The Greek trial of 24 aid volunteers accused of people-smuggling got off to a shambolic false start on Nov. 18. The defendants were members of Emergency Response Center International (ECRI), an NGO that performed rescue activities in the Aegean Sea and provided humanitarian assistance to people in Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos between 2016 and 2018. Human rights groups say the accusations are part of a broader trend of governments across Europe criminalizing people providing humanitarian assistance to asylum-seekers and migrants. They have called on Greece to drop the charges, describing the case as "absurd."
Tensions on the European Union's eastern border escalated sharply this week as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation.
Two international human rights organizations accused six high-ranking members of the Belarusian security authorities of committing crimes against humanity in a criminal complaint filed in Germany Nov. 1. The complaint was filed with the German Public Prosecutor General by the Geneva-based World Organization against Torture (OMCT) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The complaint was filed in Germany because of its universal jurisdiction doctrine, which allows its courts to prosecute crimes against humanity that are committed anywhere in the world. As ECCHR program director for international crimes Andreas Schüller, stated: "We expect the initiation of preliminary proceedings by the Federal Prosecutor General against those responsible, as there is no foreseeable investigation into these violations of international law in Belarus itself."
Hundreds of residents in the southern Italian town of Riace took to the streets Oct. 1 to express support for their mayor, Domenico (Miimmo) Lucano, after he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges related to his policy of providing safe harbor for immigrants. Following a probe dubbed "Xenia" (ironically, the ancient Greek word for hospitality), Lucano was charged with "aiding and abetting illegal immigration" among other crimes.
A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has aroused rage from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces have been occupying the Crimean Peninsula since 2014. Bill No. 5506 was introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 18, the day that the Crimean Tatars commemorate Stalin's 1944 deportation of the entire people from their homeland. The law recognizes three indigenous peoples of Ukraine—the Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks. It guarantees these peoples collective and individual enjoyment of all cultural, educational and linguistic rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In Episode 79 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg marks the 26th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, and reads selections from Surviving the Peace: The Struggle for Postwar Recovery in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Peter Lippman. In his final chapter, "Atrocity Revisionism," Lippman deftly deconstructs the rank genocide denial we have seen from paradoxical icons of the "left" such as Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman. Presaging the similar denialism now seen concerning Syria, these "left" pundits created an impression among their gullible admirers that there was no genocide at Srebrenica—despite the fact that the remains of over 7,000 of the presumed 8,000 victims of the massacre have now been exhumed from mass graves and identified by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 76 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses and critiques The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort by Eric Laursen. Orwell and Comfort were divided on the question of Allied bombardment of Germany in World War II—although they both united to support the free-speech rights of anarchist anti-war dissidents. With fascism and genocide again emerging on the world stage, their quarrell sheds light on the contemporary wars in Syria, Libya and elsewhere—and how progressives and especially anarchists in the West should respond. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Policy decisions of European Union member states and Libya have caused thousands of deaths along the central Mediterranean migrant route, according to a report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released May 26. The report, covering the period from January 2019 to December 2020, is based on interviews with migrants, government officials and relevant experts. At least 2,239 migrants died during this period while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. In 2021 alone, at least 632 have died along the route. According to the report, the deaths were not a "tragic anomaly," and could have been prevented. The lack of human rights protection for migrants during their journey is a consequence of the "concrete policy decisions and practices" of Libyan authorities, the EU and its member states, and other actors.