flotilla

This week in conflict… October 9th-15th, 2010.

World

  • The UN pre-talks for the world climate summit in China ended in disappointment as negotiators from 177 countries fought over the main aspect of how to finance climate protection and the legal form of a future global climate agreement. The six days of negotiations were marred by open conflicts between the US and China, with the Chinese holding the US and other developed nations responsible for the apparent deadlock in negotiations. 
  • The top UN official fighting to end the recruitment of child soldiers appealed to governments to provide the necessary resources to ensure the reintegration of children into civil society once they have been freed. A new report released this week outlines some of the successes over the past year, and some of the major challenges facing children in war zones.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined measures to strengthen the UN’s role in helping countries emerging from conflict to maintain peace and entrench stability in a report released on Thursday. He also spoke of the need to provide UN staff deployed in crisis situations with proper training to enable them to perform the full range of their responsibilities.
  • India, Germany, South Africa, Colombia and Portugal will all take their place on the UN Security Council for their term after being elected to two-year terms. The council is made up of 5 permanent veto-holding members — France, Russia, China, the UK and the US, as well as 10 non-permanent members. Brazil, Gabon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Lebanon are all on the council until 2011. Canada abruptly withdrew from the contest allowing Portugal to take its place, after neither won the required votes (128 votes) for victory (Portugal with 113 votes and Canada with 78 votes).
  • NATO’s secretary-general has urged member states to endorse a proposed anti-missile system that would link alliance members into a common network, saying it was NATO’s responsibility to build “modern defenses against modern threats”. NATO defense and foreign ministers held a rare joint session in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a draft of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance, which is expected to focus on new threats including missiles from hostile states, terrorism and cyberattacks ahead of the Lisbon summit in November.
  • The UN is owed $4.1 billion by member nations with the US accounting for more than a quarter of that figure, officials announced on Thursday. Chile, Iran, Mexico, and Venezuela accounted for 9% of the arrears, and another 68 countries made up 3%  of the arrears. Only 13 countries out of 192 have paid their contributions.

Africa

  • French authorities have arrested a leader of the FDLR who is accused of carrying out mass rapes in the DR Congo. ICC chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest was a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC. On Thursday, a senior UN official said the UN Security Council should consider sanctioning Lieutenant Colonel Serafim of the FDLR over the rapes of hundreds of villagers in the east in August as well. Those who were raped by rebels over the summer are said to now be facing the same abuse from Government troops.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is reported to have ambushed a town in northern Central African Republic, abducting young girls, looting and setting shops on fire in what the UNHCR has described as intensified attacks since September. The group is said to have committed more than 240 deadly attacks this year, displacing thousands.
  • A new school to train soldiers of about a dozen African countries in peacekeeping operations has been launched in the Congo (Brazzaville) with financial support from France. The school is set to train hundreds of students a year.
  • The former deputy leader of Niger’s ruling military government was arrested on Wednesday, just days after his post as the junta’s number two leader was eliminated. It was not immediately clear why the leader was arrested.
  • Sudan’s president has accused the country’s southern autonomous leadership of breaching terms of a peace deal and warned that civil war could re-erupt if the two sides did not settle their disputes before the secession referendum. On Friday, a UN panel said that plans for the referendums are being hampered by delays, poor funding and negatively charged atmosphere of threats and accusations. The latest round of talks between the north and the south over the oil-producing Abyei region have failed to reach an agreement just 90 days before the referendum to decide its fate. South Sudan independence supporters clashed with riot police and northern pro-unity campaigners in Khartoum on Saturday, highlighting the risk that simmering tensions might boil over. The president in South Sudan has asked the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers and set up a buffer zone along the north-south border ahead of the independence vote to help keep the peace and on Wednesday, the UN Security Council announced that peacekeepers could create limited buffer zones in hotspots along the north-south border, but were not capable of patrolling the entire border. On Tuesday, the UN-supported disarmament drive in the far south began, as the first of some 2,600 people set to be disarmed were disarmed, registered and issued certificates. On Thursday it was announced that the vote on whether the district of Abyei should be part of the north or the south will be delayed, as feared. Local residents responded by saying that a delay is unacceptable and that they may hold their own vote without the government. On Thursday, a renegade army commander began reconciliation talks with the president of South Sudan, as part of a new push to end southern divisions.
  • Gunmen in northern Nigeria shot and killed an Islamic scholar on Saturday after he had been openly critical of a radical sect behind a series of recent killings. Recent killings of police officers, traditional leaders and politicians in the area have raised fears that a radical Islamic group Boko Haram, are staging a comeback. Late Monday night, a police station was destroyed in an attack blamed on the group, after attackers deployed home-made bombs. On Wednesday, Boko Haram gave the government five conditions to be implemented for peace to be restored to their region: that the government stop arresting, intimidating and detaining their members; release all their members that are currently in detention unconditionally; allow their fleeing members to return home unmolested; give back all their places of worship, and denounce all forms of injustice. On Friday, a militant group announced it planned to carry out another bomb attack in Abuja this month, giving seven days of notice of the attack.
  • A Ugandan court has dismissed treason charges against Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, paving the way for him to run against the president in the 2011 election. The opposition leader had gone into exile after losing to President Museveni in the 2001 presidential polls.
  • Guinea’s presidential hopeful, Cellou Dallein Diallo is still opposed to taking part in a run-off election on October 24th, despite having agreed to share power with his opponent whoever wins. Last week, Diallo announced that he would not participate in the election unless the head of the electoral commission was removed. The two main political rivals agreed to share power regardless of who wins, by including the loser in government.
  • Ethiopia has signed a peace deal on Tuesday to end 20 years of war with a rebel faction in the Ogaden region, however, the deal remains unsure, as a spokesman for a rival wing of the rebel group called the deal “irrelevant”. Ethiopian authorities have said that the deal represents 80% of the fighters.
  • Heavy fighting in Somalia’s capital left more than 20 dead on Wednesday as soldiers clashed with al-Shabaab fighters. A mortar hit the main Bakara market killing 5 civilians, as the fighting escalated. The Somali President named a Somali-American to replace the Prime Minister who resigned last month on Thursday. The previous PM is said to have resigned after intense pressure from the president following a long-standing dispute. A Briton working for Save the Children in Somalia was kidnapped by masked Somali gunmen on Thursday, along with a Somali native who was later released. Witnesses say heavy fighting between government troops and al-Shabaab rocked the capital on Friday with civilian casualties.
  • Egypt’s telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages just ahead of the legislative elections that prohibit companies from sending out text messages en masse without obtaining licenses. Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilize voters, as they have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organize and mobilize their supporters to sidestep government harassment.
  • Rwanda’a leading opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was re-arrested on Thursday after allegations that investigations into a former rebel commander facing terrorism charges also implicate her. Ingabire had returned to Rwanda to contest the presidential elections this year, but was barred from standing, after being accused of crimes linked to genocide denial.
  • A top rebel leader in Cote D’Ivoire announced that the identity cards being issued to voters ahead of the October 31st election end once and for all the dispute which split the nation in two. The 2002-3 rebellion was largely driven by a row over citizenship rights.  The UN Security Council renewed its arms, financial and travel sanctions to the country for six months on Friday, as well as a ban on trade in rough diamonds.
  • Eleven miners at a coal mine in Zambia were shot after protesting over what they said were poor pay and conditions on Friday. Police are said to be investigating the Chinese owners of Collum Mine Ltd. but have yet to arrest anyone.
  • Seven presidential candidates are to take part in the October general elections in Tanzania. The current president warned candidates to run peaceful elections campaigns and avoid any action that could cause chaos.
  • The Zimbabwean Prime Minister and his deputy boycotted cabinet this week, in escalating political tensions in the shaky inclusive government. Sources say the PM is angry over the President’s unilateral decision to appoint new governors and other arbitrary appointments, triggering a constitutional crisis.

Asia

  • The wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been placed under house arrest in China following Liu’s win late last week, along with more than 30 other intellectuals. Censors blacked out any foreign broadcasts of the win, and police were mobilized to quell any sign of domestic support. China also canceled its meeting with the Norwegian fisheries minister, living up to its promise that the move to award the dissident Liu the Prize would harm relations between the countries. On Tuesday, the government canceled another meeting with Norwegian officials, claiming that the award was an affront to the Chinese people and a ploy to try and change the country’s political system. Also on Tuesday, a group of retired Communist Party officials and intellectuals issued an unusually blunt demand for total press freedom in China, stating that the current censorship and control violated China’s Constitution. More than 100 Chinese Christians seeking to attend an international evangelical conference in South Africa have been barred from leaving the country because their churches are not sanctioned by the government.
  • Police sealed off residential areas and reimposed the round-the-clock curfew in Kashmir again on Tuesday in an attempt to pre-empt the first anti-India rally since authorities announced concessions to end violent protests. The hardline separatist leader in Kashmir called on residents to defy the curfew and go into the streets.
  • Detained Myanmar/Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that she will not vote in the upcoming elections, even though authorities have told her she is on the electoral roll. Suu Kyi’s party was dissolved because it declined to reregister for an election it considered unfair and undemocratic and she has said that her ability to vote is unlawful, as convicted people are prohibited from voting.
  • North Korea put on the largest military parade it has ever had on Sunday in front of Kim Jong-il and his successor son Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam announced his opposition to the hereditary transfer of leadership to his younger brother on Tuesday. It is suspected Kim Jong-nam, who fell out of favor after an embarrassing attempt to enter Japan to visit Disneyland in 2001, will not likely return to the country. On Friday North Korea vowed to attack South Korea if it resumed its propaganda war along the border, which was recently resumed.
  • Militants set fire to at least 29 fuel tankers in Pakistan in the latest assault on NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, which were reopened by Pakistani authorities on Saturday. Another truck was ambushed on Friday, killing two people. On Sunday, two US drones fired four missiles into a house, killing seven militants. Militants are said to have blown up three school buildings late Saturday, with no reported casualties. Pakistani security forces began a fresh military operation in the northwestern part of the country on Tuesday to comb for militants believed to have fled from the nearby Swat region. On Thursday, Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants who were allegedly plotting to kill the prime minister and other top government officials.
  • Fourteen suspected terrorists were captured during a special operation in a northern area of Tajikistan on Tuesday.  The Tajik government offered an amnesty to armed groups fighting government troops in the east on Tuesday if they declare a cease-fire. Two field commanders and 27 members of armed groups reportedly took the amnesty, agreeing to lay down their weapons and join forces with government troops to hunt down foreign militants on Friday.
  • Four Italian soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Saturday. The British PM announced on Monday that a British hostage who had been reported killed by captors, may have been accidentally killed by troops attempting to save her. On Tuesday, an unknown explosion of a grounded helicopter resulted in the death of at least one ISAF member, an air strike in a northern province killed two insurgents, an ISAF member died following an IED attack in the south, six Afghan civilians died in a rocket attack by insurgents, and two Afghan soldiers were killed in separate attacks. On Wednesday, seven NATO troops were killed in three separate attacks. On Thursday, at least 8 NATO troops were killed in five separate insurgent attacks. On Friday, NATO-led forces are said to have facilitated the passage of a senior Taliban commander to Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.
  • Five parties are said to have won seats in Kyrgyzstan’s new Parliament following last week’s election. The results would mean that the ruling nationalist party will be unable to govern on their own after winning just 8.69% of the votes. Twenty-nine parties contested the polls. On Tuesday, the United Kyrgyzstan party announced that it will hold nationwide protests to challenge the official results after it failed to clear the threshold to get into parliament. On Wednesday, an angry crowd attacked a defendant and three relatives of another defendant in trials related to the June violence in the south, following a series of similar attacks earlier in the week on other defendants.
  • Thousands of Thai anti-government activists gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the release of protesters detained for their role in demonstrations and military clashes, breaking the state of emergency rules. Riot police surrounded the site, but there were no reports of violence amid the protests. On Thursday, four people were shot dead in the restive deep south in separate attacks. Police blamed the Malay Muslim rebels for the attacks.
  • Azerbaijan is said to be boosting its military defense spending next year by 90%. The country is in talks with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabkh, which it lost to Armenian-backed forces in conflicts in 1991 and the President has claimed that his country should get the region back one day.

Central and North America

  • Suspected drug hitmen in Mexico have ambushed a group of traffic police patrolling a highway on Monday, killing eight officers. Thirteen more people were killed between Tuesday and Thursday in the border city of Tijuana, including several decapitated bodies found hanging upside down from bridges. More than 2,000 police have been killed since 2006, and more than 29,000 in drug violence in Mexico. 
  • Canada has lost the use of a United Arab Emirates military camp near Dubai from which it supported its troops in Afghanistan in an escalation of a dispute over landing rights. The decision has been tied with the failed efforts of UAE to convince Canadian authorities to allow its two major airlines to increase flights to Canada.
  • The Haitian UN peacekeeping mission voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed in advance of next month’s elections. The MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission called on all candidates in the election to think of the country’s future and programmes that will restore hope to the people. Demonstrators have blocked the entrance to the UN military headquarters in Haiti, spraying anti-UN slogans on vehicles trying to enter on Friday, calling it an “occupation” and angry at the lack of security and assistance they offer to average Haitians. This violence comes the day after the UN announced it would keep its force in Haiti for at least another year.
  • An American Federal judge ordered a halt to the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the US military. Critics worry that the order may not make it through a Congressional vote, as an earlier attempt was defeated in the Senate this year. In a separate case, a judge ruled that the government cannot coerce a detainee to provide information for intelligence purposes and then use the evidence in criminal proceedings, in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The judge did not express an opinion on the constitutionality of government agents using coercive methods to gain intelligence. The US is also in the process of reviewing its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that lays out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the world’s indigenous populations.

South America

  • The Argentinian government has condemned a planned British military exercise in the Falkland Islands, calling the plan an “unacceptable provocation”. The Argentinian deputy foreign minister demanded that the exercises be canceled. 
  • An Ecuadorean court issued an order authorizing the jailing of 12 police officers for their role in the police uprising last week, that the President has called an attempted coup. The lawyer for the police officers said that his clients were being swept up in a “witch hunt”.
  • Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has begun a tour of seven nations, including Russia, Iran and Libya to discuss issues ranging from nuclear power and tanks to olive oil. In the past three years Chavez has bought at least $5 billion in weapons, including fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile systems and tanks from Russia.
  • Peruvian police have arrested a top commander of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group in an operation that also killed two rebel fighter on Wednesday. Police raids in the coca growing regions are part of an effort by the government to stamp out the remnant bands of Shining Path fighters and eradicate crops of coca, the raw material for cocaine.

Middle East

  • It was reported this week that at least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops over the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the border. Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the no-go area. The Israeli Prime Minister is said to have offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on Monday. The offer was met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials, calling the two issues unrelated. Palestinians, backed by Arab powers, have given the US one month to persuade Israel to halt the building of settlements or risk the complete collapse of peace talks. On Wednesday, Palestinian authorities requested a map from the US showing where Israel sees its final borders and making clear whether they include Palestinian land and homes. Israel issued the building tenders for 238 new housing units in East Jerusalem on Thursday, which many called choosing “settlements over peace”. Lawyers representing relatives of those who died in the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May are urging the ICC to pursue those responsible, citing that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.
  • Two apparently synchronized bombs exploded in southern Yemen on Monday, killing 2 people and wounding 12 others. The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced the formation of a new army that would free the country of “crusaders and their apostate agents”. On Tuesday, police arrested 19 al-Qaeda members who were accused of Monday’s attacks. On Thursday, the governor of Abyan escaped an assassination attempt by suspected al-Qaeda mlitants, and the chief of police in an Abyan district was killed in an attack.
  • Iran has announced that it is ready to hold talks with six major powers over its nuclear programme in late October or early November. The US and its European allies fear Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a cover to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapons.
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday to visit the southern region near the Israeli border in a trip said to emphasize Iranian support for Hezbollah’s fight with Israel. Both the US and Israel called his trip intentionally provocative.
  • Gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms broke into the homes of their own clan members on Monday and killed four people for informing on al Qaeda. Also on Monday, a senior police officer was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad,  a group of gunmen opened fire on a currency exchange office in Baghdad which killed five people, and three gunmen stormed a policeman’s house and killed him in Falluja. On Tuesday, gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three Iraqi army security checkpoints in western Baghdad that killed one soldier, Iraqi forces killed a civilian by mistake in near Mosul as they chased smugglers near the border, and a roadside bomb wounded two Iraqi soldiers as it exploded during their patrol near Mosul. On Wednesday, four bombs exploded in western Baghdad, at least four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol, a bomb attached to a government car wounded two of its passengers and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an employee of a state-run oil company. New US military statistics have placed the death toll for Iraqi civilians and security forces at 77,000 from January 2004-October 31, 2008, well below the count by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry figure of 85,694 for the same period.
  • Twenty-three Shia activists were charged in Bahrain on Wednesday with terrorism and conspiring against the government, who are among hundreds of Shia opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Shias are the majority in Bahrain, but have long complained of discrimination from the Sunni government.

Europe

  • A dramatic rise in violent attacks on small town mayors in Sardinia, Italy has been linked to soaring job losses due to factory closures and the sheep market slump. A social services office was bombed, a shotgun was fired at the home of a mayor, a car belonging to a council official was burned, and a horse of a mayor was shot dead with its ears and tongue cut off.
  • Riot police clashed with protesting Culture Ministry workers who barricaded the ancient Acropolis in Greece on Thursday. Workers complained that they were owed up to 24 months’ worth of back pay and faced dismissal when their contracts expire at the end of the month.
  • Clashes between far-right supporters and gay pride marchers rocked Belgrade, in Serbia on Sunday. Thousands of police officers sealed the streets and clashed with the rioters who were attempting to break through the security. Rioters also fired shots and hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic party, along with the state TV building and other political parties’ headquarters. Serbia’s Appeals Court removed a war crimes conviction against a Bosnian official on Monday in a move that is said could ease ties between the two former Yugoslav states. Official relations worsened in 2007 after Serbia arrested Ilija Jurisic on charges that he ordered an attack on a column of the Yugoslav People’s Army that killed at least 50 soldiers. On Tuesday a soccer match between Serbia and Italy ended in clashes and the hospitalization of 16 people after Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and at Italian fans.
  • One man was killed after a group of Muslims were attacked as they left a mosque in Abkhazia on Monday. The attackers opened fire from a passing car. This is the third attack against Muslims in Abkhazia in the last two months.
  • Russia’s main pro-Kremlin party are said to have won an overwhelming victory in local elections across the country on Sunday, but observers say the results are unsurprising as the vote was rigged. Claims of buying votes, ballot-stuffing, increased pressure on journalists and human rights activists from authorities during the campaign and the refusal of registration faced by independent candidates marred the results. On Tuesday, Russian authorities detained around 30 people for holding an unsanctioned rally to demand an end to naming mayors and regional governors instead of by elections.
  • Russia and Georgia have resumed internationally mediated talks in Geneva aimed at preventing another flare-up of violence following their brief 2008 war. The talks also include representatives from the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and is set to last one day.
  • Three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and two soldiers in Turkey were killed in two days of fighting. The fighting comes despite a one-sided ceasefire declared by the PKK.
  • Moldova has become the latest country to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. The treaty enters into force in January.
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This week in conflict… September 17th-24th, 2010.

World

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

Africa

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

Asia

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

Middle East

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

North and Central America

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

South America

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

Europe

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

This week in conflict…

I decided to start a new type of post on a Peace of Conflict reviewing conflict situations in the world on a somewhat weekly basis. I figured, I read this stuff every week anyway– I might as well share it with readers in condensed form.

Here’s some of what’s happening in the world of conflict this week:

World

Asia

Europe

  • A bomb explosion in a Ukrainian church killed one person and injured 8 others. Officials are so far keeping quiet on suspected responsibility for the bomb as they investigate.
  • Germany has charged a suspected former Nazi guard with helping to murder 430,000 Jews at a death camp in Poland during WWII. The 90 year old will also testify against suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk. Samuel Kunz denies all charges and of ever working as a prison guard for the Nazis.
  • A Russian police officer, tired of the constant corruption within the policing system, appealed to Putin for action via YouTube only to be immediately fired, arrested and charged last November. He recently gave the New York Times a tour of some luxury homes of top ranking police officers as he now regularly speaks out about the corruption within the force.
  • Shootouts in Russia’s Dagestan resulted in the death of at least five people, including a village head and a policeman.
  • Serbia asked the UN on Wednesday to review the independence of Kosovo, following last week’s World Court ruling that the 2008 secession from Serbia did not violate international law. A Serbian ex-policeman was indicted for crimes against civilians, including children, committed in Sarajevo during the 1992-5 war.

Middle East

Africa

  • 20,000 grenades were destroyed in Burundi by the Mines Advisory Group in an effort to reduce armed violence. Grenades are a popular choice for violence in the country involving nearly 22% of all armed violence registered in the country in 2008.
  • Fighting continued in Somalia with reports of at least 17 civilians being killed in fighting between the Somali government and al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, 13 militia killed in clashes in Puntland and thousands displaced. The UN welcomed the African Union’s decision to send 2,000 more peacekeeping troops into the country.
  • Former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court will remain in jail after proceedings were suspended on July 15th. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to his Union of Congolese Patriots. Calls for his release, after the prosecutor failed to comply with an order to turn over information to the defense were denied.
  • Mali is up in arms about the recent French-backed Mauritanian raid of an al-Qaeda base within their country, calling it an “unannounced declaration of war”.
  • Sudan’s army was accused of killing at least two civilians during a raid on a refugee camp on Wednesday and burning some of the camps full of internally displaced persons.

North America

Central and South America

Freedom Flotilla and Israeli rights of self-defense

So, in the past I have neglected to write directly on Israeli/Palestinian issues because of the overwhelming hatred and backlash that seems to follow anything that is written on the subject and the claims of bias, antisemitism, brainwashing or worse. I feel now, however, that I should write something, since the “facts” I keep reading are often ludicrous and so shrouded in propaganda that I’m frustrated beyond belief and have been ranting non-stop on the issue since the attack took place. I’m going to try my very hardest to be as impartial as possible… though, given the situation, this will be difficult for me.

On May 31st, 2010, a flotilla destined for Israel’s Gaza strip was embarked by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), resulting in the death of at least 9 people (other reports I’ve seen say at least 19) and injuring many more. The exact numbers of deaths and injuries so-far remains shrouded in secrecy. The remaining 400 or so (again, I’ve seen other reports as high as 610) people on board were immediately escorted and allegedly given a choice to be instantly deported, or be detained and possibly imprisoned in Israel. Many simply refused to give their names or identification and will be detained. One hundred and twenty have so far been deported and the rest are said to be held in Beersheba or being given care in hospitals throughout the country. The attack happened in international waters, some 70-150 km off the coast of Israel (again, disputed reports), an act which has subsequently been called piracy by many onlookers. But Israeli military spokesperson Avital Leibovich has stated that the attack may have “happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves“.

The question remains whether this ship was bound for violence or an actual humanitarian venture. Some claim that the so-called humanitarians are actually Hamas supporters bringing in weapons, who intended the outcome, and perhaps even opened arms on themselves; self-sustaining their injuries to gain sympathy for the cause. They even show the terror of a dozen or so kitchen knives, utility knives, wrenches and other “weapons” on board the ship that could have potentially brought harm to the fully armed and trained IDF. Grainy videos show some people (we’re told IDF forces) being attacked by supposed grenades and other such weapons, but it’s hard to really tell the true situation from just these few minutes of video. Others see this as a massacre, just another blatant misuse of force by the Israeli forces, who are taught to shoot first and ask questions later.

What does appear clear to me is that the flotilla was looking for a protest demonstration and had decided that a confrontation would gain them the most international media, which is why they continued towards Israel while the five other ships in their convoy were halted and inspected without incident. Did the passengers expect the level of violence they received and were they ready to defend their cargo at all costs? This remains to be seen.

The passenger list of the ship, however, opens these thoughts to scruitiny. According to Turker Kaan Cetin who was released from Israeli custody along with her 13-month-old-baby, about half the people on the boat were women. The ship was also said to be transporting many renowned world leaders and approximately 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies. Would Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, former US Representative Cynthia McKinney, 81 year old former US ambassador to Mauritania and deputy director of former US President Reagan’s White House task force against terrorism Edward Peck, two German MPs, a retired US army colonel, and lawmakers from a dozen European countries be on a mission to supply Hamas with arms? Would these people submit to opening fire on and attacking the Israeli Defense Forces with such violence? Would such a ship have the blessing and endorsement of Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu? Maybe. It is possible that the ship also contained terrorists and commandos who accompanied these leaders with the intent to discredit Israel. But what would these leaders have to gain from being associated with such violence? Why would they submit to such action willingly?

So far, it seems that the contradicting videos of the incident can not definitively say who attacked who first aboard the ship; however we must remember, the Israeli military stopped, boarded and attacked a Turkish-flagged ship in international waters. Normally this type of action could be seen as a blatant act of war. The only reasonable justification for boarding a ship in international waters is if the ship causes an imminent threat to the state (ie. it is about to bomb the state or other such extreme military action), and in that case, the action taken against the ship must be absolutely necessary and proportionate.

Some reports suggest that the passengers were barraged with bullets even as they waved a white flag of surrender. Did the ships passengers have the right to defend themselves from such an attack? Or did the IDF have the right to invade the ship in international waters to protect themselves and their country? Had the IDF stopped the flotilla within the 3-mile limit covered under maritime law, the flotilla’s resistance could have been prosecuted under both international and Israeli law and the passengers would have had no leg to stand on. However, it did not happen in this manner.

Claims were made that the 10,000 ton shipment posed a risk to Israeli security. So what was actually found in that shipment? Children’s toys, medicines, text books, wheel chairs… but so far, no weapons have been revealed as part of the shipment in the media. Some have charged that the contents of the shipment were not the issue, but rather the flotilla’s denial of explicit offers to deliver the aid through land crossings so that it could undergo scruitiny and inspection to ensure Israel’s safety. Many would argue that much needed supplies are routinely stopped at the borders and denied to the Gazan citizenry and that they only way to get the materials to those in need was to break the blockade.

Israel’s deputy Defense Minister has hinted that Israel sabotaged the other ships that were scheduled to accompany the Freedom Flotilla, while the Israeli PM paints the blockage of the flotilla as a “clear case of self-defense“. Interestingly, the PM also suggests in his statement that Israel has “no argument of fight with the population of Gaza. We are interested in allowing them to continue their regular routines.” The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, however, seem to show otherwise, with reports that 61% of Gazans are “food insecure” and that the level of anemia in infants is as high as 65.5%. Other UN statistics show that about 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water. Much of the population remains unemployed and thus have no money to buy supplies for themselves. They live in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison, unable to move freely or have free access to many of the necessities of life. The UN resolution 1860 calls for the unfettered access of aid and commercial goods to Gaza, although it would appear this call has been mostly ignored by the Israeli government’s blockade. An apparent 15,000 tons of supplies reaches Gaza each week, but clearly, this is either not enough for the 1.5 million Gazans, or is not reaching those who need it most. Since this debacle, Egypt has open the Rafah border crossing, which has been closed since 2007,  to allow medical and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, and enable those in need of medical treatment to pass through.

Israel has lost many of its “friends” with this action, most namely its last real Muslim ally, Turkey. The ship was heavily populated with Turkish citizenry, was waving a Turkish flag, and most of the dead and those now being held are thought to be of Turkish nationality. Since the attack, the Turkish government has recalled its Israeli ambassador, canceled their joint military exercises and warned of unprecedented and incalculable reprisals. They have vowed that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, only this time they will be escorted by the Turkish navy. The Turkish government has also called on the US to condemn the raid and support their fellow NATO-member against this “act of aggression” (much as the US called upon NATO to assist them after the 9/11 acts of aggression). If Turkey were to invoke the NATO charter in this case of what they call a blatant attack, and the US were to ignore it, it would surely mean an end to NATO. All is not lost however, as the planned delivery of $180 million worth of Israeli-made Heron drones will still make their way to Turkey. Good thing they still care enough about each other to share war devices.

Despite the propaganda that surrounds this issue, UN ambiguity in wording of their resolution calling for a credible investigation into the killing leaves the possibility of Israel investigating themselves in their possible crimes. US deputy UN ambassador Alejandro Wolff, “We are convinced and support an Israeli investigation, as I called for in my statement earlier. And, have every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial and transparent, prompt, investigation internally.” Clearly, the only way to get to the “truth” would be if the investigation were done by an independent, impartial body, but sadly, it appears the truth will never be told and those responsible may never see justice.

A second ship, the MV Rachel Corrie (named for the American activist murdered by bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes in Israel in 2003) is still bound for Israel, carrying more humanitarian goods for the Gazan population. We can only hope another such tragedy does not occur this time around.