A United Nations Human Rights Council report released on July 7 concluded that air-strikes on civilian infrastructure by Syrian government and Russian forces in Idlib and Aleppo provinces amounted to war crimes. The report, prepared by the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, assessed incidents that occurred from November 1, 2019, to June 1, 2020. The Syrian government and Russian Aerospace Forces carried out both land and air attacks, which destroyed civilian infrastructure. The report documented 52 "emblematic attacks" that led to civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. These included 17 attacks on hospitals and medical facilities as well as 14 attacks on schools.
The US State Department's newly released "Country Reports on Terrorism 2019" makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department's Counterterrorism Bureau last year "increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically, as white supremacist and nativist movements and individuals increasingly target immigrants; Jewish, Muslim, and other religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex (LGBTI) individuals; governments; and other perceived enemies. The CT Bureau is working with our law enforcement and foreign partners to take concrete actions to address this growing threat."
Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center is calling for the release of Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from the Siberian region of Yakutia (also known as Sakha), who has been forcibly interned at a psychiatric clinic. Gabyshev is best known for making multiple attempts to travel on foot to Moscow with the intention of "exorcising" President Vladimir Putin. The statement called Gabyshev a "political prisoner," noting: "He was deprived of freedom solely because of his political and religious beliefs." Memorial asserts that there are no legal grounds for involuntary hospitalization in Gabyshev's case.
Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) regained full control of Tripoli with the recapture of the city's airport on June 4—the last pocket held by the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces had been besieging the capital since April 2019. Haftar's forces fled east toward Tarhouna and Bani Walid, their last remaining strongholds in the west, with the GNA forces in pursuit. The GNA advance, dubbed Operation Volcano of Rage, follows reports last month that mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group, who had been fighting for Haftar, were being evacuated from Libya. This suggests that Russian support for Haftar may have been sacrificed in Moscow's new rapprochement with Turkey, the main foreign sponsor of the GNA. (BBC News, Libya Observer, Al Jazeera)
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency June 3 after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the region. The spill was caused by the rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant on the Ambarnaya River near the Siberian city of Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai. The plant is owned by Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company, a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), which is the world's leading nickel and palladium producer. The company had reportedly spent two days trying to contain the spill, before alerting the government. The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The director of the power plant, Vyacheslav Starostin, has been taken into custody but has not yet been charged.
International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced May 28. The next summit, officially dubbed the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year's summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. Instead, critical decisions were put off for COP26. This means a full two years will have passed before any progress can be made. (STV)
In a truly surreal irony, your trusty CounterVortex chief blogger (me, Bill Weinberg) just got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he's impressed with our website and inviting me to contribute to RT! Can this possibly be real? All I ever do is diss RT—an organ of Russian state propaganda that is openly serving the Putin-Trump agenda. Is this some "gotcha" thing, where Igor (or some imposter?) waits for me to take the bait by responding and then doxes me as a hypocrite? Or do they really think I'd sell out? Or are they just fishing around all lefty and "alternative" seeming websites without actually bothering to pay any attention to the content?
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on May 21 that the United States would formally submit notice the following day of its intent to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure signed in 1992 by the US, Russia and 33 other countries. The treaty, which took effect in 2002, allows each state-party to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others' entire territories to collect intelligence on military forces and activities. In accordance with Article XV, the US withdrawal will take effect six months after formally submitting notice. In a letter addressed to Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and President Trump, Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Adam Smith (D-WA) protest that the withdrawal is in violation of Section 1234 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the president to notify Congress at least 120 days before giving formal notice of intent to withdraw from the treaty. (Jurist)