Category Archives: Europe

Key witness in Assange case admits to lies in indictment

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article from Stundin (Iceland)

A major witness in the United States’ Department of Justice case against Julian Assange has admitted to fabricating key accusations in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. The witness, who has a documented history with sociopathy and has received several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and wide-ranging financial fraud, made the admission in a newly published interview in Stundin where he also confessed to having continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution.


MYND: SAMSETT / STUNDIN

The man in question, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, was recruited by US authorities to build a case against Assange after misleading them to believe he was previously a close associate of his. In fact he had volunteered on a limited basis to raise money for Wikileaks in 2010 but was found to have used that opportunity to embezzle more than $50,000 from the organization. Julian Assange was visiting Thordarson’s home country of Iceland around this time due to his work with Icelandic media and members of parliament in preparing the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a press freedom project that produced a parliamentary resolution supporting whistleblowers and investigative journalism.

The United States is currently seeking Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom in order to try him for espionage relating to the release of leaked classified documents. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison. The indictment has sparked fears for press freedoms in the United States and beyond and prompted strong statements in support of Assange from Amnesty International, Reporters without borders, the editorial staff of the Washington Post and many others.

US officials presented an updated version of an indictment against him to a Magistrate court in London last summer. The veracity of the information contained therein is now directly contradicted by the main witness, whose testimony it is based on.

No instruction from Assange

The court documents refer to Mr Thordarson simply as “Teenager” (a reference to his youthful appearance rather than true age, he is 28 years old) and Iceland as “NATO Country 1” but make no real effort to hide the identity of either. They purport to show that Assange instructed Thordarson to commit computer intrusions or hacking in Iceland.

The aim of this addition to the indictment was apparently to shore up and support the conspiracy charge against Assange in relation to his interactions with Chelsea Manning. Those occurred around the same time he resided in Iceland and the authors of the indictment felt they could strengthen their case by alleging he was involved in illegal activity there as well. This activity was said to include attempts to hack into the computers of members of parliament and record their conversations.

In fact, Thordarson now admits to Stundin that Assange never asked him to hack or access phone recordings of MPs. His new claim is that he had in fact received some files from a third party who claimed to have recorded MPs and had offered to share them with Assange without having any idea what they actually contained. He claims he never checked the contents of the files or even if they contained audio recordings as his third party source suggested. He further admits the claim, that Assange had instructed or asked him to access computers in order to find any such recordings, is false.

Nonetheless, the tactics employed by US officials appear to have been successful as can be gleaned from the ruling of Magistrate Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser on January 4th of this year. Although she ruled against extradition, she did so purely on humanitarian grounds relating to Assange’s health concerns, suicide risk and the conditions he would face in confinement in US prisons. With regards to the actual accusations made in the indictment Baraitser sided with the arguments of the American legal team, including citing the specific samples from Iceland which are now seriously called into question.

Other misleading elements can be found in the indictment, and later reflected in the Magistrate’s judgement, based on Thordarson’s now admitted lies. One is a reference to Icelandic bank documents. The Magistrate court judgement reads: “It is alleged that Mr. Assange and Teenager failed a joint attempt to decrypt a file stolen from a “NATO country 1” bank”.

Thordarson admits to Stundin that this actually refers to a well publicised event in which an encrypted file was leaked from an Icelandic bank and assumed to contain information about defaulted loans provided by the Icelandic Landsbanki. The bank went under in the fall of 2008, along with almost all other financial institutions in Iceland, and plunged the country into a severe economic crisis. The file was at this time, in summer of 2010, shared by many online who attempted to decrypt it for the public interest purpose of revealing what precipitated the financial crisis. Nothing supports the claim that this file was even “stolen” per se, as it was assumed to have been distributed by whistleblowers from inside the failed bank.

More deceptive language emerges in the aforementioned judgment where it states: “…he [Assange] used the unauthorized access given to him by a source, to access a government website of NATO country-1 used to track police vehicles.”

This depiction leaves out an important element, one that Thordarson clarifies in his interview with Stundin. The login information was in fact his own and not obtained through any nefarious means. In fact, he now admits he had been given this access as a matter of routine due to his work as a first responder while volunteering for a search and rescue team. He also says Assange never asked for any such access.

Revealing chat logs

Thordarson spoke with a journalist from Stundin for several hours as he prepared a thorough investigative report into his activities that include never before published chat logs and new documents.

The chat logs were gathered by Thordarson himself and give a comprehensive picture of his communications whilst he was volunteering for Wikileaks in 2010 and 11. It entails his talks with WikiLeaks staff as well as unauthorized communications with members of international hacking groups that he got into contact with via his role as a moderator on an open IRC WikiLeaks forum, which is a form of live online chat. There is no indication WikiLeaks staff had any knowledge of Thordarson’s contacts with aforementioned hacking groups, indeed the logs show his clear deception.

The communications there show a pattern where Thordarson is constantly inflating his position within WikiLeaks, describing himself as chief of staff, head of communications, No 2 in the organization or responsible for recruits. In these communications Thordarson frequently asks the hackers to either access material from Icelandic entities or attack Icelandic websites with so-called DDoS attacks. These are designed to disable sites and make them inaccessible but not cause permanent damage to content.

Stundin cannot find any evidence that Thordarson was ever instructed to make those requests by anyone inside WikiLeaks. Thordarson himself is not even claiming that, although he explains this as something Assange was aware of or that he had interpreted it so that this was expected of him. How this supposed non-verbal communication took place he cannot explain.

Furthermore, he never explained why WikiLeaks would be interested in attacking any interests in Iceland, especially at such a sensitive time while they were in the midst of publishing a huge trove of US diplomatic cables as part of an international media partnership. Assange is not known to have had any grievances with Icelandic authorities and was in fact working with members of parliament in updating Iceland’s freedom of press laws for the 21st century.

On the FBI radar

Thordarson’s rogue acts were not limited to communications of that nature as he also admits to Stundin that he set up avenues of communication with journalists and had media pay for lavish trips abroad where he mispresented himself as an official representative of WikiLeaks.

He also admits that he stole documents from WikiLeaks staff by copying their hard drives. Among those were documents from Renata Avila, a lawyer who worked for the organization and Mr. Assange.

Thordarson continued to step up his illicit activities in the summer of 2011 when he established communication with “Sabu”, the online moniker of Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker and a member of the rather infamous LulzSec hacker group. In that effort all indications are that Thordarson was acting alone without any authorization, let alone urging, from anyone inside WikiLeaks.

What Thordarson did not know at the time was that the FBI had arrested Sabu in the beginning of June 2011 and threatened him into becoming an informant and a collaborator for the FBI. Thus, when Thordarson continued his previous pattern of requesting attacks on Icelandic interests, the FBI knew and saw an opportunity to implicate Julian Assange.

Later that month a DDoS attack was performed against the websites of several government institutions.

That deed was done under the watchful eyes of the FBI who must have authorized the attack or even initiated it, as Sabu was at that point their man. What followed was an episode where it seems obvious that Icelandic authorities were fooled into cooperation under false pretenses.

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Question related to this article:
 
Julian Assange, Is he a hero for the culture of peace?

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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Ögmundur Jónasson was minister of interior at time and as such the political head of police and prosecution and says of the US activities: “They were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange”.

“They were trying to use things here [in Iceland] and use people in our country to spin a web, a cobweb that would catch Julian Assange”

Jónasson recalls that when the FBI first contacted Icelandic authorities on June 20th 2011 it was to warn Iceland of an imminent and grave threat of intrusion against government computers. A few days later FBI agents flew to Iceland and offered formally to assist in thwarting this grave danger. The offer was accepted and on July 4th a formal rogatory letter was sent to Iceland to seal the mutual assistance.. Jónasson speculates that already then the US was laying the groundwork for its ultimate purpose, not to assist Iceland but entrap Julian Assange:

“What I have been pondering ever since is if the spinning of the web had already started then with the acceptance of the letter rogatory establishing cooperation that they could use as a pretext for later visits,” says Jónasson.

Icelandic policemen were sent to the US to gather further evidence of this so-called imminent danger and Jónasson says he does not recall anything of substance coming out of that visit and no further attacks were made against Icelandic interests.

But the FBI would return.

Icelandic officials deceived by the US

Towards the end of August, Thordarson was being pursued by WikiLeaks staff who wished to locate the proceeds of online sales of WikiLeaks merchandise. It emerged Thordarson had instructed the funds be sent to his private bank account by forging an email in the name of Julian Assange.

Thordarson saw a way out and on August 23d he sent an email to the US Embassy in Iceland offering information in relation to a criminal investigation. He was replied to with a call and confirmed that he was offering to be an informant in the case against Julian Assange.

The prosecutors and FBI were quick in responding and within 48 hrs a private jet landed in Reykjavik with around eight agents who quickly set up meetings with Thordarson and with people from the Icelandic State Prosecutors office and the State Police Commissioner.

Mid day, Mr. Jónasson, then Minister of Interior got wind of this new visit and requested confirmation that this related to the same case as earlier in the summer. “I asked on what rogatory letter this visit was based and if this was exactly the same case”, Jónasson says in an interview with Stundin. “I then found out that this was of a totally different nature than previously discussed”. He says he put two and two together and said it was obvious that the intention was to lay a trap in Iceland for Assange and other staff members of WikiLeaks.

Such actions were according to Jónasson way outside the scope of the agreement and thus he ordered that all cooperation with the agents be stopped and that they would be informed they were acting in Iceland without any authority. Only days later he learned that the agents and prosecutors had not yet left the country so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the US embassy with the demand they halt police work in Iceland and leave the country.

They did, but left with the new informant and “star witness”, Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson who flew with them to Denmark.

Not a hacker but a sociopath

Thordarson has been nicknamed Siggi the hacker in Iceland. That is actually an antonym as several sources Stundin has talked to claim that Thordarson’s computer ability is menial. This is supported by several chat logs and documents where he is requesting assistance from others doing rather uncomplicated computer jobs. Once he even sought FBI expert help in uploading a video from his own phone.

The meeting in Denmark was the first of a few where the FBI enthusiastically embraced the idea of co-operation with Thordarson. He says they wanted to know everything about WikiLeaks, including physical security of staff. They took material he had gathered, including data he had stolen from WikiLeaks employees and even planned to send him to England with a wire. Thordarson claimed in interviews he had refused that particular request. It was probably because he was not welcomed anymore as he knew WikiLeaks people had found out, or were about to firmly establish, that he had embezzled funds from the organization.

After months of collaboration the FBI seem to have lost interest. At about the same time charges were piling up against Thordarson with the Icelandic authorities for massive fraud, forgeries and theft on the one hand and for sexual violations against underage boys he had tricked or forced into sexual acts on the other.

After long investigations Thordarson was sentenced in 2013 and 2014 and received relatively lenient sentences as the judge took into account that he changed his plea at court and pleaded guilty to all counts.

According to a psychiatric assessment presented to the court Thordarson was diagnosed as a sociopath, incapable of remorse but still criminally culpable for his actions. He was assessed to be able to understand the basic difference between right and wrong, He just did not seem to care.

Incarceration did not seem to have an intended effect of stopping Thordarson from continuing his life of crime. It actually took off and expanded in extent and scope in 2019 when the Trump-era DoJ decided to revisit him, giving him a formal status as witness in the prosecution against Julian Assange and granting him immunity in return from any prosecution.

The New York Times Problem

In the month following Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11th 2019 a new rogatory letter arrived in the Ministry of Justice in Iceland. This time the request was to take a formal statement from Thordarson in Iceland in the presence of his lawyer. The Ministry had a new political head at the time, who had limited knowledge of the prior history of the case.

Although the Department of Justice had spent extreme resources attempting to build a case against Julian Assange during the Obama presidency, they had decided against indicting Assange. The main concern was what was called “The New York Times Problem”, namely that there was such a difficulty in distinguishing between WikiLeaks publications and NYT publications of the same material that going after one party would pose grave First Amendment concerns.

Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson and Julian Assange

President Donald Trump’s appointed Attorney general William Barr did not share these concerns, and neither did his Trump-appointed deputy Kellen S. Dwyer. Barr, who faced severe criticism for politicizing the DoJ on behalf of the president, got the ball rolling on the Assange case once again. Their argument was that if they could prove he was a criminal rather than a journalist the charges would stick, and that was where Thordarson’s testimony would be key.

In May 2019 Thordarson was offered an immunity deal, signed by Dwyer, that granted him immunity from prosecution based on any information on wrong doing they had on him. The deal, seen in writing by Stundin, also guarantees that the DoJ would not share any such information to other prosecutorial or law enforcement agencies. That would include Icelandic ones, meaning that the Americans will not share information on crimes he might have committed threatening Icelandic security interests – and the Americans apparently had plenty of those but had over the years failed to share them with their Icelandic counterparts.

In any event, Assange has never been suspected of any wrongdoing in Iceland. Stundin has seen confirmation of this from the District Prosecutor in Iceland, the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police. Assange has no entry in the LÖKE database of any police activity linked to an individual collected by the Icelandic State Police Commissioner from 2009-2021.

Assange’s lawyer also inquired in the Icelandic Foreign Ministry if the points in his updated indictment where Iceland is referred to as NATO country 1 meant that his case had any relevance to Icelandic membership to NATO, the bilateral defense agreement between USA and Iceland or any national security interests. All such connections were dismissed in a reply from the defense attache at the Ministry.

Immunity and a new crimespree

According to information obtained by Stundin the immunity deal between DoJ and Thordarson was presented at the Headquarters of the Reykjavik police where the only role of the Icelandic policeman was to confirm the identity of Thordarson before leaving him alone with his lawyer in the back room where he met the US delegation.

It is as if the offer of immunity, later secured and sealed in a meeting in DC, had encouraged Thordarson to take bolder steps in crime. He started to fleece individuals and companies on a grander scale than ever; usually by either acquiring or forming legal entities he then used to borrow merchandise, rent luxury cars, even order large quantities of goods from wholesalers without any intention to pay for these goods and services.

Thordarson also forged the name of his own lawyer on notices to the Company House registry, falsely claiming to have raised the equity of two companies to over 800 thousand US dollars. The aim was to use these entities with solid financial positions on paper in a real estate venture.

The lawyer has reported the forgery to the police where other similar cases, along with multiple other reports of theft and trickery, are now piling up.

When confronted with evidence of all these crimes by a Stundin journalist he simply admitted to everything and explained it away as normal business practice. He has not yet been charged and is still practicing this “business”. Local newspaper DV reported last week that Thordarson had attempted to order merchandise on credit using a new company name, Icelandic Vermin Control. Despite using a fake name and a COVID face mask he was identified and the transaction was stopped. He was last seen speeding away in a white Tesla, according to DV.

Barcelona will host the Second International Peace Congress from October 15-17, 2021

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Pressenza

Under the title “(Re)imagine our world: Action for Peace and Justice”, participants from around 70 countries will attend the meeting of the international peace movement and other social movements, with renowned activists and experts.


The congress will have a hybrid format, with face-to-face activities, conferences, workshops and cultural events, but with the possibility of following many of them online.

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) and the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP) are the main organisers of the Second International Peace Congress to be held in Barcelona from October 15-17, 2021.

Under the title “(Re)imagine our world. Action for Peace and Justice”, participants from around 70 countries will attend this event with face-to-face activities, conferences and workshops, most of which will take place at the CCCB (Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona).

The main goal of the congress is to invigorate international pacifism and peacework, offer a meeting point for different actors, redefine action for peace, and, as the motto of the congress says, reimagine the world through the prism of a culture of peace.

According to the IPB Co-President, Philip Jennings, the congress aims to be the largest gathering of activists for peace in 2021, the year that the United Nations has declared the International Year of Peace and Trust. “It’s also a big year for IPB, as we celebrate our 130th anniversary and as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Olof Palme report on common security; the time has come to develop a new blueprint for common survival”, he adds.

“The IPB World Peace Congress in Barcelona will allow so many of us to meet in person for the first time in almost two years. Networking among peace and disarmament activities in different countries and regions is our most essential resource”, says Lisa Clark, IPB Co-President.

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(Click here for a Spanish version of this article or here for a French version.)

Question related to this article:

How can the peace movement become stronger and more effective?

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The congress seeks to foster synergies between organisations and individuals and between interconnected social movements fighting for global justice: peace and disarmament advocates, feminist and LGBTQIA+ activists, environmentalists and climate activists, anti-racists and indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and trade unionists.

During the three days of the congress, there will be talks and lectures by more than thirty speakers. Featured names include Noam Chomsky, Martin Chungong, Jeremy Corbyn, Beatrice Fihn, Wada Masako, Vandana Shiva and Jody Williams.

A congress with a long history

The first peace congress in history was held in 1843 in London, then in Paris in 1889 and Rome in 1891 when the IPB was created.

In 2016, the World Congress returned with the idea of putting disarmament on the global agenda. This first congress of this new stage took place in Berlin, and now the continuation will take place in Barcelona five years later.

The IPB has their headquarters in Berlin and offices in the Catalan capital and Geneva.

“Barcelona is a city of peace – one of the few in the world with an organized and resourced commitment to promote and campaign for peace – and it has opened its arms to the IPB, with both the city and the region playing an active role in preparing for the congress”, says Jennings.

The city is the home of one of the congress hosts, Centre Delàs, an IPB member and a hive of peace, research, and campaigns regionally and globally. The IPB has a unique presence at Centre Delàs, where the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) is based and animated.

The co-organiser of the Barcelona Congress is the ICIP, a research, dissemination and action organisation created by the Parliament of Catalonia in 2007 to promote peace in Catalan society and internationally and make Catalonia play an active role as an agent of peace in the world.

For more information, you can contact Sean Conner (sean.conner@ipb-office.berlin or +49 176 5688 5567).

If you need photographs, videos or other materials, you can access this link:
https://trello.com/b/MPBI8oQZ/wpc2021

You can download the programme draft here.

Council of Europe: Youth, peace and security today: successes and challenges

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article from the Council of Europe

On 8 June 2021, on the initiative of the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ), the Joint Council on Youth (CMJ)  organised a thematic debate to mark the recent fifth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, a text which Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Youth (pre-recorded message),explained has its origins in a youth-led movement.

Across Europe and elsewhere, for many young people in Europe, protracted conflicts have become a part of normal life, a situation which, according to Inka Hopsu, Third Vice-Chairperson, Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, can be a barrier for the implementation of Resolution 2250.

Miriam Teuma, Chair of the European Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ), spoke of the more restrictive lifestyle; limited access to education, work and services; self-isolation and social distancing which have resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact of which has been felt across the world. Miriam described her own country, Malta, as a doorway to Europe, and reflected on how the incoming migration as a result of conflict is symbolic of deeper and more pervasive problems.

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(Click here for a French version of this article)

Question related to this article:
 
Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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Youth participation and an enabling youth civil society are paramount to combating the democratic deficit that children and young people are being raised into according to Rosaline Marbinah, Special Representative on Youth & Security, OSCE. Issues which were also touched on by Andrea Ugrinoska, Chair of the Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ) and of the Joint Council on Youth (CMJ).

For her part, Paulína Jalakšová, Board Member, European Youth Forum, underlined the valuable role of young people and their organisations who contribute to a culture of peace through peace dialogue, reconciliation processes, and intercultural understanding within Europe and across the world.

Pia Šlogar, Advisory Council on Youth (CCJ), spoke of the necessity to hear diverse voices. Excluding minority youth from decision and policymaking in the youth, peace and security agenda has a disproportionate impact, both direct and indirect, on minority groups.

Reminding the participants that the large multilateral organisations were created mainly to protect peace, Antje Rothemund, Head of the Youth Department, distinguished each one by its mandate: the UN is a forum for dialogue, meeting and exchange; the EU was created to safeguard peace through economic co-operation; the OSCE through dialogue and negotiation between East and West. For its part, the Council of Europe is founded on three pillars, without which peace cannot be protected, those of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Finally, Graziano Tullio explained how the Council of Europe’s North-South Centre  has been working on the youth, peace and security agenda since 2018 through confidence-building measures, intercultural dialogue and human rights education.

This thematic debate will now inform the Advisory Council on Youth’s further work on the youth, peace and security field.

Imagine Project receives Global Education award

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

A press release from The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research

The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) proudly announces that the ‘Imagine’ project has been awarded with the “GENE Global Education Award 2020/2021: Quality and good practice in Glocal EDucation across Europe” which is an annual award given to global education initiatives in recognition of their work in order to highlight good practices within the field.


Video of Imagine project

A GENE is the network responsible for Global Education in European countries and it “has been working for 20 years towards the day when all people in Europe – in solidarity with people globally – will have access to quality Global Education”. The award includes a certificate for quality work in Global Education and recognition which is accompanied by the Prize of 10.000 euros that will be used to further improve activities for the promotion of a Culture of Peace in Cyprus through education.

The ‘Imagine’ project, is an educational program on anti-racism and peace education, which aims to increase contact and collaboration among the communities in Cyprus.

(Continued in right column)

Question for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

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As of 2021, the ‘Imagine’ project succeeded in bringing together 5091 students, accompanied by 582 teachers. In the last years, ‘Imagine’ also offers opportunities for further interaction between students and teachers by enriching its existing activities with sustainability actions; educational walks across the walled city of Nicosia; and study visits to locations of historical, cultural, environmental and other significance around the island. In addition to activities with students, 340 teachers were trained in Peace Education and another 92 head teachers and school administrators participated in the ‘Imagine’ Head Teachers conference.

As the implementing  organisation of the ‘Imagine’ project, AHDR would like to thank the Co-Chairs of the Technical Committee on Education Dr. Michalinos Zembylas and Dr. Ersun İşçioğlu, as well as former Co-Chair Dr. Meltem Onurkan-Samani, for embracing the project and placing it under the auspices of the Committee; the Home for Cooperation for their partnership; UNFICYP and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus for their continuous support and appraisal; the Federal Foreign Office of the Republic of Germany for funding and making the project possible; H.E. the Ambassador of Germany in Cyprus Franz Josef Kremp for his commitment to the cause; the staff and board members of the AHDR for their hard work and inspiration; PeacePlayers Cyprus for their collaboration; the ‘Imagine’ pool of trainers for their dedication; and, most importantly, the ‘Imagine’ teachers and students for their participation and contribution to the success of the project. Last but not least, we would like to extend our Global Education Network Europe (GENE) for the recognition and the award.

As AHDR, we would like to express our dedication to continue working towards creating change by imagining novel ways to encourage interaction and promote a Culture of Peace and Non-violence all around the island!

The ‘Imagine’ Project is implemented by the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research and the Home for Cooperation under the auspices of the Technical Committee on Education. It is funded by the Federal Foreign Office of the Republic of Germany and is supported by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus.

[Thank you to the Global Campaign for Peace Education for calling this article to our attention.]

Netherlands: Court orders Shell to cut carbon emissions 45% by 2030

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Laureen Fagan in Sustainability Times (creative commons license)

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent by the end of 2030, according to a landmark ruling by the Rechtspraak court in The Hague on Wednesday. It’s being celebrated across the globe by climate advocates who filed the suit and millions who support them.


“This is a turning point in history,” said Roger Cox, lawyer for Friends of the Earth Netherlands. “This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting company to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters.”

Friends of the Earth, six other organizations and some 17,000 co-plaintiffs filed the suit, following initial requests made in April 2018 that the oil company align its operations and policies with the climate accord. The Paris Climate Agreement calls for no more than 1.5ºC in global temperature rise, in order to limit sea level rise, extreme storms and other harmful consequences to the environment.

But Royal Dutch Shell documents cited in the full court ruling established the company’s Net Carbon Footprint targets – that is, the total emissions from both producing fossil fuel products and the emissions from end users – at just 20 percent reduction by 2035 and 50 percent in 2050. Shell also assured stakeholders that there would be no stranded asset losses across a longer transition timeline, with continued operations on that basis.

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Question for this article:
 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The Rechtspraak ruling stopped short of finding that Royal Dutch Shell is already in breach of its climate obligations, as the plaintiffs had argued. But the court concluded that breach was imminent because although Royal Dutch Shell is making progress, the company policies don’t actually reflect the changes necessary to realistically achieve the Paris targets.

“The Shell group is nevertheless heading towards more instead of less CO2 emissions in 2030, because of the growth strategy for the oil and gas activities, which has been set out until at least 2030, with a production increase of 38 percent,” the court said in its ruling.

“The policy, policy intentions and ambitions of Royal Dutch Shell for the Shell group largely amount to little concrete, yet to be elaborated and non-binding intentions for the longer term (2050),” the court continued. “Moreover, those intentions are not unconditional, but – as can be read in the disclaimers and cautionary notes with the Shell documentation – depending on the pace at which global society moves towards the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Targets for emission reduction by 2030 are completely lacking.”

The court-mandated target of 45 percent emissions reduction by 2030 also includes its suppliers and customers within its compliance, and holds Royal Dutch Shell accountable for any human rights violations arising from environmental and supply chain impacts. It also calls on the company to begin compliance immediately.

In response to the decision Royal Dutch Shell spokesman Harry Brekelmans said the company was disappointed by the ruling and expects to appeal. He reiterated the company’s goal of net-zero operations by 2050.

Although environmental lawyers and activists are jubilant over this decision, they’re already looking to the future.

“This is a historic victory for the climate and everyone affected by the climate crisis,” said Andy Palmen, interim director of Greenpeace Netherlands. “Coal, oil and gas must remain in the ground. People all over the world are demanding climate justice. Today the judge has confirmed that we are in our right. Multinationals can be held liable for the climate crisis.”

International Day of Living Together in Peace – Joint Declaration by Mouvement de la Paix and MRAP

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

A declaration of Friendship between peoples

May 16 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Living Together in Peace in order to “regularly mobilize the efforts of the international community in favor of peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, and the opportunity for all to express the deep desire to live and act together, united in difference and in diversity, with a view to building a viable world based on peace, solidarity and harmony “.

National situations are marked by acts of racism, intolerance, the development of violent and fascistic extremisms including terrorist acts, while the international situation sees the persistence of conflicts, the worrying rise of fascistic far-right movements, the growth world military spending which reached the amount never reached in the history of humanity of 2 trillion dollars in 2020. We are encouraged to give a more important place to this international day which is based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and the United Nations resolution on the Culture of Peace [see below], and more simply on the promotion of friendship between peoples.

Living together in peace means individually accepting differences, listening, showing esteem, respect and recognition towards others. However, these individual or collective attitudes and behaviors can only be fully effective if, at national and international level, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian policies are implemented to fully realize human rights (economic, social, cultural, etc.). environmental) for all without distinction of origin, sex, language or religion. At the same time, these policies must tackle all forms of discrimination affecting individuals or groups, development inequalities that exist within societies or between societies; and substitute for security based on power (in particular military) a collective security based on the realization of human rights.

It is on these foundations that the MRAP and the Peace Movement intend to strengthen their cooperation to participate in the construction of human security in its physical, economic, social, health and environmental dimensions which will promote living together in peace in allowing unification in action around humanist objectives while removing the specter of ideologies of hatred which feed on inequalities, discrimination and the absence or non-realization of human rights.

In Paris, Sunday May 16, 2021

(Click here for the original French version of this article.)

Question(s) related to this article:

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

Article 3 of resolution 53/243 of the UN General Assembly on the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace states that “The fuller development of a culture of peace is integrally linked to:

Promoting peaceful settlement of conflicts, mutual respect and understanding and international cooperation;

Complying with international obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

Promoting democracy, development and universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

Enabling people at all levels to develop skills of dialogue, negotiation, consensus-building and peaceful resolution of differences;

Strengthening democratic institutions and ensuring full participation in the development process;

Eradicating poverty and illiteracy and reducing inequalities within and among nations;

Promoting sustainable economic and social development;

Eliminating all forms of discrimination against women through their empowerment and equal representation at all levels of decision-making;

Ensuring respect for and promotion and protection of the rights of children;

Ensuring free flow of information at all levels and enhancing access thereto;

Increasing transparency and accountability in governance;

Eliminating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity among all civilizations, peoples and cultures, including towards ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities;

Realizing fully the right of all peoples, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, to self-determination enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the International Covenants on Human Rights,2 as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.

France: March for the Climate: Thousands Demonstrate in Paris

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from BFM TV (translation by CPNN)

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated this Sunday in Paris for a more ambitious climate law , while doubts are emerging on a referendum to include the fight against climate change in the Constitution.


Frame from video of BFM TV

The demonstrators gathered behind a banner “Climate law = failure of the five-year term.” They marched from Place de le République to the Bastille via Châtelet.

Emmanuel Macron committed in front of the members of the Citizen’s Convention for the Climate (CCC) to send to parliamentarians their proposal to modify Article 1 of the Constitution but, faced with the reluctance of the Senate on the wording (the text must be voted on in the same terms by both chambers to be able to be submitted to a referendum), the JDD affirms that the president has renounced the ballot.

The Elysee assured that the constitutional amendment was “in no way buried”, without however mentioning a referendum.

“What I am the guarantor” is that “there will be no abandonment. This text will live its parliamentary life, which alone allows to go to the referendum if the senators and the deputies agree “, then insisted the Head of State, on the sidelines of a trip to Strasbourg .

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(Click here for the original article in French

Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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“A missed meeting for the climate”

Despite Elysian assurances, ecologists, left parties and unions saw it as further proof of the denials of the executive, even as they demonstrated to denounce as “a failed meeting for the climate” the law “climate and resilience” adopted Tuesday in the Assembly .

A text meant to translate part of the 149 proposals of the CCC, convened by Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the crisis of the “Gilets Jaunes” to reduce French greenhouse gas emissions by 40% “in a spirit of social justice”.

According to the organizers, 115,000 people in total participated in 163 parades across the country, including 56,000 in Paris, a little more than claimed during the previous movement at the end of March, just before the start of the review of the climate law. Police counts were not immediately available.

“It is a question of continuing to denounce the lack of ambition of the climate law and, since this morning, the almost certain abandonment of the referendum which constitutes a further step backwards”, summed up the director and activist Cyril Dion, “guarantor “of the CCC, present in the last Parisian procession with a banner” Climate law = failure of the five-year term “.

Gatherings also took place in Besançon, Chartres, Cherbourg, Lannion, Laval, Lille, Martigues, Nantes, Quimper, Saint-Brieuc, Strasbourg and even Valenciennes …

The right has accused the head of state of “hypocrisy”, against a background of tension around the next regional and attempted macronist takeover on the moderate right electorate for 2022.

“Even before the Senate has voted anything and the discussion with the National Assembly begins, Emmanuel Macron accuses us of blocking to justify the cancellation of a referendum he did not want”, tweeted senator leader LR Bruno Retailleau.

Europe: GENE Roundtables gather participating Ministries and Agencies twice a year to share national experiences and strategies

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An excerpt from website of the Global Education Network Europe (GENE)

GENE Roundtable 44 kicked off on 29 April with exciting and forward-looking high-level interventions by Ms. Henriette Geiger (Director, DG INTPA, European Commission), Ms. Cristina Moniz (Vice-President, Camões – Institute for Cooperation and Language, Portugal) and a keynote speech by Prof. Elina Lehtomäki (University of Oulu, Finland). With a strong consensus that Global Education is now more important than ever, the roundtable continued with policy learning and networking sessions with over 60 Policymakers from across Europe.


(Click on image to enlarge)

Questions for this article:

What is the relation between peace and education?

On Day 2, the roundtable participants enjoyed a number of inspiring presentations and workshops. Ms. Ida Mc Donnell (Team Lead, OECD Development Co-operation Report) gave an important keynote on the need for new narratives of solidarity and asked important questions for the future of foreign and development policy and global education.

In a parallel keynote for education policymakers, Dr. Beatriz Pont (Project Lead, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills) reflected on ways to bridge the policy-implementation gap and shared a rich and data-informed perspective for a change. Both shared perspectives in the plenary session and provoked questions that will inspire a long-term vision for global education.

Finally, Mr. Mark Little (CEO, Kinzen) gave the closing keynote with a thought-provoking input on countering misinformation and the implications for educators and for global education. Participants also shared policy learning from national exemplars and considered the future of global education in the context of digitalisation, formal and nonformal education, alignment of global education and awareness-raising strategies.

Click here for the detailed agenda .

Hans Küng: Towards a Global Ethic

TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article by René Wadlow in the Transcend Media Service

Hans Küng was a Swiss Roman Catholic theologian who died on 6 Apr 2021 at the age of 93. He always stressed the Swiss aspect of his life, its democratic traditions, and the need to discuss widely before making a decision. He wrote his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne University in Paris on the Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886 – 1968) who spent most of his teaching life at Bale Universit


Le théologien catholique Hans Küng, en 2006, à Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP

Küng always hoped that some of the democratic spirit would enter the Roman Catholic Church, and he had high hopes at the time of the Vatican II Conference which brought some reforms to Church administration.  Küng also saw Vatican II as a time when Catholic thinkers such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), who had been marginalized, were again being read.  However, the conservative forces within the Church and especially within the Vatican itself regained influence.  The more liberal voices were less heard, and in some cases were driven out of the Church itself.

Thus from the early 1980s Küng turned his attention to other religions.  He wrote a book on Judaism and another on Islam. Then he turned his attention to the religions of Asia, looking for common themes that could provide a bridge.

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Question related to this article:
 
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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Like Karl Barth, the political tensions in the 1980s between the U.S.A. and the USSR became a preoccupation.  In addition, the tensions in the Middle East were growing. Küng wanted to find a moral code that would provide a global way of life conducive to peace.  He became active in the Parliament of the World’s Religions which had been an effort in the 1880s to develop dialogue among representatives of religions.  A century later the Parliament was revived and has held a session every five years or so meeting in different parts of the world.

For the Parliament, Hans Küng wrote a text Toward a Global Ethic around which the Parliament could discuss.  The Text began,

 “Peace eludes us, the planet is being destroyed, neighbors live in fear, women and men are estranged from each other, children die. This is abhorrent.” 

The text goes on,

“We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of religions and that these form a basis of a global ethic.”

He then calls for a radical change in consciousness.

“We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water and soil.”

I had participated in an inter-religious discussion in Geneva in which Hans Küng was active.  True to his democratic spirit, he listened respectfully to what each was saying, although he was the best-known participant in the meeting.  The concept of a global ethic as a base for peace has not yet taken hold, although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important step in that direction.

Hans Küng’s intellectual effort set a direction in which citizens of the world will continue to walk. There is still a good distance to go until the ideology becomes a practice, but the need remains and new voices will come to the fore.

International Statement of Solidarity with Decolonial Academics and Activists in France

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

A statement reprinted by Juan Cole, along with many other journals, including Al Jazeera

We write to express our solidarity with the scholars, activists, and other knowledge producers who are targeted by the February 2021 statements by Frédérique Vidal, France’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation. In them she denounced “Islamo-gauchisme” (Islamo-leftism) and its “gangrene” effect on France, and called for an inquiry into France’s national research organization, the CNRS, and the university. The specific kinds of knowledge in question analyze and critique colonialism and racism, and support decolonial, anti-racist, and anti-Islamophobia projects within the academy and on the streets. Vidal’s statements show the discomfort these challenges are causing the State, and hence the desire to repress them rather than engage them.


Video of the debate

The State’s intentions are found in the language it uses. The relatively new term “Islamo-gauchisme” reflects a much older convergence of right-wing, colonial and racist ideologies working in opposition to anti-colonial, anti-Islamophobia and anti-racism struggles.

Vidal claims that anti-colonial, decolonial and postcolonial critique, anti-racist, anti-Islamophobia, intersectionality, and decolonial feminist and queer analyses are foreign imports from the US academy.

She ignores that decolonial theory actually developed in Abya Yala (Latin America), postcolonial theory in India, and that women and queers in anti-colonial and anti-racism struggles have always thought about many relations of power together. Vidal also forgets that both postcolonial and decolonial theory are indebted to the prior work of French-speaking scholars of color such as Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and others.

This false narrative and these acts of repression effectively remove France from a vibrant and urgent global discussion. They put faculty of color and allies producing critical scholarship on colonialism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, etc. – already few and marginalized – at even greater risk.

The attack on progressive and radical scholars and activists seeks at all costs to preserve “French exceptionalism” and a whitewashed image of the Republic scrubbed clean of inconvenient truths. These include the fact that France remains a colonial power (in, for example, Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Iles des Saintes, la Désirade, Mayotte, New Caledonia, etc), and a neocolonial one in terms of its economic, political, and military relations to former colonies.

(Click here for the original French version of this article)

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Question related to this article:
 
Are we making progress against racism?

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This colonial mentality is manifest in France’s structures of governance, especially with regard to both citizens and immigrants of color, as reflected in a barrage of laws such as: the law against wearing the veil; immigration laws; the Islamophobic law against “separatism” which has already shut down the CCIF (Collective against Islamophobia in France) and threatens all forms of autonomy; the proposed “global security” bill institutionalizing mass surveillance, including by drone, and restricting publicization of police brutality; the (now-repealed) law that mandated that colonialism be taught in only one State-sanctioned manner; rights-abusive and discriminatory counterterrorism laws; and others. These measures seek to forcibly “integrate” suspect populations into subordinate roles in French society.

It is precisely the critique of this colonial history and present, and its manifestations in State racisms including Islamophobia, that the State wishes to censor and make invisible.

Elements of the White Left, including feminists without an anticolonial, anti-Islamophobia or antiracism analysis, have also been complicit in rendering colonial and racial oppression invisible, and providing ideological rationalizations for State racisms. This, too, speaks to the incoherence of the term, “Islamo-leftism.”

The repression in France is not isolated. In Brazil, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, the US, India and other places we see the rise of neoliberal, right-wing, and authoritarian governmental suppression of critical scholarship and social movements.

But wherever we find repression we also find forms of resistance networked into global chains of solidarity.

Vidal’s statement and the planned inquiry have appeared in the context of an explosion of energy in both the academy and on the streets to address colonial, racial, and economic injustice. For example, the demonstrations in defense of Adama Traoré in France and other anti-racist protests globally after the murder of George Floyd represent the kind of commitment and courage that Vidal and others are worried about. Repressive laws and inquiries will not stop this scholarship nor the movements.

As international scholars and activists, we pledge solidarity with our counterparts in France. We commit ourselves to monitoring the situation carefully, to publicizing cases globally, to inviting those facing repression and censorship to speak in our countries, to co-authoring essays with them and helping them get their work translated, to co-mentoring students and junior colleagues, and to engaging in other forms of collaboration that they desire.

Authors:

Paola Bacchetta (Professor, University of California, Berkeley)
Azeezah Kanji (Legal Academic and Journalist, Toronto)
David Palumbo-Liu (Professor, Stanford University)

Earliest Signatories

1. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor, Columbia University, USA

2. Gina Dent, Associate Professor, Feminist Studies, History of Consciousness, and Legal Studies. University of California, Santa Cruz

3. Angela Y Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz

4. Robin DG Kelley, Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History, UCLA, USA

As of April 14, there were 556 signatures along with their institutional affiliations. The full list of signatures is available here.