In Episode 69 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi (Routledge 2020). While Noam Chomsky's critique of "humanitarian intervention" has merit, those who parrot it often act as if it simply ends the conversation—and, worse, engage in post-truth revisionism to deny that mass atrocities are even happening. The Nation magazine has repeatedly run lying propaganda that merely turns the realities of the Syrian war on their head, portraying the victims as aggressors. Contrary to the popular fiction of a "regime change" war, the US bombardment of Syria has overwhelmingly targeted ISIS—and has been coordinated with and approved by the Assad regime. And contrary to the unseemly gloating about the chaos in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi, there is a good case that the situation there would be worse, not better, if there had not been a "regime change" war. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
President Idriss Déby of Chad died following injuries sustained in fighting against rebels in the country's north, authorities announced April 20. The president's son, Gen. Mahamat Kaka, is said to be serving as interim president. Déby had just been declared provisional winner of another presidential term, with nearly 80% of the vote in the April 11 election. He had been in power for three decades. The rebel Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT) invaded the country from its bases across the border in Libya, in an attempt to disrupt the elections. Both sides are claiming victory after clashes in the northern region of Kanem, and FACT says that its forces are advancing on the capital, N'Djamena.
Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced on April 16 for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong's "Father of Democracy," and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: "The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government's intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city." (BBC News, NYT, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International)
The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups was released on April 2, highlighting the role of Moscow's military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, "A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War," is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The 198-page report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention.
In Episode 68 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg offers a meditation on the final demise of the millennia-old Jewish community in Yemen, as the last families of Yemeni Jews are deported by the Houthi rebels that hold the capital and much of the country's north. Largely ignored by the world media amid the ongoing horrors in Yemen, this grim passage poses challenges to some fundamental assumptions of both Zionism and anti-imperialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Hundreds of armed militants launched repeated attacks last week on Abu Zar displaced persons camp outside El Geneina, capital of Sudan's West Darfur state. The waves of attacks by presumed Arab militias on mostly Masalit camp residents claimed at least 100 lives and uprooted thousands, some acorss the border into neighboring Chad. Aid groups have suspended their operations, while a state of emergency has been declared across West Darfur. A similar series of attacks on camps around El Geneina in January left over 150 dead. Many accuse militias of stepping up attacks following the December withdrawal of a UN-African Union peacekeeping mission after 13 years on the ground in Darfur region.
The trial of the alleged mastermind behind the March 2016 murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres began in Honduras on April 6. Cáceres was slain when a squad of gunmen invaded her home at the village of La Esperanza, Intibucá department. A visiting Mexican friend, Gustavo Castro, was also shot but survived. Cáceres had been campaigning against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, then under construction by company Desarrollos Energéticos (DESA). Four of eight defendants were each sentenced in December 2019 to 34 years in prison for the murder of Cáceres, and 16 years for the attempted murder of Castro. Three others were sentenced to 30 years as co-conspirators in the crime. In the new trial that opened in a Tegucigalpa court, a former DESA president and military intelligence officer, Roberto David Castillo, is charged with being the "intellectual author" of the murder.
In snap elections April 6, Greenland's indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland's south, has divided the territory's political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the "potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths," adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resources owns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals.