Daily Report

Google to suppress footage of Israeli war crimes?

Israel's Maariv newspaper reported Nov. 24 that deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely met with representatives of YouTube and Google to discuss cooperation in what she called the fight against "inciting violence and terrorism." She told Maariv that  she especially sought to establish a joint working mechanism to monitor and prevent publication of "inflammatory material" originating in the Palestinian territories. Middle East Monitor writes: "Since the latest escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israeli security services that erupted at the beginning of October, many people have been sharing videos depicting Israeli aggression towards Palestinians to highlight the Palestinian perspective of the conflict." Activists and Arab newsmedia have "expressed concerns that the meetings suggest moves towards censoring Palestinian material on the part of the Israeli state."

Kurdish lawyer shot dead at press conference

A prominent human rights lawyer was fatally shot Nov. 28 while delivering a press statement in Diyarbakir, Turkey. Tahir Elci was an influential figure in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, and he was the head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. Elci was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after the shooting. Elci claimed he had received death threats in recent weeks via his Twitter account. Last month, Turkish authorities arrested Elci for his public statement that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organization. The PKK, a separatist group officially launched in 1984, is considered a terrorist group by the government of Turkey, the US and the EU. Two police officers and a journalist also suffered injuries during the shooting. The conflict between the government and the PKK has increased in recent months, after a two-year ceasefire. Following Elci's death, government officials have suggested that Elci was killed during a gun fight between the Turkish police and the PKK. The Diyarbakir Bar Association claim that Elci was targeted in a planned attack.

Taiwan: indigenous demand land restitution

Legislator Tien Chiu-chin of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party has issued a call to her fellow lawmakers to act on restitution of traditional lands to the country's aboriginal peoples. Her comments came at a press conference Nov. 24 where she was joined by Pastor Kavas, a member of the Bunun people, who said he had been harassed by security forces as he attempted to guide a small group of scholars into a forested area usurped from the Bunun. Kavas said that while guiding National Taitung University professor Liu Chiung-shi and his assistants through the forest near Jiaming Lake in Taitung county, they were stopped by a dozen police officers, who arrested the academics, citing a breach of "national security." Ironically, despite having been designated a restricted area by the Ministry of National Defense in 1993, the area has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, Kavas said. He called restriction of Bunun access to the area "beyond belief."

China releases journalist over declining health

Beijing's Third Intermediate People's Court on Nov. 27 released journalist Gao Yu on medical parole after the Higher People's Court upheld her conviction for leaking an internal Communist Party document to a foreign website. Though she did receive medical parole as a result of her health, the courts have refused to overturn her conviction which means she may still serve her sentence outside of prison. The Higher People's Court upheld the conviction on Nov. 26, also reducing her sentence from seven years to five. The trial of the seventy one year old freelance journalist prompted concerns from the international community who viewed the prosecution as part of a continued crackdown on journalism and free speech rights. Gao admitted to leaking the document at issue during a closed hearing, though the Mingjing News contends that it did not receive the document from her. Yu, who has been detained since 2014, received her initial sentence in April at which time she had plead not guilty.

Thai constitution would grant military immunity

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Nov. 24 that a proposed provision in Thailand's constitution would permit the nation's military to commit human rights abuses without fear of punishment, in violation of international treaties. A new constitutional provision before Thailand's legislative body, known as the the junta, or the National Council for Peace and Order, would exculpate the use of force by military personnel if the conduct is "carried out with honest intention" in the interest of national security. HRW referred to the constitutional amendment as a "license to kill." HRW acknowledged that Thailand's military forces have acted with impunity for decades, but stated: "International human rights treaties ratified by Thailand make clear that status as a government official does not permit immunity for serious rights violations. In addition, Thailand has international legal obligations to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious violations, including unlawful killings."

Pentagon: human error caused hospital bombing

The US Department of Defense (DoD) and Pentagon officials have completed their investigation into the Oct. 3 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan and announced on Nov. 25 that it was an "avoidable accident caused primarily by human error." Commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, stated that the hospital was targeted accidentally, and US personnel believed they were attacking a separate structure containing enemy combatants several hundred meters away. The investigation found that personnel did not complete full precautionary measures to verify the building was a "legitimate military target." Systems and procedural failures compounded the human error, resulting in the hospital bombing that killed over 30 and injured dozens. Military service members who were most closely involved in the bombing have been suspended, but Campbell declined to state how many.

Berbers symbolically raise Kabylia flag at UN

A large crowd of Berber (Amazigh) residents of Algeria's Kabylia region gathered Nov. 12 at the town of Bouzeguène (Wizgan in the Berber language, Tamazight) to symbolically raise the flag of their homeland. The action was called by the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (MAK), whose president Bouaziz Ait Chebib oversaw the ceremony. The MAK has been demanding recognition of Amazigh language and cultural rights in Algeria, and advancing a right to self-determination for the Kabylia region if these demands are not met. The crowd at Wizgan applauded when it was announced that the Kingdom of Morocco had committed to raise the issue of self-determination for Kabylia at the United Nations. (Morocco World News, Nov. 17; Siwel, Nov. 12)

Russo-Turkish pipeline route on hold amid crisis

With Moscow threatening sanctions against Turkey in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border, plans for a Russo-Turkish free trade zone appear be on hold—along with key energy projects. Foremost among these is the TurkStream gas pipeline, which Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Moscow could "restrict." (Reuters) TurkStream is being developed by GazProm, the Russian energy giant, to export Russian (and potentially Central Asian) natural gas through Turkey via the Black Sea. Ulyukayev's hedging is understandable: this has long been a strategic project for Moscow, which has long nurtured a grudge over the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline—linking the Caucasus to Turkish port of Ceyhan through a route that by-passes Russia.

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