themcglynn.com

03 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

ALJ

The kingdom is ramping up executions of Shias, with the tacit approval of the United States

The McGlynn: Sickening!

“Saudi law criminalizes dissent and the expression of fundamental civil rights. Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2014, for example, individuals may be executed for vague acts such as participating in or inciting protests, “contact or correspondence with any groups … or individuals hostile to the kingdom” or “calling for atheist thought.”

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Reports emerged last week that Saudi Arabia intends to imminently execute more than 50 people on a single day for alleged terrorist crimes.

Although the kingdom hasn’t officially confirmed the reports, the evidence is building. Okas, the first outlet to publish the report, has close ties to the Saudi Ministry of Interior and would not have published the story without obtaining government consent. Some of the prisoners slated for execution were likewise recently subject to an unscheduled medical exam, a sign that many believe portends imminent execution. There has already been a spike in capital punishment in Saudi Arabia this year, with at least 151 executions, compared with 90 for all of 2014.

The cases of six Shia activists from Awamiya, a largely Shia town in the oil-rich Eastern province, are particularly disconcerting. The majority of Saudi’s minority Shia population is concentrated in the Eastern province and has long faced government persecution. The six activists were convicted for protesting this mistreatment and other related crimes amid the Arab uprisings in 2011. Three of them were arrested when they were juveniles. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia religious leader who was convicted of similar charges, also faces imminent execution.

All the convictions were obtained through unfair trials marred by human and civil rights violations, including in some cases torture, forced confessions and lack of access to counsel. Each defendant was tried before the Specialized Criminal Court, a counterterrorism tribunal controlled by the Ministry of Interior that has few procedural safeguards and is often used to persecute political dissidents. Lawyers are generally prohibited from counseling their clients during interrogation and have limited participatory rights at trial. Prosecutors aren’t even required to disclose the charges and relevant evidence to defendants.

The problems aren’t just procedural. Saudi law criminalizes dissent and the expression of fundamental civil rights. Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2014, for example, individuals may be executed for vague acts such as participating in or inciting protests, “contact or correspondence with any groups … or individuals hostile to the kingdom” or “calling for atheist thought.”

One of the defendants, Ali al-Nimr, was convicted of crimes such as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “going out to a number of marches, demonstrations and gathering against the state and repeating some chants against the state.” For these offenses, he has been sentenced to beheading and crucifixion, with his beheaded body to be put on public display as a warning to others……………….

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UN population fund says in times of crisis, women and girls are left in precarious situation with lack of pregnancy, childbirth and family planning services

Afghan women in a hospital waiting room, 2010.

Afghan women in a hospital waiting room, 2010. Sixty per cent of all preventable maternal deaths are estimated to occur in humanitarian and conflict settings, the UNFPA says. Photograph: Ton Koene/Alamy

The health needs of women and girls must not be treated as an afterthought in times of crises, but placed at the centre of any humanitarian response, according to the UN’s state of the world population report.

Humanitarian responses have failed to account for the different ways in which disasters and conflict can have an impact on women and men, says the report, Shelter from the Story, published by the UN population fund (UNFPA) on Thursday. In times of crisis, services related to pregnancy, childbirth and family planning are usually unavailable, “leaving already disadvantaged women and girls in an even more precarious situation”, it says.

Sixty per cent of all preventable maternal deaths are estimated to occur in humanitarian and conflict settings, the UNFPA says, which equates to nearly 500 deaths each day.

“In the tumultuous early phase of a crisis, food, shelter and care for acute physical trauma often seem the most compelling needs, with gender or any other kind of discrimination something that can be put off for a safer day. Thinking this way, however, can make a response blind to realities,” says the report.

It adds that protecting the health and rights of women and young people is not only critical to weathering the chaos of wars and natural disasters but can also accelerate recovery……………..

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US politics

US secretary of defense Ashton Carter and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general Joseph Dunford arrive for a hearing about deploying ‘specialized’ troops in Iraq to fight Isis.

US secretary of defense Ashton Carter and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general Joseph Dunford arrive for a hearing about deploying ‘specialized’ troops in Iraq to fight Isis. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

It’s the ultimate rule in US national politics: there shall be no legitimate questioning of starting yet another war, even if all of the recent ones are the exact reason we are in our current situation with Isis. All signs increasingly point to the fact that the US is will be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East despite the administration’s insistence that it does not want to get caught up in one.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday a new “expeditionary force” (a propaganda term to avoid saying “ground troops”) that will apparently operate apart from any Iraqi or Syrian rebel allied fighters and be able to conduct cross-border raids in either country.

It’s worth harkening back to the last military intervention – one that has now completely backfired – to question if more US soldiers on the ground in multiple countries will only exacerbate the problem, rather than be part of the solution. No, not the Iraq invasion, even though that it obviously caused destruction on a massive scale and precipitated the rise of Isis. I’m talking about Libya in 2011.

Since the US overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi – hailed at the time as a “model” for US intervention – the country has descended into chaos, where large portions are now completely under the control of Isis. The New York Times carried a detailed story on its front page Sunday describing a dire situation with no functional government and various groups vying for power that fight each other rather than teaming up to fight Isis.

The Libyan intervention was the signature foreign policy move of Hillary Clinton’s time as the Obama administration’s secretary of state, where she pushed hard for military action when others were advising against it (and there was a very good argument that the whole war was illegal, given Congress not only did not approve it, but the House actively voted against it).

The chaos in Libya has been almost completely scrubbed from the 2016 presidential campaign and public debate over the use of more military force in the Middle East even as Republicans continually churn up another issue involving Libya: the increasingly contrived Benghazi scandal.

Republicans, despite having their daggers sharpened for Clinton, have studiously ignored the actual elephant in the room: that not only did their own Iraq war pave the way for Isis, but our subsequent conflict in Libya that Clinton championed has created yet another safe haven for the terrorists we are now fighting. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in the Week, besides Rand Paul, “[t]he other Republican candidates cannot bring themselves to question the results of force” – because they can’t help but advocate for for more bombs at every turn…………………..

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