Human Rights

Sri Lanka: Pseudo-leftists  

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Bopage, representing the FSP-controlled Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF), took part to raise human rights violations in Sri Lanka under the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The FSP jubilantly reported “comrade” Bopage’s intervention on its website.

The FSP intervention is tail-ending Washington’s use of Sri Lankan human rights violations as a pretext to pressure Colombo to line up with its strategic confrontation with China.

The UNHRC session is discussing its High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and a resolution presented by several countries led by the US and UK. This resolution proposes an investigation into Sri Lanka’s “war crimes” and “economic crimes” and is scheduled to be put to the vote on October 6. The FSP has not criticised the resolution at any time or pointed to its underlying purpose.

The widely-despised Wickremesinghe was appointed as acting President by former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as he fled the country on July 13 after huge mass protests demanding his resignation. Wickremesinghe was then installed as President by an anti-democratic vote of the discredited parliament on July 21.

Wickremesinghe immediately intensified the crackdown on anti-government protesters ordering police and the military to violently evict those who had occupied the presidential secretariat. Police attacks were also unleashed on IUSF-organised protests in August. On August 22, Wickremesinghe imposed 90-day detention orders on a IUSF convener and two other activists under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The government is preparing to crush the widespread opposition of workers and rural masses to skyrocketing prices and shortages of essentials including fuel, food and medicines. It has signed a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that will only intensify the acute social crisis facing millions.

The FSP opposes the independent political mobilisation of the working class against the repression of the Wickremesinghe regime and the IMF austerity agenda. Instead, it has turned to the UNHRC, giving tacit support to Washington’s cynical “human rights” campaign and is cementing an alliance with Sri Lanka’s opposition parties that all support the IMF’s program.

In his brief address to the UNHRC, Bopage cited the Colombo government’s lack of “accountability” for war crimes, economic crimes and other human rights violations. To investigate and assure human rights in the country, he said the council should be “strengthening the existing measures and adopting new initiatives.” 

The FSP is deliberately covering up for the US, which is exploiting the UNHRC to advance its geostrategic interests and is also directly responsible for numerous bloody war crimes.

There is no question that successive Sri Lankan governments are responsible for war crimes and gross abuses of democratic rights during Colombo’s 26-year communal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in May 2009.

During the final weeks of the war, then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who was defence secretary, presided over the killing of at least 40,000 Tamil civilians, according to UN estimates, and the disappearance of hundreds more. 

After the war, Washington sponsored several resolutions to pressure Mahinda Rajapaksa to break relations with Beijing. Washington was deeply hostile to his government’s ties with and dependence on funds and arms from China and wanted to bring Sri Lanka under the US strategic sway.

Failing these efforts, Washington sponsored a regime-change operation in 2015 with the support of Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga to oust Mahinda and install Maithripala Sirisena as president. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime shifted the Sri Lankan foreign policy markedly towards Washington.

After Gotabhaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019, the US and UK sponsored another tough resolution on Sri Lanka that was passed in March last year. This resolution is currently being discussing in the UNHRC. Though Rajapaksa is no longer in power, the US is seeking to block any return of the Rajapaksas. Although the pro-US Wickremesinghe is president, he depends on Rajapaksa’s party—the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna—for political survival. 

The FSP leaders were members of the Sinhala chauvinist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which fully backed the communal war. As the JVP became widely discredited among workers and particularly youth, they broke away and formed the FSP in 2012. Despite its socialistic phrase mongering, the FSP backed the US engineered regime-change operation in 2015 that brought to power Sirisena, who was complicit in all the war crimes of the Rajapaksa government. 

The FSP turn to the UNHRC is significant. It underlines this party’s further rightward shift into the Colombo political establishment in response to the sharp upsurge of working class struggles in Sri Lanka and internationally.

Since April millions of workers and poor have been involved in huge protests and strikes in response to the social devastation produced by the global capitalist crisis. Like the ruling class, the trade unions and various pseudo-left groups were terrified by this popular uprising.

FSP collaborated closely with the trade union fronts to divert this mass opposition into one-day general strikes in April and May and to subordinate it to the demand for an interim capitalist regime that was also being pushed by the opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and JVP. The JVP and FSP unions were part of these trade union fronts.

By blocking any independent movement of the working class against the Rajapaksa regime, the FSP and the trade unions paved the way for Wickremesinghe to come to power. Now the FSP is lining up with the opposition parties to mount a phony campaign to defend democratic rights.

In August, the FSP took part in a seminar called by the Trade Unions and Mass Movement (TUMO). The FSP trade unions are part of TUMO. Among the invitees to the event were the representatives of the imperialist powers including the UK, Canada and Australia as well as of the opposition parties—the SJB, JVP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and Tamil National Alliance.

FSP Education Secretary Pubudu Jayagoda voiced the party’s full support to this reactionary line-up, declaring: “The FSP promises that we will give our maximum support to bring all forces against this repression into a common platform.”

On September 16, the FSP participated in an event organised by the IUSF to which the SJB and JVP were invited. The recently-formed Uttara Lanka Sabhagaya also attended. This outfit includes Sinhala chauvinist groups led by Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila who were ministers of the former Rajapaksa regime.

SJB chairman and MP, General Sarath Fonseka, addressed the meeting supposedly in a personal capacity. Fonseka was Army Commander during the final years of the war, overseeing the brutal offensives in the last months that killed tens of thousands of civilians. Jubilant about the gathering, he praised the IUSF and the FSP and called on professionals and businessmen to build the movement. “There are about 90 percent in the police are with us. In the military 98 percent are with us,” he declared.

Such are the rightwing forces being embraced by the FSP.

FSP leader Pubudu Jayagoda declared: “New leaders are in the making. All are uniting. This platform is the example. All these political parties, trade unions and mass organisations have united.” He added: “This mass force will not only secure the release of student leaders but a mass power will be built to send this anti-people, anti-social lot to the prison.”

The FSP claims to be building a “mass movement” to oust the repressive Wickremesinghe regime. In reality, it is promoting capitalist parties that have a similar record of repression and austerity. Both the SJB and JVP are committed to the IMF’s austerity agenda. A government of these parties would be just as ruthless as Wickremesinghe in attacking the democratic and social rights of working people.

This fake left group represents upper middle class sections of society. Its hostility to mobilise the working class on socialist policies flows from its commitment to the profit system.

[Sakuna Jayawardena and K. Ratnayake wrote this piece for World Socialist Website, Click here to read the original]

Atrocities against the Sikh Community

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Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is a US-based organization which has been striving and struggling for an independent Sikh land for the last many years. The basic demand of this organization is the secession of Punjab from India and the formulation of a separate homeland for the Sikh community. It was founded in October 2007 and primarily was headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. With its head-quarter in New York, the organization was banned in India in 2019. Now this movement for a separate Sikh land run by the SFJ has become a worldwide movement and millions of Sikhs are providing all possible support to it. Recently on 19 September, a referendum for the independent Sikh land Khalistan was organized by the SFJ in Brampton, Canada. According to the media reports, more than 100,000 Canadian Sikhs took part in that voting. Canada is home to over one million Sikhs. It is something very interesting that there are more than 30 million Sikhs all over the world and out of these 30 million about 28 million live in India. It means that India is home to 90% of the total Sikh population but the handful of extremist Hindu elements has made their life hell there in India. Circumstances have compelled them to migrate to the countries like Canada where everyone enjoys equal rights, particularly regarding religious liberty. 

With reference to the Sikh referendum in Canada, the BJP government had many times urged the government of Canada to put a strict check on the leaders of the Khalistan movement in Canada but the Canadian government always plainly refused to do so. The Canadian government spokesman said that their country would never stop Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views by holding the Khalistan Referendum as the legal parameters of the country’s laws consider it a democratic process. He furthermore said that it all was a peaceful process. According to the media reports, even after that flat refusal, the Indian government did not stop urging but rather pressurizing the Canadian government to act against the rising pro-Khalistani sentiment in Canada.

As far as the Khalistan movement is concerned, it is getting day by day stronger all over the world; since in Canada, there are more than one million Sikhs, the strength of this movement could be felt more there. The leaders of the Khalistan movement say that they are not against the Hindu community; they have no hatred against any religion but they hate the BJP extremists who don’t let them live in India. These extremists very bluntly and openly claim that India is only for the Hindus and no one from any other religious school of thought must strive and desire to stay in India; particularly the Sikhs and the Muslims. For the purpose of defaming these two communities, the Indian intelligence agencies are doing their utmost. Recently on 13th September, the walls of a prominent Hindu temple in Toronto Canada, known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were defaced by scrawling pro-Khalistan and anti-Indian slogans. The BJP government without wasting any time and without any proof and investigation started condemning the Sikh community living in Canada for defacing the temple walls. 

Some social media users started sharing a video of the defaced shrine where Khalistani sentiments can be seen written on the walls but according to Livemint, the legitimacy of the video could not be confirmed. On the other hand, the Canadian government simply rejected the Indian point of view by saying that Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views under the country’s laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and the right to free speech and assembly. Here an important point to be noted is that this so-called ‘hate-incident’ took place just five days ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting.

There is another side of the incident too. The Canadian police claimed that it had arrested an Indo-Canadian man for tearing a picture banner of the martyred Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the city of Caledon, Ontario. This incident occurred a few days before the defacing incident of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It means these two incidents were ‘designed’ in a very calculated manner. The perpetrators tried to target the peace and harmony of Canadian society where everyone is allowed to do anything living within the boundaries provided by the law of the country. Certainly, the BJP government is not happy with the Canadian government as it has granted legal freedom to the Sikh community of raising its voice for Sikh rights. It is a sheer misconception of the Indian government that by pressurizing the Canadian government, it would succeed in crushing the Sikh demand for a separate and independent Sikh homeland. The same cruel behaviour of the Indian government could be noticed in the Illegally Occupied valley of Kashmir where the local people are being treated as if they are slaves.

Humanity will Eat itself through Violence, War, Hatred and Neglect

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Mutilation & Burning at the Stake: United States 1899 in the US State of Georgia:

“Sam Hose was brought to a patch of land known as the old Troutman field. Newspapers reported that members of the mob used knives to sever Hose’s ears, fingers and genitals while others plunged knives repeatedly into his body, to cheers from the mob. Men and boys gathered kindling from the nearby woods to create a pyre. The skin from Hose’s face was removed, and he was doused with kerosene. He was then chained to a pine tree. Several matches were thrown onto the pyre by members of the mob, lighting it on fire and burning Hose alive. The heat from the fire caused Hose’s veins to rupture while his eyes nearly burst from their sockets.[ One journalist present noted the crowd watched “with unfeigned satisfaction” at contortions of Hose’s body. As the flames consumed his body, Hose screamed out, “Oh my God! Oh Jesus!”. From the time of Hose’s first injuries to his death, almost 30 minutes passed. One woman thanked God for the actions of the mob. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. Pieces of Hose’s bones were sold for 25 cents, while his heart and liver were cut out to be sold.” ~ Wikipedia

Scaphism in ancient Persia:

In order for the method to work, it had to take place in a swamp or somewhere where the boats could lie exposed to the sun. The victim would be tied inside the space between the boats in a way that left their head, hands, and feet outside. Then, the person in charge of the process would feed the victim a mixture of milk and honey, forcing them to swallow against their will, so the mixture dripped everywhere, covering their eyes, face, and neck. This same mixture was then spread all over the exposed body parts, and the idea was that it would attract every insect, vermin, and wild animal in the area. Very soon afterwards, flies and rats, for instance, would show up and start attacking the victim, eating the mixture of milk and honey, but also eating the person alive along the process.Now, as if the bugs eating them alive weren’t enough, there was also the severe diarrhea that left them feeling weak and dehydrated. This horrifying symptom was the intended consequence of their enforced milk-and-honey diet. The more they were fed this mixture, the more they would defecate inside the boats, but also, the longer they stayed alive. This point, precisely, was the cruelest yet most effective aspect of scaphism: the victims couldn’t die from the diarrhea-induced dehydration because they were fed milk and honey every day. As a result, the victims could survive for days and even weeks in a small hell of bugs, feces, milk, and honey.” ~ culturacolectiva.com

United States in the 21st Century:

Afghan national Alif Khan told Amnesty International that he was held in US custody in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for five days in May 2002. He said that he was held in handcuffs, waist chains, and leg shackles for the whole time, subjected to sleep deprivation, denied water for prayer or washing, and was kept in a cage-like structure with eight people.” ~Amnesty International

Myers Enterprises located in the US State of Denver, Colorado, produces the “stun cuff” that shocks unruly prisoners back to order. It takes international orders.  Axon Enterprise made $863 million in revenue in 2021 with one of its core product being the Taser, according to its Investor Slide Deck. There are 960 thousand Tasers floating around the United States and in Europe. Axon sells a number of other products particularly integrated computing observation and reporting systems. While there are complaints about deaths involving Taser’s, or what are known as Conducting Electricity Devices (CED’s), in June 2022 the Office of Justice Programs found that. “law enforcement need not refrain from deploying CEDs, provided the devices are used inaccordance with accepted national guidelines.” Meanwhile,  Amnesty International in a December 2020 report seeks strict controls on CED’s (good luck with that). Since a Taser is a form of gun, it falls, arguably, under the protection of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution (the right to keep and bear arms).

General Mike Minihan, the US Air Mobility Commander opined recently that, “Lethality matters most. When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger. This is who we are. We are lethal. Do not apologize for it, after listing distinguished Air Force commanders like Gen. Curtis LeMay and Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, who had no scruples against killing the enemy. The pile of our nations enemy dead, the pile that is the biggest, is in front of the United States Air Force,” he said.

Task & Purpose, September 2022

Imagine a world where roughly 5 billion of the Earth’s 7 billion people has access to a World Wide Web of knowledge that would allow them to search studies on anatomy, chemical engineering, genetics, geography, anthropology, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence and military science, Shannon’s theory of information, crops and farming, and more. Much more, it turns out. There are free online courses which allow you to learn Algebra or just about any technical or non-technical subject matter on the planet. Want to refute of confirm what “a leader” just told you, look it up online. And collaboration, the Web was designed just for that.

Instead, the Web has become more polluted, if that is possible, with cognitive/attention span killing programs like Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook, and thousands of reality-bending nuanced disinformation sites that plague the Web. What was supposed to have been a liberating force for humanity’s knowledge is now a crass advertising and propaganda monster. But, perhaps the saddest thought is that it doesn’t take much to tunnel through all the bull&^%$ and find the data buried behind the cognitive/attention span-killing cotton candy. Information sources such as the National Institutes of Health, New England Medical Journal, Defense Technology Information Center and a plethora of other sites on the Web like them are credible, reliable sources. Prominent universities in the USA typically publish their rigorous research findings (MIT, Harvard, CALTECH, Stanford). Do you want to find one place that gives the Russian military campaign in Ukraine its props on manoeuvre warfare? Look no further than the US Marine Corps Gazette, August 2022, paper 22, authored by Marinus.

The Web has become a partisan wasteland with users looking to bounce their left, right and centre world views right back into their brains after some sort of affirmation by the left, right and centre triad. Rarely, if ever, do they cross over into the realm of the other.

I suppose that the Web imitates life in meatspace and there it is arguably worse: global economic woes, USA challenging China and Russia directly, elections of significance in Brazil and the United States, an increase in violence in America’s cities, a pandemic that is not over, climate change, shifting international alliances, America’s global sanctions regime, Russia vs Ukraine conflict, exploding healthcare costs, food shortages, finance capital, ad nauseam.

Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, summed it all up in a recent speech to the United Nations in August 2022, “The seriousness of the present moment obliges me to share difficult but true words with you. Everything that we are doing today seems impotent and vague. Our words make a hollow and empty echo compared to the reality that we are facing. The reality is that no one listens to anyone, no one strives for real agreements and problem solving, and almost everyone cares only about their own interests.

Solutions?

Why prolong the inevitable end?

Linking Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits

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What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”

Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.

Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.

Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.

The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”

Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out powerfor the entire region.

Julio López Varona, chief of campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy Action, spoke to me from Puerto Rico, saying, “the storm was extremely slow, going at like 8 or 9 miles an hour,” and as a result, “it pounded the island for more than three days” with relentless rain. “Communities were completely flooded; people have been displaced,” he says. Eventually, the electrical grid completely failed.

Days after the storm passed, millions of people remained without power—some even lost running water—leading the White House to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico.

Even on the U.S. mainland, it is poor communities of color who have been hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, with an 82 percent Black population and growing numbers of Latin American immigrants, struggles with adequate resources and has had problems with its water infrastructure for years.

Lorena Quiroz, founder of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, a Jackson-based group doing multiracial grassroots organizing, told me how the city’s residents have been struggling without clean running water since major rains and resulting floods overwhelmed a water treatment plant this summer.

“It’s a matter of decades of disinvestment in this mostly Black, and now Brown, community,” says Quiroz. In a state run by white conservatives, Jackson is overseen by a Black progressive mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is now suing the state government over inaction on the city’s water infrastructure.

Quiroz says it’s “painful to see how government is not doing what they should, how the state government is neglecting its most vulnerable populations.”

Over and over, the same pattern has emerged on a planet experiencing catastrophic climate change. Setting aside the fact that we are still spewing greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere as the world burns and floods, the impacts of a warming climate are disproportionately borne by poor communities of color as evidenced in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jackson, and elsewhere.

The UN head, Guterres is doing what he can in using his position to lay blame precisely on the culprits, saying in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, “It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.” Guterres specifically touted the importance of taxing fossil fuel companies to cover the damage they are causing in places like Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, “Oil companies in July reported unprecedented profits of billions of dollars per month. ExxonMobil posted three months profits of $17.85 billion, Chevron of $11.62 billion, and Shell of $11.5 billion.”

Contrast this windfall with the countless numbers of people who lost their homes in Pakistan and are now living in shanties on roads where they have found some higher ground from the floods. “If you lose a crop, that’s seasonal damage, but if you lose a house, you have to pay for years to come,” says Kunbhar.

Kunbhar’s view of what is happening in Pakistan applies equally to Puerto Rico and Jackson: Society is “divided between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The poorest of the poor who are already facing an economic crisis from generation to generation, they are the most vulnerable and the [worst] victims of this crisis.”

In Puerto Rico, Varona sees displaced communities losing their lands to wealthier communities. He says that the local government in Puerto Rico is “allowing millionaires and billionaires to come and pay no taxes and to actually take over many of the places that are safer for communities to be on.” This is an “almost intentional displacement of communities… that have historically lived here,” he says.

And in Jackson, Quiroz says she is aghast at the “mean-spiritedness” of Mississippi’s wealthier enclaves and state government. “It is so difficult to comprehend the way that our people are being treated.”

Although disparate and seemingly disconnected from one another, with many complicating factors, there are stark lines connecting climate victims to fossil fuel profits.

Pakistan’s poor communities are paying the price for ExxonMobil’s billions.

Puerto Rico remains in the dark so that Chevron may enjoy massive profits.

Jackson, Mississippi, has no clean drinking water so that Shell can enrich its shareholders.

When put in such terms, Guterres’s idea for taxing the perpetrators of climate devastation is a no-brainer. It’s “high time,” he said, “to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice,” so that we can end our “suicidal war against nature.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Sri Lanka Rated ‘Obstructed’ by a Global Alliance of Civil Societies

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Sri Lanka remains on a watchlist of countries that have seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms. Despite the removal of the Rajapaksa regime, brought about by mass protests – amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades – the new President Ranil Wickremesinghe has continued the governments’ crackdown on protesters and activists, CIVICUS which is a global alliance of over 10,000 civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world has stated in a statement.

Following Wickremesinghe’s election, according to the statement, sweeping emergency powers were once again imposed to restrict protests and clamp down on protesters. Security forces used excessive force to remove parts of a rolling peaceful protest site in front of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. Protesters have also been harassed, arrested and detained.

The new watchlist is released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks the latest developments to civic freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, across 197 countries and territories. Other countries included on the list are Guatemala, Guinea, Serbia and Zimbabwe.

On 17 July 2022, emergency regulations were imposed giving sweeping powers to the police and the armed forces to search and make arrests of ‘suspects’ without due process safeguards. UN human rights experts have condemned the “extensive, prolonged and repeated use of state of emergency measures” since April 2022 by the authorities to crack down on peaceful protesters.

In the early hours of 22 July 2022, a coordinated joint operation by the Sri Lankan military, police and special forces forcibly removed parts of the three-month-long ‘Gotagogama’ rolling peaceful protest site in front of the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo. Security forces severely beat protesters and lawyers and removed many tents from the pavement. At least 50 people were injured andt nine protesters were arrested and granted bail on the same day. At least 14 protesters were hospitalised. Materials and electronic devices belonging to protesters were destroyed.

“The Sri Lanka authorities must investigate all human rights violations committed by security forces during the state of emergency including unlawful arrests, excessive use of force on protesters and the brutal crackdown at the protest site at Galle Face in July. Any pending charges against those arrested for peacefully exercising their rights must be immediately dropped. These repressive actions clearly do not meet Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law”, said Josef Benedict, Asia researcher for CIVICUS

The security forces have sought to harass, arrest or detain activists and protesters seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis. Journalists have also been targeted for their reporting on the crisis and protests

On 25 July 2022, the Colombo Magistrates’ Court issued a travel ban on Father Jeewantha Peiris, a Catholic priest who had been prominent in the protests, and several others. Leading protester Dhaniz Ali was arrested by the police while trying to leave for Dubai on a flight on 26 July 2022. On 27 July 2022, unidentified men in civilian clothes abducted Veranga Pushpika, a former student activist and journalist who had also been active in the protests, from a bus in Colombo. Police did not disclose his whereabouts for several hours before acknowledging his arrest.

On 3 August 2022, human rights defender and General Secretary of Ceylon Teachers Union Joseph Stalin was arrested. The human rights defender was taken to the Fort police station and remanded despite suffering from poor health. He was granted bail by a Colombo Fort Magistrate on 8th August 2022.

On 18 August 2022, police intervened to disrupt a protest by members of the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) in central Colombo by firing a water cannon and tear gas at them. The crackdown was followed by the arrest of members of the IUSF. According to reports, 20 people were arrested and 16 of the suspects were released on personal bail after being charged with unlawful assembly and obstructing the duties of police officers by blocking the road. One of those detained was human rights defender Chinthaka Rajapakse, the moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), a human rights organisation focused on land rights, protection of natural resources and the environment.

Three of those detained around the student protests including Wasantha Mudalige, the convener of the IUSF, Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake, member of the Kelaniya University Students’ Union and Galvewa Siridhamma Thero, the convener of Inter University Bhikku Federation, have been detained under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The government has used the PTA to target and harass minorities, activists, journalists and critical voices.

On 9 September 2022, the National Organiser of Youth for Change (YFC), Lahiru Weerasekara was arrested by Maradana police as he was returning on his bike from a peaceful protest at Galle Face.

“The arbitrary arrests or harassment of activists and protesters must end and those detained for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly must be unconditionally and immediately released. President Ranil Wickremesinghe should also immediately end the use of the draconian counterterrorism law to lock up activists for long periods ” added Benedict.

The violations against protesters are part of a broader trend of attacks on civic space under the Rajapaksa administration that civil society has documented in recent years including the targeting of activists and critics, use of the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), surveillance, intimidation and harassment of Tamil war victims and families of the disappeared, journalists and civil society organisations, particularly in the North and East, and failure to hold officials accountable for conflict-era crimes under international law.

Sri Lanka is currently rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. There are a total of 42 countries in the world with this rating. This rating is typically given to countries where civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights.

Sri Lanka: Zero draft remains Zero to victims

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The United Nations definition of ‘victims’ is as follows: “Victims” means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power…..”  

If this is the case, then who is not a victim in Sri Lanka? From top to bottom, I mean from so-called executive presidents to normal citizens everyone remains a victim. Here, I can quote several examples but to be brief – the President, the Chief Justice, members of civil society (human rights defenders, journalists, parliamentarians, lawyers, religious leaders, academics and others) are/were victimised in Sri Lanka.  

A Tamil proverb says:  “One will know the effect of a fever and headache only when he/she gets it”In Sri Lanka, we have experienced the fact that victims have become horrendous violators of human rights and then again become victims.   

In an earlier session of the UN Human Rights Council – UNHRC, I have listened to a representative of Sri Lanka as he related in meetings how at one time he had been in hiding in Sri Lanka because the security forces were looking for him. Unfortunately, later he was defending the state violations to the maximum in the same forum – the UNHRC.  

This is to say that Sri Lanka should learn to take the grievances of victims seriously and with sincerity. Victims vary from the youth uprising to capture the whole of Sri Lanka, to the failure of thirty years of non-violent struggle to achieve political aspiration that consequently turned into an armed struggle. Today, where is Sri Lanka? It has become an international arena for super-powers, the regional super-power and peace-loving states and groups.   

Socrates said, “Mankind is made of two kinds of people: wise people who know they’re fools and fools who think they are wise”. The stubborn, ego-centred attitude of politicians, under the pretext of patriotism, led Sri Lanka to today’s situation.  

Impending resolution 

Now let me discuss the impending resolution in the 51st session of the UNHRC in Geneva. The damning comprehensive report of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights – UNHCHR was published. As part of the follow-up procedure, the member countries of the UNHRC are now working on a resolution on Sri Lanka. The first draft dated 12 September 2022 known as ‘zero’ draft, is in circulation. Well and good. This present draft is not very different to the last resolution (46/1).  

For the victims who have waited since the independence of Sri Lanka or since the end of Mullivaigzhal in May 2009, this zero draft does not give any encouraging messages. For those who organised demonstrations against the government in various venues including in Galle Face Green and brought a change of government in Sri Lanka – this draft is not giving any good message either. Some of the demonstrators travelled to Geneva to find justice for their call and cause.  

The zero draft has 23 preamble paragraphs (PPs) and 18 operational paragraphs (OPs). The Core group on Sri Lanka – (UK, USA, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi) who drafted it, find it very difficult to accommodate every request by the government of Sri Lanka, their pied pipers and the victims. When drafting a resolution, countries have to consider many factors; otherwise it may end up in a disaster.  

I still remember why neither the European Union countries nor Canada tabled a resolution on Sri Lanka, until the United States became a member of the UN HRC in 2012. I don’t want to elaborate more on this matter.  

‘Informal consultation meetings’ on the zero draft, organised by the Core group, have taken place in the UN building on 16th Friday. These have been well attended by the concerned country Sri Lanka, several other countries and various members of civil society. Here I should say that not all members of civil society are working genuinely to strengthen this zero draft. We are finding it difficult to understand what they say and what is in their mind. The reason is that they have a deep link to any government in power in Sri Lanka. Therefore, their presence in the UN HRC is to observe what is happening there. In the UN, this style of work goes on, not only with Sri Lanka, but with many other countries. They are known as Government NGOs – or Gongos.  

Leaving this never-ending Gongos business to one side, the world should know what has happened in the last two informal consultations. On the morning of Friday 16th, the first informal consultation regarding the zero draft took place. It focused mainly on the ‘Preamble paragraphs – PP1 to PP23’ and general comments. The UK representative, Mr. Bob Last, presided over the meeting on behalf of the Core Group and read out the zero draft. He said that it is based on the last resolution on Sri Lanka. Also, he made a note of the crisis in the country, demonstrations and change of government. The Sri Lankan representative then expressed the opinion of the concerned country.  

So, the Sri Lankan representative read a statement which presumably was received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo. The statement said that Sri Lanka rejected the zero draft and Sri Lankan will not accept any resolution other than a resolution passed by consensus. This surprised everyone because even the resolutions passed in 2015, 2017 and 2019 by consensus in the UN HRC were not implemented.   

The statement also said that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report goes beyond her mandate and that in the past two High Commissioners have visited Sri Lanka. Yes that’s true, but what happened to the reports that they published after their visit to Sri Lanka? The SL representative also said that the UNHRC is always moving the goalposts and requested the member countries to reject this resolution. This raises the serious question as to whether there is any ground in Sri Lanka to find justice – I mean are there any visible goalposts? However, the speech of the Sri Lankan representative is as usual like that of any other concerned country when facing a resolution addressing their human rights violations. 

Attending UN H/R Forums for 32 years 

Following this, many countries spoke generally about the zero draft. Some were supportive of the resolution and some were not. There were a few countries against the resolution, out of which only China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela are current members of the UN HRC. At the same time, countries supportive of the resolution were mostly members of the council. This gives a clue to the eventual outcome of this resolution.  

Before the closure of the morning session, some members of civil society had an opportunity to make their remarks. These people were mostly those who had come directly from Sri Lanka. They were – Mr Ameer Faaize, Attorney at Law; M. A Sumanthiran M.P. and Attorney at Law; Santhiya Elaniyagoda, spouse of missing journalist (2009) Prageeth Elaniyagoda  and Bhavani Fonseka, researcher and Attorney at Law. Faaize touched on the issue of Muslim burials and displacement of Muslims.   

M.A. Sumanthiran went into the history of the resolution on Sri Lanka in the UNHRC. He recalled how the present President then Prime Minister co-sponsored the resolution in 2015 and then Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship was withdrawn in 2019. Sumanthiran reminded in the meeting that then Minister of Justice is the present Minister of Justice – so there shouldn’t be any problem in accepting this resolution. Sumanthiran also talked about the failure in implementing their own recommendations of the LLRC. He spoke further about the PTA, impunity and requested that this resolution be made stronger than it is at present.  

Santhiya Eelaniyagoda’s speech was translated from Sinhala to English. She said that she has attended the UNHRC for the last ten years and she asked how many more years does she have to attend the UNHRC to find justice for her disappeared husband. Also she said that an international mechanism is the right solution for the situation in Sri Lanka.   

In fact, when Santhiya was speaking about her ten years in the UNHRC, I was thinking about my thirty-two (32) years attending all UN Human Rights Forums – from UNHR Commission, Sub-Commission, Treaty bodies, Working Groups, UPR, all UN human rights conferences, seminars etc and I am still here without finding any justice for the victims. In fact, on many occasions I have become a victim myself, because of my active commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in Sri Lanka.  

When Bhavani Fonseka spoke, she reminded those present that even after thirteen years since of the end of the war, there is no credible justice, no political solution, no abolishment of the executive Presidency, impunity prevails and there are economic crises. With their interventions, the morning session on general comments and discussion on preamble paragraphs was brought to an end.  

Hypocrisy about the PTA 

In the afternoon, the informal discussion started on ‘Operative Paragraphs’ OPs from 1 to 18. As usual, the Sri Lankan representative who rejected the resolution started to make comments on every paragraph. The main countries supporting Sri Lanka: China, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela also gave their input on every paragraph. If we put all their interventions together, the message is to delete the whole resolution. One by one Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela wanted different operative paragraphs to be deleted.  

The usual pattern in the UN is that even though the concerned countries do not agree with the resolution, they prefer to contribute to the discussion.  

What was surprising was Russia said in this meeting that “this is interfering in the affairs of other counties”. I think Russia has forgotten what they are doing in Ukraine. Also, China seems to have forgotten that they are part of the present problem in Sri Lanka, when the representative said: “not to interfere in any internal affairs”.   

During the first week of the 51st session, a meeting took place outside the UN. It was about the PTA. In this meeting, two speakers who justified the PTA when they were the Minister of Justice and a Sri Lankan representative to the UN in Geneva, now spoke about the difficulties and dangers of the PTA. This is called hypocrisy. Shame on them.  

If Sri Lanka ruled the country according to the constitution, there would be no need for any resolution by the UNHRC. Sri Lanka complains that the UNHRC resolutions are against their constitution. Many issues/affairs in the constitution for decades have never been implemented by Sri Lanka. 

When they talk about external involvement being against the constitution, how about the appointment of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and led by former Indian Chief Justice P.N. Bhagawati? Also regarding foreign judges, what about the Commission of Inquiry appointed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1963 to inquire into the political aspects of the Bandaranaike assassination? Two out of the three judges were foreign. They were Justice Abdel Younis from Egypt and Justice G.C. Mills-Odich from Ghana.  

In the same case, the first and the second accused: Buddharakitha Thero and H.P. Jayawardene, were represented in the Supreme Court by Phineas Quass, QC from the United Kingdom. Was this against Sri Lanka’s constitution? Come on… Please look at the grievances of the victims in a polite, decent and cultured way rather than all the time rejecting them blindly.  

In conclusion, victims seriously wonder why Sri Lanka should be given two (2) year period as an extension by the Core group, knowing very well that for the last many years – Sri Lanka has not implemented and is not going to implement the resolution. The operating paragraph (PP18) reads as follows:  

“Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, including on progress in reconciliation and accountability, and on the human rights impact of the economic crisis and corruption, and to present oral updates to the Human Rights Council at its fifty-third session (June 2023) and fifty-fifths sessions (March 2024), and a written update at its fifty-fourth session (September 2023)  and a comprehensive report that includes further options for advancing accountability at its fifty-seventh session (March 2025), both to be discussed in the context of an interactive dialogue. (46/1 OP16)”.  

Those who understand the rulers in Sri Lanka well, will understand that Sri Lanka will do wonders in the North and East for the demography of those regions. Do wake up! 

Once the Core group finalises the draft, they will table it by the third week of the session (26-28 September). During the fourth week of the session (4-6 October) voting on the resolution will take place. (End) 

Views expressed are personal

UN Calls for a Global Ban on Mercury Trade

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1 min read

A UN expert today urged States to address human rights violations related to the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining and protect the environment by prohibiting its trade and use in such mining.

“In most parts of the world where mercury is used in small-scale gold mining, the human rights of miners, their families and communities, often living in abject poverty, are increasingly threatened by mercury contamination,” said Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights in a report presented to the Human Rights Council.

The expert said indigenous peoples are particularly affected by the destruction and pollution of their territories, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and contamination of their food sources. Children are also disproportionately impacted by the dangerous work in the mines, sexual exploitation, and slavery-like conditions.

Mercury is a highly toxic liquid metal that accumulates to dangerous levels in the food chain. Consumption of contaminated fish can cause neurological and behavioural disorders. Mercury can also pass through the placenta, increasing fetal risk of malformation and IQ loss. Mercury is persistent, generating contaminated sites for decades and centuries and affecting future generations.

“The use of mercury for small-scale gold mining is the main source of mercury pollution globally. The mercury trade is driven by the insatiable demand for gold in the financial and jewellery markets. Refineries purchase gold without adequate due diligence mechanisms to address human rights abuses,” Orellana said.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a robust agreement which aims to protect human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury.

Orellana said that despite its strengths, the Convention had shortcomings that limit its effectiveness in reducing and eliminating mercury use in small-scale gold mining. Thus, mercury releases and emissions from the small-scale gold mining sector have continued to increase, affecting the rights of vulnerable individuals, groups and peoples.

“In order to more effectively combat human rights violations related to the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining and protect the environment, States and the Convention should prohibit the use and trade of mercury in such mining. This will be an essential step towards strengthening other elements of the Convention and making them more effective,” the expert said.

Threats to privacy growing – UN

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4 mins read

People’s right to privacy is coming under ever greater pressure from the use of modern networked digital technologies whose features make them formidable tools for surveillance, control and oppression, a new UN report has warned. This makes it all the more essential that these technologies are reined in by effective regulation based on international human rights law and standards.

The report – the latest on privacy in the digital age by the UN HumPeople’s right to privacy is coming under ever greater pressure from the use of modern networked digital technologies whose features make them formidable tools for surveillance, control and oppression, a new UN report has warned. This makes it all the more essential that these technologies are reined in by effective regulation based on international human rights law and standards.

The report – the latest on privacy in the digital age by the UN Human Rights Office – looks at three key areas: the abuse of intrusive hacking tools (“spyware”) by State  authorities; the key role of robust encryption methods in protecting human rights online; and the impacts of widespread digital monitoring of public spaces, both offline and online. 

The report details how surveillance tools such as the “Pegasus” software can turn most smartphones into “24-hour surveillance devices”, allowing the “intruder” access not only to everything on our mobiles but also weaponizing them to spy on our lives.

“While purportedly being deployed for combating terrorism and crime, such spyware tools have often been used for illegitimate reasons, including to clamp down on critical or dissenting views and on those who express them, including journalists, opposition political figures and human rights defenders,” the report states.

Urgent steps are needed to address the spread of spyware, the report flags, reiterating the call for a moratorium on the use and sale of hacking tools until adequate safeguards to protect human rights are in place. Authorities should only electronically intrude on a personal device as a last resort “to prevent or investigate a specific act amounting to a serious threat to national security or a specific serious crime,” it says.

Encryption is a key enabler of privacy and human rights in the digital space, yet it is being undermined. The report calls on States to avoid taking steps that could weaken encryption, including mandating so-called backdoors that give access to people’s encrypted data or employing systematic screening of people’s devices, known as client-side scanning.

The report also raises the alarm about the growing surveillance of public spaces. Previous practical limitations on the scope of surveillance have been swept away by large-scale automated collection and analysis of data, as well as new digitized identity systems and extensive biometric databases that greatly facilitate the breadth of such surveillance measures.

New technologies have also enabled the systematic monitoring of what people are saying online, including through collecting and analysing social media posts.

Governments often fail to adequately inform the public about their surveillance activities, and even where surveillance tools are initially rolled out for legitimate goals, they can easily be repurposed, often serving ends for which they were not originally intended. 

The report emphasises that States should limit public surveillance measures to those “strictly necessary and proportionate”, focused on specific locations and time. The duration of data storage should similarly be limited. There is also an immediate need to restrict the use of biometric recognition systems in public spaces.

All States should also act immediately to put in place robust export control regimes for surveillance technologies that pose serious risks to human rights. They should also ensure human rights impact assessments are carried out that take into account what the technologies in question are capable of, as well as the situation in the recipient country.

“Digital technologies bring enormous benefits to societies. But pervasive surveillance comes at a high cost, undermining rights and choking the development of vibrant, pluralistic democracies,” said Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif.

“In short, the right to privacy is more at risk than ever before,” she stressed. “This is why action is needed and needed now.” an Rights Office* – looks at three key areas: the abuse of intrusive hacking tools (“spyware”) by State  authorities; the key role of robust encryption methods in protecting human rights online; and the impacts of widespread digital monitoring of public spaces, both offline and online. 

The report details how surveillance tools such as the “Pegasus” software can turn most smartphones into “24-hour surveillance devices”, allowing the “intruder” access not only to everything on our mobiles but also weaponizing them to spy on our lives.

“While purportedly being deployed for combating terrorism and crime, such spyware tools have often been used for illegitimate reasons, including to clamp down on critical or dissenting views and on those who express them, including journalists, opposition political figures and human rights defenders,” the report states.

Urgent steps are needed to address the spread of spyware, the report flags, reiterating the call for a moratorium on the use and sale of hacking tools until adequate safeguards to protect human rights are in place. Authorities should only electronically intrude on a personal device as a last resort “to prevent or investigate a specific act amounting to a serious threat to national security or a specific serious crime,” it says.

Encryption is a key enabler of privacy and human rights in the digital space, yet it is being undermined. The report calls on States to avoid taking steps that could weaken encryption, including mandating so-called backdoors that give access to people’s encrypted data or employing systematic screening of people’s devices, known as client-side scanning.

The report also raises the alarm about the growing surveillance of public spaces. Previous practical limitations on the scope of surveillance have been swept away by large-scale automated collection and analysis of data, as well as new digitized identity systems and extensive biometric databases that greatly facilitate the breadth of such surveillance measures.

New technologies have also enabled the systematic monitoring of what people are saying online, including through collecting and analysing social media posts.

Governments often fail to adequately inform the public about their surveillance activities, and even where surveillance tools are initially rolled out for legitimate goals, they can easily be repurposed, often serving ends for which they were not originally intended. 

The report emphasises that States should limit public surveillance measures to those “strictly necessary and proportionate”, focused on specific locations and time. The duration of data storage should similarly be limited. There is also an immediate need to restrict the use of biometric recognition systems in public spaces.

All States should also act immediately to put in place robust export control regimes for surveillance technologies that pose serious risks to human rights. They should also ensure human rights impact assessments are carried out that take into account what the technologies in question are capable of, as well as the situation in the recipient country.

“Digital technologies bring enormous benefits to societies. But pervasive surveillance comes at a high cost, undermining rights and choking the development of vibrant, pluralistic democracies,” said Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif.

“In short, the right to privacy is more at risk than ever before,” she stressed. “This is why action is needed and needed now.”

Source: UN News

Time to Unveil Trump’s Basement Documents

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Whatever your feelings about former President Trump, there are reasons to be skeptical when government officials say it was necessary to raid his Florida home to recover classified documents that threatened national security.

Like the former president, I was once accused by the government of mishandling classified information connected to my representation of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing in my client’s file that posed any danger to national security. My client was an innocent shopkeeper who was sold to the Americans back in 2003 when the U.S. was paying bounties to corrupt Afghan warlords to turn in Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, and then shipping those men 8,000 miles to our newly built prison camp in Cuba. The government decided to classify every document in the detainee files as “secret,” not to protect national security, but so it could lie with impunity and tell the American people that the prisoners at Gitmo were the “worst of the worst,” and “terrorists” captured on the battlefield.

I never revealed any classified information. I got into trouble after writing an article criticizing the government’s practice of classifying certain evidence above the security clearance level of the detainee’s lawyer, making it impossible to challenge. Following a hearing at the Department of Justice, I was allowed to keep my security clearance long enough to see my client released back to his home and his family after 12 years of unjust imprisonment.

I was never in serious legal jeopardy. But the experience opened my eyes to the ways that our government abuses its power to classify information as “secret” to protect its own officials from embarrassment or criminal exposure. Since 9/11, the people most aggressively pursued for mishandling classified materials are whistleblowers, not traitors.

Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange revealed official crimes such as the murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and journalists. Daniel Hale revealed that our drone assassination program regularly slaughters innocent civilians, contrary to public statements about surgical strikes. John Kiriakou revealed inconvenient facts about our torture program. Edward Snowden revealed an illegal mass surveillance program. All these truth-tellers were aggressively pursued under the Espionage Act. Assange may die in prison for telling the truth about the crimes of our leaders.

While Trump may not fit the mold of a selfless whistleblower, there is still cause for concern. First, the official justifications for the raid on Mar-a-Lago are highly suspect. Initially we were told that Trump possessed “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” that he might sell to a foreign government like Saudi Arabia. This shocking accusation has been quietly dropped. Now we are told that the government has “grave concern” that Trump might blow the cover on “clandestine human sources” described in the mainstream media as the “lifeblood” of our intelligence community. “Disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source,” a former legal adviser to the National Security Council told the New York Times.

This second justification—to protect sources—is also dubious. The DOJ has been in negotiation with Trump’s lawyers since he left the oval office with his boxes of documents. If the government was just concerned about protecting its informants, a deal could have easily been struck wherein government lawyers would go to Mar-a-Lago and redact the lines in the documents that identify informants without the need for a full-blown raid.

The sudden concern in the mainstream media about protecting informants in order to take down Trump is short-sighted. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of using corrupt, lying informants to launch disastrous policies like the Iraq War. In 2002-03, we were told by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell that the government had “solid intelligence” that the Iraqi regime possessed mobile production facilities for biological and chemical weapons. Had ordinary Americans then had access to the intelligence reports—leaked years later, after the disastrous war was in full flight—we would have learned that the “solid intelligence” about mobile weapons labs came from a single informant named “Curveball,” who had been described by his handlers as “crazy” and “probably a fabricator” and his intelligence as “highly suspect.” Had some brave patriot leaked these reports in real time, millions more Americans would have taken to the streets in 2002 to stop the planned invasion of Iraq.

The media should be demanding more information from our government, especially about its use of informants, and not more secrecy. It is a basic rule of journalism that governments lie, and they often bribe (and sometimes torture) informants to support those lies.

Many innocent men, including my client, were sent to Guantanamo Bay on the word of informants who were bribed with large cash rewards. If these informants are the lifeblood of our intelligence service, then that service should be defunded.

A more plausible explanation for the Mar-a-Lago raid was provided by two high-level U.S. intelligence officials who told Newsweek’s William M. Arkin that the true target of the raid was a personal “stash” of hidden documents that Justice Department officials feared Donald Trump might weaponize. This stash reportedly included material that Trump thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges. “Trump was particularly interested in matters related to the Russia hoax and the wrong-doings of the deep state,” one former Trump official told Newsweek.

This explanation is corroborated by former senior director for counterterrorism Kash Patel, who prepared a key House report that revealed “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in connection with the Intelligence Community’s Assessment on Russian interference. But the CIA has blocked the release of Patel’s report by classifying it as “secret.”

Kash Patel, who is a current board member of Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), began his career in government under President Obama as a national security prosecutor and later held several positions in the Trump administration. In April 2017, he was picked to lead a team of investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Devin Nunes (now CEO of TMTG), and tasked with evaluating the “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) on Russian interference. Although the media touted the ICA as the consensus view of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, it was in fact a rushed job completed in the final days of the Obama administration by a small group of CIA analysts led by then-CIA Director John Brennan.

Patel’s team obtained and reviewed the key documents underlying the ICA’s conclusions, and interviewed around 70 witnesses under oath. His demands that intelligence agencies produce relevant documents caused a stir among deep state officials unaccustomed to being called to account for their actions. As the Washington Post reported, “Democrats criticized the unusual direct requests to the agencies” by Patel’s team of investigators. Patel, a former public defender, apparently believed that even the intelligence community should be subject to the rule of law.

In March 2018, Patel’s team produced a report that found serious flaws in the CIA’s Russia investigation and called into question the intelligence community’s key claims that Russia ordered a cyber-hacking and interference campaign to help Trump. The CIA’s response to Patel’s report was to classify it as secret and block its release.

During the next three years, Patel and others, including then-President Trump and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, pushed for declassification of Patel’s report on the ICA. But the heads of the intelligence agencies continued to obstruct, claiming that releasing the report “would compromise intelligence sources and methods” and cause “harm… to national security, including specific harm to the military.” Trump eventually backed down.

Then in December 2020, according to the Post, Trump tried to fire Gina Haspel as CIA director for “resisting efforts by Trump and Patel to declassify” Patel’s report. But once again, Trump backed down and the document still remains under lock and key. Not surprisingly, in its article about Patel’s battle with the intelligence community, the Washington Post sides with the CIA, describing CIA Director Haspel and her colleagues, who demanded that Patel’s report criticizing their work be kept secret, as “courageous officialswho sought to protect the government.”

Patel has publicly voiced his frustration with the CIA for blocking release of his report on the ICA. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel said in an interview. Patel also said he has been threatened with criminal prosecution just for talking to the media about his classified report. The power of government officials to say, ‘we have classified your report and if you even talk about it to the media we might put you in jail,’ is the power of a despot.

In an interview with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, Patel disputed the claim that releasing his report harms national security, noting that his committee released similar reports of its other investigations and “we didn’t lose a single source, we didn’t lose a single relationship, and no one died by the public disclosures we made, because we did it in a systematic and professional fashion.”

For example, in January 2018, Patel authored a report that showed serious abuses by the FBI in the Carter Page investigation, which caused a former FBI lawyer to plead guilty to falsifying information that was used to apply for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This report criticizing the FBI was released to the public, suggesting that it is still permissible to criticize the FBI, but not the CIA.

Patel’s public statements suggest his agreement with Newsweek’s report that the true motivation for the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was seizing documents relating to the Russia investigation that Trump took with him when he left the White House. In a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, Patel noted that “the same corrupt FBI government gangsters, the same agents that were involved in Russiagate, the same counterintelligence agents that were involved in making the bad false call on Hunter Biden’s laptop,” are also involved in the raid on President Trump’s home, with the intent to make sure the American public never gets the full story on Russiagate.

The saga of the Mar-a-Lago raid sheds some light on the important question of who really controls what we are permitted to see about the inner workings of our own government. While the sitting president may in theory have unilateral authority to declassify and release information to the American people, the deep state bureaucracy still holds the power to obstruct the president. As one former bureaucrat told CNN, the process for declassification must include signoff from the agency that classified the information in the first place “in order to protect the intelligence-gathering process, its sources and methods.”

Whatever one thinks of Trump, is it really in the public interest to have a deep state controlling what information gets out to the public? In 1953, the CIA directed a military coup that overthrew democratically elected Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, and in 1973, the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende. These leaders were targeted not because they were unfriendly to the American people but because they were unfriendly to international oil and copper interests that wanted to exploit those countries’ resources. And while the people of Iran and Chile knew in real time who was responsible, the American people were kept in the dark for decades until key historical documents were finally declassified.

Many scholars believe the CIA was complicit in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Yet 60 years later, thousands of key documents remain redacted or under seal. President Trump came to office promising to release those records, as required by the JFK Records Act. But deep state bureaucrats opposed the release, claiming it would cause “potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security.” Trump backed down, quite possibly recalling the fate of the last president to go to war with the CIA.

It’s not necessary to side with Trump to oppose excessive secrecy. It’s our government. We have a right to see whatever secrets Trump had hidden in his basement. And if government bureaucrats are truly concerned that one of their informants might be outed, they can redact those few lines from the reports. But show us the rest.

This article is distributed in partnership with Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Systematic Violence in Canada

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5 mins read

Violence against Indigenous women is “escalating like never before,” the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has warned. A series of tragedies have rocked the city of Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands) in recent months, including the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old Indigenous child, Noelle O’Soup, in May.

“Apathy and injustice prevail among the authorities while the intersecting crises of MMIWG2S+ [missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and others], the colonial child welfare system, homelessness, and the opioid crisis are literally killing our people,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, according to a press release by the organization.

Noelle O’Soup was found in an apartment approximately a year after she went missing from a group home in Port Coquitlam, while under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), British Columbia. Reports on the circumstances of her disappearance and the investigation into her death have revealed negligence by both the police and the government. “The major investigative oversight occurred despite multiple visits to, and apparent inspections of, the single room occupancy unit where Noelle O’Soup’s remains would finally be discovered,” stated Global News. Her case, unfortunately, is more the rule rather than the exception in Canada.

An Ongoing Genocide

In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) released its final report, declaring that the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people amounted to “genocide.”

The NIMMIWG emphasized that this genocide had been “empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”

The inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or [go] missing than any other women in Canada,” with the figure soaring to 16 times when compared to white women in the country.

A report by Statistics Canada released in April 2022 stated that 56 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46 percent have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Constituting approximately 5 percent of Canada’s population of women, Indigenous women accounted for 24 percent of all women homicide victims between 2015 and 2020, according to the Statistics Canada report.

The likelihood of experiencing violence seems to be higher in cases where Indigenous women live in rural and remote areas, if they have a disability, have experienced homelessness, or have been in government care—81 percent of Indigenous women who have been in the child welfare system have been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada.

“Across multiple generations, Indigenous peoples were and continue to be subjected to the detrimental harms of colonialism,” acknowledged the report. Not only are Indigenous children disproportionately represented in Canada’s child welfare system (52.2 percent), but advocates have also found that more children have been forcibly separated from their families now than during the brutal Indian residential schools period.

Along with its final report, the NIMMIWG also made a key intervention in prevailing definitions of genocide, stating that “In actuality, genocide encompasses a variety of both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of ‘slow death,’ and all of these acts have very specific impacts on women and girls.”

“This reality must be acknowledged as a precursor to understanding genocide as a root cause of the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the NIMMIWG added, “[n]ot only because of the genocidal acts that were and still are perpetrated against them, but also because of all the societal vulnerabilities it fosters, which leads to deaths and disappearances.”

‘The Police Don’t Protect Us’

The remains of Noelle O’Soup were found in Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood referred to as “ground zero” for violence against Indigenous women. Residents face disproportionate levels of “manufactured and enforced violence, poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization, and fatal overdoses.”

Approximately 8,000 women live and work in DTES, where the rates of violence have been more than double compared to the rest of Vancouver, according to data provided by the police.

Indigenous women have an acute vulnerability to violence, and yet the institutional response has been to stigmatize the women in DTES for having “high-risk lifestyles.”

“Harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated against Indigenous women are used as an ongoing tool of colonization to enforce their vulnerability to violence,” stated Christine Wilson, director of Indigenous Advocacy at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), in an interview with Peoples Dispatch.

In 2019, the DEWC published “Red Women Rising,” a historic report produced in direct collaboration with 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women in the DTES who knew Indigenous women who have experienced violence, have gone missing, or have overdosed. “Red Women Rising” was published in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG.

Echoing the argument put forth in “Red Women Rising,” Wilson reiterated that “the criminal justice system constructs Indigenous women as ‘risks’ that need to be contained, which leaves them unsafe and exacerbates inequalities.” Widespread bias within the policing system has not only influenced whether police take Indigenous women’s complaints seriously, Wilson explained, but also whether Indigenous women approach the police at all.

“The police don’t protect us; they harass us,” stated DJ Joe, a resident of DTES, in the report by DEWC. “Native women face so much violence but no one believes a Native woman when she reports violence.”

In cases involving missing or murdered women, there is a lack of proper investigation and adequate resources, Wilson stated, adding that family members of victims were subjected to insensitive and offensive treatment, alongside general jurisdictional confusion and lack of coordination among the police.

Police have also been actively hostile and abusive toward Indigenous women in Canada. They continue to be targets of sexual violence by police forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has been deployed on contract policing services in 600 Indigenous communities.

Lack of police and judicial protection also overlaps with criminalization, thereby exacerbating violence against Indigenous women and girls. Wilson added, “Indigenous women are more likely to be violently attacked by their abusers and then more likely to be counter-charged by the police, compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Colonial Patriarchy Poses the Highest Risk

As “Red Women Rising” outlined, “Settler-colonialism intentionally targets Indigenous women in order to destroy families, sever the connection to land-based practices and economies, and devastate relational governance of Indigenous nations.”

The report identified “[m]ultiplying socioeconomic oppressions within colonialism,” including loss of land, family violence, child apprehension, and inadequate services, which worked to displace Indigenous women and children from their home communities.

Forty-two percent of women living on reserves lived in houses requiring major repairs, according to the report, and nearly one-third of all on-reserve homes in Canada were food insecure, with the figure soaring to 90 percent in some areas. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Indigenous women lived off-reserve, in areas such as DTES.

Displacement is closely linked to housing insecurity, with all members of DEWC having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The violence that Indigenous women face is tied to poverty, which in turn “magnifies vulnerability to abusive relationships, sexual assault, child apprehension, exploitative work conditions, [and] unsafe housing,” stated the “Red Women Rising” report.

Not only are Indigenous women disproportionately criminalized for “poverty-related crimes,” but Indigenous families are also investigated for “poverty-related ‘neglect’” eight times more as compared to non-Indigenous families. “[H]igher stressors associated with living in systemic poverty such as drug dependence and participation in street economies are used against Indigenous women in order to apprehend Indigenous children, thus perpetuating the colonial cycle of trauma and impoverishment,” the report pointed out.

As a result, activists argue that what is needed is an “assertion of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction, and restoration of collective Indigenous women’s rights and governance,” and “individual support for survivors such as healing programs.”

“Red Women Rising” had made 200 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women. Meanwhile, the NIMMIWG had issued 231 “Calls for Justice,” stressing that they were legal imperatives, not recommendations. However, in the three years since the release of both these reports, the Canadian government has made “little progress.”

“While there have been crucial acknowledgments on the subject of violence against Indigenous women,” Wilson told Peoples Dispatch, “now we need actions. We need funds for reparations, we need housing, and we need clean water on the reserves.”

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

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