BBC: ICC prosecutor seeking warant to arrest Gaddafi, his son, and his Security Minister for Crimes Against Humanity

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor is seeking the arrest of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity.  Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi bore the greatest responsibility for “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilians.

ICC judges must still decide whether or not to issue warrants for their arrest. The Libyan government has already said it will ignore the announcement.  Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim said the court was a “baby of the European Union designed for African politicians and leaders” and its practices were “questionable“.  Libya did not recognise its jurisdiction, like a few other African countries and the United States, he added.

‘Inner circle’

Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s call for the arrest of Col Gaddafi on war crimes charges is his second for a sitting head of state. But as with his indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, this could be just as hard to enforce. Some fear this will only complicate efforts to bring the violence to an end, making it harder to negotiate a settlement – if potential interlocutors fear they will face future prosecution.

The Libyan authorities have already dismissed the International Criminal court as irrelevant. But the prosecutor’s office says it has been getting calls from some unnamed Libyan officials offering evidence, which if true suggests some at least take the prosecutor’s investigations very seriously. And the Libyan leader, his son and his intelligence chief are now looking even more isolated.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that after reviewing more than 1,200 documents and 50 interviews with key insiders and witnesses, his office had evidence showing that Col Gaddafi had “personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians”.  “His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in public spaces, shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers,” he told a news conference in The Hague.

“The evidence shows that such persecution is still ongoing as I speak today in the areas under Gaddafi control. Gaddafi forces have prepared a list with names of alleged dissidents, and they are being arrested, put into prisons in Tripoli, tortured and made to disappear,” he added. Mr Moreno-Ocampo continued: “His [Col Gaddafi’s] second-oldest son, Saif al-Islam, is the de facto prime minister and Sanussi, Gaddafi’s brother-in-law, is his right-hand man – the executioner, the head of military intelligence. He commanded personally some of the attacks.”

The prosecutor insisted he was “almost ready” for a trial, based on the testimony, particularly of those who had escaped from Libya. Libya’s opposition National Transitional Council praised the ICC move. But its vice-president, Abdel Hafez Ghoga, said: “We would like him [Col Gaddafi] to be tried in Libya first before being put on trial in an international court.

Selective justice?

Earlier, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said the three men were suspected of committing crimes against humanity in two categories – murder and persecution – under the Rome Statute, which established the court.  The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February. Between 500 and 700 people are believed to have been killed in that month alone.

ICC prosecutors are also studying evidence about the alleged commission of war crimes once the situation developed into an armed conflict.  This includes allegations of rape and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries. An inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council is expected to submit its report on the alleged war crimes to the UN Security Council on 7 June.

 The charges cover the days following the start of anti-government protests on 15 February. Mr Moreno-Ocampo said he was acting in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1970, which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC. The Pre-Trial Chamber’s judges may decide to accept the prosecutor’s application, reject it, or ask him for more information.

If a warrant for Col Gaddafi is issued, it would only be the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for genocide in Darfur. Amnesty International said the international community must not allow justice to appear selective, because what was happening in Syria was “equal to if not worse than the situation in Libya”.

Overnight, Libyan state television reported Nato aircraft had bombed an oil terminal in the eastern port of Ras Lanuf. The alleged raid came after insurgents said they had taken full control of the western city of Misrata. The rebels also said they had defeated two brigades of troops loyal to Col Gaddafi in the city of Zintan, south-east of Tripoli, over the weekend.

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Nigeria’s New Vote “Will Change Country”

Published in BBC

Preliminary parliamentary poll results revealing big losses for the ruling party show Nigeria “has changed”, an analyst has told the BBC.  “It tells a story to every politician: You can no longer take Nigerians for granted,” Victor Burubo said. High-profile PDP casualties include speaker of the lower house Dimeji Bankole and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s daughter in the senate.

Despite some violence, observers said Saturday’s poll was well-conducted. The initial vote had to be postponed from 2 April after voting material failed to reach many areas. Previous elections since the return to civilian rule in 1999 have been marred by widespread fraud and intimidation.  Elections for the presidency and state governorships were also delayed and are now to be held on 16 and 26 April respectively.

With more than 70% of preliminary results announced at a state level, President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has suffered significant losses.  The party that has dominated politics since the military returned to barracks has so far taken 59 seats in the 109-member senate and 140 seats in the 360-member House of Representatives.

Correspondents say it is not clear whether the PDP will lose its absolute majority in both houses as voting in some 13-14% of parliamentary constituencies – where polling had begun on 2 April – has been delayed until 26 April.  The party has lost out to two newly formed parties, the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the south-west and to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in parts of the north.

There was another embarrassing loss for the PDP in the northern state of Katsina where Maryam Yar’Adua, daughter of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, failed in her bid get into the House of Representatives. But Mr Burubo, who leads the National Ijaw Council in the southern oil-rich Niger Delta, said the PDP’s bad showing on a parliamentary level would not affect the presidential vote.  “I have a feeling that a good number of areas where the PDP has been beaten will still revert to the PDP candidates, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and his running mate Sambo because of who they are are – not just because of the party,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

Paul Krugman: Another Inside Job

Published in NY Times.

Count me among those who were glad to see the documentary “Inside Job” win an Oscar. The film reminded us that the financial crisis of 2008, whose aftereffects are still blighting the lives of millions of Americans, didn’t just happen — it was made possible by bad behavior on the part of bankers, regulators and, yes, economists.

What the film didn’t point out, however, is that the crisis has spawned a whole new set of abuses, many of them illegal as well as immoral. And leading political figures are, at long last, showing some outrage. Unfortunately, this outrage is directed, not at banking abuses, but at those trying to hold banks accountable for these abuses.

The immediate flashpoint is a proposed settlement between state attorneys general and the mortgage servicing industry. That settlement is a “shakedown,” says Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. The money banks would be required to allot to mortgage modification would be “extorted,” declares The Wall Street Journal. And the bankers themselves warn that any action against them would place economic recovery at risk.

All of which goes to confirm that the rich are different from you and me: when they break the law, it’s the prosecutors who find themselves on trial.

 To get an idea of what we’re talking about here, look at the complaint filed by Nevada’s attorney general against Bank of America. The complaint charges the bank with luring families into its loan-modification program — supposedly to help them keep their homes — under false pretenses; with giving false information about the program’s requirements (for example, telling them that they had to default on their mortgages before receiving a modification); with stringing families along with promises of action, then “sending foreclosure notices, scheduling auction dates, and even selling consumers’ homes while they waited for decisions”; and, in general, with exploiting the program to enrich itself at those families’ expense.

The end result, the complaint charges, was that “many Nevada consumers continued to make mortgage payments they could not afford, running through their savings, their retirement funds, or their children’s education funds. Additionally, due to Bank of America’s misleading assurances, consumers deferred short-sales and passed on other attempts to mitigate their losses. And they waited anxiously, month after month, calling Bank of America and submitting their paperwork again and again, not knowing whether or when they would lose their homes.”

Still, things like this only happen to losers who can’t keep up their mortgage payments, right? Wrong. Recently Dana Milbank, the Washington Post columnist, wrote about his own experience: a routine mortgage refinance with Citibank somehow turned into a nightmare of misquoted rates, improper interest charges, and frozen bank accounts. And all the evidence suggests that Mr. Milbank’s experience wasn’t unusual.

Notice, by the way, that we’re not talking about the business practices of fly-by-night operators; we’re talking about two of our three largest financial companies, with roughly $2 trillion each in assets. Yet politicians would have you believe that any attempt to get these abusive banking giants to make modest restitution is a “shakedown.” The only real question is whether the proposed settlement lets them off far too lightly.

What about the argument that placing any demand on the banks would endanger the recovery? There’s a lot to be said about that argument, none of it good. But let me emphasize two points.

First, the proposed settlement only calls for loan modifications that would produce a greater “net present value” than foreclosure — that is, for offering deals that are in the interest of both homeowners and investors. The outrageous truth is that in many cases banks are blocking such mutually beneficial deals, so that they can continue to extract fees. How could ending this highway robbery be bad for the economy?

Second, the biggest obstacle to recovery isn’t the financial condition of major banks, which were bailed out once and are now profiting from the widespread perception that they’ll be bailed out again if anything goes wrong. It is, instead, the overhang of household debt combined with paralysis in the housing market. Getting banks to clear up mortgage debts — instead of stringing families along to extract a few more dollars — would help, not hurt, the economy.

In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll see pro-banker politicians denounce the proposed settlement, asserting that it’s all about defending the rule of law. But what they’re actually defending is the exact opposite — a system in which only the little people have to obey the law, while the rich, and bankers especially, can cheat and defraud without consequences.

The Guardian: Tunisian Prime Minister and former lackey of Ben Ali Has Resigned

Tunisia was thrown into turmoil once more after Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned as prime minister of the post-revolution government amid further clashes between police and protestors. The interim president, Fouad Mebazaa, named the former government minister Beji Caid-Essebsi as Ghannouchi’s replacement.

Ghannouchi said he felt forced to stand down “because I am not willing to be a person that takes decisions that would end up causing casualties”. He made the announcement after three people died on Saturday and nine others were injured during outbreaks of violence on the streets of the capital, Tunis.

Tunisia’s interim coalition has struggled to assert its authority since a wave of protests that started in December sparked what was called the “jasmine revolution”, leading to the overthrow in January of president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled for 23 years.Protestors have targeted Ghannouchi, accusing him of being too close to the former government. They have also become frustrated over the slow pace of change since the revolution despite the interim government’s pledge to hold a general election by 15 July this year.

Ghannouchi, 69, who since 1989 had held various ministerial posts under the old regime, told a news conference he had thought carefully about the decision. “I am not running away from responsibility,” he said. “This is to open the way for a new prime minister.” He added: “This resignation will serve Tunisia, and the revolution and the future of Tunisia.”

On a third day of clashes, police fired tear gas and warning shots in an effort to disperse stone-throwing youths and protesters shouting anti-government slogans around Habib Bourguiba avenue in central Tunis. More than 100 people were arrested and accused of “acts of destruction and burning”, according to a statement by the Tunisian interior ministry put out by the state-run news agency Tunis Afrique Presse.

Demonstrators want the interim government disbanded along with the current parliament. They also seek the suspension of the constitution and the formation of an elected assembly that can write another, organise elections and oversee the transition to democracy.

Paul Krugman: Wisconsin Power Play


Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away. In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power. In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions. You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Eric Lichblau- Justice Thomas’ Wife Sets Up Conservative Lobbying Shop (Tea Party infiltration of Supreme Court)

Published in NY TIMES.

 The wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, who has raised her political profile in the last year through her outspoken conservative activism, is rebranding herself as a lobbyist and self-appointed “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.”

Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, said on libertyinc.co, a Web site for her new political consulting business, that she saw herself as an advocate for “liberty-loving citizens” who favored limited government, free enterprise and other core conservative issues. She promised to use her “experience and connections” to help clients raise money and increase their political impact.

Ms. Thomas’s effort to take a more operational role on conservative issues could intensify questions about her husband’s ability to remain independent on issues like campaign finance and health care, legal ethicists said. Justice Thomas “should not be sitting on a case or reviewing a statute that his wife has lobbied for,” said Monroe H. Freedman, a Hofstra Law School professor specializing in legal ethics. “If the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that creates a perception problem.”

Ms. Thomas’s founding of her own political consulting shop, Liberty Consulting, was first reported Thursday by Politico, which said she had begun reaching out to freshmen Republicans in Congress. The move comes a few months after she gave up the top spot at Liberty Central, a conservative Web site that she founded in 2009 and that has strong links to the Tea Party movement.

An anonymous $500,000 donation to start up Liberty Central came from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate investor and Republican financier, Politico reported. Mr. Crow, reached by phone Friday, would not say whether he was the source of the money. “I disclose what I’m required by law to disclose,” he said, “and I don’t disclose what I’m not required to disclose.”

Ms. Thomas did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for an interview on Friday. The Daily Caller reported in December that she had said in an interview that she was looking forward to a new role involving “lobbying on Capitol Hill” and a variety of other hands-on operational duties.

Arn Pearson, a vice president at Common Cause, a liberal group that has been critical of potential conflicts at the Supreme Court caused by Ms. Thomas’s work, said her new position, combined with Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent address before a closed-door seminar of the Tea Party Caucus, provided further evidence of “the politicization of the court.” “The level of bias we’re seeing is really troubling,” Mr. Pearson said.

American Academic Experts’ Open Letter to Obama

To President Obama:
As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

Current signatories,


Jason Brownlee, University of Texas at Austin

Joshua Stacher, Kent State University

Tamir Moustafa, Simon Fraser University

Arang Keshavarzian, New York University

Clement Henry, University of Texas at Austin

Robert Springborg, Naval Postgraduate School

Jillian Schwedler, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chris Toensing, Middle East Research and Information Project
Joel Beinin, Stanford University

Ellen Lust, Yale University

Tarek Massoud, Harvard University
Amaney Jamal, Princeton University
Helga Tawil-Souri, New York University


List of Experts continue: http://www.petitiononline.com/egyltr/petition.html