Sunday news round-up: January 12th-18th

An ongoing series that gathers some main headlines from the week, for people too busy to keep an eye on the news.

Top Story: ICC opens preliminary investigation into Israeli-Palestinian war crimes: As Palestine accedes to the Rome Statute and joins the International Criminal Court, the court is undertaking preliminary steps to investigate alleged war crimes that took place in the Gaza Strip last summer. It’s not clear how far back the ICC plans to look, and whether this will include the use of chemical weapons against Palestinian children.

  • Related: Israel asks member states to de-fund ICC: In a desperate move to stop any investigations, Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman is urging member states to withhold funding and shut the court down. The European Union is collectively the largest funder of the ICC, and in recent months has been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, with votes in various Parliaments urging their governments to recognize Palestine as a state. Japan is the second-largest funder of the ICC, providing 22% of its total budget in 2008.

New Zealand proposes two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Since becoming the guest member of the UN Security Council, NZ has urged the UN to stop abdicating its duties and failing to bring an end to the conflict. Representatives from NZ believe that the conflict will only end once Palestine is recognized as an independent state. This proposition comes as Israel again collectively punishes Palestinian civilians by withholding tax money that is supposed to go to the Palestinian Authority.

ISIS executes gay men in horrific manner: (Graphic images at the link) The terror group and unofficial state has released photos showing men being thrown off tall buildings, as “punishment” for the “crime” of being gay. ISIS uses an ultra-puritanical interpretation of Islamic law which, among other things, encourages soldiers to take sexual slaves, and calls for the outlawing of subjects like philosophy and art in schools. The Qu’ran does call for the crime of “sodomy” to be punished by throwing the criminal “from a high place”, but these passages are rejected by most Muslims, as are similar passages that appear in the Bible rejected by a majority of Christians. ISIS has been condemned by just about every single mainstream Islamic organization across the globe, with the notable exception of Saudi Arabian clerics.

U.S. Supreme Court to take on same-sex marriage: In what could be a defining moment for the gay civil rights movement, SCOTUS has decided to consider whether same-sex marriage is a right granted by the U.S. Constitution. Same-sex marriage has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement in America, and last year a record number of states dropped their legal opposition to it, providing access to equality and all its benefits to more same-sex couples than ever before. Issues of blood donation and same-sex adoption have received less attention in the movement, and the hope among some activists is that SCOTUS will settle the same-sex marriage issue and allow the movement to focus on other areas.

Human Rights Watch urges Ukraine to stop indiscriminate killings: Amidst allegations that the government of Ukraine has been using cluster bombs and rocket launchers against civilian towns in south-east Ukraine, HRW called on Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk to cease the violence. Yatsenyuk rejects outright any claims that his forces have not been distinguishing between civilians and military targets. International law dictates that a refusal to distinguish between civilians and combatants constitutes a war crime, and nearly 5,000 people have died as a direct result of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.

Al Murray to stand against Nigel Farage in General Election: Standing for “FUKP”, the comedian and “pub landlord” is set to contest the South Thanet constituency that UKIP leader Nigel Farage hopes to bag in May. Kicking off his campaign, Murray released a video proposing such “common sense” policies as bricking up the Channel Tunnel with “British bricks”, creating a demilitarized zone between North and South Thanet, burning down the Houses of Parliament for the insurance money, and “fighting Germany if they’re up for it”. You can read a full list of Murray’s policies here.

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