Nine Circles of Hell! Thursday: The Many Hells on Earth Nine Circles of Hell!


Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights
“To transfer its own population into an occupied territory is prohibited because it is an obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination,”
That’s what Reuters has Christine Chanet, a French judge who led a UN inquiry, saying at a news conference.
Reuters explains, “A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.”
Reuters continues, “The settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations report said.”
Reuters adds, “Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including East Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.”
Reuters cites the report stating settlements were “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
Reuters also has Chanet saying, “To maintain such a system of segregation you need strict police and army control. It means a lot of checkpoints, violation of freedom of movement, no access to natural resources, demolition of houses and sometimes even destroying the trees.”
Reuters ends the story with Chanet being asked if the violations constituted war crimes that could be tried at the Hague court. Chanet answers, “These offences are falling into the provision of article 8 of the ICC statutes. Article 8 of the ICC statute is in the chapter of war crimes, that is the answer.”
Israel finds this report biased and an impediment to peace while the Palestinians have found it “heartening” according to Reuters.
Luckily I did not have January 31, 2013, in our ‘First Day Israel and Palestine Agree on Anything’ pool.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are pissed Israel bombed Syria yesterday.
I could have linked to several articles, each focusing on separates states that are none too happy. However, this The Washington Post article pretty much touches all the bases.
The Post has, “Syria’s allies on Thursday strongly condemned Israel’s airstrike on a Syrian target, calling the move “open aggression” that challenged the legitimacy of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Angry statements from Russia, Iran and the militantly anti-Israel group Hezbollah underscored the risk that Israel’s action — which analysts and Western officials described as an attempt to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah outposts in Lebanon — could hasten the spillover of the civil war in Syria into a wider conflict.”
The Post quotes Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, saying in a report published by the Mehr News Agency, “Those who have had harsh approaches toward the conflict in Syria must now take affective measures against this aggression by Tel Aviv and consider the security of the region.”
“Affective measures”! Yikes!
The Post continues, “Hinting at some unspecified sort of retaliation, he said Israel should not rely on its vaunted Iron Dome missile shield, which blocked many incoming missiles during the country’s recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
“Iran and Hezbollah said Wednesday’s strike was proof of Assad’s longtime claim that the civil war raging in Syria is the work of outside groups, rather than rebels from inside the country.
“Russia, Syria’s strongest international ally, said Moscow is taking ‘urgent measures to clarify the situation in all its details,’ the Associated Press reported, citing a statement issued by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.”
The statement is also quoted saying, “If this information is confirmed, we have a case of unprovoked attacks on targets in the territory of a sovereign state, which grossly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable. Whatever the motives, this is not justified.”
Why all the fuss?
The Post explains, “The strike inside Syria was Israel’s first since 2007. There were conflicting reports about the target and its location. A Western official and a former Lebanese security official said earlier Wednesday that Israel had attacked inside Syria along the border with Lebanon, and the former Lebanese official said an unmanned aircraft had hit a truck carrying weapons.
“But in a later statement, the Syrian army denied a strike along the border and said instead that Israeli jets had bombed a defense research center near Damascus, killing two employees and wounding five. The statement denied that a convoy had been hit near the border with Lebanon, calling the reports ‘baseless.’
“Israel declined to comment, as did the U.S. government, which deferred to Israel, a key security partner. The response was similar to the silence that followed Israel’s bombing five years ago of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor, an attack that U.S. officials later confirmed but that the Israelis have not acknowledged to date.
“Wednesday’s strike reflected deepening Israeli concerns that the Syria’s disintegration could lead to the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamist militants there or to Hezbollah in Lebanon, posing new threats to Israel’s military reach across its borders.
“Hezbollah called the strike ‘a savage attack’ aimed at preventing Muslim and Arab countries from developing their ‘technological and military capabilities,’ and accused Israel of fomenting the civil unrest inside Syria.”
A Hezbollah statement said, “The assault blatantly uncovers the reality of what’s coming on in Syria since two years ago.”
The Post points out, “Although the Hezbollah statement condemned the attack, it stopped short of calling for military retaliation.”
The statement also said that the attack is “an opportunity for some sides to review their stances and adopt the dialogue as the only solution to stop the bloodshed.”
Why does this nexus of evil — Hezbollah, Iran and Russia — insist the angelic West negotiate to end a war that’s killed 60,000 and turned more than 700,000 into refugees?
I mean, that’s just evil.

Human traffickers are attacking Eritrean refugee camps and taking people for slave labor.
There’s also the gang rape.
AlertNet reveals, “Eritrean refugees in Sudan are living in fear of further attacks after several were kidnapped last week from the Shagarab camp complex, 70km west of the Eritrean border, rights groups say.
“Since 2009, human traffickers have snatched thousands of Eritrean refugees from camps in eastern Sudan for ransom, sexual exploitation, forced marriage and bonded labour.
“The refugees are captured by Rashaida, an Arabic group that straddles Sudan and Eritrea, and sold to Egyptian Bedouins from the Sinai Desert.”
Million Berhe, who works with Gandhi, an Italian charity that supports trafficking victims. is quoted saying, “They torture them, beat them and starve them so as to prompt their relatives to pay ransom money which can range from $35,000 to $50,000.
“Those unable to pay are killed. Others – their organs are harvested in what is now a very rife organ-trafficking ring.”
AlertNet says, “On Jan. 22, fighting broke out at the Shagarab camps after the abductions, with angry residents attacking others they believed were responsible.”
Berhe explains, “The traffickers then came back with reinforcements and, heavily armed, started shooting and attacking the refugees.”
Although the cops broke it up, Berhe says. “According to my sources in the camp, the traffickers are now waiting for an opportunity to attack the camp again and kill the refugees.”
AlertNet explains, “The Shagarab camp complex hosts almost 30,000 people and receives about 2,000 new asylum seekers each month.
“Eastern Sudan has taken in tens of thousands of Eritreans who have fled persecution and military conscription in the authoritarian Horn of Africa nation over generations.
“Refugees are often kidnapped while moving between different sections of the sprawling camp. And women are gang-raped, sometimes by up to 12 men at a time, according to Meron Estefanos, a radio presenter with Radio Erena, who has interviewed hundreds of the hostages. The radio station broadcasts from Sweden to Eritrea.
“The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) acknowledges the problem but says it does not have the power to stop the kidnappings.”
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming is quoted saying last week, “Over the last two years we have seen people disappearing from the Shagarab camps – some of them kidnapped, and others believed (to be) paying to be smuggled elsewhere.
“UNHCR calls on all national and international actors to step up efforts to counter criminal groups seeking to exploit refugees and asylum-seekers and to reduce the risks of kidnapping, smuggling and trafficking of people.”
Can someone please tell George Clooney.

Tunisian police protest government for more arms, pay to fight Islamist militants.
Reuters reports, “Thousands of policemen protested outside the Tunisian prime minister’s office on Thursday demanding better pay, equipment and protection, as the birthplace of the Arab Spring faces a growing security threat from radical Islamists.
“Tunisia’s moderate Islamist government has said al Qaeda-linked militants have been accumulating weapons with the aim of creating an Islamic state, two years after the revolution that inspired uprisings across the Arab world.
“Police say they do not have the appropriate resources to deal with the threat from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and domestic Islamist militants who have easy access to weapons from neighboring Libya.
“Around 3,000 uniformed officers gathered in Kasabah Square in front of the office of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, chanting slogans demanding higher salaries, more equipment and legal protection if they fire their weapons in the line of duty.”
Montassar Materi, Secretary General of the Security Forces Syndicate, a union of police officers. is quoted saying, “This protest aims to bring to the attention of the prime minister all the risks to the security forces… including the threat from al Qaeda.”
Reuters explains, “Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Laryed said in December that police had arrested 16 Islamist militants who had been accumulating weapons. Earlier this month, authorities said they had seized a big arms cache in the south of the country and made several arrests.”
Reuters also tells us, “The Ennahda government has also faced many protests over economic hardship. Hampered by declining trade with the crisis-hit euro zone, it has struggled to deliver the better living standards that many Tunisians had hoped for.”
If the French military is having the ‘success’ they claim, get ready for upcoming reports of foreign militants fighting in Tunisia.

Spain is rocked by yet another corruption scandal.
CNN informs us, “Just one day after a tense debate in Spanish parliament on how to stop political corruption, a leading newspaper published Thursday what it said were handwritten documents detailing 19 years of secretive payments to leaders of the ruling conservative Popular Party.
“El Pais newspaper said the alleged payments through 2009 — off the party’s normal books — went to Mariano Rajoy, a longtime party leader and Spain’s prime minister since December 2010, and to numerous other current or former top party officials.
“The party quickly issued a statement Thursday morning, denying any ‘hidden accounts’ and insisting that all payments to party leaders have been ‘legal and in compliance with tax obligations.’
“The latest allegations — making headlines across all Spanish media — came as corruption scandals, affecting several political parties and even the royal household, have rocked the nation during its deep economic crisis, with a recession and an unemployment rate of 26%.
“Corruption was seen as a key problem by 17% of Spaniards in the government’s main ‘CIS’ survey last December, nearly double the rate of the previous month and the highest rate by far since the term ‘corruption and fraud’ was included in the poll 11 years ago.
“El Pais reported that the money came into Popular Party coffers through secretive donations from construction firms and other businesses, and was used for various purposes, including tens of thousands of dollars in secretive payments to party officials.
“El Pais reported that the individuals and companies cited in the alleged documents have denied giving or receiving party funds in an off-the-books manner.
“A former Popular Party treasurer, Luis Barcenas, is under investigation for an alleged multimillion-dollar account in Switzerland. El Pais headlined its story Thursday: ‘The secret papers of Barcenas.’”
Who else is corrupt in Spain?
This article tells tales of corruption featuring King Juan Carlos’ son-in-law, the secretary of Princesses Cristina and Elena, the Socialist Party, and the Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union coalition which is the ruling party in the northeastern region of Catalonia.
This article would have been shorter if it had simply listed the people running Spain who are NOT corrupt.

Vietnamese government land grabs are fueling public anger.
The Associated Press tells us, “Forced confiscations of land are a major and growing source of public anger against Vietnam’s authoritarian one-party government. They often go hand-in-hand with corruption; local Communist Party elites have a monopoly on land deals, and many are alleged to have used it to make themselves rich.
“These issues unite rural and urban Vietnamese in a way that discontent over political oppression tends not to.
“Land disputes break out elsewhere in Asia, notably next door in China, but they have particular resonance in Vietnam, where wars and revolutions were fought in the name of the peasant class to secure collective ownership of the land.”
The AP continues, “The government recognizes that the anger coursing through the countryside threatens its legitimacy, and has pledged to revise land laws this year to make them more equitable.
“But establishing clear property rights and enforcing laws to protect them comes with ideological complications in a country still publicly committed to state ownership of the land even as it embraces free-market capitalism.
“Vietnam abandoned Soviet-style collective farming in the 1980s and began its embrace of capitalism. In 1993, it passed a revised land law that gave citizens the right to use land for 20 years, but stopped short of allowing private ownership. Local Communist party officials can forcibly acquire land, not just for public interest projects such as bridges and roads but also on behalf of private investors building housing estates and industrial and recreational facilities.
“Complaints about corruption when rezoning agricultural land to accommodate expensive industrial plots are widespread. So are allegations that the government pays farmers one-tenth the market value of their land, or less.
“Economist and former adviser to the prime minister “Pham Chi Lan explains, “Compensation rates are very low and those who take the land profit greatly. The land laws have many loopholes which have created fertile ground for those who, with the support of local governments, take the land from people for their personal benefit.”
Don’t tell the French, but Vietnam’s a lot more like Spain.

China has charged Tibetans with murder in self-immolations.
No, they’re not arresting the dead.
The Associated Press observes, “Chinese courts convicted eight Tibetans on Thursday over accusations they incited others to self-immolate, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
“The cases are the first known public prosecution of self-immolations and a further sign that Beijing is responding to the increasing number of fiery protests by criminalizing both the protesters and their friends and sympathizers. The convictions also appear aimed at shoring up Beijing’s claims that such acts are instigated by outsiders with ulterior motives, rather than genuine protests.
“Nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire since 2009, usually after calling for religious freedom and the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
“A court in Aba prefecture in the southwestern province of Sichuan sentenced Lorang Konchok, 40, to death with a two-year reprieve and gave his nephew Lorang Tsering, 31, a 10-year prison sentence for their roles in encouraging eight people to self-immolate last year, three of whom died from their burns, Xinhua said.
“Both were charged with murder.
“Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life in prison. Calls to the court rang unanswered Thursday.
“In a separate report, Xinhua said a county court in Gannan prefecture in Gansu province sentenced six ethnic Tibetans to between three and 12 years in prison for their roles in the self-immolation of a local resident in October.
“Xinhua gave no other details about the case.
“Authorities initially responded to the self-immolations by flooding Tibetan areas with security forces to seal them off and prevent information from getting out. With those efforts doing little to stop or slow the protests, Beijing now appears to be seeking to weaken sympathy for them by portraying them as misguided and criminal.”
The real agent of death for the self-immolated Tibetans is, of course, the Chinese government, But I doubt there will be any criminal charges.

The New York Times thinks they’ve been hacked by China.
ABC News notes, “The New York Times reported that its reporters and editors have been the target of a semi-successful, four-month-long cyber attack and the paper suspects Chinese hackers are to blame.
“In a report published Wednesday, the news outlet said hackers managed to steal passwords and gain access to the personal computers of 53 employees, including those belonging to its Shanghai bureau chief, before a private cyber security firm helped oust the infiltrators.
“The Times said the hacking campaign coincided with the paper’s investigation into the relatives of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who have accumulated multi-billion-dollar fortunes through business deals. However, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, said that no sensitive emails or documents related to that reporting effort ‘were accessed, downloaded or copied.’ Much of the reporting on those stories, the Times said, was based on public documents.
“Mandiant, the cyber computer firm hired to help counter the hacking campaign, said the attack was reminiscent of previous attacks attributed to Chinese hackers in three ways, according to the Times: The attacks were routed through American universities in an attempt to hide their origin, the malicious software used in the attack was a ‘specific strain associated with computer attacks originating from China,’ and the attacks started from the same Chinese university computers as had been allegedly used in the past by the Chinese military to launch attacks. A spokesperson for Mandiant confirmed the company’s role in the saga, as reported by The Times, to ABC News.
“Daily movement from the attackers would begin at 8 a.m. Beijing time, the Times said, and would generally last until the end of the business day, though sometimes it continued until midnight.
“The Chinese National Defense Ministry reportedly told the Times that such attacks are prohibited by Chinese law and that ‘to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyber attacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless.’”
Look China, we get it. Nobody likes The New York Times subscription model.

Israel’s press freedom rating plummets.
According to Haaretz, “The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2013 has ranked Israel No. 112 out of 179 countries – a plunge of 20 spots from the 2012 index and the lowest ranking the organization has ever given Israel.
“The plunge in the index is due to ‘Israel’s conduct in Operation Pillar of Defense in November of 2012, when the Israel Defense Forces intentionally attacked journalists and buildings where media connected to Hamas had premises,’ and that Palestinian journalists are still arrested, according to the organization. As for what is happening inside Israel, it says ‘reporters in Israel enjoy freedom of speech, but the military censor continues to be a structural problem.’”
Haaretz adds, “Israel has seen its ranking plummet before, notably after Operation Cast Lead in 2009. The explanatory material for the 2009 index noted that during the course of the operation, five members of the media were arrested, some of them illegally. In addition, there were three incidents of media crews being detained. As a result of the operation, 20 members of the media were injured and three journalists were killed.”
In other words, when Israel goes to war, press freedom suffers.
Thanks Israel for coming up with yet another reason for people to be anti-war.