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The Obama Administration will today (Dec 6) publicly insist upon the lawfulness of the US drone killing program, even as it ramps up its federal court fight to avoid legal accountability. December 13th will see a hearing in DC in a landmark case brought by a Yemeni victim of the US drone program.
Expanding upon a report released yesterday by the White House, President Obama will today give a speech in which he describes the legal justification for detaining and killing people in the course of the 'War on Terror'. The White House report also cites the President's Executive Order on civilian casualties, which requires civilian deaths in US drone strikes to be investigated and acknowledged.
However, in Jaber v Obama, which is due to be heard on appeal in Washington DC on December 13th, the Obama Administration is refusing to either admit responsibility or apologize to a Yemeni man who lost two innocent civilian relatives in a drone strike.
Faisal bin ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sanaa, is suing for an apology and explanation for the killing of his his brother-in-law Salem and his nephew Waleed in a US drone strike in August 2012. He has repeatedly requested transparency, and in November 2013 travelled 7,000 miles to Washington DC to meet two White House national security officials.
The Obama Administration has never admitted to the strike, nor apologized to Faisal's family.
By contrast, in April 2015, the President publicly apologized for a January 2015 strike that killed an American citizen, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto.
Shelby Sullivan Bennis, Reprieve attorney for Faisal bin ali Jaber, said: "If President Obama truly believes that drone killing should be lawful and transparent, why is his Administration fighting tooth and nail to avoid the scrutiny of American judges in Jaber v. Obama? Why won't the President simply come clean and apologize to Faisal bin Ali Jaber for the killing of his innocent family members? If the President is serious about encouraging accountability in future Administrations, he must put his words into action in DC federal court on December 13."
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.
"This report makes it clear: We must act now to save lives, help people adapt to a changing climate, and ultimately prevent famine," said the World Food Program chief. "If we don't, the results will be catastrophic."
As El Niño looms and fighting in Sudan rages on, a pair of United Nations agencies on Monday warned that "acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 18 hunger hot spots" across 22 countries from June to November.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) delivered that warning in a joint report.
"Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen remain at the highest concern level," the report states. "Haiti, the Sahel (Burkina Faso and Mali), and the Sudan have been elevated to the highest concern levels; this is due to severe movement restrictions of people and goods in Haiti, as well as in Burkina Faso and Mali, and the recent eruption of conflict in the Sudan."
"Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Syrian Arab Republic are hot spots with very high concern, and the warning is also extended to Myanmar," the publication continues. "Lebanon, El Salvador, and Nicaragua have been added to the list of hunger hot spot countries, since the September 2022 edition. Malawi, Guatemala, and Honduras remain hunger hot spot countries."
\u201c\ud83d\udd34 Acute food insecurity set to worsen in 18 #HungerHotspots across 22 countries - \ud83c\udd95 @FAO @WFP report warns.\n\nBurkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, the Sudan have been elevated to the highest alert level to join Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan & Yemen.\n\n\ud83d\udc49https://t.co/0BDI7Eg8aT\u201d— FAO Newsroom (@FAO Newsroom) 1685352200
The document stresses that worsening conditions in the hot spots occur in the context of a "global food crisis," so "the countries and situations covered in this report highlight the most significant deteriorations of hunger expected in the outlook period" but do not represent all nations facing high levels of acute food insecurity.
"Conflict will disrupt livelihoods—including agricultural activities and commercial trade—as people are either directly attacked or flee the prospect of attacks, or face movement restrictions and administrative impediments," the report states. "New emerging conflicts, in particular the eruption of conflict in the Sudan, will likely drive global conflict trends and impact several neighboring countries."
"The use of explosive ordnance and siege tactics in several hunger hot spots continues to push people into catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity," the document adds, "highlighting the critical role of humanitarian access in preventing the worst outcomes of hunger."
The new report notably came as the WFP announced that on Saturday, six weeks since the fighting broke out in Sudan—displacing nearly 1.4 million people—the U.N. program was able to begin distributing food assistance to the thousands affected by the conflict in and around the capital Khartoum.
"This is a major breakthrough. We have finally been able to help families who are stuck in Khartoum and struggling to make it through each day as food and basic supplies dwindle," said Eddie Rowe, WFP's country director in Sudan, in a statement.
"We have been working round-the-clock to reach people in Khartoum since the fighting began," Rowe added. "A window opened late last week which allowed us to start food distributions. WFP must do more, but that depends on the parties to the conflict and the security and access they realistically guarantee on the ground."
\u201c\ud83c\udd95BREAKTHROUGH: The first distributions of WFP food assistance took place in #Khartoum, Sudan for thousands of people trapped since fighting broke out six weeks ago. \n\nThe distributions come in the last days of a ceasefire set to expire Monday.\u201d— World Food Programme (@World Food Programme) 1685382400
Along with armed conflict, drivers of the deterioration in the report's focal regions include economic issues and the climate emergency. The publication points out that last year, "economic risks were driving hunger in more countries than conflict was," and "the global economy is expected to slow down in 2023—amid monetary tightening in advanced economies—increasing the cost of credit."
"Weather extremes, such as heavy rains, tropical storms, cyclones, flooding, drought, and increased climate variability, remain significant drivers in some countries and regions," the document explains, noting that experts anticipate El Niño conditions—or the warming of sea surface temperatures across the tropical Pacific Ocean—in the months ahead, "with significant implications for several hunger hot spots."
The report emphasizes that "urgent and scaled‑up assistance" in all hot spots "is essential to avert a further deterioration of acute food insecurity and malnutrition," and in some cases, "humanitarian actions are critical in preventing further starvation and death."
\u201cHUNGER HOTSPOTS: \n\n\ud83d\udd34A new report warns urgent assistance is required to protect lives and livelihoods and increase access to food.\n\n\ud83d\udd34The report identifies 18 regions where people are at the most risk of extreme hunger and malnutrition.\n\n\ud83d\udd17https://t.co/HOFGtpjJ5i\u201d— World Food Programme (@World Food Programme) 1685355300
Agency leaders echoed the publication's call to action. Cindy McCain, WFP's executive director, said in a statement that "not only are more people in more places around the world going hungry, but the severity of the hunger they face is worse than ever."
"This report makes it clear: Ae must act now to save lives, help people adapt to a changing climate, and ultimately prevent famine," McCain declared. "If we don't, the results will be catastrophic."
FAO's director-general, Qu Dongyu, stressed that "business-as-usual pathways are no longer an option in today's risk landscape if we want to achieve global food security for all, ensuring that no one is left behind."
"We need to provide immediate time-sensitive agricultural interventions to pull people from the brink of hunger, help them rebuild their lives, and provide long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity," he said. "Investing in disaster risk reduction in the agriculture sector can unlock significant resilience dividends and must be scaled up."
"These bills are not about election reform," said one Harris County official. "They are entirely about suppressing voters' voices."
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Sunday warned that Republican state legislators had made a "shameless power grab" by passing a pair of bills aimed at allowing the state government to take control of elections in the Democratic stronghold, which includes Houston.
Senate Bill 1933 passed on Sunday as the state's legislative session came to a close, with lawmakers sending to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's desk a bill that could give Secretary of State Jane Nelson—who was nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate—the authority to run elections under circumstances in any county with more than 3.5 million residents.
The legislation was passed two days after Senate Bill 1750, which also applies to counties above that population threshold and would abolish the nonpartisan county elections administrator position.
Harris County, which President Joe Biden won by 13 points in 2020, is the only county is Texas with a population above 3.5 million, making both bills apply only to its elections.
Hidalgo denounced the legislation as two "election subversion bills" and warned that they will set a "dangerous precedent" for Republican governors who wish to take control of voting in heavily Democratic counties.
\u201cThe two Texas election subversion bills have now passed. They remove Harris County\u2019s nonpartisan Election Administrator and empower a Republican state official to micromanage elections in Texas\u2019 largest (Democratic) County. This is a shameless power grab and dangerous precedent.\u201d— Lina Hidalgo (@Lina Hidalgo) 1685331039
"These bills are not about election reform," said Hidalgo at a press conference last week, as the legislation was advancing. "They're not about improving voters' experience. They are entirely about suppressing voters' voices. The reasoning behind these bills is nothing but a cynical charade."
Hidalgo and other officials said at that event that they plan to file a lawsuit against Abbott's administration if the governor signs the bills into law. The Texas Constitution bars state lawmakers from passing laws that apply only to specific jurisdictions, but Republicans' use of a population threshold instead of naming Harris County itself in the legislation may be used at their defense if the lawsuit moves forward.
S.B. 1750 requires Harris County to change how its elections are overseen starting September 1, when Houston will be two months away from voting for its next mayor. Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth and County Assessor Ann Harris Bennett will oversee elections in the county starting in September.
If, after Hudspeth and Bennett take over, Nelson finds "good cause to believe that a recurring pattern of problems with election administration or voter registration exists in the county," the secretary of state would be permitted to take legal action to remove the two women from office and to install members of her staff in the county's election offices.
Republicans have said Harris County didn't have enough poll workers in the March 2022 primary and that polling locations opened late and ran out of ballots during the November 2022 general election.
"The fact of the matter is, there has not been a single successful lawsuit that proves that there were any kind of problems," said Hidalgo on Sunday. "And I hope that anybody talking about this understands that you are amplifying exaggerations and rumors when you repeat the excuses that these folks are using."
\u201cAs intriguing as an impeachment of the Texas Attorney General is, we can\u2019t lose sight of the fact that legislators in Texas are still trying to disenfranchise 4.7 million of their own constituents by taking over elections in Harris County. This fight is far from over.\u201d— Lina Hidalgo (@Lina Hidalgo) 1685308988
The legislation was passed two-and-a-half months after Abbott's administration announced its takeover of the Houston Independent School District, which has made recent improvements in academic performance that were achieved despite chronic underfunding.
"Houstonians," Emily Eby French, a staff voting rights attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said last week, "will soon live in a different Texas than the rest of us."
"Erdoğan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," warned one Kurdish opposition leader.
As supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at home and abroad celebrated his win of Sunday's runoff election, human rights defenders and marginalized people including Kurds and LGBTQ+ activists voiced deep fears about how their lives will be adversely affected during the increasingly authoritarian leader's third term.
Turkey's Supreme Election Council confirmed Erdoğan's victory over Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday evening. Erdoğan, the 69-year-old leader of the right-wing Justice and Development Party who has ruled the nation of 85 million people since 2014 and dominated its politics for two decades, won 52.18% of the vote. Kılıçdaroğlu, a 74-year-old social democrat who leads the left-of-center Republican People's Party, received 47.82%.
Erdoğan—who was seen handing out cash to supporters at a polling station in an apparent violation of Turkish election law—mocked his opponent's loss outside the president's home in Istanbul, saying, "Bye, bye, bye, Kemal" as the winner's supporters booed, according to Al Jazeera.
\u201cInstead of congratulating Erdogan, EU leaders should ask about the backsliding democratic and human rights. \n\nTurkey is already 103rd of 167 countries on democracy index, and we know Erdogan wants to take it further down...\u201d— Guy Verhofstadt (@Guy Verhofstadt) 1685354462
"The only winner today is Turkey," Erdoğan declared as he prepared for a third term in which his country faces severe economic woes—inflation has soared and the lira is at a record low against the U.S. dollar—and is struggling to recover from multiple devastating earthquakes earlier this year.
However, in Turkish Kurdistan—whose voters, along with a majority of people in most of Turkey's largest cities favored Kılıçdaroğlu—people expressed fears that the government will intensify a crackdown it has been waging for several years.
Ardelan Mese, a 26-year-old cafe owner in Diyarbakir, the country's largest Kurdish-majority city, called Sunday's election "a matter of life and death now."
"I can't imagine what he will be capable of after declaring victory," Mese said of Erdoğan in an interview with Reuters.
After initially courting the Kurds by expanding their political and cultural rights, Erdoğan returned to the repression that has long characterized Turkey's treatment of a people who make up one-fifth of the nation's population, while intensifying a war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a far-left separatist group that Turkey, the United States, and other nations consider a terrorist organization.
\u201cKurds fear that an Erdogan victory "could reinforce a crackdown the state has been waging against them for years, alarmed by a surge in nationalist rhetoric ahead of Sunday's vote." https://t.co/aAhHVqjmf4\u201d— Kenneth Roth (@Kenneth Roth) 1685018787
"Erdogan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," Tayip Temel, the deputy co-chair of Turkey's second-largest opposition party, the center-left and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)—which backed Kılıçdaroğlu—told Reuters.
Human rights defenders—many of whom have chosen or been forced into exile—also sounded the alarm over the prospect of a third Erdoğan term.
"If the opposition wins there will be space, even possibly limited, for discussions for a common future. With Erdoğan, there is no civic or political space for democracy and human rights," Murat Çelikkan, a journalist who founded human rights groups including Amnesty International Turkey, said in an interview with Civil Rights Defenders just before Sunday's runoff.
Çelikkan called Erdoğan a "very authoritarian, religious, pro-expansionist conservative."
"Turkey, according to judicial statistics, has the largest number of terrorists in the world, because the prosecutors and judges have an inclination to use anti-terror laws arbitrarily and lavishly," he continued. "There are tens of thousands of people who are being trialed or convicted by anti-terror laws. Thousands of people insulting the president."
\u201cToday #Turkey is holding a presidential election runoff. But what is at stake?\n\nRead the interview with Murat \u00c7elikkan, human rights defender from Turkey, about possible impact of the election outcome on #HumanRights:\n\nhttps://t.co/7a8HTEELUp\u201d— Civil Rights Defenders (@Civil Rights Defenders) 1685253600
"Nowhere in Turkey you can make a peaceful demonstration and protest," Çelikkan added. "The security forces directly attack and detain you. The minister of interior targets and criminalizes LGBTI+ people on a daily basis."
LGBTQ+ Turks voiced fears for their future following a campaign in which Erdoğan centered homophobia in his appeals to an overwhelmingly Muslim electorate and repeatedly accused Kılıçdaroğlu and other opposition figures of being gay. During his victory speech Sunday evening, Erdoğan again lashed out at the LGBTQ+ community while excoriating Kılıçdaroğlu for his campaign pledge to "respect everyone's beliefs, lifestyles, and identities."
Erdoğan vowed in his speech that gays would not "infiltrate" Turkey and that "we will not let the LGBT forces win." At one point during his address, an Al Jazeera interpreter stopped translating a 45-second portion when the president called members of the opposition gay.
\u201cDuring his victory speech President Erdo\u011fan repeated: \u201cWe will not let the LGBT forces win!\u201d. \n\nHe then emphasised \u201cLGBT cannot infiltrate among us. We will be reborn. The family is sacred for us. The violence against women is forbidden and haram for us, no one can resort to this\u2026\u201d— \u2022 (@\u2022) 1685309623
Ilker Erdoğan, a 20-year-old university student and LGBTQ+ activist, told Agence France-Presse that "I feel deeply afraid."
"Feeling so afraid is affecting my psychology terribly. I couldn't breathe before, and now they will try to strangle my throat," he added. "From the moment I was born, I felt that discrimination, homophobia, and hatred in my bones."
Ameda Murat Karaguzu, a project assistant at an unnamed pro-LGBTQ+ group, told AFP that she has been "subjected to more hate speech and acts of hate than I have experienced in a long time."
Karaguzu blamed Erdoğan's government for the increasing hostility toward LGBTQ+ Turks, adding that bigots are keenly "aware that there will be no consequences for killing or harming us."
Ilker Erdoğan struck a defiant tone, telling AFP that "I am also part of this nation, my identity card says Turkish citizen."
"You cannot erase my existence," he added, "no matter how hard you try."