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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Watch’

Syrian Rebel Commander Eats the Heart of his Enemy

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Human Rights Watch has published its review of graphic evidence that appears to show a commander of the Syrian opposition “Independent Omar al-Farouq” brigade mutilating the corpse of a pro-government fighter. The figure in the video cuts the heart and liver out of the body and uses sectarian language to insult Alawites. The same brigade was implicated in April 2013 in the cross-border indiscriminate shelling of the Lebanese Shi’a villages of al-Qasr and Hawsh al-Sayyed.

According to Human Rights Watch, “it is not known whether the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade operates within the command structure of the Free Syrian Army. But the opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army leadership should take all possible steps to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable and prevent such abuses by anyone under their command.”

The organization then recommends that any party with the power to do so should do all it can to keep weapons from reaching the brigade.

But is this one outfit so different from the rest? The longer the civil war in Syria continues, the clearer it is becoming that both sides are equally monstrous in their disregard for civilian lives.


Human Rights Watch repeated its call to the United Nations Security Council to refer the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“One important way to stop Syria’s daily horrors, from beheadings to mutilations to executions, is to strip all sides from their sense of impunity,” said Nadim Houry, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “These atrocities are shocking but so is the obstruction of some Security Council members that still do not support an ICC referral for all sides.”

In the video obtained by Human Rights Watch, a man identified by the person filming the incident as Abu Sakkar is filmed cutting the chest of a dead uniformed fighter, and removing the heart and liver from the corpse. The person filming the incident then comments, while “Abu Sakkar” is cutting out the corpse’s liver: “God Bless you, Abu Sakkar, you look like you are drawing [carving] a heart of love on him.” After Abu Sakkar completes the cutting out of the corpse’s heart and liver, he is filmed holding the heart and liver in his hands and speaks into the camera:

I swear to God, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs – we will eat your heart and livers! Takbir! God is Great! Oh my heroes of Baba Amr, you slaughter the Alawites and take their hearts out to eat them!

At the end of the video, after that statement, the man called Abu Sakkar is filmed putting the corpse’s heart into his mouth, as if he is taking a bite out of it. Because of the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the video, Human Rights Watch has decided not to publicly release the footage, although an edited and blurred version is available on the internet (see below).

HRW writes that by comparing frames of the mutilation video to other videos showing what appears to be the same man participating in the shelling that indiscriminately hit Lebanese Shi’a villages and talking about killed Hezbollah fighters, Human Rights Watch believes the person in the video to be Commander Abu Sakkar.

Journalists and other commanders have said that Abu Sakkar is the nom de guerre of a former commander from the mainstream al-Farouq Brigade from the Baba Amr district of Homs, in Syria.

When asked about the video, Maj. Gen. Salim Idriss, Chief of Staff for the Supreme Military Council of the opposition, told TIME Magazine that “such violence is unacceptable, and no soldier under the council’s command would be allowed to get away with such actions.” However, opposition forces have not set up proper accountability mechanisms for abuses committed by their members.

“It is not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government,” Houry said. “The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.”

Warning: Extremely graphic images!

Jewish Press Staff

HRW Founder: Human Rights Must Focus on Arab Regimes’ Hate Speech

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Robert Bernstein, the founder and long-time director of Human Rights Watch, told his audience of Hebrew Union College graduates and those in attendance last week that human rights advocates have lost sight of what their goals should be with respect to human rights issues in the Middle East.

The undisputed dean of the  global human rights movement, Bernstein, 90 years old, says that the movement has lost its way.  Instead of focusing on the stranglehold on speech and other basic freedoms by the leaders of 300 million Arabs across the Middle East, the human rights watchers instead watch Israel with a microscope and play a twisted game of ‘gotcha!’ in an effort to catch Israel in what they rush to call war crimes.

Bernstein noted that of the millions of Arabs whose governments deny them freedom of speech, “half of them, 150 million, as women, not only lack freedom of speech, but have barely any rights at all.  And the private rights of how to pray and how to love are wrongly dictated by governments all across the Arab World.”

In essence, Bernstein called the “Arab Spring” a squandered opportunity for human rights activists who should have seized the opportunity to help oppressed people throughout the region throw off their shackles, instead of helping them exchange the old shackles for new ones.

Dictators who had oppressed their own people – and deceived them by telling them that Jews and Israel’s very existence were one of the primary causes of their misery – were toppled.  It was a time for human rights organizations and governmental organizations to try to push for these rights long denied, with the hopes that they would take some root.  One might have hoped, too, that it was a time for human rights organizations to tell the people living in Arab countries that their governments not only misled them about their own rights, but also falsely portrayed Israel as a threat and an enemy to detract attention from their plight.  Sadly, they did not do this.  And the reason, in my opinion, is because of where many in the human rights community have placed their emphasis in recent years.

And it isn’t only the brutal repression of their people that Bernstein faults when it comes to the leaders of so many Arab countries, it is the promulgation of state-sponsored hate speech.

If they want to have an impact for good in the Middle East, human rights organizations should be focusing on state-incited hate speech.  And, unfortunately, there is plenty of it in closed societies across the Arab world.  If human rights organizations wanted to be open and honest with the suffering Arab masses, who are certainly suffering, they would point out that blaming Jews is a distraction and not what is holding them and their children back from enjoying the miracles of today’s world.  For decades, government sponsored hate speech in closed societies has been fostering a revenge rather than reform mentality.

Bernstein criticized the current vanguard of human rights activists who hear fascist government dictators’ hate speech and incitement and call it “advocacy” and “protected free speech.”

As an example, Bernstein explained that the statements made by Iran’s Ayatollah Khameini, that he ‘can destroy Israel in nine minutes,’  and Ahmadinejad’s wheeling Iran’s largest rocket through Tehran, declaring: ‘This is for Israel,’ constitute incitement to genocide, which is a crime under international human rights laws. “Yet the major human rights organizations have found no way to confront the problem and recognize that the 300-plus million people living in closed Arab countries have been taught for decades that a small Jewish state has no right to exist.”

Bernstein called on the graduates to reach out to leaders of other faiths and “ask them, as a step toward Mid-East and world peace, to stop the campaign of hate, not only in the Arab world, but wherever else it exists.”

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) awarded Bernstein the 2013 Bernard Heller Prize at its May 3 graduation, which was held at  Congregation Emanu-El, in New York City.

The Heller Prize is given to an organization or individual whose work, research or writing reflects significant contributions in arts, letters, the humanities and religion. Previous recipients of the Heller Prize include Dennis B. Ross, Special Middle East Coordinator in the U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, chief negotiator of the Dayton Accords, Count Folke Bernadotte, for rescuing thousands from the concentration camps during the Holocaust, and Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Human Rts Orgs Nominate Anti-Israel Pro-Terror Woman for HR Prize

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Egyptian Mona Seif has been nominated for what is known as the “Nobel Prize for Human Rights,” the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.  The nominee was chosen by a panel of human rights organizations which include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Human Rights First and the International Service for Human Rights.

Seif was nominated in her capacity as one of the main founders of an Egyptian grassroots organization, “No to Military Trials for Civilians,” which started a national movement bringing together lawyers, activists, the families of victims and other interested parties all of whom oppose what they insist are the inappropriate restrictions of Egyptian military trials for civilians who should not be encumbered with such restrictions.

Seif, along with others who sought to resist the freedom restrictions imposed by Egyptian president Mubarak, used social media to broadcast the oppressive moves of the Egyptian government, and helped mobilize protesters and supporters to join her in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution in January 2010 – February 2011.  In the post-Mubarak Egyptian world Seif has continued monitoring and broadcasting actions of the post-Revolutionary Egyptian government.

But the 27 year old biology graduate student has a darker side.  Although fully able and energized to advocate for Egyptian rights and freedoms, at the same time Seif gleefully tweets about blowing up gas pipelines to Israel.

This dualism is one that we have seen repeated with young Egyptian human and civil rights advocates.  Several times over the past year the West has at first applauded, and sought to laud, young Egyptian women activists whose pursuits came to the attention of the West because of their social media skills.  But each time, a darker side has been revealed, one that, once exposed, brought disgrace not only to the activist.  It also reflected poorly on those whose due diligence failures revealed an over-eagerness to reward non-Western activists.  The problem is that the activism of these particular individuals was animated solely by a desire to benefit those similarly situated, but who were just as willing as their own oppressors to vilify and deny rights to others.

A good example of this propensity was when First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry almost gave the “Secretary of State Woman of Courage Award” to an Egyptian woman, Samira Ibrahim, in early March.  Ibrahim, like Seif, was a Twitter activist in support of Egyptian rights, but Ibrahim also supported terrorism and the murder of Americans and Israelis.

However, just hours before Obama and Kerry were to present Ibrahim with the Award, the decision was cancelled (postponed they said at the time) after a relentless chorus of horror rose up to stop them.  It was social media that almost swept in Ibrahim as an honored activist by American leadership.  However, a wave of disgust towards Ibrahim who had tweeted praise for the murders of Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, extolled the terrorist bombing that killed 5 Israelis and a Bulgarian last summer, and praised Hitler, swept her back out just before the awards ceremony.

Turning back to Seif, a look at her social media accounts before selecting her as a potential recipient of such an important human rights award should have been standard procedure.  After all, she was well known and was brought to the attention of the human rights organizations precisely because of her extensive and sophisticated social media activity.  Perhaps after this fiasco social media searches will become de rigueur for all sophisticated due diligence efforts.

Because Seif’s Twitter account reveals a propensity to express the most vulgar kind of hatred towards Israel, both in terms of how she expresses herself: #F[expletive deleted]Israel is a popular choice, as well as the substance of her messages, which advocate terrorism against the Jewish State and which harshly criticize Human Rights organizations which dare to suggest the terrorist group Hamas should refrain from killing Israeli civilians.


Tweets of Mona Seif encouraging blowing up gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel, and using vulgar and violent hashtag.

Tweets of Mona Seif encouraging blowing up gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel, and using vulgar and violent hashtag.

In addition, Seif is sloppy with her facts and fails to remove slanderous falsehoods even after they’ve been definitively exposed.  An example of this is when she sent a picture on Twitter of a man mourning the murder of his small child, which she blamed on Israel.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Human Rights Watch Turns on Hamas for Executions of Collaborators

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Human Rights Watch, which usually has Israel in its crosshairs, has turned its fury on the Hamas terrorist organization for failing to investigate the gory public execution of seven Gaza Arabs accused and sentenced to death without a trial for helping Israel.

Hamas rejected the criticism, saying it was biased and adding that it has investigated the killings four months ago. Armed Hamas goons murdered the suspects and dragged their bodies through Gaza streets to the cheers of passersby.

The Hamas regime has executed at least 38 people since seizing power in 2007 after a deadly terrorist militia clash with its rival Fatah faction, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Human Rights Watch Slamming Hamas for Ignoring Public Murders

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticized the Hamas government in Gaza for failing to investigate the murders of seven prisoners. The victims, who were accused of collaboration with Israel, were publicly killed during two days in November, 2012, while Israel and Gazan terrorists were exchanging heavy fire.

Images of one of the victims being dragged behind a motorcycle through Gaza City quickly became a symbol of the “Heart of Darkness” kind of cruelty which rules the streets there.

“Hamas’s inability or unwillingness to investigate the brazen murders of seven men makes a mockery of its claims that it’s upholding the rule of law in Gaza,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Human Rights Watch said that despite the circumstances of their deaths, the military courts that convicted the men made their decisions on the basis of coerced confessions, ignoring credible evidence that interrogators tortured at least six of the defendants.

“Even before the killings, the abuses the men suffered made the criminal justice system a travesty, regardless of their guilt or innocence,” Whitson said in a statement.

She accused the government in Gaza of failing to make even the most elementary effort to identifying the killers.

“Months after seven Palestinians were murdered in broad daylight, seemingly with the collusion of security officials, the Hamas authorities in Gaza appear not to have lifted a finger to investigate, let alone to hold those responsible to account,” Whitson said.

“Hamas should be taking concrete steps to reform the criminal justice system and break the cycle of impunity that, as these men’s cases show, lets torturers and killers roam free.”

The Hamas government announced in November it was investigating how the men died.

Palestinian human rights activists along with senior Hamas officials also condemned the killings as illegal, saying the men should have been brought to justice under the law.

Yori Yanover

Egypt’s Jon Stewart Jailed

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Bassem Youssef, who hosts a television show modeled after Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” confirmed on his official Twitter account that he received an arrest warrant, mockingly saying he will head to the prosecution office Sunday “unless they send me a police car today and save me transportation trouble,” Al Ahram reported.

Ealier on Saturday, Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordered the arrest of the famous political satirist, to look into complaints accusing him of insulting President Mohamed Morsi, denigrating Islam and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.

Youssef hosts a weekly satire show, El-Bernameg (The Show), on private satellite television channel CBC.

The complaints were filed by 12 citizens after Youssef’s March 1 episode in which he mocked the president’s public interview with TV anchor Amr El-Leithy in February.

One anonymous complainant accused Youssef of denigrating Islam and disturbing security, and demanded that the state take “deterrent measures against him so that others with weak resolve wouldn’t dare to insult Islam.” The same anonymous person also accused Youssef of diminishing President Morsi’s stature “domestically and abroad.”

Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch thinks the Egyptian government has signaled that it takes Youssef’s threat seriously, going so far as to appoint a judge to investigate the complaints against him, according to.

“It means you’re prioritizing the case, and dedicating resources to it,” Morayef told the NY Times, noting wryly that the same public prosecutor has ignored numerous complaints of torture and the use of excessive force. Issuing an arrest warrant without a reasonable fear that Youssef had any intent to flee the country “is completely unnecessary and definitely a political escalation,” she said.

In January, a number of Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit against Youssef, accusing him of “undermining the standing of the president” during his show.

However, charges back then were dropped before the case reached a court.

Yori Yanover

The Next UN-Israel Showdown

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Another major confrontation is brewing between Israel and the United Nations. On January 29, Israel is scheduled for its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the Human Rights Council (HRC). Following the March 2012 Council session, however, Israel’s foreign minister ceased all contacts with the HRC due to its obsessive bias and double standards targeting the Jewish state. As a result, Israel will not participate in UPR.

This has U.N. officials very worried and for good reason. If Israel fails to show up for UPR, this may force the HRC to end the stranglehold of abusive regimes over the institution and implement long overdue reforms.

UPR was instituted as the focal point of the newly-created HRC in 2006, which was established as a correction to its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission was disbanded after being hijacked by dictatorships and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The huge embarrassment was compounded by a singular focus on Israel. According to U.N. Watch, approximately half of all country-specific resolutions condemned the Jewish state.

The Commission’s standing agenda included the notorious “Item 7,” meaning that Israel was the only country singled out at every session. Inevitably, this resulted in incessant discussion of alleged Israeli violations against Palestinians. By 2005, the situation had deteriorated to the point that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan remarked, “the Commission’s ability to perform its tasks has been . . . undermined by the politicization of its sessions and the selectivity of its work.”

UPR was created to ostensibly remedy the pervasive one-sidedness by implementing a peer review of the human rights records of every U.N. member state once every four years. It was heavily promoted by officials from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Europe, and the U.N. as the linchpin of the HRC and proof of its “reformed” and universally-concerned character, despite the perpetuation of Agenda Item 7 on Israel. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in particular lobbied extensively for UPR.

In spite of the promises, the new HRC differed little from the Commission. Dictatorships and Islamic regimes continued to dominate the council and its leadership. Resolutions against Israel outnumbered those issued against any other country by orders of magnitude, and 5 of the first 9 special sessions targeted Israel. Prompted by the Arab League and the OIC, coupled with intensive campaigning by HRW, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, and other NGOs, there have been at least four separate “fact-finding” missions aimed at Israel, most notably the Goldstone Mission. Follow-up committees, reports for Goldstone (ignoring the repudiation of the report by Judge Goldstone himself), and the other inquiries continue to be placed on the agenda at every HRC session – wasting precious time and resources.

And although every country participated in the first round of the UPR process, which concluded in 2011, the meetings usually consisted of dictators patting each other on the back for their stellar human rights records. Bashing Israel and Canada stood in for “constructive dialogue.”

Based on this sorry history, the March 2012 HRC session was the last straw for Israel. While thousands were being butchered by the Assad regime in Syria, the HRC outrageously passed a resolution condemning Israel for the “suffering of Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan.” Due to intense lobbying by several European-government funded NGOs, including Al Haq and Badil, seeking to lay the groundwork for a new campaign against Israelis at the International Criminal Court, the HRC also initiated another fact-finding mission against Israel. This time, Israel decided to disengage entirely from the farce.

Once HRC officials realized that Israel’s decision would also affect UPR, they panicked. UPR can only work if there is 100% state participation. Without UPR, the façade of a reformed HRC is now in jeopardy. On November 28, 2012, the HRC President sent a desperate letter to Israel trying to guilt it into participation by ironically promoting the “universality” of the process. When Israel didn’t bite, the HRC met this week and openly chastised Israel for refusing to participate in the discredited framework.

In concert with the U.N., NGOs predictably began issuing condemnations. The NGO WILPF, in Orwellian fashion, lamented that, “Letting the non-cooperation of a state produce a double standard in the UPR process and setting such a precedent would undermine its object and purpose,” while ignoring the decades of double standards aimed at Israel. No doubt, similarly self-righteous statements will soon appear from HRW and others.

Anne Herzberg

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-next-un-israel-showdown/2013/01/21/

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