Iran: dissident rapper could face execution
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran on April 6 urged the international community to demand the release of Toomaj Salehi, a popular rapper who has become a prominent voice of Iran's protest movement. Salehi was arrested in October, and charged with "corruption on Earth," which carries the death penalty, as well as "propaganda against the state," "collaboration with hostile governments," and other offenses punishable by up to 10 years in prison. No date has been set for the trial. Toomaj has been segregated from all other inmates in Dastgerd Prison, a maximum-security facility run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
UN panel: prosecute South Sudan officers
A panel of UN rights experts on April 3 named senior officials and military leaders in South Sudan who they say warrant criminal prosecution for their part in grave atrocities against civilians. A year-long investigation by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan details the involvement of both government and rebel leaders in widespread extrajudicial killings, as well as rape and sexual slavery.
Podcast: against global paramilitarism
In Episode 168 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the suddenly booming global phenomenon of paramilitarism—the official armed forces of a given state or its repressive apparatus seeking an extension in the private sector, citizen militias, or irregular forces. This is a method generally resorted to when state power is in crisis, and contributes to a general militarization of society. Examples from Russia, West Africa, Sudan, Burma, Ecuador, Israel and finally Texas point to a dangerous and ultimately fascistic new model of both imperialism and internal policing and repression. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Ghana's northern borderlands militarized
The government of Ghana is rushing hundreds of army troops to the northern town of Bawku, where a long-simmering conflict between two ethnic groups over control of the local traditional chieftaincy has exploded into open warfare. The fighting began in December, when members of the Mamprugu people installed a "parallel" chief, refusing to recognize the incumbent chief from the Kusasi ethnicity. Since then, some 30 local residents have been slain—many civilians killed in ethnically targeted attacks.
Israel's paramilitary plan advances
The Israeli cabinet on April 2 authorized plans for a paramilitary "National Guard" sought by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to target violence and unrest in Palestinian communities within Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that a committee comprised of Israel's existing security forces is to determine the guard's responsibilities, and whether it will be subordinate to the Israel Police or take orders directly from Ben-Gvir, as he demands. Opposition leader Yair Lapid responded by calling the plan an "extremist fantasy of delusional people," and slammed a decision to cut budgets from other ministries "to fund Ben-Gvir's private militia." (Al Jazeera)
'Systematic' human rights crisis in El Salvador
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 28 called for authorities in El Salvador to urgently address human rights concerns as the nation marked one year under a state of emergency. Authorities enacted the state of emergency on March 27, 2022 following a wave of gang-related murders. The measure was initially for 30 days but has been regularly renewed. Since March 2022, 65,000 people have been detained, and 90 people have died in custody. OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado stated that 7,900 complaints of abuses against prisoners have been lodged with El Salvador's national human rights body. According to the report, many detentions were arbitrary and founded on "poorly substantiated" investigations or "crude profiling." Conditions in detention have also declined significantly, and the UN has received reports of prolonged solitary confinement and inmates being denied prescribed medications. (Jurist)
Libya: 'crimes against humanity' —and European complicity
The UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya released a report March 27 finding grounds to believe Libyan authorities and armed groups have been responsible for "a wide array" of war crimes and crimes against humanity in recent years. The report further charged that European Union states have been complicit in crimes against humanity by Libyan forces targeting migrants trying to reach Europe. Legally barred from deporting migrants to Libya, EU governments instead give funding and technical aid to the Libyan Coast Guard, which has been accused of widespread "arbitrary detention, murder, torture, rape, enslavement and enforced disappearance" against migrants since 2016. (UN News, TNH)
Podcast: Belarus and nuclear escalation
In Episode 167 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines Putin's plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The Russian strongman's dubious justification for the move is the UK's decision to supply depleted uranium shells to Ukraine. Depleted uranium is indeed sinister stuff—but Russia itself has been already using DU weapons in Ukraine for over a year now! Russia's reckless occupation of the Zaporizhzhia power plant also represents a far more serious escalation on the ladder of nuclear terror than the use of DU. Putin further claims he is merely countering the NATO tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe. But NATO's warheads are stored in underground vaults, to be loaded onto plane-dropped gravity bombs if the Alliance makes a decision for their use. In contrast, Moscow has already placed nuclear-capable tactical missiles in Belarus—as well as in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, bordering NATO members Poland and Lithuania. If these were armed with warheads, it would represent a dramatic escalation in hair-trigger readiness. Additionally, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has now broached actually having Russian strategic ICBMs placed in his country. The civil opposition in Belarus has been effectively crushed in a wave of mass repression over the past three years—but an underground resistance movement is now emerging. This struggle finds itself on the frontline of the very question of human survival. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
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