The Truth About Killer Robots, a 2018 documentary made by Third Party Films and directed by Maxim Pozdorvkin lays out the many ways that automation could affect us in the long term from labor to psychology to sexual encounters. In the context of international law, the issues being discussed relate to the use of unmanned technology during armed conflicts.
To date, twenty-six countries have called for an explicit ban that requires some form of human control in the use of force. However, prospects for an A.I. weapons ban are low as several influential countries including the United States are unwilling to place limits while the technology is still in development.

The following questions have been previously raised by UN experts in a 2013 report:

…is it morally acceptable to delegate decisions about the use of lethal force to such [autonomous] systems?
If their use results in a war crime or serious human rights violation, who would be legally responsible?
If responsibility cannot be determined as required by international law, is it legal or ethical to deploy such systems?

What are killer robots?

That depends on whom you ask. Manufactures of this technology would define a killer robot as, a robot that can make a decision to use lethal force without human intervention. However, Human Rights Watch broadens the definition to include any robot that can choose to use any type of force against a human, even if that force is not lethal. What is agreed is that all LAWS are already regulated by existing International Humanitarian Law (IHL). LAWS that cannot comply with IHL principles, such as distinction (from civilians and combatants) and proportionality (an attack must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated) are already illegal.

The phrase “meaningful human control” has caused some debate among diplomats. A great deal of the discussion in the LAWS debate is about humans and the term “loops”, which can be explained as follows:

-Human “in the loop”: the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, a human hits a confirm button and the robot strikes.

-Human “on the loop”: the robot decides according to human-programmed rules, a human has time to hit an abort button, and if the abort button is not hit, the robot strikes.

-Human “off the loop”: the robot makes decisions according to human-programmed rules, the robot strikes, and a human reads a report a few seconds or minutes later.

Finally there is “robot beyond the loop”, where there is the largest concern. In this case, the robot decides according to rules it learns or creates itself, the robot strikes, and the robot may or may not let humans know.

What is the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)?

Also known as the “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects,” there are 120 nations that are ‘high contracting’ or state parties, including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The CCW was adopted in 1980 and contains five separate protocols on various weapons and explosive remnants of war, already covering non-detectable fragments, mines and booby traps, incendiary weapons, blinding lasers and the explosive remnants of war. The CCW also provided a useful incubator for efforts to address the humanitarian consequences of antipersonnel landmines in the 1990s and cluster munitions in the 2000s. A Protocol VI added to the CCW banning “off the loop” LAWS, might be an option.

The Case for and Against Killer Robots

There are already plenty of examples of how technology has changed warfare. For the military, war robots can have many advantages: They do not need food or pay, they do not get tired or need to sleep, they follow orders automatically, and they do not feel fear, anger, pain or remorse. Furthermore, no one would mourn if robot soldiers were destroyed on the battlefield. The most recent and controversial example of how new technologies have changed war is the rise of drone warfare. But even these aircraft have a pilot who flies it by remote control, and it is the humans who make the decisions about which targets to pick and when to fire a missile.

On behalf of not banning LAWS some argue that robots should be regarded more as the next generation of “smart” bombs. They are potentially more accurate, more precise, completely focused on the strictures of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and thus, in theory, preferable even to human war fighters who may panic, seek revenge or just make human mistake.

Meanwhile, a report by Human Rights Watch released before the last CCW meeting has argued that fully autonomous weapons would make it difficult to attribute legal responsibility for deaths caused by such systems. As the report notes: “[a] variety of legal obstacles make it likely that humans associated with the use or production of these weapons – notably operators and commanders, programmers and manufacturers – would escape liability for the suffering caused by fully autonomous weapons.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (CSKR), an international coalition working to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons formed by a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in October 2012, argues for a ban on LAWS similar to the ban on blinding lasers in Protocol IV of the CCW and the ban on anti-personnel landmines in the Ottawa Treaty. They argue that killer robots must be stopped before they proliferate, and that tasking robots with human destruction is fundamentally immoral. The biggest concern is the potential next generation of robotic weapons: “robots beyond the loop,” the ones that make their own decisions about who to target and who to kill without human control.

A ban on autonomous weapons is unlikely as defense contractors, identifying a new source of revenue, are eager to build the next-generation machinery. Last year, Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, a maker of autonomous aircrafts. The Company also reorganized its defense business to include a division focused on drones and other unmanned weaponry. Other defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Raytheon are making similar shifts.





In a surprising decision, India’s top court has legalized gay sex partially striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 158-year-old colonial-era law. The law criminalized intercourse “against the order of nature,” which was taken to mean same-sex relations even between consenting adults, and imposed a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. The judgment included not only decriminalization and an apology, but also recommendations for workshops in schools and police stations across India to try and change public perceptions of the LGBTQ community.

Although Section 377 was not often enforced, Arif Jafar, one of the petitioners whose case the Supreme Court ruled on, was arrested in 2001 under Section 377 and spent 49 days in jail. In the momentous decision, Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud wrote: “What makes life meaningful is love. The right that makes us human is the right to love. To criminalize the expression of that right is profoundly cruel and inhumane.”

Hinduism has traditionally maintained a flexible, non-prescriptive view of sexuality. However, in recent years hardline Hindu groups had taken a more conservative approach. Opposition to moves to overturn Section 377 had rested predominately on moral and religious objections. Furthermore, the Indian government had left the decision regarding the legality of Section 377 to the Supreme Court, saying it would neither fight nor directly support the five lead petitioners asking for Section 377 to be reconsidered.

The movement to decriminalize Section 377 has endured a long and arduous road. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the ban on consensual gay sex violated fundamental rights. However, the decision, which only applied to the Delhi region, was quickly overruled by the Supreme Court in 2013, following a petition launched by a loose coalition of Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups. In its 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court said that only a “minuscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders” and it was therefore “legally unsustainable” to repeal the act. Yesterday’s decision was a relief to those advocating for LGBTQ rights around the world.

Although this is a step in the right direction, the decision only decriminalizes sexual acts; India still does not permit same-sex couples to marry, adopt or inherit property. Now the broader issue of equality needs to be addressed as well as the need for further legal protections and rights for the LGBTQ community— such as rights to marriage and adoption.





Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers, and in an interview with CNN, saying the social media platform does not deserve to hold personal information if it cannot protect it.

The ads said a quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked Facebook data of millions of people four years ago. “This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the ads said. During his interview with CNN, Mark Zuckerberg suggested the question was not whether Facebook should be regulated so much as how best to do it.

Facebook’s privacy practices have come under fire after Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm affiliated with President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, obtained data inappropriately. The firm is alleged to have created psychological profiles to influence how people vote or even think about politics and society through micro-targeting of thousands (if not millions) of Facebook subscribers.

According to data from the FEC, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica nearly $6 million for services during the 2016 election cycle. Seventeen other Republican political organizations, including Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and a super PAC headed by incoming National Security Adviser John Bolton, also paid the firm a combined $16 million for services that included research and micro-targeting of voters.

As social media becomes part of life and often an extension of our thoughts, it is time to question whether it is a tool to enhance or restrict our rights. Furthermore, now our concerns must go beyond governmental acts and extend to the actions of private parties who may use social networks for a profit or to influence us by exploiting our personal information.

Social networks implicate our right to free speech but also our right to privacy. To be clear, most rights are not absolute, and neither the right to free speech nor the right to privacy is an absolute right. The right to free speech means that we are allowed to express ourselves without interference or constraint by the government, and that the government can limit both the content of speech and the ability to engage in speech only when there is “substantial justification.”

Likewise, our right to privacy is not absolute, and governments can intrude into our right to privacy to protect society. However, governments generally have had to justify their intrusions in our privacy to achieve the higher goal of protecting society and have had to make use of legally mandated due process safeguards, such as obtaining a wiretap warrant to listen to our private conversations. This is no longer the case with social networks being given direct access to our information and even our most intimate thoughts, which they may then exploit for their own benefit or simply lose track—as in the Cambridge Analytica example.

We might think that social networks allow us to express ourselves in ways that we could not before, and to do it anonymously. But how much of what we post on social networks is private? How much of our information is used for profit? How much control do we even have over our data on social networks? Will social networks provide greater freedom for people to express ourselves and our thoughts, or will they turn out to be a weapon that allows our governments and even private agents to control and monitor our communications?  More importantly, how much of what we think is determined by what’s posted on social media? How much are we being influenced by our online social networks?

These are all questions that as a society we must consider to be able to maintain our individual freewill. The alternative would result if a society where we become puppets of our social media accounts.




On 26 and 27 May 2017, Italy will host the meeting of the G7 leaders. The G7 summit is a forum that plays an important role in shaping global responses to global challenges and complements the global economic coordination carried out by the G20. It brings together leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU. This summit follows the G7 Summit in Japan in 2016 and will focus on the global economy, foreign policy, security of citizens, and environmental sustainability.

World leaders expect President Donald Trump to announce this week whether the U.S. will remain in the landmark Paris climate accord as they gather for the summit. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman has not said when Trump would announce his decision. However, a White House spokesman had previously said the president would make his choice after meeting with G-7 leaders.


A U.N. panel of climate scientists found that it is at least 95 percent probable that man-made greenhouse gas emissions — especially burning fossil fuels — are the main cause of climate change since 1950. In each of the past three years, global average temperatures have hit record highs, and the continued warming of the planet is projected to cause worsening droughts, sea level rises, floods, heatwaves and extinctions of wildlife.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. To date, 153 parties have ratified the Agreement.


On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly promised to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs.” President Trump had called global warming a “hoax,” a “con,” and “a concept created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” Although recently President Trump has stated that he “has an open mind” on the Paris Agreement, there is a fierce debate within his administration on whether to withdraw.

Environmental groups have said that withdrawing from the global accord would have significant consequences. As the richest nation and the second-largest polluter, U.S. efforts are central to keeping climate change from hitting an irreversible tipping point, unleashing catastrophic floods, droughts and storms, according to researchers.

In its most recent Quadrennial Defense Review in 2014, the Pentagon predicted that climate change will increase sea levels, temperature and severe weather patterns, and concluded that “the pressures caused by climate change” would be “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Pressure has also come from a broad coalition of corporate leaders and business groups, including DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, BP, General Mills, Google, PG&E, The Hartford, GE, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Cargill, General Motors, Bank of America, Intel, American Express, AT&T, Monsanto, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Walmart and NRG Energy, and 280 investors representing more than $17 trillion in assets who released a statement Monday saying climate change must be an “urgent priority” for all G-20 nations. Executives have warned that Trump would put U.S. companies at a disadvantage if he pulled out of the pact.

The Paris Agreement is also popular with the majority of American voters. In a nationally representative survey conducted last November after the election, The Associated Press found that seven in 10 registered voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris climate agreement. Only 13 percent say the U.S. should not.

Trade analysts have noted that the risks of withdrawing from the Paris would also include the possibility of trade reprisals. Countries that tax emissions of carbon dioxide pollution could place a carbon tariff on imports of American-made goods. The EU currently charges polluters fees for carbon emissions, while China, Mexico and Canada are in the process of carrying out such programs.

There are still some who advocate for the US to withdraw from the Paris agreement. They argue that the Paris Agreement is based on a fundamental misconception of climate history and science. The key misconception is that all of the warming since the Industrial Revolution — 0.9 degrees Celsius — is a result of human activity, when in reality, it might be naturally caused. If that is the reason, the Paris agreement will have no effect on global warming.

Others argue that the Agreement does not go far enough in requiring countries (especially China and India) to lower emissions, and that in aggregate, the promised emissions reductions will barely affect anticipated warming. MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calculates the improvement by century’s end to be only 0.2 degrees Celsius.  Comparing projected emissions to the baseline established by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2000 shows no improvement at all.

The mining industry in the US is also fiercely opposed to the Paris Agreement. The National Mining Association’s board of directors voted Tuesday to endorse a withdrawal from the climate agreement.

It is up to the current administration and Congress to decide whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. There are many supporters and as many detractors. The reality is that the true effect that the provisions of the Agreement will have on global warming remains to be seen. What is certain is that the consequences of whatever decision the administration makes, will be long lasting for the United States as a nation, and for the planet. The seriousness of the current situation in regards to global warning cannot be overstated, and it is vital that we demand and that our government gives the appropriate thought and consideration to such an important decision.


President Donald Trump recently signed an Executive Order denying federal funding to sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. The order states that sanctuary cities “that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”

What is a Sanctuary City?

Sanctuary city is a name given to a city in the United States that follows certain procedures that shelters undocumented persons and do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws. These cities generally do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status.

Most often, sanctuary policies prevent or otherwise limit state and local officers’ ability to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests. A detainer request asks for local law enforcement agencies to notify ICE prior to releasing an individual from local custody, and to hold him for up to 48h, excluding weekends and holidays, so that ICE can arrange to take over custody enforcement. Some sanctuary policies allow for notification to ICE about an individual charged or convicted of certain offences or is a sex or arson registrant.

The sanctuary movement started in the 1980’s when about a million Central Americans, mainly from El Salvador and Guatemala, crossed the U.S. border-seeking asylum from their repressive governments and seemingly never-ending civil wars. The Reagan administration was supporting these governments’ (especially the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala) attempts to fight communist rebels and therefore, the administration would only characterize Salvadorans and Guatemalans as “economic migrants, not eligible for asylum.” Hundreds of churches in the U.S. openly defied the U.S. government and its immigration policy by providing safe havens for Central Americans.  Influenced by the sanctuary movement, San Francisco passed the “City and County of Refuge” Ordinance in 1989, which barred city money from being used to enforce immigration law. Hundreds of U.S. cities and counties have followed suit and adopted similar “sanctuary” laws or policies.

The procedures that establish a sanctuary city can be by law or by action (de facto). A sanctuary city is created by law when there is a written policy enacted by a local government body in the form of a resolution, ordinance, or administrative action. San Francisco currently has one of the most detailed written policies regarding its status as a sanctuary city.

Are Sanctuary Cities in Compliance with the Law?

Sanctuary cities exemplify the principle of separation of powers between the federal and state governments stated in the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The Tenth Amendment limits the power of Congress to regulate by directly compelling local jurisdictions to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program (New York v. United States (1992) 505 U.S. 144, at 161). Since the federal government has the exclusive authority to enforce the civil provisions of federal immigration law relating to issues such as admission, exclusion, and deportation, Congress is prohibited by the Tenth Amendment from passing laws requiring states to administer civil immigration.

In 1996, the federal government enacted two pieces of legislation which prohibit state or local governments from restricting voluntary communication with the federal government regarding the immigration status of any individual: § 434 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, 8 U.S.C. § 1644) and § 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA, 8 U.S.C. § 1373). Both pieces of legislation were designed to authorize communication by state and local law enforcement agencies with federal immigration authorities regarding the status and presence of undocumented immigrants, but they did not mandate communication or reporting.

The Supreme Court has held that states can enact laws that promote cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government on immigration matters. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court in U.S. v. Arizona upheld state legislation that requires state and local law enforcement officers to make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the immigration status of persons involved in a lawful stop when officers have a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present. The Court found that the state provision did not conflict with federal law, but instead fostered the cooperation expressly encouraged in federal law between federal officials and state and local officials.

Thus, although states can choose to cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters, they are not required to do so, and sanctuary cities, insofar as they refuse to cooperate with ICE on immigration enforcement, are in their legal right to do so.

The Constitutionality of the recently signed Executive Order

The new Executive Order signed by President Trump specifically mandates that “the Attorney General and the [Homeland Security] Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with the law, shall ensure that jurisdictions (sanctuary cities) that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.” Section 1373 states that “a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”

There are serious constitutional problems with conditioning federal grants to sanctuary cities on compliance with Section 1373, and in fact, unless interpreted very narrowly, the Executive Order might be unconstitutional. In the case of Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, the Supreme Court held that the federal government may not impose conditions on grants to states and localities unless the conditions are “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” Few if any federal grants to sanctuary cities are explicitly conditioned on compliance with Section 1373. That condition must be passed by Congress, and may only apply to new grants, not ones that have already been appropriated. The executive is not permitted to, at any time, make up new conditions and impose them on state and local governments without prior notice. Doing so undermines two constitutional principles that are basic to the US system of government, the separation of powers and federalism.

Resolution Sanctuary Status for Undocumented Immigrants in Brookline, MA


See full text: TownMeeting-Warrant-111406_201407011408347932

“RESOLUTION Reaffirming Sanctuary Status for Undocumented Immigrants:”
“WHEREAS: The Town of Brookline has been built and enriched by generations of”
“immigrants, and has a proud history since November, 1985, as a Sanctuary for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Haiti;”
“WHEREAS: There are now approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants in the USA who have been systematically denied the opportunity enjoyed by past generations of immigrants to become legal permanent residents or citizens of this country; over the past two decades, immigration policy has become even more restrictive and punitive and closed off avenues previously available for immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency, while the US-Mexico border has been further militarized;”
“WHEREAS: While borders have been closed off to people over the past two decades, they have been simultaneously opened up to trade and capital; these same “free trade” economic policies have increased poverty and decreased opportunities for people to make a dignified living and support their families;”
“WHEREAS: In 2005, record numbers of migrants seeking to support their families, with no means to migrate safely into the USA, perished in the desert along the US- Mexico border, while countless others died in the journey; and the migration experience has adverse emotional and psychological effects on families, kept apart for many years due to unjust immigration policies and backlogs in visa applications; and undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable to workplace abuses and housing discrimination;”
“WHEREAS: Current US immigration policy does not reflect the standards of Brookline residents regarding what is just, humane and moral; and both undocumented and”



“Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”

Donald Trump (Dec. 20, 2016)

“We will find the strength for the life that we want to live in Germany, free, with one another, and open.”

Angela Merkel (Dec. 20, 2016)

Earlier in the week, a terrorist attack carried out using a tractor-trailer to plow through a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, left 12 people dead and injured 48 others. ISIS (or Da’ish) has claimed responsibility. After the various attacks recently perpetrated—in Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Nice, Paris and now Berlin— there is still no effective international strategy to deal with terrorist attacks by ISIS, and with the support it receives, often by nationals of the countries where those attacks take place. To be clear, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims do not support ISIS, but there are enough who do—including citizens of France, Britain, Germany and the United States—so, we need to start thinking of viable strategies to fight terrorism at an international level that also addresses the problem at “home.” The strategies used so far are not working.

Governments have a number of possible responses to terrorist attacks, beyond the perfunctory initial show of solidarity, some might involve curtailing civil liberties in what is often interpreted as a benign exchange of personal freedoms for security. Other strategies might be more geared to attempting to give Muslim citizens everywhere a greater stake in the peace and prosperity of the countries in which they live, so that they do not feel like outsiders, and are able to develop lasting bonds with members of the community. These personal connections with our community are what make the fabric of a peaceful society, when those connections are made, there is little room for murderer terrorist plots to fester undetected.

In the United States, historically, repression has been the government’s reaction to threats to security. In 1798, in response to concerns about survival of the country, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a federal crime to make false criticisms of the government or its officials. Likewise, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s dissidents were imprisoned for criticizing the way the government was handling the war, and the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly shamefully interned in

concentration camps. The McCarthy era ushered in a witch-hunt that resulted in the persecution of those suspected or merely accused of being communists. Even in more recent history, after 9/11, citizens of the United States suffered a substantial loss of their civil liberties with unprecedented claims of authority to detain American citizens, unprecedented secrecy, and unparalleled invasions of privacy. The Bush Administration established a system of military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees, bypassing Article III courts, which was struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”).

Europe also has had significant experience with terrorism, and in those situations, European governments have also gone too far in curtailing human rights and personal freedoms. In the United Kingdom, terrorist attacks have been going on since about 1969 with the actions of the IRA which killed over 1,600 soldiers and civilians since the inception of hostilities. The conflict with Northern Ireland grew to its greatest heights between 1970 and the early 1980’s. As a result, the United Kingdom passed various legislative measures aimed at combating terrorism including internment.  The Detention of Terrorists Order of 1972 allowed anyone “suspected of having been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of any act of terrorism or in the direction, organization or training of persons for the purpose of terrorism” to be detained for twenty-eight days. After twenty-eight days, the detainee was released or referred to a commissioner, someone appointed by the Secretary of State. The commissioner would hear the case, but the hearing was primarily an executive procedure and not a judicial one. For example, the detainee could be excluded from the proceeding if national security was at stake, the hearing could be based on hearsay, and the accused did not have the right to call witnesses. In 1980, public criticism of the procedures resulted in the act being repealed.

In Spain, the Basque separatist organization Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) fought for an independent homeland for Basques in four northern Spanish provinces since the 1960s, and their violent acts killed over 1000 people since 1968. Under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, authoritarian measures were used to suppress Basque dissidents, who were considered military enemies. To streamline prosecutions against the separatists, the crime of military rebellion was extended to political offenses, banditry, and other acts unrelated to the military to address the actions of dissidents through the use of military trials with significantly fewer procedural safeguards than regular courts. During the final decade of the Franco regime, a secret tribunal known as the “Tribunal del Orden Publico” was instituted to try in secret, and without counsel, those who opposed the regime and who were considered terrorists by the government. After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain transitioned to a democracy and people demanded an abandonment of such coercive practices.

The passage of anti-terrorist legislation affecting civil liberties following 9/11 was not limited to the United States. British anti-terror legislation allowed the government to detain without charge any terror suspect for a period of up to twenty-eight days. In addition to the 9/11 terrorist events in the United States, investigation into the bombings in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2005, the further attempted bombings in the same month, and in August 2006, and the Birmingham beheading plot in January 2007, were considered to justify the use of anti terrorist legislation to stop and search large numbers of people living in Britain. Between April 1, 2001 and March 31, 2005, the police and security services stopped and searched 111,900 of whom approximately 1.4% were subsequently arrested.

Fear and anger about terrorist attacks affect financial markets, consumer spending, air travel, and public opinion toward government. In France, Front National Leader Marine Le Pen was quick to exploit the wave of anger directed towards President Francois Hollande over his handling of the terror threat in last July’s attack at Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray. After the attack, she accused the entire French establishment, both Left and Right, of sharing “immense responsibility” for creating the circumstances in which Islamist terrorists can operate in France. She received a great deal of support following those comments. In times of crisis, people want their leaders to provide protection, thus, whomever articulates the strongest laws and measures that appear to offer safety and security, will receive public support as measured in opinion polls. Unfortunately, the measures often advocated by governments in times of crisis tend to inevitably result in the infringement of personal rights and freedoms without tackling the root problems of disaffection and disconnectedness. Thus, despite all the promises by new leaders, governments change and terrorist attacks continue.

At this juncture, and considering that a new year is about to start, perhaps we ought to consider new strategies to combat ISIS. It is important to keep in mind that despite the history of government’s invasions of liberty and curtailment of personal freedoms in those critical times, there is no evidence that society, as a result, has become any safer. And yet, we still have governments advocating for stricter measures of surveillance, detention, curtailing of immigration, etc.  Now, as the world faces a different threat created by a new generation of Islamist-inspired terrorists, with home-grown terrorists, our leaders must show intelligence and resolve if they are not to fall into ISIS’s trap of allowing the current wave of terror attacks to bring about a true political crisis worldwide. Further reflection and discourse is needed as to the best course of action and on the effect that excessively curtailing civil liberties has on society. If we learn from history, we would understand that a balance between security and respect for human rights and diversity, is necessary to achieve lasting security and long-term peace. Maybe the recognition of this fact could be a universal resolution for the new year: that merely building walls and ghettos will not solve the problem posed by terrorism.



Last Thursday, the latest Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund revealed that if action is not taken soon, more than two thirds of the world’s wildlife could be gone by the end of the decade (see report at: According to the report, since 1970, there has been a 58% overall decline in the numbers of fish, mammals, birds and reptiles worldwide, which means that wildlife across the globe is vanishing at a rate of 2% a year. If this trend continued, there would be an extinction of wild animals on Earth by the middle of this century.

The World Wide Fund is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961, working in the field of wilderness preservation, and the reduction of humanity’s footprint on the environment. The Living Planet Report, published 11 times since 1998, analyzes data on the number of fish, birds, non-human mammals, amphibians and reptiles all over the world. The latest report was compiled by monitoring trends in 14,152 populations of 3,706 different species of vertebrates, including fish, mammals and birds, across the world.

In the report, the rapid extinction is blamed on habitat loss, over exploitation of resources, pollution, and climate change. In the last century, the population has grown from about 1.6 billion people to more than 7 billion, and it is expected to exceed 9 billion by mid-century. Thus, many of the problems facing wildlife involve being overfished or hunted for food and losing their habitat as more and more land is cleared for agriculture. The World Wide Fund estimates that farmland occupies more than one third of the planet’s surface. Other growing threats to wildlife include pollution and climate change, which can vary the temperature and precipitation patterns that animals have evolved to tolerate, strain their food resources, and force entire populations to migrate or face extinction.

Despite agreeing with its overall findings, some conservationists have criticized the report’s results, saying they could be misleading because while referring to the overall 58% decline in wildlife populations, the report mixes ocean life with land life. Additionally, the report does not account for how future conservation projects will help the problem. However, all experts agree that the world is losing individuals of species and geographic ranges at a very rapid rate, and that there is reason to be alarmed.

The deaths of animals and fish across the globe, in addition to being a threat to biodiversity, could also see humanity threatened. The report points out that healthy and intact ecosystems “provide us with food, fresh water, clean air, energy, medicine, and recreation. In addition, humans depend upon healthy and diverse natural systems for the regulation and purification of water and air, climatic conditions, pollination and seed dispersal, and control of pests and diseases.” Thus, some argue that it is imperative that governments act in concert to avoid the extinction of a large number of animal species, in order to preserve humanity.

Recently, on October 5, 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved and the agreement will enter into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance. It sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C., but perhaps more specific measures need to be taken to protect wildlife.

In order to avoid the dramatic losses projected by this year’s World Wildlife Fund report, the authors recommend a variety of prevention tactics, including increasing the number of protected areas on Earth and committing to more sustainable energy and food systems. The alternative, the report suggests, is a world in which unsustainable activities eventually exceed the planet’s ability to support both the natural and human systems it houses.



A delegation with the US Department of Justice arrived yesterday in Ankara to hold talks over Turkey’s request for the extradition of a Muslim cleric accused of masterminding a coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month. Shortly after the failed coup attempt that claimed 270 lives and left 1,440 wounded, Turkey accused U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the violent events. Gulen, who has lived in the Pennsylvania for the past 17 years as a Resident Alien (“Green Card holder”), has denied any connection to the coup attempt.

Turkey and the United States have an extradition agreement, and Turkish officials have insisted that action on their request should not be delayed, but the US Justice Department has requested additional evidence of Gülen’s involvement, and has indicated that the regular extradition process must take its course. Turkey insists that they have provided sufficient evidence to US officials to prove Gülen’s involvement; however, Gülen’s extradition is still on hold.

In the normal extradition process, once a person is located outside the country wherein the criminal conduct has allegedly occurred, that person is handed over by the “arresting” government to the “requesting” government for trial and/or punishment. Extradition normally requires the existence of a treaty between the arresting country and the requesting country to which extradition is sought. Generally, an extradition treaty specifies who can be extradited, under what circumstances, for which crimes, etc. The U.S. has roughly 107 extradition treaties in place, including one with Turkey.

Extradition is different from deportation/expulsion wherein a person present in a foreign country is sent back to his country of origin (or the country he or she came from). This can happen for a variety of reasons defined by the local law of the foreign country, including invalid travel documents or being a risk to public safety. It is typically a more flexible and discretionary alternative to extradition, assuming the foreign country’s laws allow for it. For instance, government officials might revoke the passport of a fugitive named in a warrant, which might result in loss of the fugitive’s lawful residence status, thereby provoking his or her deportation.

There are currently five court cases open against Gülen in Turkey with charges that include attempting to stage a coup, leaking of classified information, forgery and organizing an armed terrorist group. In May 2015, Turkey declared FETÖ, also known as the Gülen Movement, as a terror threat, adding it to the list of terror groups including the PKK and DAESH, which are listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the EU. Thus, Turkey considers Gülan the leader of a terrorist group. In televised comments last Sunday, President Erdoğan stated that the U.S. position on Gülen is “overshadowing our strategic partnership,” explaining further that “Turkey has never asked from America to provide documents or proof on criminals that they’ve wanted us to extradite, “we’ve given them the terrorists they wanted,” he said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has warned that the Gülen issue was “destroying” bilateral ties with its NATO ally, as Turkish officials seek to increase the pressure ahead of Vice President Biden’s visit to Turkey this week. However, President Barack Obama’s administration remains steadfast in the belief that clear evidence of criminal activity is needed to satisfy U.S. due-process requirements as well as provisions of the U.S.-Turkey extradition treaty.

Some argue that the speedy extradition of Gülan is of upmost importance to continue friendly U.S. relations with Turkey. Additionally, in order for the U.S. to have its own requests for extradition honored by other governments, it must reciprocate when asked to do so as in the case of Gülan. Others argue that the U.S. has to act in accordance with certain constitutional legal requirements before an individual is extradited. The U.S. must balance basic due process rights of an accused, versus the harm that not honoring an extradition request by a friendly government may cause to US national security.


The United Nations Secretary General’s office, headed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, publishes an annual report about the condition of children in war-torn areas. The 2015 report, released last week, revealed that during that year 1,953 children were either killed or injured as a result of armed conflict. This figure is six times higher than it was in 2014, with 60% of these casualties caused by coalition groups led by Saudi Arabia in the multisided war in Yemen. The report also stated that the same coalition was responsible for 48% of all of the attacks on schools and hospitals -with the UN establishing 101 such attacks – twice the number that what was reported in 2014.

Based on its leadership role of the Yemen coalition, Saudi Arabia appeared on the U.N.-”blacklist” of violators of children’s human rights released last week. However, shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia was removed from the list. Ban Ki-moon’s sudden change of heart has resulted in a massive outcry from human rights groups who have accused Ban Ki-moon of letting political pressure affect his judgment. In response, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric stated that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the decision pending a joint review of cases with Saudi Arabia. Dujarric did not specify whether the Saudi Arabia Coalition in Yemen would be added to the blacklist if the review endorsed the findings in the original report. However, Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi said they were wrongly placed on the list, and that “this removal is final.”

The Saudi Arabian Coalition in Yemen

The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen began in 2015 with the intention of influencing the outcome of the Yemeni Civil War. Saudi Arabia headed a coalition of nine Arab states, which carried out a series of air strikes in Yemen, and also imposed an aerial and naval blockade. The intervention resulted in a dramatic worsening effect on the humanitarian situation in the region, reaching the level of a humanitarian tragedy. After the Saudi-led coalition declared the entire Saada Governorate a military target, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said that air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Saada city in Yemen were in breach of international law.

A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that from March until June 2015, almost two-thirds of civilians killed in the Yemeni conflict had died as a result of the air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. The actions of the coalition resulted in over 60 percent of child deaths in Yemen, with 510 deaths and 667 children seriously injured. The report stated that the coalition had carried out half the attacks on schools and hospitals. On July 2015, the UN declared Yemen a “level-three” human rights emergency – the highest UN emergency level.

In addition to the deaths of children directly caused by the armed conflict, the war in Yemen has resulted in nearly 10,000 children under the age of five to die from preventable diseases, because of lack of access to essential health services, like vaccination and antibiotics. According to a report released by UNICEF in March 2016, nearly 320,000 children in Yemen were at risk for “acute malnutrition,” with further millions of kids at risk of respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and measles.

The Effect of Political Pressure

After it became public that the UN had placed Saudi Arabia on the UN blacklist of children’s human rights violators, Saudi Arabia responded by threatening to break relations with the United Nations and cut hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to its humanitarian relief and counterterrorism programs. Ban Ki-moon told reporters that he had been threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, and Syria, if he did not temporarily delete the Saudi-led coalition from the list. The threat worked, with the UN subsequently dropping the Saudis from the list of the world’s worst violators of children’s rights in conflict zones.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the UN gives in to political pressure. Last year, the United States warned that Congress might cut off funding to the UN if it included Israel on the same blacklist of armed entities that killed or injured children in conflict. In that case, the Secretary General removed Israel from a draft blacklist before it was made public. Pushing for the delisting of Saudi Arabia, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s U.N. ambassador, stated that it was unfair for Israel to be quietly let off the hook, while the Kingdom was not.

On another occasion, in 2014, Ban Ki-moon invited Iran to United Nations-brokered political negotiations over Syria. After he was advised by American officials to rescind the invitation, he appeared before reporters and stated that Iran could not attend. The State Department had demanded that prior to attending the negotiations, Iran accept certain conditions that it knew Tehran would find unacceptable. The result was that Iran did not attend the negotiations. Again, the political pressure exerted by the US worked to change the Secretary General’s original position.

Although it might be unrealistic to expect the UN to be completely unaffected by political pressures, the office of the Secretary General of the UN should be expected to carry out its mandate and its responsibilities without being concerned about funds being withdrawn by countries that disagree with its decisions. Every time the Secretary General gives in to political pressure, the UN loses credibility in its alleged efforts to eradicate human rights violations. Whether the answer is to change the UN model to decentralize power and give more autonomy to the office of the Secretary General, or to force countries to commit funds for use by the UN without the ability to withdraw such funding regardless of the UN’s decisions, it is important to recognize the need for change. For the UN to maintain its authority as a supranational organization to be accorded respect by all nations, its fairness, integrity and trustworthiness must never be in doubt.