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Russia war crimes did not begin with the invasion of Ukraine, those with short memories should be reminded that all the same tactics were used in Syria and went unpunished. Shameful, but read on.
As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, top Biden administration officials are working behind the scenes with the Ukrainian government and European allies to document a tsunami of war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces. But the sheer volume of the documented war crime cases could be too overwhelming for Ukraine’s justice system as well as for the International Criminal Court (ICC), raising questions of how many cases will be brought to trial and how many accused Russian war criminals could ultimately face justice.
An aerial view of crosses, floral tributes, and photographs of the victims of the battles for Irpin and Bucha that mark the graves in a cemetery in Irpin, Ukraine, on May 16. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
“This is a Nuremberg moment in terms of just the sheer scale of the breach of the rules-based international order that has been perpetrated by Russia in this invasion,” said Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice. “Even the most well-resourced prosecutorial office would have a hard time grappling with the sheer scale of the criminality that’s been on display.”
The United States joined a slew of other Western countries and international institutions in devoting resources to help Ukraine document and collect evidence on as many alleged war crimes as possible, from Russian soldiers torturing, raping, and executing Ukrainian civilians to Russian armored units and air forces indiscriminately shelling civilian targets. Keep reading here.
Weapons experts from France are helping their Ukrainian counterparts collect evidence of possible Russian war crimes in the northern region of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said on Friday.
The French Gendarmerie’s experts, including specialists in drone modelling, ballistics and weapons of mass destruction, have been collecting evidence at sites of destruction from Russian shelling.
They replaced group of gendarmerie forensic experts who arrived in mid-April to help establish what happened in Bucha, near Kyiv, where the killing of many civilians provoked a global outcry.
“It will soon be two months since (French experts) have been with us ‘on the ground’,” Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova wrote on her Facebook account.
“They work in the Chernihiv region and conduct research at sites destroyed by shelling,” she wrote. “These war crimes must be punished, and we are ready to do together everything to do
The Chernihiv region has been shelled frequently since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Ukraine is also investigating potential war crimes by Russian soldiers in Chernihiv during their occupation in March.
Russia denies targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.
Kyiv and its allies say Russia invaded its neighbor without provocation. source
Ukraine has identified several thousand suspected war crimes in the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces are pressing their offensive, Kyiv’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday.
“Of course we started a few thousand cases about what we see in Donbas,” prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told a news conference in The Hague as she met international counterparts.
“If we speak about war crimes, it’s about possible transfer of people, we started several cases about possible transfer of children, adult people to different parts of the Russian Federation,” she said.
“Then, of course, we can speak about torturing people, killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure.”
Ukrainian authorities did not have access to Russian-held areas of Donbas, but they were interviewing evacuees and prisoners of war, Venediktova told the press conference at the headquarters of EU judicial agency Eurojust.
In total, Ukraine had identified 15,000 war crimes cases across the country since Russia’s invasion on February 24, she added.
Ukraine had identified 600 suspects for the “anchor” crime of aggression, including “high level of top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russian Federation,” the prosecutor general said.
Nearly 80 suspects had been identified for alleged war crimes that had actually taken place on Ukrainian soil, she added. source
In July of 2019: Mexico’s Congress passed an asset forfeiture bill; there were no additional changes to Mexico’s counterterrorism legislation in 2019. The government lacked adequate laws prohibiting material support to terrorists and relied on counterterrorism regimes in other countries to thwart potential threats. Additional reading here.
CARTEL monsters have hung nine bodies from a bridge in a chilling warning to rival gangs amid a bloody Mexico turf war.
A tenth victim was also found on a nearby road by horrified residents in the Zacatecas municipality of Cuauhtémoc on Thursday at around 6am.
Officials warned the disturbing display was likely to be linked to a savage dispute between ruthless criminal gangs that operate in the area.
The nine bodies were eventually removed from the overpass by police at around 10am local time, as locals went about their day.
According to local media, the majority of the deceased were identified as residents of the small town Cuauhtémoc, which has a population of just 6,660.
“They pay for the sins of others, it is not fair that they do this to us because they pay for the sinners,” one spooked local told TV Azteca Noticias.
Another added: “It’s scary to go out at night. You have to go to sleep early and every night there is noise, motorcycles, screaming, things like that.”
An “intense investigation” was underway, the local government said, although no arrests have yet been made.
“Operation Lone Star,” is Gov. Greg Abbott’s evolving and expensive plan to secure the U.S.-Mexico border using thousands of state troopers and Texas National Guardsmen. The operation, launched in March, was initially billed by Abbott as an effort to “deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas,” but has since become a sprawling and controversial experiment in the use of state power to secure an international border.
Democrats have denounced it as illegal and unconstitutional, and called for a Justice Department investigation. Republicans have praised Abbott for taking a stand and pushing the envelope.
Abbott has not asked the Biden administration for permission because he does not believe he needs it. Indeed, the entire operation has been designed to operate exclusively with state resources and agencies, and within the existing confines of state law. That’s both a strength of Abbott’s approach and, as I saw for myself in Del Rio, Texas, a major weakness.
Abbott’s Border Operation Is A Bureaucratic Morass
It’s a weakness because it severely limits what the operation can achieve. The basic idea is that Texas state troopers and National Guard troops will arrest illegal immigrants, who will in turn be prosecuted for misdemeanor criminal trespass in hopes that such prosecutions will serve as a deterrent. Whatever the merits of this approach to border security, it comes with a host of caveats and constraints.
To begin with, Texas is only arresting single adult men, not women, children, or family units, which means the state is targeting the migrant population most likely to be quickly expelled to Mexico under Title 42, the pandemic public health order that allows federal immigration officials to send migrants back over the border with minimal processing. The migrant men arrested by Texas law enforcement, by contrast, will remain in state custody for weeks or longer, rather than being sent back to Mexico.
Up until last week, migrant men arrested under Operation Lone Star who posted bond would be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which would typically expel them under Title 42. But last week ICE told the state it would no longer take custody of these migrants. That means Texas will have to transfer them to U.S. Border Patrol, and as of this writing it remains an open question whether Border Patrol will expel them as they would have under Title 42, had federal agents arrested them, or process them as asylum-seekers.
If the latter, then Operation Lone Star might have the unintended effect of rewarding migrants caught by state authorities: once they’re processed and released by Border Patrol to pursue their asylum claims, migrants have legal status, are allowed to work, and can remain in the United States as their case wends its way through federal immigration courts — a process that can take up to five years.
But even before these problems arise there are strict conditions that have to be met before state authorities can even make an arrest. Migrants can only be arrested on private land where landowners have agreed to press charges, and only on those parcels of land where the Texas National Guard has managed to erect temporary barriers, usually some arrangement of concertina wire that migrants must cut or go over, to ensure the trespass charges will stick.
And before Texas National Guardsmen in particular can arrest anyone, they’re supposed to go through 40 hours of police training (in practice, I’m told that it’s more like a day-long training). Also, the migrants who are arrested have to be transported to state prisons that have been retrofitted to comply with state jail standards, since migrants are being held in pretrial confinement. That in turn means all the corrections officers have to be trained as jailers.
On top of all these requirements, the entire operation depends on the willingness of local county attorneys to prosecute a deluge of misdemeanor criminal trespass cases arising from all these arrests. In Kinney County, which has a population of less than 4,000, the county attorney is a young man named Brent Smith who just took office in January and has never before worked as a prosecutor. He now has about 1,300 cases and counting thanks to Operation Lone Star. (For context, in normal times the Kinney County prosecutor would only take on a couple dozen cases per year.)
By contrast, in neighboring Val Verde County, the local prosecutor, David Martinez, a Democrat, has rejected nearly half the cases that have come through his office from Operation Lone Star. Last month, Martinez told a local news station he rejected the cases either because the migrants in question were seeking asylum or because there was some other problem with the case. (He cited one case in which state troopers re-directed a group of migrants to cross onto private property so they could arrest them for trespassing.)
For all this, out of about 1,500 criminal trespass cases filed since July through Operation Lone Star, only about 3 percent have resulted in convictions, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, which also cited court records showing that of the 170 Operation Lone Star cases resolved as of November 1, about 70 percent were dismissed, declined, or dropped. The remaining cases ended in plea agreements, with most migrants sentenced to time already served.
Meanwhile, all of this is costing Texas hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier this year, Abbott shifted about $250 million in the state budget to launch the operation, and the GOP-led state legislature later approved an additional $3 billion. In Del Rio, you can see these dollars at work all over town: every hotel parking lot is full of Texas state trooper trucks and SUVs. Uniformed National Guardsmen drive around in armored Humvees. Along some stretches of private land near the Rio Grande, sparkling new chain-link fencing topped by concertina wire stretches out for miles.
Locals seem to appreciate the effort and money being poured into their communities, especially landowners who feel betrayed and abandoned by the Biden administration. One woman told me her family’s ranch has been repeatedly vandalized this year by migrants — trashed, in fact, for the first time in generations. When they called Border Patrol, the answer came back that no one could be spared to come out and investigate. Their advice was, stay away from your ranch, or move. Their message was, incredibly, we can’t protect you.
Indeed, under the direction of Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Border Patrol has for the past ten months been overwhelmed with the endless task of processing and releasing migrants as fast as it possibly can, with little time or personnel available for patrolling the border. In Del Rio, I spoke to former Border Patrol chief Rodney Scott, who was forced out by the Biden administration in August, and he said agents are demoralized because they’re unable to do their jobs. Instead of intercepting drug and human traffickers or arresting criminals trying to evade detection — the actual job of Border Patrol agents — they’re stuck processing and transporting asylum-seekers.
Scott sees the border as a “national security issue,” but says the Biden administration has a completely different set of priorities. “Unfortunately since January 20, I haven’t seen a single action or even a single conversation while I was still in the chief’s position, to try to slow the flow to actually create a deterrent to illegal entry,” he says. “Every single action has been to basically be more welcoming. How can we process faster? And that’s just going to continue to be an invitation worldwide.”
Is Operation Lone Star Elaborate Political Theater?
Texas, then, really is on its own. Abbott is right that under the circumstances something must be done by the state, but so far his solution seems overly lawyerly and cautious, designed specifically to pass legal muster and win lawsuits rather than create a real deterrent to illegal immigration.
A cynic might suspect that Operation Lone Star, for all its complex interagency coordination and mass deployment of manpower and expensive price tag, is in the end mostly political theater. Its purpose might not be to secure the border so much as to secure Abbott’s right flank against a pair of Republican primary challengers, former GOP Texas Chairman Allen West and former state senator Don Huffines, who accuse Abbott of being too soft on the border.
Given the resources at Abbott’s disposal, West and Huffines — along with plenty of Texas conservatives who are frustrated about the ongoing border crisis — arguably have a point. Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who led U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under Trump, has argued that border states have a strong constitutional case for securing their own international borders in the face of federal inaction. Cuccinelli and others cite Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which stipulates that no state can engage in diplomacy or war without the consent of Congress, “unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit delay.”
The ongoing border crisis, which has seen a record 1.7 million arrests at the southwest border in the last 12 months, constitutes both an invasion and an imminent danger that will not admit delay, the argument goes, and states have a right to act. Not only could border state governors like Abbott invoke emergency powers to return illegal immigrants directly to Mexico, state legislatures could pass laws making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to remain in those states, mostly through strict licensure and screening requirements for sponsors and refugee resettlement organizations.
All of these things, and much else besides, lie far outside the scope of what Abbott is doing in Texas. There is no question at this point that Operation Lone Star, whatever its merits, will not significantly change the situation along the Rio Grande. The border crisis created by the Biden administration is here to stay — a new normal along the southwest border for as long as the White House desires it.
What could change that? Texas could. Abbott could. He has already demonstrated an impressive ability to mobilize and deploy thousands of Texas law enforcement and military personnel, along with every manner of vehicles, barriers, and transports. Nothing like Operation Lone Star has ever been undertaken, yet it is too little, too late — too pinched and small-minded a response to a rolling crisis that now appears to be permanent.
Abbott could wield these tools to press the constitutional question about what border states can do when the federal government leaves them to their own devices. If he doesn’t, he might find the people of Texas are ready to listen to someone who will. source
It is not just about batteries for electric vehicles, it is really all batteries and the Obama/Biden administration allowed this nefarious deal to happen.
The Biden family began gifting China with anything it wanted and it continues now in the Biden presidency.
Congo and the cobalt mines employ slaves….even child slaves. so, let’s begin here shall we?
Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla won’t have to face a class action suit claiming the tech giants bear responsibility for the alleged use of child labour in Congo to mine cobalt, a key ingredient of batteries in electric cars and consumer electronics, a federal court in Washington ruled Tuesday.
An NGO called International Rights Advocates launched the suit in December 2019, on behalf of more than a dozen families of children killed or hurt in the artisinal cobalt mines in the Congo, responsible for more than two-thirds of global production of the metal. source
The president’s son was part owner of a venture involved in the $3.8 billion purchase by a Chinese conglomerate of one of the world’s largest cobalt deposits. The metal is a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles.
NYT’s: An investment firm where Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was a founding board member helped facilitate a Chinese company’s purchase from an American company of one of the world’s richest cobalt mines, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr. Biden and two other Americans joined Chinese partners in establishing the firm in 2013, known as BHR and formally named Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.
The three Americans, all of whom served on the board, controlled 30 percent of BHR, a private equity firm registered in Shanghai that makes investments and then flips them for a profit. The rest of the company is owned or controlled by Chinese investors that include the Bank of China, according to records filed with Chinese regulators.
The firm made one of its most successful investments in 2016, when it bought and later sold a stake in CATL, a fast-growing Chinese company that is now the world’s biggest maker of batteries for electric vehicles.
The mining deal in Congo also came in 2016, when the Chinese mining outfit China Molybdenum announced that it was paying $2.65 billion to buy Tenke Fungurume, a cobalt and copper mine, from the American company Freeport-McMoRan.
As part of that deal, China Molybdenum sought a partner to buy out a minority stakeholder in the mine, Lundin Mining of Canada. That is when BHR became involved.
Records in Hong Kong show that the $1.14 billion BHR, through subsidiaries, paid to buy out Lundin came entirely from Chinese state-backed companies.
China Molybdenum lined up about $700 million of that total as loans from Chinese state-backed banks, including China Construction Bank. BHR raised the remaining amount from obscure entities with names like Design Time Limited, an offshore company controlled by China Construction’s investment bank, according to the Hong Kong filings.
Before the deal was done, BHR also signed an agreement that allowed China Molybdenum to buy BHR’s share of the mine, which the company did two years later, the filings show. That purchase gave China Molybdenum 80 percent ownership of the mine. (Congo’s state mining enterprise kept a stake for itself.)
By the time BHR sold its share in 2019, Mr. Biden controlled 10 percent of the firm through Skaneateles L.L.C., a company based in Washington. While Chinese corporate records show Skaneateles remains a part owner of BHR, Chris Clark, a lawyer for Mr. Biden, said that he “no longer holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in either BHR or Skaneateles.” The Chinese records show that Mr. Biden was no longer on BHR’s board as of April 2020. Mr. Biden did not respond to requests for comment.
A former BHR board member told The New York Times that Mr. Biden and the other American founders were not involved in the mine deal and that the firm earned only a nominal fee from it. The money, the former board member said, went into the firm’s operating funds and was not distributed to its owners.
It is unclear how the firm was chosen by China Molybdenum. Current executives at BHR did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. “We don’t know Hunter Biden, nor are we aware of his involvement in BHR,” Vincent Zhou, a spokesman for China Molybdenum, said in an email.
A dozen executives from companies involved in the deal, including Freeport McMoRan and Lundin, said in interviews that they were not given a reason for BHR’s participation. Most of the executives also said they were unaware during the deal of Mr. Biden’s connection to the firm.
Paul Conibear, Lundin’s chief executive at the time, said it was made clear that China Molybdenum was leading the transaction even though the buyer of Lundin’s stake was BHR.
“I never really understood who they were,” Mr. Conibear said of BHR.
When the mine was sold, Mr. Biden’s father was near the end of his term as vice president. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Hunter Biden’s business ties in China were widely publicized.
But BHR’s role in the Chinese mine purchase was not a major focus. It has taken on new relevance because the Biden administration warned this year that China might use its growing dominance of cobalt to disrupt America’s retooling of its auto industry to make electric vehicles. The metal is among several key ingredients in electric car batteries.
When asked if the president had been made aware of his son’s connection to the sale, a White House spokesman said, “No.”
New missiles represent serious capability for N.Korea – analysts
U.S. military: Launches highlight threat to N.Korea’s neighbours
Tests came before meeting by U.S., Japan, S.Korea to discuss N.Korea
SEOUL, Sept 13 (Reuters) – North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media said on Monday, seen by analysts as possibly the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.
The missiles are “a strategic weapon of great significance” and flew 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters during the tests on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said.
The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons programme amid a gridlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The talks have stalled since 2019.
North Korea’s cruise missiles usually generate less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under U.N. Nations Security Council Resolutions.
“This would be the first cruise missile in North Korea to be explicitly designated a ‘strategic’ role,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is a common euphemism for nuclear-capable system.”
It is unclear whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to be carried on a cruise missile, but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing smaller bombs is a top goal.
South Korea’s military did not disclose whether it had detected the North’s latest tests, but said on Monday it was conducting a detailed analysis in cooperation with the United States.
The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said it was aware of the reports and was coordinating with its allies and partners.
“This activity highlights (North Korea’s) continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbours and the international community,” INDOPACOM said in a statement.
Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, ran photos of the new cruise missile flying and being fired from a transporter-erector-launcher.
The test provides “strategic significance of possessing another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military manoeuvres of the hostile forces,” KCNA said.
It was seen as the North’s first missile launch after it tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden took office in late January.
Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said intermediate-range land-attack cruise missiles were no less a threat than ballistic missiles and were a pretty serious capability for North Korea.
“This is another system that is designed to fly under missile defence radars or around them,” Lewis said on Twitter.
Cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles that can be armed with either conventional or nuclear bombs are particularly destabilising in the event of conflict as it can be unclear which kind of warhead they are carrying, analysts said.
Kim Jong Un did not appear to have attended the test, with KCNA saying Pak Jong Chon, a member of the Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo and a secretary of its central committee, oversaw it.
The reclusive North has long accused the United States and South Korea of “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.
The unveiling of the test came just a day before chief nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo to explore ways to break the standoff with North Korea.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is also scheduled to visit Seoul on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.
Biden’s administration has said it is open to diplomacy to achieve North Korea’s denuclearisation, but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.
Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy for North Korea, said in August in Seoul that he was ready to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, at any time.”
A reactivation of inter-Korean hotlines in July raised hopes for a restart of the negotiations, but the North stopped answering calls as annual South Korea-U.S. military exercises began last month, which Pyongyang had warned could trigger a security crisis.
Per the WSJ in part: World Health Organization investigators are honing their search for animals that could have spread the new coronavirus to humans, identifying two—ferret badgers and rabbits—that can carry the virus and were sold at a Chinese market where many early cases emerged.
Members of a WHO team probing the pandemic’s origins say further investigation is needed into suppliers of those and other animals at the market, some of which came from a region of China near its Southeast Asian borders where the closest known relatives of the virus have been found in bats.
Team members say they have yet to establish all the creatures sold, legally or illegally, live or dead, at the market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was tied to the first known cluster of cases in December 2019.
China’s National Health Commission and foreign ministry declined to comment.
Has anyone asked what wildlife China exports to the United States? Hello investigative journalists, where are you? What would Customs and Border Patrol have to report on this matter? They do the inspections or should when not chasing illegal migrants coming across our Southern border or working with ICE to track down criminal aliens.
Looking a little deeper:
Wild products are regarded as superior to farm-raised, and the legal market simply makes it easier to launder poached animal products.
During a recent EIA investigation in China, undercover agents spoke with three different ivory traders who all said that at least 90 percent of what they trade legally is poached, said Thornton. A common method of feeding illegal products into the market is reusing and counterfeiting government-issued permits. Meanwhile, about 96 African elephants are killed each day for their ivory, a rate that could wipe them out within a decade.
China is the largest market for illegal wildlife products – and the market continues to grow. “Wildlife species that are bred in captivity for commercial purposes make some products widely available, which drives up consumer demand and increases poaching in the wild,” said Sharon Guynup, an environmental journalist and Wilson Center public policy fellow.
Reducing Demand, Stopping Trade
To reduce consumer demand in China, the non-profit International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has run several innovative outreach campaigns, said Grace Ge Gabriel, the regional director of IFAW’s Asia chapter.
In one campaign, Chinese pop stars, athletes, TV celebrities, and CEOs denounced buying wildlife products in a series of public service announcements and ads that were posted on billboards, buses, in airports, and other public places. Another initiative targeted the belief that ivory comes from elephant teeth and the extraction didn’t kill them. An IFAW survey found that in 2007, 70 percent of Chinese people didn’t know that elephants died for the ivory trade. Three years into a campaign to change this misconception, they found that of the 44 percent of people who had bought ivory in the past year, only seven percent said they would do so again.
China is offering tax incentives to wild animal exports despite banning their sale and consumption within the country amid fears that the practice was responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Sunday report.
Although no consensus has been reached on the virus’ origins, multiple studies have pointed to so-called “wet markets” in the southeastern Chinese city of Wuhan, where wild animals were bought and sold for consumption.
COVID-19 is one of a “family” of coronaviruses commonly found in bats. It is suspected to have passed through a mammal, perhaps pangolins – the most-trafficked animal on the planet – before jumping to humans.
At these wet markets, live, wild-caught animals, farm-raised wild species and livestock frequently intermingle in unsanitary conditions that are highly stressful for the animals – circumstances that are ripe for infection and spillover.
In February, China’s government banned the sale and consumption of wild animals, saying that its “potential risk to public health has aroused wide public concern.”