Archive | May 2014

In speech dripping with hypocrisy, Obama touts U.S. leadership on international norms

As this blog has demonstrated for more than three years, the United States is probably the world’s leading serial violator of international norms. While other nations may have more troubling records in respecting certain aspects of these principles — such as human rights in North Korea or electoral practices in Belarus — one would be hard-pressed to find another country in the world that flouts international obligations as routinely and comprehensively as the United States.

With its indefinite detention and torture policies, its endless war on terror and drone warfare, its policies of mass suspicionless surveillance, its support for dictators around the world and its bullying of other nations, as well as domestic problems such as mass incarceration and unfair elections, the USA violates global rules in a way that only a hegemonic, technocratic superpower possibly could. It is certainly in no position to tout its adherence to international standards, nor to lecture others on the importance of such standards.

Just this past March, the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a scathing report on the U.S. lack of compliance with the hallmark International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, calling into question the legitimacy of a wide range of current U.S. policies, including counterterrorism operations, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and the criminal justice system.

Among other things, the committee criticized the United States’ climate of impunity for disappearance, torture, and unlawful killings of terrorism suspects, and its failure to apply the ICCPR to international operations. In addition, the committee denounced racial disparities in law enforcement and the treatment of children as adults in the criminal justice system.

Another area of concern was U.S. violations of privacy rights. The committee highlighted the ongoing U.S. lack of compliance with privacy requirements set forth in article 17 of the ICCPR, particularly to respect the right to privacy regardless of the nationality or location of individuals being monitored.

“The committee’s recommendations highlight the gaps between U.S. human rights obligations and current laws and practices,” said ACLU Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar.

Despite these realities, the U.S. continues to boast of its purported leadership in the area of international norms. In a speech yesterday at West Point that was dripping with nationalist jingoism and hypocrisy, President Barack Obama criticized those who would dismiss the effectiveness of multilateral action. “For them, working through international institutions, or respecting international law, is a sign of weakness,” Obama said. “I think they’re wrong.”

He went on to explain the importance adhering to global rules and leading by example:

You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if so many of our political leaders deny that it is taking place. It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it – despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security. That’s not leadership; that’s retreat. That’s not strength; that’s weakness. And it would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman; Eisenhower and Kennedy.

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions. That’s why I will continue to push to close GTMO – because American values and legal traditions don’t permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders. That’s why we are putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence – because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we are conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens. America does not simply stand for stability, or the absence of conflict, no matter what the price; we stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.

The lies and half-truths Obama spouted off are maddeningly blatant. Speaking of efforts to shutter Guantanamo, for example, is particularly disingenuous considering the fact that he is four years overdue in his stated promise to have closed the prison by January 2010. With 154 prisoners languishing in Guantanamo’s cages – more than half of them cleared for release years ago – the failure to end indefinite detention policies belongs squarely with President Obama.

It was under Obama’s presidency that dozens of desperate men at Guantanamo launched a principled hunger strike more than a year ago demanding their rights. Rather than address those grievances, Obama’s policies have been to provide the men artificial sustenance through a tortuous force-feeding process that was rebuked earlier this month by federal judge Gladys Kessler who urged authorities to find a compromise that would spare a prisoner “the agony of having the feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding” and “the pain and discomfort of the restraint chair.”

Obama’s boasting of new policies on data collection was also disingenuous, since the new restrictions put in place earlier this year were widely considered inadequate in addressing the global privacy concerns, relying on extremely narrow definitions of what constitutes spying.

As the Washington Post reported on January 18,

President Obama said Friday, in his first major speech on electronic surveillance, that “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

Obama placed restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes he announced will allow it to continue — or expand — the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike.

Obama squares that circle with an unusually narrow definition of “spying.” It does not include the ingestion of tens of trillions of records about the telephone calls, e-mails, locations and relationships of people for whom there is no suspicion of relevance to any threat.

In his speech, and an accompanying policy directive, Obama described principles for “restricting the use of this information” — but not for gathering less of it.

The Post also pointed out that along with the invocation of privacy and restraint, Obama gave his plainest endorsement yet of “bulk collection,” a term he used more than once and authorized explicitly in Presidential Policy Directive 28. The directive defined the term to mean high-volume collection “without the use of discriminants.”

So, as usual when the president gives a major policy address such as yesterday’s at West Point, it is worth checking the rhetoric against the facts. The touting of international norms and U.S. leadership should be seen for what they are: empty platitudes and hypocritical bombast.

The president is right however when he says that “we cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else.” It’s long past time that Obama starts recognizing those rules and applying to all U.S. policies, including ending the drone wars and the climate of impunity for torturers.

Major developments on Guantanamo as human rights groups mobilize across the world

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A full year after President Barack Obama’s last major public promise to close the travesty of justice known as the Guantanamo Bay detention center, halting steps towards progress were made this week with a number of developments offering a glimmer of hope for 154 men who remain at the prison camp in an endless state of legal limbo.

The developments come as dozens of human rights groups mobilize for a global day of action today calling for Guantanamo’s permanent closure, an end to indefinite detention policies and the release of the men still languishing in the prison.

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On Wednesday, a U.S. federal judge ordered the release of secret video recordings of a hunger-striking Guantanamo detainee being force-fed by his captors. The force-feeding process is a highly controversial practice condemned last year by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez as a “form of ill-treatment that in some cases can amount to torture.”

The Defense Department had long kept these videos secret. As the Guardian reports:

Before last week, the Defense Department did not even acknowledge that videotapes of its enteral feedings of hunger striking detainees – conducted by inserting a tube into the stomach through the nose – even existed.

But now the US government has conceded that there are 34 videos showing the forcible feeding of one detainee. The analogue video cassettes are part of a broader set of 136 videos showing Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell by Guantánamo Bay guards bringing the hunger striker to be fed enterally.

District court judge Gladys Kessler, of the Washington DC circuit, rejected an argument from the government that the tapes were irrelevant to Dhiab’s unusual lawsuit, which seeks to get a federal judge to set the conditions of his military confinement, which Dhiab considers amount to torture.

While certainly a positive development, according to a press release on the judge’s ruling by the British human rights group Reprieve, “Judge Gladys Kessler did not require the government to hand over all 136 videos of Mr. Dhiab being subjected to the ‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ process – which has been done to him on average three times a week for a full year.” It is also not clear whether the Defense Department will comply with the ruling.

force feeding'On Thursday, Judge Kessler urged the authorities to find a compromise that would spare him “the agony of having the feeding tubes inserted and removed for each feeding” and “the pain and discomfort of the restraint chair.” The judge declined to extend the temporary restraining order in Dhiab’s case because of the risk that he would die, saying:

The Court is now faced with an anguishing Hobson’s choice: reissue another Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) despite the very real probability that Mr. Dhiab will die, because he has indicated a continuing desire to refuse to eat and/or drink liquids, or refuse to issue the TRO and allow the medical personnel on the scene to take the medical actions to keep Mr Dhiab alive, but at the possible cost of great pain and suffering.

Also on Thursday, the United States House of Representatives voted on an amendment that could help pave the way to ultimately closing the detention facility. It was something of a mixed blessing though, as it failed to close the prison but removed some restrictions on the transfer of detainees. As the U.S.-based rights group Human Rights First explained:

Though the House voted against an amendment proposed by Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) that would have helped shutter the detention facility, the final bill included fewer restrictions on transferring detainees than it has in past years.

“We came out of today’s floor debate with progress toward the ultimate goal of closing Guantanamo,” noted Wala. “There seems to be a bipartisan acknowledgement that Guantanamo has to be dealt with and that the detention facility should and will close one way or another.”

The developments this week provide some added momentum to the “global day of action” today dedicated to closing Guantanamo, marking one year since President Obama restated his promise to close the detention center. As Amnesty International describes the event planned for Washington, DC (at Lafayette Park in front of the White House):

On Friday, May 23, one year after President Obama once again made the case for closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in a speech at National Defense University, Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture and other groups are banding together in Washington as part of a Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo and End Indefinite Detention.

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In total, demonstrations will take place today in 35 cities around the world calling for Guantanamo’s closure and the end of indefinite detention. A full list of events is available here.

The human rights groups’ sense of urgency has been intensified by new revelations that some Guantanamo detainees who had been thought to have committed suicide were in fact murdered by CIA torturers at a secret interrogation facility site at Guantanamo called “Camp No” or “Penny Lane.”

The revelations were published in Harper’s Magazine last week, including an incriminating document indicating that the men had been tortured to death, rather than having committed suicide. In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the families of two of the men who died, issued the following statement:

 The new eyewitness account of what happened on the day three men died at Guantanamo adds to the growing body of information strongly undercutting the military’s narrative that the men committed suicide in their cells, and suggesting that the men were instead killed at a CIA-run black site at Guantánamo known as “Camp No” or “Penny Lane.” There has never been an impartial and effective investigation into the deaths, and the heavily-redacted version of the military investigation the government was compelled to release is riddled with inexplicable gaps and inconsistencies. One of those gaps was the document published today by Harper’s, which was apparently deliberately removed from the military’s public report.

The families’ attempt to seek the truth about these deaths was met with dismissal by the district and circuit courts in D.C., on the grounds that even if federal officials had been involved in the homicides, the courts were powerless to grant a remedy. The families have now turned to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which should accept their petition, investigate the violations of international law they have alleged, and uphold their right – and the public’s right – to know the truth about what happened.

To find a demonstration near you to demand Guantanamo’s closure today, click here.

U.S. whitewashes Odessa massacre, shifting blame to Russia

In a classic case of blaming the victim, the United States has been making a concerted effort this week to gloss over – if not rewrite – the facts surrounding last week’s tragic events in Odessa, Ukraine, trying to portray the “pro-Russian separatists” as responsible for their own deaths.

Despite the emergence of numerous YouTube videos, as well as photographic evidence that has been posted on blogs and circulated in chain emails, clearly showing that the fire in the Trade Union Building which killed dozens of anti-Kiev demonstrators was intentionally started by Western-backed pro-Kiev militants, the U.S. has been asserting — baselessly — that Russia was somehow responsible.

In rather ghoulish testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland stated that

Friday [May2] also saw the deadliest tragedy of this conflict: the death of more than 40 in Odesa following an afternoon of violent clashes reportedly instigated by pro-Russian separatists attacking an initially peaceful rally in favor of national unity – similar to many that have happened in Odessa since the start of the Maidan movement.

With no mention of the actual culprits who set the building on fire, she went on to reprimand the Russian Federation for failing to use its influence to promote stability in Ukraine. In other words, Russia, Russia, Russia.

“Today, Russia claims it has ‘no influence’ over the separatists and provocateurs rampaging in eastern and southern Ukraine,” she said. However,

as Secretary Kerry told this committee in April, we continue to have high confidence that Russia’s hand is behind this instability. They are providing material support. They are providing funding. They are providing weapons. They are providing coordination, and there are Russian agents on the ground in Ukraine involved in this.

This, amazingly, is all that Nuland had to say about the tragedy last week that claimed the lives of at least 42 people. (Unofficial estimates from eyewitnesses place the casualties far higher, with some claiming that as many as 300 people may have been killed.)

Although Nuland went out of her way to point out that last week’s violent clashes were “instigated by pro-Russian separatists,” she neglected to assign any blame for the actual atrocity that took place later in the day, in which pro-Kiev militants were clearly responsible for throwing Molotov cocktails into the Trade Union Building in Odessa where anti-Kiev individuals were seeking refuge from the violence on the streets.

While initial reports indicated that it was “unclear” how the fire started, the evidence that was captured on camera phones and disseminated via social media was enough to force even the Western media to grudgingly acknowledge that the atrocity at the Trade Union Building was in fact committed by the pro-Kiev side, the side Western governments have aligned with.

Typical was this report from the BBC, “How did Odessa’s fire happen?,” which took pains to explain that the anti-Kiev side may have instigated the street clashes earlier in the day, but that when it came to the fire at the Trade Union Building, it was pretty apparent who was responsible.

“Pictures clearly showed pro-Ukrainians throwing Molotov cocktails,” the BBC reported, although noting that some on the “pro-Russian” side may have also thrown firebombs from the building to the ground below – exactly how those might have started fires inside the building is not explained.

Nevertheless, it was clear that many people died at the hands of the pro-Kiev militants that day. As BBC noted,

One survivor told Russia Today: “We couldn’t go down, we were seeing people from other floors being brought down and then those rioters down there attacked them like a pack of wolves.”

But other eyewitness reports, for example in the Kyiv Post, said pro-Ukrainian activists rescued dozens of people from the burning building.

Some people got to ledges and were helped by ambulance ladders. Some fell.

Some people were reported to have shouted “die” as people fell.

Independent investigators and bloggers have spelled out the evidence more straightforwardly, placing the blame for the tragedy squarely with the pro-Kiev thugs of Right Sector. One viral blog post lays out gruesome photographic evidence that not only implicates the Western-backed neo-Nazis with starting the fire, but also purports to demonstrate that some of the pro-Ukrainian militants must have gotten inside the building to individually kill those who had sought refuge there.

This photograph, for example, seems to indicate a gunshot wound to the head. “Judging from clearly visible blood puddle, the murderer fired at point-blank so the bullet passed through the skull,” the blog alleges.

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This photo graphically depicts an apparent victim of rape:

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“Dead woman near the elevator with clothes absent below her waist,” the blog explains. “Most likely, she was raped, then doused with a flammable mixture and set aflame.”

This horrifying picture shows a pregnant woman who was strangled by an electric wire:

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The following video supposedly captures the cries of this woman, starting at 0:20, who called for help while being murdered.

Despite the grave nature of the atrocity that was committed by the pro-Kiev militants in Odessa last week, the U.S. response has been muted, to say the least.

Besides Nuland’s victim-blaming testimony at the Senate this week, the White House has also gone on record tacitly absolving the actual culprits of their responsibility and shifting the culpability to Moscow.

“We remain extremely concerned by the deteriorating situation in both eastern and southern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants who are armed have escalated their already violent behavior and taken over additional government buildings in yet more towns,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.

Carney added that the “violence and mayhem” in Odessa was “unacceptable.”

“We’re going to continue to call on Russia to live up to its commitments in Geneva and to use its influence over these groups, these pro-Russian militant groups, to urge them to disarm and to instead engage in Ukraine’s political process,” Carney said.

For its part, Russia is emphatically making clear where the blame truly lies for this tragedy, refusing to allow the West to whitewash the facts.

“What happened in the city of Odessa on May 2 is a sheer act of fascism and we will not permit to sweep the facts under carpet as the ruling coalition tries to do so, concealing the investigation from the public,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

“We will seek for the truth, will seek for all evidence which was produced by eyewitnesses and which show that current Kiev authorities are hushing up consciously the scale of tragedy and will seek for all the truth to be investigated and made public,” Lavrov pledged.

The Russians were joined in this call for an investigation by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which issued a joint statement Thursday calling for the Ukrainian government to conduct an investigation into the violence in Odessa that “should be thorough, impartial, and capable of ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.”

The HRW-AI statement also criticized the police in Odessa for failing to take action to prevent the violence, with video footage showing police officers standing by while preparations are made by members of both groups for acts of violence.

This inaction may indicate that the authorities are failing to comply with Ukraine’s international human rights obligations to protect the right to life, the joint statement noted.

“International human rights and law enforcement standards underline that police have a responsibility to maintain public safety and protect all persons against illegal acts, and must maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons,” said HRW and AI. “In particular, police play a vital role in the protection of the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.”

“In the context of the events which took place in Odessa on May 2, it is not clear why the police failed to take adequate action, in compliance with these obligations, to prevent the serious injuries and loss of life,” the statement went on.

For these reasons, “it is essential that whatever precise form the investigations take, they are truly effective and independent and carried out by individuals of recognized competence, integrity, and independence,” said the human rights groups.

The U.S., on the other hand, appears intent on shielding the authorities from criticism. At a press briefing Monday, U.S. State Department press spokeswoman Marie Harf defended the role of government in Kiev and its fascist allies.

Harf praised the Kiev government in particular for its “great restraint” in dealing with the anti-fascist groups in the south and east of the country and attempted to blame the Odessa massacre on the victims and Russia. She implicitly justified the mass killing of civilians by declaring that the Kiev government has “a responsibility to maintain law and order for their own people.”

“Any loss of life is horrible,” she said, “and we understand that there will be an investigation. The prime minister has actually taken punitive action against some of the police folks who led the police forces in Odessa after this horrific incident. So – but again, that started because pro-Russian forces and separatists started basically mob action attacking protesters. So going forward we think that restraint is important, but so is keeping law and order.”

When a reporter followed up by asking, “it doesn’t matter how many people die; those people brought it upon themselves, it’s their fault. Is it what you are saying?” Harf backtracked a bit and said, “No, I’m not saying that at all. In no way am I saying that. I’m saying that the fact pattern of what happens here matters.”

But looking at the pattern of U.S. statements – admonishing the Russian Federation for any and all actions in Ukraine that could in any conceivable way be traced back to some alleged conspiracy directed by the Kremlin while simultaneously absolving neo-Nazi thugs and their allies in the Kiev regime – it appears that the United States is systematically engaging in a whitewash of atrocities.

It should be noted that even as details emerge about these  crimes, the authorities in Kiev are apparently raising “volunteer armies,” or what may be more accurately referred to as paramilitaries, consisting of the Euromaidan militants who helped topple the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, Kiev’s interim government began shoring up security forces as some leaders made urgent calls for volunteers to take up arms against “pro-Russian separatists.”

“Andriy Tiron, battalion commander of the National Guard, told reporters in Kiev that demonstrators who helped oust the previous pro-Russian government were being urged to volunteer for military duty. But there was confusion about who would command them and what their duties would be,” the Post reported.

The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, however, reported that some 4,000 combatants supporting the Kiev authorities have already arrived in Odessa.

“Very alarming reports are coming in from our friends in Odessa,” Georgy Fyodorov, deputy head of the Russian Civic Chamber’s Committee for Coordination of Aid to Residents of Ukraine said Wednesday. “We have reports that armed militants of the Right Sector, fighters of the Dnipr and Kyiv-1 special task force battalions, and ultras of the FC Dnipro have been brought into the city and the overall number of the combatants propping up the Kiev regime exceeds 4,000 there now.”

If true, it’s worth noting that considering reports of the CIA advising the authorities in Kiev, there is a good chance that these policies are coming directly from Washington. This is worth keeping in mind in the event of any further atrocities committed in Ukraine.

Thankfully there are at least a few voices in Congress being raised questioning the wisdom of aligning the United States government with violent neo-Nazi extremists, as this clip of Victoria Nuland’s testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday makes clear:

Hopefully those sorts of hardball questions become the norm rather than the exception, as U.S. policy in Ukraine comes under greater scrutiny.

With CIA advising Ukraine’s government, should U.S. be held responsible for violence?

A pro-Kiev protester throws a Molotov cocktail at the trade union building in Odessa, Ukraine May 2, 2014. Yevgeny Volokin—Reuters

A pro-Kiev protester throws a Molotov cocktail at the trade union building in Odessa, Ukraine May 2, 2014. Yevgeny Volokin—Reuters

For the past two months, virtually every troubling development in Ukraine has been blamed on the Russian Federation, which the United States and its Western allies have consistently accused of meddling in the eastern part of the country.

With no real evidence to back the accusations up – other than a few grainy photographs purportedly proving a Russian hand in the violence, which were later debunked as hoaxes – the U.S. has repeatedly alleged that Russian President Vladimir Putin has stoked the crisis by backing the pro-Russian separatists who have occupied government buildings in eastern cities such as Luhansk, Slavyansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv.

President Obama said that it was “absolutely clear” that Russia violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing Crimea in March and that it was continuing to do so by supporting “non-state militias” in eastern Ukraine.

“Each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, there are going to be consequences,” Obama said last month in an interview with CBS News. “Mr. Putin’s decisions aren’t just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they’re going to be bad for Russia.”

More recently, Obama has attempted to lay the blame for the apparent collapse of the April 17 Geneva agreement, which called on “all sides [to] refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions,” at the feet of Putin, while absolving the Kiev government for any role it may have played in the deterioration of the situation.

“The Ukrainian government in Kiev has followed through on the commitments that it made in Geneva,” said President Obama at a press conference on Friday. “We need Russians to do the same.”

This is despite the fact that the pro-Russian­ militants have openly boasted that they do not take orders from diplomats in Washington or Moscow. After the Geneva agreement was reached, Denis Pushilin, a leader of a group calling itself the Donetsk People’s Republic, said that he and his men had no intention of abandoning their positions as long as the new government in Kiev still stood.

Pushilin said that nobody from the pro-Russia groups in Ukraine were at the negotiating table in Geneva and that, because they were not consulted, they had no obligation to adhere to the agreement.

“It is an illegal junta,” Anatoliy Onischenko, another separatist leader, said of the Kiev government. “They should leave their buildings first.”

Putin, for his part, sees the authorities in Kiev as at least partially responsible for the breakdown of the Geneva agreement, with a spokesman saying it was no longer viable after Kiev launched a military operation against the rebel-held city of Slavyansk last week.

As the Guardian reported on Friday,

The Ukrainian military launched its first serious offensive to retake the city, which is being held by pro-Russia militia, early on Friday morning. The rebel militia said Ukrainian troops had launched attacks on several checkpoints. Ukraine’s defence minister, Arsen Avakov, said his forces had taken control of nine checkpoints to form a “tight ring” around the city. …

“Basically, at the same time that Russia is taking pains to de-escalate and regulate the conflict, the Kiev regime has begun shooting up peaceful towns with military helicopters and has started a punitive operation, essentially destroying the last hope for the viability of the Geneva agreement,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.

“Earlier, when he was still in Minsk, Putin called the possible operation a criminal action. Unfortunately, the development of events completely confirms this appraisal.”

Also on Friday, in Odessa, pro-Kiev and pro-Moscow demonstrators fought in the streets, hurling rocks, loose flagstones and Molotov cocktails as overwhelmed riot police made a hasty retreat.

The violence culminated in 42 people killed when a union hall was set ablaze by Ukrainian loyalists throwing firebombs at the building.

According to the Washington Post, the violence kicked off after marchers calling for Ukrainian national unity encountered a rival pro-Russian group. “Barricades were set up and buildings set aflame,” reported the Post. Dozens of people died “after pro-Kiev demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails into a building where a pro-Russia contingent was holding out.”

Corroborating the claim that the union hall was set on fire by the Western-backed forces rather than pro-Russian activists, USA Today reported that the pro-Kiev demonstrators cheered as pro-Moscow activists were burned alive inside the building:

The Trade Unions House was set on fire after being occupied by pro-Moscow demonstrators, the Kyiv Post reported.

Witnesses and journalists reported that as the building burned with people inside, a crowd shouted, “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Death to enemies!”

The latest violence comes as new reports emerge that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, along with the FBI, is directly advising the government in Kiev on counter-insurgency tactics and on establishing a security apparatus. As AFP reported yesterday,

Dozens of specialists from the US Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation are advising the Ukrainian government, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

Citing unnamed German security sources, Bild am Sonntag said the CIA and FBI agents were helping Kiev end the rebellion in the east of Ukraine and set up a functioning security structure.

AFP notes that while the CIA has been advising the Kiev government, “Fierce battles between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east have left more than 50 people dead in recent days.”

The revelations of CIA involvement come following a visit to Kiev by CIA director John Brennan last month, which the White House described as “routine,” but was condemned by Moscow as more U.S. meddling in the country.

If the same standards were applied to the U.S. as are being applied to Russia, the responsibility for all the violence now being perpetrated by the authorities in Kiev, as well as the illegal armed groups such as Right Sector, would fall squarely on Washington.

Further, it’s worth bearing in mind that the CIA is a notoriously lawless agency that has been implicated in serious violations of international law in recent years, including torture, secret “black site” prisons, extrajudicial assassinations, and forced disappearances euphemistically known as “extraordinary rendition.”

If the government in Kiev is now being advised by this agency, it does not bode well for human rights, international law or the prospect of resolving the Ukraine crisis peacefully.

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