media instead seeking to downplay their significance. ‘This is not an election that can be analysed in the same way as a multi-party, multi-candidate election in one of the established European democracies or in the US, says the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Damascus. It was an act of homage to President Assad by his supporters, which was boycotted and rejected by opponents rather than an act of politics, he adds.’[26] This homage, nonetheless, was paid by an outright majority of Syrians. To refer to this as ‘meaningless’, as US Secretary of State, John Kerry did,[27] reveals something of how much his own regime respected the people of Syria. It is true that voting could not take place in opposition-held areas, but participation overall was so great that even assuming the whole population in those areas would have voted against him, they would still have had to accept Assad as legitimate winner – rather as we in Scotland have to accept Theresa May as UK prime minister. In fact, the recent liberation of eastern Aleppo has revealed Assad’s government actually to have support there.

We cannot know if Assad would have been so many people’s first choice under other circumstances, but we can reasonably infer that the people of Syria saw in his leadership their best hope for unifying the country around the goal of ending the bloodshed. Whatever some might more ideally have sought – including as expressed in the authentic protests of 2011 – the will of the Syrian people quite clearly was, under the actual circumstances, for their government to be allowed to deal with their problems, rather than be supplanted by foreign-sponsored agencies.[28]

(I am tempted to add the thought, as a political philosopher, that BBC’s Jeremy Bowen could be right in saying the election was no normal ‘act of politics’: Bashar Al-Assad has always been clear in statements and interviews that his position is inextricably bound up with the Syrian constitution.  He didn’t choose to give up a career in medicine to become a dictator, as I understand it; rather, the chance event of his older brother’s death altered his plans. Until actual evidence suggests otherwise, I am personally prepared to believe that Assad’s otherwise incomprehensible steadfastness of purpose does indeed stem from a commitment to defending his country’s constitution. Whether or not the people really wanted this person as president is secondary to the main question whether they were prepared to give up their national constitution to the dictates of any body other than that of the Syrian people. Their answer to this has a significance, as Bowen inadvertently notes, that is beyond mere politics.)

Since the Syrian people had refuted the proposition that Amnesty had been promoting, serious questions have be asked. Among these, one – which would speak to a defence of Amnesty – is whether it had some independent justification – coming from sources of information other than its own investigations – for genuinely believing its allegations against the Syrian government well-founded. However, since an affirmative answer to that question would not refute the point I have sought to clarify here I shall set them aside for a separate discussion in the next episode of this investigation.

My point for now is that Amnesty International itself had not independently justified its own advocacy position. This is a concern for anyone who thinks it should take full responsibility for the monitoring it reports. Further discussion has also to address concerns about what kinds of advocacy it should be engaged in at all.[29]

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NOTES

[1] For background on concern about the White Helmets, a concise overview is provided in the video White Helmets: first responders or Al Qaeda support group? For a more thorough discussion, see the accessible but richly referenced summary provided by Jan Oberg. On the basis of all the information now widely available, and in view of the consistency between numerous critical accounts, which contrasts with the incoherence of the official narrative as made famous by Netflix, I have come to mistrust testimony sourced from the White Helmets when it conflicts with testimony of independent journalists on the ground – especially since reports of the latter are also consistent with those of the people of eastern Aleppo who have been able to share the truth of their own experiences since the liberation (for numerous interviews with people from Aleppo, see the Youtube channel of Vanessa Beeley; see also the moving photographic journals of Jan Oberg.)

There have certainly been efforts to debunk the various exposés of the White Helmets, and the latest I know of (at the time of writing) concerns the confession featured in the video (linked above) of Abdulhadi Kamel. According to Middle East eye, his colleagues in the White Helmets believe the confession was beaten out of him (report as at 15 Jan 2017) in a notorious government detention centre (http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-white-helmet-fake-confession-filmed-assad-regime-intelligence-prison-344419324); according to Amnesty International, which does not mention that report in its appeal of 20 Jan 2017, states that there is no evidence he was a White Helmet and it is not known what happened to him (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/01/man-missing-during-east-aleppo-evacuation/). What I take from this is that some people want to defend the White Helmets, but that they cannot even agree a consistent story to base it on under the pressure of unexpected events in Aleppo showing behind the scenes – literally – of the Netflix version of events. It is also hardly reassuring about the quality of AI’s monitoring in Syria.

[2] My critical inquiry about Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was sparked by learning that their testimony was being used to criticise claims being made about Syria by the independent journalist Eva Bartlett. Having found her reporting credible, I felt compelled to discover which account to believe. I found that MSF had been misleading about what they could really claim to know in Syria.

In response to that article, several people pointed to related concerns about Amnesty International. So I had the temerity to start questioning Amnesty International on the basis of pointers and tips given by several of my new friends, and I would like to thank particularly Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Patrick J.Boyle, Adrian D., and Rick Sterling for specific suggestions. I have also benefited from work by Tim Anderson, Jean Bricmont, Tony Cartalucci, Stephen Gowans, Daniel Kovalic, Barbara McKenzie, and Coleen Rowley. I would like to thank Gunnar Øyro, too, for producing a rapid Norwegian translation of the MSF article which has helped it reach more people. In fact, there are a great any others too, that have I learned so much from in these few weeks, among what I have come to discover is a rapidly expanding movement of citizen investigators and journalists all around the globe. It’s one good thing to come out of these terrible times. Thanks to you all!

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[3] For instance, it is argued by Tim Anderson, in The Dirty War on Syria (2016), that Amnesty has been ‘embedded’, along with the Western media, and has been following almost unswervingly the line from Washington rather than providing independent evidence and analysis.

[4] The report Deadly Reprisals concluded that ‘Syrian government forces and militias are responsible for grave human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.’

[5]http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40595 – .WIGzeZIpGHk

[6] ‘In the areas of the governorates of Idlib and Aleppo, where Amnesty International carried out its field research for this report, the fighting had reached the level and intensity of a non-international armed conflict. This means that the laws of war (international humanitarian law) also apply, in addition to human rights law, and that many of the abuses documented here would also amount to war crimes.’ Deadly Reprisals, p.10.

[7] Rovera’s account was contradicted at the time by other witness testimonies, as reported, for instance, in the Badische Zeitung, which claimed responsibility for deaths was attributed to the wrong side. One-sidedness in the account is also heavily criticized by Louis Denghien http://www.infosyrie.fr/decryptage/lenorme-mensonge-fondateur-de-donatella-rovera/ Most revealing, however, is the article I go on to mention in the text, in which Rovera herself two years later effectively retracts her own evidence (‘Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict’). This article is not published on Amnesty’s own site, and is not mentioned by Amnesty anywhere, as far as I know. I commend it to anyone who thinks my conclusion about Deadly Reprisals might itself be too hasty. I think it could make salutary reading for some of her colleagues, like the one who published the extraordinarily defensive dismissal of critical questions about the report in Amnesty’s blog on 15 June 2012, which, I would say, begs every question it claims to answer. (The author just keeps retorting that the critics hadn’t been as critical about opposition claims. I neither know nor care whether they were. I only wanted to learn if he had anything to say in reply to the actual criticisms made.) While appreciating that people who work for Amnesty feel passionately about the cause of the vulnerable, and I would not wish it otherwise, I do maintain that professional discipline is appropriate in discussions relating to evidence.

[8] ‘For more than a year from the onset of the unrest in 2011, Amnesty International – like other international human rights organizations – had not been able to conduct research on the ground in Syria as it was effectively barred from entering the country by the government.’ (Deadly Reprisals, p.13)

[9] Donatella Rovera, Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict, Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) 2014.

[10] The article is worth reading in full for its reflective insight into a number of difficulties and obstacles in the way of reliable reporting from the field, but here is an excerpt particularly relevant to the Syria case: ‘Access to relevant areas during the conduct of hostilities may be restricted or outright impossible, and often extremely dangerous when possible. Evidence may be rapidly removed, destroyed, or contaminated – whether intentionally or not. “Bad” evidence can be worse than no evidence, as it can lead to wrong assumptions or conclusions. In Syria I found unexploded cluster sub-munitions in places where no cluster bomb strikes were known to have been carried out. Though moving unexploded cluster sub-munitions is very dangerous, as even a light touch can cause them to explode, Syrian fighters frequently gather them from the sites of government strikes and transport them to other locations, sometimes a considerable distance away, in order to harvest explosive and other material for re-use. The practice has since become more widely known, but at the time of the first cluster bomb strikes, two years ago, it led to wrong assumptions about the locations of such strikes. … Especially in the initial stages of armed conflicts, civilians are confronted with wholly unfamiliar realities – armed clashes, artillery strikes, aerial bombardments, and other military activities and situations they have never experienced before – which can make it very difficult for them to accurately describe specific incidents.’ (Challenges of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding during and after armed conflict) In light of Rovera’s candour, one is drawn to an inescapable contrast with the stance of Amnesty International, the organization. Not only did it endorse the report uncritically, in the first place, it continued to issue reports of a similar kind, and to make calls for action on the basis of them.

[11] ‘This disturbing new evidence of an organized pattern of grave abuses highlights the pressing need for decisive international action … For more than a year the UN Security Council has dithered, while a human rights crisis unfolded in Syria.  It must now break the impasse and take concrete action to end to these violations and to hold to account those responsible.’ Deadly Reprisals press release. The executive director of Amnesty International USA at that time was on record as favouring a Libya-like response to the Syria ‘problem’. Speaking shortly after her appointment she expressed her frustration that the Libya approach had not already been adopted for Syria: ‘Last spring the Security Council managed to forge a majority for forceful action in Libya and it was initially very controversial, [causing] many misgivings among key Security Council members. But Gaddafi fell, there’s been a transition there and I think one would have thought those misgivings would have died down. And yet we’ve seen just a continued impasse over Syria… .’ Quoted in Coleen Rowley, ‘Selling War as “Smart Power”’ (28 Aug 2012)

[12] The question of what Amnesty International as an organization can be said to have ‘willed’ is complex. One reason is that it is an association of so many people and does not have a simple ‘will’. Another is that public statements are often couched in language that can convey a message but with word choice that allows deniability of any particular intent should that become subject to criticism or censure. This practice in itself I find unwholesome, personally, and I think it ought to be entirely unnecessary for an organization with Amnesty’s moral mission. For a related critical discussion of Amnesty International’s ‘interventionism’ in Libya see e.g. Daniel Kovalik ‘Amnesty International and the Human Rights Industry’ (2012). Coleen Rowley received from Amnesty International, in response to criticisms by her, the assurance ‘we do not take positions on armed intervention.’ (The Problem with Human Rights/Humanitarian Law Taking Precedence over the Nuremberg Principle: Torture is Wrong but So Is the Supreme War Crime’, 2013). Rowley shows how this response, unlike a clear stance against intervention, shows some creativity. I also note in passing, that in the same response Amnesty assure us ‘AI’s advocacy is based on our own independent research into human rights abuses in a given country.’ This, going by the extent to which AI reports cite reports from other organisations, I would regard as economical with the truth.

In my next blog on Amnesty International, the role of Suzanne Nossel, sometime executive director of Ammesty International USA, will be discussed, and in that context further relevant information will be forthcoming about the purposes Amnesty’s testimony was serving in the period 2011-12.

[13] Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, October 2011,‘End human rights violations in Syria’. Without wanting to diminish the significance of every single human rights abuse, I draw attention here to the scale of the problem that is recorded prior to 2011 for the purpose of comparison with later reports. Thus I note that the US State Department does not itemise egregious failings: ‘There was at least one instance during the year when the authorities failed to protect those in its custody. … There were reports in prior years of prisoners beating other prisoners while guards stood by and watched.’ In 2010 (May 28) Amnesty had reported ‘several suspicious deaths in custody’: http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-syria-2010. Its briefing to Committee on Torture speaks in terms of scores of cases in the period 2004-2010: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde24/008/2010/en/

For additional reference, these reports also indicate that the most brutal treatment tends to be meted out against Islamists and particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. There are also complaints from Kurds. A small number of lawyers and journalists are mentioned too.

[14] Human Rights Watch (2010), ‘A Wasted Decade: Human Rights in Syria during Bashar al-Assad’s First Ten Years in Power’.

[15] According to one account: ‘As a result of four years of severe drought, farmers and herders have seen their livelihoods destroyed and their lifestyles transformed, becoming disillusioned with government promises of plentitude in rural areas. In the disjuncture between paternalistic promises of resource redistribution favoring Syria’s peasantry and corporatist pacts binding regime interests to corrupt private endeavors, one may begin to detect the seeds of Syrian political unrest. … the regime’s failure to put in place economic measures to alleviate the effects of drought was a critical driver in propelling such massive mobilizations of dissent. In these recent months, Syrian cities have served as junctures where the grievances of displaced rural migrants and disenfranchised urban residents meet and come to question the very nature and distribution of power. … I would argue that a critical impetus in driving Syrian dissent today has been the government’s role in further marginalizing its key rural populace in the face of recent drought. Numerous international organizations have acknowledged the extent to which drought has crippled the Syrian economy and transformed the lives of Syrian families in myriad irreversible ways.’ Suzanne Saleeby (2012) ‘Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and the Syrian Social Contract’s Unraveling’.

[16] The names, dates, and reporting periods of reports relevant here are easily confused, so here are further details. The Amnesty International Report 2011: the state of the world’s human rights mentioned in the text just here reports on the calendar year 2010, and it was published on May 13 2011. The separate report published in August 2011 is entitled Deadly Detention: deaths in custody amid popular protest in Syria’ and covers events during 2011 up to 15 August 2011.

[17] Crimes against humanity are a special and egregious category of wrongdoing: they involve acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. Whereas ordinary crimes are a matter for a state to deal with internally, crimes against humanity, especially if committed by a state, can make that state subject to redress from the international community.

[18] Salil Shetty interviewed in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unl-csIUmp8

[19] Was the research systematic? The organising of data collection takes time, involving procedures of design, preparation, execution and delivery; the systematic analysis and interpretation of data involves a good deal of work; the writing up needs to be properly checked for accuracy. Furthermore, to report reliably involves various kinds of subsidiary investigation in order to establish context and relevant variable factors that could influence the meaning and significance of data. Even then, once a draft report is written, it really needs to be checked by some expert reviewers for any unnoticed errors or omissions. Any presentation of evidence that shortcuts those processes could not, in my judgment, be regarded as systematic. I cannot imagine how such processes could be completed in short order, let alone ‘in real-time’, and so I can only leave it to readers to decide how systematic the research could have been.

Was the evidence gathered from primary sources? ‘International researchers have interviewed witnesses and others who had fled Syria in recent visits to Lebanon and Turkey, and communicated by phone and email with individuals who remain in Syria … they include relatives of victims, human rights defenders, medical professionals and newly released detainees. Amnesty International has also received information from Syrian and other human rights activists who live outside Syria.’ Of all those sources, we could regard the testimony of newly released detainees as a primary source of information about conditions in prison. However, we are looking for evidence that would support the charge of committing crimes against humanity through ‘a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack’. On what basis Amnesty can claim definite knowledge of the extent of any attack and exactly who perpetrated it, or of how the government organizes the implementation of state policy, I do not see explained in the report.

Was the evidence collected by Amnesty’s staff on the ground? This question is answered in the report: “Amnesty International has not been able to conduct first-hand research on the ground in Syria during 2011” (p.5).

Was every aspect of data collection verified by corroboration? The fact that a number of identified individuals had died in violent circumstances is corroborated, but the report notes that ‘in very few cases has Amnesty International been able to obtain information indicating where a person was being detained at the time of their death. Consequently, this report uses qualified terms such as “reported arrests” and “reported deaths in custody”, where appropriate, in order to reflect this lack of clarity regarding some of the details of the cases reported.’

[This would corroborate descriptions of the pre-2011 situation regarding police brutality and deaths in custody. These are as unacceptable in Syria as they should be in all the other countries in which they occur, but to speak of ‘crimes against humanity’ implies an egregious systematic policy. I do not find anything in the report that claims to offer corroboration of the evidence that leads the report to state: ‘Despite these limitations, Amnesty International considers that the crimes behind the high number of reported deaths in custody of suspected opponents of the regime identified in this report, taken in the context of other crimes and human rights violations committed against civilians elsewhere in Syria, amount to crimes against humanity. They appear to be part of a widespread, as well as systematic, attack against the civilian population, carried out in an organized manner and pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.’]

As for corroboration of more widespread abuses and the claim that the government had a policy to commit what amount to crimes against humanity, I find none referred to.

Was the evidence relied on cross-checked with all parties concerned? Given that the government is charged, it would be a centrally concerned party, and the report makes clear the government has not been prepared to deal with Amnesty International. The non-cooperation of the government with Amnesty’s inquiries – whatever may be its reasons – cannot be offered as proof of its innocence. [That very phrase may jar with traditional Amnesty International supporters, given that a founding principle is the due process of assuming innocent before proven guilty. But I have allowed that some people might regard governments as relevantly different from individuals.] But since the government was not obliged to have dealings with Amnesty, and might have had other reasons not to, we must simply note that this aspect of the research methods protocol was not satisfied.

[20] I would note that a range of people have disputed whether there was any credible evidence, including former CIA intelligence officer Philip Giraldi http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/nato-vs-syria/ while also affirming that the American plan of destabilizing Syria and pursuing regime change had been hatched years earlier. That, unlike the allegations against Assad, has been corroborated from a variety of sources. These include a former French foreign minister http://www.globalresearch.ca/former-french-foreign-minister-the-war-against-syria-was-planned-two-years-before-the-arab-spring/5339112 and General Wesley Clark http://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166.

[21] Although quotation marks and the word alleged are invariably absent in mainstream references to accusations involving Assad, I retain them on principle since the simple fact of repeating an allegation does not suffice to alter its epistemic status. To credit the truth of a statement one needs evidence.

Lest it be said that there was plenty of other evidence, then I would suggest we briefly consider what Amnesty International, writing in 2016, would refer to as ‘the strongest evidence yet’. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/03/from-hope-to-horror-five-years-of-crisis-in-syria/ (15 March 2016; accessed 11 January 2017) The evidence in question was the so-called Caesar photographs showing some 11,000 corpses alleged to have been tortured and executed by Assad’s people. A full discussion of this matter is not for a passing footnote like this, but I would just point out that this evidence was known to Amnesty and the world as of January 2014 and was discussed by Amnesty’s Philip Luther at the time of its publication. Referring to them as ‘11,000 Reasons for Real Action in Syria’, Luther admitted the causes or agents of the deaths had not been verified but spoke of them in terms that suggest verification was close to being a foregone conclusion (remember, this was five months before Assad’s election victory, so the scale of this alleged mass murder was knowledge in the public domain at election time). These ‘11,000 reasons’ clearly weighed with Amnesty, even if they could not quite verify them. To this day, though, the evidence has not been credibly certified, and I for one do not expect it will be. Some reasons why are those indicated by Rick Sterling in his critical discussion ‘The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations’. Meanwhile, if Amnesty International’s people had thought up hypotheses to explain why the Syrian electors seemed so nonchalant about the supposed mass murdering of their president, they have not shared them.

[22] Although this was very much a minority perspective in the Western media, it was not entirely absent. The Los Angeles Times of 7 March 2012 carries a small item called ‘Syria Christians fear life after Assad’ http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/07/world/la-fg-syria-christians-20120307  It articulates concerns about ‘whether Syria’s increasingly bloody, nearly yearlong uprising could shatter the veneer of security provided by President Bashar Assad’s autocratic but secular government. Warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon.’ It notes ‘their fear helps explain the significant support he still draws’.

This well-founded fear of something worse should arguably have been taken into account in thinking about the proportionality of any military escalation. The LA Times article carries an interview: ‘”Of course the ‘Arab Spring’ is an Islamist movement,” George said angrily. “It’s full of extremists. They want to destroy our country, and they call it a ‘revolution.’ “… Church leaders have largely aligned themselves behind the government, urging their followers to give Assad a chance to enact long-promised political reforms while also calling for an end to the violence, which has killed more than 7,500 people on both sides, according to United Nations estimates.’ The LA Times carried several articles in a similar vein, including these: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/church-fears-ethnic-cleansing-of-christians-in-homs-syria.html; http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-05-09/syria-christians-crisis/54888144/1.

We also find that support for Assad’s presidency held up throughout the period following the initial protests: Since then, support for Assad has continued to hold up. Analysis of 2013 ORB Poll: http://russia-insider.com/en/nato-survey-2013-reveals-70-percent-syrians-support-assad/ri12011.

[23] No mention is made to it on Amnesty’s webpages, and the annual report of 2014/15 offers a cursory mention conveying that the election was of no real significance: ‘In June, President al-Assad won presidential elections held only in government-controlled areas, and returned to of ce for a third seven-year term. The following week, he announced an amnesty, which resulted in few prisoner releases; the vast majority of prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners held by the government continued to be detained.’ (p.355, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/0001/2015/en/)

[24] Reported in the Guardian 4 June 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/04/bashar-al-assad-winds-reelection-in-landslide-victory. The total population of Syria, including children, was 17,951,639 in 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Syria

Although most of the Western press ignored or downplayed the result, there were some exceptions. The LA Times noted that ‘Assad’s regional and international supporters hailed his win as the elusive political solution to the crisis and a clear indication of Syrians’ will.’ http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-prisoner-release-20140607-story.html In a report on Fox News via Associated Press, too, there is a very clear description of the depth of support: Syrian election shows depth of popular support for Assad, even among Sunni majority. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/06/04/syrian-election-shows-depth-popular-support-for-assad-even-among-sunni-majority.html The report explains numerous reasons for the support, in a way that appears to give the lie to the usual mainstream narrative in the West.

The Guardian reports: ‘Securing a third presidential term is Assad’s answer to the uprising, which started in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrators calling for reforms but has since morphed into a fully fledged war that has shaken the Middle East and the world. And now, with an estimated 160,000 dead, millions displaced at home and abroad, outside powers backing both sides, and al-Qaida-linked jihadist groups gaining more control in the north and east, many Syrians believe that Assad alone is capable of ending the conflict.’

Steven MacMillan offers a pro-Assad account of the election in New Eastern Outlook http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/20/bashar-al-assad-the-democratically-elected-president-of-syria/

[25] Despite assertions from the states committed to ‘regime change’ that the election result should simply be disregarded, international observers found no fault to report with the process http://tass.com/world/734657

[26] It is deemed of so little consequence by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that its webpage on Syria, as last updated 21 January 2015 (and accessed 16 January 2017) still has this as its paragraph discussing a possible election in Syria in the future tense and with scepticism: ‘there is no prospect of any free and fair election being held in 2014 while Assad remains in power.’

[27]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27706471

[28] A survey conducted in 2015 by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, still showed Assad to have more popular support than the opposition. The report is analysed by Stephen Gowans: http://www.globalresearch.ca/bashar-al-assad-has-more-popular-support-than-the-western-backed-opposition-poll/5495643

[29] For earlier and preliminary thoughts on the general question here see my short piece ‘Amnesty International: is it true to its mission?’ (12 Jan 2017)

 

[Tim Hayward is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University, There he is also founding Director of the Just World Institute and the Ethics Forum, Convenor of the Fair Trade Academic Network, and Programme Director of the MSc International Political Theory. His full biography on his website is here.]

Further Reading:

How We Were Misled About Syria: the role of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF)

 

Enough of CIA’s ‘Enough Project’ in Africa! [Avaaz, International Crisis Group, Center for American Progress]

Libya360 | Internationalist News Agency

Cross-posted from TeleSUR

October 7, 2016

By Thomas C. Mountain

The “Enough Project” claims it’s mission is to prevent genocide in Africa, but has been conspicuously silent when it comes to the genocidal famine in Somalia.

enough-ngo-partners

WKOG editor: As people finally become aware of Avaaz – as a key instrument of empire – watch for the Enough Project which could, if embraced by the public, become the new NGO assigned to create acquiescence for the destabilization of targeted countries. The Enough Project was co-founded by the Center for American Progress (see below) and the International Crisis Group in 2007. Key partners include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and UNHCR. Enough is a project of the New Venture Fund, and is based in Washington, DC. Its co-founders are John Prendergast (former Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council) and Gayle Smith (current administrator of the United States Agency for International Development).


enough-avaaz-co-founder-tom-perriello

“ENOUGH operates under the umbrella of the Democratic Party’s corporate funded propaganda and influence peddling operation, The Center for American Progress (CAP).” Former Democratic congressman and Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello served as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and as a Counselor for Policy at Center for American Progress until July of 2015 when he was appointed Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa by the White House.

“The Enough Project focuses on Africa” – Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Uganda, and the Horn of Africa.

enough-project

The Enough Project has worked hand-in-hand with Avaaz in the past.

Perriello and Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel also co-founded and co-directed DarfurGenocide.org which officially launched in 2004. “DarfurGenocide.org is a project of Avaaz co-founder Res Publica, a group of public sector professionals dedicated to promoting good governance and virtuous civic cultures.”Today, this organization is now known as “Darfurian Voices”: “Darfurian Voices is a project of 24 Hours for Darfur.” The U.S. Department of State and the Open Society Institute were just two of the organization’s funders and collaborating partners. Other Darfurian Voices partners include Avaaz, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Centre for Transitional Justice, Darfur Rehabilitation Project, Humanity United, Darfur People’s Association of New York, Genocide Intervention, Witness, Yale Law School, The Sigrid Rausing Trust and the Bridgeway Foundation. Of all the listed partners of DarfurGenocide.org, with the exception of one located in London, England, all of the entities involved are American and based on U.S. soil.

enough-project-appauds-avaaz-cofounder-tp

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

 

+++

 

https://i2.wp.com/www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2011/7/16/2011716213159717734_20.jpg

Enough of the CIA’s “Enough Project” in Africa!http://s2.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20110730&t=2&i=469259260&w=580&fh=&fw=&ll=&pl=&r=2011-07-30T121232Z_01_BTRE76T0XWX00_RTROPTP_0_SOMALIA-FAMINE

EP, as it is known, was founded by senior U.S. Intel “spook” Gayle Smith, former Senior Director of the National Security Council under President Obama and now head of the USAID/CIA.

Today EP is headed by Ms. Smith’s protégé John Prendergast whose history as head of EP is one of subterfuge and lies in service to Pax Americana.

EP claims it’s mission is to prevent genocide in Africa, as in the name “Enough Project”, yet has been conspicuously silent when it comes to the genocidal famine in Somalia during the Great Horn of Africa Drought in 2011-12 where 250,000 Somali children starved to death.

Recently George Clooney was enjoying 15 minutes of fame as a humanitarian claiming to have exposed massive corruption in South Sudan when he should have been warning the world of the U.N.’s next genocide in Somalia as in 300,000 starving children. Soon the genocide in Somalia will hit its peak with hundreds, up to 1,000 children a day dying from hunger with only a deafening silence emanating from the CIA’s Enough Project.

https://i0.wp.com/www.aljazeera.com/mritems/Images/2011/7/26/2011726144345181734_20.jpg

EP, with support from its big brother the Center for American Progress, only once in its history raised a real genocide, that back in 2007-8 when Gayle Smith was out to political pasture, she being a rabid democrat during the Bush Jr. years in office. Then she was part of the Democrat “opposition” to the Bush regime and oh so briefly raised the food and medical aid blockade in the Ogaden in Ethiopia, where the only instance of both the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders being expelled from a famine stricken region has been allowed.

Once Ms. Smith jumped on the Obama For President bandwagon, no further mention of the genocide in the Ogaden was heard.

http://i1.wp.com/richardfalk.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/somalia-famine-2011.jpg?resize=250%2C250 Today EP is proving its loyalty to Pax Americana by playing huckster for regime change in South Sudan, as in denying China access to African oil via the invasion of “peacekeepers” in the name of Responsibility To Protect of Libyan infamy. The USA has abandoned former “rebel leader” Riek Machar in favor of direct military intervention by the U.N. and the USA’s gendarme in Africa, the African Union.

The Chinese have started to expand their oil production so expect to hear louder cries of outrage from the likes of EP about various crimes and even “genocide” in South Sudan followed by demands for more foreign military intervention in the country.

With all their lies and subterfuge, don’t you think that we here in Africa have had enough of the CIA’s Enough Project?

 

 

[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea living and reporting from here since 2006.]

 

Further reading:

Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part IV

US Behind Massacres in Beni, Congo

http://www.anngarrison.com/audio/creating-south-sudan-george-clooney-john-prendergast-and-george-w-bush

 

 

Did Human Rights Watch Sabotage Colombia’s Peace Agreement?

Like the country’s far right, HRW wanted to send human-rights violators to prison more than it wanted to end the war.

The Nation

October 3, 2016

 

It’s a heartbreaking disaster for the long, intricate peace process, which sought to put an end to Colombia’s more than five-decade-long civil war. That war has claimed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives and has displaced millions upon millions of people. The peace deal, which was worked out during years of negotiations, mostly in Havana, was more aspirational than binding, offering hope that one of the world’s longest-running conflicts would come to an end. Now, that deal is in “tatters.” But keep in mind that “no” won with a sliver of a voting majority (less than 1 percent) of a minority (of eligible voters), with turnout low due to, in many precincts, extreme tropical rain, mostly in coastal departments where “yes” won handily.

That bad-weather luck almost wants you to invoke the apocalyptic conclusion to Colombia’s most famous novel, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, where an unending hurricane washes all away. But the peace might not be lost. Lisa Haugaard, of the indispensable Latin American Working Group, told me, “The Colombian government, fully engaged in finding a negotiated solution, did not do the outreach, socializing, and explaining of the accords that was necessary.  The ‘no’ campaign effectively organized around its negative message. Fortunately, after it was clear the ‘no’ vote narrowly won, both President Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño pledged that the cease-fire will hold and that they remain committed to peace.”

According to The New York Times, the government and FARC have already announced that they would send diplomats to Havana to begin discussing how to salvage the peace. The FARC responded to the vote by announcing that they remained committed to peace; indeed, the UN has already started disarming the guerrillas. Santos stated that the cease-fire will hold, and the historian Robert Karl, who just wrote a terrific “centuries long history behind Colombia’s peace agreement with the FARC” in The Washington Post, tells me that Santos, as president, has “a good deal of discretionary power” over the military, so let’s hope Santos can keep the security forces on a leash. What Washington, who has spent billions on this war (for the lethal effects of Plan Colombia, see these very useful charts by the Latin American Working Group), will do is unclear. As of early morning Monday, the State Department hasn’t commented.

“No” won because the right wing, led by former President Álvaro Uribe, was able to turn a vote that was supposed to be on peace into a vote on the FARC. The geographic breakdown of the referendum indicates that “no” won in areas where Uribe and his political party have their support. Take a look especially at the department of Antioquia, where Uribe got his political start as a champion of paramilitary death squads. Sixty-two percent of Antioquia’s voters cast “no.” In the department’s capital, Medellín, a city that has been sold in the United States as a neoliberal success story—Modern! Urbane! Fun! Come visit!—63 percent of voters said “no” (for Medellín’s neoliberal “makeover,” see this essay by Forrest Hylton).

Uribe served as president from 2002 to 2010. He is best thought of as a Colombian Andrew Jackson, riding to the top office of his country on the wings of mass murder, rural ressentiment, and financial speculation. As an ex-president, he has been toxic, doing everything he could to keep the war going.

The Colombian elite, especially the retrograde sector Uribe represents, has much to lose with peace: The end of fighting would create a space in which the country’s many social conflicts—having to do with land, labor, and resource extraction—could be dealt with on their own terms, rather than distorted through counterinsurgent politics. And peace would be costly for some sectors, especially for all those Colombians in the “security” business who for years have fed off the Plan Colombia trough.

Polls show that a majority of Colombians favor peace. But Uribe and his allies in the media and congress lied, obfuscated, and scared. They managed to convince a small minority (the 54,000-vote victory margin for “no” is about a quarter of the number of civilians killed or disappeared by the state since the start of the civil war) that the agreement was a giveaway to the FARC and that Santos was “delivering the country to terrorism.” The Times identifies Uribe and the “far right” as the “biggest winner.” The former president “had argued that the agreement was too lenient on the rebels, who he said should be prosecuted as murderers and drug traffickers. ‘Peace is an illusion, the Havana agreement deceptive,’ Mr. Uribe wrote on Twitter on Sunday after casting his ‘no’ vote.” Thus Uribe has forced himself on the bargaining table, with Santos saying, as paraphrased by the Times, that he would be “reaching out to opposition leaders in the Colombian Congress like former President Álvaro Uribe,” with the Times adding that “experts predicted a potentially tortured process in which Mr. Uribe and others would seek harsher punishments for FARC members, especially those who had participated in the drug trade.”

The campaign to keep Colombia’s war going had an unlikely ally: Human Rights Watch. José Miguel Vivanco, the head of HRW’s Americas Watch division, emerged as an unexpected player in Colombian politics when he came out strongly against the “justice” provisions of the peace agreement. Vivanco agreed with Uribe by offering the most dire reading of the agreement possible, saying that perpetrators—in the FARC and the military—of human-rights violations would receive immunity. Vivanco was all over the press in Colombia, with his comments used to build opposition to the accords. Once it became clear that he was lining up too closely with Uribe, he staged a mock public dispute with the former para-president, even while continuing to basically support Uribe’s position (h/t Alejandro Velasco).

That Human Rights Watch played useful idiot to Colombia’s far right was confirmed by its executive director, Kenneth Roth, who on Sunday night gloated about the outcome of the vote on Twitter: “Looks like Colombians aren’t so eager to premise ‘peace’ on effective impunity for FARC’s and military’s war crimes.”

Now what, Ken? What are you going to tweet at these victims of the FARC who came together to urge a “yes” vote? According to the Colombian weekly Semana, those regions that suffered the most deaths at the hands of the FARC were the most supportive of the peace talks. A “paradox,” Semanasaid. Enough was enough, victims and their families said. They are painfully aware—in ways that Roth and Vivanco, with their unaccountable Twitter broadsides against the peace process apparently aren’t—of consequences. And they prove more capable of understanding something that the leaders of Human Rights Watch can’t: that you don’t end a half-century war, with its nearly incomprehensible political history and ever-shifting alliances, by applying legal absolutes. You rather end it by political compromise.

 

 

[Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is the author, most recently, of Kissinger’s Shadow.]

Rwanda: The Danger of a Sanitized Narrative

Foreign Policy Journal

October 4, 2016

by Judi Rever

Rwanda: The Danger of a Sanitized Narrative

How a British NGO changed the course of Rwandan history and helped fuel impunity in Africa’s Great Lakes region

The passion of war has long inspired propagandists. Some have sought to influence public opinion for pecuniary or career reasons. Others have claimed loftier motives, like promoting human rights or addressing humanitarian emergencies. One of the most notable crusaders to emerge in recent times is Rakiya Omaar, the co-founder of the London-based rights group African Rights. She is also author, with British scholar Alex de Waal, of the defining book Death, Despair and Defiance—a colossal compendium of Hutu-on-Tutsi violence published just weeks after the Rwandan genocide ended. Observers eager to understand this three-month killing spree relied on their astonishing 750-page creed published in September 1994; it offered in real time a list of perpetrators and a sweeping narrative of how Hutu ideologues conceived years in advance their genocidal project against the Tutsi. African Rights, a new NGO from London, appeared to have set history in motion, and quickly so. Its impact on legal proceedings was substantial, at least initially. Death, Despair and Defiance was considered the bible by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

But just how did Omaar and de Waal—neither of whom spoke Kinyarwanda or were versed in Rwandan history—produce such an authoritative, insider-driven opus on the mechanics of killing? How did they get access in so little time to a massive archive of witness testimony? With the help of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), of course.

Luc Reydams specializes in international criminal law and justice and teaches politics at Notre Dame University in the United States. His groundbreaking research on African Rights, recently published, is both a feat in investigative journalism and academic scholarship. His article “NGO Justice: African Rights as Pseudo Prosecutor of the Rwandan Genocide” in Human Rights Quarterly deconstructs the NGO’s murky operations and methods. Reydams also provides compelling evidence that African Rights became a RPF front organization and its account of the genocide was produced with the “full and active support of the RPF.” The RPF, under Paul Kagame, won the war and has been in power since 1994.

Eventually African Rights ended up on the RPF payroll, working closely with intelligence operatives and even moving to a building that housed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Reydams reveals. By that time, de Waal had left the organization. Yet even before de Waal and Omaar parted ways, African Rights had become enormously prescriptive and influential; it scolded the international community about who was morally right during the war, who should be arrested and why. It staunchly defended the RPF against reports that its troops had engaged in violence and shamed other human rights investigators and journalists for calling attention to RPF abuses: “Allegations that the RPF was massacring civilians were ‘hysteria’ and journalists who ran such ‘stories’ were not doing their work properly.” Reydams aptly points out that “human rights reports usually do not defend a warring party. Yet, Death, Despair and Defiance does exactly that. The RPF’s resumption of the war is presented as humanitarian intervention and, therefore, a ceasefire was out of the question.”

Not surprisingly, African Rights’ work, which provided a one-sided, sanitized version of the Rwandan genocide, did not stand the test of time.

A former ICTR investigator had this to say: “After a few months, we realized that Death, Despair and Defiance was not so accurate, some incidents (not the major ones though) were impossible to verify; the accounts in the book, very precise, were not confirmed by our witnesses. At that time, Death, Despair and Defiance was seen as not very reliable and clearly Rakiya Omaar was not considered an expert witness who could be used in court. To my recollection, she was met by ICTR investigators at the beginning of the work in 1995. The request to access her sources was never successful and the relation with her became difficult. She did not shy from criticisms against the ICTR. Her links to RPF became quite obvious in subsequent reports on protection of witnesses and other stuff, with no words at all on the RPF’s own crimes.”

The work of Omaar and de Waal should have been discredited publicly long ago, but it wasn’t. And the impact of their research has been nothing short of devastating. Their book primed public opinion on the conflict and shaped the way the world saw the RPF as moral victors and Hutus as perpetrators. Their research has been absorbed and regurgitated uncritically by experts and human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch’s seminal account of the genocide, Leave None to Tell the Story was published in 1999 and became the subsequent bible at the ICTR. That book cites Death, Despair and Defiance a record 42 times.

Most troubling is how the NGO has fueled RPF impunity over the years. African Rights categorically denied RPF crimes, helped shield Paul Kagame’s government from prosecution, and even defended its war of aggression in Congo.

In a separate interview I conducted, a Tutsi survivor who worked for African Rights on the NGO’s second edition of the book—published in 1995—told me he collected testimony from Hutu peasants on RPF killings. When he went to Omaar to discuss incorporating this research, he said she told him flatly: “now is not the time.” In later years when he was doing research for African Rights ahead of traditional Gacaca court proceedings, he emphasized the issue of Hutu accounts of RPF massacres. Again she told him to let it go. “Now is not the time,” she insisted. The Tutsi survivor was eventually threatened by the RPF’s chief intelligence enforcer Jack Nziza, and was forced to flee the country to escape death.

At a minimum, Omar could come clean about what she may have observed in RPF zones where she traveled with RPF cadres in places such as Rusumo in May 1994. Aid workers reported that Kagame’s Tutsi forces called Hutu refugees to a ‘peace meeting’ in Rusumo then proceeded to tie up men, women and children before stabbing and killing them. The bodies were placed on trucks and eventually dumped in the Kagera River, according to a UN protection report released by Refugees International in mid-May. I can imagine that Omaar could fill another book on the secrets she has kept.

De Waal, for his part, dutifully transcribed Omaar’s survivor accounts. He now teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is considered an academic powerhouse for his extensive work on Rwanda, Sudan and the Horn of Africa, and has long held sway in British media, having published in The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement and being regularly cited by the BBC. In his interview with Reydams, de Waal brazenly takes credit for creating a narrative of the genocide. He admits he met with senior RPF officials such as Theogene Rudasingwa and Patrick Mazimpaka in the spring/summer of 1994:

“The dominant narratives in the media for the first part of April were tribal killing and chaos,” de Waal told Reydams. “Journalists and quite a number of aid workers were contributing to this. The point of the ‘Who is killing, who is dying’ report, and an article I wrote in the Times (‘Rwanda genocide took three [sic] years to plan’) was to remedy that. I also wrote a piece ‘The genocidal state’ for the Times Literary Supplement at the same time but they held on to it until July and only published it then (to my enormous frustration as it was the most serious piece.) It was quite an uphill struggle, and in order to do it, as you will see, I decided it was necessary to craft an alternative narrative.

“When I first discussed it with Rwandese in London (almost all Tutsis; some were RPF and some not) their focus was on the politics of the interim government and a different set of narratives. One of them was Mazimpaka: he was flailing. They provided me with documents such as the Hutu Ten Commandments but said they weren’t that important. When the genocide-as-conspiracy narrative took off, the RPF took it up, for obvious reasons.”

As Reydams points out, Theoneste Bagosora, the Hutu colonel who African Rights named as the architect of the Rwandan genocide, was acquitted of conspiracy and any direct role in the genocide by the ICTR, as were three other accused individuals who stood trial in the Military I case. “No one, for that matter, has been convicted of conspiracy before April 7, 1994. The genocide-as-conspiracy narrative, which African Rights helped to propagate, failed to convince the judges,” Reydams writes.

As though this wasn’t shocking enough, de Waal used his formidable intellectual skills to critically shape the way the West viewed Rwandan Hutus and the menace they posed to the Tutsi-led government in Rwanda. In one of his more rabid essays in November 1996—a few weeks after Rwandan troops had invaded Zaire—de Waal openly advocated war. In an op-ed in The Guardian titled “No Bloodless Miracle”, de Waal said there could be “no bloodless political solution” to the conflict in Central Africa. He launched a passionate plea for an armed attack against refugee camps that housed more than a million Hutus in eastern Zaire. He claimed that the inhabitants of Mugunga refugee camp—where some 175,000 Rwandan men, women and children were living—did not have a well-founded fear of persecution in Rwanda, were not bona fide refugees, and should not qualify for protection under the Refugee Convention. The Hutus there, he said, were “fugitives from justice or migrants.”

He argued that peaceful negotiations would be a chimera and that Hutu extremists in the camps could not be disarmed. “War cannot be stopped,” he warned. “If we are not prepared to go and destroy the Hutu militias, we should not stand in the way of the people who are prepared to do so.”

De Waal’s dualist approach to conflict in the Great Lakes—one side was good and the other was evil—shamefully served to fuel the violence.

We know how it ended of course. Kagame’s troops attacked the camps, sending hundreds of thousands of refugees further west into the Zairean jungle, where Tutsi soldiers eventually hunted them down, hacked and shot them, and buried them in mass graves. In 2010, the United Nations said the Rwandan Patriotic Front may have committed genocide against Hutus in Congo.

In June 2016, likely pre-empting the release of Reydams’ investigation, de Waal wrote a lengthy essay in the Boston Review titled “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong”. He admitted he was wrong about the genocide being planned years in advance, but said he did not regret his “role in helping to write the genocide narrative for Rwanda in 1994 or transcribing and publishing survivors’ testimonies. They are uncooked and authentic.”

What he does regret, he admitted, is his silence in 1997 as the RPF “spun the singular genocide narrative to justify its emergent dictatorship and its escalating military operations in Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

De Waal’s mea culpa drew immediate praise from his legion of academic followers. However his words rang hollow to many. His confession was too little, too late for Kagame’s victims in Rwanda and Congo, whose suffering over the course of 22 years has been incalculable.

 

[Judi Rever is a Montreal-based freelance journalist.]

Impunity International

Wrong Kind of Green

May 4, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many so-called ‘peace and justice’ centers in the United States are still oblivious to the ongoing betrayal of human rights by Amnesty International (AI), which—like Human Rights Watch– has become increasingly corrupt over the past two decades. This brief overview is intended to help dispel the mistaken notion that AI is sacrosanct, and to prompt the pious poseurs–that comprise the purity networks in the US–to begin basing their policies, programs and associations on facts, rather than on outdated fantasies about the Human Rights Industrial Complex.

In order to transition from these preconceived fantasies to research-based reality regarding human rights, these ‘peace and justice’ centers will need to reorient themselves to doing research related to digital Netwar, rather than reflexively responding to press releases by Amnesty International, or to the social media propaganda by AI public relations associates Avaaz and Purpose. Until these local nodes of ostensibly noble causes do research, they will remain a notably unconscious milieu—infantile consumers, rather than informed and engaged citizens.

AI

In 1991, Amnesty International eagerly acquiesced to the $11 million Wag the Dog public relations campaign–devised for the Pentagon by the Hill & Knowlton PR firm–to generate support for the US invasion of Iraq, and in 2012, AI was an enthusiastic cheerleader in support of the escalated bombing of Afghanistan by NATO.

In 2015, Amnesty International–in one of the most egregious examples of the nihilism that now characterizes the human rights industry–endorsed the organized crime initiative to freely engage in human trafficking of women and children for sex slavery through the decriminalization of the prostitution industry–rather than choosing to support the Nordic model of decriminalizing the victims, but not the perpetrators.

 

Amnesty International Document

Ken Roth Comment

In 2015-2016 Amnesty International supported–and continues to support—US and NATO military aggression in countries like Libya and Syria, which is bolstered by the public relations campaigns of Avaaz and Purpose–Wall Street-funded marketing agencies with deep ties to the very heart of the military industrial complex. By unthinkingly supporting AI, these ‘peace and justice’ centers become complicit in these war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted Indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

Further reading on AI

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/?s=amnesty+international