Another top UN official is calling on the Obama administration to investigate the role of US forces in human rights abuses in Iraq. On Tuesday, Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the latest documents released by WikiLeaks raise new questions about “serious breaches of international human rights law in Iraq.” The 400,000 classified US military documents detail how US forces did nothing to stop reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers. In addition, the WikiLeaks war logs show at least 15,000 more Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq than previously thought. Pillay’s call follows a similar statement from the United Nations chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak. After delivering his final report to the UN General Assembly before his term ends this month, Nowak said the US has knowingly allowed the torture of Iraqi prisoners.
Manfred Nowak: “In relation to what now has been revealed by WikiLeaks, it confirms what we knew, what we have heard, many allegations about the brutality and the torture that were systematically practiced by Iraqi security forces and also irregular militias. And I think what it shows very clearly is that the Bush and also the Obama administration knew and do know when they are handing over detainees under US custody to Iraqi security forces, that there is a serious risk of being subjected to torture.”
The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Haiti continues to rise, but health workers and government officials say the disease is being contained. On Tuesday, twenty-five new deaths were confirmed, bringing the total dead to 284. Another 420 new cases were reported, bringing the total number infected to nearly 3,800. Most of the deaths have occurred in the rural Artibonite region, and efforts are underway to ensure the disease doesn’t spread to the crowded camps around the capital Port-au-Prince. On Tuesday, the musician and former Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean said the epidemic is worse than what’s been disclosed.
Wyclef Jean: “The only way we’re going to get results is to tell people the truth, and the truth is this: our country, at this time while I’m speaking to you, OK, has an epidemic of cholera that is spreading like wildfire through the whole country, and unless we intervene within the international community, bringing all of our resources so that we can prevent this, we’re going to have more people dead than we just had on the earthquake on January 12th.”
Nigeria is also dealing with its worst cholera outbreak in recent years. On Tuesday, the United Nations said over 1,500 people have died this year, three times the number from 2009.
In Indonesia, over 150 people have been killed after an earthquake set off a tsunami off the coast of west Sumatra. Rescue teams are trying to reach an estimated 400 missing people.
Clashes have erupted between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli police today in a northern Israeli town. Israeli police fired tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators protesting a right-wing Israeli march through the town of Umm al-Fahm. Some of the Israeli marchers carried signs reading that Israel will be “cleansed” of its Arab residents. The march follows a number of Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian olive groves in the occupied West Bank. On Tuesday, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the attacks.
Robert Serry: “The urgency of ending the occupation and establishing the state is plain from the ugly facts apparent here in Tormos Ayya. In recent weeks in this village alone, settler extremists have destroyed hundreds of trees by poison or by knocking them down.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “The youngest of those olive trees is more deeply rooted in this land than the largest settlement in this neighborhood or any area in the country. It’s more deeply and firmly rooted than that wall, which will come down.”
The Israeli government has been forced to release documents outlining its policies for determining restrictions on basic goods into the Gaza Strip. The documents outline a formula for what’s described as “breathing space” — the number of days before a given supply completely runs out in Gaza. It also speaks of a “deliberate reduction” of a number of goods and includes the “sensitivities of the international community” as a factor in whether the flow of goods should be increased. The Israeli human rights group Gisha won the disclosure after the Israeli government long denied the documents’ existence.
The UN General Assembly has voted to call for an end to the US embargo on Cuba for the nineteenth consecutive year. The non-binding measure drew support from 187 countries, with the US joined only by Israel in opposition. The US Ambassador for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Ronald Godard, defended the US embargo before the vote.
Ronald Godard: “It is the view of the United States that a new era in US-Cuban relations cannot be fully realized until the Cuban people enjoy the internationally recognized political and economic freedoms that this body has done so much to defend in other countries around the world. Mr. President, my delegation will vote against this resolution. Indeed the United States believes that it is high time for this body to focus its energies on supporting the Cuban people in their quest to freely decide their own future and move beyond the rhetorical posturing that this resolution represents.”
The two “no” votes marked a decline from last year, when the US and Israel were also joined by the tiny island nation of Palau. Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla criticized the Obama administration for extending the embargo.
Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla: “The policy of the United States against Cuba is devoid of any legal or ethical ground, nor does it have any credibility or support. This has been evidenced by over 180 votes in the General Assembly, which for the past years have been calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade.”
A Tea Party-backed congressional candidate in North Carolina is facing scrutiny for having killed two unarmed Iraqis while serving in Iraq. The candidate, Ilario Pantano, has said he has no regrets about fatally shooting the two at point blank range after detaining them near Fallujah in April 2004. Prosecutors later alleged that Pantano intended to make an example of the men by shooting them sixty times and hanging a sign over their corpses that read “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Pantano did not deny hanging the sign or shooting the men repeatedly after stopping their vehicle at a checkpoint. He admitted to emptying one magazine of bullets into the Iraqis, then reloading and firing thirty more rounds. Despite his admission, the military cleared Pantano of wrongdoing in 2005. He’s now in a tight race with Democrat Mike McIntyre in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District.
The campaign of the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul, meanwhile, is facing criticism after a volunteer was videotaped physically assaulting a protester. Lauren Valle of the group MoveOn.org was thrown to the ground by a group of Paul supporters before Paul’s debate with Democrat Jack Conway Monday night. As Valle lay on the ground, Tim Profitt, a coordinator for Paul’s campaign in central Kentucky, stomped on her head. She suffered a concussion and multiple sprains as a result. Paul’s campaign says it’s cuts ties with Profitt, who’s been charged with fourth degree assault.
And a federal appeals court has struck down an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Arizona voters approved the measure in a 2004 referendum. In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the law’s identification requirement for voter registration but upheld it for voting at polling stations.