Security Council adopts resolution to fight ISIS

The United Nations Security Council on Nov. 20 unanimously adopted a new resolution (PDF) calling on all member states to fight to eradicate ISIS. Introduced by France in the wake of the Paris attacks that claimed 129 lives, the resolution asks states to do what they can to destroy ISIS safe havens in Syria and Iraq. Characterizing ISIS as "a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security," the Security Council warned that further attacks are expected, given recent ISIS attacks in Tunisia, Turkey, over Egypt with the downing of a Russian plane, and in Beirut and Paris. By a 15-0 vote in favor, the Security Council pledged to attack all terror organizations in the Iraq and Syria region, including Nusrah Front, both with physical force and by working to crack down on foreign fighters joining the cause and by blocking financing.

Saudi Arabia sentences Palestinian poet to death

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Nov. 20 that a Saudi Arabia court has sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy or abandoning his Muslim faith. The organization's researcher in the Middle East, Adam Coogle, said that he had seen the trial documents and confirmed the death sentence. According to Coogle, Fayadh's original sentence was four years in prison and 800 lashes, but this changed after another judge revised the sentence to death three days ago when the case was brought for retrial after Fayadh's appeal was dismissed. According to Mona Kareem, a migrant rights activist from Kuwait, Fayadh's identification documents had been confiscated during his arrest in January 2014, after which the judges and prosecutor for his case were changed. Kareem said that the new judge passed the verdict without even speaking to Fayadh. Kareem speculated that Fayadh is in reality being punished for posting a video online showing the Mutaween (religious police) lashing a man in public. According to Fayadh, he has no legal representation and has been given 30 days to appeal against his ruling.

French parliament extends state of emergency

The French National Assembly voted Nov. 19 to extend the state of emergency for another three months. The state of emergency expands police power for searches and arrests, and allows authorities to restrict movement of individuals and vehicles with the country's borders. During the debate, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that France must be prepared to defend against chemical and biological warfare. The bill secured 551 votes with only six against, far surpassing the 279 necessary to pass the legislation through the chamber. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

UN: ISIS brutality increasing in Libya

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released a 37-page report (PDF) Nov. 16 calling on those with ground-level control to declare that recent acts by the Islamic State (ISIS) and other militants will not be tolerated and "to immediately take action to stop acts in breach of international human rights and humanitarian law." The report highlights that against the background of factional infighting and the breakdown of the justice system, ISIS has gained control over large areas of Libya and committed such atrocities as public beheadings for political or religious affiliation, amputations and floggings. Several Libyan armed groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS and are actively fighting against both the internationally-recognized fovernment and other factions that have not declared such allegiance. The report outlines other abuses such as arbitrary civilian abduction, property destruction and looting, inhumane incarceration and torture performed by ISIS and other armed groups, and classifies these events as potential war crimes.

Bangladesh defends war criminal execution plans

Bangladesh has asked Amnesty International (AI) to retract its criticism of the country's execution plans for opposition politicians convicted of war crimes at a local tribunal. In 2013 the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) convicted Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, a senior politician from Jamaat-e-Islami and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, a leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, of war crimes committed during Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971. Their convictions and subsequent death sentences were upheld earlier this year, and the two men filed review petitions to be heard by the country's top court on Nov. 17. AI stated that the trials of the men "failed to meet international standards." It also noted, "in the government's haste to see more war crimes convicts executed, both men were subjected to a speeded up appeals' process. The UN has stated the ICT fails to meet international fair trial standards."

Saudi Arabia executions break 20-year record

Amnesty International (AI) reported Nov. 9 that Saudi Arabia has executed a record 151 people this year, the highest number since 1995. In 2014 the total number of executions carried out was 90, and so far this year the number is up by 68 percent. AI said that almost half of all the executions carried out in 2015 were for offenses that are not considered "most serious crimes" under the international human rights laws. Saudi Arabia also reportedly continues to impose the death sentence on individuals under the age of 18, violating child human rights laws. AI's Middle East deputy director James Lynch said, "Instead of intimidating people with the threat of state sanctioned killing, the Saudi Arabian authorities should halt all impending executions and urgently establish a moratorium on executions as well as overhaul the Kingdom's deeply flawed justice system."

UK Supreme Court hears Libya rendition claim

The UK Supreme Court on Nov. 9 began hearings in the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who claims the British government assisted in his 2004 rendition by US forces. Belhaj and his wife were arrested in Bangkok in 2004 and returned to Muammar Qaddafi's Libya, where he spent six years in prison. Belhaj first filed his lawsuit in 2012. In 2013 the British High Court threw out the claim, stating that hearing the claim was barred by the Acts of State doctrine. However, in October 2014, the Court of Appeals found that the claim is not barred because "it falls within a limitation on grounds of public policy in cases of violations of international law and fundamental human rights." The court stated that while the Acts of State doctrine is valid, it does not stop a British court from examining whether British agencies, officials or ministers were separately culpable. The case will be heard by seven judges over four days, who will decide whether Belhaj can sue the British government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6, for alleged complicity with US intelligence over his treatment.

Egypt: officials arrest prominent rights activist

Egyptian authorities on Nov. 8 arrested prominent human rights activist and journalist Hossam Bahgat after military officials questioned him concerning a report he wrote on the secret trial of former military officers. Bahgat, who writes for Mada Masr, was charged with "publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace." Rights groups such as Amnesty International  have called the arrest a "blow for freedom of expression." [Sic*]

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