Burundi

This Week in African Conflict… March 6th-13th, 2012.

  • A new American initiative to improve the notoriously poor LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly inspiring a large backlash. Sub-Saharan Africa is marked by widespread homophobia as well as chronic dependence on foreign aid, in particular from the US, and the idea that the two issues might now be linked seems to upset a lot of people.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army has reportedly recently launched a new spate of attacks in the DRC after a lull in the second half of 2011; and the UN peacekeeping chief spoke of the role of UN peacekeepers in tackling the LRA. A video produced by the organization Invisible Children went viral this week demanding the removal of LRA leader Joseph Kony (#Kony2012), reaching more than 70 million hits and raising some $5 million in less than a week, amid much criticism. Frankly, I’m with the critics on this one; the idea of increased military intervention to stop a small rebel group (best estimates suggest 200-400 fighters left) that is heavily made up of children, when there are already several armed groups after them (including 100 American soldiers) strikes me as a bad idea, as do the claims/tone of the video itself, the organization’s past behaviour and the grandiose attitude of its founders.  I have written my own response to the Kony 2012 campaign, which can be viewed here. Following the Kony 2012 campaign, Uganda announced it would catch Kony dead or alive, eventually.
  • A senior American official urged the President of Malawi on Friday to respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression, days after he accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement in his country; while the State House warned Malawian journalists, editors and human rights defenders that they risk facing unspecified action if they continue “twisting information”.
  • One year after the start of several months of popular revolts in Burkina Faso, the situation has settled down, but reportedly remains fragile. The government has adopted a number of measures to appease its critics, including upping civil servant salaries, intensifying the fight against corruption and subsidizing food prices.
  • A court in Tunisia reportedly fined a newspaper publisher 1,000 dinars ($665) on Thursday for printing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with his nude girlfriend, raising fears of a media crackdown.
  • One police officer in Mozambique was reportedly killed on Thursday after clashes with members of the former Renamo guerrilla movement, highlighting tensions that still exist in the country despite a 1992 peace accord.
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that the rights of a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya in 2009 were violated under several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights; the government called announced plans for greater autonomy in Benghazi a foreign-inspired plot to break up the country; while American President Obama hosted the Libyan PM at the White House, encouraging him to follow through on plans to hold national elections in June and stressing the importance of transparency and engagement with civil society, along with discussion cooperation on border management, weapons security and regional counterterrorism concerns. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Jalil vowed to use force to stop the country dividing into autonomous regions. On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets in the two biggest cities to protest moves by groups in the east to declare autonomy from central rule; Russia criticized UN investigators for failing to adequately probe deaths caused by NATO bombs during the uprising against Gaddafi last year; the government reclaimed possession from Saadi Gaddafi of a London mansion worth some 10 million pounds after a British court ruled it had been bought using stolen Libyan state funds; while investigators probing violations committed during the country’s conflict said that they were giving the UN’s human rights chief a list of people who should face international or national justice. On Monday, damaging new claims emerged linking French President Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and former Libyan leader Gaddafi, who is said to have contributed up to 50 million euro to his election fund;  the government called upon its neighbours to toughen up border security, concerned about the large numbers of people who have been smuggled across the border since the end of fighting last year; while the UN Security Council extended the UN mission assisting Libya with its democratic transition for another 12 months, adjusting their mandate to support national efforts to promote the rule of law, protect human rights, restore public security and hold free and fair elections.
  • A popular music video making rounds in Senegal calls upon hard-up citizens who are offered cash for their vote in the upcoming Presidential election to pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway. On Monday, Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity.
  • The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland announced on Monday that it will boycott the 2013 national elections in the kingdom because political parties are banned. Political parties are banned in the country, and only individuals are allowed to stand as candidates.
  • Protests erupted in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday after a woman was reportedly killed by police; police responded by firing tear gas and using batons to break up the demonstrations. On Friday, armed Murle tribesman reportedly raided cattle camps, resulting in the disappearance of 500-800 people who are feared dead or abducted. On Sunday, a former senior UN official accused the Sudanese government of launching a genocidal campaign against non-Arab villagers in South Kordofan, by bombing civilians and using tactics reminiscent of the Darfur conflict—a charge the government dismissed. On Monday, the UN mission in South Sudan announced that it will provide support by collecting weapons at a civilian disarmament that were held illegally and monitoring the process. On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said it sent patrol units and a medical team to an area on the Ethiopian border after unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps over the weekend, wounding some 63 people and causing some 15,000 to flee into Ethiopia.
  • Human Rights Watch released a report urging the government of Cote d’Ivoire to urgently address the rising violent crime in and around the central town of Bouake, to takes steps to disarm former combatants widely believed to be implicated in the attacks, adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes. A former warlord, Cherif Ousmane, was appointed by the army high command as the head of an “anti-armed gangs unit” responsible for cracking down on bandits operating on the country’s highways. On Monday, local newspapers suggested that PM Guillaume Soro had resigned from his position during an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Abidjan.
  • Nigeria expelled some 56 South Africans from their country for “lack of proper documentation” on Tuesday in an apparent retaliation for the expulsion of 125 Nigerians from South Africa the previous weekend. On Thursday, Italian politicians and newspapers accused of giving them “a slap in the face” by allegedly not informing it of the special-forces raid in Nigeria that left one Italian and one British hostage dead; a Boko Haram spokesman denied any link to the kidnapping; police in Lagos State denied rumours that Boko Haram members has snuck into the state, advising residents to discard such report and go about their legal businesses without fear; suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a police station and two banks in a remote part of the north, shooting dead some four policemen and three civilians; while some 20 people were said to have been killed and several others injured when Fulani herdsmen reportedly invaded Kadarko town in Nasarawa State. On Friday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly set fire to the Bulabulim Ngarnam Police Station in Maiduguri, killing at least one person; a gun battle broke out between suspected militants and police in Kano, wounding at least three police officers; while some 120 Nigerians were deported from Britain back to the country for various offenses.  On Saturday, Boko Haram warned some journalists to stop or desist from misrepresenting their views at a Media Telephone Conferencing. On Sunday, a car laden with explosive detonated outside a Catholic church in Jos, killing at least nine people and injuring others; while some six people were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Delta State area. By Monday, the death toll from the explosion in Jos had risen to 19; while suspected Fulani herdsman were accused of killing two people and injuring three others in Jos.
  • Tens of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in South Africa on Wednesday in a nationwide strike to demonstrate for improved workers rights and against plans to introduce unpopular road tolls. The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s bilateral relations on Thursday, following the previous week’s deportations of South Africans.On Monday, expelled youth leader Julius Malema made a surprise apology and begged to be allowed back into the governing party.
  • Police in Angola announced they are investigating a clash that occurred over the weekend in the capital between young anti-government protesters calling for the resignation of President Eduardo dos Santos and pro-government supporters who confronted them. On Tuesday, rights groups and activists warned of a rapidly deteriorating political climate in the country following a police raid on a private newspaper and a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
  • The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo received tactical helicopters to support their mission from the Ukraine on Wednesday. On Friday, the UNHCR expressed concern that more than 3,000 Congolese civilians have fled into Uganda from the DRC’s North Kivu to escape fresh fighting since the beginning of the year. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga, an alleged warlord accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers.
  • The UN humanitarian office announced on Wednesday that it had deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities following last week’s explosions at an ammunition depot that killed some 200 people and injured 1,500.
  • Gunmen reportedly shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint near the capital in Burundi late on Wednesday and one attacker was killed in an exchange of fire. The Standard wrote an article about the revitalization of the once violent city of Bujumbura that is now peaceful.
  • The MDC-T party in Zimbabwe announced on Sunday that it will go it alone if ZANU-PF decides to pull out of the coalition government in the hope of forcing early elections before the implementation of reforms as required under the Global Political Agreement. On Monday, a deadline for the Information Minister to implement media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government was reportedly ignored.
  • Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt announced they were likely to declare they had lost confidence in the PM’s government via a formal vote, a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group on Thursday; while a judge said he was delaying the trial of civil society activists including the 16 Americans accused of receiving illegal foreign funds until April 10th. Candidates for the “first ever free” Presidential elections began this weekend, with candidates now able to submit their applications. On Sunday, the leader of the Freedom and Justice party revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative al-Nour Party will support the head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Hossam Al-Gheryani, for President; and an army doctor accused of carrying out forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year was acquitted of all charges.
  • At least 23 people were reportedly killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Shabaab insurgents near the border of Somalia on Saturday, with al-Shabaab claiming to have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovering 20 guns; while the African Union announced that Ethiopia was set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in. On Sunday, Ethiopia denied reports that its soldiers had been killed or captured. On Monday, the President of the Puntland government welcomed proposed talks between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region, but warned against denying the role of Puntland.
  • Public hospitals in Kenya face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government reportedly fired on 25,000 nurses on Friday who had been on strike since March 1st to protest the government’s failure to implement a salary increase; while the ICC rejected appeals from the former finance minister and three others to have charges against them dropped relating to the country’s 2007 election violence. As many as six people were reportedly killed and scores others injured when multiple grenade explosions rocked downtown Nairobi on Saturday, in attacks linked to the al-Shabaab militia. On Sunday, the VP urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government continues to fights terror. On Monday, PM Odinga accused Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of hatching a plot to avoid standing trial at the ICC, after documents purporting to be from the British Foreign Office was tabled in Parliament.
  • Tuareg rebels in northern Mali reportedly took control of the key garrison town of Tessalit follow a weeks-long siege on Sunday.
Advertisements

This week in conflict… September 17th-24th, 2010.

World

  • The 65th session of the annual UN General Assembly, which began on September 13th, discussed the crises of relevance of the UN worldwide. The highly touted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were the subject of the opening are falling short in many areas. The UN is also increasingly sharing its space with other entities and losing its place as the center of global responses.
  • September 21st was the UN’s International Day of Peace, a day dedicated to peace or specifically the absence of war. First started in 1981, it was later declared as a day of global ceasefire in 2001. Sadly, this Day of Peace was fraught with violent conflict worldwide.
  • Nations with competing claims to the Arctic region are meeting in a forum in Moscow to help ensure the region does not become a battleground for resources. Several countries, including Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US have all laid claims to the Arctic.
  • African leaders called on the UN to grant the continent a permanent seat on the Security Council on Friday, declaring that the exclusion of Africa can no longer be justified.

Africa

  • Mauritanian soldiers clashed with suspected al-Qaeda in Mali killing at least 12 al-Qaeda members and at least two civilians. The fighting began on Saturday on the Mauritania-Mali border but moved into Malian territory.
  • Two radio stations in Somalia were ransacked and looted by members of Islamist militias, one that later began to use the station for its own propaganda broadcasting. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the presidential palace in Mogadishu on Monday. The Prime Minister resigned this week after a months-long feud with the President. At least 10 people were killed and another 25 wounded by fighting between the Somali government and the rebel group Hizbul-islam. Another 20 were killed on Thursday in further clashes, along with one Ugandan peacekeeper. On Friday at least 30 were killed as African Union forces clashed with al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu. The UN will hold a crisis meeting on Somalia next Thursday.
  • The Congolese army (FARDC) is reportedly increasing its deployments in the east in another bid to purge the FDLR. Uganda is also in talks with the Congolese government to work together to annihilate the LRA rebels who threaten security in both countries. The UN and the Congolese government have launched a distribution of identity cards to refugees aimed at strengthening the rights of the vulnerable group.
  • An army general from Cote D’Ivoire was arrested by the FBI in New York last week attempting to buy 3.8 million dollars worth of weaponry. The government opposition accused the President’s party of preparing to stay in power in the upcoming election by force. The government began paying former rebels on Wednesday who disarmed ahead of the elections set for next month in an effort to reduce violence.
  • Police in Zimbabwe have reportedly arrested 83 members of a group who were taking part in a march outside parliament to accuse police of beating suspects and denounce violence during the country’s constitutional outreach programme.
  • Preparations for an independence referendum in Sudan have been delayed, escalating risks for renewed civil war. The referendum is to happen January 11th.
  • Outrage at the proposed Public Order Management Bill in Uganda, which would restrict gatherings involving more than five people unless they are sanctioned by the Inspector General of Police, led to civil society, the opposition and human rights defenders verbally attacking the government.
  • At least fourteen bodies, some with limbs bound or machete wounds, have been found floating on a river near the capital of Burundi this week. Locals suspect the civil war is resuming.
  • Nigeria’s ruling party has suspended its election primaries this week, signaling that the national elections scheduled for January are likely to be delayed. The electoral commission called for the polls to be moved to April, so that it has more time to correct flawed voter lists.

Asia

  • At least seven people were killed in an attack near a polling station in Afghanistan, and rocket attacks wer reported in Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The election was also marred by serious allegations of fraud and reportedly had a low turnout. Almost 3,000 formal complaints were received. The bodies of three Independent Elections Commission officials were found on Sunday, after disappearing in an earlier kidnapping. Eight Afghan children were killed while playing with an unexploded rocket on Sunday. The Taliban claimed that nine NATO soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash after insurgents shot the helicopter down. Several suicide bombers also attacked a NATO-run base on Friday in the southeast.
  • At least five soldiers were killed in an attack on a convoy in Tajikistan on Sunday. The attack was attributed to terrorists. Another 23 people were killed on Sunday after unidentified men opened fire on troops. Kyrgyzstan closed its border with Tajikistan after the attacks. The Tajik government forces mounted a counter-strike on the rebels responsible for the attacks on Wednesday. Another 3 militants were killed by Tajik troops on Friday on the third day of a counter-strike against rebel attacks.
  • The Kyrgyz National Security Service (UKK) interrupted the screening of an Australian documentary about a Chinese human rights activist and demanded it be stopped. The officers claimed to be implementing a written directive signed by the presidential office, though the president refused to comment.
  • Five Buddhists were killed in gun and arson attacks in Thailand on Sunday. The attacks were blamed on separatist rebels. Two more Buddhists were shot dead in a drive-by attack on Thursday. Anti-government protesters took to the streets again on Sunday in what was said to be the largest protest since the military cleared the streets on May 19. The unrest is said to be severely endangering the education system as schools have been targeted by separatist fighters who view the system as a symbol of government oppression.
  • Three people were killed on Saturday in Kashmir after security officers fired into a crowd who had defied the curfew to march in a funeral procession of a young boy. Indian MPs met detained Kashmiri separatists on Monday, despite a rebel boycott of government-sponsored talks in an attempt to end the uprising.
  • A US missile strike killed five militants in northwestern Pakistan on Monday. This is reportedly the fourteenth such US attack this month. Pakistanis took to the streets following the sentencing of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui by the US government for allegedly snatching a gun from an American soldier in an Afghani jail cell and opening fire. Police fired teargas and clashed with protesters.
  • Philippine troops killed a top Islamic militant on Sunday after a brief firefight. The militant is said to have helped plan and carry out the kidnapping of 3 Americans and 17 Filipinos in 2001.
  • More than a dozen gunmen on motorcycles attacked a police station in Indonesia on Wednesday, killing three police officers. The gunmen are believed to have links to a militant group from Aceh that had planned a previous coup attempt.
  • Two member of Kazakhstan’s Algha opposition party were detained by the police on Wednesday as they prepared to leave for a discussion on initiating a referendum on whether the President should resign.
  • Cambodia’s main opposition party leader was convicted in absentia on Thursday and sentenced to 10 years in jail after a comment about a border dispute. Critics claim this is further intimidation of governmental opponents.
  • India has banned bulk mobile text messages for three days starting on Thursday to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism in advance of a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus. The high court ruled on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India.

Middle East

  • Two car bombs killed at least 31 people in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday morning.
  • The Israel Defense Forces have been accused of using the banned Ruger 10/22 rifle to disperse protests even though it has been prohibited. Israel expressed its anger at Russia on Monday for planning to sell anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, concerned that the weapons could be used to transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Does Israel have nuclear submarines? A new book offers by a former Israeli admiral offers a glimpse into the state which neither confirms nor denies having nuclear bombs. The Israeli government has said it will not accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty due to national security considerations, and suggested that the UN atomic watchdog is overstepping its mandate in demanding them to do so. Israel is seeking the release of an American jailed for life for spying for the Jewish state in return for an extension of the partial freeze on the expansions of settlements in the occupied territories and other concessions in the recent peace process with the Palestinians. An Israeli guard killed a Palestinian man on Wednesday during clashes in a contested East Jerusalem neighbourhood, after which, angry demonstrators began hurling rocks at police and were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Israeli navy shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman on Friday because he was “heading towards Israel” and apparently “refused to obey” orders to turn back.
  • The UN panel of human rights experts charged with investigating the Israeli flotilla scandal of May of this year has accused Israel of war crimes through willful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its “clearly unlawful” and disproportionate assault of the ship. Israel dismissed the accusations as “politicized and extremist”, but since the report does not have any legal force it will merely be an embarrassment to the Israeli state.
  • Hamas warned of backlash after Palestinian security forces arrested hundreds of Hamas activists, including a senior Hamas figure. On Thursday Hamas claimed to have arrested “many” Palestinians in Gaza on suspicion of collaborating with Israel to kill senior members and bomb training sites and government offices.
  • An Iranian court has jailed a prominent human rights activist and journalist, convicting her of “waging war against God”. Supporters say the arrest is politically motivated. Two bloggers may face the death penalty for speaking out during the 2009 elections. The Iranian government has announced plans to create a new board that will approve the content of all books for publication, essentially amounting to legalized censorship. A bomb exploded at a military parade on Wednesday killing 10 spectators. The attack was blamed on Kurdish separatists.
  • Up to 12,000 civilians fled their homes in south Yemen due to heavy fighting between government forces and suspected al Qaeda militants. Three al Qaeda militants and two soldiers have died. Yemeni troops laid siege to the town of Hawta, shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on jihadists from helicopters.
  • Clashes broke out during protests on Tuesday in Egypt against the claimed plans for the president’s son to assume power. It is widely believed that Gamal Mubarak is now being groomed to succeed his father Hosni as Egypt’s next ruler. Dozens of armed Bedouins locked 15 police officers in a car and set it on fire at a police station in central Sinai.

North and Central America

  • Mexican soldiers deactivated a bomb at a mall in central Mexico on Saturday. Nobody was injured and authorities are not clear if the incident was tied to the country’s drug war. Authorities have ordered the total evacuation of the town of San Juan Copala in the Oaxaca province of Mexico this week, after paramilitaries allegedly said they would massacre all supporters of the autonomous municipality. The town has been under siege since February of this year. Mexican authorities say that seven people were killed in Acapulco during a shootout between rival drug gangs on Thursday. They also found the decapitated bodies of two men inside an abandoned car near Acapulco on Wednesday. Suspected drug hitmen also killed the mayor of a town in the North on Thursday, making this the fourth public official slain in little over a month.
  • An appeal court in the US has dismissed the case against Royal Dutch Shell, after the oil company was accused of helping Nigerian authorities to violently suppress protests against oil exploration in the 1990s. The court ruled that corporations could not be held liable in US courts for violations of international human rights law.
  • Al-Jazeera has accused NATO of trying to suppress its coverage of the war in Afghanistan following the arrest of two of its cameramen this week. The two journalists have been accused by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to be working with the insurgents to facilitate Taliban propaganda. They were released later in the week. The CIA is said to have trained and bankrolled nearly 3,000 Afghans for nearly 8 years to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Private contractor deaths have been said to outweigh military losses in Iraq and Afghanistan with more than 250 dead between January and June 2010, compared to 235 soldier deaths.
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad has accused the US government of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks in an effort to prop up Israel at the UN General Assembly, prompting several delegates to walkout. Barack Obama responded by making an angry personal attack on Ahmadinejad, calling his words “hateful, offensive and inexcusable”. Ahmadinejad later defended his remarks and called upon the UN to set up a commission to study the attacks.
  • Nicaragua’s consul in New York was found dead with his throat slashed in his apartment on Thursday. Police have not released any further details of the investigation so far.

South America

  • Colombian troops killed at least 22 FARC guerrillas in a jungle raid on Sunday. They have also claimed to kill a top leader, Jorge Briceno Suarez, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). President Santos has vowed to keep his predecessor’s hard line on security in the region. Following these events, the FARC rebels said they wanted a chance for peace negotiations on Friday. On the more bizarre side of things, a parrot was “arrested” for allegedly tipping off members of a drug cartel during a police raid by yelling “run, run– you’re going to get caught” as it spotted uniformed officers.

Europe

  • French intelligence services are searching for a female would-be suicide bomber who they believe is planning an attack on the Paris transport system. This comes less than a week after the Eiffel Tower was evacuated following a bomb alert.
  • Twenty-one people were injured when a protest by grape growers in Kosovo turned violent. Some 500 farmers came with their tractors to protest the government’s inability to find buyers for their grapes.
  • A lawyer who managed the legal defense of a Bosnian Serb convicted of mass murder at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia is now facing charges of bribing witnesses. He is accused of paying three witnesses 1,000 € each for  testimony in favour of Milan Lukic, who was jailed for life in 2009 for the killings of Muslims in Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
  • The vice president of Abkhazia was wounded in a mortar attack on his house on Wednesday night.  The Abkhaz President claims the attack was a bid to destabilize the region.
  • One of Russia’s most vocal gay rights campaigners says he was kidnapped by people he believes to be members of Russian security services and held for two days. Nikolai Alekseyev has previously been publicly insulted, repeatedly arrested and pelted with everything from eggs to fists. On Tuesday, several gay-rights activists, including Alekseyev were arrested after an unauthorized protest. A Russian woman who claims to be a journalist appealed to the US government to help her and 2,000 others whose homes are set for demolition. She laments that her people have lost all their rights and returned to communism. The Russian army has also announced that they will drop their plans to supply Iran with S-300 missiles because they are subject to international sanctions, an arrangement agreed upon several years ago. Gunmen, suspected to be Islamist insurgents, shot 13 people across the North Caucasus this week including two police officers.
  • The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has extended its unilateral ceasefire in Turkey for another week. Turkey has officially refused to negotiate with the PKK, which it labels as a terrorist organization.
  • Concerns about press freedom in Ukraine were fueled this week again after a journalist says he was severely beaten up by police. This is the second such attack on a journalist in less than a week. Police deny all allegations.

This week in conflict… August 14th-20th, 2010

World

  • 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.

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.

Asia

  • 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.

Middle East

  • 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.

Europe

  • 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

South America

  • 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.
South Africa is looking to deploy troops to Somalia under the African Union request.

Part I: Summary of Human Rights Watch- World Report 2010

Human Rights Watch recently released their latest Human Rights Watch Report  for 2010.

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?

Bookmark       and Share