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Bill aims to salvage laws struck down by Israel's Supreme Court

If passed it would make it easier for Knesset to sidestep rulings by the High Court that a law is unconstitutional.
By Tomer Zarchin

A proposed new bill would allow the Knesset to reinstate a law that had been struck down by the High Court of Justice with a majority of only 65 votes.

The draft was published by the Justice Ministry late last week. Its framers hope it will eventually be presented as the long-sought Basic Law on Legislation. It contains a clause that would makes it easier for the Knesset to sidestep a ruling by the High Court that a law is unconstitutional.

This bill differs from one recommended by a public commission convened in 2004 to study the issue. That committee recommended a majority of at least 70 MKs to reinstate a law that had been struck down by the High Court of Justice. It also recommended that even if the law was revived, it could be extended only once for a period of five years. The recommendation was accepted by then Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak.

This bill, which is still at the memorandum stage (in which the public can comment on it before is officially published as a bill by the Justice Ministry ), as framed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, stipulates that a law would remain on the books despite the High Court ruling, if the Knesset voted to do so by a majority of 65. It could also be extended every five years indefinitely. Supreme Court President Asher Grunis did not cooperate with Neeman on the framing of the memorandum.

remainder: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/bill-aims-to-salvage-laws-struck-down-by-israel-s-supreme-court-1.423171

“What must be said” by Günter Grass

Günter Grass is tired of Western hypocrisy, sanctioning Iran for its nuclear activities, while supplying Israel with Dolphin nuclear submarines for its 500+ nuclear bombs. In his new poem, What must be said, he declare:

Why I am silent, silent for too much time,
how much is clear and we made it
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb

And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered -
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?

in full: http://themovingsilent.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/what-must-be-said-by-gunter-grass/

B'Tselem's annual report on human rights in the Occupied Territories

21 March '12

The annual report surveys the broad spectrum of issues regarding the Israeli authorities' human rights record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past year, the 44th year of the Israeli occupation. An interactive version of the report is available online and distributed through social media. The report documents a sharp increase in the number of uninvolved Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip in 2011. There was also an increase in the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, compared to 2010.


Franco is still dead… by Scott Horton

… but his spirit seems to have inspired a courtroom drama in Madrid the past few weeks. Baltasar Garzón—the crusading investigative judge who once sought the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, probed crimes against humanity in Central America, exposed massive corruption in public-works projects in Spain, and tried to open the lid on the mass killings of the Franco era—was himself placed in the dock, accused of misuse of his judicial powers. In the end little was left to chance in the rush to destroy him, an effort that brought into alignment the many powerful figures he had offended: the now-governing conservative Partido Popular, which was richly embarrassed by the corruption disclosures of the Garzón-led Gürtel investigation; the United States government, which was angered by his pursuit of a torture investigation focusing on Guantánamo and was openly working for his removal; the heirs of the Franco era, who were whipped into a state of hysteria about the prospect of an investigation into the mass murders of that era.

Even Spain’s leftists and liberals seemed uneasy with the quixotic and sometimes politically tin-eared jurist. Only a ragtag group of human-rights advocates and bar associations from around the Hispanic world stood with Garzón, remembering how he had stood with them against the atrocity crimes of dictatorships, which the polite and the powerful preferred simply to ignore. Now Garzón stands convicted of abuse of power, in comically politicized proceedings that he is not permitted to appeal.

The Guardian reports:

Garzón’s career effectively came to a dramatic end on Thursday as he began an 11-year suspension for illegally wiretapping conversations between remand prisoners and their lawyers in a corruption case involving the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP).

Human-rights advocates, generally eager to press for the procedural rights of the accused in criminal cases, acknowledge that Garzón seems to have exceeded his authority, even as they express puzzlement about how judicially reviewed and approved surveillance can be a grave offense. (The thrust of human-rights protection is, of course, aimed at insuring that it is judicially reviewed.) Count that a special flourish of the Spanish legal system, enforced with special vehemence in order to shield compromised leaders of Spain’s governing party. The irony of this action lies in the still more bizarre fact that the political figures whose corruption Garzón convincingly exposed remain at liberty, while the furor of Spain’s criminal-justice system was turned against their accuser.

remainder: http://harpers.org/archive/2012/02/hbc-90008446

All the Missing Souls: Six Questions for David Scheffer

By Scott Horton

Ambassador David Scheffer steered America’s engagement with the concept of war-crimes accountability throughout the Clinton years, and has been one of the nation’s leading observers and commentators on the subject since then. He has now published a major work, All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, that chronicles America’s pursuit of war criminals during the Nineties and offers clear insights into the issues these efforts raised for future generations. I put six questions to Scheffer about his book:

1. In the Wall Street Journal, torture-memo author John Yoo argues that you “fail to understand” that the humanitarian challenges of our age demand the robust use of military force, and that international tribunals “will do little to stop the killing.” As a defendant in pending litigation in Spain, Yoo has pressing personal reasons to oppose the concept of universal jurisdiction, but aside from that, how do you respond to his critique?

If John Yoo had bothered to check the record, he would have found that I have been an advocate of humanitarian intervention and the “responsibility to protect” principle, both of which contemplate the utility of using military force to protect civilian populations from atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes). During the Balkan conflict, Ambassador Madeleine Albright and I repeatedly sought more effective use of air power, and I personally sought the introduction of U.S. troops years before the Dayton Accords. The Clinton Administration’s use of air power over Kosovo and Serbia, followed by the introduction of NATO troops into Kosovo in June 1999, was no small measure of commitment to the utility of military force. So I really do not need Yoo’s counsel on the utility of military force to stop the killing. The fact that such intervention did not occur during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was a terrible mistake. But had I resigned at that time, as Yoo advocates, I would have been unable to help address situations in the field and in the newly created tribunals drawing upon the lessons of 1994.

Yoo is also employing a straw man to denigrate international justice. The primary purpose of the international criminal tribunals is to render justice and reveal some of the truth of what transpired. That means investigating massive crimes and leadership suspects, indicting and prosecuting some of them, and rendering judgment followed by either conviction or acquittal. It is a false burden to place on the shoulders of the tribunals to assess their legitimacy and utility by whether they “stop the killing” or deter further atrocity crimes. Such deterrence is a tremendous bonus if it occurs, and we hope for it, but that is not the purpose of the tribunals. Victims want top perpetrators to suffer punishment and that is precisely what criminal courts are designed to achieve, particularly when there are hundreds of thousands of victims and those responsible for such horrors grasp the levers of power.

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/02/hbc-90008440

Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria

By Pepe Escobar

Here's a crash course on the "democratic" machinations of the Arab League - rather the GCC League, as real power in this pan-Arab organization is wielded by two of the six Persian Gulf monarchies composing the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-revolution Club; Qatar and the House of Saud.

Essentially, the GCC created an Arab League group to monitor what's going on in Syria. The Syrian National Council - based in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries Turkey and France - enthusiastically supported it. It's telling that Syria's neighbor Lebanon did not.

When the over 160 monitors, after one month of enquiries, issued their report ... surprise! The report did not follow the official GCC line - which is that the "evil" Bashar al-Assad government isindiscriminately, and unilaterally, killing its own people, and so regime change is in order.

The Arab League's Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar - which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.

remainder: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NB04Ak01.html

Sharp increase in administrative detention in 2011; one detainee on hunger strike for 46 days

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel reported on 29 January that Khader ‘Adnan, has been on hunger strike since 18 December 2011. Thirty-four year old 'Adnan, from the village of ‘Araba near Jenin, was detained on 17 December 2011 and placed in administrative detention. ‘Adnan is on the hunger strike in protest against his administrative detention and the manner in which he was arrested and interrogated. According to PHR, “his condition is life-threatening.”

In 2011, there was a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel, from 219 in January to 307 in December, according to figures B'Tselem received from the Israel Prison Service. Twenty-nine percent of the detainees had been held for six months to one year; another 24 percent from one to two years. Seventeen Palestinians had been in administrative detention continuously for two to four and a half years, and one man has been held for over five years. At the end of 2011, Israel was holding one minor in administrative detention. This year marks the first time since 2008 that there was an increase in the number of administrative detainees, after the number had fallen from 813, in January 2008, to 204 in December 2010.

Administrative detention is detention without trial, intended to prevent a person from committing an act that is liable to endanger public safety. Such a detention is inherently problematic since, unlike a criminal proceeding, administrative detention is not intended to punish a person for an offense already committed, but to prevent a future danger. The manner in which Israel uses administrative detention is patently illegal. Administrative detainees are not told the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Although detainees are brought before a judge to approve the detention order, most of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified and not shown to the detainee or his attorney. Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it. The detainees also do not know when they will be released: although the maximum period of administrative detention is six months, it can be renewed indefinitely. In fact, of the administrative detainees held in December, over 60% had their detention extended at least once beyond the first detention order.

Administrative detention violates the right to liberty and the right to due process, since the detainee is incarcerated for a prolonged period on the basis of secret evidence, without charge or trial.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/administrative_detention/20120201_sharp_rise_in_administrative_detention

Just Don’t Call Her Che

Published: January 28, 2012

Santiago, Chile

LATE last month the British newspaper The Guardian asked readers to vote for its person of the year. The candidates included household names like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Egyptian techno-revolutionary Wael Ghonim and the Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. All placed far behind a striking, nose-ringed student from Chile named Camila Vallejo.

Though far from a familiar face in the United States, the 23-year-old Ms. Vallejo has gained rock-star status among the global activist class. Since June she has led regular street marches of up to 200,000 people through Santiago’s broad avenues — the largest demonstrations since the waning days of the Pinochet regime in the late 1980s. Under her leadership, the mobilization, known as the Chilean Winter, has gained nationwide support; one of its slogans, “We are the 90 percent,” referred to its approval rating in late September.

Ms. Vallejo’s charismatic leadership has led commentators to make the obligatory comparisons to other Latin American leftist icons like Subcomandante Marcos and Che Guevara. Yet “Commander Camila,” as her followers call her, has become a personality in her own regard. She skewers senators in prime-time TV debates and stays on message with daytime talk-show hosts hungry for lurid details about her personal life, while her eloquence gives her a preternatural ability to connect with an audience far beyond her left-wing base.

In perhaps the most poignant set piece in the year of the protester, Ms. Vallejo addressed a dense ring of photographers and reporters in August while kneeling within a peace sign made of spent tear-gas shells, where she calmly mused about how many educational improvements could have been bought with the $100,000 worth of munitions at her feet.

remainder: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/opinion/sunday/student-protests-rile-chile.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&hp?hp

Remembering Howard Zinn

The historian and activist dedicated his life to "the countless small actions of unknown people".

Last Modified: 27 Jan 2012 10:35

Editor's note: Today, January 27, is the second anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn. An active participant in the Civil Rights movement, he was dismissed in 1963 from his position as a tenured professor at Spelman College in Atlanta after siding with black women students in the struggle against segregation. In 1967, he wrote one of the first, and most influential, books calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. A veteran of the US Army Air Force, he edited The Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and was later designated a "high security risk" by the FBI.

His best-selling A People's History of the United States spawned a new field of historical study: People's Histories. This approach countered the traditional triumphalist examination of "history as written by the victors", instead concentrating on the poor and seemingly powerless; those who resisted imperial, cultural and corporate hegemony. Zinn was an award-winning social activist, writer and historian - and so who better to share his memory than his close friend and fellow intellectual giant, Noam Chomsky?

Cambridge, Mass - It is not easy for me to write a few words about Howard Zinn, the great American activist and historian. He was a very close friend for 45 years. The families were very close too. His wife Roz, who died of cancer not long before, was also a marvellous person and close friend. Also sombre is the realisation that a whole generation seems to be disappearing, including several other old friends: Edward Said, Eqbal Ahmed and others, who were not only astute and productive scholars, but also dedicated and courageous militants, always on call when needed - which was constant. A combination that is essential if there is to be hope of decent survival.

Howard's remarkable life and work are summarised best in his own words. His primary concern, he explained, was "the countless small actions of unknown people" that lie at the roots of "those great moments" that enter the historical record - a record that will be profoundly misleading, and seriously disempowering, if it is torn from these roots as it passes through the filters of doctrine and dogma. His life was always closely intertwined with his writings and innumerable talks and interviews. It was devoted, selflessly, to empowerment of the unknown people who brought about great moments. That was true when he was an industrial worker and labour activist, and from the days, 50 years ago, when he was teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, a black college that was open mostly to the small black elite.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/01/201212382259755885.html

Interrogating the NY Times' Anthony Shadid

The two-time Pulitzer winner on sneaking into Syria, being kidnapped in Libya, and the high cost of getting the story in a war zone.

—By Aaron Ross

Thu Jan. 26, 2012 3:00 AM PST

Anthony Shadid may have a hard time topping his last year's adventures. The New York Times' Beirut bureau chief and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for international reporting spent 2011 tracing the path of the Arab Spring. He traveled west from Egypt, where he covered the 18-day uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak, to Libya, where demonstrations against dictator Moammar Qaddafi morphed into armed rebellion. During a battle last March in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, Shadid and three Times colleagues were captured by Libyan government forces. Over the course of a harrowing week, they were blindfolded, beaten, and threatened with execution before finally being released. Returning to Lebanon in August to report on the Assad regime's intensifying crackdown on Syria's protest movement, Shadid audaciously snuck across the Syrian border sans visa. For days he shuttled on motorcycle from one safe house to the next alongside some of the country's most wanted dissidents, emerging with a rare firsthand glimpse of a nation cascading toward civil war.

Despite his renown for daredevil reporting—in 2002, Shadid was wounded by sniper fire in Ramallah—it's his knack for penetrating the surface of rough-and-tumble conflict zones that makes him one of his generation's preeminent foreign correspondents. In his more than six years covering the Iraq War, he routinely unearthed the conflict's human faces with a lyricism that seemed to belie his prolificacy.

Shadid's third book, House of Stone, due out in late March, demonstrates his uncanny ability to reclaim humanity from wreckage. It recounts Shadid's return to his ancestral village in southern Lebanon from 2007 to 2008 to rebuild his great-grandfather's abandoned home—and perhaps piece back together his own wayward life in the process. In an account infused with introspection, the Oklahoma-raised Shadid narrates a rich personal odyssey for community amid a war-torn region's struggle to reclaim a modicum of its former identity. I spoke to Shadid about the Arab Spring, the perils of his profession, and the path forward in Syria.

Mother Jones: What was it like growing up Lebanese in Oklahoma City?

Anthony Shadid: I had a great childhood. I think writers are always better off when they have more twisted childhoods, but I didn't. There's always a sense of community, of belonging to the Lebanese community, in Oklahoma. It's remarkable, when I talk to other Arab-Americans, how closed and tight-knit the community was, everything from the church that everyone shared—they all came from the same town in Lebanon—to the food that was served on every holiday and almost every day. There was a sense of coming from someplace else and having to make it in the place they ended up, and there was a lot of pride in that. The one thing that shaped my life was when I was 15 or 16: I knew I wanted to be a journalist. And not just a journalist, but a journalist in the Middle East, and to go back to the Arab world and try to understand what it meant to be Lebanese.

in full: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/anthony-shadid-libya-syria-house-of-stone

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