On May 16, law enforcement agents broke into the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., and arrested the four remaining members of the Embassy Protection Collective. “We denounce these arrests, as the people inside were there with our permission, and we consider it a violation of the Vienna Conventions,” Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron said.
For 36 days, the protectors had lived in the embassy to shield it from a raid by U.S. authorities working in concert with opponents of Venezuela’slawfully elected president, Nicolás Maduro. Since U.S. officers had refused to allow food into the embassy, only four of the some 50 members of the collective had stayed in order to conserve supplies.
The Trump administration has been trying to engineer an unlawful coupand regime change in Venezuela. After U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela on January 23, high Trump officials quickly ratified his declaration. The U.S. government seeks to illegally install Guaidó and a new ambassador in the D.C. embassy as part of its coup attempt.
After the redacted Mueller report was made public, Donald Trumptweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” But when the House Judiciary Committee asked to see Mueller’s full report, Trump said no way.
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to check and balance the executive branch. That includes the power to issue and enforce subpoenas. In the 1927 Teapot Dome scandal case about government corruption, the Supreme Court held that Congress’s “power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.” Justice Willis Van Devanter wrote for the unanimous Court that when the Constitution was adopted, “the power of inquiry, with enforcing process, was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate — indeed, was treated as inhering in it.”
Yet Trump has defied nearly all of the nine subpoenas and requests for testimony and/or documents that House committees have issued.
Under the guise of protecting human rights, the Trump administration is illegally meddling in three countries it has dubbed the “troika of tyranny” — Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed, “Miami is home to countless Americans, who fled the prisons and death squads of the Castro regime in Cuba, the murderous dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, and the horrific violence of the 1980s and today under the brutal reign of the Ortegas in Nicaragua.”
But the U.S. government’s human rights record doesn’t compare favorably to Cuba’s. And the Trump administration, which ignores notorious human rights violators like Saudi Arabia, is acting out of more cynical motives in its commission of egregious human rights violations against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
The U.S. government has imposed unlawful, coercive sanctions on these nations, and attempted to mount a coup to illegally change Venezuela’s regime.
Trump and the real troika of tyranny — Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams — have failed in their coup attempt against the democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Trump’s troika, egged on by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), are seeking to substitute U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó for Maduro as president of Venezuela.
After a nearly two-year investigation, culminating in a 448-page report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election but found insufficient evidence to prove the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. Mueller did not decide, however, if Trump obstructed justice.
The special counsel detailed 10 acts that could constitute obstruction of justice. But based on a memo from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that says a sitting president can’t be indicted, Mueller refrained from concluding whether the evidence was sufficient to charge Trump with obstruction.
If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
After living under a grant of asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy for nearly seven years, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was forcibly ejected and arrested by British police on April 11. Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, accused Assange of “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.” After an anonymous source revealed the “INA Papers,” a dossier that implicated Moreno in money laundering and contained personal photos of his family, WikiLeaks tweeted about it but denied any connection to the hacking.
Rafael Correa, who was president of Ecuador until 2017, had granted Assange asylum in 2012 to protect him from extradition to the United States to answer for WikiLeaks’s publication of evidence of U.S. war crimes. Ecuador’s foreign minister at the time, Ricardo Patino, said that without this protection, Assange could suffer “political persecution” or extradition to the U.S. where he might face the death penalty.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published classified documentation of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning had provided. It included the “Collateral Murder Video” that showed U.S. soldiers in an Army helicopter gunship kill 12 unarmed civilians walking down a street in Baghdad.
Sweden investigated Assange in fall 2010 for allegations of sexual assault. Assange was living in Britain at the time. Sweden issued an extradition warrant so Assange could face questioning about the investigation in Sweden. Assange fought extradition but lost in Britain’s Supreme Court in June 2012. He sought and received refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The United States is taking illegal and dangerous actions to execute regime change in Venezuela. In January, Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president,” in a strategy orchestrated by the United States to seize power from President Nicolás Maduro.
In March, Guaidó announced that “Operation Freedom,” an organization established to overthrow the Maduro government, would take certain “tactical actions” beginning on April 6. Part of the plan anticipates that the Venezuelan military will turn against Maduro.
This strategy is detailed in a 75-page regime change manual prepared by the U.S. Global Development Lab, a branch of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The manual advocates the creation of rapid expeditionary development teams to partner with the CIA and U.S. Special Forces to conduct “a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations [in] in extremis conditions.”
Some of these actions will, in all likelihood, involve combat operations. A USAID official said, “Anybody who doesn’t think we need to be working in combat elements or working with SF [special forces] groups is just naïve.”
On the eve of the first anniversary of the “Great March of Return” at the Gaza border, lawyers and jurists around the world are calling on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers presented a petition from the International Lawyers Campaign for the Investigation and Prosecution of Crimes Committed Against the Palestinian People to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC. The petition urges Bensouda to initiate a full investigation and prosecute violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed by Israeli officials in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The petition has garnered the support of tens of thousands of lawyers worldwide.
The petition condemns “the unimaginable atrocities that have been committed and continue to be committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians which deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”
The Mueller report is finally done. On March 23, Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent the confidential report of his 22-month investigation to Attorney General William Barr. Less than 48 hours later, Barr released a four-page letter outlining Mueller’s conclusions and jumping to one as well.
In response to Barr’s letter, Donald Trump claimed, “There was no obstruction, none whatsoever, and it was a complete and total exoneration.” But Mueller did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice.
Two years after being released from prison where she had served seven years for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chelsea Manning was jailed once again for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
“I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” Manning declaredin a written statement. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.”
Noted whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg praised Manning. “Chelsea Manning is in jail again, this time for resisting a grand jury system whose secrecy and lack of witness rights makes it prone to frequent abuse,” Ellsberg told Truthout. “She is also resisting its current abuse, as it is used to attack freedom of the press by pursuing criminal charges for publication of the very war crimes and corruption she courageously revealed to WikiLeaks nine years ago.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, aided and abetted by U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a recent ruling from the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines.
The tribunal, which was held in Brussels, Belgium, on September 18 and 19, 2018, rendered its 84-page decision on these crimes on March 8. Conveners of the tribunal included the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. A panel of eight jurors from Egypt, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States heard testimony from 31 witnesses, including me.
These jurors ordered the defendants to make reparations; to provide compensation or indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation; and to be subjected to possible prosecution and sanctions for their crimes. Although the tribunal does not have the power to enforce those measures, its findings of facts and conclusions of law could be used to bolster the preliminary examination of crimes by the Duterte regime currently pending in the International Criminal Court (ICC).