Chechnya

This Week in European Conflict… February 18th-25th, 2012.

  • The former foreign secretary of the EU Jack Straw announced that the European Parliament should be abolished after failing to achieve its purpose of bridging the divide between the European people and EU. Straw argued that the body has a “major democratic deficit”  as a poll shows 78% believe their voice doesn’t count in the EU.
  • Tens of thousands reportedly rallied across Russia on Saturday in support of Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of cars circled central Moscow on Sunday to demand PM Putin allows free elections in the country; President Medvedev announced his intention to meet with some of the heads of the opposition protest movement; while PM Putin outlined plans for military reform and rearmament that would see the government spending 23 trillion rubles (around $770 billion) over a ten year period.  On Monday, a rare meeting between the President and opposition leaders produced talk of political reform but no sign of concessions strong enough to halt protests posing a challenge to Putin; a new poll predicts that Putin will be elected President in the first round of March’s election; while PM Putin announced that the country needs a stronger military to protect it against foreign attempts to stoke conflict around its borders. On Tuesday, Putin allegedly sought to bolster his authority ahead of the Presidential election by promising police in Moscow to pay hefty pay raises; the President of the southern republic of Tatarstan endorsed Putin, claiming Russia needs a “tsar” rather than a manager as head of state; while early voting began in remote areas ahead of the March 4th Presidential election. On Thursday, tens of thousands gathered in a central Moscow stadium to hear Putin, as he spouted nationalistic rhetoric and warned of the dangers of foreign influence, reportedly reminiscent of Soviet times. On Friday, Radio Free Europe ran an article detailing how a new protest movement, organized largely through social media, is rolling through the country; while Putin announced that he sees no new chill in ties with the Americans, but warned that he would not let the US gain nuclear supremacy and had no intention of playing “yes man” to the West on global issues.
  • An opposition activist in Belarus was sentenced to 10 days in jail on Wednesday for holding an unsanctioned “toy protest” in Minsk, and announced he will go on a hunger strike in protest. On Thursday, another toy protest activist was reportedly jailed, while both men announced the start of a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment.
  • A wave of execution-style shootings and a police station bombing have rocked Sweden’s third largest city, sparking fears of gangster violence taking hold of the country, once seen as the world’s safest places.
  • Police announced on Saturday that at least seventeen police and seven insurgents were reportedly killed in four days of fighting on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. Another 24 police and security troops were also wounded in the fighting.
  • EU officials announced that a new round of talks in Brussels between Serbia and Kosovo was to be postponed to February 22nd after Pristina representatives failed to show up on time because their flight had been cancelled.  On Wednesday, Serbia announced its plans to open its first shelter for gays and lesbians in a southern city. On Thursday, the German Foreign Minister announced that Germany firmly supports Serbia’s bid to join the EU and would like to see it given candidate status at the upcoming week’s EU summit; while former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic slammed the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as a puppet of NATO, calling it biased against him and other Serbs. On Friday, the EU Enlargement Commissioner announced that Serbia and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leadership reached a deal on border issues and Kosovo’s participation in Balkan regional meetings; while the Bosnian Education Minister has reportedly resigned and fled the country after receiving death threats for his decision to remove mandated religious classes from primary school.
  • Macedonia reportedly urged NATO to accept it as a member when the alliance holds a summit in May, despite Greek opposition due to a long-running dispute over its name.
  • The government of Germany and two main opposition parties agreed to jointly nominate a former East German human rights activist as the next President, following the resignation of the former President on Friday.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain on Sunday against reforms to the labour market, in fears it will destroy workers’ rights and the welfare state. The protests took place in some 57 towns and cities across the country. Thousands of students took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against alleged police violence, a day after security forces arrested 25 protesters and injured 4 at a demonstration against spending cuts in education.
  • Nearly 75 percent of voters in Latvia rejected the plan to change the constitution and introduce Russian as an official second language in the country on Saturday, a move praised by neighbouring Lithuania. Russia however, criticized the country for rejecting their language, calling the vote biased because it excluded so many Russian-speaking “non-citizens” from voting.
  • The Guardian ran an article outlining the six key elements of the deal for the bailout of Greece by the eurozone finance ministers. On Wednesday, trade unions promised a popular revolt over the bailout.
  • Emergency services in London, England began practising their response in the event of an attack during the summer Olympic Games, set to be staged in the capital this year.
  •  The European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to pay thousands of dollars to 24 Somali and Eritrean migrants who fled Libya in 2009, but were subsequently returned. The court ruled that the migrants risked ill-treatment in Libya where such migrants were systematically detained.
  • President Saakashvili of Georgia challenged his political opponents to disclose their views on relations with Russia, while also underlining his commitment to strengthening the country’s ties with NATO and the EU.

This Week in European Conflict… February 11th-18th, 2012.

  • On Friday, France and Britain agreed to jointly work to develop next-generation unmanned drones as part of their military cooperation.
  • The Guardian ran a set of interesting articles detailing Scotland Yard’s investigation into Britain’s MI5 instances of torture, murder and rendition.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy formally declared that he will be running for a second term as President of France this spring.
  • The chief editor of the leading liberal radio station in Russia announced that a surprise management reshuffle at the station is aimed at dictating the station’s coverage ahead of the March 4th Presidential elections on Tuesday; while it was released that the country came close to a nuclear disaster last December when a blaze engulfed a nuclear-powered submarine carrying atomic weapons. On Wednesday, a fake video showing Vladimir Putin in a courtroom cage in what seemed to be a real trial for terrorism went viral on the internet; while the white ribbon protest gained steam, especially among those fashion-conscious Russians. On Thursday, the European Parliament expressed concern over the disputed Russian State Duma elections in December, but stopped short of called for their annulment; while an official responsible for foreign arms sales says the country set a weapons export record in 2011, selling $13.2 billion in arms to foreign clients, with India, Algeria and Vietnam accounting for half of all exports.
  • Serbs in northern Kosovo began voting on Monday in a referendum asking whether or not they accept the authority of ethnic Albanian rulers. The referendum has no legal weight, but is likely to further complicate the EU-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and Serbia’s efforts to eventually join the EU. By Thursday, 99.74% of Serbs who voted rejected Albanian rule; and European Union-brokered talks were set to resume between Serbia and Kosovo.
  • At least three Russian police officers were reportedly killed and six others injured on Monday in a gun battle with suspected militants along the Chechen-Dagestan border.  On Tuesday, Russian security forces allegedly killed the leader of a rebel group, Ibragimkhalil Daudov in Dagestan.
  • Veterans of the Afghan-Soviet war in the Ukraine snubbed the President by turning their backs on him at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the 23rd anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The daughter of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko said that her mother has been subjected to poor medical care and abusive conditions in prison during an interview.
  • On Saturday, the people of Latvia voted in a referendum on whether or not to make Russian the second official language of the country.
  • On Sunday night, tens of thousands of people in Greece reportedly tried to demonstrate peacefully in front of the parliament building, but were almost immediately met with teargas, and then took to rioting—setting fire to banks, stores and cafes. On Monday, the country announced it will hold general elections in April, only hours after Parliament voted through tough new austerity measures aimed at saving the country from bankruptcy.
  • The European Parliament President announced he is “appalled” by the deteriorating situation in Belarus regarding human rights and political freedoms on Tuesday and called upon authorities to release opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka and all other political prisoners. On Friday, another prominent Belarusian human rights activist who was sentenced to 4 ½ years in jail for tax evasion was transferred from a detention centre in Minsk to a labour camp in Babruysk.
  • Two international watchdogs condemned recent attacks on a Turkish newspaper office in Germany and France allegedly carried out by Kurdish activists. On Friday, the German President was forced into a humiliating resignation, after being caught up in an alleged corruption scandal and misguided attempt to muzzle the press.

This week in conflict… October 30th-November 5th, 2010

World

  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released its 2010 Human Development Report entitled “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” that examines progress in health, education and income. The report uses a “human development index” (HDI) which ranks 135 countries for comparable data. The report warned that a continued failure to tackle climate change was the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive. It listed Norway, Australia and New Zealand as the best countries in the world to live, while Zimbabwe, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were listed as least desirable places to live. Japan was listed as the country with the highest life expectancy (83.6 years), and Afghanistan had the lowest life expectancy (44.6 years).
  • The first comprehensive report into cluster bombs around the world was released by Cluster Munition Monitor on Monday. The report found that Norway, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Moldova and Montenegro have destroyed their weapons and that 11 other countries were in the process of doing so. The UK is said to have destroyed more than a third of its stockpile.
  • Several bombings targeting embassies and major world leaders, including  US bound packages found in Dubai and Britain, a spate of mail bombs in Greece, suspicious packages to France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Germany’s Angela Merkel were intercepted this week. Intelligence agencies have cited both domestic terrorists (in some of the Greek cases), and the Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as possible suspects, and are conferring with the other bomb cases to determine if they were built by the same people.
  • The International Food Policy Research Institute released its 2010 Global Hunger Index this week. Four nations ranked “extremely alarming” were all based in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for generous contributions to the UN peacebuilding fund, that was set up in 2006 to support efforts to augment peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict. The Fund has so far received $342 million, exceeding its initial target of $250 million, with 46 countries contributing.
  • Companies and states investing in large-scale land deals must be held to standards of transparency and accountability to ensure that their deals are not threatening human rights or food security a new report released by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law announced on Monday. The report analyzes the immediate and anticipated impacts of large-scale land deals in parts of Africa and South Asia.
  • A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative was released on “Corporate War Crimes“. The report details how corporate pillage can be tried as a war crime as both the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions prohibit pillage, as well as most domestic jurisdictions and international courts.

Africa

  • Fresh fighting is said to have erupted in southern Darfur on Wednesday between fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and security forces, as rebels ambushed a government food and supplies convoy. JEM spokesmen announced that at least 50 people were killed in the attack. The spokesperson for the South Sudan referendum commission announced on Monday that he was resigning and spoke of deep disagreements with the head of the commission and its secretary general. He also expressed skepticism that the vote will be held on time, suggesting instead it be moved to April or May so that it can be more effective. Sudan’s southern army accused soldiers from the north of ambushing its men on its territory on Sunday, in violation of the 2005 peace deal. The northern army denied it had any troops south of the border. On Tuesday, the government shut down the Khartoum office of Radio Dabanga and arrested 13 of the staff for reporting negatively on Darfur. On Thursday, three people in a Latvian helicopter crew working for the World Food Programme in South Darfur were kidnapped at gunpoint.
  • In a strange move, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered her entire cabinet to take “administrative leave”, a euphemism for suspension, until further notice. She implied in her order that those not ordered back to work, within an unspecified time, should consider themselves dismissed.
  • Guinea’s run-off elections are in threat of being delayed again, as thousands of Guinea voters have been displaced from last month’s violence and will be denied their voting rights. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect issued a statement on Thursday saying the situation in the Guinea requires international action to prevent mass atrocities from happening during the second round.
  • Ivory Coast will be heading to a run-off election next month, after it failed to determine a majority candidate in its first Presidential election in more than a decade. Laurent Gbagbo will now face off against Alassane Ouattara on November 28th. Some 80% of registered voters peacefully cast ballots on Sunday. Third place candidate Henri Bedie called for a recount as the results went against his favor, although the elections have been widely regarded as fair and free. Experts fear an escalation of violence in the upcoming run-off elections.
  • At least 57 Muslim Brotherhood candidates have been barred from Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary election, it was announced on Wednesday. The group, who won 88 out of 444 seats in the 2005 elections, have claimed that the authorities are doing whatever they can to limit challenges to the ruling National Democratic Party, although the government has said the candidates will have an opportunity to appeal the decisions.
  • Tanzania participated in its presidential election on Sunday, with incumbent Jakaya Kikwete reported as the winner with a landslide 61% of the votes. The parliamentary polls were contested by the main opposition leader on suspected fraud, whose claims were later rejected by election officials. A second opposition party criticized the poll on Thursday after the National Electoral Commission admitted on Wednesday that there could have been irregularities in vote tallying. Clashes erupted between opposition supporters and riot police during the delay of vote counting. Some voters were shocked to find their names listed as dead on voter lists while they were still very much alive, along with other irregularities such as missing names, claims of malpractice and protests.
  • A new round of informal talks of fighting parties in the Western Sahara will take place in New York next week. Morocco and Frente Polisario will both send delegates, as well as neighbouring states Algeria and Mauritania. Moroccan authorities say they dismantled two al-Qaeda terrorist cells this week.
  • At least 15 people are dead following an attack by militants on government soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sunday. On Monday, the African Union Mission in Somalia announced it will train an additional 800 policemen to provide security to Mogadishu. Somalia’s parliament approved a new Prime Minister on Sunday, in a vote of 297 to 92. The new PM, Mohamed Abdullahii Mohamed is considered as someone who could potentially bridge the gap between various groups.
  • An explosion rocked a government guest house in Nigeria’s Niger Delta on Wednesday. Officials were not immediately clear on the cause of the blast or who was responsible.
  • A Ugandan newspaper again published photographs, along with names and home addresses of gay Ugandans on Monday. A human rights group is now seeking a legal injunction against the publication.
  • The Central Intelligence Organization in Zimbabwe is said to have seized donated portable radios from villagers in Chitowa district. The radios were distributed by a civil society organization to help improve access to information for marginalized groups in the area. Violence was said to mar the conclusion of the constitutional outreach meetings, as a MDC supporter was stabbed in the head by ZANU-PF thugs. Around 52 meetings have so far been abandoned or disrupted because of ZANU-PF sponsored violence.
  • At least 21 census agents are said to have been abducted while updating votes’ rolls for upcoming elections it was announced on Monday in the Central African Republic. The agents were intercepted by members of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) who confiscated the information that had been gathered and destroyed it and are holding the agents hostage.
  • More than 600 women and girls were raped during the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants across the Congo-Angola border, the UN announced this week. Many of the victims were locked in dungeon-like conditions for several weeks and raped repeatedly by security forces. Many rape victims in the DRC, keen to keep their family reputation in tack and lacking confidence in the police, opt to take justice into their own hands and come to amicable settlements with their attackers.

Asia

  • NATO has claimed that some 30 insurgents were killed in an overnight raid on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan in an attack that wounded five coalition soldiers. Also on Saturday, two ISAF troops were killed in separate incidents in Kabul; and more than 10 suspected insurgents were killed in Helmand. On Sunday, the ISAF announced it had killed as many as 78 insurgents in air strikes. On Monday, Afghan and foreign troops announced that they had seized nearly 24 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, to be used in homemade bombs, killing at least 15 insurgents in the process; two ISAF service members were killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul; a large number of insurgents attacked and seized Khogyani district in Ghazni province; and two female Afghan aid workers were killed in Kandahar. On Tuesday, a NATO troop member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; Afghan and ISAF troops killed several insurgents in the east in an operation targeting a Taliban leader; and an armed suspected insurgent was shot dead and two suspects arrested in an ISAF/Afghan raid in Helmand. On Wednesday, insurgents firing on NATO troops killed five Afghan civilians and wounded nine others in Helmand; five insurgents were killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb west of Kabul; two ISAF troops were killed in separate attacks in Kabul; and Afghan and ISAF troops killed “several” insurgents and detained several more during an operation in Helmand. On Thursday, two ISAF service members were killed following an attack in Kabul; ISAF forces fired a hellfire missile from the air at two people appearing to be carrying weapons by motorcycle in Kandahar; four insurgents were killed in an Afghan and foreign patrol in Helmand; and an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Friday, a teenage suicide bomber killed at least 9 people and wounded some 30 others at a bazaar in the west; six ISAF service members were killed in insurgent attacks and roadside bombs; and a senior leader of the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network and several insurgents were killed in a coalition air strike.  The US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan has down played reports of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, announcing that while more were coming forward, the leaders were not. The US military’s claim that it had a successful campaign fighting the Taliban in Arghandab Valley infuriated local people who said the conflict destroyed their harvest this week. A US led campaign is also said to have destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses this week, despite a US strategy designed to weaken support for the Taliban by limiting harm to civilians. The UN mission in Afghanistan announced on Sunday that it had set up a group of experts to support the work in the newly-formed peace council. NATO faces a shortage of specialist instructors to train Afghan forces, so has begun to send hundreds to study outside Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ability to produce large numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been reported to be severely constrained this week due to an apparent shortage of ammonium nitrate. The Taliban claimed this week to have struck a deal with as many as 19 police officers who are said to have defected to the Taliban, leaving behind a burning police station.
  • On Monday, a US drone attack killed at least five people in northwest Pakistan, bringing the US drone attack count to 21 in Pakistan in the last month alone. On Tuesday, gunmen kidnapped seven employees of a state-owned oil and gas company in Pakistan. Three attacks by US drones are said to have killed at least 12 suspected fighters in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a bomb blast damaged a building of an Islamist party in Peshawar. On Friday, a suicide bomber demolished a mosque in the north-west during prayers, killing at least 66 people; and a grenade blast killed at least three people at another mosque on the Afghan border.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot dead six separatist militants in firefights on Tuesday. Concerns were raised that militants may be stepping up violence ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit this week.
  • Protesters in southwestern China overturned and torched dozens of vehicles over what they say is an illegal land grab for a construction project on Thursday. Around 2,000 paramilitary and riot police were eventually deployed and around 20 people were said to have been injured.
  • The Philippines was on heightened alert this week for possible terrorist attacks after American, British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand governments warned their citizens of potential attacks. The Philippine military said it did not have similar information on an immediate threat, but took the advisories seriously.
  • Japan issued a warning to Russia following President Medvedev’s November 1st visit to disputed islands in the North Pacific that both countries make claims to. Russia rejected the warning claiming it does not take advice from anyone when traveling within Russian territory.
  • The results of the Kyrgyzstani elections were released on Monday, and were assessed by observers as positive, transparent and well organized. The parliamentary elections took place on October 10th.
  • Last week’s exchange of gunfire across the Korean border was likely an accident and not a provocation, a top lawmaker and former army general announced on Monday. Media reports have downplayed the skirmish, and there have been no signs of escalation. On Wednesday, a North Korean fishing boat allegedly straying across the Korean border in the Yellow Sea, was fired upon by the South Korean Navy with warning shots.
  • Two main opposition parties in Burma/Myanmar have accused the political group of the military government of “cheating” and “threatening” voters ahead of this weekend’s elections. The election has so-far been considered a sham, as reporters and observers are to be denied access to the country during the vote.
  • The government of Cambodia demanded the removal of the director of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country and stated that the government intends to force the office’s closure. The government is claiming that the office acted as a “spokesperson for the opposition party”.

Central and North America

  • Four Americans were killed in separate attacks in Ciudad Juarez between Friday and Sunday, and the charred body of a Canadian businessman was found on Saturday inside the trunk of a car in Guerrero. Suspected drug hitmen tossed grenades at four police stations across Monterrey on Saturday, killing one civilian and wounded 17 others. Mexican authorities found at least 18 bodies in a mass grave near the resort city of Acapulco on Wednesday. Police have not yet confirmed whether the bodies are those of the tourists who went missing in late September.
  • The US military’s ban on openly gay troops is to remain in place while the Obama administration challenges a court ruling overturning the policy. Obama says he supports ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, but argues that congress and not the courts should make the decision. For the first time, US human rights practices will be under review by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday. The US has announced that it is open to fair criticism of its human rights record. On Friday it was reported that the US defended its “proud” human rights record, which included the Guantanamo scandal, obstacles to Hispanic immigration, discrimination of Muslims and children’s rights and was largely unapologetic for its behaviour.
  • Gunmen in Honduras opened fire on a group of people in a neighbourhood sports fiend, killing at least 14 on Saturday. It was not immediately clear what triggered the attack, but drug trafficking between rival gangs was suspected.

South America

  • Colombia has suspended seven army officers and soldiers for failing to control their troops in connection with the brutal murders of three impoverished children last month. One of the officers has acknowledged raping the young 14 year old girl before she was killed, and has also confessed to having raped a 13 year old girl in a separate incident on October 2nd.
  • Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s Presidential election to become the first woman to lead the country by beating rival her rival with 55.5% of the vote in the run-off election. Rousseff vowed to eradicate poverty affecting 20 million people in the country.
  • A Peruvian blogger was sentenced to three years in prison, a fine and 120 days of social work for “aggravated defamation” of a politician after posting an article that linked to several media outlets that discussed criminal accusations against a former minister and congressman. The sentence has generated political and media uproar in the country and has been called unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Middle East

  • On Saturday, gunman attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Abu Ghraib killing two soldiers and wounding five people; gunmen wounded a policeman in Kirkuk; a sticky bomb attack killed a driver in Baghdad; an 8 year old boy was killed and two of his family wounded after a grenade he found exploded in the southwest; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three civilians in Mosul. More than 50 people are said to have been killed after Iraqi security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad on Sunday to free hostages being held by gunmen. Also on Sunday, four Iraqi soldiers were wounded after two mortars landed at an Iraqi army base in Mosul; a car bomb exploded in the north, killing one leader of a government-back militia and wounding three passers-by; a roadside bomb wounded one policeman and two civilians in Baghdad; and another roadside bomb wounded two civilians in Baghdad. On Monday, the chief of a northern police station was killed and his driver wounded in a sticky bomb attack; and Kurdistan security forces killed a gunman carrying around 25 kg of explosive materials at a checkpoint. On Tuesday, more than 36 people were killed (later reported to be as many as 63 people) in a series of apparently coordinated blasts in Baghdad; an off-duty policeman was killed in a roadside bomb in Falluja; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four policemen in Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting another police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a man was found suffocated and torched to death in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a merchant in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a government backed militia leader in front of his house north of Baghdad; and gunmen shot and killed a civilian in Kirkuk. On Wednesday, armed men killed a 17 year old boy in front of his home in Mosul; a roadside bomb on a motorcycle wounded two firemen in Ramadi; another roadside bomb in Ramadi wounded two civilians; a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three soldiers in the north; and gunmen threw a hand grenade at a police patrol, wounding a woman in Mosul. On Thursday, four soldiers and two policemen were wounded in three roadside bombs in the west; three children were wounded in a bomb attack in Mosul; police found the body of a man riddled with gunshot wounds to his chest and head in Mosul; three policemen were killed and six wounded during a bomb detonation in the north; two roadside bombs killed a driver in the west; three policemen were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint near Falluja; three other policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Falluja; and two interior ministry officers were wounded in a sticky bomb attack in Baghdad. On Friday, nine civilians were killed in a bomb attack in Baquba; and a roadside bomb killed a government-backed Sunni Sahwa militia leader in Kirkuk.
  • Iran has arrested four men it claims were paid by a British based man with Kurdish sympathies to carry out a series of assassinations. The arrests are thought to put further strain on the already troubled relations between Britain and Iran.
  • The government of Yemen has launched a major offensive against al-Qaeda, and in particular a Saudi bomb maker behind a year-long wave of bombing attempts, and is suspected of the bombing of a  major oil pipeline this week. At least two Yemeni soldiers and one attacker were said to have been killed after anti-government fighters attacked a military checkpoint on Wednesday. On Thursday, a car bomb in the south killed two people and wounded at least 13 others; a masked gunmen shot and wounded a soldier manning a checkpoint; and southern secessionists took to the streets in a weekly demonstration to protest against the detention of separatists.
  • A Palestinian leader of an extremist group was killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a Hamas police officer shot dead a Palestinian salesman and wounded his assistant in a market in a refugee camp west of Gaza City. Israeli undercover agents have been accused by human rights group B’Tselem of abusing Palestinians during questioning at a detention centre. Israel rejected the allegations.
  • Israel has suspended dialogue with the UK in protest over a British law that allows UK courts to prosecute visiting Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. The UK has said that the law needs to be changed, but have not suggested when.

Europe

  • At least 32 people were injured after a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. Kurdish fighters have denied responsibility and announced the extension of a unilateral ceasefire. On Thursday, a group connected with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • An Arab woman on vacation in France was attacked by a French retiree for wearing a full-face veil. The case has highlighted potential problems with the recent law enforcing a veil ban.
  • A suspected militant detonated an improvised grenade during a raid on a suspected rebel hideout on Monday, killing himself, and injuring at least 10 police officers in Chechnya.
  • Kosovo’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to oust the governing coalition this week and announced that its first elections since declaring independence from Serbia would be held December 12th. Kosovo entered a political deadlock when the President resigned in September.
  • Anti-government protesters were allowed to rally on Sunday in Moscow’s Triumph Square for the first time in years after authorities granted them permission. Opposition attempts at rallying have previously been broken up, with protesters detained or arrested. Russian police officers conducted an armed raid on Tuesday of a bank belonging to a billionaire. The billionaire suggested that the raid was connected to his support of opposition newspapers. Investigators said they were searching for evidence for a criminal case that was opened some time ago.
  • Georgia announced on Friday that it had detained some 15 undercover agents working in Georgia. The spies are said to have been passing on information about Georgia’s armed forces, weapons purchases, military communications and coordination with foreign armies. Relations between the two countries have remain mostly frozen since the war in August 2008.
  • Britain and France signed defense agreements on Tuesday to expand their cooperation, including the creation of a joint expeditionary force, shared use of aircraft carriers and combined efforts to improve safety and effectiveness of nuclear weapons. The cooperation pact is set to last 50 years and will transform the way the two countries fight wars and compete for defense contracts.

This week in conflict… October 16th-22nd.

World

  • Are women in war-torn countries faring any better today than they did a decade ago? The UNFPA’s 2010 State of World Population report, released on Wednesday attempted to answer this question inconclusively. The report suggests taking a broader look at the relationships between women and conflict, paying special attention to the role of women in preventing conflict and the role of women in rebuilding after conflict.

Africa

  • The African Union, with support of the European Union and Canada, launched non-combat military exercises in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to improve the continent’s capacity to respond to conflict and enhance peace-keeping operations. The exercises will last ten days and will be attended by more than 200 senior military officers from across Africa.
  • The Chinese government is fighting hard to prevent the publication of a report showing the flow of weapons it sold into Darfur last year despite a ban imposed by the UN Security Council. China has responded angrily to the revelations, insisting that they will block the public release of the report unless its finding are rewritten. Russia and Belarus were both also reported to be supplying weaponry, using signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the weapons would not be used in Darfur. The Sudanese army was angered with the UN peacekeeping chief’s announcement last week that they intend to deploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones. The UN announced on Monday that it is sending 100 more troops to the Abyei region  to step up security. South Sudan’s army complained on Tuesday that the UN failed to report a massive build-up of northern troops around sensitive border areas, warning that war could erupt. One senior official of the Sudanese government said that it is “not possible” to hold a referendum on Abyei on time. The Sudanese government removed the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes on Sunday in an apparent bid to deflect the ICC case against President Al-Bashir for war crimes. On Wednesday it was announced that the Doha peace talks on Darfur peace are moving from negotiations to decision-making in order to finalize a peace agreement. The government announced that they are willing to continue peace talks with other rebel groups that currently boycott the peace process in Doha, but stressed that they must join the negotiation before the end of the year.  UN Security Council diplomats visiting the country witnessed the sight of ground attack jets in Sudan that are a clear violation of the arms embargo. Though the presence of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot jets does not prove they have been used in attacks on Darfuris, their presence was highly suspicious. Sudanese security officials have also been accused of arresting two Darfuri refugees who were seen speaking to the UN envoys during their visit to the region, although, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denies the claims. 
  • Heavy clashes between Somali forces and insurgent fighters left at least 20 people dead on Saturday, but resulted in the government forces defeating the insurgents and taking back the town of Bulo Hawo on Sunday. Al-Shabaab banned the transfer and receipt of cash by mobile phone this week in an effort to weaken Western capitalism in the country, a move that the government said would stifle the economy and hurt entrepreneurs in a country where few hold bank accounts. On Monday, the government security forces initiated an operation of searching for al-Shabaab in the Galgala hills in northern Somalia, apparently seizing four prisoners and two trucks. On Wednesday, the parliamentary speaker postponed a vote to endorse the newly appointed PM after the nation’s assembly descended into chaos with lawmakers shouting at each other whether the vote should be conducted in secret or in the open. It has been announced that the vote will be held on Saturday in secret. On Friday, the African Union asked the UN Security Council to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia in an effort to deter pirates and prevent fighters and shipments from reaching al-Shabaab and other rebel groups. They also announced that Somali soldiers killed at least 27 al-Shabaab militants in clashes along the Kenyan border.
  • Nigerian security forces have arrested the brother of Henry Okah, who was arrested in connection to the deadly October 1st bombings in Abuja, for his suspected funding involvement. Nigerian authorities have also announced that they are beefing up their efforts to contain a radical Islamic sect in the north by launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters with patrols.
  • Guinea’s scheduled October 24th run-off elections remained uncertain for most of the week due to political fighting and violence in the streets. Police opened fire on people in Conakry on Tuesday, killing at least two, after supporters of Presidential candidate Diallo reportedly threw stones at police. The electoral body was said to have lost all credibility and needed to be rebuilt before an election could be held. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be delayed until October 31st, but then later in the day the two candidates announced that they were ready to take part in the vote after authorities named a new election body chief. On Thursday, they again announced that they would not be ready by Sunday as planned.
  • Thousands of women have taken to the streets in eastern DR Congo on Sunday against rising sexual violence in the country. The UN Population Fund reported that there had been more than 17,507 cases of sexual violence attacks in 2009, including more than 9,000 in North and South Kivu. Despite increasing violence, the UN’s pleas for helicopters to patrol the impassable areas of the country, have fallen on deaf ears.
  • Western Sahara’s Polisario independence group sought UN protection from alleged Moroccan repression on Monday as a UN envoy toured the region. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Polisario’s police chief, who was arrested on allegations of treason and espionage.
  • President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe has threatened retaliation if the European Union countries heed the advice of this political rival PM Tsvangirai to expel diplomats that the ruler appointed unilaterally. The current political impasse is threatening the inclusive government formed last February.
  • The government of Ethiopia released leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the country’s most active rebel movement on Saturday as part of the peace accord signed last week in Addis Ababa. The peace deal represents only one part of the fractured ONLF group, with the other rebel faction calling it “irrelevant” and vowing to continue its armed struggle against the government. The Canadian government announced that it was deeply concerned over a report that found that its foreign aid to Ethiopia was being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party. Canada provided more than $150 million to Ethiopia in 2008 and is now calling for a full investigation. Ethiopia rejected these claims on Thursday, saying that “Aid is not wasted in Ethiopia and is distributed effectively to all who require it”.
  • Central African nations affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to form a joint military force to strengthen the fight against the group. The region also agreed on the steps required to declare the LRA a terrorist group, instead of a rebel group, in line with the relevant instruments of the African Union.
  • A Ugandan newspaper published a story featuring the names and photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. Many of those on the list have since faced violence.
  • Ivorian newspapers are reporting rumours of attack in Cote D’Ivoire from ex-fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who are demanding what they say is their war allowance from Gbagbo’s government. Some reports detailed that the militiamen in the western part of the country were threatening to sabotage the political campaign and the October 31st elections.
  • The Rwandan government dismissed a media watchdog report by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday which ranked press freedom within the country alongside authoritarian states such as Burma and North Korea. Rwanda placed 169 out of 178 nations, its worst position since the founding of the index.

Asia

  • On Saturday, a Swedish soldier was killed in an IED attack and a NATO service member was killed in a separate IED attack in Kabul. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in south Afghanistan on Sunday night. On the same evening, collation forces killed four suspected Taliban fighters in an air strike. A series of explosions killed at least two civilians in Kandahar, and two coalition troops were said to have been killed in separate attacks on Sunday.  On Monday, eight Afghan security guards were killed when insurgents attacked their compound in Helmand; three civilians were killed after homemade bombs exploded under a bridge in Herat; three more civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Ghazni; 10 insurgents were reported killed and several more detained after they fired on a joint NATO and Afghan army patrol; and insurgents kidnapped 20 employees of a construction company in Farah, resulting in the death of  two insurgents. On Tuesday, three NATO service members were killed in militant attacks; four Taliban commanders were reported killed in three separate incidents; and 40 Taliban fighters are said to have deserted to the government. Afghan elections officials have announced that ballots from 571 different polling stations in last month’s parliamentary elections may now been disqualified by fraud. On Wednesday it was announced that nearly one-quarter of the ballots were thrown out due to fraud. Also on Wednesday at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 insurgents during an operation in the Ziruk district. On Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in the east; four Afghan policemen were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Herat; and insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan border police in Herat, resulting in the death of one insurgent and one policemen. A detainee being held by NATO troops was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, and by Tuesday a US soldier was in custody in regards to his death. Top Taliban commanders are said to have continued in peace talks with Afghan leaders with the help of NATO troops who brought them from their sanctuaries in Pakistan this week, although some claimed that the negotiations were exaggerated, believing that the peace talks were a ploy to sow distrust among the insurgents.
  • US drone attacks in Pakistan killed nine suspected militants in Pakistan on Saturday. A special election held on Monday to replace a lawmaker who was gunned down in August resulted in the death of between 25-30 people as violent clashes rocked Karachi.  The rival party is boycotting the elections saying they are rigged. On Tuesday at least 27 people were killed in shootouts in Karachi and militants on motorcycles attacked and torched three NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, was shut down for a day of mourning; while six soldiers were wounded after their vehicle hit a landmine in Kalaya; six Taliban were killed by security forces; security forces killed a militant who threw a hand grenade at a police checkpoint in Peshawar; two suspected militants and one police officer were killed in a shootout in Bannu; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers on the Afghan border.  On Thursday, Pakistani police in Quetta rounded up nearly 50 people on suspicions of links with militants and a roadside bomb in the northwest killed six suspected militants. Nearly 150 members of the Pakistani parliament have been suspended by the election commission for not declaring their assets, removing them from attending sessions or voting, in the growing tensions between the government and the judiciary. On Friday, the US announced a $2 billion arms sale with Pakistan to help boost the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The deal would be spread out over the next five years and represents about a 30% increase in US funding for weapon sales to the country. Also on Friday, a roadside bomb killed six paramilitary soldiers in Kalaya and a bomb blast in a mosque killed two people just outside of Peshawar.
  • Tajik security forces claimed to have killed three suspected Islamist militants near the Afghani border on Monday. Tajik government forces have been carrying out operations targeting militants since a September attack on a military convoy. The Tajik government has been accused of increasing repression against independent media in the country.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot and killed two separatist militants on Thursday in a fierce nine-hour firefight. There has been a recent spike in violence after a period of relative decline, and security agencies suspect that it may signal a new rebel strategy to back popular street protests with increased militant attacks on Indian forces. Five policemen were killed in India when Maoist rebels blew up a security patrol on Friday.
  • Thousands of Chinese joined in on sometimes violent protests over a simmering territorial dispute with Japan on Saturday. Chinese authorities are said to have allowed the rowdy demonstrations to prevent the frustrations from being turned against the Chinese regime itself. China’s one child policy has resulted in the forced abortion of many fetuses, with an estimated 13 million reported abortions each year. Women who violate the policy usually pay a fine, but are often sterilised to prevent them from having another child. Activists in China are attempting to create a Chinese “WikiLeaks” project to share secret government documents in an attempt to increase transparency and lead to political reform. Critics worry that project is naive given China’s strict secrecy laws.
  • Thousands of Tibetan students in western China peacefully protested this week against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools. The protests are said to be the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising.
  • Officials announced on Monday that foreign journalists will not be allowed into Myanmar/Burma to cover the country’s first election in 20 years. The election is widely criticized as a sham.
  • Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in Thailand on Sunday demanding the release of their leaders and comrades detained since the April and May protests. The capital is still under a state of emergency, following the deaths of 91 people in the earlier protests.
  • A video allegedly showing Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans, including burning the genitals of one man, were released on Monday. The chief of the Indonesian military said the military would investigate, but given that soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts and military courts only give lenient sentences, those responsible are unlikely to be punished. On Friday, the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic and that the soldiers involved had been “unprofessional”.
  • An opposition party in Kyrgyzstan rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals and violence. The central election commission has yet to announce the final official results after calls for verification delayed the announcement.
  • South Korea announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a North Korean spy who posed as a political defector with the intention of assassinating a former member of the ruling North Korean regime. South Korean officials announced on Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, however, they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing for its third atomic bomb test soon.
  • At least ten people were killed after a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday. The bomb comes just two weeks ahead of the local village elections and is thought may be part of an attempt at extortion. The government named a human rights lawyer to head peace talks with Maoists to end more than 40 years of conflict that has killed about 40,000 people. New President Aquino has said his government would negotiate in good faith as peace was needed to lift economic growth and investor confidence.

Central and North Americas

  • Ten people were killed in the latest drug violence in Mexico. Six people were killed after armed men opened fire at a family party in Ciudad Juarez and another four people died in a shootout between marines and drug cartel members in Monterrey. 
  • The Pentagon experienced a temporary lockdown on Tuesday after shots were fired at the building. Authorities are still investigating. The nearly four year long murder and violent crimes case against private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is in collapse. Federal prosecutors are said to have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecution in American civilian courts, and overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials at the scene.

South America

  • Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a deal on Tuesday with Peruvian President Alan Garcia allowing Bolivia to build and operate a small port, making landlocked Bolivia a new maritime nation. The 1.4 sq. mile patch of sand will be leased from Peru for 99 years. 
  • As you can see, my South American section is always a little under-reported. I would love suggestions on media sites covering South American news available in English! If you have a suggestion, please send it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write it in the comments below. Thanks!

Middle East

  • Israel’s coalition government appears to be in danger of collapse following the failing peace talks and controversial “loyalty law”.  On Sunday, Israel supposedly resumed talks with Hamas rulers on the swapping of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a captive Israeli soldier who has been held for more than four years. Two Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli air raid north of Gaza City on Sunday, in the latest target of alleged terror operatives. The proposed loyalty oath, deemed racist by many critics, will now apply to all new citizens and not just non-Jews. The redrafting of the oath will have little impact, as it does not address the objections of the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians complain that the two-state peace process solution is disappearing, while Israel rejects the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords. Israeli settlers are said to have begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace since the government lifted its moratorium on housing starts, more than four times faster than the last two years. Many of the new homes are also said to be in areas that would more than likely become part of a Palestinian state in any peace scenario.
  • Iran is said to have brokered a critical deal with its Iraqi neighbours that could see a pro-Iranian government installed in the country. The deal involved Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the highest Shia authorities. On Monday, the Iranian city of Esfahan announced that it was now a crime for women to bicycle, roller-skate, or play volleyball in public.
  • The United Arab Emirates has upheld a law allowing a man to “discipline” his wife and children providing that he does not leave physical marks on their bodies. Scholars differ on what constitutes a “beating” but agree it must not be severe.
  • On Saturday, two mortar rounds landed in southern Baghdad, wounding four; a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in Balad, wounding four; and two people were wounded when a sticky bomb went off in Baghdad. At least 12 people are said to have been killed after gunmen stormed gold shops in Baghdad and ended up in a gunfight with security forces, police and military on Sunday; a man was killed after a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad; at least six people were wounded, including three government employees, in separate sticky bomb attacks; a roadside bomb killed one soldier in Baaj; a mortar round wounded a father and son in Mosul; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a teenager in Mosul. A roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq on Monday morning killed a member of Baghdad’s Provincial Council. Also on Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded near a security patrol west of Mosul, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three others; two separate shootings in Diyala Province killed a man and one woman; a magnetic bomb in Baghdad killed one person; and a gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul. On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in Tikrit; a roadside bomb hit a UN convoy, killing one policement in Najaf; gunmen opened fire on a speeding car killing an off-duty bank guard in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed three on a police patrol in Samarra; and a roadside bomb killed two policemen on a roadside patrol in Baghdad while two other bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims. On Wednesday, an off-duty border guard, his wife and three other relatives were killed after armed men forced their way into their house in Mosul; police found the body of an unknown man with bullet wounds in Daquq; armed men in a speeding car opened fire and killed a district mayor of Kirkuk; a bomb next to a railway in Mosul wounded two train drivers; a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded five people; and three people were wounded by a second roadside bomb in Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia 100 km north of Baghdad and another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Baghdad, wounding one policeman and two civilians. On Friday, a sticky bomb killed a militia leader in Garma; gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint wounding two policemen and one soldier in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one civilian in Mosul, while a second roadside bomb killed a soldier; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Mosul; and a roadside bomb wounded a young girl west of Mosul.
  • At least three soldiers were killed in Yemen after armed men ambushed a military convoy in the south on Saturday. The air force responded by bombing the attackers to give the convoy cover on its journey. The following day Yemeni forces bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions killing three suspected militants.
  • The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment. The deal is the largest US arms deal in history.
  • Bahrain is tightening down security ahead of next Saturday’s elections, making it tougher for the Shi’a majority to vote. The Shi’ite population is angered because they want more inclusion in decision making and government ministry jobs.

Europe

  • Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany has reached a new low after German chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that attempts to create a multicultural society have utterly failed this week and that immigrants must do more to integrate. Last week, the Bavarian premier called for a halt to all Turkish and Arabic immigration following polls that suggest that one-third of Germans believed the country was overrun by foreigners and that 55% of Germans believed that Arabs are “unpleasant people”.
  • Massive protests continued in France this week, as workers protested the government’s plan to raise the age of retirement. The protests resulted in fuel pipeline supplies to airports and many gas stations being shut down. The protests were labeled as relatively peaceful, until Tuesday, when youths clashed with riot police in cities across the country. The EU Justice Commissioner announced that the EU will suspend its legal action threatened against France for its expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma populations.
  • Opposition groups and human rights activists in Russia formally applied for permission to hold a mass gathering in Moscow’s Triumph Square on October 31st in their Strategy 31 campaign. Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution theoretically guarantees the freedom of assembly, but previous attempts by the opposition and activist groups have been thwarted by authorities. The European Court of Human Rights slapped a fine on Russia on Thursday for banning homosexual rallies in Moscow, stating that the government had denied the right of assembly, discriminated against sexual orientation and denied activists their right to redress. Russia has announced on Tuesday that it is considering a proposal to help develop a US led anti-missile shield for Europe.
  • Gunmen stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, killing at least 6 people. The insurgents detonated a bomb at the gates, killing himself, then two insurgents ran into the building opening fire. They tried to enter the main parliamentary hall, but were unable to do so, and so barricaded themselves in the ground floor, eventually blowing themselves up.
  • One policeman and three militants were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria province. An Islamist insurgency is said to have spread out of Daghestan and Chechnya.
  • Russian troops have pulled out of a Georgian village that has been occupied for the past two years in South Ossetia. Both Georgia and the EU had objections to the occupation. Russia said it would withdraw after the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva, calling it an act of goodwill and a test of Georgian restraint.
  • Turkey has began the trials of more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, who have suspected links with the rebel group Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK). Critics say the trial is aimed at silencing Kurds who are fighting for autonomy in the country.
  • The junior partner in Kosovo’s ruling coalition announced on Saturday that it was quitting the government amidst a deepening political crisis. The political stalemate will delay EU sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former province.
  • The British military announced severe budget cuts on Tuesday to the amount of 8% cut to the annual 37 billion pound defense budget over four years. These cuts will delay the program to upgrade its nuclear defenses, reduce the number of forces it can deploy on combat missions and cut thousands of troops.
  • A new survey in the Ukraine found that one in five Ukrainians are willing to sell his or her vote in the upcoming local elections scheduled for October 31st. Less than one in ten believe that the local elections will be fair.


This week in conflict…

This week in conflict…

World

Africa

  • Rwanda’s election process saw President Paul Kagame win again by a landslide amid a climate of repression. Opposition candidates were arrested and media silenced in advance of the elections. Kagame is said to have won 93% of the votes, and even as much as 100% of the votes in some districts. His team began celebrating the victory before the polls had even closed. Two days later Kigali was struck by a grenade attack that injured at least 20 people.
  • The Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has warned the UN mission and aid missions in Darfur that they will face expulsion if they do not support his government authorities. On Wednesday, gunmen killed 23 people, including police officers in an ambush on a truck in the south. On Wednesday, an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in western Darfur was reported, though it was not clear who fired the shots.
  • Government forces in Puntland, Somalia have made two military offensives against allies of the Shabab militant group killing at least 21. The UN warns that the long-running conflict in Somalia is spreading beyond its borders and becoming increasingly concerning.
  • 2,000 illegal miners stormed a mining site in the DR Congo burning trucks and stealing copper from Tenke Fungurume mine. 32 have been arrested.
  • The Central African Republic pleaded for the UN Security Council for help just as the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission MINURCAT is coming to an end. Concerns of rebellion, banditry and inter-ethnic conflict still loom.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army has abducted at least 697 people, nearly one third of who are children, in central Africa in the last 18 months according to a human rights group investigation despite previous assurance from the government of the DRC that the LRA has been decreasing its violence. At least 255 of those abducted were killed, often by crushing their skulls with clubs. Up to 74,000 people have been forced to flee the situation in the CAR and Congo.

Asia

Middle East

North America

  • More than 1,000 Mexican journalists marched through the capital to protest the killing and disappearance of their colleagues in the escalating drug violence that is increasingly targeting reporters.
  • The confessions of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen charged with terrorism, can be used as evidence at his trial even though they may have been obtained through torture. Khadr stands to be the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes in modern history, as under international law, children captured in war are to be treated as victims and not perpetrators. His trial, which was to start this week, was delayed for the next 30 days after his lawyer collapsed from illness in the courtroom and had to be medevaced out of Guantanamo Bay.
  • The US appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocks Massachusetts schools from using literature that denies the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 was a genocide.

South America

  • Colombia has sworn in a new president who has vowed that he is willing to hold talks with leaders of Farc, the country’s rebel group and reconstruct relations with Venezuela and Ecuador.
  • A suspected car bomb exploded in Bogota injuring four people on Thursday.
  • Suriname swore in its “new” president Desi Bouterse on Thursday. Bouterse, who was previously in power following a 1980 coup, ruled the country from 1980-7 and 1990-1. He was accused of violating fundamental human rights and the murders of 5 journalists during his time as dictator.
  • Peru’s indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, who the government accuses of starting an Amazonian uprising that killed 33 people, is considering running for president next year.
  • The families of 32 Mapuche prisoners have been on a month-long hunger strike in southern Chile over trial irregularities for the twenty self-declared political prisoners imprisoned over land conflicts.

Europe

  • All of the major European countries are planning mass expulsions of Roma populations and demolitions of Roma settlements. Even though they are European citizens, the Roma are now threatened with expulsion, in breach of the EU basic right to free movement. Some rights group worry that such an action is tantamount to the criminalization of an entire ethnic group.
  • Three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion in southeastern Turkey on Sunday. On Monday Turkish soldiers killed 5 Kurdish militants in a firefight after discovering guerrillas laying mines and on Tuesday another 2 people were killed after a pipeline was blown up by Kurdish militants.
  • Russia has deployed an S-300 air defense missile system over the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia complained of the strengthening military control over these territories that it insists are still an integral part of Georgian territory.
  • North Caucasus rebel groups have begun to split ranks after the contradictory statements of resignation of leader Doku Umarov last week. Chechen field commanders have announced that they are rescinding their oath of loyalty.
  • Four former Bosnian Serb army soldiers have been charged with genocide for crimes committed during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The four are said to have assisted in the deaths of at least 800 people.

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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