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A drone victim who was due to travel to Europe this week to give evidence to parliamentarians was detained on 5 February by unknown elements of the Pakistani police and has not been seen since, according to his family.
Kareem Khan, who is also involved in legal proceedings against the Pakistani Government concerning their failure to investigate the deaths of his son and brother in a drone strike, was seized in the early hours at his home in Rawalpindi by 15-20 men in police uniform and plain clothes, say witnesses.
The men did not disclose their identities and no reason was given for the detention. Mr. Khan's wife and young children were present at the time, as was a neighbour.
Despite numerous inquiries to the Pakistani police, Mr. Khan's family has yet to be able to locate Mr. Khan or discover why he was detained. Today, Reprieve's local partner, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, filed habeas proceedings on behalf of the family before the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Branch.
Mr. Khan was due to travel to Europe this Saturday, where he was scheduled to speak with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his personal experience with drone strikes and the impact such strikes are having on his country. He was also scheduled to talk about his work as a freelance journalist investigating other strikes in the region.
Mr. Khan is also involved in legal proceedings on behalf of his brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher, and his son Zahinullah. Mr. Khan has requested the courts order the Pakistani police to launch a criminal investigation into the strike, arguing it constitutes murder under domestic law. The next hearing date before the Islamabad High Court is scheduled for tomorrow, 11 February 2013.
Clare Algar, Executive Director of legal charity Reprieve, said: "We are very worried about Mr Khan's safety. He is a crucial witness to the dangers of the CIA's covert drone programme, and has simply sought justice for the death of his son and brother through peaceful, legal routes. Reports that he was detained by men in police uniforms are of great concern, and we urge the Government of Pakistan to do everything in its power to secure his immediate release."
Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for Kareem Khan, and Director of legal charity the Foundation for Fundamental Rights said: "It is a shame that Nawaz Sharif has allowed Pakistan to be a police state, where no fundamental rights are available to its citizens. Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes. Why are the powers that be so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts? Kareem Khan deserves justice and due process and he should be freed immediately of his illegal captivity."
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact: Zarmeeneh Rahim at the Foundation for Fundamental Rights: Zarmeeneh.Rahim@rightsadvocacy.org / 051-2293103 Or Reprieve's press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / email@example.com
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.
The findings from a World Meteorological Organization report released Monday are another example of how those who did the least to cause the climate crisis are most vulnerable to its impacts.
More than 90% of the people killed in extreme weather events during the last half-century lived in the Global South, a new World Meteorological Organization report has found.
The figure came from an update Monday to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate, and Water-related Hazards to cover the years 1970 to 2021. The U.N. agency counted a total of 11,778 extreme weather, climate, or water-related disasters during that time period, which claimed more than two million deaths and cost $4.3 trillion in economic losses.
"The most vulnerable communities unfortunately bear the brunt of weather, climate and water-related hazards," WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
\u201cExtreme weather, climate and water-related events caused 11 778 reported disasters between 1970 and 2021, with just over 2 million deaths and US$ 4.3 trillion in economic losses, according to new figures presented to #MeteoWorld.\nhttps://t.co/nghvQG67OY\u201d— World Meteorological Organization (@World Meteorological Organization) 1684741218
While more than 60% of the economic losses caused by these storms occurred in developed nations—with 39% occurring in the U.S. alone—developing nations were disproportionately harmed financially relative to the size of their economies. None of the events in the Global North cost a country more than 3.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP), and over four-fifths of these disasters cost less than 0.1% of GDP. In Least Developed Countries, however, 7% of the disasters took out a more than 5% chunk of their GDPs, and some cost them as much as 30%. Small Island Developing States were hit especially hard, with 20% of disasters having an impact worth more than 5% of their GDPs and some costing more than 100% of local GDP.
Taalas offered the example of Cyclone Mocha, which bore down on the world's largest refugee camp in the Bangladeshi city of Cox's Bazar on May 14. The Category 5 storm killed at least 145 people in Myanmar and destroyed thousands of shelters in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp, BBC Newsreported.
"It caused widespread devastation in Myanmar and Bangladesh, impacting the poorest of the poor," Taalas said.
In general, Asia accounted for 47% of all reported deaths from extreme weather events, and tropical cyclones were the leading cause. Of Asia's 984,263 deaths, Bangladesh accounted for more than half of them at 520,758—the highest death toll for any nation in the region and a higher number than the total death toll for the regions of Europe; North America, Central America, and the Caribbean; South America; and the South-West Pacific.
"Both vulnerability to current climate extremes and historical contribution to climate change are highly heterogeneous with many of those who have least contributed to climate change to date being most vulnerable to its impacts."
The findings are a clear example of climate injustice—as those who did the least to contribute to the crisis disproportionately suffer its impacts. All of the disasters considered in the study—droughts, extreme temperatures, flooding, glacial lake outbursts, landslides, storms, and wildfires—are becoming more extreme, more frequent, or both because of climate change due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels, and their impacts are not evenly distributed.
"Both vulnerability to current climate extremes and historical contribution to climate change are highly heterogeneous with many of those who have least contributed to climate change to date being most vulnerable to its impacts," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in its most recent Synthesis Report.
In 2009, developed nations pledged $100 billion a year through 2020 to help developing nations both adapt to the climate crisis and reduce their emissions, as Eurodad explained in a 2022 analysis. The 2020 deadline was later extended to 2025. However, as of 2020, nearly 50% of the promised amount had not been paid.
The most recent U.N. Adaptation Gap Report moreover found that the money the Global North is sending to the Global South to help it adapt is five to 10 times below what it actually needs.
At 2022's COP27, wealthier nations agreed to a second Loss and Damage fund to help poorer nations pay for the inevitable harms already caused by the climate crisis. However, in a peer-reviewed paper published in One Earth on Friday, Marco Grasso and Richard Heede argued that the lengthy process involved in organizing and financing such an agreement—as well as the delay in other climate finance—meant that major fossil fuel companies should step in to help foot the bill.
"The recent progress in climate attribution science makes it evident that these companies have played a major role in the accumulation and escalation of such costs by providing gigatonnes of carbon fuels to the global economy while willfully ignoring foreseeable climate harm," Grasso and Heede wrote. "All the while they successfully shaped the public narrative on climate change through disinformation, misleading 'advertorials,' lobbying, and political donations to delay action directly or through trade associations and other surrogates. Fossil fuel companies have a moral responsibility to affected parties for climate harm and have a duty to rectify such harm."
\u201c#BigOil knew about climate change, but failed to act. How much do the biggest fossil fuel companies owe the world in reparations? Important new Commentary from @MGGrasso and @rickheede. Read (Open Access!) here: https://t.co/iEbrTCZBzz\u201d— One Earth (@One Earth) 1684510048
The two authors calculated that the top 21 fossil fuel companies owed a total of $5.4 trillion in reparations from 2025 to 2050, with Saudi Aramco, Russia's Gazprom, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP owing the most.
"The analysis offers a starting point for much needed action to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their financial responsibilities," Greenpeace International general counsel Kristin Casper said in response to the findings. "Now, communities on the frontline of environmental breakdown can decide how to wield the study's powerful findings in their own struggles for justice."
There was some good news in the WMO report. While the yearly cost of extreme weather disasters has increased over the last 51 years, the death toll has decreased due to early warning systems. For example, Cyclone Nargis in 2008 killed 138,366 people in Myanmar and Bangladesh, a toll much higher than Mocha's.
"Thanks to early warnings and disaster management these catastrophic mortality rates are now thankfully history," Taalas said. "Early warnings save lives."
The WMO published its findings to coincide with the World Meteorological Congress, which launched Monday with a talk on extending early warning systems to every country on Earth by 2027, a goal spearheaded by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. Currently, these systems only cover around half of all countries, and Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries, and Africa nations are especially left out.
"Delivering #EarlyWarningsForAll can be the game changer to address the massive injustice of loss that communities face from the climate crisis," Jagan Chapagain, secretary general and CEO of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said at the conference.
"Unless U.S. surveillance laws get fixed," said one privacy campaigner, "Meta will have to fundamentally restructure its systems."
Facebook and its parent company, Meta, will soon be forced to "fundamentally" change its social media platform's structure, said one advocate following a ruling announced Monday by a data privacy panel in Ireland.
The Data Protection Commission in Ireland, where Facebook has its European Union headquarters, announced that the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) found the tech company liable for a $1.3 billion fine for transferring and storing data from E.U. users to the United States. The company was given six months to return all personal data to data centers in the E.U. and to stop transferring the information, including photos, communications, and information gathered for targeted ads.
The ruling comes three years after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) determined that data sent from the E.U. was not sufficiently protected from government spying in the U.S. The EDPB on Monday said Facebook has refused to comply with that ruling and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of privacy laws passed five years ago.
By transferring and storing the data of millions of E.U. users, Facebook committed "systematic, repetitive, and continuous" infringements of European users' rights, the EDPB found.
"Facebook has millions of users in Europe, so the volume of personal data transferred is massive," said Andrea Jelinek, chair of the EDPB. "The unprecedented fine is a strong signal to organizations that serious infringements have far-reaching consequences."
A number of tech observers said the monetary fine is relatively inconsequential to the $562 billion company, but pointed to the order that Facebook delete "a decade of data" that it's relied on for targeted advertising.
\u201cBAM. There it is, PAGE 253 of the order. Facebook has to delete all of its illegally collected EU data from storage. They\u2019re also being fined $1.3 BILLION but as I\u2019ve said that\u2019s the insignificant hit to its surveillance capitalism business model.\u201d— Jason Kint (@Jason Kint) 1684752624
The "imposition of a major fine reflects the company's continuous failure to secure the data of its users and comply with regulators," said the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a coalition of academics, journalists, and civil rights campaigners. "Meta is one of a few large companies that rely on contractual clauses to allow unfettered access to users' data. Fines may not force Meta to change its behavior, but they are a critical reminder that the company has been found, yet again, to have broken the law."
Susan Li, chief financial officer of Meta, told investors last month that the company makes 10% of its worldwide ad revenue from ads in European countries, suggesting it relies heavily on the practices the EDPB has ruled it must end.
Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy activist who won the case that went to the ECJ in 2020 regarding E.U.-U.S. data sharing, noted that "the fine could have been much higher, given that the maximum fine is more than $4 billion and Meta has knowingly broken the law to make a profit for ten years."
However, "unless U.S. surveillance laws get fixed," said Schrems, "Meta will have to fundamentally restructure its systems."
The U.S. and E.U. are currently working out a data sharing agreement to replace the "Privacy Shield" pact that was struck down in 2020.
To enable Facebook and other companies to continue moving information from the E.U. to the U.S., said Schrems, "the simplest fix would be reasonable limitations in U.S. surveillance law" to assure European officials that users will not be put at risk by American spy agencies.
"There is an understanding on both sides of the Atlantic that we need probable cause and judicial approval of surveillance," said Schrems. "It would be time to grant these basic protections to E.U. customers of U.S. cloud providers. Any other big U.S. cloud provider, such as Amazon, Google or Microsoft could be hit with a similar decision under E.U. law."
Congress is set to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) this year, and the law is a frequent target of privacy advocates who object to the mass collection of geolocation data and other rights abuses.
Without far-reaching changes to surveillance in the U.S., said Schrems, "the long-term solution seems to be some form of 'federated social network' where most personal data would stay in the E.U., while only 'necessary' transfers would continue—for example when a European sends a direct message to a U.S. friend."
Facebook said Monday that it plans to appeal the decision, but Schrems said the company can likely only "delay the payment of the fine for a bit."
"There is no real chance," he said, "to have this decision materially overturned."
"We are urging the U.N. to listen to the millions of people around the world who want an end to plastic pollution, rather than the interests of the oil and gas lobby."
More than 170 civil society groups and scientists warned Monday that lobbying by the deep-pocketed fossil fuel and petrochemical industries poses a dire threat to efforts to establish an effective global treaty curbing plastic pollution, which has inundated communities, waterways, and oceans across the planet with toxic waste.
In a letter to U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) executive director Inger Andersen and Intergovernmental Negotiations Committee for Plastics executive secretary Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, 174 advocacy organizations and scientists wrote that "the fossil fuel lobby is actively working to prevent the Plastics Treaty from containing essential controls on plastic production."
"Given the industry's power and influence—both within the U.N. and over national and regional governments—there is a strong risk that, unless measures to inhibit their influence are put in place, it will be impossible to negotiate the Global Plastics Treaty that people and the planet need," reads the letter, which comes a week before the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-2) is set to begin in Paris.
The letter's signatories are calling on the U.N. to take concrete steps to resist lobbying pressure from the fossil fuel industry, which is heavily invested in expanding plastic production—a process that relies on fossil fuels. Reutersreported last year that while "plastic industry groups representing firms like ExxonMobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and Dow Inc. have expressed support for a global agreement to tackle" global plastic pollution, they have privately been "devising strategies to persuade conference participants to reject any deal that would limit plastic manufacturing."
In response, the civil society groups and scientists are imploring UNEP to "urgently establish an Accountability Framework, including a regime-wide conflict-of-interest policy."
They're also urging the U.N. to control "polluting industries' infiltration of negotiation spaces" and guarantee that "the voices of independent scientists are heard."
"Currently too many of the scientific studies that inform member States and decision-makers are funded by industries with vested interests—making it extremely difficult to ensure facts and data are free from industry influence," the letter states. "This conflict of
interest effectively challenges the meaning of best available science and therefore cannot guarantee negotiations in good faith."
\u201cIn 1 week, governments are meeting to discuss a Global #PlasticsTreaty \ud83c\udf0e\n\nWorld leaders need to get it right! That means an ambitious treaty that will dramatically reduce plastic production\u2026. anything less & the treaty will fail.\n\n\ud83c\udfa4 @Lupita_Nyongo\n\nWatch & share \ud83d\udc49\u2026\u201d— Greenpeace International (@Greenpeace International) 1684754125
Last year, U.N. member states endorsed a resolution agreeing to establish a global, legally binding treaty regulating plastics through their full lifecycle—from production to disposal—by the end of 2024.
If allowed to continue unabated, plastic production is expected to triple by 2050, dooming efforts to clean up the world's plastic-ridden oceans.
Following the first round of treaty negotiations in December 2022, Greenpeace and other advocacy groups warned that major oil-producing nations—including the United States—slow-walked the discussions and attempted to curb their scope "at the behest of big oil and petrochemical companies."
It's clear that similar concerns will be prominent as the second round of treaty talks kicks off next week.
Louise Edge, global plastics campaigner for Greenpeace U.K., said Monday that "the Global Plastics Treaty is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve the plastics crisis."
"Whether it succeeds or fails depends on whether governments are bold enough to ensure that the treaty delivers what the science says is needed—a cap and phase down of plastic production," said Edge. "This essential measure will be fiercely resisted by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries that profit from plastic."
"We are urging the U.N. to listen to the millions of people around the world who want an end to plastic pollution, rather than the interests of the oil and gas lobby," Edge added.