U.S. still undecided on joining landmines treaty

The United States has still not decided whether it will sign a 1997 global treaty to ban land mines but said on Tuesday it has invested heavily to help mitigate the impact the weapons have around the world.

The United States has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty or a global treaty banning cluster munitions, despite what it says are world-leading efforts to provide assistance for the clearance of landmines as well as the destruction of unsecured weapons and munitions.

Activists and groups of U.S. senators have urged the Obama administration to sign the Mine Ban Treaty which bars the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of antipersonnel mines. It has been endorsed by 158 countries, but the United States, Russia, China and India are among the countries that have not adopted it.

Source: Reuters


Amnesty Says Governments Aid Rights Abuses

Source: NY Times

Powerful governments and political expediency are helping to perpetuate torture, war crimes and other human rights abuses around the world, Amnesty International said Thursday in its annual report.

“Too many perpetrators are getting away with some of the worst crimes known to humanity,” said Claudio Cordone, the interim secretary general of the organization.

Governments were among the worst of the offenders, according to the group’s 2010 report, which surveyed conditions in 159 countries last year. People were tortured in 111 nations, Amnesty International reported, as “human rights abusers enjoyed impunity for torture in at least 61 countries.”

The report sharply criticized some of the world’s largest and most powerful nations for not fully signing up to the International Criminal Court — notably the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

So far, 111 nations have signed onto the court, leaving 81 non-signees, including 7 of the Group 0f 20 leading industrial powers. By refusing to join, Mr. Cordone said, “they undermine the court.”

Cases brought before the court, he added, are increasingly being “seen for what they are: serious crimes to be investigated and prosecuted, as opposed to political issues to be resolved through diplomatic channels.”

The Amnesty report applauded the court for issuing an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. It was the first warrant issued for a sitting president.

But the report said the refusal of the African Union to cooperate with the court on Darfur was “a stark example of governmental failure to put justice before politics.”

In addition to its criticism of governments, Amnesty also found fault with international rights agencies and institutions, pointedly mentioning the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “paralysis over Sri Lanka.”

The organization said the council in 2009 passed “a deeply flawed resolution” that had been undermined by “global politics and expediency.” The measure rejected calls for an inquiry into widely reported atrocities by the Sri Lankan military in its war against the secessionist Tamil Tigers. The resolution, Amnesty said, “actually commended the Sri Lankan government.”

“By the end of the year, despite further evidence of war crimes and other abuses, no one had been brought to justice,” Mr. Cordone said. “One would be hard pressed to imagine a more complete failure.”

The Human Rights Council’s so-called Goldstone Report calling for accountability for the bloody conflict in Gaza that ended in early 2009 “still needs to be heeded by Israel and Hamas,” Amnesty said. Its report reiterated that “Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups unlawfully killed and injured civilians.”

The Amnesty report cited specific abuses in most countries and every region, including the exploitation and abuse of millions of migrants in South Korea, Japan and Malaysia; the Pakistani government’s chronic denial of rights to millions of citizens living along the Afghan border; mass forced evictions in many countries in Africa; increasing domestic violence, sexual abuse and murders of women in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Jamaica; election violence and political murder in the Philippines; and “a sharp rise in racism, xenophobia and intolerance” in Europe and Central Asia.

Asia, as a region, performed especially poorly last year, according to the report.

“The theme of the overall report is a global justice gap, but in Asia it’s an accountability abyss,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Asia. “Violations of all kinds go on with impunity.”

In China, the Internet, the media and religious affairs were tightly monitored and controlled by the authorities; human rights activists and defense attorneys were arrested, prosecuted and “subjected to enforced disappearances;” and “strike hard” campaigns led to mass arrests of Uighurs in the Xinjiang region in western China.

The hard-line regime in North Korea and the military junta in Myanmar both continued to stifle nearly all political dissent, the report said, principally through state security organs and control of the news media.

The government in Myanmar extended the house arrest of the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and harassed members of her National League for Democracy. Ethnic minorities also were widely and brutally oppressed, notably the Rohingya people, and the junta continued to hold an estimated 2,200 political prisoners.

Meet the New Frontline Bloggers: Security Contractors

The frontline soldier blogs have largely come and gone — victims of the military’s confusing, often contradictory, approach to social media. But you can still get unfiltered reports, straight from Afghanistan’s war zones. Private security contractors are now writing the new must-read online diaries from the battlefield.

Read the story here…

KBR to Get No-Bid Army Work as U.S. Alleges Kickbacks

KBR Inc. was selected for a no-bid contract worth as much as $568 million through 2011 for military support services in Iraq, the Army said.

The Army announced its decision yesterday only hours after the Justice Department said it will pursue a lawsuit accusing the Houston-based company of taking kickbacks from two subcontractors on Iraq-related work. The Army also awarded the work to KBR over objections from members of Congress, who have pushed the Pentagon to seek bids for further logistics contracts.

Rest of story HERE…

Afghans Trained by Blackwater Defect to Taliban

via Huffington Post

Remember when Sarah Palin said that “the surge principles that have worked in Iraq need to be implemented in Afghanistan.” Well…as Ms. Palin would say, many Afghans working for the Afghan security forces are now switching sides and are now defecting to the Taliban.

Guess who trained many of them? Blackwater!

Marine reportedly killed by opium-fueled private contractors


Pentagon originally said Marine killed in combat

The Pentagon confirmed late Tuesday that it is investigating the death of a 24-year-old Indiana Marine after he was shot to death in Afghanistan, allegedly by several US-paid private security contractors.

The contractors, according to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan who communicated with an investigative reporter in Chicago, were Afghanis who were found with “copious amounts of opium” and had been paid by the United States as guards.

We’ve Seen the Future, and It’s Unmanned

Every so often in history, something profound happens that changes warfare forever. Next year, for the first time ever, the Pentagon will buy more unmanned aircraft than manned, line-item proof that we are in a new age of fighting machines, in which war will be ever more abstract, ever more distant, and ruthlessly efficient.