JFP 10/30: US interrogates Khan on drone strikes; UK says Iran war would be illegal

Just Foreign Policy News, October 30, 2012
US interrogates Khan on drone strikes; UK says Iran war would be illegal

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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: Push the big TV talks shows to talk about specifics of the drone strike policy
Bob Schieffer responded to our call and asked a question about drone strikes in the presidential debate. Now let's press the big TV talks shows to get into the details of the drone strike policy - like attacks on rescuers. Urge the big TV shows to have the authors of the Stanford/NYU report on as guests.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/drones-debate-question-follow-up

*Action: FAIR: PBS and Iran's "Nuclear Weapons"
On PBS NewsHour Jeffrey Brown stated that "Iran's nuclear weapons program has been a particular flash point." Also on NewsHour, Ray Suarez referred to efforts to "halt [Iran's]
pursuit of nuclear weapons." Apparently PBS NewsHour didn't get the memo that according to U.S. intelligence, Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapons program.
http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4637

HuffPo Live: Drone Strikes and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship
Just Foreign Policy participates in a Huffington Post roundtable on U.S. policy towards Pakistan.
http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/508052ba2b8c2a13d4000096

Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry Backs Ship to Gaza's Opposition to Gaza Blockade
"The Swedish Government and the EU insist that there is a severe humanitarian situation in Gaza and that the border crossings must be opened…Given that we believe that the blockade should be broken, it would have been reasonable that the boat should have been allowed to proceed"
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1322

Glenn Greenwald: US detention of Imran Khan part of trend to harass anti-drone advocates
Imran Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan, reports that he was interrogated by US immigration officials on his views on drones strikes. This is part of a pattern of US government harassment of drone strike critics, Greenwald notes.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/28/detention-imran-khan-drones

Law & Order: SVU highlights issue of US drone strikes attacking rescuers
The TV program "Law & Order: SVU" recently highlighted the issue of the U.S. attacking rescuers with drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1327

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Pakistani political leader Imran Khanwas taken off an international flight from Canada to New York and questioned by US immigration officials over his views on drone strikes, the Guardian reports. Khan has been at the forefront of a high-profile campaign as leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI) to end US drone strikes in northern Pakistan.

2) Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law, the Guardian reports. Legal advice drafted by the attorney general's office makes clear that Iran does not currently represent "a clear and present threat," the Guardian says. Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.

"I think the US has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance," said one source. "They'd expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it's Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise."

3) Noting the Guardian report, Max Fisher, reporting in the Washington Post, writes that the apparently staunch U.K. opposition to working with the U.S. on this is striking, particularly after Prime Minister Blair so closely joined President Bush in planning and executing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2003 Iraq invasion became a source of considerable political backlash in the U.K., including a two-year official investigation that culminated in Blair being summoned to a bruising public inquiry, Fisher notes, suggesting that the public inquiry on Iraq has had an impact on the willingness of UK officials to be publicly entangled in another illegal US war.

4) Israel's policy of isolating Gaza is unraveling, Joel Greenberg reports in the Washington Post. The emir of Qatar paid the first visit by a head of state to Hamas-ruled Gaza last week. Egypt has promised to allow construction materials for Qatari-funded projects through its border crossing to Gaza, following earlier suggestions that the crossing might be opened regularly for passage of commercial goods. The new realities have brought some commentators in Israel to call for a reassessment, Greenberg writes.

Giora Eiland, a former general who headed Israel's National Security Council, asserted after the emir's visit that Israel should shift away from trying to undermine Hamas rule and focus exclusively on security concerns, such as halting rocket attacks across the border. "Israel has an interest that Gaza resemble, as much as possible, a state with a stable government," Eiland wrote in Yediot Ahronot.

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli analyst and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Israel should "recognize that Hamas is in charge of Gaza and that we're not going to change that." Alpher added: "The objective should be to reach some kind of modus vivendi with Hamas." Long-standing U.S. demands that Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence as a condition for diplomatic contacts have been overtaken by events, Alpher said. "The reality is that there are two separate Palestinian entities and no peace process with either of them, so all of these conditions don't seem terribly relevant," he said. "The question is, can we can find a way to dialogue with political Islam?"

5) Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, announced plans to launch an investigation into the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the U.S. that result in civilian deaths, the Washington Post reports. Emmerson said that his decision to investigate reflects frustration with the Obama administration's unwillingness to provide public information on such strikes.

6) Two members of the U.S.-led military coalition were killed Tuesday by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform in southern Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports. The killings bring to at least 53 the number of deaths among NATO and U.S. forces in similar attacks this year. Most of the foreign troops in Helmand are British and American, the Post notes.

Israel/Palestine
7) The U.N. special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories called for a boycott of all companies that have dealings with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem until they adhere to international rights standards and practices, AP reports. In a report to the General Assembly, Richard Falk said a number of Israeli-owned and multinational corporations headquartered in the U.S., Europe and Mexico appear to be violating international human rights and humanitarian laws by exploiting Palestinian resources and helping Israel construct illegal settlements and provide security for them. Falk said the pace of Israeli settlement building has accelerated and Israel has ignored U.N. resolutions condemning the practice, so "there is a sense that what the U.N. says doesn't count."

Bahrain
8) Bahrain has banned all rallies and demonstrations after months of protests by antigovernment demonstrators who have been pressing for a greater political voice, the New York Times reports. The Bahraini authorities have been singled out for criticism by international rights activists for their previous crackdowns on opposition activists, the prosecution of medical workers who have aided wounded activists, and the heavy and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other weapons, including birdshot, to dispel protesters, the Times notes. Critics have called U.S. backing of Bahrain's government an act of hypocrisy, the Times notes.

Colombia
9) Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Colombian president Santos slamming a proposed constitutional amendment "to expand the scope of military jurisdiction," writes Colombia Reports. HRW said the amendment "would virtually guarantee impunity for military atrocities," and would make Colombia "fail to comply with human rights conditions for U.S. military aid."

Haiti
10) Cuban leader Fidel Castro sided with Haitians seeking reimbursement from the UN after a 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, AFP reports. Studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading experts have said that Nepalese UN troops based at a camp at Mirebalais in northern Haiti brought the strain of cholera into the country. Lawyers acting for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have filed a legal claim demanding $100,000 dollars for each death and $50,000 for each person made sick.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Imran Khan detained and 'interrogated over drone views' by US immigration
Former cricket captain turned politician detained on flight from Canada to New York to be questioned over his views on jihad
Peter Beaumont, Guardian, Saturday 27 October 2012 09.12 EDT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/27/imran-khan-detained-flight

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician, was taken off an international flight from Canada to New York and questioned by US immigration officials over his views on drone strikes and jihad.

Khan, who has been at the forefront of a high-profile campaign as leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI) to end US drone strikes in northern Pakistan, had been in Canada to give a speech and was on his way to a fundraising dinner in the US on Friday.

Khan recently attempted to lead a high-profile march into south Waziristan which included US peace activists from the Code Pink group with some 15,000 of his supporters.

He claims that the drone strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians – a claim denied by the US.

"I was taken off from plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop," Khan tweeted yesterday after his questioning.

He added: "Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance."

A US state department spokeswoman confirmed Khan's questioning. "We are aware that Imran Khan was briefly delayed in Toronto before boarding the next flight to the United States," she told Pakistani media. "The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States."
[...]

2) Britain rejects US request to use UK bases in nuclear standoff with Iran
Secret legal advice states pre-emptive strike could be in breach of international law as Iran not yet 'clear and present threat'
Nick Hopkins, The Guardian, Thursday 25 October 2012 14.36 EDT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/25/uk-reject-us-request-bases-iran

Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.

The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.


The US approaches are part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers have so far reacted coolly. They have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general's office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

This makes clear that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent "a clear and present threat". Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.

"The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran," said a senior Whitehall source. "It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans."

Sources said the US had yet to make a formal request to the British government, and that they did not believe an acceleration towards conflict was imminent or more likely. The discussions so far had been to scope out the British position, they said.

"But I think the US has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance," said one source. "They'd expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it's Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise."

The situation reflects the lack of appetite within Whitehall for the UK to be drawn into any conflict, though the Royal Navy has a large presence in the Gulf in case the ongoing diplomatic efforts fail.
[...]

3) Report: British attorney general thinks strike on Iran could be illegal
Max Fisher, Washington Post, October 25, 2012
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/10/25/the-u-k-thinks-a-strike-on-iran-would-be-illegal-denies-u-s-access-to-its-bases/

The British attorney general has circulated legal advice to the prime minister's office, Foreign Office and Defense Ministry warning that a preemptive military strike on Iran could violate international law, the Guardian's Nick Hopkins reports. The existence of this secret document suggests that the U.K. government believes that Iran does not currently meet the legal threshold for a "clear and present danger" that would merit such an attack.

Though Iran's illegal uranium enrichment is moving it closer to the capability to assemble a nuclear weapon, U.S. intelligence agencies do not believe that Tehran has affirmatively decided to build a bomb. The British legal memo would seem to underscore this view, as well as raise the question of whether Iran would have to cross that line for a military strike to meet the requirements of international law.

The Guardian also reveals that the U.K. is using this legal document to deny the U.S. assistance in contingency planning for a strike on Iran. The U.S. is reportedly asking for access to British airbases that are strategically located on remote islands.

The bases aside, the apparently staunch U.K. opposition to working with the U.S. on this is striking, particularly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair so closely joined U.S. President George W. Bush in planning and executing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2003 Iraq invasion became a source of considerable political backlash in the U.K., including a two-year official investigation that culminated in Blair being summoned to a bruising public inquiry.

Based on this story, it appears that the U.K. wants little or nothing to do with even U.S. planning for a potential strike on Iran, much less the attack itself.
[...]

4) Israel reckons with unraveling Gaza policy
Joel Greenberg, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 30, 7:18 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-reckons-with-unraveling-gaza-policy/2012/10/30/668ccf5c-21f4-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story.html

Jerusalem - When the emir of Qatar paid the first visit by a head of state to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last week, there were two different reactions from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

In one statement, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, accused the emir, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, of backing a terrorist organization and having "thrown peace under the bus."

But an Arabic-language spokesman for the ministry, Lior Ben Dor, told Radio Sawa, a U.S.- funded station heard across the Middle East, that Israel welcomed the visit of the emir, who pledged generous financial aid.

"Since our withdrawal from Gaza, the goal has been that Arab states come and help the residents of Gaza," Ben Dor said, referring to the Israeli pullout in 2005.

The double message was a symptom of the unraveling of an Israeli policy toward Gaza that was put in place after Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, seized control of the territory in June 2007.

The Israeli government adopted measures to isolate Gaza, sharply restricting supply shipments at border points, tightening bans on movement out of the territory, and promoting an international diplomatic boycott of the Hamas government.

The policy, strongly backed by Washington, was coupled with moves to promote economic development and foreign aid in the West Bank, where the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is dominant. The intention was to squeeze Hamas by blockading and imposing austerity on Gaza, while boosting Abbas and Fatah through improved living conditions in the West Bank.

But the policy essentially backfired. Hamas rallied popular support in Gaza through a shared sense of siege, and it consolidated economic control by taxing goods smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.

A deadly Israeli commando raid in 2010 on a Turkish ship carrying activists challenging Israel's naval blockade of Gaza led to an international outcry and a substantial loosening of Israeli restrictions on shipment of goods to the territory.

The rise to power of Islamist movements in Egypt and other countries swept by the Arab Spring provided Hamas with a diplomatic opening. The Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has made two regional tours this year, visiting Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran. Egypt has eased restrictions on its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing greater freedom of travel for Palestinians.

The Qatari emir's visit to Gaza, where he was received with an honor guard and the playing of national anthems - as if the Hamas enclave were an independent state - was touted by Haniyeh as the formal end of "the political and economic siege."

The emir's pledge of $400 million for projects including housing construction and road improvements - well exceeding the amount of foreign aid Gaza receives annually - contrasted sharply with the financial woes of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, where a falloff in aid has left Abbas and his allies struggling to pay salaries of thousands of employees.

Egypt has promised to allow construction materials for the Qatari-funded projects through its border crossing to the Gaza Strip, following earlier suggestions that the crossing might be opened regularly for passage of commercial goods.

"This signifies the beginning of the collapse of the West Bank-first model, but we still have to wait and see if Egypt follows through," said Nathan Thrall, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in Gaza, said the assumptions behind the effort to isolate Gaza and its rulers had been upended. "The policy of isolating and weakening Hamas through sanctions and blockade failed miserably," he said. "The model the U.S. and Europe tried to build in the West Bank did not lead to positive results. Israel is expanding its settlements, the peace process has reached a dead end, and the Palestinian Authority is on life support."

The new realities have brought some commentators in Israel to call for a reassessment.

Giora Eiland, a former general who headed Israel's National Security Council during the withdrawal from Gaza, asserted after the emir's visit that Israel should shift away from trying to undermine Hamas rule and focus exclusively on security concerns, such as halting rocket attacks across the border.

"Israel has an interest that Gaza resemble, as much as possible, a state with a stable government. That is the only way to have an address for both deterrence and dealing with security issues," Eiland wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. "Israel has an interest in economic improvement in Gaza of the kind Qatar can bring. Such improvement creates assets that any government would be concerned about damaging, and thus it will be more moderate and cautious."

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli analyst and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, said in an interview that Israel should "recognize that Hamas is in charge of Gaza and that we're not going to change that."

"Let the Qataris rebuild the Gaza Strip," Alpher added. "The objective should be to reach some kind of modus vivendi with Hamas."

Long-standing demands by the United States and other international mediators that Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence as a condition for diplomatic contacts have been overtaken by events, Alpher said.

"The reality is that there are two separate Palestinian entities and no peace process with either of them, so all of these conditions don't seem terribly relevant," he said. "The question is, can we can find a way to dialogue with political Islam?"

5) U.N. to probe drone attacks by U.S., others resulting in civilian deaths
Colum Lynch, Washington Post, October 25

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/un-to-probe-drone-attacks-by-us-others-resulting-in-civilian-deaths/2012/10/25/3c4f454e-1ee8-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_story.html

New York - An independent U.N. human rights researcher on Thursday announced plans to launch an investigation into the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the United States and other governments that result in civilian deaths or injuries.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in a Harvard University law school speech that he and South African Christof Heyns, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will establish an investigative unit early next year in Geneva to probe drone attacks.

Emmerson said that his decision to investigate drone attacks and other targeted killings reflects frustration with the Obama administration's unwillingness to provide public information on such covert strikes. "The Obama administration continues to formally adopt the position that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone program. ... In reality, the administration is holding its finger in the dam of public accountability," he said according to a prepared copy of the speech.

"I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [U.N.] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks, and other forms of targeted killings conducted in counterterrorism operations, in which it has been alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted," he added.
[...]
[Emmerson] said that although Obama had initially retreated from Bush's "global war paradigm" - which viewed the struggle against terrorism as a permanent war - he said a similar mind-set has "reared its head" in the past 18 months. He cited figures compiled by the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which alleged that at least 474 civilians have been killed in Pakistan alone and that at least 50 civilians have died in follow-up strikes, in which civilians who came to the aid of victims of previous strikes were killed.

Emmerson said that the primary responsibility for monitoring targeted killings rests with the states that order such operations and that they are obligated to establish an "independent investigative" body to assess their legality. If the are unwilling, he said, "then it may in the last resort be necessary for the U.N. to act and to establish such a mechanism."

6) 2 NATO troops die in Afghan insider attack
Sayed Salahuddin, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 30, 10:22 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2-nato-troops-die-in-afghan-insider-attack/2012/10/30/72a1018c-229e-11e2-8448-81b1ce7d6978_story.html

Kabul - Two members of the U.S.-led military coalition were killed Tuesday by a man wearing an Afghan police uniform in southern Afghanistan, an official said. The killings are the latest in a series of insider attacks that have sown distrust between coalition and Afghan forces.

An Afghan official said the "green-on-blue" attack happened during a joint patrol in Girishk in southern Helmand province. The killer managed to escape, said the official, who spoke by phone on the condition of anonymity.

He said the attacker was a member of the Taliban-led insurgents who have been behind similar attacks in recent years. The killings bring to at least 53 the number of deaths among NATO and U.S. forces in similar attacks this year, the bloodiest period since the phenomenon began in 2007.

In a statement, NATO said the victims were members of the coalition but did not identify them. Most of the foreign troops in Helmand are British and American.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
7) UN expert: Boycott companies dealing with Israeli settlements until they meet rights standards
Associated Press, October 25
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/un-expert-boycott-companies-dealing-with-israeli-settlements-until-they-meet-rights-standards/2012/10/25/ac125f32-1ed0-11e2-8817-41b9a7aaabc7_story.html

United Nations - The U.N. special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories called Wednesday for a boycott of all companies that have dealings with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem until they adhere to international rights standards and practices.
[...]
In a report presented to the U.N. General Assembly, Falk said a number of Israeli-owned and multinational corporations headquartered in the U.S., Europe and Mexico appear to be violating international human rights and humanitarian laws by exploiting Palestinian resources and helping Israel construct illegal settlements and provide security for them. However, he said further investigations will be made to determine whether the allegations are well-founded.

Falk said the call for a boycott is an effort to take infractions of international law seriously and "use what influence we have to change behavior." He said the pace of Israeli settlement building has accelerated and Israel has ignored U.N. resolutions condemning the practice, so "there is a sense that what the U.N. says doesn't count."
[...]

Bahrain
8) Bahrain Bans All Protests in New Crackdown
Rick Gladstone, New York Times, October 30, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/31/world/middleeast/bahrain-bans-all-protests-in-new-crackdown.html

Bahrain, the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom that is home to the United States Fifth Fleet, has banned all rallies and demonstrations after months of protests by antigovernment demonstrators who have been pressing for a greater political voice there since the Arab Spring revolts began in early 2011.

In an announcement promulgated late Monday by the official Bahrain News Agency, Lt. Gen. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, who is the interior minister, said political opposition activists had abused what he called the government's tolerance for freedom of expression by allowing protests to turn violent repeatedly.

"It was decided to stop all rallies and gatherings until ensuring that security is maintained through achieving the targeted security to protect national unity and social fabric to fight extremism," the news agency said. It quoted the interior minister as saying "any illegal rally or gathering would be tackled through legal actions against those calling for it and participants."

Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni-led monarchy, has been roiled by protests and violence because of tensions with the Shiite majority, who have been seeking more power, drawing inspiration from the Arab Spring revolts that felled authoritarian governments, including in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Bahraini authorities have been singled out for criticism by international rights activists for their previous crackdowns on opposition activists, the prosecution of medical workers who have aided wounded activists, and the heavy and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other weapons, including birdshot, to dispel protesters.

More than 50 people have died, including some police officers, in nearly 21 months of intermittent clashes in Bahrain. The protests intensified last month after riot police officers clashed with mourners at a funeral procession for a 17-year-old killed in an earlier bout of street violence.

The political tensions have put the United States in the uncomfortable position of supporting Bahrain's government because of its strategic value as a bulwark against neighboring Iran. Critics have called such American backing an act of hypocrisy.

Colombia
9) More military jurisdiction gives impunity: HRW.
Joey O'Gorman, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 25 October 2012 12:27
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/26691-more-military-jurisdiction-gives-impunity-hrw.html

Human Rights Watch on Thursday sent a letter to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos slamming a proposed constitutional amendment "to expand the scope of military jurisdiction."

The group said the amendment "would virtually guarantee impunity for military atrocities," and would make Colombia "fail to comply with human rights conditions for U.S. military aid."

The amendment "would result in serious human rights violations by the military – including extrajudicial executions, torture, and rape – being investigated and tried by the military justice system, in direct conflict with the jurisprudence of Colombia's high courts and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights," said the letter.

The human rights group wrote that Santos' government is attempting to justify the amendment by saying that it remedies the military's "legal insecurity," which is caused by unfounded prosecutions of the military by civilian authorities. Human Rights Watch has said the government has failed to provide any evidence to support this claim. The government has also said that the military justice system would be quicker than the civilian route, but the human rights group also disputes this claim.

The amendment would allow "military courts to 'exclusively handle' all violations of international humanitarian law by the security forces, except for crimes against humanity, genocide and forced disappearance," but including extrajudicial executions, torture and rape, according to the letter. This, said Human Rights Watch "would virtually guarantee impunity."

This would lead to "false positives" cases currently under investigation or at trial being transferred to military jurisdiction. False positives is the term given to the scandal centered around the extrajudicial killings of almost 3,000 civilians by members of the security forces who dressed their victims as FARC members and claimed them as casualties of the armed conflict. Over 4,000 military personnel were implicated in the killings.

"Colombia's military justice system lacks the necessary independence impartiality – and therefore credibility – to hold the military accountable for its abuses," wrote the human rights group.

"Colombia's military is not afflicted with legal insecurity," ends the letter which suggests the Ministry of Defense should "review its training programs" to reduce military members' fear of prosecution for lawfully killing combatants.

The UN has also expressed their concern that the proposed modifications, which pertain to articles 116, 152 and 221 of Colombia's Constitution in regard to military criminal law, would give too much power to the military in investigating and ruling on human rights related crimes.

Haiti
10) Fidel Castro says UN should pay Haitians for cholera
AFP, Oct 24, 2012, 08.04PM IST
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-10-24/rest-of-world/34707154_1_nepalese-peacekeepers-haitian-victims-cholera-outbreak

Havana: Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Wednesday sided with Haitians seeking reimbursement from the United Nations after a 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti, saying it would be "fair."

"The United Nations is aware it has the responsibility to pay $100,000 to every one of the Haitian victims of the cholera epidemic that has caused the death of more than 7,000 people in Haiti, who were infected by the Nepalese (UN) contingent," Castro, 86, wrote in an editorial published on Cubadebate.cu.

Castro, who left his home and was seen in public Saturday for the first time in more than six months, said he thought the money Haitian victims and US attorneys were seeking "seems fair" since an investigation showed the strain that infected Haitians was "exactly the same one that exists in Nepal."

But Castro said he was troubled that "nobody mentions how much the Haitian nation should be compensated," given it is a "poor and underdeveloped country."

Some 7,500 people have died of cholera in Haiti, just east of Cuba, since the outbreak started in 2010.

Studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading experts have said that Nepalese peacekeepers based at a camp at Mirebalais in northern Haiti brought the strain of cholera into the country.

Lawyers acting for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have filed a legal claim demanding $100,000 dollars for each death and $50,000 for each person made sick.
[...]

---
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