Hands for Ahar mourns the 37 dead and hundreds injured in Bushehr

Hands for Ahar

On Tuesday, a 6.3-magnitude (or, according to other reports, a 6.1) earthquake struck the village of Kaki in the southwestern region of Iran called Bushehr, which is also the location of the country’s only nuclear power plant, injuring over 800 and killing 37 others.

Bushehr, Iran

Several aftershocks have been felt, the highest marking at a 5.3 magnitude. The power plant is reportedly unaffected by the earthquake, as the government – and the Russian organization that built the plant – released formal statements testifying that there had been no release or spills of nuclear material.

As rescue efforts wane, aid agencies are seeking to provide food and shelter to those affected. The Iranian Red Crescent, the primary agency by which aid was administered to those struck by the earthquake in the northwestern region of Iran last summer, is currently heading aid efforts. There is no word as of yet if…

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War with Iran is not the answer.

Not again.

There’s a resolution on the Senate floor (Senate Resolution (SR) 65) that would pledge American support to Israel in the case of an attack on Iran. Not only would this be detrimental to the moving-at-the-speed-of-molasses international talks with Iran, but, more importantly, the United States cannot afford to expand the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and another Iraq.

Feel strongly about this?

Check out the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), who very cleverly named their advocacy initiative “Don’t ‘Iraq’ Iran”.

The National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) also provides some talking points to bring up to your Senator.

Other sides of Iran.

I stumbled upon this recent Atlantic article, and in a frenzy of clicks here and tangents there, I’ve decided to compile a list of interesting websites, articles, blogs, etc. that have photos from Iran.

Check out pictures of everyday life in Iran. And these too.

A friend of mine, who studied at the Corcoran, frequents Iran and has pictures of it peppered throughout her professional photography website and Facebook.

Humans of New York went to Iran, and this is what he saw.

Here is some shameless self-promotion.

Finally, do you have any pictures of Iran you want me to link on this post? Comment or email me, and I’d be happy to include them!

“Struggling Under the Sanctions”: Petition to Help Iranian Students in US Universities

Please consider signing this petition by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) to ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow Iranian students with F-1 visas – who are increasingly finding it difficult to pay their tuition given the depreciation of the Iranian rial due to sanctions – the opportunity to work off-campus, an ability that they do not currently have with those visas.

Also see what good work Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) is doing to help struggling Iranian students.

Being an American citizen just doesn’t have the same perks anymore.

NBC News reported yesterday that that they had in their possession a declassified document that permits the targeted killing of individuals who are part of terrorist groups…even if they’re American citizens.

This Department of Justice (DOJ) “white paper” (click here for the actual document) is a shortened version of a much longer 2010 legal memo that solidifies governmental approval for extrajudicial killings if the individual if “‘an informed, high-level official’ deems him to present a ‘continuing’ threat to the country…even if the target has never been charged with a crime or informed of the allegations against him, and even if the target is not located anywhere near an actual battlefield.”

The ACLU does a great job walking through the paper’s contradictions. They’re also in the throes of a FOIA request regarding the targeted killings of three US citizens in Yemen; legal memos surrounding the al-Awlaki and Khan killings are still secret.

Here is another comprehensive walk-through of the white paper and its implications by David Cole. 

Lawfare thinks you should “calm down about it” and does a great walk-through of what the paper “is and isn’t”.

Obama granted congressional intelligence committees with classified DOJ legal memos regarding the targeted killing of Americans abroad. An ex-Obama aide (and military bigshot) is quoted in the New York Times as thinking that the direction the administration is headed in the context of targeted killings via drones is counter-productive in decreasing the incidence of religious extremism in the Middle East. Here’s the money quote: ““We’re seeing that blowback,” General Cartwright, who is retired from the military, said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.””

Consult these five myths about drones, according to Mark Jacobsen of the German Marshall Fund, to see if you agree.

The House Judiciary held a hearing on “Drones Targeting American Terrorist Suspects Overseas”, which you can view in its entirety here.

Here’s a senatorial blowback (11 to be exact) to the white paper, calling on President Obama to “ensure that Congress is provided with secret legal opinions outlining [his] authority to authorize the killing of Americas in the course of counterterrorism operations”.

What’s “Incitement to Genocide?”

I just learned that this morning there was a conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, DC titled “Hate Speech and the Incitement to Genocide”. My boss, who attended it, explained that “incitement to genocide” is the intersection of when hate speech activates action that ends in genocide. The central point of the conference is a truly fascinating notion that explores power dynamics and group psychology and over-arching themes in international war crimes and civil rights. Speakers at the conference included greats such as the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Opinion and Expression Rafael Frank La Rue Lewy, the Ambassador of Norway to the United States Wegger Chr. Strommen, and the UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, among several others.

Interested in learning more about the “incitement to genocide”? Check out the Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Freedom of Opinion and Expression’s most recent report here; take particular note about the “criminalization of expression” on pages 14-16, paragraphs 78-91. Also check out the Holocaust Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia entry about the subject here. Finally, see what Physicians for Human Rights is doing to mass atrocities here.

Spanish Supreme Court Trial of Six Bush-era Lawyers Continues

DISCLAIMER: This is my initial draft for a blog post I wrote for work. This is a link to the actual blog post that was published on Physician’s for Human Rights’ website that my boss, Kristine Huskey, edited heavily – and well, I might add! I would like to credit her for the conceptualization of this initial draft.

Have you heard about the Spanish Supreme Court trying six Bush-era lawyers? The case concerns the accountability of six Bush-era lawyers where each was alleged in participating or aiding and abetting the torture and other serious abuses of persons detained at US detainment facilities at Guantanamo and other overseas locations.

In March 2009, a criminal complaint was filed by the Spanish Association for the Dignity of Male and Female Prisoners of Spain against “The Bush Six”: John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes, David Addington, and Douglas Feith. The complaint cites various international law instruments as justification for prosecution, namely the Geneva Conventions and its subsequent Additional Protocols, as well as the Convention against Torture.

In response to Judge Velasco’s International Rogatory Letters – intended to determine the appropriate jurisdiction for the complaint – the US government upheld that they were adequately investigating torture allegations of detainee mistreatment, citing the criminal prosecutions of defense contractors David Passaro and Don Ayala, and called for the complaint to be sent to the US for further investigation, “if appropriate”, by US authorities. CCR and ECCHR responded to their submission by demonstrating that the United States had not and would not “investigate or prosecute the defendants or the punishable acts” and therefore Spain should uphold universal jurisdiction in order to prosecute the egregious human rights violations committed by the US.

The Central Court Number 6 ruled on April 13, 2011, in an order by investigative magistrate Judge Velasco, that the US was sound in its investigations of torture allegations in its respective court system. To counter the decision by the Court, the Association filed an appeal, yet the decision was again upheld by Section Three of the Criminal Division of the National Court ruled, by majority, which found that the appeal should be dismissed and the original decision upheld. The Association filed an appeal on June 12, 2012 before the Spanish Supreme Court (Audiencia Nacional), and this amicus brief will support the appeal on the grounds that there have not been and are not currently any criminal investigations of former senior-level Bush administration officials for creation or implementation of a detention and interrogation policy that culminated in cruel and unusual punishment and treatment of prisoners and other serious violations of international law.

A recent amicus brief  by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights (ECCHR) on upholds the principle of universal jurisdiction in international law, which means that Spain has the right to try these six individuals since the US will not. The March 2011 US Submission clearly states that the Department of Justice has no intention to “bring criminal cases with respect to any other executive branch officials, including those named in the complaint, who acted in reliance on [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda during the course of their involvement with the policies and procedures for detention and interrogation”, despite having the legal framework to do so. The brief further illustrates that the US Attorney General has virtually shielded involved US officials after preliminary investigations into a number of interrogation cases “excluded from prosecution ‘anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.’”

This case and subsequent amicus brief is particularly significant in the wake of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Aug. 30th decision to cease the Department of Justice investigation into the deaths of two prisoners tortured in US federal custody on the grounds that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt”, only further demonstrating the US government’s continued avoidance of holding accountable those involved in the torture of US detainees and continued indifference for torture as cruel and unusual punishment by hiding behind shadows and technicalities instead of utilizing the US legal system as it was intended to come to terms with the vast amount of human rights violations committed by the pens of Bush administration legal counsel and the hands of US military personnel, and restoring its once-golden reputation as a champion of human rights, globally.