JFP 4/24: Yemeni slams drone strikes at Senate hearing; Senators demand info

Just Foreign Policy News, April 24, 2013
Yemeni activist slams drone strikes at Senate hearing; Senators demand info

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Video: Senate hearing on drone strikes
The video of Yemeni youth activist Farea al-Muslimi's testimony is on our home page.
http://justforeignpolicy.org/
The entire hearing can be watched here:
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/312317-1
al-Muslimi's prepared testimony is here:
http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/04-23-13Al-MuslimiTestimony.pdf
other testimony is linked off the committee website:
http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=b01a319ecae60e7cbb832de271030205
Conor Friedersdorf: This Yemeni Man Loves America, Hates al-Qaeda, and Says Drone Strikes Make Them Stronger
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/this-yemeni-man-loves-america-hates-al-qaeda-and-says-drone-strikes-make-them-stronger/275248/

MoveOn Save Social Security and Cut the Pentagon Actions, 4/25
MoveOn is calling for petition delivery actions at Congressional offices to stop the President's proposal to cut Social Security and veterans' benefits by using the "chained CPI" to cut the cost-of-living adjustment. This is a historic opportunity to point out that while President Obama's proposed budget cuts Social Security, it largely protects the bloated Pentagon budget from cuts.

Our petition: Cut Social Security & Veterans' Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead!
37,000 have signed.
http://signon.org/sign/cut-social-security-veterans?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

Our blog: April 25: A Historic Day to Cut the Bloated Pentagon Budget
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/15888-april-25-a-historic-day-to-cut-the-bloated-pentagon-budget

Check if there's an action organized near you:
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Write to Congress, urging them to cut the Pentagon budget instead of Social Security and veterans' benefits
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/chained-cpi

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) A Yemeni man told a Senate hearing on Tuesday about a U.S. drone strike on his village last week that he said turned residents against America, Reuters reports. Farea Al-Muslimi, a writer, described his shock at the drone attack and the blowback in public opinion from residents against the United States.

A committee aide said Al-Muslimi was already to have testified at the hearing when it was scheduled a week ago. The hearing was postponed as the panel hoped the administration would send an official to testify, but that did not happen. In the intervening week, an al Qaeda leader and four militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the town of Wessab in Dhamar province south of the capital Sanaa, a Yemeni official said.

"Most of the world has never heard of Wessab. But just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers," Al-Muslimi said. "The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine."

He said the target of the strike was known to many in the village and Yemeni officials could easily have arrested him.

"The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis. If America is providing economic, social and humanitarian assistance to Yemen, the vast majority of the Yemeni people know nothing about it," he said. "Everyone in Yemen, however, knows about America and its drones." Al-Muslimi said that allows the Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate to "convince more individuals that America is at war with Yemen."

2) Democratic and Republican senators joined a former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday in urging the Obama administration to make public more information about its targeted killing program amid questions about the legality and effectiveness of hundreds of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, Jonathan Landay reports for McClatchy.

"I am disappointed that the administration declined to provide witnesses to testify at today's hearing," Senator Durbin said. His frustration was echoed by several other Democrats and Republicans. Durbin called on the administration to make public more details about "its legal authority to engage in targeted killing and the internal checks and balances involved in U.S. drone strikes." The administration also should work with Congress to address how it determines when an American citizen can be targeted, the basis for drone strikes in areas that aren't active battlefields, and the "moral and legal responsibilities" the US might have for confirming civilian casualties and compensating their families.

Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from August 2007 to August 2011, said he's worried the administration's refusal to disclose the legal basis and detailed procedures for how targets are identified away from active battlefields have cost the US "the moral high ground."

Cartwright called on Obama to establish a government task force to evaluate secret drone strikes, including the extent of civilian casualties and their impacts on communities; the effectiveness of precautions used to avert such casualties; and the means by which the results of strikes are assessed. An unclassified version of the task force's final report should be made public, he said.

Cartwright said the CIA also should publicly acknowledge its role in drone operations outside Afghanistan, establish procedures for declassifying information on those operations after they're over, and provide information to Congress on the impact of drone strikes on civilians.

3) A bipartisan panel of senators held a spirited and unusually public debate Tuesday afternoon about the legality and unintended consequences of America's targeted killings overseas, the Washington Post reports. President Obama has said he would like Congress to help him establish a "legal architecture" for targeted killing to "make sure that not only I am reined in but any president is reined in," the Post notes. But no such legislative initiative appears to be underway.

4) A Yemeni man who studied at an American high school told Congress that a drone strike on his village in Yemen last week terrified his neighbors, turning them against the US in a way that terrorist propaganda had failed to do, the New York Times reports. Farea al-Muslimi, said his friends and neighbors used to know of the United States primarily through "my stories of the wonderful experiences I had" here. "Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads."

5) Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of "regime change" against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, writes Mark Weisbrot in Folha de São Paulo. But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington's efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year's ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the "parliamentary coup" against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.

Turkey
6) At a press conference in Istanbul, attempting to bring about rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, Secretary of State Kerry expressed empathy with Turkey's loss over the murder of its citizens on board the Mavi Marmara in 2010 by comparing it to the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, Mondoweiss reports. Israel's deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon responded by implying the Turkish victims of the Israeli attack were terrorists and that Kerry was confused.

Israel/Palestine
7) Palestinian prisoner whose hunger strike had stoked weeks of protests in the West Bank ended his eight-month on-off fast on Tuesday in exchange for early release by Israel, Reuters reports. Samer al-Issawi will serve eight more months for violating bail conditions from an earlier release, officials said. Israel released him in 2011 in a prisoner exchange; he was re-arrested after Israel said he violated the terms of his release by crossing from his native East Jerusalem to the West Bank, and ordered him to stay in jail until 2029 - his original sentence.

8) The EU is adopting tougher measures toward Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Al-Monitor reports. 13 member states, including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, have decided to label products imported from the settlements.

Bahrain
9) A UN expert who was due to visit Bahrain next month to look into reports that the authorities there have abused and tortured protesters in detention said the Bahraini government had effectively canceled the trip, the New York Times reports.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Yemeni at U.S. hearing describes drone strike on his village
Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters, April 23, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/yemeni-u-hearing-describes-drone-strike-village-000458591.html

Washington - A Yemeni man told a Senate hearing on Tuesday about a U.S. drone strike on his village last week that he said turned residents against America.

In an emotion-filled voice, Farea Al-Muslimi, a writer, described his shock at the drone attack and the blowback in public opinion from residents against the United States.

His comments stood out among the debate over the legal aspects of President Barack Obama's drone policies at a rare public hearing on the topic held by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, titled: "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing."

Obama has promised more transparency about the program as lawmakers increasingly demand the administration reveal its legal justifications for killing terrorism suspect overseas who are U.S. citizens. Drone strikes have also increased tensions among local populations in countries like Pakistan where the United States conducts them in the tribal regions.

A committee aide said Al-Muslimi was already to have testified at the hearing when it was scheduled a week ago. But the hearing was postponed as the panel hoped the administration would send an official to testify, but that did not happen.

In the intervening week, an al Qaeda leader and four militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the town of Wessab in Dhamar province south of the capital Sanaa, a Yemeni official said.

"Most of the world has never heard of Wessab. But just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers," Al-Muslimi said.

"The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine."

In his youth, Al-Muslimi was awarded a State Department scholarship to an exchange program that aimed to build understanding between Americans and Muslim countries and lived for a year with an American family in California, he said.

"As I was thinking about my testimony and preparing to travel to the United States to participate in this hearing, I learned that a missile from a U.S. drone had struck the village where I was raised," he said.

"Ironically, I was sitting with a group of American diplomats in Sanaa at a farewell dinner for a dear American friend when the strike happened."

He said the target of the strike was known to many in the village and Yemeni officials could easily have arrested him.

"The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis. If America is providing economic, social and humanitarian assistance to Yemen, the vast majority of the Yemeni people know nothing about it," he said.

"Everyone in Yemen, however, knows about America and its drones." Al-Muslimi said that allows the Yemen-based al Qaeda affiliate to "convince more individuals that America is at war with Yemen."
[...]

2) Senate hearing blasts Obama's refusal to share details of drone program
Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy, Tue, Apr. 23, 2013
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/04/23/189460/senate-hearing-blasts-obamas-refusal.html

Washington -- Democratic and Republican senators joined a former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday in urging the Obama administration to make public more information about its top-secret targeted killing program amid questions about the legality and effectiveness of hundreds of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere.

"More transparency is needed to maintain the support of the American people and the international community" for drone strikes, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a key Obama ally and the chairman of the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The White House refused to send a witness to the Senate's first open hearing on the issue despite President Barack Obama's vow to be more forthcoming about a counterterrorism weapon that has become a despised symbol of U.S. foreign policy in many parts of the world.

"I am disappointed that the administration declined to provide witnesses to testify at today's hearing," Durbin said. His frustration was echoed by several other Democrats and Republicans.

The hearing came nearly 12 years after the United States launched its first drone strike, underscoring what some legal scholars and civil and human rights experts have criticized as insufficient oversight by Congress.

But the killings of four U.S. citizens – three of them accidentally – in Yemen and Obama's appointment of John Brennan, his former counterterrorism chief and overseer of the targeted killing program, to head the CIA have increased pressure on lawmakers to examine the use of drones in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

The program remains shrouded in secrecy. The administration insists that civilian casualties have been "exceedingly rare" despite a huge expansion in strikes under Obama. Independent studies put the number of strikes since 2001 at more than 360 and estimate that as many as 3,533 people, including up to 884 civilians, have died, the vast majority in CIA operations in Pakistan's tribal area.

Earlier this month, McClatchy published a review of top-secret U.S. intelligence reports showing that at their height in 2010-2011, scores of CIA drone strikes killed hundreds of unidentified lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and "other" militants in Pakistan. The finding contrasts with the administration's assertion that it targets only known "senior operational leaders" of al Qaida and associated groups involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks who are plotting "imminent" violent attacks on the United States.

In his opening statement, Durbin noted that the Constitution gives Obama the "unique responsibility to protect and defend our country." His authority to do so, however, is based on the rule of law, "which has been abused during times of war," Durbin said, an apparent reference to Bush administration detainee interrogation methods that many experts consider torture.

Moreover, while the CIA's use of drones against al Qaida and other terrorist targets in remote locations has made targeted killing "less costly" because U.S. troops don't have to be employed, "there are long-term consequences, especially when these airstrikes kill innocent civilians."

"That's why many in the national security community are concerned that we may undermine our counterterrorism efforts if we do not carefully measure the benefits and costs of targeted killing," Durbin said – a reference to concerns that civilian casualties have helped militant groups recruit new members.
[...]
Durbin called on the administration to make public more details about "its legal authority to engage in targeted killing and the internal checks and balances involved in U.S. drone strikes."

The administration also should work with Congress to address "serious and challenging questions," he said. Those should include how it determines when an American citizen can be targeted, the basis for drone strikes in areas that aren't active battlefields, and the "moral and legal responsibilities" that the United States might have for confirming civilian casualties and compensating their families.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a tea party-backed freshman, said he worried that drone attacks had eliminated terrorists who, had then been captured and interrogated, could have provided "actionable intelligence" on plots to attack the United States. He said that "the real scope of this hearing and of the concern is on the scope of federal power."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an Air Force Reserve officer, said he supported bringing more transparency to the targeted killing program, but he opposed a proposal by some legal scholars and lawmakers for the creation of a special court to approve targeting decisions before they could be implemented.

"If you want to talk about transparency, count me in," said Graham, who added that when it comes to allowing "a bunch of unelected judges" to make such "wartime" decisions, "count me out."

In limited public statements and a leaked Justice Department white paper, the administration insists that drone strikes comply with U.S. and international laws, including the laws of war. Moreover, the administration contends that the strikes are justified by an "inherent right of self-defense" and a congressional resolution passed after the 9/11 attacks that authorized the president to use lethal force to fight al Qaida and associated groups that aided in the attacks.

Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from August 2007 to August 2011, said that drones are an effective and accurate method for eliminating dangerous terrorists. But he said that he's worried that the administration's refusal to disclose the legal basis and detailed procedures for how targets are identified away from active battlefields have cost the United States "the moral high ground."

In his prepared remarks, Cartwright said that "legitimate questions remain about the use, authorities and oversight of armed drone activities" away from active battlefields.

"We should now ask: Are the use, authority and oversight protocols actually providing us with the safeguards we want?" asked Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from August 2007 to August 2011.

Cartwright called on Obama to establish a government task force to evaluate secret drone strikes, including the extent of civilian casualties and their impacts on communities; the effectiveness of precautions used to avert such casualties; and the means by which the results of strikes are assessed. An unclassified version of the task force's final report should be made public, he said.

Cartwright said the CIA also should publicly acknowledge its role in drone operations outside Afghanistan, establish procedures for declassifying information on those operations after they're over, and provide information to Congress on the impact of drone strikes on civilians.

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University Law Center professor who served as a Pentagon adviser during the height of the drone strikes, questioned the legality of drone strikes away from active battlefields, saying that the targeted killing policy "is on the verge of doing significant damage to the rule of law."

One reason, she said in her prepared statement, is that the administration has refused to detail publicly the still top-secret legal underpinnings of targeted killings and the internal procedures used to determine who can be targeted.

She pointed to the administration's contention that the United States is in a global war with al Qaida and its terrorist allies.

"On that basis, they (the administration) assert that the law of war is applicable – in any place and at any time – with regard to any person the administration deems a combatant," Brooks said. "The trouble is no one outside a very small group within the U.S. executive branch has any ability to evaluate who is and who isn't a combatant.

"What's more, targeting decisions in this nebulous 'war' are based largely on classified intelligence reporting," she continued. "As a result, administration assertions about who is a combatant and what constitutes a threat are entirely non-falsifiable, because they're based wholly on undisclosed evidence."

3) Drones cause 'growing hatred of America,' bipartisan Senate panel told
Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, April 23
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/drones-cause-growing-hatred-of-america-bipartisan-senate-panel-told/2013/04/23/4863b1f8-ac6e-11e2-a8b9
-2a63d75b5459_story.html

A bipartisan panel of senators held a spirited and unusually public debate Tuesday afternoon about the legality and unintended consequences of America's targeted killings overseas, a forum convened amid growing calls for stronger oversight of the government's use of armed drones outside conventional battlefields.

Among those testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee was a young Yemeni activist who argued passionately that American drone strikes in Yemen are emboldening the country's al-Qaeda franchise, embittering Yemenis against the United States and delegitimizing the government in Sanaa.

Just six days ago, Farea al-Muslimi said, a suspected U.S. drone strike was carried out in his native village of Wessab, enraging residents.

"They fear that their home or a neighbor's home could be bombed at any time by a U.S. drone," said Muslimi, who studied in the United States as an exchange student when he was 16. "What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: There is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America."

Senators from both parties lamented that the White House declined to make a witness available for the hearing, titled "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterrorism Implications of Targeted Killings."
[...]
President Obama has said he would like Congress to help him establish a "legal architecture" for targeted killing to "make sure that not only I am reined in but any president is reined in." But no such legislative initiative appears to be underway.
[...]

4) Drone Strikes Turn Allies Into Enemies, Yemeni Says
Charlie Savage, New York Times, April 23, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/world/middleeast/judiciary-panel-hears-testimony-on-use-of-drones.html

Washington - A Yemeni man who studied at an American high school told Congress on Tuesday that a drone strike on his village in Yemen last week terrified his neighbors, turning them against the United States in a way that terrorist propaganda had failed to do.

The man, Farea al-Muslimi, said his friends and neighbors used to know of the United States primarily through "my stories of the wonderful experiences I had" here. "Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the fear they feel at the drones over their heads. What the violent militants had failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant."

A man killed in the strike was well known locally, Mr. Muslimi also asserted, and could easily have been arrested by Yemeni forces.

His testimony, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, was part of a rare public hearing on the use of drones. The Obama administration did not send anyone to testify at the hearing, convened by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. But witnesses included legal specialists, a retired Air Force colonel who formerly worked with drones, and retired Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The topics discussed included the number of civilians inadvertently killed in the strikes, whether there should be a secret court to approve who becomes a target, and legal issues raised by the killing of American citizens who are deemed to be terrorists.

Several witnesses said the government should be more open and clear about the standards and procedures it uses in selecting who should be targeted. But some also stressed that legally, a drone strike is no different from other means of lethal force, like artillery, a commando raid or a cruise missile.
[...]

5) U.S. Seeks to Get Rid of Left Governments in Latin America
Mark Weisbrot, Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), April 20, 2013
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/us-seeks-to-get-rid-of-left-governments-in-latin-america

Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of "regime change" against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, promoting conflict in ways not seen since the military coup that Washington supported in Venezuela in 2002. The most high-profile example is in Venezuela itself, during the past week. As this goes to press, Washington has grown increasingly isolated in its efforts to destabilize the newly elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington's efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year's ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the "parliamentary coup" against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.

The U.S. role in Paraguay is similar to its role in the military overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009, where Washington hijacked the Organization of American States (OAS) and used it to fight the efforts of South American governments who wanted to restore democracy. Zelaya later testified that Washington was also involved in the coup itself.

In Venezuela this past week, Washington could not hijack the OAS but only its Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, who supported the White House (and Venezuela opposition) demand for a "100 percent recount." But Insulza had to back down, as did Spain, the United States' only other significant ally in this nefarious enterprise – because they had no support.

The demand for a "recount" in Venezuela is absurd, since there has already been a recount of the paper ballots for a random sample of 54 percent of the voting machines. The machine totals were compared with a hand count of the paper ballots in front of witnesses from all sides. Statistically, there is no practical difference between this enormous audit that has already happened, and the 100 percent audit that the opposition is demanding. Jimmy Carter called Venezuela's electoral system "the best in the world," and there is no doubt about the accuracy of the vote count, even among many in the Venezuelan opposition.

It is good to see Lula denouncing the U.S. for its interference and Dilma joining the rest of South America to defend Venezuela's right to a free elections. But it is not just Venezuela and the weaker democracies that are threatened by the United States. As reported in the pages of this newspaper, in 2005, the U.S. government funded and organized efforts to change the laws in Brazil in order to weaken the Workers' Party. This information was discovered in U.S. government documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Most likely Washington has done much more in Brazil that remains secret.

It is clear that Washington did not see the mildly reformist Fernando Lugo as threatening or even radical. It's just that he was too friendly with the other left governments. The Obama administration, like that of President Bush, does not accept that the region has changed. Their goal is to get rid of all of the left-of-center governments, partly because they tend to be more independent from Washington. Brazil, too, must be vigilant in the face of this threat to the region.

Turkey
6) Kerry likens Boston victims to 'Mavi Marmara' victims
Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss, April 22, 2013
http://mondoweiss.net/2013/04/likens-victims-marmara.html

At a press conference in Istanbul yesterday, attempting to bring about rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed empathy with Turkey's loss over the murder of its citizens on board the Mavi Marmara in 2010 by comparing it to the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon.

"I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We're very sensitive to that."

The response from Israel was swift. Israel's deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon responded by implying the Turkish victims of the Israeli attack were terrorists and that Kerry was confused. Times of Israel reports:

"It is never helpful when a moral equivalency is made confusing terrorists with their victims," Danon told The Times of Israel. "As our American friends were made all too aware once again last week, the only way to deal with the evils of terrorism it to wage an unrelenting war against its perpetrators wherever they may be," he said.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
7) Palestinian prisoner ends fast after deal with Israel
Ali Sawafta, Reuters, Tue, Apr 23, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/palestinian-prisoner-ends-fast-deal-israel-125245251.html

Ramallah, Palestine - A Palestinian prisoner whose hunger strike had stoked weeks of protests in the West Bank ended his eight-month on-off fast on Tuesday in exchange for early release by Israel, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli and Palestinian officials had feared that had Samer al-Issawi, 32, died because of refusing food, it might have led to mass unrest.

At least six Palestinian protesters were wounded in February in clashes with Israeli troops after another Palestinian died while being interrogated in an Israeli jail. The clashes were fuelled by the worsening health of Issawi and other prisoners.

Under a deal signed by Issawi and a military prosecutor, he will serve eight more months for violating bail conditions from an earlier release, the officials said, announcing he had ended the strike.

He will then be allowed to go to his Jerusalem home, Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian prisoner organization, told Reuters.

Israel convicted Issawi of opening fire on an Israeli bus in 2002, but released him in 2011 along with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held hostage by the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza.

He was re-arrested last July after Israel said he violated the terms of his release by crossing from his native East Jerusalem to the West Bank, and ordered him to stay in jail until 2029 - his original sentence.

Citing security concerns, Israel restricts Palestinian movement between East Jerusalem and the West Bank - a policy criticized by Palestinians as collective punishment. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Middle East war, annexing East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition.
[...]

8) EU Countries to Label Products From Israeli Settlements
Akiva Eldar, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 19
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/european-union-start-labeling-products-settlements.html

As the United States attempts to renew the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians, the European Union is adopting tougher measures toward Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Al-Monitor has learned that 13 member states, including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, have decided to label the products imported from the settlements.

On April 12, in a letter sent to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, a copy of which was obtained by Al-Monitor, the foreign ministers welcomed the call by Lady Ashton on Feb. 22 to the 27 EU foreign ministers for full enforcement of EU legislation regarding the labeling of products from Israeli settlements.

"This step is in fulfillment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with longstanding EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories," they wrote.

The letter states further:
"As you set out, our consumers have the right to an informed choice; this initiative will help support our retailers to provide this. The correct labeling of products is necessary to ensure our consumers are not being misled by false information."

The decision by the EU states comes despite efforts by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Israeli ambassadors to EU states to prevent implementation of Ashton's guidelines.

The other countries that have announced the adoption of the directive are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia. Germany, Italy, Sweden and Greece are prominently absent from the list of the letter's signatory states.
[...]

Bahrain
9) U.N. Expert Says Bahrain Canceled Visit in Torture Inquiry
Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times, April 24, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/world/middleeast/un-expert-says-bahrain-canceled-visit-in-torture-inquiry.html

Geneva - A United Nations expert who was due to visit Bahrain next month to look into reports that the authorities there have abused and tortured protesters in detention said on Wednesday that the Bahraini government had effectively canceled the trip.

Bahrain's decision "does not enhance transparency with regard to the situation in the country, nor demonstrate a commitment to redress impunity regarding any violations," said the expert, Juan E. Mendez, in a statement released in Geneva. Mr. Mendez is based there as the United Nations's special rapporteur on torture.

The cancellation follows a week of clashes between the police and opposition demonstrators in Bahrain, mostly in villages outside Manama, the capital. They were timed to coincide with a Formula One auto race in Manama, which attracts international media attention. The race took place on Sunday without incident, but the protests signaled a simmering challenge to the ruling Al Khalifa family.

Mr. Mendez had been scheduled to meet a number of key government ministers and officials during a visit that had been discussed since September 2011. An independent commission of inquiry reported late that year that some detainees in Bahrain had been tortured to death and others subjected to physical and psychological abuse to extract confessions or as punishment. The commission and the U.N. Human Rights Council recommended a number of reforms; Mr. Mendez said in a telephone interview that his visit would have given him an opportunity to see how much the Bahrain government had done to implement them.
[...]

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