ELN and Paramilitary Fighting Displaces Hundreds of Colombians

As the FARC begins to disarm, other paramilitary groups continue to fuel violence across the country.

Hundreds of Colombians were displaced in the country’s northwest over the weekend as fighting erupted between members of the National Liberation Army, ELN, and Colombia's paramilitary group, Gaitanistas Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AGC, commonly known as “Los Urabeños.”

RELATED: Colombia Pardons First FARC Troops Under Amnesty Law

According to reports, a group of around 200  “Urabeños” attempted to push out ELN forces from the Baudo region in the northwestern Choco province. They arrived in the Peña Azul community on Saturday by boat and started firing indiscriminately into the community while screaming that they had come to kill ELN troops.

Over 300 people were displaced by the fighting, including children and elderly, and fled north to Pie de Pato, according to AFP.

While it was unclear if there were any civilian casualties or injuries from the fighting, the ombudsman of the Choco department, Luis Enrique Murillo, warned that there were still eight families from Peña Azul who could not leave the community and whose location remained unknown.The region has been known as a stronghold of Colombia’s second-largest rebel army, the ELN, who have recently been seeking a peace deal with the Colombian government similar to the one reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country’s biggest rebel group.

“Los Urabeños” evolved from the officially disbanded  “United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia,” or AUC, a right-wing group that supposedly demobilized between 2003 and 2006 during the government of former President Alvaro Uribe.

RELATED: Indigenous Bari Campesinos Face Colombia Paramilitary Violence

While peace between the FARC and the government was reached in November and the rebel group continues to demobilize, other paramilitary groups continue to operate throughout the country with deadly consequences.

The current government under Juan Manuel Santos has claimed that paramilitary groups do not exist and have demobilized. Yet paramilitary groups continue to wreak havoc in the vacuums created by the FARC,  leaving rural leaders and human rights defenders vulnerable, partially with the lack of state protection.

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‘Extrajudicial execution’: UN slams 1.5yr sentence for manslaughter of wounded Palestinian

The 18-month sentence handed down by a military court to an Israeli soldier who shot a wounded Palestinian man dead last year was “unacceptable” and “excessively lenient,” the UN human rights office has said.

“We are deeply disturbed at the lenient sentence given by the Tel Aviv Military Court earlier this week to an Israeli soldier convicted of unlawfully killing a wounded Palestinian,” UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. 

IDF Sergeant Elor Azaria’s act was “an apparent extrajudicial execution of an unarmed man, who clearly posed no imminent threat,” Shamdasani added, as cited by Reuters.

In March of 2016, the soldier shot Abdel Fattah al-Sharif Elor, a Palestinian knife attacker, in the head after he had already been incapacitated.

Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 1.5 years behind bars on Tuesday, despite the prosecutors asking the judge for a three- to five-year punishment.

READ MORE: 'Constant fear': Activist who filmed Israeli soldier shooting Palestinian tells RT of death threats

The verdict caused outrage in Palestine, with government spokesman Tarek Rishmawi telling AFP that the “light ruling… is a green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes.”

According to the UN human rights spokeswoman, there’s a “chronic culture of impunity” for military crimes against Palestinians in Israel.

“This case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity,” Shamdasani said, adding that, under Israeli law, manslaughter can carry a maximum punishment of 20 years.

She also pointed out that, so far, Azaria is the only member of Israel’s security forces to have been brought to trial for this type of killing, while over 200 Palestinians were gunned down by Israeli troops since the new spike in violence began in the West Bank in September of 2015.

READ MORE: "You protect us, we protect you': Israel mulls legal immunity extension for IDF soldiers

The 18-month verdict “also stands in contrast to the sentences handed down by other Israeli courts for other less serious offenses, notably the sentencing of Palestinian children to more than three years’ imprisonment for throwing stones at cars,” the spokeswoman stressed.

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Spain's Podemos Snubs Argentina's Macri over Rights Abuses

Spanish lawmakers criticized the visit of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and the human right violations of his government.

Left parties in the Spanish Congress criticized Wednesday the presence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, with one lawmaker greeting him with a shirt demanding the release of Milagro Sala, an Indigenous activist and lawmaker who was dubbed the first "political prisoner" of Macri's administration when she was arrested after a protest in January 2016.

RELATED: Macri Rejects UN's Call to Release Political Prisoner Sala

Macri also received a letter from the left-wing party Podemos party requesting the release of the activist, who has been in jail for more than a year. After his address to Congress, none of the Podemos lawmakers applauded.

In a second rejection to Macri’s visit, the same party announced its members will not participate in the state dinner that the Spanish king will offer on Wednesday in honor of the Argentine president, his wife Juliana Awada and his team. All parties in Congress are often invited for celebrations as part of official visits by presidents or heads of state.

Upon his arrival, President Macri also shook the hand of lawmaker Irene Montero, a spokesperson for Podemos, who wore a white t-shirt with a drawing of Sala and in black letters the phrase "Free Milagro."

Irene Moreno received Macri in the Spanish Congress with a t-shirt that asks "Freedom for Milagro Sala."

Montero called Macri "an offshore agent," referring to his use of tax havens revealed through the Panama Papers leak last year that identified Macri as one of a dozen global power players with assets in offshore companies.

"It’s not necessary to do those acts of honoring a president of the type of Macri," said Montero during a press conference Tuesday. She also accused him of being "responsible for human rights violations".

RELATED: Milagro Sala Trial: ‘I Apologize for Being Black and an Indian'

Meanwhile, Lawmaker Anton Gomez-Reino blasted the visit, saying that the Congress "is not a chamber of commerce in the service of the Popular Party of (Primer Minister Mariano) Rajoy and President Macri. Congress is not a platform for his friends’ businesses."

Iñigo Errejon, also from Podemos, said he was troubled by the fact that Macri called the parliamentary coup in Brazil against former President Dilma Rousseff “a political change.”

Meanwhile, back in Argentina various workers’ organizations called a massive protest in the capital city of Buenos Aires to protest the Macri government. The movements have also suggested that the may set up an encampment in the center of the capital city to continue the protest against also said they could set up a camp under the emblematic obelisk monument in the center of the city.

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Canada to Host Victims of Persecution, Terror and War

Ottawa, Jan 30 (Prensa Latina) Canada will welcome people fleeing persecution, terror and war regardless of their faith, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Diversity is our strength, Trudeau said this weekend in his Twitter account.

These statements contrast with the executive order of US President Donald Trump, which prohibits the entry of refugees to this country for four months.

According to the head of state, the measure, signed yesterday and that also makes it impossible to issue visas to citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days , aims to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.

'We want to make sure we are not admitting the threats our soldiers are fighting abroad,' the Republican president said at the Pentagon's headquarters.

Trump's disposition accumulates inside and outside the United States a growing rejection by politicians, the media, intellectuals, celebrities and ordinary citizens.

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Pentagon and CIA to Decide on Illegal Interrogation Methods

Washington, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) The possible US decision to reintroduce illegal interrogation methods to prisoners falls today to the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to President Donald Trump.

According to him, who will serve a week in office tomorrow, drowning and other procedures, considered as torture, works well.

However, Trump assured in an interview last night with ABC that he will let the respective Pentagon and the CIA chiefs, James Mattis and Mike Pompeo, decide on the existence of such practices.

I will respect what they say; if they do not want to do that, that is fine; if they want to do it, then I will continue until the end. I want to do everything that one is authorized to legally do, he said.

For the Republican president, it is necessary to fight fire with fire facing the decapitations of Americans and other crimes committed by the terrorist group Islamic State.

These statements by Trump occurred in the context of press releases about his government's presumed assessment of reinstalling secret CIA prisons abroad, known as black sites.

According to Mattis, US Secretary of Defense, building trust with the detainees and rewarding their cooperation is much better.

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‘Systematic unlawful killings’: European group slams Israel for Gaza deaths

Israel has come under fire for carrying out “systematic unlawful killings” of Palestinian civilians in a buffer zone near Gaza, and causing over 17,000 to flee the area due to the dire plight, in the resolution adopted by a European inter-governmental group.

The Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) voted in favor of the proposal based on the group’s internal report providing harrowing details on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The report was initially presented to the 324 parliamentarians from 47 countries by the document’s author, Swedish politician Eva-Lena Jansson, on January 4.

The document cites the death toll since 2014, saying “Over 2,200 people have died, of whom most were civilians, including 551 children,” adding that more than 11,000 people have been injured in the conflict.

The report accuses Israel of “excessive and intentional force without justification against Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone, including against farmers, journalists, medical crews and peaceful protesters, [which] runs blatantly counter to human rights principles and the international law-enforcement standards.”

Since the summer of 2014, the document says, a “huge number of people [have been] killed”, with the destruction of civil infrastructure “enormous”, and the locals’ plight became so dire that they chose to escape from Gaza and “join the masses of refugees going to Europe.”

“It is estimated that over 12,620 houses were totally destroyed [in Gaza] and 6,455 severely damaged. 17,650 families or about 100,000 persons were displaced,” the report said.

The resolution is non-binding and non-enforceable, with 46 having voted in favor and 12 against, with two abstentions.

Israeli representatives branded the resolution a “distorted and a selective representation of reality”, and said that the document was founded “on rumors, not on facts”, as cited by the Times of Israel.

“We withdrew our citizens and even our dead from Gaza in 2005, in exchange we got rocket attacks,” the representative Aliza Lavie said, adding that Israel gives a third of Gaza’s power “at a cost of a billion dollars,” and claiming that more than 130,000 Palestinians got free medical care in Israel last year.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said he doesn’t rule out occupying Gaza in the next conflict.

“If a quarter of the Strip is needed, then we occupy a quarter of the Strip. If more, then more,” he said, as cited by Haaretz.

He also suggested that outside powers shouldn’t “touch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” saying these attempts are “mostly disruptive.”

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Israel approves 2,500 new West Bank housing units

Israel will build 2,500 additional homes in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank territories, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced. Most of them will expand the existing settlement areas.

The plans have been authorized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and are intended to allow the settlements “to maintain regular daily life,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It will be one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we are planning to set up warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure, along with other elements,” the statement reads.

The news comes days after Israel announced a similar expansion of housing units in East Jerusalem.

READ MORE Israel approves 560 new illegal homes in E. Jerusalem as Trump takes office

The Israeli settlement policy goes against international law and has been the subject of much criticism from other nations, including the US under the Obama administration. Observers believe that the announcements, made in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration last Friday, are intended to signal Israel’s expectation of support from the new US president.

The ministry said that 100 of the homes would be built in the town of Beit El, Reuters reported. This settlement has received funding from the family of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to Israeli media.

On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly told members of his security cabinet that he had decided to lift all restrictions on Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which were put in place under diplomatic pressure, Haaretz newspaper wrote, citing senior officials briefed on the situation. The PM also announced his plans for moving forward with settlement expansion in the West Bank, according to the paper.

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Shaken, Republicans Move to Criminalize Peaceful Protests

Republicans have all but admitted their fear of social and civil unrest and are now cashing in on President Donald Trump's ascent to power.

Expecting full resistance ahead, Republican legislators across five U.S. states are desperately trying to push through legislation that would criminalize and discourage peaceful civil disobedience.

The bills, introduced in North Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, Michigan and Iowa, all focus on the blocking or obstruction of traffic and non-violent resistance to police intimidation.

RELATED: North Dakota Republicans Want to Protect Drivers Who Hit DAPL Protesters

Shaken by the successes of Black Lives Matter activists and water protectors at Standing Rock in recent highway shutdowns, authorities have vowed to crack down on dissidents by increasing fines and jail sentences.

In the worst of cases, this can be up to US$10,000 and at least a year in prison, as would be the case if Minnesota lawmakers are successful in passing a bill targeting peacefully “obstructing the legal process.”

According to a Minneapolis civil rights attorney speaking to The Intercept, this is one of the “most alarming” cases, with dramatic penalties for what amount to be “minor (acts of) resistance to police.”

“The statute is very heavily abused by police to charge people with crimes in response to minor resistance to police based on good faith disagreements with what they are doing,” Jordan S. Kushner wrote in an email. “It is frequently used in response to people who verbally challenge or try to observe/record police at protests."

Many of the other bills focus on highways closures.


In North Dakota, Republican bill co-sponsor Rep. Keith Kempenich wants to let drivers who kill protesters blocking highways go free as long as they do it accidentally or negligently. His proposal is in direct response to the Standing Rock protesters.

“If you stay off the roadway, this would never be an issue,” Kempenich told the Star Tribune.

Minnesota has also responded to the success of Black Lives Matter in closing highways in recent months by classifying those actions as “gross misdemeanor,” an offense carrying a year in jail and a US$3,000 fine.

In Washington, where Democrats control both houses of the legislature, it has been suggested that protesters be labeled as “economic terrorists.” Iowa has also focused on protesters blocking transit routes, The Intercept reported.

These desperate actions by Republicans, undoubtedly cashing in on President Donald Trump’s recent ascent to power, are nothing more than a troubling attempt at quashing protests, civil liberties advocates have said.

Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed this apparently increasing trend is “deeply troubling.”

RELATED: Protesters Face Increasing Criminalization in Trump Era

“A law that would allow the state to charge a protester $10,000 for stepping in the wrong place, or encourage a driver to get away with manslaughter because the victim was protesting, is about one thing: Chilling protest,” Rowland noted.

Kushner, who’s represented Black Lives Matter activists in the past, agreed the bills are a politicized attempt to “cater to the general public hostility.”

“The goal is to criminalize protesting to a greater degree and thereby discourage public dissent,” he said.

Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota all have Republican-dominated legislatures, and therefore may face the most difficult challenges ahead.


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