UN sets up probe of Daesh atrocities

Amal Clooney arrives for a security council meeting at U.N. headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2017
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UN sets up probe of Daesh atrocities

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously decided to set up a team to collect evidence on the massacres of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and other atrocities committed by Daesh in Iraq.
Britain drafted the resolution to help bring perpetrators of Daesh war crimes to justice — a cause championed by international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who was present for the vote. The Lebanese-British lawyer represents Yazidi women who were taken hostage and used as sex slaves by Daesh as it swept into Iraq’s Sinjar region in August 2014.
Clooney, sat next to Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of Daesh enslavement, as the council voted on the measure.
The United Nations has described the massacres of the Yazidis as genocide and Clooney has over the past month made high-profile appearances before the world body to demand action.
“Why is it that nothing has been done?” Clooney told a UN event in March.
“Mass graves lie unprotected and unexhumed. Witnesses are fleeing and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world,” she said.
After months of pressure Iraq in August agreed to the investigation, which will “support domestic efforts to hold” IS jihadists accountable by “collecting, preserving and storing evidence” in Iraq, the resolution said.
Under the measure, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will within 60 days present to the council details on the mandate of the investigative panel that will work with their Iraqi counterparts.
The investigators will gather evidence on “war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide” for use in Iraqi courts, according to the resolution.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley described the resolution as “a major first step toward addressing the death, suffering, and injury of the victims of crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq — crimes that include genocide.”
IS fighters have been on the run in Iraq since the recapture of Mosul, Iraq’s second city in July, which had been under IS rule since 2014.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled the August 2014 massacre in Sinjar, and UN rights investigations have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls.
Around 3,000 women are believed to remain in IS captivity.
Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution as a missed opportunity by the council to address atrocities committed by Iraqi and other forces.
“No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it’s shortsighted,” said HRW’s justice expert Balkees Jarrah.
The Iraqi government worked with Britain to draft the measure.


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 35 min 17 sec ago
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.