Tag Archives: UN

The People’s Record: Pakistani court declares US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt illegal


May 13, 2013

A Pakistani court has declared that US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt are illegal and has directed the government to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.

In what activists said was an historic decision, the Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage”.

Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people.

“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said, according to the Press Trust of India. It asked Pakistan’s foreign ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.

“If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US,” the judgment said.

US officials have said the drones target al-Qa’ida and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s tribal regions who are blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and say the operations are done with the complicity of Pakistan’s military. Activists say hundreds of civilians are killed as “collateral damage” and that there is no transparency about the operation of the drones.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party is considered frontrunner in this Saturday’s election, this week vowed that he would not tolerate drone attacks on Pakistani soil.

“Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country’s autonomy and independence,” he said.

The case was filed last year by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a legal charity based in Islamabad, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga.

The jirga, a traditional community dispute resolution mechanism, had been called to settle a chromite mining dispute in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials. There was strong condemnation of this attack by all quarters in Pakistan including the federal government and Pakistan military.

Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, said: “This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.”?

Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based group Reprieve, which has supported the case, said: “Today’s momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA’s secret drone war.”

He added: “For the innocent people killed by U.S. drone strikes, it marks the first time they have been officially acknowledged for who they truly are – civilian victims of American war crimes.”


The US will surely veto any resolution that goes through the UN, just as it has before in the past (ahem, 41 vetoes to defend Israel)… but this case is monumental in examining the US drone war as a war crime because of the innocent civilians who have been killed, not just in Pakistan (between411-884) but in Yemen (between 99-184) & Somalia (up to 15) as well. (Note: These stats don’t include “militants,” which was redefined to include all males of military age in a strike zone, which often includes innocent civilians.)

The People’s Record: Pakistani court declares US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt illegal


Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game

ABSTRACT: The popular discourse on the Syrian conflict has largely taken for granted that Bashar al-Assad and his regime are unpopular in Syria, the revolution is widely supported domestically, the rebels are “winning” the war, and the fall of the regime is inevitable and imminent. To justify their interpretation of the conflict, opposition activists, Western policy makers and media outlets make frequent reference to a number of “facts,” often statistical in nature. However, should we contextualize this data more rigorously, it becomes apparent that a radically different dynamic may be at work “on the ground” in Syria. This becomes important, as a more nuanced understanding of what is happening will have implications for what strategy the United States should pursue, particularly given our experience in Iraq.

Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game

Bashar al-Assad Appeals to the Syrian People

By Thierry Meyssan
Voltaire Network | 14 January 2013


France and the Gulf monarchies are bent on presenting Bashar al-Assad as a bloody tyrant and on blaming him for the 60 000 victims counted by the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Flipping this rhetoric, President al-Assad delivered a speech to the nation on January 6, 2012. He emerged as the leader of a country under attack from the outside and he pronounced the eulogy of the 60 000 martyrs. Symbolizing this claim, a Syrian flag composed of faces of the victims was deployed in the background during his speech.

This intervention was designed to provide concrete details on how to operationalize the peace plan negotiated between the White House and the Kremlin in the context of sharing the Middle East. Though the June 30th Geneva communiqué and the many contacts which followed define the general architecture of the plan, numerous details remain to be negotiated.

The idea of a transitional government headed by Bashar al-Assad and including opposition leaders has been accepted by all parties, with the exception of France and the Gulf monarchies. Paris, Riyadh and Doha continue to interpret the “transition” as the passage from a Syria presided by Bashar al-Assad to a Syria without him. By contrast, Washington, Moscow and Damascus interpret the “transition” as a process of pacification and reconciliation.

The Geneva Agreement establishes the principle of a government of national unity during the transition period. But the current constitution, which is presidential-type, does not allow it. Ministers are revocable at any time by the President as are the secretaries in the USA. Therefore, the creation of a government of national unity requires constitutional reform that gives guarantees to the opposition.

In his speech, Bashar al-Assad invited the opposition to develop with him a “national charter” that would provisionally amend the constitution to set the objectives and modus operandi of the government during the transition period. Stealing the thunder of the Europeans and of the Special envoy of the Secretary Generals of UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, he has announced that the text would be submitted to a referendum. In other words the Syrian people will remain sovereign. Arrangements between the major powers, such as Mr. Brahimi had engineered at Taif at the end of the Lebanese civil war, placing the Land of the Cedars under foreign tutelage that continues to this day, is out of the question.

A second question is about the identification of the opposition. The United States created a national coalition that brings together Syrian personalities from the outside and which is considered representative of the people of Syria by many states. However, the National Coalition has no basis in the country and was formally rejected by the Free Syrian Army.

From the point of view of Damascus and Moscow, the National Coalition, being funded from abroad and having called on Westerners to bomb Syria can in no way participate in any government of national unity. Worse, from the perspective of Washington, the Coalition has committed an unpardonable sin: it has condemned the U.S. registration of the Al-Nusra Front (Al Qaeda branch in the Levant) on its list of terrorist organizations. Therefore, it has positioned itself on the side of terrorists, discrediting itself.

President al-Assad has therefore said that the government of National unity would include all political parties who defended the country throughout this war of aggression.

That is where, obviously, the words of President al-Assad are incompatible with U.S. State department rhetoric. As far as Damascus is concerned, the nation is attacked by self-proclaimed “jihadist” foreign forces. As for Washington, the country is facing a “civil war” in which foreign fighters interfere.

Nonetheless, these views are gradually approaching each other. By registering the al-Nusra Front on its list of terrorist organizations, Washington has de facto politically abandoned the Free Syrian Army. Even if some U.S. politicians differentiate the ASL from Al-Qaida, the main think tanks – including the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) –affirm on the contrary that the Al-Nusra Front is the main component of FSA and the only one having operational significance. Henceforth, it has become common in the United States to say that the “revolution has been hijacked” or that it has been “commadeered by jihadists.” Consequently, Washington can easily be accommodated by the Damascus position. The human rights rhetoric that required that al-Assad be deposed requires today that he be maintained in order to fight terrorism.

All this is of course greatly hypocritical. The new energy reality means that the United States no longer needs to grab Syrian gas; the triple veto of Russia and China has prevented the destruction of the country by NATO; and the Syrian Arab army has held in check the destabilization strategy devised by General David Petraeus. Washington seeks an honorable way out of this failed war. Bashar al-Assad has taken the cue on his own terms.

By calling on the Syrian people to take a position through a referendum, President Assad hits three targets with one stone: he reaffirms the sovereignty of his people denied by Westerners and the Gulf monarchies, he implicitly recalls that he is the only leader to have legitimacy through the ballot box, and he shakes up the agenda. Knowing that there will be no shortage of states questioning the sincerity of such a vote, Bashar el-Assad intends to use their complaints to hasten the deployment of United Nations forces to oversee the referendum and to end violence as quickly as possible. The President has avoided evoking a timeline for the national charter and for the referendum, hoping that the Security Council will propose one speedily.