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Egypt Sentenced 509 to Death in 2014, Obama Releases Jets, Amnesty Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 1 with video -- In Egypt in 2014, 509 people were sentenced to death.

  On March 31, 2015, on the very day the UN belatedly criticized airstrikes in an IDP camp in Yemen, and Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross complained of the blockades that prevent medical supplies from getting in, US President Barack Obama said he is releasing tanks, jets and rockets to Egypt, which is part of the military offensive and blockade.

 On April 1, Inner City Press asked Amnesty International's representative at the UN Renzo Pomi about the death sentences, and the Obama administration's decision. Video here.

  While Pomi had no direct comment linking the two issues, Amnesty International was fast in reporting civilian casualties from the Saudi-led, Egypt-involved offensive on Yemen.

 (And, Amnesty notes, in 2014 "the USA continued to use the death penalty in contravention of international law and standards," citing the cases of Edgar Tamayo, Askari Adullah Muhammad, Paul Goodwin and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas.)

 In Amnesty's study of executions in 2014, Pomi told Inner City Press, only "judicial" executions were considered. This apparently means, by a state or recognized entity such as in Gaza. ISIS is not counted, though its executions have led to others. Are all states judicial? We hope to have more on this.

  The White House read-out began, "President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi today regarding the U.S.-Egyptian military assistance relationship and regional developments, including in Libya and Yemen.  President Obama informed President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits."

 The NSC specified that "President Obama has directed the release of 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits that have been held from delivery."

   The timing is strange. Or perhaps not.

 Amid continued airstrikes in Yemen, on March 30 came reports of an airstrike on an internally displaced persons camp in Haradh. Inner City Press immediately sought confirmation (and comment) from the UN.

 On March 31, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid issued a statement on Yemen including this:

'I am shocked by Monday’s airstrike against the Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced people in Harad, in the north of Yemen,' Zeid said. There are different accounts as to how many people were killed in the airstrike, but UN human rights staff in Yemen have verified at least 19 fatalities, with at least 35 others injured including 11 children. This camp, home to some 4,000 people, was established by the UN in 2009 and recently received at least 300 new families displaced from Sa'da."

  Meanwhile UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in Kuwait, talking about "a deeply moving video entitled 'Clouds over Sidra.'  It is an amazing virtual reality production of the starkness of life in the Za’atari Refugee Camp through the eyes of a beautiful young girl by the name of Sidra."

  Ban speaks on this virtual reality - but remains silent on the inconvenient reality of the airstrike on the real IDP camp in Haradh in Yemen.


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