Author: Friends of TFC

Case Takes UK Privacy Tribunal to European Court

Human Rights Watch and six individuals lodged a challenge with the European Court of Human Rights, demanding that the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal confirm whether or not they were subject to surveillance by GCHQ. The challenge, filed on November 4, 2016, also seeks to know whether or not any such surveillance was unlawful and comes after claims filed with the UK tribunal in 2015.

In the earlier case, the tribunal dismissed the claims of those applicants that were not UK residents. It issued a “no determination” finding for Human Rights Watch and other claimants who were present in the UK, without revealing whether they were subjected to surveillance that was lawful or they were simply not spied on.

Mosul Offensive: US Drops One Bomb Every Eight Minutes

During the first three days of the ongoing military operation to win the Iraqi city of Mosul back from Daesh control, the coalition carried out airstrikes at a rate of one bomb every eight minutes.

Iraqi security forces, assisted by the US-led coalition, the People’s Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Kurdish fighters are currently focused on liberating Mosul, the second largest city in the country and the last bastion of Daesh militants there.

Colonel Daniel Manning, deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, on Friday told Military.com in a telephone conversation that the intense bombing is what makes this anti-Daesh operation stand out, especially if you take into account that each of these bombs are precision-guided weapons.

Coalition partners apparently unaware that US had used depleted uranium in Syria

A parliamentary debate in Belgium appears to suggest that the US had not made its coalition partners aware that it had used DU in Syria last year. Responding to questions tabled by MPs Dirk Van der Maelen (Socialists) and Wouter De Vriendt (Greens) last Wednesday, government defence minister Steven Vandeput stated that Belgium had no knowledge of the use of DU ammunition during operation Inherent Resolve.

The question has particular resonance for Belgium because in 2007 it became the first country to ban the use of the weapons, a ban that entered into force in 2009. A fact acknowledged by the minister who described the country’s position as “pioneering”, and one that it would defend in international fora. However he also acknowledged that there is no international ban on the weapons. De Vriendt urged the minister to seek official clarification directly with the US and the minister gave his assurances that he would. He also asked whether the government could guarantee that Belgian F16s would not be used in coalition actions where DU might be used by the US.

The FBI Can’t Actually Investigate a Candidate Such as Hillary Clinton

The power above the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the US Attorney General, and, above that person, the US President.

That’s whom the FBI actually serves — not the US public.

This is the reason why the FBI is having such internal tensions and dissensions over the investigation of Hillary Clinton: Not only is she the current President’s ardently preferred and designated successor — and overwhelmingly supported also by America’s aristocracy and endorsed by the aristocracy’s press — but the top leadership of the FBI have terms-in-office that (unlike, for example, the term of the US Attorney General) do not end with the installation of the next President; and these people will therefore be serving, quite possibly, the very same person whom they are now ‘investigating’. This is the reason why James Comey, the FBI’s Director, let Clinton totally off the hook on July 5th, when he declined to present the case to a grand jury: he and the rest of the FBI’s top management violated three basic principles of trying white-collar-crime cases when a prosecutor is serious about wanting to prosecute and obtain a conviction against a person — he (and they) wanted to keep their jobs, not be fighting their boss and their likely future boss.

UK Royals must raise torture and death penalty on Bahrain trip

The Government must ensure that the UK Royal Family raise the issue of torture and the death penalty when they visit Bahrain in the coming week, human rights organization Reprieve has said.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are due to visit Bahrain this coming week (7-11th). The Government has said the trip will “strengthen the UK’s warm bilateral relations” with the country, among others in the region.

The visit comes amid growing concerns for an innocent man who faces execution in Bahrain, after he was tortured into a forced ‘confession.’ Mohammed Ramadan, a policeman and a father of three, was arrested in 2014 after he attended a protest. He was forced to give statements that he later recanted. His ‘confession’ was subsequently used as the basis for his conviction and death sentence.

Assange: Clinton Emails Prove Daesh Funded by Saudi, Qatari Governments

The US establishment and media are working together to stop US Republican nominee Donald Trump to become the next American president, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a special interview with John Pilger aired by RT.

In the second excerpt from the John Pilger Special, to be exclusively broadcast by RT on Saturday, Julian Assange accuses Hillary Clinton of misleading Americans about the true scope of Daesh’s support from Washington’s Middle East allies.

In a 2014 email made public by Assange’s WikiLeaks last month, Hillary Clinton, who had served as secretary of state until the year before, urges John Podesta, then an advisor to Barack Obama, to “bring pressure” on Qatar and Saudi Arabia, “which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Daesh and other radical Sunni groups.”

Losing Hearts and Minds: The Failed Drug War in Afghanistan

This week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that opium production in Afghanistan rose by 43 percent in 2016.

Afghanistan’s soaring drug production is occurring not in spite of our best efforts but because of them.

The report is disturbing on many levels. But it is especially disturbing considering the billions of dollars the U.S. government has thrown into Afghanistan attempting to eliminate poppy production. Since 2002, the U.S. has spent a staggering $12 billion trying to eliminate opium production in Afghanistan, a number four times the size of the entire economy in 2002.

Saudi Arabia to behead disabled man arrested after protests

The Saudi authorities have sentenced a young disabled man to beheading in relation to his alleged attendance at protests, it’s emerged.

Munir Adam, 23, was arrested in 2012 in the wake of protests in the country’s Eastern Province. He was tortured by Saudi police into ‘confessing’ to involvement in protests. Munir has impairments to both his sight and his hearing, following an accident as a young child. Despite medical records that confirmed his disability – and a doctor’s warning that further trauma could worsen his injuries – police beat Munir badly that he lost all hearing in one ear.

Munir was sentenced to death in the Kingdom’s secretive Specialised Criminal Court, in which three juveniles – Ali al Nimr, Dawood al Marhoon and Abdullah al Zaher – also received death sentences in relation to protests. Munir was forced to write his own defence after he was prevented from speaking to a lawyer. Facing charges that included using his mobile phone to organize protests, Munir recanted his ‘confession’, saying that he had only signed statements under torture. He denied the charges, telling the court that he comes from a poor family and had never even owned a mobile phone.

Japan to Join China and US in Contesting Rodrigo Duterte

The election of Rodrigo Duterte the President of the Philippines last May was seen as a landmark event in the tricky and dangerous contest unfolding in the waters of the South China Sea and in the Southeast Asia as a whole. Though this event has not overwritten the initial scenario of the geopolitical game played in the region, it certainly has altered it.

The main contestants, i.e., the US, China and Japan, cannot ignore the changes, as they might be indicative of a potential shift in the foreign policy of the country, the territory of which defines the eastern border of the South China Sea.

The geopolitical location of the Philippines renders its foreign policy trends strategically important. Has there been a shift in the country’s policy, and if so, in what direction?

Hong Kong: China Interferes in Judiciary’s Independence

China’s top legislative body is interfering with Hong Kong’s judicial independence by intervening in a politically charged court case, Human Rights Watch said today.

On November 4, 2016, the chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), Zhang Dejiang,announced that the committee will issue an interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s functional constitution. The Basic Law sets parameters for NPCSC interpretations of its provisions. This interpretation, which has not been requested by Hong Kong authorities, is expected to dictate the ruling of Hong Kong courts in an ongoing case involving two pro-independence members of the Legislative Council – possibly disqualifying them from office.

“Beijing’s intervention in this case may cause long-term damage to Hong Kong’s judicial independence,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “A highly politicized ‘interpretation’ by Chinese authorities would deepen fears that Hong Kong’s promised autonomy is under attack.”

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Put Right to Water at Center Stage

Since August, over 400 people have been arrested protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline –140 in the last week alone. This after the tribe sued the federal government in July, stating that they were not properly consulted about the construction project.

One underlying reason for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the construction of the oil pipeline is the tribe’s concern about safe drinking water. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lawsuit argues that the US government failed to properly consider the potential risks of the pipeline construction to the source of the Tribe’s drinking water.

Courts have twice denied the tribe’s request to stop the pipeline construction for now, agreeing with the government’s position that the Tribe was not sufficiently able to show that they were likely to win their lawsuit.

Turkey Arrests Co-Leaders of Main Kurdish Opposition Party

Two leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party have reportedly been detained, along with six party deputies.

“At night in Ankara police detained the party’s chairwoman Figen Yuksekdag, the door was broken during the storming of the house,” said a representative of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“Half an hour later, [chairman] Selahattin Demirtas was detained.”

At least six other HDP deputies were also apprehended as part of a “counter-terrorism” investigation, the representative added. Some reports suggest as many as 15 HDP members have been detained

World’s food and energy systems key to tackling global biodiversity decline

Global wildlife could plunge to a 67 per cent level of decline in just the fifty-year period ending this decade as a result of human activities, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016. The report shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth’s history and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled.

According to the report, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. This places the world on a trajectory of a potential two-thirds decline within a span of the half-century ending in 2020.

Fortunately, 2020 is also a year of great promise. In that same year, commitments made under the Paris climate deal will kick in, and the first environmental actions under the globe’s new sustainable development plan are due. If implemented, these measures, along with meeting international biodiversity targets set for 2020, can help achieve the reforms needed in the world’s food and energy systems to protect wildlife across the globe.

Walling Them Out, or Walling Us In?

Evading security cameras in the remote expanse along the U.S. border, three Guatemalans waited till dusk to slip illicitly into our country.

This is the stuff of Donald Trump nightmares — and if he were to witness such a scene, we can only imagine the furious rants that would follow.

But Trump will never see this scene or even know about it, because he’s facing south, fulminating against Mexicans and assuring his faithful followers that he’ll stop illegal entry into the U.S. by building a “beautiful, impenetrable wall” across our 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Northern Ireland govt refuses to suspend controversial Middle East security projects

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister has rejected calls to suspend security and justice projects with Bahrain and Egypt.

International human rights group Reprieve wrote to Stormont’s Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA, warning that a Northern Irish government-owned company, NI-CO, was involved in security and justice programmes that risked complicity in torture and death sentences in the Middle East. In his reply, the Minister refused to step in, claiming that responsibility lies with the UK Foreign Office and the European Union, who fund the multi-million pound projects.

However, NI-CO’s chief executive is ultimately responsible to the Economy’s Department permanent secretary, according to an official report. Last month, UK Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood failed to tell Parliament, when asked, whether he had warned the Northern Ireland Executive about the risks involved in NI-CO’s work.