Sunday, March 10, 2019
Thirty-six countries have signed an open letter criticizing Saudi Arabia's human rights record.
The letter, read Thursday at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, is the first collective rebuke of the kingdom. It urges Saudi Arabia to release human rights activists jailed for "exercising their fundamental freedoms" and to "disclose all information available" about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"I call upon Saudi Arabia to ensure that all members of the public including human rights defenders and journalists can freely and fully exercise their right to freedom of expression and association including online and without fear of reprisals," Iceland's ambassador Harald Aspelund said during the session in Geneva.He called for the release of women rights defenders Loujain al-Hathloul, Hatoon al-Fassi and Samar Badawi and others jailed after campaigning for human rights in the country.Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that prosecutors were preparing a case against a number of the detainees for "undermining the security and sovereignty of the Kingdom."Reading from the letter, Ambassador Aspelund said "investigations into the killing [of Jamal Khashoggi] must be independent and transparent."The collective rebuke was signed by all countries in the European Union, as well as Iceland, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Montenegro. CNN has reached out to the kingdom for comment.
The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi's killing. Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target the journalist. Officials have also denied that jailed female activists have been tortured.The statement to the UN council came as Saudi Arabia appears to be facing renewed international pressure in recent days. Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday that the moment had come for states to take a stand against the kingdom's violation of rights.Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "This initiative at the UN Human Rights Council offers a rare opportunity for states to take a strong public stand against the catalog of human rights violations by the government of Saudi Arabia."States who stay silent risk abdicating responsibility at a crucial moment and sending a dangerous message that Saudi Arabia can continue to commit egregious abuses without being held to account," Morayef said.Earlier in the day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had slammed Saudi Arabia over the "apparently arbitrary arrest and detention" of the women rights defenders. Bachelet said: "The persecution of peaceful activists would clearly contradict the spirit of the country's proclaimed new reforms. We urge that these women be released."
And separately, US lawmakers in Washington condemned the kingdom's "gangster"-like abuses during retired Gen. John Abizaid's nomination hearing to be the Trump administration's first ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Lawmakers pressed Abizaid on the kingdom's domestic repression, the alleged detention and torture of activists and royal family members as well as the recent alleged torture of a US citizen. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the Crown Prince has "gone full gangster" before adding that "it's difficult to work with a guy like that."
While the actions by the UN appear to have ramped up, Gregory Gause, a Saudi expert at Texas A&M University, told CNN that on the diplomatic front, and in the US Congress, the momentum against Saudi Arabia has not stopped since the Khashoggi killing. Gause said the condemnation at the UN meeting will be concerning to the kingdom given that Saudi Arabia "unlike some other human rights violators, has always had good relations with the US and Western Europe." "These recent high-profile acts from the Saudi government make it harder for Western governments to sustain the relationship." Aware of the kingdom's negative image, Gause said efforts were already underway to alter the country's perception into something more positive with moves like the appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud as ambassador to Washington. Gause added that, ultimately, the Crown Prince is not going anywhere. "Riyadh is not going to accept that. The Crown Prince is running the show," Gause explained. "The issue here is just what an acceptable solution would be to the Western capitals."
BY CLAIRE FINKELSTEIN AND NICHOLAS SAIDELThe war in Yemen is a humanitarian catastrophe, with an average of 123 civilians killed or wounded every week and at least 14 million people at risk of starvation. The Saudi-led coalition is alleged to be committing war crimes in Yemen, yet the United States continues to supply materials and troops in support of the coalition, prolonging a bloody, inhumane conflict. Efforts to extricate the United States from this immoral war, however, are mired in politics, despite broad bipartisan sentiment in Congress for such a move and joint opposition to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Last week, House Republicans once again scuttled bipartisan efforts to withdraw U.S. support for the war with the passage of H.J. Res.37, which directs the removal of U.S. armed forces from participation in hostilities in support of the Saudi-led coalition. Unfortunately, Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) engineered a last-minute, unrelated amendment to the bill, de-privileging its status and allowing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to block the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate. At a time when bipartisan agreement is in short supply, deliberately sabotaging legislation is a significant failure of the U.S. democratic process. Had the bill made it through the Senate, the president likely would have vetoed the measure, and a veto override seems unlikely. Even if an override were attainable, however, this type of bill might not be the optimal path towards ending U.S. support for the war. Like many bills of its sort, it relies on the 1973 War Powers Act (WPA), passed at the end of the Vietnam War to reaffirm Congress’s war-making function in light of perceived executive overreach. Yet presidents have managed to sidestep the WPA — from Reagan in Lebanon to Clinton in Kosovo to Obama in Libya — by arguing that our military commitments do not rise to the level of “hostilities,” an undefined term in that legislation. Indeed, President Trump appears to have been gearing up for just such a move, as evidenced by several administration documents, including a letter from the Department of Defense to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) articulating a particularly narrow interpretation for the term “hostilities.” Moreover, the current bill contains various loopholes, such as the Buck Amendment, which allows for continued intelligence sharing with the coalition. Support for the Saudi-led coalition in any form, even remote intelligence operations, arguably exposes the United States to domestic and international liability, and puts the United States on the wrong side of history. A better strategy would be to seek to defund the coalition, as might be included in a defense spending bill such as the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). By contrast with H.J.Res.37, this strategy might be an effective way for Congress to reassert its constitutional war powers authority without giving the administration a way of getting out from under congressional constraints. There is precedent for this kind of move. During the Vietnam War, Congress chose to express its opposition to the war through a series of defunding bills that ultimately proved impactful. Notwithstanding President Nixon’s defiant claims about the breadth of his powers as commander-in-chief, in January 1971 Congress passed the Cooper-Church Amendment, which prohibited the use of appropriated funds to introduce ground troops into Cambodia. In 1973, Congress went further, attaching the Case-Church Amendment to a State Department appropriations bill. These amendments, which helped hasten U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, suggest that defunding military operations abroad can be an effective method for restricting the exercise of executive authority in war. One member of the previous Congress did pursue a conditional defunding strategy designed to hasten an end to the war in Yemen. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced an amendment to the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill that would have cut off funding for U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition until the Pentagon could certify that the coalition is not violating international law. Unfortunately, the amendment never came to a vote. But with growing animosity towards the Saudi kingdom, it may be time to revisit the Murphy amendment or other initiatives with the same aim. Quite apart from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudis appear to have provided al Qaeda with U.S.-made weapons in the fight against Houthi insurgents. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ignored a Feb. 9 deadline required under the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to certify that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are taking adequate precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and infrastructure. But it is notable that Pompeo’s previous certification overruled a recommendation from State Department experts not to certify these countries because of a “lack of progress on mitigating civilian casualties.” The recent setback with H.J.Res.37 is one of many signs that it is time for a fresh start in Congress’s attempts to curb the unfettered exercise of executive authority in war. Effective assertion of Congress’s war powers, along with a willingness to firmly condemn military campaigns that violate international law, would make defunding the war in Yemen beneficial as an exercise in congressional authority, even beyond the impact it would have on this crisis. https://thehill.com/opinion/international/432635-its-time-to-defund-the-saudi-led-coalitions-war-in-yemen
#SaudiArabia - Analysis - #MBS Has a BDS Problem: #Khashoggi’s Shadow Haunts the #Saudi Crown Prince
By Zvi Bar'el
October’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is still tripping up Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ties to the West.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been facing tough times lately. Lurking around every corner is the shadow of slain exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The most recent blow came in a report last week in the New York Times that revealed that the prestigious talent agency William Morris Endeavor had decided to return the crown prince’s investment of $400 million. The funding would have expanded the agency considerably and would have created a new source of income for the Saudi kingdom in its efforts to diversify its sources of income.
It’s only been a year since a Hollywood bash organized by Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel in honor of Prince Mohammed, the guest list for which included Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Disney CEO Robert Iger, an event that drew a large number of celebrities who came to shake the prince’s hand. Emanuel is the brother of Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, who is also the outgoing mayor of Chicago.
Ari Emanuel has a reputation as an unsentimental executive who is all business. When a man like him decides to return such an enormous investment, he likely has a thorough understanding of the damage that a relationship with the Saudi crown prince might inflict. Emanuel, who represents Michael Douglas, Sasha Baron Cohen, Conan O’Brien, Mark Wahlberg and many other high-profile celebrities, is also not the first to relate to Crown Prince Mohammed as the BDS movement does to Israel.
The pioneer when it comes to avoidance of Mohammed bin Salman was Richard Branson, the founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, who suspended his plan to invest in the historic Saudi city of Al-Ula, where the crown prince was planning to opening an Arab civilization museum and a number of other cultural sites. And last week, 36 countries, including 28 member states of the European Union, signed a declaration condemning the kingdom for its human rights abuses and the arrest of human rights activists. The statement called on the Saudi leadership to cooperate with the U.N. committee investigating the Khashoggi murder.
The board of directors of Milan’s La Scala Opera overturned its CEO’s decision to appoint Saudi Culture Minister Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud to the board. The CEO, Alexander Pereira, explained that he had invited the Saudi minister to join the board because the latter had pledged a “contribution” of $15 million over five years. Pereira called it a “great opportunity,” adding that such opportunities “don’t come by every day.”
But the explanation did not persuade the board. It was that same culture minister who purchased the Leonard da Vinci painting “Salvator Mundi” for the fantastic sum of $450 million, apparently for Crown Prince Mohammed, although publicly the purchase was said to be made for the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.The insult is not only personal to the crown prince. His persona non grata status also has an impact on his kingdom, which is facing possible passage of American federal legislation that could restrict U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, on the grounds that they are being used in the fighting in Yemen. This follows Germany’s announcement that it is extending its ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia through the end of the month.
Crown Prince Mohammed is also considered a threat at home, and according to the British Guardian newspaper, there is a rift between him and his father, King Salman. The schism follows suspicions that the crown prince is planning to depose his father.
The Guardian said that the son intended to move against his father during the king’s visit to Egypt last month, which is said to have led King Salman to have a special security force to accompany him on the visit, along with the replacement of Egyptian bodyguards. When Salman returned to Saudi Arabia, his son was not part of the welcome party, another indication that relations within the royal court are not ideal.
The king has also been angered by Crown Prince Mohammed’s decision to appoint Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan as Saudi ambassador to the United States and Mohammed’s own younger brother Khalid as deputy defense minister. Khalid was ambassador to Washington when the Khashoggi affair blew up and according to U.S. intelligence agencies, he was the one who advised the murdered journalist to go to the consulate in Istanbul, allegedly meaning that he played a part in the killing.
While the king was away
Crown Prince Mohammed made the appointments in the absence of the king, who found out about them through the media. Officially, the crown prince has the authority to make appointments in his capacity as the king’s deputy, but such high-level appointments are usually made by royal decree and certainly with the king’s knowledge.
Mohammed is also facing traps set by members of Congress for President Donald Trump, who continues to evade the demand for a serious investigation of the Khashoggi killing. This is even though Florida Republican Senator Mario Rubio has said Crown Prince Mohammed has “gone full gangster” and though South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham deemed “worthless” the confidential White House briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the killing.
Trump caved into political pressure and in November finally decided to appoint an ambassador to Riyadh, the first American ambassador to serve there since Trump took office. But at a confirmation for the nominee, retired General John Abizaid, who is a veteran of the first war in Iraq and an outstanding military talent, the nominee made it clear that his goal would be to maintain ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia. It will be interesting to see how he fulfills his mission when de facto control of the kingdom is in the hands of a murder suspect.
Retired General John Abizaid, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia, defended the U.S.-Saudi relationship on Wednesday as lawmakers accused the kingdom of a litany of misdeeds and criticized its crown prince as going “full gangster.”
Senators at Abizaid’s confirmation hearing including Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats condemned the kingdom’s conduct in the civil war in Yemen, heavy-handed diplomacy and rights abuses. Among those were the torturing of women’s activists and a U.S. citizen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Abizaid called for accountability for the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, and support for human rights, but repeatedly stressed the strategic importance of Washington-Riyadh ties.
Despite increasing tension between the two countries, the United States has not had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia since Trump became president in January 2017.
“In the long run, we need a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia,” Abizaid told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is in our interests to make sure that the relationship is sound.”
Abizaid, a retired four-star Army general who led U.S. Central Command during the Iraq war, is expected to easily win Senate confirmation.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Riyadh government, was killed at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in October. His death fueled simmering discontent in Washington over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and heavy civilian casualties in Yemen’s civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The Senate and House of Representatives have passed resolutions that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, an important rebuke of Riyadh. But Abizaid said the Trump administration believes strongly that U.S. support should continue.
“Doing so bolsters the self-defense capabilities of our partners and reduces the risk of harm to civilians,” Abizaid said.
It was also the confirmation hearing for Matthew Tueller, the current U.S. ambassador to Yemen and Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Iraq. He also defended U.S. support for the coalition.
Pakistan media can’t hope for peace by denying the reality on ground or about groups that have also caused havoc on Pakistani soil.
Alot has been said about the Indian media’s irresponsible coverage during the recent Pakistan-India conflict, but the Pakistani media’s role has been no better and was perhaps even worse, given its blatant censorship of crucial facts.
The popular narrative/portrayal that has gained ground is that Pakistan’s media appears to have taken a higher moral ground by saying it stood for peace while Indian media called for war in the aftermath of the terror attack in Pulwama.
However, the reality is a little more nuanced. It may be true that it advocated for peace, but that is the position the Pakistani military has pushed for, and has been doing for almost two decades now since both neighbours went nuclear: Fuel the conflict through non-state actors, deny Pakistan has anything to do with it, and then hide behind empty peace overtures.
Half-truths on Balakot
What’s more, many Pakistani journalists have been criticising the Indian media, with almost a self-righteous attitude. A news channel head in a television show recently said he was disgusted by the behaviour of Indian media, even though the network he runs has been involved in reporting half-truths about the Balakot air strikes.
How can the Pakistani media industry be sincere and committed to peace when it has been lying to itself and the public about some obvious facts surrounding the issue of militancy, particularly about this latest Balakot strikes, for which it has been mostly regurgitating what the Pakistani state is telling it to do.
One of the main facts that the local media has blacked out is the presence of Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) seminary in the area where the Indian bombs fell. Leading journalists like Hamid Mir and many more who went to the location of the bombing and did shows from the ground have not once mentioned the presence of the JeM seminary in their coverage, even though they recorded the show some meters away from it.
Using international media reports
Mainstream newspapers in Pakistan like Dawn have published stories aggregating content from international newspapers like the New York Times, Reuters, Guardian to call out Indian claims, but these reports completely ignored the fact that international media has also linked the seminary to a terrorist group.
Another thing that is conspicuous by its absence in the on-ground reporting by Pakistani media is the now-missing signboard of this seminary, which mentioned it was being run by Masood Azhar, the chief of JeM. The international media even reported how it was taken away last Thursday, after its photos went viral on social media.
It has also been reported by foreign outlets that access to this seminary is being repeatedly blocked by Pakistan army soldiers. Reuters reported Friday that they made three attempts to go near the seminary in the last nine days, but every time they tried, they were told by soldiers on sight that no one was allowed to visit the seminary due to “security concerns”. Again, there are no mentions of this in the local Pakistani media reports and commentaries.
Also ample evidence has come up online that this particular seminary was holding events where the JeM leadership recruited youngsters for jihad, as reported by the Al Jazeera, which shared evidence of an event happening in April 2018, just ten months before the Indian action of 26 February 2019, but the Pakistani media has not pursued this story angle either.
There has been a complete blackout of the February event in Peshawar city, reported by this paper, where the Jaish leadership (some of whom are under custody now) met and acknowledged that the Indian strike’s target was indeed their centre.
When the Pakistani government recently announced action against some of these Pakistan-based terror groups, including the JeM, even then the coverage was superficial. There were hardly any questions about why and how these groups have continued to expand in Pakistan when they were banned years ago.
How can this be called responsible journalism? By denying the reality on ground – about groups that have also caused havoc on Pakistani soil and continue to do so – how can the Pakistani media hope for peace?
History of silencing the media
Is the Pakistani media censoring voluntarily? Not really. Scores of Pakistani journalists have been beaten, arrested and killed in the country in recent years, for their critical reporting about the Pakistan Army. Just in the last one year, thousands of journalists have been fired from multiple local news organisations, some of which have even shut down in recent months due to an artificial financial crunch that media industry experts accuse the government of orchestrating. The government has even used treason, cyber-crime and counter-terrorism charges to silence the media.
Unlike the Indian media, where the problem seems to be of lack of professionalism, which can be self-corrected, the ability of Pakistani media to fight back doesn’t come easily, given the risks with challenging state-sanctioned censorship.
But if the Pakistani media supports peace in the region as it keeps professing to, it needs report openly about the presence of terror groups on its soil and ask the government some tough questions about the lack of action against them till now.
Time to unpack the notions that Pakistani women are fast progressing in terms of visibility, economic participation, women-friendly laws and increasing access to education.
he walls of the Dar-ul-Aman (Women’s Shelter) in Lahore are ten feet high and its metal gate is shut fast, giving it the look of a jail. Once you step inside, the impression that you are visiting a prison is only cemented further: women are not allowed to leave the premises, they cannot have mobile phones with them and many sleep on makeshift beds at night because the centre is forced to operate beyond capacity.
India once again called upon members of the UN Security Council to designate Masood Azhar, chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed that carried out attacks in India, as a terrorist.
پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے سابق وزیر اعظم نواز شریف سے کوٹ لکھپت جیل میں جا کر ملاقات کرنے کا فیصلہ کر لیا محکمہ داخلہ کی طرف سے اجازت ملنے کے بعد بلاول بھٹو دیگر پارٹی رہنمائوں کے ہمراہ کل بروز پیر کو ملاقات کرینگے ۔پیپلز پارٹی نے ملاقات کے لئے محکمہ داخلہ پنجاب کو درخواست دیدی ہے جس میں نواز شریف سے بلاول بھٹو کی ملاقات کی اجازت مانگی گئی ہے۔محکمہ داخلہ پنجاب نے بلاول بھٹو کی درخواست منظور کرتے ہوئے انہیں نوازشریف کی عیادت کی اجازت دیدی ہے۔ بلاول بھٹو پیر کے روز 2سے 5بجے کے دوران نوازشریف کی عیادت کیلئے کوٹ لکھپت جیل جائیں گے۔ بلاول بھٹو گزشتہ روز سے لاہور میں موجود ہیں اور انکے ہمراہ، قمرزمان کائرہ، سینیٹر مصطفی نواز کھوکھر اور جمیل سومرو بھی ملاقات کیلئے جائینگے۔