Justice and Peace Law and Decree 128

Justice & Peace Law and Decree 128

Since 2003, paramilitary groups, responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia for over a decade, have been involved in a government-sponsored “demobilization” process. More than 25,000 paramilitaries have supposedly demobilized under a process which has been criticized by AI and other Colombian and international human rights groups, as well as by the OHCHR and the IACHR. The process is lacking in effective mechanisms for justice and in its inability to ensure that paramilitary members actually cease violent activities.

In fact, paramilitarism has not been dismantled, it has simply been “re-engineered.” Many demobilized combatants are being encouraged to join “civilian informer networks,” to provide military intelligence to the security forces, and to become “civic guards”. Since many areas of Colombia have now been wrested from guerrilla control, and paramilitary control established in many of these areas, they no longer see a need to have large numbers of heavily-armed uniformed paramilitaries.

However, evidence suggests that many paramilitary structures remain virtually intact and that paramilitaries continue to kill. Amnesty International continues to document human rights violations committed by paramilitary groups, sometimes operating under new names, and often in collusion with the security forces.

AI would welcome a demobilization process which would lead to the effective dismantling of paramilitarism and end the links between the security forces and paramilitaries. But the current demobilization process is unlikely to guarantee the effective dismantling of such structures. In fact, it is facilitating the re-emergence of paramilitarism and undermining the right of victims to truth, justice and reparation.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the law governing the demobilization of armed groups in Colombia is wholly inadequate. It threatens to guarantee the impunity of those responsible for heinous and widespread human rights atrocities, not only paramilitaries, but also those who have backed the paramilitary such as wealthy landowners, and government and military officials. Furthermore, the demobilization law may not rid the country of the scourge of illegal armed activity and human rights abuses against the civilian population. In fact, it may make the situation worse by:

  • Providing de facto amnesties for paramilitaries and guerrillas responsible for serious human rights abuses and violations;
  • Perpetuating impunity for human rights abusers and violators thereby undermining the rule of law in Colombia;
  • Failing to guarantee the effective dismantling of paramilitary structures by focusing solely on individual combatants;
  • Failing to expose those Colombian security forces, government officials, and private citizens who have supported and benefited from the activities of the paramilitary;
  • Failing to establish a full and independent judicial process to oversee the demobilization process;
  • Neglecting to respect the rights of victims of human rights violations and abuses to truth, justice and reparation.

The legislation was approved in 2005 with the aim of facilitating the supposed demobilization of army-backed paramilitaries. Yet on May 19, 2006, Colombia’s Constitutional Court declared many of the central tenets of the Justice and Peace Law unconstitutional. Today most paramilitaries who have demobilized have benefited from Decree 128 of 2003 under which members of illegal armed groups who are not under investigation for human rights offences receive de facto amnesties. It is precisely because of the endemic problem of impunity in Colombia that most paramilitaries and guerrillas, many of whom are responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law, have never been investigated, let alone been brought to justice for these offences. As such, almost all members of paramilitary groups have already benefited from Decree 128.

Decree 128 grants legal and economic benefits to members of armed groups who have demobilized. These benefits include “pardons, conditional suspension of the execution of a sentence, a cessation of procedure, a resolution of preclusion of the investigation or a resolution of dismissal”.

Amnesty International is concerned that the real aim of the Justice and Peace Law is not only to guarantee the impunity of paramilitaries implicated in human rights violations–including war crimes and crimes against humanity–by failing to ensure that they are subject to full and impartial judicial investigations, but also that their security force backers and others responsible for sponsoring their illegal activities will not be identified and held accountable.

Amnesty International calls on the Colombian government to take all the necessary measures to end impunity, break the links between paramilitaries and the security forces, and guarantee the safety of civilian sectors at particular risk. The Government of Colombia must ensure full and impartial investigations into violations of human rights and that those individuals and sectors responsible for supporting paramilitarism – militarily, politically and economically – are brought to justice. The Government should also reverse proposals which drag civilians further into the conflict and “recycle” paramilitaries, such as the civilian informer network and Decree 2767, which authorizes paid collaboration with the security forces.

Criminal gangs are led by former ‘paras’: UN

Criminal gangs are led by former ‘paras’: UN

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The international agency further claims in its annual report that sometimes these groups are allied with drug business FARC and ELN. He speaks of “collusion, tolerance and acquiescence of members of the security forces with these groups.” The Government responds.
In many parts of the country, UN noted “with great concern the expansion and increased activity and violence against civilians perpetrated by illegal armed groups in the demobilization process of paramilitary organizations.” Photo Week

A disturbing picture of violence in Colombia has the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner in Colombia in its annual report for 2009.

In that document, the international body recognizes some government efforts to improve the situation, but also shows concern about the rapes committed in the country, torture, disappearances, executions of civilians are presented as casualties in combat and retention of military violence of the FARC, ELN and paramilitary groups in some places. It also records the difficulty many people have access to justice, even in the process of justice and peace, while returning to denounce recruitment of children by armed groups.

For its part, the Government, in a 14-page documentsays that “the Colombian institutions take note of the challenges identified by the report and to overcome shortcomings.” It also appreciates that the report “makes a fair reflection of the efforts of various state institutions and society to achieve the full realization of human rights in Colombia.”

Among the many observations made by the UN, there is a precise description of a phenomenon of violence that the government frequently argue when it is mentioned, as is the reappearance of “illegal armed groups in the demobilization process of paramilitary organizations.”

In this regard, the report says that “in many parts of the country, the office in Colombia noted with great concern the expansion and increased activity and violence against civilians perpetrated by illegal armed groups in the demobilization process of paramilitary organizations.”

Among the events that troubled in 2009 to this international body massacres, killings, threats, displacement and sexual violence against people who have no involvement in the war in the country. “The attacks have been directed against those who oppose the demands of these groups have properties of interest are seen as collaborators or members of other groups, or are in a dispute with rival groups. Among the victims there are also many demobilized by adjustments of accounts or for refusing to join these groups, “says the UN.

On how to act, says in the document that some of these groups “operate in a similar way to the former paramilitary organizations, and engage in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, land grabbing, prostitution and trafficking, as well as lawful activities, though sometimes irregular, such as lotteries and private security. “

These groups, according to the UN, are run by people who “were formerly middle of these organizations or military.”

“These groups sometimes make agreements among themselves or with fronts of the FARC-EP or the National Liberation Army (ELN) to facilitate illegal businesses, particularly drug trafficking,” said the world body, also noted last year “collusion , tolerance and acquiescence of members of the security forces with these groups, motivated primarily by corruption. “

According to the report, these groups are capable of exercising “organized violence”, “broad economic power”, “ability to corrupt officials and state institutions”, “links with local authorities and powers that be.”

The UN acknowledges that since the government have made efforts to counter these groups, but said “the challenge posed goes beyond ordinary crime. The fact that these groups operate in places where they played the old paramilitary groups, using its economic and political structures, reiterates the need to strengthen preventive mechanisms for populations at risk (especially for young people in urban and rural) and protect and care for those affected. “

The agency also referred to acts of violence committed by the FARC and the ELN and the constant disregard for the lives of people not involved in any armed group.

In the considerations that the Government was on the UN report, acknowledged the existence and the challenge posed by these groups that have emerged after the demobilization of the paramilitaries.

However, it considered inappropriate “that any crime is classified as neoparamilitarismo Colombia, the reissue of the paramilitaries or the continuity of these, such as stated”

The argument given is that “there is no uniformity in the establishment, purposes, methods and activities of these groups, it is possible to find military or quasi-military structures, mafia, murder for hire and diversity of purposes, extortion, land, retail trade of illicit drugs drug trafficking, prostitution, among others. This is not to classify all paramilitary organized criminal gang in Colombia, this does not deny the demands to punish those who violate the commitments of the demobilization process, or the intensity with which it is to fight crime. “

In response, the Government also referred to other human rights violations that the UN reported in its annual report.

Posted in Semana.com

Yanukland

Yanukland

Yanukland

Kyiv Post

Ukraine is heading into times more precarious than even we imagined when the nation elected Viktor Yanukovych as president. Ukraine has entered an era in which what is wrong will become legal and what is right will be made illegal.

Ten months into the president’s first term of office, the nation’s courts and parliament have ceased functioning as independent checks on executive power.

Moreover, as ex-President Leonid Kuchma so aptly put it in a Feb. 7 conversation with U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft, divulged this month by WikiLeaks: “The parties represented in the [Verkhovna] Rada compete to see who has the most MPs [members of parliament] with a criminal record.” It’s odd to hear such alarm bells from Kuchma, but sad, nonetheless, because lawmakers continue to enjoy undeserved legal immunity from prosecution.

As the Oct. 31 local elections showed, the nation is in danger of never having transparent and honest democratic contests again unless citizens fight for them. And how to fight? Even peaceful demonstrations are endangered, as the nation found out on Dec. 3 when police broke up the tent city protests on Independence Square in opposition to the original, draconian tax code floated by Yanukovych’s government.

We have a neutered news media, such as Inter, the national TV station controlled by Security Service of Ukraine chief Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, who arrogantly fails to acknowledge the huge conflicts in his official and private roles.

But the ultimate prize for cynicism this week went to Dmytro Firtash, the shady billionaire gas trader and industrial baron who wouldn’t even disclose his co-ownership in RosUkrEnergo until 2006 – two years into its existence. Firtash tried to portray Ukraine’s court-ordered return of 11 billion cubic meters of gas to RosUkrEnergo as a positive step for the nation. Widely seen as non-transparent, RosUkrEnergo operated as the exclusive gas intermediary between Ukraine and Russia from 2006-2008, until ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko wisely squeezed it out of the trade. The intermediary appeared to serve no other purpose other than to enrich the company’s owners by billions of dollars each year – and those who stood behind them – at the expense of the Ukrainian people and Russia’s Gazprom.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev himself has said there is no need for intermediaries between the two nations, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin famously cited the intermediary arrangement as providing slush funds that enriched private individuals and favored politicians. Putin also talked in 2009 about corruption reaching the highest levels of the Ukrainian government.

But now RosUkrEnergo is back in business. All the while, the state-run Naftogaz monopoly’ which should be profitable – teeters at the edge of insolvency as the government jacks up utility gas prices for households.

Meanwhile, the Yanukovych team seems destined to privatize the nation’s remaining state assets in the same old way – untransparently and uncompetitively – in sham sales that amount to legalized theft by insiders, who are busy also writing tax breaks and import preferences into legislation.

This is going to be a long winter.

“Phallometric”–You Must Prove Your Homosexuality for Asylum

[Really scientific test--show the men heterosexual porn and check for signs of an erection.  Kind of reminds me of Mel Brooks' "History of the World," part 1.]

Беженцев, которые, прибывая в Чехию, утверждали, что в родных странах их преследуют за гомосексуализм, местные власти пытались проверить, подвергая особому тесту

Refugees who are arriving in the Czech Republic, claimed that in the home countries of their being prosecuted for homosexuality, the local authorities tried to check, putting a special test

witzige-videos.com

In the Czech refugees were subjected to humiliating tests on homosexuality

Refugees who are arriving in the Czech Republic, claimed that in the home countries of their being prosecuted for homosexuality, the local authorities tried to check, putting a special test, says the Austrian newspaper Die Standard .

The test consisted of the following: refugees demonstrated heterosexual porn, and the measured intensity of blood flow to the genitals of the subjects, the article says, the contents of the site which leads InoPressa.ru . If blood flow is intensifying – hence the subject when watching the movie felt sexual arousal. And if he was excited when watching porn, not designed for gay men – so it adheres to the normal sexual orientation, and only stipulates yourself to get refugee status and right of abode in a European country, reasoned authority.

According to the publication, the European Agency for Fundamental Human Rights was categorically against such testing of refugees. In response to this on Thursday, a representative of the Czech Interior Ministry said that Phallometric tests are not carried out since the beginning of 2010.

Yet the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Czech Radek John tried to defend the approach used until recently his department. He said that if persons wishing to obtain refugee status, does not like fallometriya – let him go to another country where such testing is not conducted, and the petition for asylum there. And those who passed fallometriyu themselves were asked about this, or at least not objected to the trial, John said Radek.

This practice became known when a German court of Schleswig-Holstein refused to send back to the Czech Republic Iranians who sought political asylum in the Czech Republic, but then filed in Germany, after hearing their testimony about the enthusiasm of the Czech authorities fallometriey.

 

Balochistan wants centre to hand over control of FC

FC balochistan online 543 Balochistan wants centre to hand over control of FCFresh recruits parade during the passing out parade of the 50th Batch of FC Balochistan on Friday. – Online Photo

ISLAMABAD: Balochistan has demanded that the federal government should hand over control of the Frontier Constabulary to the provincial government to enable it to handle the law and order situation in the province in a more effective manner.

The demand was formally conveyed to President Asif Ali Zardari by Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi during a meeting at the Presidency on Friday.

The FC has been fighting outlaws and insurgents in some areas of Balochistan under the direct command of the Interior ministry.

Sources in the presidency said the Balochistan governor apprised the president of the security situation in the province and stressed that the problem would remain unresolved unless the command and control of FC was given to the provincial government.

President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Governor Magsi and President Zardari discussed the law and order situation in Balochistan.

The president reiterated the government’s commitment to bring Balochistan on a par with other provinces in terms of development and to address grievances of the people of the province and their sense of deprivation.

The governor also briefed the president on several development projects in the province.

The present government has wrapped up a Rs10 billion project launched by Pervez Musharraf’s government for converting ‘B’ Area into ‘A’ Area to enforce policing all over the province.

A senior police official, who has held served at key posts in Balochistan, told Dawn that billions of rupees spent on the project had gone down the drain.

He is of the view that the Frontier Constabulary alone cannot handle the situation.

“If Frontier Constabulary can control only crimes it should be replaced with police in other provinces also,” the police official said.

Pakistan’s “The News” Admits To Fake Wiki Report On India

Pakistani newspapers apologise for publishing ‘fake’ anti-India WikiLeaks cables

From ANI

Islamabad, Dec 10: Leading Pakistani newspapers, which had published fake WikiLeaks cables attacking the Indian Army for false propaganda, have acknowledged

The Express Tribune published an apology over its fake report, “WikiLeaks: What US officials think about the Indian Army”, saying that “the story… was not authentic”, and it “deeply regrets publishing this story without due verification and apologises profusely for any inconvenience caused to our valued readers.”

The News said that the “story filed by a news agency about purported WikiLeaks cables disclosing India’s involvement in Balochistan and Waziristan, carried by The News, Daily Jang and many other Pakistani newspapers, has been widely criticised as not being accurate.”

“The story was released by the Islamabad-based Online news agency and was run by The News and Daily Jang with the confidence that it was a genuine report and must have been vetted before release. However, several inquiries suggest that this was not the case,” the paper added.

It said that when contacted, the owner of the agency, Mohsin Baig, and some of the editorial staff were “themselves unclear about the source of the story and said they would investigate the matter at their end.”

“On further inquiries, we learnt from our sources that the story was dubious and may have been planted,” The News conceded.

According to the fake reports, US diplomats had described senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal, said that the Indian government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists, and also claimed that Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt and Balochistan.

“Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan,” read the front-page story in the News, while an almost identical story appeared in the Urdu-language Jang, Pakistan’s best selling daily.

The News had carried a report saying that a leaked cable from US Embassy in Islamabad disclosed that there were enough evidences of Indian involvement in Waziristan and other tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Balochistan.

An earlier cable described Indian Army involved in gross human rights violations in Kashmir and Lt Gen HS Panag, the then GOC-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, was equated with General Milosevic of Bosnia “with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes,” reported The News.

It also said that another cable indicated “involvement of top Indian Army leadership in engaging Hindu extremist militants to carry out certain terror operations to keep Indian Muslims on the backfoot and to keep pressure on neighbouring Pakistan’s Army and intelligence agencies, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence.”

Big Media’s Guilt in Gary Webb’s Death

Big Media’s Guilt in Gary Webb’s Death

By Robert Parry (A Special Report)

It’s been six years since I received the shocking news that journalist Gary Webb had committed suicide with his father’s pistol.

In the days after his Dec. 9, 2004, death, I was told that he had succumbed to a deep depression brought on by being blacklisted from his profession for a courageous series that he had written about the real-life consequences of a U.S. foreign policy that put Cold War priorities ahead of protecting Americans from the international drug trade.

Instead of rallying to his side when his series appeared in 1996, prominent news organizations – including The New York Times, The Washington Postand the Los Angeles Times – had chosen to protect the legacy of Ronald Reagan and to cover up for their own failures in the 1980s to investigate the cocaine trafficking by Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan contra rebels.

But the ostracism of Gary Webb was part of a larger back story. It was a prelude to the massive journalism failures of the past decade when many of the same newspapers joined the stampede for George W. Bush’s wars, instead of showing professionalism and skepticism.

It was easier for careerist journalists to go along with Bush’s WMD deceptions in 2002-2003 as it was for them to detect supposed flaws in Webb’s reporting in 1996 rather than confront the grim reality that “respectable” government officials had protected drug criminals preying on Americans during the “just-say-no” Reagan administration.

Given this painful significance of Webb’s death, I have revisited the topic every year since 2004, in part to challenge the executives of these major newspapers to face up to their failures and admit that they not only mistreated Webb but that they let down their readers and their profession.

A Phone Call

For me, the tragic story of Gary Webb began in 1996 when he was working on his “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News. He called me at my home in Arlington, Virginia, because, in 1985, I and my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger had been the first journalists to reveal the scandal of Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contras, who were funding themselves in part by collaborating with drug traffickers.

Webb explained that he had come across evidence that one Contra-connected drug conduit had funneled cocaine into Los Angeles, where it helped fuel the early crack epidemic. Unlike our AP stories a decade earlier — which focused on the Contras helping to ship cocaine from Central America into the United States — Webb said his series would examine what happened to the Contra cocaine after it reached the streets of LA and other cities.

Besides asking about my recollections of the Contras and their cocaine smuggling, Webb wanted to know why the scandal never gained any real traction in the U.S. national news media. I explained that the ugly facts of the drug trafficking ran up against a determined U.S government campaign to protect the Contras’ image.  (read HERE)

Ingrid Betancourt Discusses Memoir About Hostage Experience in Colombia

Ingrid Betancourt Discusses Memoir About Hostage Experience in Colombia

By RADHIKA JAIN, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

 

Ingrid Betancourt, a 2002 Colombian presidential candidate and former hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), spoke about her book and her experiences in captivity to a packed audience on Wednesday evening.

In a talk co-sponsored by the Standing Committee on Ethnic Studies and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Betancourt answered questions from Caroline M. Elkins, chair of the Committee on Ethnic Studies, who reviewed Betancourt’s memoir “Even Silence Has an End” for The New York Times in September.

“The book is at once a political text but also a stunning literary achievement,” Elkins said, adding that it addresses “how we think about lived experiences of hostages and how we approach it politically.”

Taken hostage by FARC on Feb. 23, 2002 and not rescued until July 2, 2008, Betancourt spent two-thirds of her captivity traveling from camp to camp. When not on the move, she endured crowded living spaces, the humiliation of constant obedience, and a strained dynamic between hostages that was especially directed at Betancourt, a high-profile political figure.

“It was so inspiring just seeing how she was able to remain strong,” Arturo Elizondo ’14 said.

During a book signing following Wednesday’s talk, one man in the audience criticized Betancourt with comments about her rescue. A 2009 memoir by three other FARC hostages also portrayed Betancourt as an intolerable fellow hostage, inciting controversy over her capture.

But Betancourt’s memoir addresses her struggle with a balance of self-critique and forgiveness. She called the writing process both “torture” and “rewarding.”

“Once it’s done, I just feel that it’s given me so much back,” Betancourt said.

Throughout her six and a half years in the Colombian jungle, Betancourt found hope in the memory of her children, the “love and dignity” taught to her by her parents, and isolated moments of kindness by the FARC—one guard taught her to weave, and the manual activity became a kind of meditation.

But the reality of captivity was usually filled with fear. Betancourt’s frequent attempts at escape were faced with brutal punishment, although during the question-and-answer session, she said that FARC guards—many of whom turn to the guerrilla organization as their best option—were as trapped as their hostages.

“Those guys dream exactly the way we dream,” she said.  “Prisoners might eventually escape, but guards will never escape.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

Pakistani media publishes fake WikiLeaks scoops

A front-page story in Pakistan’s The News today reports that new WikiLeaks cables have confirmed what reads like a laundry list of Pakistani suspicions and grievances against India:

A cable from US Embassy in Islamabad leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks disclosed that there were enough evidences of Indian involvement in Waziristan and other tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Balochistan.[...]

An earlier cable ruled out any direct or indirect involvement of ISI in 26/11 under Pasha’s command while Mumbai’s dossier, based on prime accused Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement was termed funny and “shockingly immature.”

WikiLeaks revealed that a cable sent from a US mission in India termed former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek.
His war doctrine, suggesting eliminating China and Pakistan in a simultaneous war front was termed as “much far from reality.” Another cable indicates that General Kapoor was dubbed as a general who was least bothered about security challenges to the country but was more concerned about making personal assets and strengthening his own cult in the army. The cable also suggested that a tug-of-war between Kapoor and the current Indian Army chief had divided the Indian Army into two groups. [...]

An earlier cable described Indian Army involved in gross human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir while some Lt Gen HS Panag, the then GOC-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, was equated with General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes.

The only problem is that none of these cables appear to be real. The Guardian, which has full access to the unreleased WikiLeaks cables, can’t find any of them. The story, which ran in four Pakistani newspapers, isn’t bylined and was credited only to Online Agency, an Islamabad-based pro-army news service.

It’s actually surprising this hasn’t happened yet. The vast majority of the cables are still unreleased, but the newspapers which have access to them have often reported on some of the more salacious details before the original cables are actually available. (Take for instance, the famous “Batman and Robin” description of Putin and Medvedev, which appeared in newspapers days before theactual cable was available).

So, it’s pretty easy to just make up cables to serve your political agenda. If the Pakistani forgers had been more sophisticated they would have invented quotes or even mocked up fake cables rather than just paraphrasing. This, in my opinion, is an argument for just releasing the full archive now rather than trickling them out at the newspapers’ pace. It will be a lot easier to fact check false claims if we no longer have to rely on the Guardian as WikiLeaks’ gatekeeper.

On another note, while the Pakistani revelations seem cartoonish, it wouldn’t be surprising if some damaging cables from New Delhi are coming soon. In working to improve the political and economic relationship with India, both the Bush and Obama administrations have papered over a number of unpleasant facts, from India’s tacit support to the Burmese military junta to still rampant governmental corruption. I’m guessing the embassy staff in New Delhi has probably been a lot blunter.

The WikiLeaks revelations about Pakistan mostly just confirmed how both governments not-so-privately already feel about each other. In the case of U.S.-India relations, there’s a lot more to lose.

And Now, Afghan Paramilitaries, Just Like Colombia

[Look to Pakistan, to see the same phenomenon, especially "the disappeared."  Switch the names and locations in reports on shadowy paramilitary armies in Colombia, Afghanistan, or Pakistan and the reports would seem almost identical.  God help the American govt. when the people finally figure-out what has been happening right under our noses and behind our backs!  We have been living under a terrorist regime for several decades, but none of us have wanted to look past our own fat noses to see the monsters in the flashy uniforms, decorated with pretty ribbons and shiny buttons. "Go Army!"]

Afghan Village Militias Accused Of Abuses

IWPR , Zia Ahmadi

Local defence units said to be turning on villagers rather than providing security.

Residents of western provinces of Afghanistan have complained that local militias set up to protect them from the Taleban have been harassing, robbing and even killing locals.

The initiative to arm local men to help provide security has been rolled out in various locations across the country, with the blessing of commanders of the NATO force.

Schemes such as the Village Stability Programme, which aims to train rural residents to provide their own security, have proved controversial, although supporters say they have been successful in stabilising some areas.

The idea of creating and arming paramilitary forces is hugely sensitive in Afghanistan, given the country’s long history of conflict, often involving unaccountable paramilitary groups. The early Nineties, in particular, saw the mujahedin groups that had earlier fought against Soviet occupation, as well as irregular units set up by the communist government, turn on one another in a bitter civil war.

Some residents of western parts of Afghanistan are now warning that the new militias are acting with impunity, and bringing destruction rather than security.

Mullah Naim, 35, from Badghis province, said his family had been targeted by members of a pro-government unit because they feared he would expose their links to the Taleban.

Last month, his mother was killed and his stepmother wounded in an attack on the village of Darzak in Jawand district. Soon after the funeral, Naim took his family and fled to a secret location.

Speaking to IWPR by phone, he said, “The militia force attacked my house because I know about their activities and their relationship with the Taleban. In recent months, the militia has been reporting movements by Spanish troops and the national army [in Badghis] to the Taleban, who launched operations based on this intelligence.”

Mullah Naim alleged that the unit’s members were of suspect loyalty, saying, “Some Afghan Taleban who were active in much of Badghis province ostensibly surrendered and handed over their weapons to the government and turned into tribal militia members, but they are cooperating covertly with criminal groups including the armed opposition.”

Sharafuddin Majidi, spokesman for Badghis governor Delbar Jan Arman, said an investigation was under way into the killing of Mullah Naim’s relatives.

He acknowledged that there were worries over the fact that militias were not officially registered with the government.

“The problems are going to increase unless they are registered, brought within a framework and made accountable before the law,” he said, adding that around 1,000 militia units were currently active in various districts of the province.

Hajji Qari, the former local government head in the province’s Bala Morghab district, said units armed by the foreign forces had already created serious instability.

“When I was head of Bala Morghab, I received several reports of beatings, harassment and robbery carried out by militias,” he said. “When I informed [superior] officials of this, they fired me instead of addressing the problem.”

Lal Mohammad Omarzai, the head of Shindand district in Herat province, expressed concern about a group of some 200 men in the Zerkoh area, whom he said had been armed by NATO forces.

“People in various parts of Shindand are complaining about the behaviour and treatment of the tribal militias,” said Omarzai. “The government should either increase the number of police, or train these individuals and register them within the framework of the police, otherwise things will get very worrying.”

An official in Shindand district, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “At the beginning of this year, three Afghan translators were killed in Zerkoh under mysterious circumstances. Investigations showed that tribal militia members were behind it. Since they’d been armed by the foreign forces, we were unable to conduct further investigations.”

An IWPR report on the Shindand force this summer (International Forces Deny Funding Afghan Militia) quoted a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force as saying the unit was concerned was not being armed or paid by international troops.

Abdorrahman, a militia commander in Shindand, denied his forces had harmed or harassed civilians.

“Personal animosity may lead these men to act illegally on occasion, but they will be prosecuted,” he said, adding that he believed the militias were important for maintaining security. “Since the tribal militias were created, the Taleban’s activities have decreased and armed robberies have been stopped.”

He said his men received money and equipment from both central government and international forces, and acknowledged that some recruits were former Taleban.

In Ghor province, Hajji Fazel Ahmad of the Tiora district, said his 18 year-old daughter had been raped by a militia member, and alleged that police took no action to arrest the culprit.

“The incident happened when two of my wives had gone to the house of one of our relatives to pray at a funeral. The man took the opportunity to enter the house by force and rape my daughter,” the 55 year-old man said, weeping. “I am asking government officials to restore the honour I have lost.”

He said the suspect, who had joined the militia a few months ago, had also harassed other girls in the area.

Responding to this complaint, a security official in Tiora district, who did not want to be named, said, “Sometimes these individuals are involved in instability, armed robberies and cooperation with the armed opposition, but since central government has taken the decision [to create them], we are unable to confront them.”

He added that seven months ago, members of a militia clashed with residents of the village of Bala, who had refused to pay tribute money to them. Two women and a militia fighter were killed.

Basir Ahmad, a doctor in Shahrak district, also in Ghor province, recounted how he was attacked by armed men while travelling in a car three months ago. He and the other passengers were robbed of their possessions.

“A few days later, two wounded men who, I was told, were militia men wounded while fighting the Taleban were brought in to the clinic. When I looked at them, I saw that one was the thief who robbed me and the other passengers,” he said. “When I told police about it, they told me to keep silent if I wanted to remain alive.”

Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, spokesman for the Western Police Zone of Afghanistan, confirmed that reports had been received from various western provinces regarding problems created by paramilitaries.

“We haven’t been given a structure for the militias yet,” he said. “They are not recognised by the police in any of these areas.”

In July, the Afghan government decided that the various village defence units set up around the country should be subsumed into a new Local Police Force, which will still consist of grassroots groups but will be controlled by the Afghan interior ministry.

Zia Ahmadi is an IWPR-trained reporter in Herat, Afghanistan. This article originally appeared in ARR Issue 382 (3 Dec 2010). Produced by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, www.iwpr.net.

Breaking the silence on Colombia’s disappeared–Over 51,000

[When will we break the silence on America's part in those disappearances?  If the paramilitaries, trained by American Special Forces and Delta Forces, have waged war on Colombian society (presumably under American direction), then American military leaders must also be held to account for their part in all these crimes against humanity.]

Breaking the silence on Colombia’s disappeared

SCOTT KOBEWKA

Colombia News - Disappeared Victims

The number of “disappeared” in Colombia may be far higher than the official figure of 51,000, according to a report from the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWG) and the U.S. Office on Colombia.

Victims of disappearances include human rights defenders, trade unionists, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, young men and girls in rural conflict zones, members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) community, homeless people, and other groups identified as “undesirables,” according to the report.

The report blames the phenomenon on various groups, saying that “Colombia’s armed forces and police and all illegal armed groups have been responsible for disappearances.” It points out that as paramilitary activity increased in the 1990s, so did disappearances attributed to the paramilitaries.

LAWG cites the “false positives” scandal as a cause of many disappearances in the past decade. The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Philip Alston, found that soldiers had committed these killings “in a pattern that was repeated around the country.” In a false positive killing a military, or in some cases guerrilla, “recruiter” lured the victim to a remote location where they were then killed by the military and reported as a combat death. “Within the military,” says Alston, “success was associated with ‘kill counts’ of guerrillas.” By 2010 there were more than 3,000 cases registered in Colombian courts against the military in relation to false positives.

In 2007 the National Registry of the Disappeared was launched. The registry is an effort to create one unified database of missing people and unidentified bodies that will facilitate investigations. According to LAWG, though, “The Attorney General’s office … estimates that in hard-hit areas some 60 to 65% of disappearances go unreported.”

The report tells the story of Alejandra Rodriguez. When she was only a month old her father disappeared while he was working in the Palace of Justice‘s cafeteria during the M-19 guerrilla attack in 1985. “In the army’s no-holds barred retaking of the Palace, more than 100 people were killed, including 11 of the 24 Supreme Court justices. Twelve people, including eight people who worked in the court’s cafeteria, three visitors and a guerrilla were seen by witnesses being taken alive from the palace by the army. However, Alejandra says the government has always denied that any people were disappeared and it has been a constant struggle to get any information.”

“Every time the government denies that people were disappeared from the Palace of Justice, it’s like they are disappearing our loved ones all over again,” says Alejandra.

Lisa Haugaard, executive director of LAWG says, “The Colombian government’s recent efforts to search for the disappeared, and to conduct exhumations and return remains to victims’ families, are commendable, as are U.S. efforts to support this. But far more must be done to achieve justice in these cases, as well to expand the search for the disappeared, and most important, to end the practice of disappearing.”

The report gives a number of suggestions to Colombia and the U.S. governments for ways to bring justice to victims and stamp out the practice, but LAWG’s main conclusion is that it is important to spread information about disappearances. “For too long,” the report concludes, “the relatives of the disappeared and the few associations and human rights groups that accompany them have labored without adequate acknowledgment and support. It is long past time to help them break the silence.”

Read a Colombia Reports report on the struggle of victims’ families here.

Return of the Sandinistas–The World Slips Into the Past

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010 – By Tim Rogers
NEWS ANALYSIS: Analysts warn defense laws would create spy networks, state-sponsored repression.
Defense Law

Tim Rogers | Nica Times

To Serve and Protect? Legal experts warn that new defense law would empower Sandinista-sponsored groups to repress the opposition even more in the name of national security and defense of democracy. Sandinistas say the opposition is just trying to scare voters. Pictured is a group of Sandinista sympathizers prepared to clash with demonstrators last year.

A controversial Sandinista defense-bill package scheduled for vote Dec. 13 could provide a knockout punch to Nicaragua’s staggering democracy and push the country dangerously close to becoming a military-backed regime, alarmed analysts warn.

The controversial series of bills – the National Defense Law, the National Security Law and the Border Law – would provide President Daniel Ortega with the legal mechanisms to employ Sandinista paramilitary groups and state security to repress and spy on the opposition in the name of national security, warns critic Victor Boitano, a lawyer and former Sandinista military colonel.

“These laws are being imported from Cuba and Venezuela as part of a new plan to militarize the countries of ALBA,” Boitano told The Nica Times, referring to the Venezuelan-led bloc of nations known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

Boitano, a decorated graduate of the Cuban military academy from the 1980s, said the defense-bill package is an attempt by Ortega to “democratically impose a military boot” upon Nicaragua’s democracy and “force the population to participate in the revolution.”

Soldiers

Militia Training: Sandinista soldiers train youth how to fire weapons in the 1980s. Critics are worried that a new defense bill package could reactivate paramilitary groups under the title of “reservists” or “volunteers.”

Tim Rogers | Nica Times

If the laws are passed and the new system of national security is implemented, Boitano predicts, Ortega would move quickly to arm and mobilize Sandinista groups – the Sandinista Youth and the Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) – under the pretext that they are “volunteer reservists” organizing to defend national security.

“This is a terrible, terrible militarization of the society in an undercover way; Nicaragua’s past is returning,” said Boitano, who admits to leaving the army under bad terms in 2007 after being passed up for promotion.

Vote Set for Dec. 13

Sandinista lawmakers insist the defense-bill package, submitted by Ortega last week for “urgent approval” without discussion, consultation or study by commission, is aimed at combating narco-trafficking and organized crime. Leaders of the ruling party insist the laws would not be used as repressive measures and are not intended to militarize the country (TT, Dec. 3).

The opposition Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), however, insisted that the vote on the bills be postponed until Dec. 13, to give an extra week to study the bills and introduce needed modifications. Other opposition groups, including the left-wing Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and Eduardo Montealegre’s Nicaraguan Democratic Bloc (BDN), insist the bills should be suspended until next year and put through a normal process of public consultation and study by commission.

MRS congressional head Victor Hugo Tinoco said early this week that his party has identified 45 unconstitutional elements just in the National Defense Law alone. He said his party hadn’t even had time yet to analyze the other two bills.

But the PLC, the party that has shared a de facto power-sharing pact with Ortega’s Sandinista Front for the past decade, agreed to vote on the three bills by Dec. 13, before breaking for year-end recess on Wednesday, Dec. 15.

PLC congressman José Pallaís, who last week qualified Ortega’s bills as “confiscatory” and “warmongering,” told The Nica Times this week that all the controversial paragraphs and articles of the three bills could be fixed before the vote next Monday.

“The changes will be substantive,” said Pallaís, who serves as president of the legislative Judicial Affairs Commission. “It is going to be a totally different law.”

Pallaís stressed that the newly drafted laws will, “Have a vision of security for a democratic nation.” And if the Sandinistas don’t agree to the modifications, he said, “then the bills won’t have our support” and won’t be passed in 2010.

But head Sandinista lawmaker Edwin Castro insists that a week of discussing the bills with the opposition will be plenty of time to “make it clear to the nation that here there is no intention to implement obligatory military service,” which was banned in the 1996 Constitution.

He said the bills do not seek to establish a legal framework for property confiscations, such as the ones carried out by the first Sandinista government in the 1980s.

“Here no one is trying to violate any fundamental rights,” Castro said, according to a report in the Sandinistas’ official media arm.

Still, the Nicaraguan Army’s lobbying of opposition lawmakers this week has raised serious concerns about the true interests behind the legal initiatives.

“These laws would change the whole dynamic of society from that of an institutional democracy to one that is subordinate to the military,” warned Gonzalo Carrión, legal director for the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh). “The goal here is to militarize the country at a time when the trend in democratic societies is to demilitarize.”

Carrión says the defense package shows that Ortega and the Nicaraguan Army still share an “umbilical relationship” that goes beyond the president’s role as commander-in-chief.

“Ortega constantly reminds the police and army of their Sandinista roots,” Carrión told The Nica Times. “The message is that Ortega  is  more  than  just  the  head  of state, he’s also the head of the political party and the revolution that gave birth to the army.”

Ortega went a step further last weekend in an address to the top military command by calling those who oppose his bills “traitors” to the nation.

A Tool for Reelection?

Constitutional expert Gabriel Alvarez said he thinks Ortega’s defense-bill package will set the stage for the president’s reelection bid next year (despite the constitutional ban prohibiting his candidacy) and give him the legal mechanisms he needs to squelch any opposition to his continuance in power.

“Since Ortega wasn’t able to get the votes he needed in the National Assembly this year to reform the Constitution to allow for his reelection, this package of laws is meant to substitute for the constitutional reforms,” Alvarez said.

The analyst said that once Ortega has the means to repress the Nicaraguan population under the guises of defending national security and democracy, “the reelection reforms will no longer be important.”

If the defense bills pass as is, Alvarez warns, Ortega will have use of the army and Sandinista-sponsored paramilitary groups to physically enforce the de facto Supreme Court ruling that okayed his reelection last year (NT, Oct. 23, 2009).

Any protests of his candidacy or demonstrations against next year’s possibly fraudulent elections can then be put down forcefully under the argument that such unrest represents a threat to national stability and democratic order, the analyst said.

“These laws would institutionalize Ortega’s paranoia and authoritarian style of government,” Alvarez told The Nica Times. “And they would provide a permanent green light to legalize and legitimize the use of paramilitary force. This would institutionalize people’s fear of repression.”

The defense-bill package, Alvarez said, “Does not represent a political vision based in democracy, rather that of a police state or an authoritarian state.”

Even the language of the bills, which talks about the need to promote a value-based “culture of defense” and the rights and obligations to defend their democracy and “supreme interests,” sounds “quasi-North Korean,” Alvarez said.

Targeting the Media, Too?

The new laws could also target freedom of expression, which has already been hampered by the Ortega government.

According to Article 25 of the proposed National Defense Law, “all media outlets” would have the “patriot duty to collaborate in the education and divulgation of the values, principles and directives of National Defense with the goal of creating cohesion of the entire Nicaraguan society around the execution of an effective National Defense Policy.”

Some fear the totalitarian-sounding article could be used as a tool to censor and punish independent media outlets, especially those that refuse to toe the party line.

“This article responds to the spirit of the law which is to generate mechanisms of executive control so that during a crisis, including one provoked by the executive himself, the state will be able to control any institutions that are labeled as adversaries, including the media,” said political analyst Felix Maradiaga.

In general terms, Maradiaga said, the forthcoming defense-bill package suggests that Ortega has no intention of leaving office next year and is willing to “pay all political costs to remain in power.”

Simply put, Maradiaga said, no outgoing president would want to pass such sweeping legislation to empower his successor. So Ortega’s urgency to pass the bills now suggests he has no plans to step down in 2012.

The only elements missing to establish dictatorship, Maradiaga said, are control over the army, the media and civil society.

The defense-bill package will accomplish all three of those goals, he said.

Worrisome Laws

Analysts and critics are concerned that a new defense-bill package being rushed through the National Assembly will allow the president to form Sandinista militias and develop a domestic spy network to repress and intimidate the Nicaraguan opposition and cement his authoritarian rule. Here are several of the articles that most worry analysts.

The National Security Law, Article 3, paragraph B, calls for “permanent, immediate and direct actions to preserve the integrity, stability and permanency of the state of Nicaragua, its institutions, democratic order, rule of law, people and property against any threat, risk or aggression.”

Though Article 6 of the bill specifically prohibits wire-tapping, “political spying,” and “obtaining information about people based on race, creed, opinion, or political affiliation,” the rest of the bill seems to lay the foundation for a domestic spy network.

Chapter 3, Article 8, calls for the creation of a “National Security System” of “institutions specialized in intelligence and information” to collect information using “specialized methods of human and technical resources.” Article 9 calls for the elaboration of intelligence reports for the president and the “cooperation and collaboration with intelligence services of friendly countries and international organizations.”

Article 11 says the Army’s Office of Defense Information (DID), the military’s intelligence network, will be subordinate to the Commander in Chief.

The Law of Defense establishes the “right and obligation of Nicaraguan citizens to participate actively and belligerently in national defense.” Article 3, paragraph 11, calls for “national mobilizations” in which “all human, technical and material resources are put at the disposal of national defense in situations of conflict and emergency.”

Article 21 calls for the creation of a “reservist force” led by ex-military personnel.

–Tim Rogers

A ghost haunts Europe

A text written by Evangelismos Squat towards Europe

Οn the 24th November, many student demonstrations took place in Britain, in which participated over 50,000 people. The march was called in response to the new educational measures announced by the British government. By now, the tuition fees, for someone who wanted to attend a british university, run into 3,000 pounds per year. With the new reforms the government reduces the national spending on education by 80% and the fees triple, reaching the amount of 9,000 pounds. The students occupied the University of Sussex in Brighton and the University of Leeds, a quite radical move for the british standards, since in British universities does not exist the asylum, as it is in Greece.

But it’s not just England that is currently in turmoil. In Portugal, a potential victim of the IMF, took place one of the biggest strikes, participating 3 out of the totally 10 million citizens of the country. In Italy, students stormed the building of the Senate, during the protest against the higher education reforms promoted by the government. The students managed to break the security fence and they entered the lobby of the building. The cops managed literally at the last moment to shut the wooden door leading to the Senate Hall. Furthermore, Ireland has entered a cycle of protests since it joined the IMF. Demonstrations, strikes, conflicts, occupations are taking place at this moment not only in Europe but throughout the world.

We have reached the point of no return. Capitalism is a monster that has just come of age and even more hungry. The Capital in its attempt to take advantage of the crisis that itself has created, puts in motion its mechanism and attacks with hard antisocial measures flattening not only the permanently excluded and oppressed masses but also parts of society that until today were “favored”. The Power upgrades and intensifies its repression, to allow bankers to fill their pockets (and bellies) undisturbed. In a few years  the number of people living under conditions of economic deprivation will have increased significantly. A “low intensity” war is raging; a war that the bosses have gone against society and at the forefront of this war is the youth.

The bosses want us divided, so that they can govern us better. But what actually divide us? What divides the students who come in thousands to the streets in Heraklion and Chania in Crete, Greece  from the students in England and Italy who occupy universities and attack buildings and cops? What separates us from the people in Portugal, Ireland and France who demonstrate and fill the streets in capital cities with banners and anger? Absolutely nothing.

Instead, we are in division with the bosses and the State. Because, it is them who created poverty and misery. Because the society of profit is their own creation.
We welcome all people who resist, no matter where they come from. Solidarity, resistance and dignity have no borders. Let’s join with all those fighters in every corner of the world, who refuse to have their future determined by the banks and parliaments, and engage in a hard and difficult struggle against a brutal system.

Authoritative power has no place among us.

Solidarity to all those who stand against State and Capital.

Evangelismos Squat. Theotokopoulou 18, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

in greek:  http://evagelismos.squat.gr/

Greece: We are at WAR. Political arrests and state terrorism

One day before the memorial of the assassination of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on December 6th, the Greek democratic dictatorship decided to activate in a tragicomic way its repression mechanisms in order to prevent the upcoming uprising of the society. All the regime’s servants are on the alert trying to manipulate the public opinion and terrorize the parts of the society that resist.

Yesterday night (December 4th), the scums of the anti-terrorist squad raid into various apartments and social spaces in Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Agrinio and Crete claiming that weaponry was found. The well-paid state media puppets set up feasts for the cop’s “success against terrorism”, producing hysteria and terror. After 24 hours it was announced that the weaponry found have never been used in any attack.

After a full day of deliberate lack of information, in the evening of December 5th the police gave in publicity the names and the photos of the 6 persons arrested in Athens, Piraeus and Crete, asking “citizens” for more information… For the 2 of the 6 arrested persons, there were arrest warrants for the “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire” case.

The same night in Thessaloniki, secret cops and hooded cops of the anti-terrorist squad raid into the occupied anti-authoritarian space “Nadir” which is located in the students residence of Thessaloniki’s University. They seized papers and computers, beat the people inside, while they went on numerous detains and 11 arrests. Dozens of people in solidarity gathered outside the place. The cop’s raid followed after an attack to a private security guardhouse inside the University campus.

Also, cops blockaded streets in Agrinio, near the anarchist “Agrinio Haunt”. The electricity went off in the whole house block with the excuse of the “anti-terrorism raids”.

Junta banned the basic right of the detained and the arrested to contact with their lawyers for more than 24 hours.

Τhe announcement of the defense counsel of one of the allegedly arrested is characteristic:

“What with certainty so far has been disarticulated are the procedural rights of the detainees and the potential to communicate with relatives and advocates. The absolute prohibition on the exercise of their fundamental rights, upon the completion of nearly 24 hours after their arrest, and the denial of confirmation of the names of the detainees, borders on rapture. Contempt is complemented by the usual method of selective leaks and communication manipulation of public opinion. And if all these are happening under the cover of the public prosecutor’s office, the coincidence of the mechanisms of repression not concerning protection, but in the abolition of the legal and constitutional order, is confirmed.

One day before the completion of two years since the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, and while the whole society is in turmoil and is being prepared for mobilizations, the guilty State obviously needs to atone, to present successes and mainly to legitimize the authoritarianism which is being prepared for tomorrow’s anniversary.

Zero tolerance! No political and communication intentionality over rights and freedoms!

Athens, 5 of December of 2010, 12.00

The defense counsel of one of the alleged detainees”

Apart from the yesterday’s raids, detains and arrests, state went on an another pre-emptive move prohibiting the passage of vehicles in the whole center of Athens (!), because of tomorrow’s demonstration on December 6th. In particular, the vehicles passage will stop from 10am on December 6th till 7am on December 7th, while the parking in central Athens is prohibited from 6am of December 6th till 7am on December 7th as you can see on the picture.

The students community and many anarchists/anti-authoritarian and far-left organizations are calling for gathering/demo in Propylea, central Athens. There are calls for demonstrations in more than 20 cities throughout Greece.

SOLIDARITY TO ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS

WE ARE AT WAR

http://en.contrainfo.espiv.net/2010/12/05/we-are-at-war-political-arrests-and-state-terrorism/