A few years ago, Qatar was far from a household name in the West. A tiny nugget of land sandwiched between the Middle Eastern monoliths of Saudi Arabia and Iran, it quietly went about its business, barely attracting a cursory nod from the international community. How much has changed. Propelled by rocketing gas prices, the world’s richest country per capita has launched itself into the limelight with no small fanfare.
Archive for the 'Middle East' Category
France’s intervention in Mali to assist the government in its fight against Islamist terrorist groups has garnered widespread global support while raising serious questions, notably regarding continued inaction on Syria.
African nations neighbouring Mali have provided troops and resources, while the UK recently bolstered efforts by supplying two aircraft and 240 troops to help train soldiers. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, currently visiting the country to discuss counter-terrorism operations, has declared that the UK ‘stands with the people of Mali as they seek to secure their country, re-build their livelihoods and resolve long-standing grievances’.
But. why was France’s intervention so straightforward, while Syria remains unassisted and in turmoil? Was France acting wholly within international law – and if so, what lessons can be learnt concerning global inaction in Syria and elsewhere?
31 March 2013 is the self-imposed deadline for a group of displaced Iranian dissidents in Iraq to have their status as refugees determined by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and to have found permanent places of settlement – safe from the harassment of both the Iranian government and the Iraqi security forces.
From their exile in the late 1980s until the spring of 2012, this group, some 2,500 or so members of an organisation called the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), had inhabited the settlement of Camp Ashraf, some 60km north of Baghdad, to where they had fled from persecution by the Khomeini regime.
The MEK, which has its origins in what has been described as ‘Islamo-Marxism’, had fought against the Shah of Iran, but soon fell foul of the Ayatollah Khomeini after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, with some analysts estimating that up to 30,000 were killed by the Iranian regime in 1988 alone.
Its prospects were further hampered by inclusion on both the European Union and United States terrorist lists (groups subject to asset freezes and other restrictions) in addition to being regarded as a terrorist organisation by the Iranian regime.
A leading human rights lawyer has demanded that the UN Security Council imposes sanctions on Libya if the country fails to hand over a senior official of the Gaddafi regime to the International Criminal Court.
Libya is in ‘flagrant violation’ of international law by refusing to relinquish custody of former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi to The Hague, Ben Emmerson QC has claimed. Libya has announced it intends to try al-Senussi within a month, and is likely to impose the death penalty.
Al-Senussi was one of the closest confidants of Libya’s former leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. He is wanted by the ICC, along with Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, for two counts of crimes against humanity – murder and persecution – alleged to have been committed against protesters at the start of the Libyan uprising in February 2011.
Emmerson, counsel to al-Senussi, issued an emergency application to the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber on 9 January urging the judges to order the Libyans to comply with their legal obligations. He has also written to the president of the Security Council, Masood Khan of Pakistan, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague to ask them to use their influence to put pressure on the Libyans.
The former spy-chief fled to Mauritania in March 2012 and Emmerson is particularly interested in evidence of a deal struck by Libya for al-Senussi’s return. Emmerson has requested from the UK foreign secretary ‘any information in [the UK’s] possession’ concerning the rendition arrangements between Libya and Mauritania in September 2012, including whether UK officials took part in any questioning. Read more
International humanitarian law is inadequate for dealing with modern forms of warfare such as drone strikes, according to leading experts in the field.
The US has faced mounting criticism over its unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in recent months. Reports estimate that between 550 and 4,000 unarmed civilians have been killed in operations since 2002.
John Shattuck, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour under President Clinton, believes the law of nations is ill-equipped to address the rules of drone combat in counter-terrorism operations. ‘We are living in a very volatile and rapidly changing world when it comes to the means by which warfare is conducted,’ he tells IBA Global Insight.
Violent clashes between protesters in Cairo have prompted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi to consider delaying a controversial vote on the new Constitution, according to a leading human rights activist.
The president may be planning to postpone the referendum, due to take place on 15 December, in an attempt to dampen hostilities between supporters and opponents of the draft Constitution, says Mohamed Rady, executive director of the Arab Organisation of Human Rights.
‘We have heard from many people that he is about to make a statement and may be announcing a postponement,’ Rady tells IBA Global Insight. ‘We’ve heard he may postpone the election to avoid further riots in the streets. Today many people have said they plan to march to the presidential palace and there may be a big fight between the two sides. If that happens, many people may die.’
Thousands of Morsi’s opponents and supporters today took to the streets in mass rallies, some of which turned violent. Before dawn this morning, masked assailants set upon opposition protesters who have staged a three-week sit-in at Tahrir Square, armed with guns and firebombs. At least 11 protesters were wounded, according to the health ministry. Read more
A year ago, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa was sitting in his palace while a litany of human rights abuses allegedly committed by his security forces was read out to him. The man doing the reading was Cherif Mahmoud Bassiouni, the UN war crimes expert commissioned by the regime to investigate abuses during recent protests and make suggestions for reform. It was an uncomfortable 45 minutes. Following a brutal government crackdown between February and April 2011, protesters were reportedly hooded, beaten, threatened with rape and electrocuted. Around 30 died in the uprising, and five were killed as a result of torture.
‘The shadow of justice is hanging over the perpetrators of crimes in Syria,’ UN legal counsel Patricia O’Brien has declared, while admitting that the global legal system is currently ‘in a paralysis’.
Despite the lack of action by the UN Security Council while civil war continues to escalate, Ms O’Brien said the role of the Council ‘should not be underestimated’. Speaking at the IBA Annual Conference in Dublin, she stressed that there was far more to the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect’ (RTP) principle than military action alone.
Established in 2005, RTP states that if a state fails to protect its population from mass atrocities, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state to do so – or, as a last resort, to intervene militarily. In Syria, however, permanent Security Council members China and Russia have used their veto power to prevent intervention.
Economic recovery in Egypt is doomed to fail and may spur another uprising that ‘destroys’ the nascent democracy, according to one of the country’s leading experts.
The Egyptian economy ‘is going to hell in a handbasket’ and could prompt violence and riots in the streets, Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni has told IBA Global Insight in an exclusive interview.
‘The economy hasn’t hit rock bottom yet, so people aren’t feeling it, but it is going to happen,’ Bassiouni says. ‘People are feeling the cost of living going up and that is becoming quite serious and alarming. I don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood has developed a plan yet to counteract this extraordinary downturn to the economy.’ Read more
Leading lawyers persecuted by the Islamic Republic of Iran have highlighted the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime and called on the international community to help.
Abdolfattah Soltani, currently imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, has spoken out about the lack of judicial independence, the discrimination against minorities and women, the use of physical and psychological torture, the denial of due process rights for the accused, and the increasing number of executions.