Palestinians vote for first time at UN Assembly

The Palestinians voted for the first time at the UN General Assembly Monday and claimed the moment as a new step in its quest for full recognition by the global body.
Most of the 193 members of the General Assembly stood in applause when Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour cast a vote for a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Palestinians became observer members of the United Nations on November 29 last year. It cannot vote on UN resolutions, but under UN rules, it and other observers such as the Vatican can vote in elections for judges on international courts.

“This is an important step in our march for freedom and independence and full membership of the United Nations,” Mansour told the assembly. But afterwards, Mansour told reporters: “I think that this is a very, very special moment in the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people at the United Nations.” “It is another step for strengthening the pillars of the state of Palestine in the international arena,” he added.
Mansour acknowledged it was a “symbolic” vote, but said: “It is an important one because it reflects that the international community, particularly the General Assembly, is hungry and waiting for the state of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations.”

Asked whether the United States or Israel had objected to their vote in the UN assembly, Mansour said: “They can’t. This is a very crystal clear case.”

The Palestinians have sought to become an observer member of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, which organizes the International Criminal Court. The assembly is to meet in The Hague this week.
The United States blocked the move even though it is not a a formal member of the court, diplomats said.
“The United States said this was not acceptable — they refused,” according to one UN diplomat.
“It would have been a step too far for the Americans. They can cause problems even though they are not members,” added a second diplomat who confirmed the move.


Is Canada Guilty of War Crimes?


On November 9th, investigative journalist and human rights activist, John McNamer sent a request to the International Criminal Court to investigate Canada’s complicity in war crimes.


McNamer argues that Canada has “actively and intentionally failed to comply with legal obligations under The Convention against Torture and the Rome Statue” (page 1).


McNamer’s submissions to the ICC include that Canada has transferred detainees to the United States and Afghanistan with full knowledge that the detainees would be in extreme danger of torture and that Canada uses and shares intelligence likely obtained through torture. McNamer provides over 250 documents in support of his allegations.


In order for the ICC to have jurisdiction to investigate Canadians, Canada must be unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation or prosecution. McNamer contends Canada is unwilling.


As Canada is a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC Prosecutor has the power to initiate investigation proprio motu. There must be a reasonable basis on which to proceed.


It has also been reported that a group of Egyptian lawyers have submitted a complaint to the ICC accusing President Barack Obama of being an accessory to the crimes against humanity committed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. However, unlike Canada, the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute.


The only way the ICC could acquire jurisdiction to investigate President Obama is through a referral by the United Nations Security Council and the United States is one of five countries with veto power

– See more at:

UNSC refused to defer the trial

So, finally United Nations Security Council (UNSC) refused to defer the trial of Kenya’s President and Vice President for one year.(1)The power to defer the proceedings has been invested with the UNSC under Article 16 of the Rome Statute. For purpose of deference, Kenya required total 9 votes according to Article 27 of UN Charter which states that matters except non-procedural require 9 affirmative votes in UNSC including all five permanent members.(2) But, it could gather only 7 votes because other eight members of UNSC abstained from voting which includes USA, UK and France. Whereas China and Russia voted in favor of deferral. The reason cited to defer the trial was that ‘court case is distracting and preventing Kenyatta and Ruto from carrying out their duties. And reference was also made to a terrorist attack in in September at a mall in Nairobi that left over 60 people dead.(3) China’s representative said that ‘Deferring ICC proceedings against Kenyan leaders is not only the concern of Kenya, but also the concern of all African countries. It is indeed an urgent need dictated bythe interest of maintaining regional peace and stability.’ (4) The question this remark raises is that can justice be traded off for peace and stability? what is meaning of peace without justice?

The African nations, led by Rwanda, who proposed the resolution faced strong criticism for the challenge and the way it was forced upon the council i.e. resolution was called as ‘un-necessary’, which created ‘artificial confrontation’ between International Criminal Court(ICC) and UNSC. (5) African countries was using the narrative of discrimination which is unfortunately true to some extent. This is evident from the fact that 20 cases in 8 situations brought before ICC are all from African Region. (6)But I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should let go of one criminal because others are not prosecuted. that reasoning is absurd. And another point to be noted is that out of these 8 situations about 4 situations were referred by those states themselves.

To date, four States Parties to the Rome Statute – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali – have referred situations occurring on their territories to the Court. (7) visited on 18-11-2013

But that should not blind us to fact that some countries are using ICC and exercising power without bearing any responsibility. Yes! I am talking about USA. But what about the citizens of Kenya. So there was poll conducted according to which  67 percent of 2,060 Kenyans surveyed think that President Uhuru Kenyatta should attend his trial at the International Criminal Court.(8) Apparently, a common man of Kenya doesn’t subscribe to the views of African Union.


The ICC charged Kenyatta and Ruto with crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible population transfer and persecution, for their alleged roles in postelection violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in late 2007 and early 2008. Kenyatta also is accused of responsibility for rape and other inhumane acts carried out by a criminal gang known as the Mungiki, which was allegedly under his control.

India second on list of governments requesting Google data

Today, Indian Express is carrying news that “The latest Google Transparency Report shows India is only second to the Unites states in requesting user data. While the Indian government had a total of 2,691 requests of which 64 per cent where fulfilled, the US had 10,918 requests of which 83 per cent where fulfilled”.

Richard Salgado, Google’s Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security wrote, ‘Since we began sharing these figures with you in 2010, requests from governments for user information have increased by more than 100 percent’. This is a true fact but which fails to take into consideration that Net presence has also increased in recent past.

it also takes about US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


Kerry says Iran rejected nuclear deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the major powers were unified on an Iran nuclear deal during weekend talks in Geneva but the Iranians were unable to accept it. He also said critics of the diplomatic effort should withhold their comments until a deal is reached.

Earlier reports said that the talks came apart because France refused to accept the deal with Iran.

Netanyahu has repeatedly criticized what he considers readiness by the six powers involved in the talks to be too generous to Iran and has aggressively campaigned against an agreement. But Kerry reasserted the U.S. commitment to Israel, saying the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Thus, Kerry tried to reassure Washington’s Arab allies and Israel that his country would not abandon them.

Kerry said there is no “end game” in motion and the Geneva talks were a first step in longer process of possible give and take.

Tehran has been eager to reach an agreement to ease international sanctions that have halted most oil exports and crippled the county’s economy.

But a key stumbling block has been Iran’s insistence that the international community recognize its “right” to enrich uranium as a signer of a U.N. treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology — also frequently pointing out that Israel has not signed the accord. Kerry’s comments challenge the Iranian view, but do not appear to significantly alter the currently Western effort that seeks to curb Iran’s ability to make its highest-enrich uranium but possibly leaving intact the country’s production of lower-level nuclear fuel.

In deal agreed on Monday aimed at improving transparency in Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran will grant U.N. inspectors “managed access” to a uranium mine and a heavy water plant within three months.

Under the technical accord signed by U.N. nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano in Tehran, Iran will also provide information about planned new research reactors and sites for future nuclear power plants, as well as clarify earlier statements about additional uranium enrichment facilities.

Britain and Iran said they were reviving diplomatic ties two years after a mob of students attacked the British embassy in Tehran. Both sides said they were appointing a new charge d’affaires.

Britain closed the embassy in 2011 after a rally against British sanctions escalated into violence and protesters scaled the walls, ransacked offices and burned buildings.


Privacy Is a Red Herring

I don’t know how far I agree with the author on her views about ‘privacy’ but, yes, this is good piece of article. I am posting the entire article, since, it would be difficult for me to access it again. I have taken this from Foreign Policy Magazine, authored by Rosa Brooks.

Enjoy Reading it!

There are curious parallels in the arguments made by those on opposing sides of debates about covert action and NSA surveillance. Both sides deploy the language of secrecy and privacy, but often do so in sloppy and contradictory ways.

Thus, responding to those outraged by recent revelations of mass surveillance, many NSA defenders insist, in effect, that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Stunned to discover that U.S. intelligence agencies have been “invading your privacy” by monitoring your email, web searches, and telephone records? Calm down: if you’re not doing anything that threatens U.S. national security, no one at the NSA will be interested in you. Conversely, if you’re one of those people determined to cover your online tracks — by using Tor, for example — don’t be shocked if the intelligence community begins to view you with suspicion. Why would you work so hard keep your activities secret from your own government, unless you’re up to no good?

Many critics of covert intelligence agency activities take a remarkably similar line in response to government outrage over the leaking of secret NSA documents. If the NSA isn’t doing anything illegal or immoral — such as invading the privacy of ordinary Americans or allied heads of state — then there’s no need for all the secrecy. Why would the NSA stamp “top secret” on everything — and scream so loudly when classified documents are leaked – if it’s not trying to hide something from the American public? Didn’t Edward Snowden’s leaks demonstrate that the NSA really was hidingunlawful behavior under the cloak of secrecy?

At the same time, both government actors and individuals are quick to demand that their own privacy must be respected. NSA activities inappropriately “violate people’s privacy,” says Google’s Eric Schmidt. They constitute an “astonishing invasion of Americans’ privacy,” laments the ACLU.Rand Paul agrees: NSA monitoring is an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

When the U.S. government decries leaks of “classified information,” it too is invoking the concept of privacy: secrecy is the privacy of governments. Just like individuals, governments value (and, up to a point, need) the right to be left alone. In order to function, governments sometimes need to operate out of the public eye. Effective diplomats may need to take different approaches with different states. Government employees need to know that they can speak candidly to one another without fear that every conversation will be reported on Twitter.

What a muddle. On the one hand, both individuals and governments insist on the importance of their right to “privacy.” At the very same time, both government actors and their critics tend to be suspicious of claims of privacy and secrecy: why would anyone need secrecy if they’re doing nothing wrong?

These contradictory attitudes reflect a persistent and widely shared tendency to use the term “privacy” to cover a variety of quite different (and sometimes contradictory) things. As George Washington University Law School Professor Daniel Solove puts it, privacy is “a concept in disarray. Nobody can articulate what it means.” Ask a dozen people to define privacy and you’ll get a dozen different answers: privacy encompasses, notes Solove, “freedom of thought, control over one’s body, solitude in one’s home, control over personal information, freedom from surveillance, protection of one’s reputation, and protection from searches and interrogations.” (For more on the ambiguity of privacy, see J.M. Berger’s FP article from last week.)

I’d add one more item to Solove’s list of definitions: when people speak of privacy, often what they’re really concerned about is not privacy at all, but very concrete kinds of economic and physical harm: job loss, theft, injury, imprisonment, and even death. That is: when people speak of privacy they’re often speaking — albeit indirectly — about power, and its uses and abuses.

This becomes more evident when we push past the surface of claims about privacy.

It’s impossible, of course, for either individuals or governments to possess total privacy. Our lives and actions are porous. We all know that a great deal of our “personal” information is “out there” and available to anyone willing to put in even a modicum of effort. Our neighbors can peek through our windows; strangers in cafes and on the Metro can listen in on our conversations and telephone calls; our dates can Google us — and that’s nothing compared to the data compiled about us by marketers. For the most part, this doesn’t trouble us — most of us simply accept it as the price of living in human society.

This is true for governments as well. You can put a “top secret” stamp on everything from lunch menus to NSA memos, but people still gossip, leave sensitive papers lying around, and speak indiscreetly to their spouses and friends — and there is always a journalist or spy hanging around who can put together loose scraps of information. What’s more, building strong relationships sometimesrequires disclosure of secret information: just as friendships and love relationships are cemented by the sharing of intimate information, governments often find that building relationships with allies, journalists, congressional staffers, and think tanks requires at least some willingness to share “classified” information.

We know all this. Even so, we still bridle when we discover that the universe of people aware of our “private” information has unexpectedly expanded, or that the information we knew to be accessible has in fact been accessed.

It’s one thing to know, in the abstract, that anyone walking by your house can see into your kitchen window, but it’s another thing altogether to look out the kitchen window and discover someone staring fixedly at you. It’s one thing to know that the soccer mom sitting one table over at Starbucks can probably make out the words on your laptop screen; it’s another thing altogether to know that “the government” can do the same thing.

For government officials, it’s one thing to know that NSA surveillance capabilities are, if not fully known, guessed at with substantial accuracy by everyone from journalists to Angela Merkel to al Qaeda operatives; it’s another thing altogether to find classified memos describing those capabilities splashed all over the front page of the Washington Post.

But it’s important to push ourselves to articulate just why individuals and governments are troubled when the circle of those with knowledge about them expands. Put differently, it’s worth asking: when we talk about invasion of privacy, what are we really worried about?

From the government’s perspective, the answer is usually straightforward: governmental privacy – secrecy — isn’t valuable in and of itself. It’s valuable solely because it reduces the risk of certainharms. Secrecy about NSA capabilities reduces the likelihood that terrorists or other adversaries will find ways to evade NSA scrutiny, which increases the likelihood that the United States will be able to learn about potential threats early enough to thwart planned attacks.

On an individual level, many people find it more difficult to articulate why they’re bothered by “invasions of privacy.” But when you push hard enough, most people articulate a fear that isn’t about that mushy concept we refer to as “privacy,” but is in fact about similarly concrete issues of safety and freedom from harm. The man staring fixedly through our kitchen window bothers us not because we think he might discover us doing something “secret,” but because he has violated norms of socially acceptable behavior in a way that makes him unpredictable: if he’s willing to violate norms against staring, what other norms might he also violate? Will he become a stalker, a blackmailer, a burglar, a rapist, a murderer?

At bottom, something similar is true of typical public reactions to NSA surveillance. We may speak of “privacy,” but what frightens most of us is not the abstract notion that “the government” might be “watching us”; rather, it is the very concrete possibility that information about us will be misconstrued, misused, or abused. We fear that we’ll end up on a no-fly list, or be unable to get a security clearance, a job, or a loan. We fear being wrongly accusedharasseddetained, and — in the era of targeted killings — who knows what else?

This points to an essential difference between the privacy of governments and the privacy of individuals: governments have far more power than individuals. When the government’s “privacy” is violated — through the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents, for instance — the government can prosecute the leakers, and it can generally fall back on multiple other means to preventing the harms it wants to prevent. The NSA’s Internet and telephone data collection capabilities are not the U.S. government’s sole means of preventing terrorist attacks, for instance: it has many other ways to gather intelligence and other ways to disrupt and defang terrorist organizations.

In contrast, individuals have far less power and far fewer ways to protect themselves. The cards are stacked in favor of the government. This is all the more true in the post-9/11 environment, in which the government has the advantage of permissive lawsdeferential courts and congressmen,“black” budgets, and a vast national security bureaucracy that has expanded faster than our collective ability to control it.

I’ve made this point in a previous column, but I’ll make it again here:

The problem [with NSA surveillance practices] is not a privacy problem at all, but an accountability problem… Given the current lack of transparency, we don’t know what rules govern who can see what data, under what circumstances, for what purposes, and with what consequences. We don’t know if this sweeping data collection has led to mistakes or abuses that have harmed innocent people, and we don’t know what recourse an innocent person would have if harmed in some way..

[T]here needs to be a mechanism to remedy [any] damage and impose appropriate consequences on government wrongdoers. If these data collection practices (or any similar past practices) lead to innocent people getting stuck on no-fly lists, or getting harassed by federal agents, or ending up wrongly detained, there should be a prompt, transparent, and fair means for them to challenge their treatment, see the supposed evidence against them, and get the problem fixed.

“Privacy” is a red herring in the debate about NSA surveillance (and many other kinds of covert activities). If we want meaningful reform, we need to set aside the rhetoric of privacy, and focus instead on creating genuine safeguards against the abuse of government power.


Some Links

These links relate to legal status of homosexual marriages outside India.