cambodia

This Week in Asian Conflict… January 24th- February 1st, 2012.

  • 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.
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This Week in Asian Conflict… December 14th-21st, 2011.

  • 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.

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.

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?

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Cambodia’s Trouble with Landmines – is a Brighter Future Possible?

Written by Heather Wilhelm

For my birthday last week, my boyfriend bought me a beautiful necklace from a great fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages.  The necklace is called a Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace, and upon reading the literature that came with it, I learned that this piece of jewellery was made in Cambodia by a group of artisans who had formed an organization called Rajana.  Rajana is completely owned and operated by the Khmer people of Cambodia, and offer fair salaries, education, interest-free loans and many other benefits to their workers.  They are working to create beautiful art by turning the ravages of decades of war and tragedy into prosperity for their people.  The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklaces are made from the remains of land mines that litter the land of Cambodia and have led the country to have one of the highest numbers of amputee populations in the world.  This birthday gift – as beautiful as it is – tells the story of a horrific past and the ever-present danger that face the people of Cambodia.

Between 1975 and 1979 the ruling party in Cambodia was a totalitarian government called the Khmer Rouge.  The party was led by Pol Pot and believed in extreme Communist principles including social engineering and agricultural reform.  Their radical social reform process was carried out by deporting all the inhabitants of major cities to the countryside where they combined populations with farmers and were forced into labour in the fields.  Anyone suspected of capitalism (a group that included teachers, professors, urban city dwellers, anyone connected to foreign governments, and even people who simply wore reading glasses) was arbitrarily executed, tortured or detained.  There is a large range of estimated deaths in the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, but most estimates but the death toll at 1.5 million people.  This included those executed by the government, as well as those who died of starvation from lack of experience growing food, and those who died of preventable diseases because of the government’s insistence that westernized medicine be kept out of the country.  Money was abolished; schools, hospitals, banks, industrial and service companies were closed; books were burned and as mentioned earlier, almost the entire intellectual population of the country was massacred.  Most notable in the long list of treacherous crimes performed by the Khmer Rouge was the separation of children from their parents (who were believed to be tainted by capitalism) and their subsequent brainwashing (children were often given leadership roles in torture and execution) into this dangerous form of socialism.  While the Khmer Rouge were toppled from government in 1979, the group itself survived as a group into the 1990s, causing death and destruction throughout these decades.

It is estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia over the decades of war fought there, and every year hundreds of Cambodians fall victim to the lasting effect of these forgotten weapons.  In a population of approximately 12 million people, it is estimated that more than 40,000 amputees are living, or one in every 290 Cambodians.  These amputees are chastised by their peers and have been forgotten by their government, often having to try and make a living selling merchandise on the streets for small commissions.  There are many active mine removal organizations that work within Cambodia that are trying to clear mines in an effort to make the country safer, but this sizable job is nowhere near completion leaving the citizens of Cambodia in constant danger or death or amputation.

Organizations like Rajana are imperative to the turnaround of countries like Cambodia that are suffering the after effects of decades long war, as they play a role in creating job opportunities and education for its citizens.  By providing fair wages, health care, education and more to their employees Rajana is working to create a different future for Cambodia.  Aside from creating a better social welfare system, it is imperative that the international community become active in the banning of land mines and cluster bombs.  The Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty became effective on March 1, 1999, and as of early 2009 had 156 parties to the Treaty.  Once a country has signed, they are required to cease production of anti-personnel mines as well as destroy any stockpile of mines within four years (except for a small number they are allowed to retain for training purposes).  Thirty-seven countries have not signed the Treaty, including the People’s Republic of China, India, Russia and the United States of America, all of whom are some of the largest producers and carry some of the largest stockpile of anti-personnel landmines.  By refusing to sign this Treaty, some of the most powerful countries in the world, namely the United States and China, are perpetuating a problem that has caused countless deaths and produced mass destruction.

The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace is just one small way that we can make a difference in the eradication of land mines while at the same time allowing us to contribute to the social development of a nation.  A portion from the proceeds of every necklace sold between the International Day of Peace (September 21) and Remembrance Day (November 11) goes to Mines Action Canada while the remainder goes to the artisans making a change through the Rajana organization.  While I hazard to use this site to advertise for companies, Ten Thousand Villages has spent decades providing international communities with a venue to sell fair trade items and I feel their work should be recognized.  If you’re interested in learning more about Ten Thousand Villages and their fair trade items, visit them at www.tenthousandvillages.ca.  To learn more about the work of Mines Action Canada, visit them at www.minesactioncanada.org.  While it is often hard to read about the horrors occurring in other countries, at times I feel our minds can be eased by trying to make any kind of difference, however small or insignificant it may seem.

hw