- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a new report discussing the threat of the terrorist group Lashkare-Taiba (LeT) in South Asia. The report suggests that the group is the second most dangerous terrorist group in the region, after al-Qaeda.
- The United States named an Iranian General as a key figure in drug trafficking from Afghanistan on Wednesday. On Thursday, eleven people were wounded in a roadside bomb in the eastern city of Jalalabad; while American authorities announced they are looking into allegations that some Afghan Air Force officials have been using aircraft to transport narcotics and illegal weapons across the country. On Friday, the main US foreign aid agency in the country announced it is preparing to switch from private security contractors to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by President Karzai. On Saturday, the foreign minister announced he will visit Qatar to meet government officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban; five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have reportedly agreed to be transferred to Qatar, a move Afghanistan believes will boost a nascent peace process; four civilians were killed and one more wounded by a NATO air strike in the northeastern Kapisa province; Afghan and foreign troops killed two insurgents and detained 27 more during joint operations around the country; while Al Jazeera ran a report documenting the change over one in one district following the Afghan army taking control of the area. On Sunday, an American service member allegedly walked out of a military base in a rural district in the south and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, undermining stability and triggering angry calls for the immediate departure of American soldiers; the Pentagon’s chief spokesman announced that the basic war strategy in the country will not change despite the “isolated” incident; American President Obama offered condolences to the families killed by the American, calling the attack “tragic and shocking”; while President Karzai said he is nearly ready to sign a general Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US. On Monday, an American official leaked that the American Army member accused of Sunday’s massacre was treated for traumatic brain injury in 2010; while American President Obama said he was “heartbroken” over the massacre, called upon a thorough Pentagon investigation and expressed his determination to get American troops out of the country. On Tuesday, British PM Cameron arrived in Washington ahead of talks with American President Obama to discuss the transition of security in Afghanistan; gunmen attacked a senior Afghan government delegation investigating Sunday’s massacre, killing at least one soldier; hundreds of students took to the streets of Jalalabad in anger over Sunday’s killings; while a senior Afghan banking official said that wealthy Afghans are carrying an estimated $8 billion—almost double the state budget—in cash out of the country each year. On Wednesday, two bomb explosions in Helmand Province killed at least nine people; three Polish soldiers facing war crimes charges over the killings of civilians in Afghanistan were acquitted in Poland’s highest court, but will face a retrial in connection with the case; Afghan soldiers arriving at a meeting with the US Defense Secretary were told to disarm before arriving; and the US soldier accused with Sunday’s massacre was allegedly taken out of the country on legal recommendation.
- Lawmakers in Uzbekistan have reportedly declared war on toys that harbour foreign values, as they proposed a bill to protect the “moral health” of children and teenagers by limiting the import of foreign-made toys.
- Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of illegally holding hundreds of detainees who are vulnerable to torture and execution and urged the UN to investigate allegations of serious abuses during and after the country’s 26-year civil war. On Monday, the Defense Ministry reportedly ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police, a move press freedom groups decried as another step towards greater censorship.
- Tens of thousands gathered in the capital of Bangladesh to demand the government step down and hold elections, in the biggest opposition demonstration since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party suffered a landslide defeat in 2008 polls.
- A village in western India reportedly hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution in the region.
- A former chief of the spy agency in Pakistan was forced to admit to spending millions of military dollars to influence an election during a court hearing on Thursday; one child was killed and a woman and a child injured when a mortar shell hit a house in the Bara area of Aka Khel in the northwest Khyber region; the interior minister announced that three of Bin Laden’s widows had been charged by authorities with illegally entering and living in the country; while militants allegedly attacked a Pakistan Army post in the Sarwakai area of the South Waziristan region, killing one soldier. On Friday, the PM named a new head of the ISI spy agency to take over for the outgoing spy chief who was due to retire March 18th; the Pakistani Taliban warned it will attack government, police and military officials involved if three of the late Bin Laden’s widows are not released from custody; a US drone fired missiles at a house in the Saraogha area of South Waziristan, killing at least 13 people; a militant shot dead the head of a local pro-government militia in the Kalaya area of the northwestern Orakzai region; the army announced it is in the process of handing over the Swat Valley to civilian leaders three years after 30,000 troops were sent to fight the Taliban; while security officials said that at least seven soldiers and eight suspected Islamist militants were reportedly killed in a clash in the North Waziristan region. On Saturday, six members of a pro-government militia were reportedly killed when they were ambushed by militants in Dera Bugti; a clash between Pakistan army troops and militants in the Bara area of Khyber killed two soldiers and three militants; a mortar shell landed on a house in Aka Khel of Khyber region killing three people and wounding two others; and Pakistani fighter jets bombed four militant hideouts in the Khadezai and Mamozai areas killing 21 militants and wounding 23. On Sunday, 15 people died after a suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician on the outskirts of Peshawar; while a homemade bomb exploded in the North Waziristan region, killing two people. On Monday, two people were killed and another 17 others wounded when a homemade bomb exploded next to a bus on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Sadda. On Tuesday, two missile strikes by suspected US drone aircraft reportedly killed at least 15 suspected militants close to the Afghan border; while militants allegedly threw a grenade and then opened fire at a meeting of tribal elders and local officials in a town in the North Waziristan regions, killing at least 3 people. On Wednesday, at least four people were reportedly killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb explosion near the Afghan border; while the government announced that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has “no more interest” in funding a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
- The authorities in Azerbaijan reportedly arrested 22 Azeri citizens on Wednesday suspected of spying for Iran and plotting to attack western embassies and companies; while an investigative journalist says she was allegedly blackmailed by authorities to stop her investigations into corruption and the financial dealings of the President and his family, and will not let the video released on the Internet purporting to show her engaging in sexual activities stop her.
- The Parliament of China unveiled legislation on Thursday solidifying police powers to hold dissidents in secret, prompting outcry from rights campaigners. A young Tibetan man died and two others were reportedly injured in a shooting at a police station in western China on Friday, after complaining about the arrest of another man for taking part in a mass protest; while a prominent Tibetan writer under virtual house arrest in Beijing plead for an end to self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule, saying such measures do nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights. On Saturday, reports suggested that police in western China had shot dead a Tibetan man and wounded two others amid protests against Chinese rule the previous Tuesday; another teenage Tibetan monk set himself on fire on the 53rd anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule; while three men started a hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York, calling for action over Tibet. On Sunday police announced they rescued more than 24,000 abducted women and children across the country in 2011 as nearly 3,200 human trafficking gangs were broken up. On Monday, it was reported that a controversial reality-TV show “Interviews Before Execution”, that interviewed death row criminals right before their death, was cancelled after 6 years on the air. On Tuesday, the outgoing Premier called for reducing growth to 7.5%, reportedly signaling that the days of GDP worship need to end; while authorities are reportedly set to pass a landmark legislation granting more rights to detainees and other political reforms, but human rights organizations and relatives of some of those already being held are concerned that it will have little effect on the activities of so-called secret “black jails”.
- Facebook and several independent new websites remained blocked in Tajikistan on Friday, and an official suggested the cut-off may be linked to potential national security concerns.
- Four soldiers were killed and one critically wounded when insurgents reportedly detonated a roadside bomb in the south of Thailand on Wednesday. On Thursday, a rubber farmer was shot dead and his wife seriously wounded when two unknown gunmen opened fire on them while they were working at their farm. On Friday, two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in a series of insurgent attacks on military bases and checkpoints across the southern region, the latest outbreak of separatist unrest.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced that peace negotiations had reopened with Kachin rebels on Thursday in a bid to settle a stubborn conflict that could impact tentative Western efforts to lift sanctions on the country. On Sunday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that government censors are not allowing her party to criticize the previous military-run governments when it promotes its policies on state-run radio and television before next month’s elections. On Tuesday, a court sentenced a top leader of the ethnic Karen rebel group to life imprisonment for high treason, a move that could complicate a government-led peace process aimed at settling decades-old separatist conflicts.
- Some 1,500 people took to the streets to protest in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh on Wednesday to dispute local election results and demanding more seats for their political party on the city council.
- Two NATO soldiers were reportedly shot dead in southern Afghanistan by two Afghans, including a man believed to be a soldier on Thursday. On Friday, the country’s top religious council demanded that those responsible for the burning of Qur’ans at the NATO base be put on public trial; negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on a potential long-term military presence has stalled over Karzai’s demands for Afghan control of prisons and an end to night-time raids on Afghan homes, two points the US say are impractical and compromise the effort; and the US government slapped sanctions on an Afghan national it says helped manufacture IEDs for the Taliban. On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed four civilians in a car in eastern Nangarhar province; while Afghan police reportedly killed six insurgents, with two insurgents killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. On Sunday, a Western official reportedly released that the joint investigation by senior Afghan and US military officials determined that there was no intent to desecrate the Qur’an in the February 20th incident, but that it could lead to a disciplinary review of the American personnel involved, a move that Afghans apparently will never accept. On Monday, Afghanistan’s top clerics issued new guidelines in a statement that asserted that women are subordinate to men, should not mix in work or education and must always have a male guardian when they travel, and also called upon insurgents to join peace talks; a suicide bomber killed at least two civilians at a US military base where copies of the Qur’an was burned last month; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four alleged insurgents, wounding one and detained four more across the country; while two separate suicide attacks killed at least six people. On Tuesday, President Karzai endorsed the clerics’ guidelines that activists criticize as a giant step backwards for women’s rights. On Wednesday, the human rights director for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged the government to implement laws to eliminate violence against women on the eve of International Women’s Day; four alleged insurgents were killed by NATO air strikes in Kunar and a 12 year old killed by the insurgent’s gunfire; a roadside mine killed two civilians in Kunar; a homemade mine killed two insurgents and their two children in Kabul; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four insurgents, wounded one and detained 8 more around the country; while six British soldiers were reported killed by an explosion that hit their armored vehicle in Helmand Province. On Wednesday, four civilians were reportedly killed and some 10 others injured in an explosion near the Pakistani border.
- Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest rally in the northeastern city of Quba in Azerbaijan on Thursday, wounding four people; while authorities dismissed Iranian protests over its reported deal to buy arms worth $1.5 billion from Israel. On Friday, the Governor of the district of Quba was reportedly fired over the rioting.
- Authorities in Uzbekistan allegedly installed security cameras in about 30 mosques in the eastern city of Namangan to prevent “theft”, inflaming locals who insist it’s another move to curb Islamic practice in the country.
- The United States unveiled their new food aid program to North Korea in return for new nuclear moratorium agreement on Thursday, a move that China, South Korea and Japan welcomed and Reuters said helps to establish the credibility of Kim Jong-un. On Sunday, North Korea threatened “sacred war” against the South in a huge rally that reportedly attracted tens of thousands in the capital. On Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog announced it is preparing for a possible return to the country three years after it was expelled, a move welcomed by the United States.
- A Saudi diplomat was reportedly shot dead in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Tuesday. The circumstances are still unclear.
- The ruling Congress party in India suffered a major election setback in crucial state polls, winning clearly in just one of five states contested on Tuesday.
- Supporters of the former President of the Maldives clashed with police and stopped the new leader from opening Parliament on Thursday, three weeks after he says he was forced to resign in a coup. Police announced 14 officers were rounded in the clashes, and that at least 34 people were arrested.
- Thousands took to the streets in an opposition protest on Thursday in the southern city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan ahead of local elections in the city. On Sunday, polls closed and vote counting began in Osh to select members for the 45-seat city council, in an election that reportedly drew some 75.2% of voters. On Monday, the leading local NGOs recognized the municipal elections, citing that they were confident that reported electoral violations did not affect the general outcome of the election.
- Six mortar shells landed in North Waziristan in Pakistan on Thursday, wounding six people, four of them children; and fighter jets bombed five militant hideouts, killing some 18 militants and wounding 26. On Friday, at least 10 soldiers and 23 anti-state fighters were reportedly killed after militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northwest; a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a camp of the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group in the northwest, killing seven militants and wounding five; Pakistani fighter jets bombed two militant hideouts in the Orakzai region, killing 15 militants and wounding 12 others; gunmen opened fire at a car in Peshawar, killing an intelligence official; three militants were killed and two soldiers wounded when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province; while lawmakers voted for 45 new members of the Senate. On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province, killing one policeman and wounding four others. On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwest, wounding one policeman. On Monday, the military announced that it had successfully tested a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads; three militants from the TTP were killed in fresh clashes with another militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley; a soldier was killed by a homemade bomb during a clearing operation in Bara; a group of militants reportedly ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the Uch area of Baluchistan province, killing three militants; unknown gunmen shot and killed a former local politician in the Charsadda district; while the number two commander in the Pakistani Taliban was reportedly fired. On Tuesday, a homemade bomb exploded and another defused on the outskirts of Dera-Ismail Khan, wounding two children; one Pakistani soldier was killed and two others wounded in a homemade bomb explosion in Bazai; and seven alleged militants were killed and nine others injured in a gun battle after they ambushed a convoy of Frontier Corps troops in the Uch area of Baluchistan.
- Forty-seven people charged with terrorism are expected to face trial in Kazakhstan in relation to two explosions last October. On Tuesday, police said they arrested three activists of the unregistered opposition Algha party in Almaty in connection with violence last December. On Wednesday, the wives of two jailed leaders of the opposition Republican Social Democratic Azat Party led a protest outside the National Security Committee’s detention centre in Almaty to condemn a government crackdown on activists and also claiming they have not been allowed to see their husbands or send them clothes or food since they were detained more than a week ago.
- China’s top official in Tibet urged authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and mobile phones on Thursday, reflecting the government’s fears about unrest ahead of its annual parliamentary session; while the village of Wukan gave up their violent standoff over corrupt land grabs to vote for a new village committee. On Sunday, a Tibetan woman set herself on fire in the south-west the latest to protest against Chinese rule; residents in the southern village of Wukan elected a reformist leader to run a new administrative authority that many hail as a model for greater democracy following an uncompromising standoff over land grabs and abuses of power; while China apparently announced it is boosting its defence spending by 11.2% in 2012. Another Tibetan youth burned himself to death in the southwest on Monday, the third self-immolation in three days. On Wednesday, the government dismissed those self-immolating Tibetans as “criminals”.
- Authorities in Tajikistan reportedly blocked access to Facebook and two Russian-language sites that published an article critical of the long-serving President on Saturday.
- President Sein of Burma/Myanmar urged government troops and Kachin rebels on Thursday to end hostilities and take part in talks, but ruled out independence for any ethnic minority groups.
- The Guardian ran an article on Sunday about a student facing 15 years in prison in Thailand for speaking out against the monarchy.
- The Philippines ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture on Tuesday by a unanimous resolution in the Senate.
- US Secretary of State Clinton announced she had a “constructive discussion” of common concerns with her counterpart in Pakistan on Thursday; new details about American drone strikes were revealed by Reuters; Pakistani jets bombed four alleged militant hideouts in the Mela area, killing at least 15 militants; while at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 injured in a bomb explosion near a bus station in Peshawar. On Friday, four police officers were killed and at least five others injured in a suicide attack on a police station in Peshawar; while seven militants were killed when Pakistani forces shelled their hideout in Bara. On Saturday, a mortar shell landed on a house in the northwestern Khyber tribal region, killing three people and wounding three others; fourteen small homemade bombs planted on railway tracks exploded in the southern Sindh province, disrupting railway traffic; an American drone reportedly crashed in North Waziristan, though the US denied Taliban claims that they had shot it down; while Pakistani forces began to demolish the house where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the city of Abbottabad. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded next to a military patrol in the South Waziristan region, killing two soldiers and wounding another; while militants fired RPGs at a military checkpost in the Sarwakai, killing two soldiers. On Monday, at least five people were reportedly killed and 15 others wounded in a bomb explosion at a political rally in the North West. On Tuesday, at least 18 people were reportedly killed after gunmen opened fire on a passenger bus in a northern village; a homemade bomb exploded in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal region, killing two people and wounding another three; while the Stratfor WikiLeaks email release suggests that Pakistani army officials may have known where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.
- Sri Lanka rejected UN involvement in probing allegations of army atrocities in the long war against Tamil rebels that ended in 2009 on Monday, saying UN calls to prosecute soldiers guilty of misconduct were “unwarranted incursions”. On Tuesday, Chatham House released a report on breaking the cycle of continued impunity for war-time abuses in the country.
- The government of India clarified on Tuesday that it accepts a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that would legalize gay sex in the country; while millions of workers reportedly staged a 24-hour strike to demand improved rights for employees and to protest over rising prices.
- China is reportedly softening on its strict family planning laws, as older threatening slogans are being replaced by more upbeat ones. On Tuesday, at least 12 people reportedly died in riots in Yecheng County, with police allegedly killing two of the attackers. The cause of the riots was unknown at the time of reporting. On Wednesday, twenty people were reportedly killed when a group of men wielding axes and knives attacked a market in the western Xinjiang Uyghyr Autonomous Region.
- The Atlantic ran a report on the worsening violence in Tibet, as at least 22 people have self-immolated in protest at the Chinese government’s rule.
- A group of villagers in the south of Myanmar/Burma are speaking out against a massive industrial estate that is reportedly being built on their land, in a way that would have been unthinkable for years, for fear of consequences; while the Guardian reported that the censors are in retreat and that a new era of a (partly) free press and (some) freedom of expression is now permissible. On Friday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that developing the country will be impossible without peace in the restive Kachin regions.
- A court in Kazakhstan reportedly sentenced two opposition leaders to 15 day prison terms on Saturday for organizing a rally for democratic change. Around 300 protesters were vastly outnumbered by riot police, who detained a handful of speakers and later blocked a group that attempted to march to a police station where six activists were being held.
- The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog on Wednesday, calling upon elections to be held before the end of the year.
- A court in northern Tajikistan gave jail sentences to seven people for being members of the banned Islamist Tablig-i-Jamaat organization on Thursday. On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced his country expects Russia to start to pay rent for bases it uses on Tajik territory.
- The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on Thursday to the end of 2012 so that it can continue to help promote peace, stability and development.
- Protests continued over the burning of copies of the Qur’an at a NATO base in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting fire to part of a housing compound used by foreign contract workers on Wednesday; the US Embassy in Kabul announced it was on lockdown and all travel suspended; while Pakistan announced it will give its full support to any clear effort by the Afghan government to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban, but does not want to lead a peace process that would impose a solution. The Attorney General alleged on Thursday that a female Senator has links with a criminal group involved in kidnapping in the country; Amnesty International released a new report about displaced people living within the country; at least 2 US soldiers and 2 Afghans were killed in separate incidents after the Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign troops in retaliation over reports that copies of the Qur’an were burnt at a NATO airbase; an Afghan soldier reportedly shot dead two American soldiers; US President Obama sent a letter of apology to the President, stating that the incident was not intentional; while protests continued reportedly killing some 5 Afghan protesters. On Friday, Pakistani PM Gilani publicly called on the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan to join peace talks with the Afghan government; while protests over the burning of the Qur’an at the US-led base in the country were held in several regions, resulting in the death of at some 23 people. Protests continued on Saturday, resulting in at least six deaths; a remote controlled mine killed six Afghan army members and wounded some 12 others; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed some 12 alleged insurgents and detained six more in several provinces across the country; while two American officers were reportedly shot dead at close range in the Afghani Interior Ministry allegedly by an Afghan police intelligence officer, and another seven US military trainers were wounded in protests, resulting in NATO pulling all of its advisors out of ministries across Kabul and the US Defense Secretary calling on the Afghan government to protect NATO forces. On Sunday, President Karzai renewed his calls for calm, after protests continued for a fifth day; the Canadian department of foreign affairs suspended all meetings with Afghan ministries; while France announced it is making preparations to withdraw non-military personnel from the country and condemned the fatal shooting of the two Americans. On Monday, the American Obama administration announced it has no plans to accelerate their withdrawal from the country in the wake of violent attacks against their countrymen; the UN announced it is temporarily relocating its international staff from its office in the northern Kunduz province which was attacked over the weekend; nine people were reportedly killed in a car-bomb explosion at the airport in Jalalabad, with the Taliban claiming responsibility; the Taliban claimed to have infiltrated an international military base in the east and poisoned food supplies; Afghan security forces and foreign troops reportedly killed six insurgents and detained three more near the Pakistani border; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed another five insurgents and detained some 22 in eight separate operations; while the Atlantic reported that the recent anti-American protests and violence suggest that Afghans see Americans more as occupiers than liberators. On Tuesday, an explosion at a residential compound in the southern Helmand Province killed four women and three children. On Wednesday, the top American military transport commander said that overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to NATO for the US to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014; Afghan police killed four alleged insurgents during operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces; while at least 20 people were injured in two explosions, one targeting a NATO supply convoy and the second targeting a bank in the northeast. The Atlantic ran an article on how Afghanistan hasn’t changed since the invasion of Western forces eleven years ago.
- Israeli defense officials confirmed a deal to sell drones, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion to Azerbaijan. The deal has reportedly been in the works for some time and is not in response to Iran’s nuclear development program.
- The former President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo plead not guilty to charges of electoral fraud on Thursday. The charges include rigging the results of 2007 congressional polls to favour her candidates.
- The Atlantic ran an article about the how Thailand is looking increasingly fragile and prone to conflict again, as the military and civilian governments clash.
- The United States and North Korea reportedly met for their first talks on the North’s nuclear program since the death of Kim Jong-Il. On Friday, the American co-ordinator for policy on North Korea said that there was some progress, but that he had a “better understanding” of the North’s position on its controversial nuclear programme after the talks. On Saturday, North Korea threatened to wage a “sacred war”, launching a powerful retaliatory strike against the South if provoked, a day before the start of annual South Korean-US military drills. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their military exercises, despite the threats from the North of possible retaliation. On Tuesday, South Korean activists gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest against the country’s policy of repatriating North Korean defectors. On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, implement a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and allow IAEA inspectors in to verify and monitor in exchange for American food-aid shipments.
- Three state-owned television channels in Uzbekistan removed Turkish soap operas because the material was deemed “inappropriate” by authorities. The soap operas are widely popular across Central Asia and the Middle East. On Tuesday, the British Defense Secretary arrived in Tashkent to reportedly discuss facilitating the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan via other Central Asian states.
- The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to immediately lift its block on the fergananews.com news website to ensure Internet freedom in the country. The sites were blocked in mid-2011 by the Kyrgyz parliament over their coverage of the June 2010 violence in the south of the country. On Monday, the Russian defense minister says that Russia will fully pay overdue rental fees for a military facility in the Kyrgyzstan by the end of February; and the PM announced he decided to fire all customs officials, border guards and police at the country’s two international airports in a bid to tackle corruption. On Tuesday, the Atlantic ran a report about a previously unheard-of group allegedly declaring jihad against the Manas Transit Center in the country. Security measures are reportedly being increased in the southern city of Osh ahead of a planned demonstration on March 1st and weekend local elections.
- President Karzai of Afghanistan confronted the Pakistani leadership on Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the Taliban; he also was quoted as saying there were secret contacts between the US, Afghan governments and the Taliban, and that the militant group was interested in ending the war; while the Pakistani President publicly pledged efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban with hopes of ending the Afghan war. On Saturday, the two days of high level talks ended in acrimony with Afghanistan saying it was “preposterous” to think that Pakistan could deliver the Taliban chief Mullah Omar to the negotiating table. On Sunday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that education in the country would be taking a big step backward, as new textbooks would cut out much of the country’s post-1973 history since none of the major groups can agree on a basic set of facts. On Monday, a prominent female lawmaker repeated her intention to run for the presidency when Karzai’s term runs out in two years time; while a car bomb in Kandahar killed one policeman and wounded four other people. On Tuesday, US and NATO forces rushed to apologize for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of angry Afghans protested outside the Bagram military airbase; Chatham House released a new report on how the withdrawal of international forces will affect the country; Afghan officials reported that Taliban militants beheaded four Afghan civilians who they believed had been spying for the government; President Karzai reportedly invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help with negotiations; a man wearing an Afghan police uniform killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb killed four civilians including a child in southern Kandahar; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two insurgents, wounded three and detained one more in Kabul and Logar provinces; and Pakistan announced it will not support an American-driven initiative to start Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar until it is clear that they have backing from Kabul. On Wednesday, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced that three of their soldiers were killed in Helmand province while serving alongside NATO forces; while President Karzai appealed for calm as demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Qur’an clashed with security forces, resulting in at least seven deaths.
- The military in Pakistan rejected criticism by Human Rights Watch concerning the murder of a Pakistani journalist that suggested the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was beyond the reach of the criminal justice system, as “derogatory, biased and contradictory”; while intelligence officials said two suspected US drone missile attacks killed more than 10 people in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. On Thursday, a suspected US drone aircraft reportedly fired two missiles at a car in the North Waziristan region, killing ten people; a homemade bomb planted in a vehicle exploded in the city of Quetta; a militant threw a hand grenade at police officials in Peshawar, injuring three people; one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes between Pakistani forces and a group of militants in Wana; a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded five others in the Upper Dir district; and a suspected US drone aircraft killed six and wounded two others as it fired two missiles at a house in Miranshah. On Friday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that the Americans should “suck it up” and apologize to Pakistan for the “friendly fire” incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall; a homemade bomb exploded, killing three Pakistani soldiers in Tirah; three militiamen were killed when Pakistani forces and a pro-government militia attacked a militant base in Bara; a clash between two militias left five militants and three members of a government-sponsored militia dead; while a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed up to 32 people and injuring at least 60 in a market in a town close to the Afghan border. On Saturday, the death toll from Friday’s suicide bombing rose to 39; and militants ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded in the northwestern Khyber region, killing seven pro-government militia members and critically wounding five others; while militants reportedly attacked a military checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding three others in Wana. On Tuesday, the Interior Minister announced that the government in Islamabad intends to ask Interpol to arrest the former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former PM Bhutto; a homemade bomb exploded outside a hospital in Peshawar with no reported casualties; a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the Bagzai area with no casualties; and policeman was killed when militants attacked a police checkpoint in Panjgur.
- The International Crisis Group released a new report on Timor-Leste’s upcoming elections, and the possibility of a more peaceful future.
- The President of Kyrgyzstan announced on Friday that he plans to demand overdue fees for Russian military assets on Kyrgyz soil during upcoming talks in Moscow. On Monday, the President announced at a meeting with visiting US State Department officials that “no foreign troops” should remain at the Manas airport after 2014, which the US pays to use as a transit centre for operations in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a state-controlled Internet provider blocked access to a leading independent news website.
- Activists suspected of playing a role in December’s violence in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan are reportedly still being rounded up by authorities and detained. On Tuesday, five men were reportedly sentenced on terrorism charges for creating an illegal armed group and of organizing and conducting a bombing in the northwest, to jail terms varying from 5 to 13 years; while the former VP of the Kazakh national nuclear company was arrested in Canada for violating immigration laws.
- Human Rights Watch criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan for the alleged forcible eviction of hundreds of residents to demolish the last standing building in the neighbourhood of Baku where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is to be held. On Saturday, security forces allegedly arrested and jailed an Iranian journalist within the country without any specific charge. Authorities announced on Tuesday that they had busted an alleged terrorist group working for Iran’s secret services.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced it expects to reach a ceasefire deals with all of the ethnic minority rebel armies within three months time before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”. The Bangkok Post ran an article that suggested that the recent ceasefire deals are driven by a desire of the army and politicians to capitalize on the booming narcotics business and not a real desire for change. On Thursday, the World Bank said it was in the process of returning to the country after 25 years, but the nation must first clear its arrears to global financial institutions before the bank resumes lending. On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting travel restrictions and sanctions against the country, in the first step towards rewarding the government for democratic reforms. On Sunday, a dissident monk who helped lead the 2007 anti-government uprising is facing fresh legal action for “squatting” illegally in a government-sealed monastery and breaking into two others. On Monday, the Guardian reported that a monk jailed for his role in the 2007 protests and then released in an amnesty in January now faces action by the authorities because he has “repeatedly broken Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law” by rejoining the religious order without requesting authorization and joining a monastery that has been sealed off by the government. On Wednesday, Karen rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy in the country for the last six decades, outlined their demands for peace with the government, including a complete withdrawal of government troops from posts near villages along the Thai border.
- Recent re-elected President Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan vowed to lay the foundations for a multiparty system and a free media on Thursday, after being elected with some 97 percent of the vote.
- Radio Free Europe reported that articles in the Uzbek language on Wikipedia have not been accessible in Uzbekistan for weeks, though no official statements have been released by authorities about the blockage. On Wednesday, it was reported that prominent cleric Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov survived an attempt on his life in a Swedish city where he was granted political asylum in 2006.
- The government of China reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans who were returning from teaching sessions by the Dalai Lama in India and is forcing them to undergo political re-education. On Wednesday, Chinese police reportedly detained a Tibetan writer in a western area. On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan PM said that the plight of Tibetans has deteriorated since a wave of deadly protests in 2008, stressing that Tibetans live in a “lockdown”. On Saturday, another Tibetan Buddhist monk reportedly set himself on fire in western China. On Sunday, the 21st Tibetan monk this year set himself on fire after shouting slogans in favour of Tibetan independence and the exiled Dalai Lama.
- The new President of the Maldives agreed to hold early elections on Thursday to break the political impasse brought on by the allegations that the former President was forced to resign in a coup. On Friday, thousands of supporters of the former President rallied peacefully in the capital as Commonwealth ministers arrived to investigate the circumstances of his exit from power.
- Two fishermen in India were reportedly shot dead in a confrontation with an Italian oil tanker off the southern Indian coast on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Indian police detained the entire Italian crew.
- North Korea threatened to launch “merciless” strikes against South Korea over its planned regular live-fire drills near their disputed sea border on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with the North, despite their threat of retaliation; while North Korea’s state media announced that the ruling Worker’ Party will hold a key conference in April where it will likely make official the succession of power to Kim Jung-un.
- The family of two young brothers in Indonesia have blamed police brutality for the death of their two boys, aged 13 and 17, who died in police custody. A new poll on Monday suggested that the ruling Democrat Party has lost major support, to the point that it could be pushed out in the next election. On Wednesday, security forces reportedly stormed a prison on Bali following a riot by inmates, injuring several people.
- A criminal court on the island nation of the Maldives issued an arrest warrant for the first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Nasheed, who awaited arrest in his home on Thursday, following last week’s alleged coup attempt. The ousted President was still walking free on Friday despite the arrest warrant and called upon new elections and vowed mass street protests if the new government did not relent. On Sunday, the new President Mohamed Waheed told a visiting American diplomat that he would be willing to cooperate with a probe into the circumstances of the transition of power; while he expanded his cabinet to strengthen the new coalition government, swearing in six members from four political parties as ministers; and the Commonwealth announced it would send a team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the President leaving power. On Monday, a senior UN official called on all sides to urgently reach agreement on forming an inclusive government of national unity and for a credible and independent probe into recent events, though said that it was up to the local population it is up to them to resolve violent divisions. On Tuesday, the new President pledged “peace and order” in the country and assured the visiting European delegation that he would form a “fully inclusive” cabinet.
- The Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency in Pakistan is facing charges in the courts over the case of 11 men who were allegedly abducted and tortured; while a US drone missile strike is reported to have killed Taliban leader Badar Mansoor and three others in the North Waziristan region on Thursday. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from PM Gilani, upholding that he must appear before the court next week to answer contempt-of-court charges; a second US drone attack in two days in the North Waziristan region killed at least four people, including a senior militant commander with alleged links to al-Qaeda; militants fired two RPGs at a military airport in Miranshah near the Afghani border; unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades and opened fire on a police vehicle after a political rally in the northwest, wounding some 12 people; a homemade bomb planted in a donkey cart exploded in the Khuzdar area, killing one person and wounding another; and Pakistani forces fired artillery shells at three militant hideouts in the Mamozai area of the northwest, killing some 11 militants and wounding another 19. On Saturday, a homemade bomb exploded in a house in the outskirts of Peshawar, killing some seven people and wounding another three; while PM Gilani said that corruption charges against the President were “politically motivated” and that the President had immunity as head of state. On Monday, PM Gilani was formally charged with contempt at the Supreme Court, accused of failing to reopen old corruption cases against the President; and a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the southwest, killing two and wounding 14. On Tuesday, militants opened fire on a group of labourers in the southwestern town of Turbat, killing seven. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article that claimed that the US Special Forces have infiltrated Pakistan, the CIA entering after the 2005 earthquake under the guise of construction workers and aid workers, others slipping in through the Afghani border.
- A young man was killed late on Friday in Kashmir when a soldier reportedly accidently fired his rifle as security forces combed the area for militants. Angry demonstrators blocked the main highway to protest the killing the following day, with police using batons and tear gas to disperse them.
- The Atlantic ran an article about the razing of historic neighbourhoods in Beijing, China and the subsequent displacement of often-resistant families. On Sunday, a teenage Tibetan nun reportedly set herself on fire in the latest protest against treatment of Tibetan regions it rules.
- Exiled students from Myanmar/Burma are reportedly returning home for the first time since a failed student uprising in 1988 after receiving visas from the government, a further sign of political reconciliation; though reports will still coming out of refugees facing violence as they flood across the Chinese border. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has reportedly been greeted by cheering crowds on Friday as she began her campaigning in the constituency where she is standing for Parliament for the first time.
- One person was killed and 13 others wounded when a truck bomb exploded on Thursday in south Thailand that police blamed on ethnic Malay rebels.
- President Karzai of Afghanistan strongly condemned a NATO air strike that reportedly killed at least 8 children in the eastern part of the country on Wednesday and called for an “all-out probe” into the details of the incident. On Thursday, Karzai extended the unilateral deadline for the transfer of full control of Bagram Prison to the Afghan authorities until March 9th and suspended all legal and judicial operations at the prison; two policemen were killed and one wounded when they tried to defuse a mine in Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand; while two alleged insurgents were killed and more than 30 detained in joint operations of Afghan security forces and foreign troops across the country. On Friday, the French Defense Minister said that using the route through Uzbekistan to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan was too costly, and that Pakistan was the better option. On Saturday, an ISAF soldier died in an insurgent attack in Kabul; while a roadside bomb killed five policemen while they were traveling in their car in the south. On Sunday, gunmen burst into a family home of a provincial judge in the east, killing him and his niece. On Monday, NATO conceded that several children died during a recent military operation in the northeast, but that it’s not clear if NATO was actually to blame for the events as the children might have been carrying weapons; and the Afghani Taliban says the militia’s former defence minister died two years ago in a Pakistani jail; six Taliban insurgents and two policemen were reportedly killed in fighting in the Ab Band district; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 10 insurgents in several operations across the country; and an ISAF service man was killed in an insurgent attack in the south.
- The Prosecutor-General’s Office in Kazakhstan announced on Thursday that a group of suspected religious extremists were arrested in the northwestern city of Oral and were found with explosives and extremist literature in their apartments. On Monday, the wife of the jailed chairman of the unregistered opposition Algha party said her husband’s rights as a prisoner are being violated, as he has not had access to a lawyer, she has not been allowed to meet with him and the National Security Committee officers refused to accept food and clothes she has been trying to pass him since arrest.
- Authorities in Turkmenistan closed the Turkmen-Kazakh border on Thursday, citing the February 12th Presidential elections as the cause of the closure. On Sunday, incumbent President Berdymukhammedov was reportedly leading at the polling stations, defeating seven other relatively unknown candidates running against him. On Monday, reports claimed Berdymukhammedov had won a new term with more than 97 percent of the vote, with a more than 96 percent turnout.
- The State National Security Committe in Kyrgyzstan said its forces captured a member of the Zhayshul Mahdi terrorist group on Friday. On Monday, a jailed former policeman was found hanged in his cell, prompting some 200 protesters to block the Osh-Batken highway in the south the following day.
- A rumour of the assassination or coup of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un during a visit to Beijing went viral this week after a couple of posts on a Chinese website Weibo that was then forwarded onto Twitter. A senior American envoy is set to hold nuclear talks next week in Beijing with North Korea, resuming a dialogue put on hold by the death of Kim Jong-il last year.
- Officials in China clamed separatist plots to attack police and public buildings for clashes that recently led to Tibetan deaths on Wednesday; while residents of a small southern village held a symbolic election that allegedly had a turnout over 80 percent in protest against land grabs and corruption. Officials reportedly cut off mobile and internet connections on Friday to areas where Tibetans were shot dead in unrest last month; while Wang Lijun, a gang-busting police chief who is set to be immortalised on film, was abruptly transferred to more general duties, causing massive online speculation. On Saturday, American Senator John McCain warned China that “the Arab Spring is coming to China”, highlighting the recent spate of Tibetan self-immolations, though authorities dismissed it as “no more than fantasy” and condemned foreign interference in their internal affairs. On Sunday, three Tibetans in the south-west reportedly set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, the latest in a series of self-immolations over the past year. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article about the massive land grab epidemic in the country and how it is causing more Wukan-style protests; while another ethnic Tibetan reportedly immolated himself protesting against Chinese rule.
- The civilian death toll for the war in Afghanistan reached a record high last year of 3,021, and a further 4,507 civilians wounded, according to the UN; while the Atlantic ran an interesting article discussing why American President Obama is right to withdraw from the country early. The United States Institute of Peace released a report on Traditional Dispute Resolution and Afghanistan’s Women; while the UN released an opinion survey showing that 8 in 10 Afghans do not think the Afghan National Police are ready to take charge of law and order, with 68 percent allegedly saying foreign troops should stay for now. An editorial in the Guardian suggested the public is repeatedly being told lies when they are told that the Taliban is being pushed back in the country when the truth is that they show no sign of being bombed to the peace table. On Wednesday, the US announced they plan to wind down their war in the country a year or more earlier than scheduled, ending their combat role in 2012; a NATO report suggested that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, vows to retake Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, a suggestion Pakistan vehemently denies; the Afghan Taliban said they would not agree to American demands for a ceasefire as a condition for peace talks; joint Afghan and coalition forces reportedly killed three armed insurgents during operations; and a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed an ISAF service member in Kabul. On Friday, NATO defense ministers discussed plans to balance security needs with budgets cuts that could potentially reduce the envisaged national army and police force by two-thirds. On Saturday, the White House announced it had received a letter last year purported to come directly from Taliban leader Mullah Omar asking the US to deliver militant prisoners. On Sunday, a car bomb exploded at a police headquarters in Kandahar, killing at least seven people; an American soldier reportedly shot and killed an Afghan guard at a base in the north he allegedly thought was about to attack him. On Monday, NATO forces announced that one of their helicopters crashed in eastern Afghanistan, with no casualties; and Afghan and foreign forces killed six alleged insurgents and detained 19 in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Daikundi and Khost provinces. On Tuesday, an employee of a private security firm reportedly killed three of his colleagues and two Afghan police officers and injured another five security guards in Kandahar. On Wednesday, a top American commander said that only one percent of Afghan police and soldiers were capable of operating independently raising further doubts about whether their forces will be able to take over security after the West withdraws.
- Leaders of an unregistered opposition party in Kazakhstan were summoned to face the National Security Committee on Tuesday for unknown reasons, just a month after another one of their leaders was detained pending trial on charges of fomenting social hatred in Zhanaozen. On Thursday, police reportedly interrogated the deputy editor of an opposition newspaper and raided its offices in Almaty over her support for an arrested journalist.
- The President of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday, after nearly three weeks of opposition-led protests ended in police mutiny. Protests were led by supporters of the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. On Wednesday however, President Nasheed claims that his so-called “resignation” was forced at gunpoint, causing rioting, attacks on police stations and sparking a potentially fierce power-struggle coup.
- Pakistan rejected a leaked NATO report that claimed Pakistani security forces were helping the Taliban and suggesting the group believes it is poised to regain power on Wednesday; while Pakistani fighter jets reportedly bombed militant hideouts near the Afghan border, killing dozens. On Thursday, the top court summoned PM Gilani to appear later this month over his refusal to pursue corruption cases against the President, announcing it intends to indict him on contempt charges; while the Foreign Minister said her country is ready to push the Taliban and other insurgent groups to enter negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan. On Friday, government officials alleged that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint, killing at least seven soldiers and wounding three more before Pakistani forces killed 18 militants in retaliation near the Afghan border; a homemade bomb exploded next to a house killing at least three people in Peshawar; another homemade bomb exploded outside a house in the Khyber region, killing one person and wounding two others; militants attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in Khyber region, killing a soldier, two militants and wounding two soldiers; and militants set off explosives at a girls’ school in the town of Dera Ismail Khan with no reported casualties. On Saturday, the Foreign Ministry announced that PM Gilani would be travelling to Qatar in the upcoming week for talks with leaders there on a peace deal to end the Taliban’s 10 year war in Afghanistan. On Sunday, a military convoy struck a roadside bomb in Islamabad, killing one soldier and wounded another 12. A suspected US drone has fired missiles near the Afghan border, killing 10 alleged Taliban insurgents on Wednesday; police in Peshawar reportedly detained more than 100 in raids on unregistered madrasahs or religious schools, with many local residents protesting their actions; PM Yusuf Raza Gilani appealed his summons by the Supreme Court to face indictment on contempt-of-court charges; unidentified attackers threw a hand grenade at a shop in Quetta wounding four people; gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a local politician in the town of Chaman; militants set off a homemade bomb next to a police patrol in the village of Chinari, killing two policemen and wounding one; while officials in the military leadership announced they were holding talks with NATO and Afghan commanders to improve coordination along the Afghan border.
- The United Kingdom is set to try and persuade the government of India to rethink its plans to buy Rafale fighter planes from France rather than UK-backed Eurofighter Typhoons on Wednesday. The most populous and politically important state, Uttar Pradesh, voted on Wednesday in the first of seven-phase elections for state assembly constituencies, with around a 62% turnout; while authorities decided to buy 126 fighter jets from France, received the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia and prepared for its first aircraft carrier as it modernizes its military to try and keep the pace with China’s.
- For the first time in 15 years, the ethnic Mon community in Myanmar/Burma was permitted by authorities to publicly celebrate their national day, just a week after a peace deal was struck between the Mon State party and the government. On Sunday, the election commission gave opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi approval to run in the upcoming parliamentary by-elections.
- Gunmen seized a Dutch and Swiss tourist and their Filipino guide, holding them hostage in the southern Philippines on Wednesday. On Thursday, military force reported they had killed 15 alleged al-Qaeda linked militants in air strikes, including three leaders of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and Jemmaah Islamiyah. On Friday, the military said it was stepping up security as it was expecting revenge attacks for its airstrikes of the previous day.
- Maoist former rebels in Nepal reportedly shed their uniforms on Friday and began to rejoin their families in the first step to their reintegration nearly five years after the official end of the civil war. The rehabilitation of more than 19,000 former rebels is seen as crucial for the stability of the country.
- The United States temporarily waived a ban on providing military assistance to Uzbekistan because of their crucial role in transiting supplies to forces in Afghanistan, despite Human Rights Watch’s recent report calling the human rights situation in the country “appalling”.
- North Korea backed away from an earlier vow to never deal with South Korea on Thursday, but demanded several preconditions for resuming talks, including the cancellation of US-South Korean military drills. Although some called the preconditions “unreasonable” other analysts suggested that they may actually be a good thing, showing that diplomacy may actually be possible under the new leadership. Kim Jong Un is allegedly followed by an inner circle of aging military advisors, as he steps into the role of “supreme commander” less than two months after the death of his father.
- Human Rights Watch released a report accusing Myanmar/Burma and its army of continuing a “systematic repression” of citizens, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, child soldiers, forced labour, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and the use of human shields, despite the government’s promise of reform and ceasefire agreements with some ethnic armed groups. On Wednesday, the EU lifted travel restrictions on the top leaders after they freed certain political prisoners and eased some sanctions. On Sunday, thousands of supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi lined the roads of several southern towns on her first political trip since announcing a run for parliament.
- Protests continued in the Maldives over the military arrest of the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The country is now facing a judicial crisis, with the Vice President calling upon his own government to release the judge. On Sunday, the country asked the United Nations to mediate in the standoff with the opposition.
- US drone aircraft fired missiles in the northern Waziristan region of Pakistan on Monday, killing at least four alleged militants. On Tuesday, a blast occurred near a religious procession of minority Shi’ite Muslims in Lahore, killing three and wounding five. On Wednesday, gunmen on motorcycles reportedly shot dead three lawyers and wounded another in Karachi; gunmen killed a local politician in Peshawar; while at least 23 people were killed in clashes between soldiers and militants in the Kurram region near the border. On Thursday, gunmen reportedly attacked a military checkpoint in southern Balcuchistan Province, killing six soldiers. On Friday, an aide to former President Musharraf, who is facing arrest in connection with the killing of former PM Bhutto, says he called off his planned return to the country, but will be returning in the near future; border guards in Iran reportedly shot and killed six Pakistanis and wounded two others after they strayed across the Iranian border; RPGs struck a top military academy in Abbottabad with no reported injuries; gunship helicopters attacked two militant camps in the Kurram region, killing seven militants; and a paramilitary soldier was killed in a landmine explosion in the southwest during mine-clearing operations. On Saturday, at least three people were injured in a hand grenade attack in Karachi; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers in the Kurram region. On Sunday, a car bomb blast killed five people and wounded 15 in Kohat; security forces, backed by helicopter gunships, killed nearly a dozen militants near the Afghan border; a car bomb outside the residence of a senior police officer wounded eight people in Quetta; and two people were killed and six wounded after security forces opened fire following a rocket attack on a military convoy in Khyber. On Monday, three people were killed and eight others wounded in an alleged suicide bombing at a house of a pro-government militia leader in Peshawar; while the Supreme Court lifted restrictions barring the country’s former envoy to the US, who was forced to resign amid allegations of drafting a secret memo to American officials to help curb the power of the military, from leaving the country.
- Troops in Thailand killed four suspected insurgents during a gunfight in the south over the weekend. Both Thailand and China have apparently welcomed the social media network Twitter’s controversial new censorship policy.
- More than 1,000 detainees in prisons in Kyrgyzstan sewed their lips together after they were force fed to break a hunger strike in protest at their conditions, though most had ended their protest by the end of the week after the government agreed to look at their living standards. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced that three Kyrgyz citizens were rescued from de-facto 10-year slavery in neighbouring Kazahstan.
- A court in Kazakhstan ordered the arrest and detention of three opposition activists on Saturday for holding an unauthorized rally condemning the recent election as fraudulent and demanded the release of their colleagues. President Nursultan Nazarbaev announced that he does not plan to prolong the curfew in the restive town of Zhanaozen beyond its scheduled end at the end of January. On Tuesday, the leader opposition issued a call for the country’s leadership to halt “political repression” following a series of raids the day before that resulted in the arrest of an opposition leader and editor of an independent newspaper. On Wednesday, the former leader of a political party barred from taking part in the parliamentary elections earlier this month fled the country, fearing possible pressure and arrest by authorities. On Thursday, the authorities announced a whole slew of charges against government critics and police in connection with deadly violence last month.
- Some 15 fishermen were killed by gunmen who opened fire on them in the southern Philippines over access to lucrative fishing waters.
- A high-profile political ally of the President of South Korea quit on Friday over his alleged involvement in the latest corruption scandal to hit the government. On Monday, authorities raided the foreign ministry offices as part of an investigation into claims that officials were share-rigging.
- Some 676 rebel fighters reportedly lined up to surrender their weapons on Tuesday as several local insurgent groups formally joined a cease-fire with the government in northeastern India. On Wednesday, a bus driver reportedly went on a rampage in central India killing at least nine and injuring about two dozen people. On Sunday, 485 young boys dressed up as Gandhi at a peace rally in Calcutta on the eve of the anniversary of Gandhi’s death to create a new Guinness World Record and promote non-violent protest. A report in the Times of India this week quoted that one bride is killed, often by being burnt alive, every hour in the country as a result of demands for dowry.
- Food prices have skyrocketed in Afghanistan since the border shutdown with Pakistan last November. On Monday, a negotiator with the outlawed Hizb-i-Islami group said that the US and Afghan officials have shown great flexibility in secret talks with the insurgent group; and reports suggest that the winter weather has forced a lull in fighting along the Pakistani border, while the east has emerged as the new frontline. On Wednesday, an ISAF service member died following a homemade bomb attack in Kabul; joint Afghan and coalition forces killed 12 alleged insurgents during operations in Kabul, Laghman and Kapisa provinces; and several insurgents were killed during a combined Afghan and ISAF operation. On Thursday, at least four people were killed and another 31 injured in a suicide bomb attack in Helmand province. On Friday, senior Afghan peace negotiators said they believe the Taliban are willing to significantly soften past hardline ideologies and possibly enter into peace talks; and a British soldier was shot dead by alleged insurgents in Helmand province. On Saturday, UK PM Cameron confirmed that he was sticking to the 2014 deadline for withdrawing combat troops from the country while meeting with President Karzai; France called upon a speedier NATO exit, a move Afghan lawmakers sharply criticized; joint Afghan and ISAF operations killed five alleged insurgents in Kabul; and two insurgents were killed by their own explosives while attempting to plant a roadside mine in Ghanzi. On Sunday, the Taliban reportedly kidnapped a member of the Afghan peace council in a bid to promote talks in the east; four armed insurgents were killed and one wounded during security operations in several provinces; and an Afghan-led combined force killed a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Takhar province. On Monday, officials announced they were planning direct peace talks with Taliban militants in the upcoming weeks; and reports of an Afghan man who killed his wife because she gave birth to a daughter instead of a son made major headlines.
- The US has placed terrorist designations on two members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and one member of the Uzbekistan’s Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). On Thursday, the brother of the self-exiled Erk (Freedom) party leader Muhammad Solih was expected to be released from a labour camp, but was reportedly sentenced to five more years on terrorism charges.
- Two Uyghurs deported from Cambodia to China have been reportedly jailed for life. The two were among a group of around 20 who had sought asylum in Cambodia following ethnic riots between Muslim Uyghurs and majority Han Chinese in Xinjiang in 2009. Much ado was had this week over abusive working conditions in the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen province in China after several hundred workers threatened mass suicide in recent weeks. A video also went viral that appears to show six Chinese soldiers playing a game similar to “hot potato” with some sort of explosive. On Wednesday, reports emerged of deadly clashes between Chinese security forces and ethnic Tibetans spreading to new areas, with at least two Tibetans shot dead, though China accused Tibetan activists and Western governments of “distorting truth”. On Monday Chinese authorities announced they would boost police forces in the western Xinjiang region, recruiting up to 8,000 new officers to help control “ethnic strife”.
- A nearly 5-hour riot at a prison in Sri Lanka on Tuesday injured at least 28 people. The inmates were allegedly protesting a move to curtail drug smuggling into the prison, though the inmates said they wanted better food and conditions. Police in the country announced that former Tamil Tiger fighters are free to apply to join the force in the latest efforts to recruit Tamil speaking police officers.
- A man was arrested this week in Indonesia for his purported atheist blasphemy, after he wrote that “God does not exist…” on Facebook.
- Relatives of inmates on a hunger strike in Kyrgyzstan picketed a pretrial detention centre on Wednesday to demand their relatives’ demands be met. The protesters are calling upon reviews for the inmates’ cases, who they claim have been sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit. On Tuesday, the Kyrgyz Parliament elected a new speaker, Asylbek Jeenbekov, who announced he is against dissolving Parliament and would resist any calls for its dissolution, and supports the law that prohibits any review or amending of the constitution prior to 2020.
- On Tuesday, violent clashes occurred between residents of the town of Sulutepe, Azerbaijan who were protesting the demolition of their homes and a state oil company’s employees and police. The security regime claims the lands were illegally occupied and should be evacuated. On Wednesday, residents of a coastal village clashed with police after border guards tried to prevent local fishermen from casting their nets beyond a two-mile limit and arrested them.
- Last Monday the government of Nepal decided not to renew the mandate of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the only branch of the UN watchdog in South Asia. Rights groups are claiming that the Nepali government’s constitutional promise to constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate grave violations of human rights has failed to materialise and that impunity is widespread.
- Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea since the mid-nineties, died on the weekend after reportedly suffering a stroke on his private train amid much speculation of a future without the “Dear Leader”. The country appeared to enter what many called an “enforced mourning” period, publicly grieving in the streets at his death. His 27 year old son, Kim Jong Un has been named as his successor with quick Chinese endorsement, though some speculate that the military may not support him. On Monday, the North test-fired a missile off its eastern coast, as South Korea’s government went into “emergency mode” amid fears that Kim’s death could further destabilise relations; the United States announced it remained open to engagement with North Korea if it took steps towards denuclearization; while Kim Jong-un visited his late father’s body to pay respects and the state media began pledging loyalty to the new leader. By Wednesday, many humanitarian groups began voicing their concern that the death of Kim Jong-Il could worsen the dire food situation in the country, after the US postponed a decision on potential aid.
- On Wednesday, police allegedly sealed off the village of Wukan in China, including cutting off all food supplies, in an attempt to quell an uprising of protesters demonstrating over government land seizures and the death of a village leader in police custody last week. The protests continued for the rest of the week. On Friday, the Beijing city government announced that it would tighten control over popular micro-blogs, giving users three-months to register with their real names or face legal consequences; while the government reportedly sent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts have been unknown for the last year, back to jail, after allegedly withdrawing his probation. On Sunday, protesting villagers in Wukan demanded that central leaders defuse their grievances and vowed to take the protests into a second week unless those leaders step in. On Monday, the villagers threatened to march on a local government office in protest, and hunkered down with rocks and rice at makeshift barricades to block police. On Tuesday, thousands besieged a government office and blocked a highway to demand a halt to a planned coal-fired power plant over concerns of pollution in the town of Haimen in Guangdong province; while officials offered concessions to the villagers in Wukan if they would give up their protesting, as talks were scheduled for Wednesday morning.
- Cambodia and Thailand agreed on Wednesday to withdraw their troops from a disputed border region near the Preah Vihear temple. The International Court of Justice ordered both sides to remove their troops in July after earlier fighting left 18 dead and tens of thousands displaced, but neither side complied.
- The sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia officially closed this week, with the judge setting January 9th for the verdict. The trial, which many allege was brought about only after the Anwar-led opposition won historic gains in the March 2008 parliamentary elections, is expected to have major implications in the expected upcoming elections.
- On Wednesday, the US defence secretary announced that US troops in Afghanistan were winning the conflict against the Taliban as he addressed the troops in an operating base in the country; international forces remained concerned about the country’s depleting security forces, who have a reported 30-40% non-re-enlistment rate at the end of their 3 year contracts; and an ISAF service member was killed in a bomb attack in the south. On Thursday, officials re-opened the notorious Ghazi Stadium, home to executions, stoning and mutilations by the Taliban from 1996-2001, to sports after a US-funded refurbishment; while President Karzai called upon Afghans to lead any peace negotiations to end the war in their country after reports that Qatar had agreed to set up an unofficial Taliban embassy; and Human Rights Watch called upon the American military to halt plans to expand the Afghan Local Police force program until significant reforms were made in training, supervision and accountability. On Friday, a series of explosions rocked western Kabul after a police station was targeted by attackers with no reported injuries. On Saturday, an ISAF service member was killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan; and four armed insurgents were reportedly killed during operations by the police, National Army and coalition forces in Kabul, Kunduz, Kandahar, Helmand and Maidan Wardak provinces. On Sunday, a key government negotiator announced that the Taliban is willing to open a political office outside the country, in a step towards holding face-to-face peace talks with the government; two militants opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan army training officers, killing five and wounding nine; an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul; three Afghan soldiers and two policemen were killed in an attack by at least three suicide bombers on an army recruitment centre in Kunduz; and ISAF air strike killed at least three alleged insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province as they were laying a roadside bomb overnight; and Afghan and coalition forces killed or detained several alleged insurgents in northern Kunduz. On Monday, a senior Taliban commander denied that the group held secret talks with American officials after the United States announced that talks had reached a turning point. On Tuesday, Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two alleged insurgents and detained another nine during operations in several provinces. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed five Polish soldiers in Ghazni City; a suicide bomber was killed by Afghan National Police in Khost province; four armed insurgents were killed in a police operation in Helmand Province; and one civilian was killed by a homemade mine in Helmand.
- A senior monk, who is a vocal critic of the government in Burma/Myanmar, has reportedly been ordered to leave his monastery in Rangoon because of a speech he gave at a pro-democracy event for Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy. The monk has allegedly refused to obey the order and said that he will stay until forced out. The International Atomic Energy Agency is again seeking access to sites in the country, which rejected allegations by an exile group last year that it was trying to develop atomic weapons. On Saturday, the government announced plans to bring an end to a series of conflicts with ethnic rebels within three years, ordering troops to halt all offensives against Kachin militias and discussing ceasefire agreements with numerous groups. On Thursday, a local aid group in the north reported that tens of thousands of displaced ethnic Kachins are facing food shortages and health problems, and that some of the displaced who attempted to cross into China were ordered to return to the conflict zone. On Wednesday, a woman was killed and another injured in an unknown explosion at the country’s biggest university.
- The government of Bangladesh has reportedly announced an inquiry into a recent spate of killings and disappearances in the country, after at least seven bodies were found in the last eight days, and more than 40 people disappeared between January 2010 and November 2011. Local human rights groups allege that most victims are opposition political activists. On Sunday, a violent clash broke out between police and opposition party activists gathered to mark the 40th Independence anniversary, killing at least one person in Dhaka.
- Officials in Pakistan alleged this week that NATO forces knew they were opening fire on Pakistani forces, even apologizing to Pakistani officers, throughout the friendly fire incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November; though the two forces have officially re-established military contact with each other. On Wednesday, gunmen on a motorcycle killed three Shi’ite Muslims in a suspected sectarian attack in Quetta; helicopter gunships attacked three suspected militant hideouts in Orakzai, killing six insurgents; and gunmen set fire to a NATO tanker in Kalat. On Friday, a pro-Taliban religious group in the north announced that it is mediating between the government and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group. On Sunday, tens of thousands protested in support of the military and condemning the US for the NATO attacks in Lahore; while militants set off explosives at a girls’ high school in Khyber, partially damaging the building. On Monday, a senior government official reported that the President had returned home after nearly two weeks overseas seeking medical treatment.
- Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province raided a punk-rock concert and detained 65 fans, cutting off Mohawks and stripping away body piercings and any other “inappropriate” clothing or accessories because of the perceived threat to Islamic values in the conservative region. Those detained are reportedly to receive 10 days of “rehabilitation”, training in military-style discipline and religious classes.
- On Thursday, the Philippines declared a 19 day unilateral Christmas truce with Maoist guerrillas despite intensified attacks, including some 6 from that day alone. On Wednesday, the government asked the United States to give it at least a squadron of second-hand F-16 fighters to help upgrade its territorial defences and plans to spend 40 billion pesos ($941 million) over the next five years to upgrade its military.
- On Friday, at least 13 people were killed in violent clashes between police and demonstrators in an oil town in western Kazakhstan after police tried to clear the town’s main square, where workers have been protesting for higher wages and better working conditions for more than six months. An opposition activist was arrested for 15 days for protesting against the violence the following day. On Saturday, police allegedly opened fire on rioters who stopped a train, killing one person in the central city of Shetpe. The President responded by declaring a 20-day state of emergency in the province, amid mounting pressure on him to relax the rigid authoritarian system he has built. On Sunday, journalists were stopped from travelling to the region, and all telephone connections were reportedly cut. On Tuesday, many again took to the streets demanding to know who ordered police to fire on protesters in Aktau, the capital of the western Mangistau region. On Wednesday, it was reported that members of a newly established public commission set to investigate the deadly shootings in the region have been prevented from visiting the cities of Zhetibai and Zhanaozen by police; while the Kazakh ambassador to the US said that amateur video showing the police shoot at unarmed protesters as they flee is “shocking” and that the government is planning an investigation.
- On Friday, Russia signed a deal to provide India with 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets that will be assembled locally in India. On Monday, politicians forced the closure of Parliament in protest against a Siberian trial calling for a version of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, to be banned. On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a landmark anti-corruption bill draft that had been the focus of nationwide demonstrations, though the draft was already rejected by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare. A new report released by the country’s Human Rights Commission claims that more 1,500 people have died in official custody in the country over the past year, a large number from torture while in custody.
- One of the two rival PMs in Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, has announced that he has the support of the country’s parliament, following last week’s decision by the governor-general and Supreme Court to reinstate Michael Somare. O’Neill had Somare removed from office by a parliamentary vote in August while he was outside the country seeking medical treatment. On Monday, a historic bill aimed at guaranteeing seats for women in Parliament failed to get the required 73 votes to become law, after less than 70 of the 109 MPs attended the sitting; while the Governor-General reversed his decision to reinstate Michael Somare, claiming he received bad legal advice. On Tuesday, O’Neill claimed his government was in total control of the country, though Somare issued a statement saying he remained the PM, despite O’Neill’s parliamentary control.
- The panel probing the end of Sri Lanka’s 25 year war has concluded on Friday that the military did not deliberately target civilians, even though a “considerable” number were killed in the crossfire and urged the prosecution of soldiers found guilty of misconduct. The panel said it could not establish the number of civilian casualties, nor could it determine who was responsible for shelling hospitals, and urged that the families of those hurt or killed be compensated for their loss. A new report by the International Crisis Group claims that more than two years after the end of the civil war, women in the north and east of the country still suffer from sexual violence, poverty, and displacement.
- A US citizen was jailed by authorities in Thailand for translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the King and posting them online. On Friday, the former PM was being questioned by police in connection with a deadly military crackdown on the “Red Shirt” mass opposition protests that occurred while he was in office.
- On Thursday, assailants set fire to more than 20 NATO fuel tankers in Pakistan after firing rockets at a terminal for the tankers near the city of Quetta; while armed men gunned down the coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the northwest while driving his motorbike to his office; and four militants were reportedly killed after they attacked a check post and killed a paramilitary soldier. On Friday, President Zardari told a journalist in a phone interview that he was “fine” and would return home soon amid rumours of his death and possible coup plots; a roadside blast killed three paramilitary soldiers and wounded four in Karachi; a senior military officer said the NATO air strike that killed Pakistani troops last month was pre-planned and warned of more attacks; and Pakistani security forces reportedly killed 5 militants in a clash in South Waziristan. On Saturday, security forces reportedly killed five militants in an exchange of fire in the Swat valley; security forces killed four militants and wounded three others in a clash that erupted after insurgents attacked a military check post in the northwest; while the deputy chief for the Taliban in Pakistan announced that they are in peace talks with the government, though by Monday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, the PM and a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban all denied the peace talks, with the government saying they would only do so if the militants first disarmed and surrendered and the Taliban saying it would only talk if the government agreed to impose Sharia law. On Monday, it was reported that President Zardari would need two weeks rest in Dubai following his medical treatments; gunmen in the south west attacked a NATO supply convoy, killing one truck driver; while the PM announced that the blockade of NATO supply lines into Afghanistan is likely to stay in place for weeks and warned that further retaliatory action, such as the closing of airspace to the US, is possible amid the withdrawal of US forces from Shamsi Air Field in the south. The Senate gave final approval to two bills containing new laws that would stiffen the punishment for acid attacks against women and criminalize practices such as marrying off young girls to settle tribal disputes and preventing women from inheriting property. On Tuesday, police in the south found and released dozens of students chained and held in the basement of an Islamic seminary, some of who claimed they had been tortured and were being trained as jihadist fighters; while a US Congressional panel froze $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it could give assurances that the country is tackling the spread of homemade bombs; and one soldier was killed and seven others wounded when militants reportedly fired RPGs at a military camp in the Shawal area. On Wednesday, the government began drawing up plans to tax NATO for using its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan in retaliation for the “friendly fire” incident last month.
- On Monday, Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit reportedly amid concerns over North Korea’s missile program and to monitor natural disasters in the region. The radar satellite will be able to capture images at night and in cloudy weather and cost about $512 million to develop.
- On Thursday, British PM Cameron announced that up to 4,000 British troops could leave Afghanistan early, before the end of 2013; one of three options to be considered by the PM. On Friday, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least five people outside a mosque in Kunar province; and unknown gunmen killed three civilians in the north. On Saturday, a bicycle bomb exploded in Kunduz city, killing two people and injuring 16; while three civilians were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province. On Monday, the National Army and coalition forces reportedly killed 14 armed insurgents while police arrested 11 others during three joint operations in Kunar and Zabul provinces. On Tuesday, it was reported that the Afghan government has made a deal with the Taliban to end attacks on state schools in return for a more conservative religious curriculum and the hiring of Taliban-approved mullahs as teachers; six civilians were killed in a homemade bomb explosion in Helmand province; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 18 alleged insurgents, wounded six and detained 55 in eight separate operations across the country; Afghan police killed a would-be suicide bomber near an airport in Badghis; and unknown gunmen killed some six civilians in Nangarhar. On Wednesday, the government recalled its Qatari ambassador for “consultations” amid media reports of the opening of a Taliban office in the country.
- The Time of India reported on Wednesday that inequality in earnings has doubled in the country over the last two decades, making it one of the worst performers in terms of salary disparities from all emerging economies.
- A former cabinet member in Turkmenistan has criticised the ruling party for being an “unlawful institution” and for the absence of democracy and human rights within the country. Upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for February 12th have only one legal party, that of the incumbent.
- A militant group Jund al-Khilafah confirmed that five of its fighters were killed in a shootout with security forces in Kazakhstan last week. The group has been posting messages threatening the government since October, when the country adopted a new, restrictive law on religion. On Saturday, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said he would refuse to accept the “People’s Hero” award, but had no objection to December 1st being marked as the “Day of the First President of Kazakhstan”. On Tuesday, officials at a university in the northwest lifted a hijab ban for students after eight female students threatened to sue the school. On Wednesday, twelve men were jailed for up to 15 years after being called “associates of Kazakhstan’s first-ever suicide bomber”.
- Buddhists in Tibet are burning themselves alive in China as a plea for freedom, with as many as 12 self-immolations since March. Workers’ unrest continued in China this week, as hundreds of factory workers staged a mass rally and faced off against riot police. China said its armed police have begun a joint patrol of the Mekong river with forces from neighbouring Myanmar/Burma, Laos and Thailand in response to the deaths of 13 Chinese sailors who were attacked in October. On Monday, it was reported that a man accused of rioting over land-grabs in a southern Chinese village died while in police custody, allegedly of cardiac failure, a claim his family rejects; while police in central China detained two men for spreading a rumour and video online that thousands of police were called out to guard a wedding convoy. The government said the police being there was a coincidence, as officers were returning from a training drill when the coincided with the wedding convoy. On Wednesday, villagers barricaded themselves in front of a ring of riot police calling upon the government to intervene in their land dispute after one of their activists died in police custody earlier in the week; while a commercial US satellite company said it had captured a photo of China’s first aircraft carrier in Yellow Sea off the Chinese coast.
- On Monday, it was reported that a retired French colonel had killed himself in protest against “indifference” to the plight of the Hmong minority in Laos in October who he fought alongside in the 40s and 50s. Ethnic Hmong have been complaining of discrimination in Vietnam and Laos.
- A human rights group has called upon the government of Sri Lanka to investigate the disappearance of two activists who disappeared sometime last week from a northern city. The two men were organizing protests to highlight the desperation of the families of those missing from the civil war. At least nine other men were reportedly abducted within the past couple of months.
- A campaign group on Friday warned that the continued military offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north of Myanmar/Burma has sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes and threatens a humanitarian crisis, as fighting intensified this week. Aid agencies estimate that between 30,000 and 40,000 people are living in makeshift jungle camps, inaccessible to most aid organizations. On Monday, the President ordered commanders of the security forces not to launch offensives against the Kachin Independence Army, but only defend from attacks, though on Wednesday, UN bodies reported several clashes between the two armed groups. Myanmar/Burma denied this week that it had been cooperating with North Korea on nuclear weapons technology, instead saying it had merely signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two armed forces.
- The Philippines re-launched an old US Coast Guard cutter (warship) on Wednesday to guard potentially oil-rich waters that are at the centre of a dispute with China and is potentially seeking used fighter jets from the US during a visit next year. Territorial defense has reportedly become increasingly important to the country amid renewed tension in the South China Sea.
- On Monday a coastguard from South Korea was fatally stabbed while trying to seize a Chinese fishing boat, in the latest in a series of deadly clashes over diminishing fish stocks in the Yellow Sea that is forcing Chinese fishermen to go further and further from their own shores. South Korea has seized about 470 Chinese ships for illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea so far this year. North Korea warned South Korea of “unexpected consequences” for the “psychological warfare” created if it lights up a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the border.
- Around a thousand protesters picketed outside the mayor of Osh’s office in Kyrgyzstan on Monday to demand that it stop blackmailing a Parliament speaker for his alleged criminal links and for the resignation of the party leader, though the former Parliament speaker persuaded them to end the protest on Wednesday. On Tuesday, hundreds of inmates in seven prisons started a hunger strike to demand better living conditions and meals. On Wednesday, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture said that police, investigators and prison guards in the country still use torture during their investigations and is expected to present his full report to the government with recommendations on how to eliminate it by next month; while the former chief of the State Committee for National Security was put under house arrest in Bishkek after he unexpectedly showed up in court where he was being tried in absentia for alleged abuses during anti-government protests in April 2010.
- Human Rights Watch condemned Uzbekistan over its rights record in a new 104-page report titled “No One Left to Witness: Torture, the Failure of Habeas Corpus, and the Silencing of Lawyers in Uzbekistan”. A chairwoman of the Committee of Legislation and Judicial Issues of the Uzbek Senate suggests that although some abuses do take place, that reality is a far cry from the systemic abuses alleged in the HRW report.
- The deposed PM of Papua New Guinea was reinstated by the governor-general on Wednesday in an effort to resolve months of deadlock in the government after an earlier court ruling that the current PM had taken power illegally. O’Neill toppled Somare in August while he was overseas seeking medical treatment, and is now refusing to accept the governor-general’s decision. Police are calling for calm amid fears of unrest in the streets. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the political tensions and called upon all sides to “exercise maximum restraint”.
- A three-month old strike at a giant gold and copper mine in Indonesia owned by American Freeport-McMoRan was reportedly settled after a wage deal was reached with the workers’ union. Nine people were killed during violence since the walkout began.
- In an attempt to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to set up a global nuclear fuel bank that aspiring nations could turn to for reactor fuel instead of making it themselves. Billionaire Warren Buffett pledged $50 million towards the project.
- December 10th was Human Rights Day, a day for the promotion and protection of human rights that marks the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- December 9th was International Anti-Corruption Day at the UN headquarters. Recent reports suggest that one in four people in the world paid a bribe over the past year to government institutions.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in and was arrested on Tuesday following an Interpol arrest warrant for sexual crimes. Assange denies the charges and has so far been denied bail. So-called “hactivists” have began a cyber war attacking MasterCard, PayPal, Visa and a Swiss bank for blocking payments to Wikileaks.
- Nineteen countries have declined invitations to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway on December 10th, which is allegedly tied to Chinese pressure over the awarding of political dissident Liu Xiaobo. Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam were all absent. The Nobel committee left a symbolic empty chair for Xiaobo on stage during the ceremonies.
- Canada, Russia and Japan were under intense pressure to soften their opposition to the Kyoto Protocol during the Cancun climate summit, which ended this week. Details of a deal are to be released shortly.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Yukio Takasu of Japan as the special adviser on human security this week, after the General Assembly issued a resolution to continue discussions on the issue earlier this year.
- The African Union (AU) has appointed Guinea’s outgoing military leader Sekouba Konate to head its standby military force, it was announced on Tuesday. Konate would be put in charge of peacekeeping and intervention for a proposed African Standby Force.
- The UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic (MINURCAT) is wrapping up by the end of the year at the request of the Chadian government. The 5,550 peacekeepers in the area were charged solely with protecting civilians.
- Seven people were killed in a fresh attack in Nigeria late Friday. The attack was reported to be a suspected reprisal of the alleged killing of a Fulani herdsman. On Sunday, the Borno State police command said five people including two suspected Boko Haram gunmen died in a gun battle on Saturday night. The Nigerian military acknowledged on Monday that civilians died in recent battles with criminal gangs in the oil-rich south and parts of the north in the military offensive against the Niger Delta Liberation Force.
- WikiLeaks brought to light evidence that two companies, drugmaker Pfizer and oil-giant Shell, are both collecting information on the Nigerian government in an effort to ensure their respective activities go on in the country without interference following major scandals. Shell took it one step further with it’s Wikileaks cable claiming the company to have actually inserted staff into the main ministries in the government.
- Unrest continued in Cote D’Ivoire following last week’s elections results that left the country’s constitutional court announcing separate results from the electoral commission that resulted in two Presidents being sworn in by separate bodies. South African leader Thabo Mbeki was called in to mediate, but left days later without success. The AU and ECOWAS have suspended incumbent Gbagbo from activities and several international bodies are preparing sanctions. By Friday, Gbagbo gave hints that he might be willing to talk.
- Egypt faced its second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday, a week after the first round was condemned for alleged fraud. The National Democratic Party is said to have won with a massive majority, amid allegations of fraud, after the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd party pulled out. The UN refugee agency is urging Egypt to intervene to secure the release of about 250 Eritreans who have been held hostage for at least a month by human traffickers in the Sinai. The hostages are said to be bound by chains around their ankles, deprived of adequate food, tortured and branded like cattle.
- At least 22 people were killed and more than 35 others wounded in two days of fighting between the African Union and the al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia. The AU backed government troops claimed to kill some 43 fighters as well.
- In 2008, Somali pirates discovered a Ukrainian freighter packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks, headed for the regional government in southern Sudan. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments both insisted that the tanks were intended for the Kenyan military. WikiLeaks documents have just confirmed that the pirates were telling the truth.
- Kenyan police announced that they have arrested 346 foreigners after two separate grenade and gun attacks last week that killed three policemen. The suspects are allegedly of Ethiopian and Somali origin.
- Opposition MPs have claimed the government is arming people in northern Uganda, and the the Inspector General of the Police is recruiting 100 youths from each village to form brigades to aid cheating in the upcoming elections. The government denies all allegations.
- Local leaders in southern Sudan are calling on the government to arm the local Arrow Boys militia to protect civilians from attacks by the LRA during the January referendum. The militia promises they will return the weapons once the “job” is done. The Sudanese army clashed with troops loyal to a former Darfur rebel leader in southern Sudan on Thursday. The rebel leader is accused of moving his troops to southern Sudan in order to prepare for war. The Sudanese government is claiming that Darfur’s largest refugee camp, protected by the UN and the AU forces, is hiding rebel fighters. The military has threatened to take action. On Friday, the South Sudan army accused the north of bombing its territory in three air attacks in a week, dropping some 18 bombs.
- A blast in eastern an Afghanistan army base killed at least two coalition troops and two civilians on Sunday. On Monday, the ISAF announced they were investigating a possible “friendly-fire” incident in Helmand province from Sunday where an ISAF service member had been killed; and 2 ISAF service members were killed in alleged separate insurgent attacks in Kabul. On Wednesday, two ISAF service members were killed in an attack by insurgents in Kabul; and an air strike by international forces in southern Kabul killed two Afghan soldiers and wounded five more. On Friday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.
- Thousands of people were dispersed by tear gas and a water canon on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia following an opposition-backed rally against the federal government’s involvement in a dispute over drinking water. Some 48 people were arrested.
- Russian airplanes are said to have flown in the region of a joint US-Japanese military drill this week, heightening tensions between Tokyo and Moscow. Military exercises between the US and Japan took place from December 3rd to 10th, with some 44,500 personnel.
- Land tensions in the Indonesian half of Timor island have recently led to outbreaks of violence. Large numbers of former refugees complicate the issue, as access to precious little cultivable land is in short supply.
- Wikileaks cables have brought to light the possibility that Myanmar/Burma might be building missile and nuclear sites with North Korean support. Surface-to-air missiles are said to be being built and Burmese workers are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility. One of the largest rebel groups in the country say that fighting will escalate if the new government fails to start talks with major ethnic groups, following the recent problematic elections that say the military-backed party win with an overwhelming victory.
- Sri Lankan rights groups reported that a five-minute video clip that showed blindfolded, naked men being shot dead at close range last month warranted a UN investigation. The government denies that the video, leaked by a Tamil Tiger rebel tv station, is authentic.
- The International Criminal Court announced on Monday that they have opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes by North Korea regarding the recent clashes with South Korea. South Korea began live-fire artillery drills on Monday, ignoring the North Korean warning of war. The North Koreans in return launched apparent artillery drills.
- Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong protested this week for China to free dissident Liu Xiaobo so that he can formally be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. The award was denounced by the Chinese, who had their own peace prize to award on December 9th.
- Two suicide bombers attacked a meeting of pro-government elders in northwest Pakistan on Monday killing at least 40 people and injuring dozens more. US drone missile attacks are said to have killed another at least five people on Monday. On Tuesday, suspected twin suicide blasts killed at least 50 people and injured many more at a government compound in northwest Pakistan and police say another suicide bomber attacked a convoy carrying the top official in a southwestern province. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up beside a crowded bus, killing some 14 people, and wounding many others in Kohat. On Thursday, four suspected militants were killed after insurgents attacked a check post killing a paramilitary soldier. On Friday, a suicide bomber blew up a trailer packed with explosives outside a hospital in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people and wounding many others; and Pakistani security forces are said to have killed 5 suspected militants in a clash.
- A bomb hidden in a metal canister exploded as thousands gathered for a Hindu ceremony in India, killing a toddler and triggering a stampede that left many wounded. The Indian Mujahideen allegedly sent a five-page claim of responsibility for the attack.
- Dozens of people were injured on Easter Island after evicted islanders clashed with riot police. About a dozen buildings are being occupied by native Rapa Nui who say Chile illegally took their family’s ancestral homes.
- Protesters in Haiti clashed on Sunday with riot police demanding the annulment of last week’s elections. The police responded with tear gas that left stinging gas clouds blowing over a large camp of homeless survivors from the Jan 12 earthquake. By Wednesday, the violent protests had essentially shut down the country, closing businesses, schools and shops. On Thursday, election officials announced they would review the disputed results in an effort to diffuse the violence.
- Gunmen ambushed and killed four policemen in their patrol car on Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. On Wednesday, an 8 month old, a 16 year old girl and federal officer were gunned down in a series of shootouts between police and suspected La Familia gunmen. On Thursday, gunmen forced drivers from their cars, and set vehicles on fire in the middle of major intersections in Morelia. The suspected leader of La Familia is thought to have been killed in a resulting shootout.
- An Argentine energy company operating in Brazil has suspended production at several sites after labor protests are said to have gotten violent over the weekend.
- San Diego demolition teams burned down a house on Thursday that is said to have the largest cache of homemade bomb-making materials ever found in the US. The occupant of the home has so far pleaded not guilty to all charges, and police are unsure what plans he had with the explosives.
- Guatemala’s Congress passed a bill that would allow the government to confiscate property from convicted criminals in an effort to tackle the wealth of drug traffickers. The bill will allow the state to use, donate or auction seized goods.
- Several Iranian pilgrims were killed in Baghdad on Saturday in separate bomb attacks, with some reports saying at least 16 were dead and more than 100 injured. On Sunday, gunmen killed a couple in their home in eastern Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a civilian in west-central Baghdad; and gunmen attacked a police checkpoint and killed two policemen in Mosul. On Monday, a roadside bomb exploded in central Baghdad wounding two civilians and another roadside bomb exploded killing two and injuring several others in Baquba. On Wednesday, a bomb targeting Iraqi army patrol killed two civilians and wounded 17 others in Taji; seven Iranian pilgrims were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Baghdad; a roadside bomb near a police patrol wounded two policemen in southwestern Baghdad; and gunmen opened fire on the home of an Iraqi interior minister, killing his daughter and wounding two other family members. On Friday, a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police wounded two policemen in southern Baghdad; another roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded five others in southern Baghdad; and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding two others in Tikrit.
- Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, announced that his governing body may be dissolved if a peace deal cannot be agreed upon with Israel and the international community. US-brokered peace talks have been deadlocked since September. Brazil has decided to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, much to Israel’s disappointment and days later Argentina followed suit. It appears the US has given up its effort to persuade Israeli PM Netanyahu to renew the expired freeze on Jewish settlement construction, leaving Middle East peace talks in limbo.
- Iran claimed on Sunday that it was now able to use domestically mined uranium to produce nuclear furl, giving it complete control over its process. The move would allow Iran to bypass UN sanctions on import of the material. Nuclear talks began on Monday between Iran and several other global powers, and ended on Tuesday with no agreement but the parties agreeing to meet again in Istanbul next month. Iran, however, is refusing to talk about stopping its enrichment of uranium at the next meeting. On Tuesday, three journalists and the financial manager of a leading Iranian daily were arrested in Tehran with unknown charges, after releasing a special edition containing articles and interviews by critics of the government.
- Syria’s interference in Lebanon and alleged increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah have prompted Israel’s military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot. Israel has said they have tracked nighttime missile shipments by Syrian personnel to the Lebanese border.
- A rally west of Kuwait City on Wednesday injured at least five people, and has put the Prime Minister under questioning. Opposition MPs accuse the government of trying to undermine the status of the constitution in a bid to suppress freedom and democracy.
- A football game turned violent in Amman between two Jordanian clubs on Friday. Some 250 people were injured after a metal fence collapsed during clashes, and eyewitnesses say that several people were beaten to death by police trying to prevent an escalation of violence.
- Thousands of supporters of Macedonia’s leading opposition protested in the capital on Sunday to call for early elections. They accuse the conservative government of mismanaging the economy and criticize its failure to bring the country closer to the EU and NATO.
- Police and demonstrators clashed in Greece, after thousands of people gathered to mark the anniversary of a police shooting.
- Protests in Britain over drastically increasing university tuition fees got violent this week. Police have been accused of “kettling”, a practice that hold demonstrators in small periods of space for long periods of time.
- All the top police officials in a town east of Moscow, Russia were fired after locals complained of police ignoring crimes. The prosecutor-general announced that four criminal cases were opened against policemen suspected of intentionally obstructing the investigation of numerous crimes.
- Are women in war-torn countries faring any better today than they did a decade ago? The UNFPA’s 2010 State of World Population report, released on Wednesday attempted to answer this question inconclusively. The report suggests taking a broader look at the relationships between women and conflict, paying special attention to the role of women in preventing conflict and the role of women in rebuilding after conflict.
- The African Union, with support of the European Union and Canada, launched non-combat military exercises in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to improve the continent’s capacity to respond to conflict and enhance peace-keeping operations. The exercises will last ten days and will be attended by more than 200 senior military officers from across Africa.
- The Chinese government is fighting hard to prevent the publication of a report showing the flow of weapons it sold into Darfur last year despite a ban imposed by the UN Security Council. China has responded angrily to the revelations, insisting that they will block the public release of the report unless its finding are rewritten. Russia and Belarus were both also reported to be supplying weaponry, using signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the weapons would not be used in Darfur. The Sudanese army was angered with the UN peacekeeping chief’s announcement last week that they intend to deploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones. The UN announced on Monday that it is sending 100 more troops to the Abyei region to step up security. South Sudan’s army complained on Tuesday that the UN failed to report a massive build-up of northern troops around sensitive border areas, warning that war could erupt. One senior official of the Sudanese government said that it is “not possible” to hold a referendum on Abyei on time. The Sudanese government removed the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes on Sunday in an apparent bid to deflect the ICC case against President Al-Bashir for war crimes. On Wednesday it was announced that the Doha peace talks on Darfur peace are moving from negotiations to decision-making in order to finalize a peace agreement. The government announced that they are willing to continue peace talks with other rebel groups that currently boycott the peace process in Doha, but stressed that they must join the negotiation before the end of the year. UN Security Council diplomats visiting the country witnessed the sight of ground attack jets in Sudan that are a clear violation of the arms embargo. Though the presence of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot jets does not prove they have been used in attacks on Darfuris, their presence was highly suspicious. Sudanese security officials have also been accused of arresting two Darfuri refugees who were seen speaking to the UN envoys during their visit to the region, although, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denies the claims.
- Heavy clashes between Somali forces and insurgent fighters left at least 20 people dead on Saturday, but resulted in the government forces defeating the insurgents and taking back the town of Bulo Hawo on Sunday. Al-Shabaab banned the transfer and receipt of cash by mobile phone this week in an effort to weaken Western capitalism in the country, a move that the government said would stifle the economy and hurt entrepreneurs in a country where few hold bank accounts. On Monday, the government security forces initiated an operation of searching for al-Shabaab in the Galgala hills in northern Somalia, apparently seizing four prisoners and two trucks. On Wednesday, the parliamentary speaker postponed a vote to endorse the newly appointed PM after the nation’s assembly descended into chaos with lawmakers shouting at each other whether the vote should be conducted in secret or in the open. It has been announced that the vote will be held on Saturday in secret. On Friday, the African Union asked the UN Security Council to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia in an effort to deter pirates and prevent fighters and shipments from reaching al-Shabaab and other rebel groups. They also announced that Somali soldiers killed at least 27 al-Shabaab militants in clashes along the Kenyan border.
- Nigerian security forces have arrested the brother of Henry Okah, who was arrested in connection to the deadly October 1st bombings in Abuja, for his suspected funding involvement. Nigerian authorities have also announced that they are beefing up their efforts to contain a radical Islamic sect in the north by launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters with patrols.
- Guinea’s scheduled October 24th run-off elections remained uncertain for most of the week due to political fighting and violence in the streets. Police opened fire on people in Conakry on Tuesday, killing at least two, after supporters of Presidential candidate Diallo reportedly threw stones at police. The electoral body was said to have lost all credibility and needed to be rebuilt before an election could be held. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be delayed until October 31st, but then later in the day the two candidates announced that they were ready to take part in the vote after authorities named a new election body chief. On Thursday, they again announced that they would not be ready by Sunday as planned.
- Thousands of women have taken to the streets in eastern DR Congo on Sunday against rising sexual violence in the country. The UN Population Fund reported that there had been more than 17,507 cases of sexual violence attacks in 2009, including more than 9,000 in North and South Kivu. Despite increasing violence, the UN’s pleas for helicopters to patrol the impassable areas of the country, have fallen on deaf ears.
- Western Sahara’s Polisario independence group sought UN protection from alleged Moroccan repression on Monday as a UN envoy toured the region. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Polisario’s police chief, who was arrested on allegations of treason and espionage.
- President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe has threatened retaliation if the European Union countries heed the advice of this political rival PM Tsvangirai to expel diplomats that the ruler appointed unilaterally. The current political impasse is threatening the inclusive government formed last February.
- The government of Ethiopia released leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the country’s most active rebel movement on Saturday as part of the peace accord signed last week in Addis Ababa. The peace deal represents only one part of the fractured ONLF group, with the other rebel faction calling it “irrelevant” and vowing to continue its armed struggle against the government. The Canadian government announced that it was deeply concerned over a report that found that its foreign aid to Ethiopia was being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party. Canada provided more than $150 million to Ethiopia in 2008 and is now calling for a full investigation. Ethiopia rejected these claims on Thursday, saying that “Aid is not wasted in Ethiopia and is distributed effectively to all who require it”.
- Central African nations affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to form a joint military force to strengthen the fight against the group. The region also agreed on the steps required to declare the LRA a terrorist group, instead of a rebel group, in line with the relevant instruments of the African Union.
- A Ugandan newspaper published a story featuring the names and photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. Many of those on the list have since faced violence.
- Ivorian newspapers are reporting rumours of attack in Cote D’Ivoire from ex-fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who are demanding what they say is their war allowance from Gbagbo’s government. Some reports detailed that the militiamen in the western part of the country were threatening to sabotage the political campaign and the October 31st elections.
- The Rwandan government dismissed a media watchdog report by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday which ranked press freedom within the country alongside authoritarian states such as Burma and North Korea. Rwanda placed 169 out of 178 nations, its worst position since the founding of the index.
- On Saturday, a Swedish soldier was killed in an IED attack and a NATO service member was killed in a separate IED attack in Kabul. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in south Afghanistan on Sunday night. On the same evening, collation forces killed four suspected Taliban fighters in an air strike. A series of explosions killed at least two civilians in Kandahar, and two coalition troops were said to have been killed in separate attacks on Sunday. On Monday, eight Afghan security guards were killed when insurgents attacked their compound in Helmand; three civilians were killed after homemade bombs exploded under a bridge in Herat; three more civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Ghazni; 10 insurgents were reported killed and several more detained after they fired on a joint NATO and Afghan army patrol; and insurgents kidnapped 20 employees of a construction company in Farah, resulting in the death of two insurgents. On Tuesday, three NATO service members were killed in militant attacks; four Taliban commanders were reported killed in three separate incidents; and 40 Taliban fighters are said to have deserted to the government. Afghan elections officials have announced that ballots from 571 different polling stations in last month’s parliamentary elections may now been disqualified by fraud. On Wednesday it was announced that nearly one-quarter of the ballots were thrown out due to fraud. Also on Wednesday at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 insurgents during an operation in the Ziruk district. On Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in the east; four Afghan policemen were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Herat; and insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan border police in Herat, resulting in the death of one insurgent and one policemen. A detainee being held by NATO troops was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, and by Tuesday a US soldier was in custody in regards to his death. Top Taliban commanders are said to have continued in peace talks with Afghan leaders with the help of NATO troops who brought them from their sanctuaries in Pakistan this week, although some claimed that the negotiations were exaggerated, believing that the peace talks were a ploy to sow distrust among the insurgents.
- US drone attacks in Pakistan killed nine suspected militants in Pakistan on Saturday. A special election held on Monday to replace a lawmaker who was gunned down in August resulted in the death of between 25-30 people as violent clashes rocked Karachi. The rival party is boycotting the elections saying they are rigged. On Tuesday at least 27 people were killed in shootouts in Karachi and militants on motorcycles attacked and torched three NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, was shut down for a day of mourning; while six soldiers were wounded after their vehicle hit a landmine in Kalaya; six Taliban were killed by security forces; security forces killed a militant who threw a hand grenade at a police checkpoint in Peshawar; two suspected militants and one police officer were killed in a shootout in Bannu; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers on the Afghan border. On Thursday, Pakistani police in Quetta rounded up nearly 50 people on suspicions of links with militants and a roadside bomb in the northwest killed six suspected militants. Nearly 150 members of the Pakistani parliament have been suspended by the election commission for not declaring their assets, removing them from attending sessions or voting, in the growing tensions between the government and the judiciary. On Friday, the US announced a $2 billion arms sale with Pakistan to help boost the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The deal would be spread out over the next five years and represents about a 30% increase in US funding for weapon sales to the country. Also on Friday, a roadside bomb killed six paramilitary soldiers in Kalaya and a bomb blast in a mosque killed two people just outside of Peshawar.
- Tajik security forces claimed to have killed three suspected Islamist militants near the Afghani border on Monday. Tajik government forces have been carrying out operations targeting militants since a September attack on a military convoy. The Tajik government has been accused of increasing repression against independent media in the country.
- Indian troops in Kashmir shot and killed two separatist militants on Thursday in a fierce nine-hour firefight. There has been a recent spike in violence after a period of relative decline, and security agencies suspect that it may signal a new rebel strategy to back popular street protests with increased militant attacks on Indian forces. Five policemen were killed in India when Maoist rebels blew up a security patrol on Friday.
- Thousands of Chinese joined in on sometimes violent protests over a simmering territorial dispute with Japan on Saturday. Chinese authorities are said to have allowed the rowdy demonstrations to prevent the frustrations from being turned against the Chinese regime itself. China’s one child policy has resulted in the forced abortion of many fetuses, with an estimated 13 million reported abortions each year. Women who violate the policy usually pay a fine, but are often sterilised to prevent them from having another child. Activists in China are attempting to create a Chinese “WikiLeaks” project to share secret government documents in an attempt to increase transparency and lead to political reform. Critics worry that project is naive given China’s strict secrecy laws.
- Thousands of Tibetan students in western China peacefully protested this week against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools. The protests are said to be the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising.
- Officials announced on Monday that foreign journalists will not be allowed into Myanmar/Burma to cover the country’s first election in 20 years. The election is widely criticized as a sham.
- Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in Thailand on Sunday demanding the release of their leaders and comrades detained since the April and May protests. The capital is still under a state of emergency, following the deaths of 91 people in the earlier protests.
- A video allegedly showing Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans, including burning the genitals of one man, were released on Monday. The chief of the Indonesian military said the military would investigate, but given that soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts and military courts only give lenient sentences, those responsible are unlikely to be punished. On Friday, the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic and that the soldiers involved had been “unprofessional”.
- An opposition party in Kyrgyzstan rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals and violence. The central election commission has yet to announce the final official results after calls for verification delayed the announcement.
- South Korea announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a North Korean spy who posed as a political defector with the intention of assassinating a former member of the ruling North Korean regime. South Korean officials announced on Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, however, they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing for its third atomic bomb test soon.
- At least ten people were killed after a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday. The bomb comes just two weeks ahead of the local village elections and is thought may be part of an attempt at extortion. The government named a human rights lawyer to head peace talks with Maoists to end more than 40 years of conflict that has killed about 40,000 people. New President Aquino has said his government would negotiate in good faith as peace was needed to lift economic growth and investor confidence.
Central and North Americas
- Ten people were killed in the latest drug violence in Mexico. Six people were killed after armed men opened fire at a family party in Ciudad Juarez and another four people died in a shootout between marines and drug cartel members in Monterrey.
- The Pentagon experienced a temporary lockdown on Tuesday after shots were fired at the building. Authorities are still investigating. The nearly four year long murder and violent crimes case against private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is in collapse. Federal prosecutors are said to have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecution in American civilian courts, and overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials at the scene.
- Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a deal on Tuesday with Peruvian President Alan Garcia allowing Bolivia to build and operate a small port, making landlocked Bolivia a new maritime nation. The 1.4 sq. mile patch of sand will be leased from Peru for 99 years.
- As you can see, my South American section is always a little under-reported. I would love suggestions on media sites covering South American news available in English! If you have a suggestion, please send it to email@example.com or write it in the comments below. Thanks!
- Israel’s coalition government appears to be in danger of collapse following the failing peace talks and controversial “loyalty law”. On Sunday, Israel supposedly resumed talks with Hamas rulers on the swapping of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a captive Israeli soldier who has been held for more than four years. Two Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli air raid north of Gaza City on Sunday, in the latest target of alleged terror operatives. The proposed loyalty oath, deemed racist by many critics, will now apply to all new citizens and not just non-Jews. The redrafting of the oath will have little impact, as it does not address the objections of the Palestinians.
- The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians complain that the two-state peace process solution is disappearing, while Israel rejects the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords. Israeli settlers are said to have begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace since the government lifted its moratorium on housing starts, more than four times faster than the last two years. Many of the new homes are also said to be in areas that would more than likely become part of a Palestinian state in any peace scenario.
- Iran is said to have brokered a critical deal with its Iraqi neighbours that could see a pro-Iranian government installed in the country. The deal involved Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the highest Shia authorities. On Monday, the Iranian city of Esfahan announced that it was now a crime for women to bicycle, roller-skate, or play volleyball in public.
- The United Arab Emirates has upheld a law allowing a man to “discipline” his wife and children providing that he does not leave physical marks on their bodies. Scholars differ on what constitutes a “beating” but agree it must not be severe.
- On Saturday, two mortar rounds landed in southern Baghdad, wounding four; a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in Balad, wounding four; and two people were wounded when a sticky bomb went off in Baghdad. At least 12 people are said to have been killed after gunmen stormed gold shops in Baghdad and ended up in a gunfight with security forces, police and military on Sunday; a man was killed after a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad; at least six people were wounded, including three government employees, in separate sticky bomb attacks; a roadside bomb killed one soldier in Baaj; a mortar round wounded a father and son in Mosul; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a teenager in Mosul. A roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq on Monday morning killed a member of Baghdad’s Provincial Council. Also on Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded near a security patrol west of Mosul, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three others; two separate shootings in Diyala Province killed a man and one woman; a magnetic bomb in Baghdad killed one person; and a gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul. On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in Tikrit; a roadside bomb hit a UN convoy, killing one policement in Najaf; gunmen opened fire on a speeding car killing an off-duty bank guard in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed three on a police patrol in Samarra; and a roadside bomb killed two policemen on a roadside patrol in Baghdad while two other bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims. On Wednesday, an off-duty border guard, his wife and three other relatives were killed after armed men forced their way into their house in Mosul; police found the body of an unknown man with bullet wounds in Daquq; armed men in a speeding car opened fire and killed a district mayor of Kirkuk; a bomb next to a railway in Mosul wounded two train drivers; a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded five people; and three people were wounded by a second roadside bomb in Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia 100 km north of Baghdad and another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Baghdad, wounding one policeman and two civilians. On Friday, a sticky bomb killed a militia leader in Garma; gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint wounding two policemen and one soldier in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one civilian in Mosul, while a second roadside bomb killed a soldier; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Mosul; and a roadside bomb wounded a young girl west of Mosul.
- At least three soldiers were killed in Yemen after armed men ambushed a military convoy in the south on Saturday. The air force responded by bombing the attackers to give the convoy cover on its journey. The following day Yemeni forces bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions killing three suspected militants.
- The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment. The deal is the largest US arms deal in history.
- Bahrain is tightening down security ahead of next Saturday’s elections, making it tougher for the Shi’a majority to vote. The Shi’ite population is angered because they want more inclusion in decision making and government ministry jobs.
- Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany has reached a new low after German chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that attempts to create a multicultural society have utterly failed this week and that immigrants must do more to integrate. Last week, the Bavarian premier called for a halt to all Turkish and Arabic immigration following polls that suggest that one-third of Germans believed the country was overrun by foreigners and that 55% of Germans believed that Arabs are “unpleasant people”.
- Massive protests continued in France this week, as workers protested the government’s plan to raise the age of retirement. The protests resulted in fuel pipeline supplies to airports and many gas stations being shut down. The protests were labeled as relatively peaceful, until Tuesday, when youths clashed with riot police in cities across the country. The EU Justice Commissioner announced that the EU will suspend its legal action threatened against France for its expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma populations.
- Opposition groups and human rights activists in Russia formally applied for permission to hold a mass gathering in Moscow’s Triumph Square on October 31st in their Strategy 31 campaign. Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution theoretically guarantees the freedom of assembly, but previous attempts by the opposition and activist groups have been thwarted by authorities. The European Court of Human Rights slapped a fine on Russia on Thursday for banning homosexual rallies in Moscow, stating that the government had denied the right of assembly, discriminated against sexual orientation and denied activists their right to redress. Russia has announced on Tuesday that it is considering a proposal to help develop a US led anti-missile shield for Europe.
- Gunmen stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, killing at least 6 people. The insurgents detonated a bomb at the gates, killing himself, then two insurgents ran into the building opening fire. They tried to enter the main parliamentary hall, but were unable to do so, and so barricaded themselves in the ground floor, eventually blowing themselves up.
- One policeman and three militants were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria province. An Islamist insurgency is said to have spread out of Daghestan and Chechnya.
- Russian troops have pulled out of a Georgian village that has been occupied for the past two years in South Ossetia. Both Georgia and the EU had objections to the occupation. Russia said it would withdraw after the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva, calling it an act of goodwill and a test of Georgian restraint.
- Turkey has began the trials of more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, who have suspected links with the rebel group Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK). Critics say the trial is aimed at silencing Kurds who are fighting for autonomy in the country.
- The junior partner in Kosovo’s ruling coalition announced on Saturday that it was quitting the government amidst a deepening political crisis. The political stalemate will delay EU sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former province.
- The British military announced severe budget cuts on Tuesday to the amount of 8% cut to the annual 37 billion pound defense budget over four years. These cuts will delay the program to upgrade its nuclear defenses, reduce the number of forces it can deploy on combat missions and cut thousands of troops.
- A new survey in the Ukraine found that one in five Ukrainians are willing to sell his or her vote in the upcoming local elections scheduled for October 31st. Less than one in ten believe that the local elections will be fair.
- The UN will be having its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in New York city from the 20th to the 22nd of September. They are looking to accelerate the progress towards the MDGs by 2015, review successes, best practices and lessons learned, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities to lead to more “concrete strategies of action”.
- A new machine was invented to convert used plastic back into oil. The machine is relatively small, and lightweight and could have enormous impact on global waste management.
- For the first time in 15 years the number of hungry people in the world has declined, however these figures do not include the millions of hungry people in three “emergency” areas of Pakistan, Haiti and the Sahel in Africa and are not significantly lower than previous years. Rising grain, meat and sugar prices are threatening to increase the number of hungry and malnourished in the upcoming year.
- The number of children who die before reaching the age of five has fallen by a third since 1990, UNICEF reported on Friday. The estimates suggest that 12,000 fewer children are dying each day around the world compared to 1990.
- Scheduled run-off elections in Guinea will be delayed following the conviction of the head of the election commission for election fraud, who died on Tuesday in a Paris hospital. The run-off was scheduled to take place September 19th. Outbreaks of violence killed at least one person and injured another 50 as rival political factions clashed on Sunday.
- Somali police claimed to have foiled a suicide attack by Islamist rebels in Mogadishu on Saturday. Security forces blew out the tires of a petrol tanker and arrested the wounded gunman found with explosives in his bag before he could ram the tanker into the seaport. A senior government minister in Somalia’s separatist region of Somaliland has admitted that a group of rebels have secretly landed along Somaliland shores to fight against the Ethiopian government, a claim that the Ethiopian government adamantly denied. An escalating dispute between the PM and the president could result in the PM being forced from his post. The president later denied the dispute had taken place. Clashes on Thursday between government troops and insurgents around the government buildings killed 15 people and injured at least 50.
- It appears that Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni will run for a fourth time in next year’s presidential election. Museveni has been in power since 1986 and that he does not want any independent competition. The government issued its Public Order Management Bill which is intended to control public political gatherings. Opposition parties and human rights group claim the law is designed to stifle dissent and intend to challenge it. The government also dismissed the UN draft report’s accusations that it committed war crimes during its operations in the DR Congo in the 1990s. A journalist was beaten to death by an angry mob in the southern town of Rakai after filming an attack by a crowd of angry motorcyclists on a local home, and another journalist was murdered three days later as he walked to work.
- Senegalese courts issued a new ruling forbidding marabouts (Muslim holy men) from enlisting children to beg on their behalf. Going against decades of tradition, the ruling is said to be a victory for the near 50,000 street children endangered in Senegal. Amnesty International reported that Senegal’s security forces are continuing to torture prisoners, while its ministers of state block investigations into those claims.
- The Rwandan Army is rumored to be sending new soldiers to neighbouring Congo. This followed several private meetings between Congolese President Kabila and Rwandan President Kagame during Kabila’s three day trip to Rwanda. Following the meeting, Kabila announced that he would suspend all mining from three eastern provinces, with no details of how it would possibly be enforced. Prices have already tanked and experts are concerned about rioting and increasing lawlessness around the mines. Civil society in the Congo are calling for action against harassment following the recent imprisonment, torture, kidnapping and disappearances of several activists. A ceremony marking the destruction of the 100,000th weapon by Mines Advisory Group in the Congo was held in Kinshasa this week and was seen as a step towards positive peace even though violence rages on through much of the country.
- Mobile phone companies in Mozambique are being accused of bowing to government pressure and suspending their texting services and then lying about it in the wake of the Maputo riots at the beginning of the month. The riots were thought to have been organized through text message.
- The UN Security Council extended its mandate in Liberia (UNMIL) for another year and authorized the peacekeeping force to provide support to the government through its elections next year.
- Assassins killed a top anti-graft official in Nigeria on Tuesday. Around 1,000 hoodlums have allegedly been hired to burn down the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission office.
- Twenty-three constitutional outreach meetings had to be canceled in Zimbabwe after ZANU PF supporters brought guns to disrupt the meetings where contributions are deemed to contradict the party. In other areas, their representatives have simply boycotted the meetings, forcing an abandonment of proceedings under the outreach meeting rules.
- Protests continue in Afghanistan, with protesters setting fire to police checkpoints and shops in response to the now withdrawn threat by a US pastor to burn copies of the Qur’an. Two people are said to have been shot and killed during the first day of demonstrations after police opened fire on the protesters. The violent protests continued during the week with dozens of injuries and an unknown number of deaths. NATO forces acknowledged this week that there could have been civilian casualties in an air strike earlier this month that wounded an election candidate that was strongly condemned by President Karzai. Election officials declared that thousands of fake voter registration cards have been found all across Afghanistan for the Saturday parliamentary elections. The Taliban took claim to the murder of two election staff members on Wednesday, while NATO forces are said to have shot an armed protester on Thursday. The Taliban have threatened that they would try to disrupt the poll, urging all Afghanis to boycott the election. On Friday they claimed to have kidnapped 30 campaign workers, elections officials and even a Parliamentary candidate. The UN has evacuated about a third of its permanent workforce over fears of election violence and fraud. The “war on terror” has not had the exact effect on security that was hoped, as this cool graphic shows. The number of attacks each month and travel risks have both increased dramatically.
- Five militants were killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan near the Afghan border on Sunday and another 10 suspected killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. At least 11 are reported killed in another series of US unmanned drone missile strikes on Wednesday. A journalist was shot dead outside his office after receiving repeated death threats on Tuesday. Gangs torched vehicles and a shop in Karachi following the death of a senior politician in London.
- North Korea made a surprise gesture of reconciliation with the South this week by proposing that families separated by the six decades of war be allowed to reunite. The proposal has been suggested by the South in the past. Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that North Korea has sent “strong and clear signals” that it will abandon its nuclear weapons programme if the US guarantees it will not attack. The death of two North Korean journalists became public this week. The two died in a prison camp in 2001, while many more are thought to still be held inside in terrible conditions.
- The Timorese national police force in the eighth district took back its primary policing responsibilities from the UN in the gradual transfer of security functions that has been ongoing since May of 2009.
- Tajiki security authorities killed at least 20 Taliban fighters in a clash along the Afghani border on Saturday. Officials are concerned with growing Islamic radicalism in the country.
- Tens of thousands of Muslims marched through Indian Kashmir on Saturday in violent protests injuring at least 20 people. Government and police buildings were set on fire, and an indefinite curfew was re-imposed, but did little to stop the over 300 protesters who stoned the home of the state education minister. More than a dozen people were killed in protests on Monday following a report on an Iranian TV channel about the desecration of the Qur’an in New York on 9/11 and another 18 people were killed on Tuesday after police fired into protesting crowds. At least five more protesters were shot and killed by police on Wednesday as the violence began spreading to new areas. The protesters wounded six soldiers on Thursday night as they attacked government forces with rocks and another two people were shot dead by Indian troops in demonstrations on Friday.
- Myanmar/Burma’s ruling military claims to have defused a bomb threat aimed at disrupting the upcoming November 7th elections. Observers are concerned that recent incidents might spark wide-spread unrest in the country.
- Thousands of Russian, Chinese and Kazakh soldiers began two weeks of war games in Kazakhstan on Monday to prepare for regional threats. More than 3,000 troops will take part in the exercise.
- More than 70 gay rights activists were detained in Nepal on Tuesday after a rally demanding government identification papers for transgendered people. Without papers, these sexual minorities are unable to get a job, enroll in schools or colleges, seek treatment in hospitals, inherit property or travel.
- A UN backed court in Cambodia formally indicted four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge on Thursday on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and murder. These cases are said to be more difficult than the recent Duch case, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the torture and death of at least 14,000 people.
- Freedom of expression is being curtailed in Azerbaijan in advance to this year’s elections. Nine NGOs met and conducted a three-day mission to collect testimonies of violations earlier this month.
- Three soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Philippines on Thursday. The attack was linked to al Qaeda militants.
The Middle East
- In an ironic case, the Iraqi government has agreed to pay around $400 million to American citizens who were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1990s. This move is likely to anger many Iraqis who consider themselves the victims of both Saddam and the current US invasion. Amnesty International issued a report saying that tens of thousands of detainees are being held in prisons without trial and are facing physical and psychological abuse or other mistreatment. At least four people were killed in clashes between militants and security forces in northern Iraq on Sunday. Seven Iraqi civilians were killed near Falluja on Wednesday during a raid by American and Iraqi forces while nine Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in a separate incident in Mosul.
- Barack Obama has called on Israel to extend its partial freeze of settlement building on occupied Palestinian lands during the newly-resumed Middle East peace talks, with PM Natanyahu later indicating that it might be possible to limit the scope of future building but refusing to extend the freeze. The Palestinians have made it clear they will walk away from the talks if settlements continue. Air raids and rocket launches continued despite the peace talks, killing at least two Palestinians on Saturday, another three on Sunday, and at least one on Wednesday, with Hamas vowing to carry out attacks in the coming weeks to undermine the “useless” talks. Israeli soldiers killed a local Hamas commander on Friday during a raid on a refugee camp. The UN General Assembly President condemned the desecration of the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla in Jerusalem. The UN has reported that at least 40,000 Palestinian children eligible to enroll in UN schools had to be turned away this year because building materials for school construction have not been approved to enter the area for the past 3 years.
- Iran has barred two key nuclear inspectors from investigating into the country’s nuclear program. The UN atomic watchdog head voiced “great regret” over the decision. President Ahmadinejad has also called off plans to attend a high-level UN global disarmament meeting next week. A senior Iranian diplomat has defected after resigning from his position in the Finnish embassy, and another defected on Tuesday from his post in Belgium. The diplomat said he stepped down due to the attacks by government forces on protesters during the disputed 2009 elections.
- Armed militants failed to bomb a key gas pipeline on Monday in Yemen, after their hand grenades fell metres away from the pipeline. It was not yet determined who was behind the attacks.
North and Central America
- Two religious leaders burned Qur’ans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in Tennessee claiming that the act was an act of love and to defend the US Constitution and the American people. At Ground Zero in New York City, several Qu’rans were desecrated in protest.
- The US is moving ahead with its plans to sell $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft and other weaponry to Saudi Arabia in what is thought to be the largest US arms deal ever. The Senate has also advanced the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, which would bar each side from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads or 700 launchers starting 7 years after ratification.
- A Jordanian reporter claimed that some of the women who were raped at the US’s Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq were later “honor killed” by their families due the shame this inflicted. Robert Fisk reported that “a very accurate source in Washington” has confirmed “terrible stories of gang rape” by US forces in the prison, including videotape evidence of underage boys being sodomized.
- The Pentagon scurried to buy up all 10,000 copies of the first printing of Anthony Shaffer’s new book Operation Dark Heart for destruction because it threatens to expose highly embarrassing information about secret operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how the US missed to opportunity to win the war against the Taliban.
- Mexican marines captured the alleged leader of one of the country’s top drug cartels on Sunday in a raid. Several drug lords are now surrendering without a fight when surrounded. More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence in the past 3 years. Members of several Mexican political parties attacked 170 Zapatista supporters and expelled them from their homes in retaliation for the construction of an autonomous school.
- The Cuban government has announced plans to lay of at least half a million state workers by mid-2011 while reducing the restrictions of private enterprise to help them find new employment. Nearly 90% of the Cuban work force has been state-employed for many years.
- The UN has launched a new operation against rape and gendered violence in Haiti. The head of MINUSTAH voiced his continued concern over the situation of women and children in refugee camps, but noted that a 200-strong police unit maintains a permanent presence in six high risk camps.
- Peru’s President asked Congress to repeal his two-week old decree that gave virtual amnesty to hundreds accused of atrocities during the civil war amid harsh criticism. Activists are alleging widespread rights abuses during the President’s first term and are seeking to put him on trial along with previous President Fujimori.
- Peruvian police clashed with protesters on Thursday, resulting in the death of one man and injuring at least 18 others. The protesters opposed an irrigation project that will leave their town without water.
- Serbia has indicted nine ex-paramilitaries over the killing of ethnic Albanians during the 1998-9 Kosovo conflict. Serbia, who is also seeking ratification of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, is thought to have taken the move in a step in their process towards EU membership.
- A clash between ethnic Serbs and Albanians broke out after the Turkish defeat of Serbia in the World Basketball Championships. Two NATO soldiers were injured in the clashes.
- The Russian government has found a new way to quash dissent, confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. Dozens of outspoken advocacy groups say they have been raided. Microsoft was quick to respond, changing their policies to prohibit its Russian division from taking part in piracy cases. The government was also quick to shut down an attempted protest outside Moscow City Hall that was protesting against the government.
- A senior security police officer was gunned down in the Northern Caucasus region of Daghestan, following several attacks from the previous week that killed at least two officers dead and several wounded. At least seven militants were said to have been killed in a separate incident on Sunday and another 10 militants on Monday.
- The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearings on Monday of charges by Georgia of Russian human rights abuses in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Charges were filled by Georgia in 2008 with claims that Russia had violated the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. Hundreds of protesters gathered in North Ossetia on Wednesday demanding better security after recent violence.
- Presidential aides in France are charged with violating the law on the secrecy of sources of journalists by using a domestic intelligence agency to identify an informant in the Bettencourt scandal. If true, this would violate freedom of the press in the country. The French Senate also voted almost unanimously to ban face-covering Islamic veils in public, with 246 votes for and just one against. The ban should come into effect in spring of next year. A bomb threat at the Eiffel Tower resulted in the evacuation of approximately 25,000 people, but was later declared unfounded. The French government may also face legal action from the European Union for its expulsion of hundreds of Roma on the basis of discrimination based on ethnic origin.
- Turkish voters have approved a referendum on changing the constitution, which critics say will give the ruling party more power over the judiciary. Turkish rights groups, seizing on the opportunity of the reforms that would remove previous immunity, immediately launched petitions to try a retired general over his role in a 1980 coup. At least 8 people were killed by a landmine while traveling in a bus in the south-east. The attack has so far been attributed to the Kurdistan Workers Party. Another attack on Friday killed at least 10 people near a taxi stand amidst clashes between police and demonstrators following a funeral for victims of the bus attack.
- Spanish police have arrested nine people suspected of leading a Basque separatist group Eta. The group is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and had announced a ceasefire in March of 2006, which was subsequently broken.
- A Belarusian activist was detained by police and later fined for distributing newspapers with the logo of the opposition Tell the Truth campaign. The campaign encourages Belarusians to speak out about social problems. An opposition leader says he will not run in the upcoming December elections because he believes it will be rigged.
- A dissident republican group in Northern Ireland has threatened to target bankers and financial institutions on mainland Britain. The group is said to have broke away from the Provisional IRA during peace talks.
- The New Economics Foundation found that the earth is using up resources faster than ever. The study monitors nature’s capital and concluded that this year the earth was using up its own natural resources to support itself a full month earlier than in the previous year.
- August 19th was World Humanitarian Day. The once respected profession that aids those affected by war, natural disasters, sickness and malnutrition, is now facing increasing attacks in the field. The world thanks you for your tireless sacrifices!
- A cheap and effective filtering device developed in South Africa could provide safe drinking water for millions of people around the world. Commercial production of the tea bag like device could begin as early as this year.
- A Thai court has ordered the extradition of Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death”, to America to face charges of supplying weapons to terrorist groups. Viktor Bout, who was the inspiration for the movie “Lord of War”, is said to have fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
- Clashes between Somalia’s Puntland forces and militants led to the death of 9 people and a Somali journalist received a six year jail sentence for interviewing warlords there. South Africa is looking into the possibility of deploying troops to the war torn country following an African Union request. Another 9 people were killed and at least 53 others were wounded following renewed fighting in the capital on Monday. Most of the dead and injured came from a nearby displacement camp. Kenya has also complained of increased cross-border raids of hardline Somalian Islamists in the northern part of their country.
- Jailed Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire has called on the international community to reject the recent Rwandan election, saying that “endorsing the results of this masquerade would be to reward violence as a means to access and maintain power in Rwanda”. Graphic pictures of a beheaded opposition leader have been released. The US, a long-time supporter of Kagame, expressed concern over the “disturbing events” which surrounded the election but neglected to take any further actions. In good news, many FDLR militia members have volunteered to put down their arms and return home in a repatriation program.
- UN humanitarian chief John Holmes urged Sudanese authorities to allow humanitarian aid workers into the Kalma camp in Darfur, home to approximately 50,000 refugees, only to instead have five UN and ICRC workers expelled from the country days later for failing to respect Sudan’s authority and two more abducted by armed men and later set free. Aid agencies have been bared from the camp since August 2nd in a stand-off between international peacekeepers and the Sudanese government. Sudan’s electoral body has announced that the independence referendum vote for next January might be delayed. Voter registration problems and escalating tensions are cited as the reasons for the stall.
- Ethiopian troops clashed with Somalis on Tuesday morning in an Ethiopian controlled area of Somalia. The Ethiopian troops are said to have opened fire on Somali civilians, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.
- Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina signed a deal with dozens of minor parties in Madagascar aimed at ending political crisis, however the main opposition leaders rejected the deal. Rajoelina took the country through coup nineteen months ago.
- A new wave of violence erupted in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe on Sunday after ZANU PF militias attacked MDC activists.
- Ugandan President Museveni’s son along with the commander of the elite Special Forces Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba have been accused of leading the Ugandan army to a massacre of approximately a dozen people in Karamoja, while many more were branded, abused or tortured.
- The Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria has claimed 3 sabotage attacks on its pipelines so far in August, causing increasing spills in the region. The company has less than an attractive environmental record in the region with oil spill quantities that exceed that of the Exxon Valdez disaster on a yearly basis for the past 40 years. Shell is currently facing charges at court in the Hague over spills in Nigeria.
- Six children under the age of two have recently been reported raped or sexually molested in the Lubumbashi region of the DR Congo as part of black magic rituals aimed at increasing fortune. Many believe that fetishists (witch doctors) in the region have been encouraging this practice for some time, but that it is only now emerging because authorities are stepping up their efforts to protect women from sexual violence. Three Indian UN peacekeepers were killed in a surprise attack at their base in the DRC by 50 fighters armed with machetes, spears and traditional weapons on Wednesday. Three people were killed on Tuesday night after clashes between Rwandan FDLR, Mai Mai Cheka and some Mubi persons and at least 150 women are believed to have been targeted for mass sexual violence in a remote village in the east.
- The youth leader of the Union for Peace and Development was arrested and tortured by Burundi intelligence after being accused of being a security threat to the state in the run-up to the recent election. At least 200 member of opposition parties have been arrested, tortured or threatened in the country according to human rights organizations. There have also been several recorded political murders and disappearances of opposition members, and many are simply in hiding or exile. The legislature is now dominated 95% by the presidential party, the CNDD-FDD. The last areas suspected to be contaminated by landmines or unexploded ordnance in north-west Burundi will be surveyed thanks to funding from the Swiss government.
- Insecurity in the Niger regions led to the evacuation of Western staff of several aid groups. This evacuation comes days after the World Food Programme had launched its operations to feed nearly a quarter million children.
- The Central African Republic pledged that it would arrest Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA. Kony has been charged with war crimes but has evaded prosecution and capture since 2008.
- More than a million South African state workers have gone on an indefinite strike. Police responded to the protesters by firing rubber bullets and water canons in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
- NATO has claimed that more than 20 Islamic militants were killed their fire this week, as they ramp up operations in southeastern Afghanistan. They have also claimed to find and release 27 men from a Taliban prison in Helmand province. Security concerns have caused the Afghan government to decide not to open more than 900 polling stations during next month’s parliamentary elections, affecting nearly 15% of the country’s polling stations. The Taliban fighters are said to be “spreading like brush fire” into the remote and defenseless northern parts of Afghanistan, but an air strike led by NATO forces has slowed that spread slightly by killing one al Qaeda leader there on Monday. The spread of the Taliban in the north may have been eased by their apparently more just court systems. NATO will have to continue their operations without the help of private security firms, as Hamid Karzai ordered all such firms dissolved over the next four months. On Monday, a insurgent IED strike killed a child and wounded 3 others in Kunduz province. On Wednesday, hundreds of villagers blocked an eastern highway to protest a night raid by NATO and Afghan soldiers that left 2 people dead. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since the start of the war in 2001, but alas, new found oil deposits totaling 1.8 billion barrels on top of the $1 trillion dollars of newly discovered resources should give them the incentive to continue fighting.
- The US is concerned over China’s extending military reach. The Chinese are said to have increased their military spending by roughly 7.5% from the previous year. A electric three-wheeled vehicle exploded in the Xinjiang region on Thursday killing 7 people.
- Gunmen have shot dead at least 10 people in southwest Pakistan after an attack on a passenger bus. The Pakistani president is concerned that recent flooding in the region could encourage armed groups to gain new recruits by taking advantage of the chaos and misery.
- Kashmiri residents have been again subject to curfew imposed by the Indian government and thousands of police officers, only 3 days after the original curfew was lifted. At least two people were killed on Friday after police opened fire again into protesters. At least 61people have been killed in protests in the past two months.
- Three people were killed in south Thailand in attacks blamed on Muslim separatists. More than 4,000 people have been killed in the last six years in the border region.
- Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey announced that it would begin a ceasefire against Turkish forces on September 20th conditional on Turkey stopping its military operations, releasing 1,700 political detainees and starting a peace process. Turkey has rejected the PKK’s previous unilateral ceasefire declarations.
- The US warned Turkey that it has little chance of obtaining the weapons it wants without major policy changes, although this was later denied by US officials. This comes after Turkey voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran and concerns that weapons could wind up in Iranian hands.
- Human Rights Watch has concluded that the government of Kyrgyzstan played a role in facilitating the violent attacks against ethnic Uzbeks this past June, after a lengthy investigation. At least 400 people were killed as attacks against Uzbeks left several neighbourhoods burned to the ground.
- Cambodia’s PM has decided that multinational corporations and other local enterprises will now be able to hire out the country’s royal armed forces, in a “sponsorship” program in return for guarding of “large-scale private land concessions” or to “evict the rural poor for business developments”.
- The US and South Korea began their war drills amid North Korean threats of counter measures on Monday. The drills will last 11 days and are the largest joint exercise between the Americans and South Koreans.
- Indonesia’s president has spoken out for religious tolerance amid calls for him to act against extremists regularly attacking minorities in the country. Violence has been rising in the country between the 80% Muslim population and a minority Christian population.
- At least 2 people were killed in northern India on Saturday after clashes over poor government compensation for land erupted between police and farmers. Police are said to have opened fire on the protesters after they were attacked with stones.
- Azerbaijan refused to allow a NATO plane carrying Armenian soldiers from Afghanistan to fly over its territory. This is the second time the country has refused such an action.
- Eleven police officers in the Philippines have been relieved of duty after the release of video footage showing the apparent torture of a naked detainee, said to have later died in the hands of the police.
- Five countries, including the US, are now backing a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
- A Yemeni intelligence officer was gunned down by two men suspected to be linked to al Qaeda late Friday evening. Another five policemen were seriously injured when an attacker on a motorbike threw a grenade at them. Al Qaeda appears to now be targeting government forces instead of high-impact strikes against Western and Saudi targets.
- Al Qadea is warning its supporters and sympathizers to prepare for a new war which it says it will pit Israel against Iran.
- A tv mini-series was canceled from Lebanese television stations this week for fear of stirring up sectarian violence. The program described Jesus from an Islamic point of view, upsetting Christians. They also announced that they had set up a special account to receive donations towards supplying their country’s ill-equipped army with new weapons for defense against Israeli attack and began the process to approve the ratification of the cluster munitions treaty. Following the violence earlier this month, Israel and Lebanon have voiced interest in accelerating the process of marking the Blue Line between their two countries.
- Two mortal bombs sent from the Gaza Strip into Israel injured two soldiers. Hamas claims that they bombed after six Israeli tanks crossed into the territory with one firing a shell at a home. In retaliation, Israel carried out air strikes against the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has approved the purchase of 20 US built radar-evading stealth fighters in a deal worth $2.75 billion dollars which are expected to be delivered between 2015-2017.
- Gunmen in Baghdad killed 4 policemen in shootings, burning two of the bodies in public. Attacks have escalated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with 19 deaths from Saturday to Sunday alone, five deaths from a car bomb on Monday and another 57 or so on Tuesday after a bomber blew himself up at an army recruitment centre. The latest death tolls for Iraq are as follows: United States 4,415; Britain 179; Other nations 139; Iraqis military between 4,900 and 6,375; Iraqis civilians between 97,106 and 106,071. Sadly, it appears civilians have taken the brunt of the military intervention in the country. Hopefully, that will change as the last US combat brigade has now left Iraq as part of President Obama’s pledge to end combat operations in the country. Sadly, it appears that the withdrawal of troops will only double the number of private security contractors.
- Clashes between Shi’ite villages and government forces in Bahrain resulted in several arrests on Saturday and Sunday. Shi’ites are protesting for a larger role in governing the Sunni Muslim-led state.
- A bomb threat saw thousands of people evacuated from the shrine at Lourdes in southern France on Sunday. The threat was later determined “unfounded”. French authorities began deporting hundreds of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in a move that many feel could spark further racism and discrimination against a vulnerable communty.
- A suicide bomber in North Ossetia killed one police officer and injured three others on Tuesday.
- Russia reportedly plans to sell two of its S-300 Favorit air-defense systems in Azerbaijan to be used to protect energy extraction projects and pipeline networks. The Russian government has also agreed to extend their lease of a military base in the South Caucasus to Armenia and assist them in updating their military hardware.
- Belarusian media has experienced increasing harassment in the lead-up to the upcoming spring presidential election. One media outlet may be shut for suggesting that the President was involved in the disappearances of several political opponents.
- Serbia is looking to renew negotiations over the future of Kosovo with the UN, after last month’s decision that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was within international law.
- Israel and Greece are seeking to expand their military ties including sharing military know-how and holding joint war games.
- A well-known activist journalist in the Ukraine has disappeared. Vasyl Klymentyyev frequently spoke out in criticism against the authorities, who critics claim have been increasingly oppressive of the media.
North and Central Americas
- At least 19 suspected drug gang members have been arrested in a series of raids across Mexico this week. A mayor was kidnapped, only to later be confirmed dead and at least a dozen people killed. Escalating drug violence has killed thousands in recent months and stunted tourism, commerce and investment. Mexican government ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to adopt children in Mexico City, by a vote of 9-2. This comes after last week’s ruling that the country recognize same-sex marriage.
- The west end of Kingston, Jamaica was put under new curfews after 10 people were killed in gang violence in a shootout with police. The drug trade has fueled one of the world’s highest murder rates with 1,660 homicides last year for a population of just 2.8 million people.
- Indigenous inhabitants in Rapa Nui (otherwise known as Easter Island) are protesting the Chilean government, who claimed the island as their own province in 1888, over suspected land deals that are using ancestral land to build state buildings. Police have been sent with authorization of force against the peaceful, unarmed protesters, but have so far remained as observers.
- Colombia’s air force bombed a rebel camp on Wednesday that killed seven guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN).
- Luiz Antonio de Mendonca, a top election official survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday. Violence is relatively rare in Brazillian elections.
This week in conflict…
- The world’s twenty richest nations will be footing an $83 million (USD) bill for three new man-made “floating islands” in Seoul for the upcoming G20. The November meetings will be assisted by apparently more than 400,000 police.
- Rwanda’s election process saw President Paul Kagame win again by a landslide amid a climate of repression. Opposition candidates were arrested and media silenced in advance of the elections. Kagame is said to have won 93% of the votes, and even as much as 100% of the votes in some districts. His team began celebrating the victory before the polls had even closed. Two days later Kigali was struck by a grenade attack that injured at least 20 people.
- The Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has warned the UN mission and aid missions in Darfur that they will face expulsion if they do not support his government authorities. On Wednesday, gunmen killed 23 people, including police officers in an ambush on a truck in the south. On Wednesday, an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in western Darfur was reported, though it was not clear who fired the shots.
- Government forces in Puntland, Somalia have made two military offensives against allies of the Shabab militant group killing at least 21. The UN warns that the long-running conflict in Somalia is spreading beyond its borders and becoming increasingly concerning.
- 2,000 illegal miners stormed a mining site in the DR Congo burning trucks and stealing copper from Tenke Fungurume mine. 32 have been arrested.
- The Central African Republic pleaded for the UN Security Council for help just as the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission MINURCAT is coming to an end. Concerns of rebellion, banditry and inter-ethnic conflict still loom.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army has abducted at least 697 people, nearly one third of who are children, in central Africa in the last 18 months according to a human rights group investigation despite previous assurance from the government of the DRC that the LRA has been decreasing its violence. At least 255 of those abducted were killed, often by crushing their skulls with clubs. Up to 74,000 people have been forced to flee the situation in the CAR and Congo.
- North Korean soccer coach Kim Jong-hun has apparently been fired, ridiculed, expelled from the Worker’s Party, forced to work as a construction laborer and will possibly be executed after his team’s World Cup loss. The North Korean team is said to have faced reprimand and ridicule in front of a large audience of party officials upon their return. FIFA has decided to investigate these claims.
- North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds at waters near a disputed western sea border on Monday, escalating tensions between North and South Korea. South Korea has responded by saying that any North Korean shells found falling south of the border line would be considered an attack and responded to in kind. North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat from the Sea of Japan claiming that it had intruded into their exclusive economic zone. Maybe 13-year-old Jonathan Lee’s proposal to Kim Jong-Il of a “children’s peace forest” in the demilitarized zone can create some calm in the region.
- Thousands have been displaced in rebel infighting in the Philippines. In response, the army fired artillery rounds and rockets to separate warring rebel factions, in breach of the year long ceasefire.
- Two suicide bombers killed up to five Afghans in an attack on a residential area in Kabul on Tuesday. This comes only days after a report by the UN that the number of civilians killed or wounded has soared by 31% in the first six months of this year. A crowd of about 300 Afghani villagers yelled “Death to the United States” while blocking a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as a reprisal for what they call the murder of three innocent villagers by the US forces. On Thursday at least 20 insurgents were killed in Paktia, not far from the Pakistan border and on Friday, 3 international coalition service members were killed in the south Helmand province. A problem of nearly 500 former militants rejoining the insurgency after officials failed to deliver on their aid and amnesty promises has the Afghan government scrambling.
- At least 50 protesters have been injured in Bangladesh during clashes with police on Thursday. The protest was said to have been sparked by an ongoing electricity shortage.
- British and US troops will train with Kazakh forces in mock peacekeeping operations for the next 10 days in an attempt to strengthen links between the three counties on Central Asian soil.
- India announced the development of a new Agni-II intermediate-range nuclear missile in attempt to demonstrate that it is a credible nuclear threat against Pakistan and poised as a great power in the world. The Agni-II has a range of approximate 3,000 km.
- Four people were killed and 10 wounded on Friday in Kashmir as police again fired into thousands of demonstrators over the past two months during anti-India protests.
- Myanmar (Burma) has set its first general election in two decades for November 7 of this year. Western countries are calling the election a sham for the current leaders to increase their power.
- The Sri Lankan military court has convicted its former military chief, Sarath Foneska of meddling in politics while in uniform, resulting in a dishonourable discharge. These charges fall short of accountability for what the UN, the US and many rights groups have considered possible war crimes.
- Israeli authorities have been charged with using “unnecessary force” to demolish homes of Bedouins in the southern Negev desert. Residents immediately began to rebuild all the structures as soon as police and construction crews left the village.
- Iran has begun digging mass graves in which to bury American troops in case of attack on the country. This show of force comes in response to America’s contingency plan to attack Iran in case of nuclear development. According to popular American magazine, “The Atlantic”, they have a 50% chance of being bombed by Israel over the next year. The US administration has also said that it is planning to sell as many as 209 of the latest Patriot interceptor missiles to Kuwait to bolster its defenses against Iran. The interceptors are valued at upwards of $900 million.
- The Gaza Strip’s only power station has been shut down due to a fuel dispute between Hama, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is the third time the plant has been shut down since January.
- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah showed evidence of Israel’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri in a two-hour long television appearance on Monday. Israel dismissed the allegations. According to Nasrallah, a UN court probing the assassination is planning to charge Hezbollah members with the killing, a move which could bring civil violence once again to Lebanon. Nasrallah criticized the investigation of being biased, saying it “does not look into the possibility that Israel is implicated”. The court has since asked Nasrallah for copies of his evidence.
- A series of deadly explosions have killed many in Iraq this week. At least four people were killed in Baghdad, at least 8 in Ramadi, 8 soldiers in Baquba, 11 people in Sadiya and at least 20 in Basra.
- More than 1,000 Mexican journalists marched through the capital to protest the killing and disappearance of their colleagues in the escalating drug violence that is increasingly targeting reporters.
- The confessions of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen charged with terrorism, can be used as evidence at his trial even though they may have been obtained through torture. Khadr stands to be the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes in modern history, as under international law, children captured in war are to be treated as victims and not perpetrators. His trial, which was to start this week, was delayed for the next 30 days after his lawyer collapsed from illness in the courtroom and had to be medevaced out of Guantanamo Bay.
- The US appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocks Massachusetts schools from using literature that denies the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 was a genocide.
- Colombia has sworn in a new president who has vowed that he is willing to hold talks with leaders of Farc, the country’s rebel group and reconstruct relations with Venezuela and Ecuador.
- A suspected car bomb exploded in Bogota injuring four people on Thursday.
- Suriname swore in its “new” president Desi Bouterse on Thursday. Bouterse, who was previously in power following a 1980 coup, ruled the country from 1980-7 and 1990-1. He was accused of violating fundamental human rights and the murders of 5 journalists during his time as dictator.
- Peru’s indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, who the government accuses of starting an Amazonian uprising that killed 33 people, is considering running for president next year.
- The families of 32 Mapuche prisoners have been on a month-long hunger strike in southern Chile over trial irregularities for the twenty self-declared political prisoners imprisoned over land conflicts.
- All of the major European countries are planning mass expulsions of Roma populations and demolitions of Roma settlements. Even though they are European citizens, the Roma are now threatened with expulsion, in breach of the EU basic right to free movement. Some rights group worry that such an action is tantamount to the criminalization of an entire ethnic group.
- Three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion in southeastern Turkey on Sunday. On Monday Turkish soldiers killed 5 Kurdish militants in a firefight after discovering guerrillas laying mines and on Tuesday another 2 people were killed after a pipeline was blown up by Kurdish militants.
- Russia has deployed an S-300 air defense missile system over the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia complained of the strengthening military control over these territories that it insists are still an integral part of Georgian territory.
- North Caucasus rebel groups have begun to split ranks after the contradictory statements of resignation of leader Doku Umarov last week. Chechen field commanders have announced that they are rescinding their oath of loyalty.
- Four former Bosnian Serb army soldiers have been charged with genocide for crimes committed during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The four are said to have assisted in the deaths of at least 800 people.
As I read through the list of countries profiled in the report, I found myself disappointed that Canada, the UK, Australia or any Western European countries had not made the list. I have read reports of almost all of these governments committing human rights violations or allowing their companies to do so and the populations of these nations do still experience routine violations against human rights. In fact, considering these countries have signed numerous conventions and incorporated human rights laws more thoroughly into domestic laws than most of the rest of the world, their breach of them is all the more abhorrent and worthy of reporting. I thoroughly respect the work that organizations like Human Rights Watch do and I understand that Human Rights Watch is limited in their scope and resources as indicated in the end of the first report; so in no way do I mean to undermine the work that has been done to compile this report. I simply wish that it would cover the entire world and not just pieces of it.
The main violations of concern in the report this year are described in four sections followed by individual country reports. These sections are as follows:
1) The Abusers’ Reaction: Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions
2) Civilian Protection and Middle East Armed Groups: In Search of Authoritative Local Voices
3) Abusing Patients: Health Providers’ Complicity in Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
4) In the Migration Trap: Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Europe.
I will cover the details of the report over the next little while in a series of posts. The first post will address the first section of the report.
Intensifying Attacks on Human Rights Defenders, Organizations and Institutions.
Putting a spotlight on human rights violations can be risky, and often those who defend human rights face extreme abuse, imprisonment, harassment, intense intimidation and even death. Organizations fighting this fight have been suppressed, denied funding, shut down and worse. Russia received a great deal of attention for its attacks on human rights defenders. Many victims reported cases of arson, arbitrary detention, disappearances of loved ones, torture, and brutal executions in Chechnya and other parts of the country. Also specifically mentioned in this section was Kenya, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, and Uzbekistan. Several states were also listed as completely closed or restricted for activism. At the top of this list are Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. Burma and Iran bar international human rights groups completely. Saudi Arabia will not acknowledge NGO supporting human rights promotion and clamps down tightly on any who speak out. Danger in Somalia makes human rights monitoring essentially impossible. Libya allows international visits but completely suppresses any independent civil society. Syria will not license any human rights groups and prosecutes those who push for registration. Indonesia prohibits international human rights groups to visit to certain areas of the country, as has Israel into the Gaza strip. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam all refuse to allow access to UN special procedures, including on torture and human rights defenders. As does Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Zimbabwe and Russia have also prevented the special rapporteur on torture from entering their respective countries. Sudan has shut down human rights organizations and expelled several international humanitarian NGOs working in Darfur. China closed the Open Constitution Initiative (a legal aid organization) because of controversy over Tibetan protests and melamine-poisoned milk that sickened hundreds of thousands of children.
Other governments have been accused of openly harassing, detaining or attacking human rights defenders including Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Syria, and Yemen. The governments of Columbia, DR Congo, Sri Lanka, and Nicaragua have been accused of using threats of violence to deter or punish human rights defenders. Russia, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Jordan, Uganda, Turkmenistan, Libya, Venezuela, Peru, Cambodia, Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan and Egypt have all been accused of creating restrictive laws on NGOs and associations in an attempt to restrict the monitoring of human rights. China, Iran and Syria have all disbarred lawyers, refusing to renew their professional licenses to prevent them from representing victims of human rights abuses. China, Uzbekistan, Rwanda, Iran, Morocco, Serbia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have been accused of trumping up criminal charges to silence human rights defenders.
The report then details the efforts made by some leaders to silence or curtail the activities of the International Criminal Court (ICC). After the ICC issued an arrest warrant for sitting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the African Union (AU) adopted a resolution urging African states to not cooperate with the arrest proceedings. The AU accused the court of unfairly targeting Africans, even though no objections were raised when the court indicted several warlords and the African governments themselves had requested the court to open the investigations. The ICC has also been hampered by the lack of ratification in the areas it is most needed, namely Sri Lanka, Iraq, Gaza, and Chechnya and a seeming double-standard that allows major Western powers and their allies to escape impunity.
The UN Human Rights Council is also described as problematic. The report demonstrates the bias and subjective nature of inquiries into human rights violations. Regional solidarity reigns in voting procedures over human rights principles, with members convinced to ignore their domestic principles for their allegiances to repressive neighbouring governments. Repressive leaders at the Council seemed determined to silence voices of dissent whenever possible. Similar problems have occurred within the UN NGO Committee, who has the power to decide which NGOs are able to gain “consultative status” and the right to speak before UN bodies. Several governments who are extremely restrictive towards NGOs seem to actively seek membership within the Committee to ensure that certain voices are silenced. For example, a Christian group from China was rejected for refusing to provide a list of its Chinese members, an action that would have severely endangered the lives of those involved. Another group, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, was denied the right to speak because it had not complied with Ethiopia’s new stringent civil society laws.
The European Court of Human Rights has repeated issued rulings against Russia (more than 100) for the abduction, torture, and execution of the people in Chechnya, and failing to properly investigate the crimes. Russia has refused to implement structural reforms ordered by the Court, as well as share relevant documents with the court in over 40 cases. The Russian government continually postpones visits by the rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on human rights situations in the North Caucasus and has so far faced little consequence.
The ASEAN Commission on Human Rights was highlighted as a potentially positive new institutional development in the eastern world. Launched in late 2009, the 10-member Association vowed to adopt a “constructive”, “non-confrontational” and “evolutionary” approach to human rights, however, its non-interference policy ensures that member states cannot be monitored and investigated properly, giving each state the right of veto. Engagement with civil society remained repressive as each state was allowed to chose the civil society organization it wished to be part of an “interface meeting” on human rights.
More vigorous governmental defense of human rights activists and institutions is necessary, even in the face of abuse by allies. The attack on those who would defend human rights is an attempt to silence. The world cannot sit silent in the face of abuse. Voices must be heard. Human rights is a relatively new concept on the earth, but is one that must be vehemently defended if our rights and freedoms are to be respected.
Please read through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Is there anything written there that you wouldn’t want for you and your family?