Lithuania

Belarus 'votes' to abandon nuclear-free status

Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions." 

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia has lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow's Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected Feb. 12 off Urup Island, where Russia's Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at "maximum speed." The statement accused the US of a "violation of Russia's state border." The Pentagon issued a statement, saying: "There is no truth to the Russian claims of our operations in their territorial waters." US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin spoke by phone for an hour later that day to discuss Ukraine, but according to the Kremlin the Kurils incident was not brought up. (TASS, Reuters)

Fascist pseudo-anti-fascism in Belarus

Let's start by stating the obvious. Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Since 1994, Lukashenko has maintained power through the usual admixture of electoral fraud, party patronage and state terror. When the fraud became a bit too blatant in last August's presidential race, the country exploded into protest. Lukashenko unleashed riot squads and army troops on the protesters, but the movement stayed strong—for months holding weekly demonstrations demanding the fall of the regime. This movement was finally beaten back in a wave of harsh repression earlier this year; tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anti-fascists and anarchists have been particularly singled out for persecution under Lukashenko, and the current wave of terror has been no exception. Regime propaganda has been periodically punctuated by paranoid anti-Semitism. And this machinery of repression has, of course, been amply lubricated by foreign capital, which has invested heavily in the regime.

Growing police-state measures in face of COVID-19

As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Particularly naming the popular organization Kadamay as planning protests, Duterte said April 1: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends]. I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military...that if there is trouble... shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." (Rappler)

ICC approves Afghanistan war crimes investigation

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 5 unanimously approved an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both sides in the Afghanistan conflict. The investigation will focus on "alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan." The Pre-Trial Chamber had rejected a request to open an investigation last year, but the prosecutor appealed based on Article 15 of the Rome Statute. The appeal attempts to resolve the apparent disparity between Article 15, mandating investigations when a prosecutor provides a "reasonable basis to proceed," and Article 53, which allows the court discretion in the interest of justice.The Appeals Chamber’s decision overturned the Pre-Trial Chamber's ruling on the grounds that the determination that the investigation "would not serve the interests of justice" and was an abuse of discretion.

Lithuania, Romania guilty in CIA torture case

The European Court of Human Rights on May 31 found that Lithuania and Romania violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF)  by allowing secret CIA prisons to operate on their territory. Lithuania had allowed the CIA to open a "black site" on where agents subjected the applicant, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn AKA Abu Zubaydah, to "ill-treatment and arbitrary detention." Lithuania must pay Husayn 130,000 euros (over $150,000). The applicant in the Romania case, Abd al-Rahim Husseyn Muhammad al-Nashiri, was transported to a "black site" on that country's territory, and faced capital charges in the US. The court censured Romania for transferring al-Nashiri to the US when it was likely he would face the death penalty. Romania must pay the applicant 100,000 euros (over $115,000). Both men remain interned at Guantánamo Bay.

ICC to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request (PDF) on Nov. 20 to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US military and the CIA. The proposed investigation focuses on alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan by the US military in May 2003, in addition to crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania since July 2002. The allegations are brought under articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute and include murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence, and using, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years.

Trump-Putin breach portends global catastrophe

Well, this is some very telling—and deeply disturbing—timing. Let's review what has happened in the one day since Mike Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor over his pre-election phone calls with the Russian ambassador. Trump, having heretofore been completely acquiescing in Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea, now tweets: "Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?" On the very day of  Flynn's resignation, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said: "President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea." (Russia's Foreign Ministry quickly responded, no dice: "Crimea is part of the Russian Federation.") Also that fateful day, the Pentagon said that multiple Russian military aircraft buzzed a US Navy destroyer in the flashpoint Black Sea, in "unsafe and unprofessional" maneuvers. This is said to have happened last week, but it is notable that it is only reported now. Russia of course denies it. (RFE/RL)

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