human rights

This Week in the World of Conflict… March 5th-12th, 2012.

  • Brandeis University in Massachusetts is offering a Master’s Program in Coexistence and Conflict with several scholarship opportunities. The program is geared towards professionals.
  • The Summer Peacebuilding Institute in Harrisonburg, Virginia is still open for the 2012 year. The institute offers courses in development, humanitarian assistance, monitoring awareness, restorative justice, social movements, community organizing, trauma awareness, mediation and many others from May 7th– June 15th.
  • The Italian branch of the hacking collective Anonymous reportedly took down the Vatican website on Wednesday in retaliation for the “corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. It was revealed this week that a leader hacker with the Anonymous-linked LulzSec allegedly agreed to work with the American FBI after pleading to 12 charges of computer hacking last August.
  • Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs announced his intention to be the next president of the World Bank as the current head is near the end of his term. Sachs hopes to change the mistakes of the past and provide a leadership of development experts instead of Wall Street, bankers and politicians. On Wednesday, an insider in the Obama administration said that former American White House adviser Lawrence Summers, diplomat Susan Rice and PepsiCo Inc CEO Indra Nooyi are on a “short list” of possible American candidates to head the World Bank.
  • Several Muslim and African countries reportedly walked out of a Human Rights Council panel set up to tackle the issue of murder and violence against gays and lesbians around the world.
  • The German Chancellor announced on Tuesday that she had received assurances from the Brazilian President that Brazil would take part in a recapitalization of the International Monetary Fund. Brazil has urged Europe to stabilize the euro before the IMF can boost its own capital and release more funds for struggling euro zone states like Greece.
  • The UN Development Programme released a report on the need to strengthen justice and security for peace around the world.
  • UNICEF and the World Health Organization released a report on Tuesday that claimed that the world had met the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well in advance of the 2015 deadlines.
  • New psychological research at Cornell University suggests that people don’t always have the capacity to recognize the best political candidate or policy idea, especially if they incompetent in the subject, which results in democratic elections that produce mediocre leadership and policies.
  • In the wake of March 10th‘s International Women’s Day, many sites reminded us of statistics showing how the gender imbalance is still alive and thriving, particularly in the aid sector; while the US State Department chose 10 honorees for the 2012 International Women of Courage ceremony. Top UN officials proposed a UN global conference on women for 2015, 20 years after the last women’s summit in Beijing.
  • The UN cultural agency UNESCO voted on Thursday to remove the name of Equatorial Guinea’s President from the Obiang Prize for science and replace it with that of his country, bowing to pressure over his human rights record.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the world has been able to meet some of the UN goals of reducing poverty and raising living standards in developing nations, though some regions are not reaping many benefits.
  • The United Nations unveiled new guidelines on Friday to help mediators address the problem of sexual violence in conflict by placing the issue high on the agenda when brokering peace agreements and ceasefires.
  • Judge Song was reportedly re-elected as President of the International Criminal Court and judges Monageng and Tarfusser elected as First and Second VPs. Several other new judges were sworn in as well, after being elected last December.
  • A new report by the UN warns that a “radical new approach” to managing the world’s water resources is needed to mitigate increasing scarcity. The report was issued to coincide with the opening of the World Water Forum in France, held every three years.
  • AidData released a report recently discussing how foreign aid affects armed conflict. The report suggests that aid can affect the likelihood of violent armed conflict by influencing a state’s ability to credibly commit to an agreement that averts war at present and into the future.
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This Week in the World of Conflict… February 20th-27th, 2012.

  • I ask readers interested in peace and conflict to join the Peace and Collaborative Development Network and donate to help keep them alive, if possible. The network is a great place to meet others working in the field, browse job openings, read great blog entries and learn where to find other conflict resources.
  • The International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict is now accepting applications for the 2012 Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict at Tufts University running from June 24-30th, 2012.
  • The Columbia Centre for Oral History announced its 2012 Summer Institute “What is Remembered: Life Story Approaches in Human Rights Contexts” to be held June 4-15th, 2012 at Columbia University in New York City. Sessions will look at the methodological and theoretical implications of doing life story research with individuals who have suffered human rights abuses and other forms of discrimination.
  • A coalition of governments, international organizations and other groups joined forces with the World Bank to confront threats to the health of the planet’s oceans, launching the Global Partnership for Oceans on Friday. Marine life is being threatened by over-fishing, loss of habitat and environmental degradation.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual Attack on the Press in 2011 report. The report claimed 46 journalists were killed and 179 imprisoned last year in countries around the world, with Pakistan listed as the most dangerous place for journalists to work followed by Libya and Iraq.
  • The President of the UN General Assembly stressed the importance of mediation in the early stages of conflict on Saturday, saying that seeking peaceful settlement of disputes before they become violent can save lives and ensure stability.
  • Earlier this month, Oxfam released a report on the challenges posed by the vast humanitarian crises around the world, in spite of the growing number of vulnerable people, the rise in disasters and the failure to put most fragile states on the path to develop that will significantly increase needs.
  • The Oxford Research Group released a new report on the drivers of insecurity in the Global South, including climate change, increasing competition over resources, global militarisation, and marginalization across much of the “majority world”. The Group suggests the need to change the current approach to security that is based upon the premise that insecurity can be controlled through military force or containment, focusing on “curing the disease” instead of “fighting the symptoms”.
  • Cambridge Scholars Publishing is set to release a new book called Conflict Resolution and the Scholarship of Engagement that looks at the growing field of conflict analysis and resolution and the need for scholars to work on the ground to transform entrenched conflicts.
  • Peace, Conflict and Development: An Interdisciplinary Journal just published its latest special issue on what’s missing in approaches to peace and conflict.
  • The Noble Institute announced that 231 people have been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, including former US President Bill Clinton, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Bradley Manning.

This Week in the World of Conflict… January 30th-February 6th, 2012.

  • The University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies is running its 4th Annual Summer Institute for Faculty in Peace Studies Program Development from June 10-15, 2012.
  • Twitter defended its recently announced online content policy, saying it was meant to be a transparent way to handle government requests for the removal of certain content and did not mean that it is actively monitoring tweets. Last week they announced that they would begin restricting Tweets in specific countries. Google also defended their privacy policy changes, saying they would not take away the control its customers have over how data is collected and used.
  • Debate raged over the FDA approval of a tiny computer chip for implantation in a patient’s arm to hold their medical history. Many were concerned that it would become yet another invasion of pricacy and possibly open new ways to damage the confidentiality of medical records.
  • The Metta Centrer for Nonviolence Research has opened its research fellowship for the summer of 2012. Applications are due March 25th for up to 3 awards of $2,000 and summer housing.
  • Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA has opened the application process for its Summer Peacebuilding Institute 2012. The institute offers three 7-day sessions and one 5-day session in several different aspects of peacebuilding.
  • The University of Ulster and International Conflict Research Institute in Northern Ireland have opened the application process for their MSc in Applied Peace and Conflict Studies (that I would LOVE to apply to if I had the money—looks amazing!). They have also opened application processes for their INCORE Summer School program in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
  • Mike Bourne released a new article in the Global Change, Peace and Security Journal entitled Guns don’t kill people, cyborgs do: a Latourian provocation for transformatory arms control and disarmament. The article explores existing assumptions about mainstream arms control and disarmament theory.
  • Simon Mason and Sabina Stein wrote a new article entitled Mediating Conflicts with Religious Dimensions that discuss ways to facilitate negotiations between conflict parties with non-compromising religious identities.
  • The Atlantic ran an interesting article about the effect science can have on war.
  • Rights and Resources Initiative released a new study warning of the global rush for land in “developing” countries around the world and how this could trigger a wave of civil unrest if governments fail to recognize the rights of those using communal land.
  • The Open Society Justice Initiative is currently taking applications for the summer school in Human Rights Litigation. The course will run from July 16-20th in Budapest.

This Week in the World of Conflict… December 6th-12th, 2011.

  • Global Witness announced that it had left the Kimberley Process, an international diamond regulatory group, because it refused to address links between diamonds, violence and tyranny. Even if these certification schemes manage to address problems at mines, in many cases, the materials must pass roadblocks and pay “taxes” that directly line the pockets of warlords.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) have launched an online training portal for justice professionals who deal with cases involving child victims and child witnesses of crime. The portal is open to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, social workers, health sector workers, lawyers and informal justice providers.
  • The UN refugee chief called upon the international community to assume its shared duty to protect and assist millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people around the world during a two-day forum organized by the UN HCR. More than three quarters of a million people became new refugees in 2011, with global forced displacement figures at a 15 year high at the end of 2010.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the importance of regional organizations to detect potential crises early and to mobilize coordinated international response. Ban called upon these regional organizations to share burdens, strengthen responses and reinforce joint messages.
  • The research analyst group Maplecroft has released its Human Rights Risk Index for 2012 and concluded that over 48% of the 197 assessed nations are at an “extreme” or “high” risk of human rights violations and that there has been a steady trend of deteriorating human rights situation.
  • On Thursday, Uppsala Conflict Data Program released new additions to its datasets detailing violence in Africa between 1989 and 2010 at the level of individual event of violence. They also released new data on external support in internal armed conflicts for the time period 1975-2009.
  • A discussion about the need to protect health care workers in war zone has some suggesting that a special protection force be set up to safeguard healthcare in war zones and that those who perpetrate attacks on health workers be brought before the ICC. The Red Cross estimates that there have been more than 650 attacks on medical staff and patients in 16 conflicts since 2008, in blatant contravention of international laws.
  • The UN High Commission for Human Rights said that human rights went viral in 2011 as people around the world used social media to protest against abuses on Human Rights Day. The IIGG program released its Public Opinion on Global Issues that showed a dramatic international consensus backing fundamental human rights such as free elections with universal suffrage; the right to demonstrate peacefully and express opinions freely; media freedom from government censorship; equal treatment of people—irrespective of religion, gender, race or ethnicity; and government responsibility to provide citizens with basic food, healthcare and education.
  • The UN Climate Change Conference (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa ended on Sunday with a wishy-washy agreement that all countries would work towards legally binding targets for reducing carbon emissions. The EU hailed the new deal as a “historic breakthrough”, while critics wanted it was not enough to slow global warming.
  • The forth UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum began on Sunday in Doha, Qatar, with more than 2,000 participants who will discuss how to improve relations across cultures, combat prejudice and build lasting peace. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged members to combat extremism and promote tolerance during his opening remarks.
  • International leaders met in the Hague for a two-day conference on Internet freedom sponsored by Google and the Dutch government this week. About two dozen nations called upon the adoption of a declaration of freedoms in cyberspace at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference, but the proposal has no chance of being adopted because the organization acts only on consensus.
  • The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence wrapped up on Friday. The 16 days is an international campaign that started in 1991 to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
  • The Nobel Peace Award ceremony took place on Saturday. Among the winners were Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.
  • A new manual to support self-training and teaching of qualitative research methods was launched by the Evidence for Action research consortium. The manual is intended for those conducting short-term training in qualitative research methods for applied health.
  • The UN General Assembly is considering designating October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child. The organization Plan International pushed for the designation in order to highlight the unique challenges and issues faced by girls in “developing” countries.

This Week in European Conflict… June 25th-July 1st, 2011.

  • EU leaders agreed on Friday to tighten migration safeguards, in a controversial response to an influx of migrants fleeing North Africa’s upheaval. The refugee crisis sparked a debate over the extent that EU governments should share the responsibility for immigrants arriving elsewhere in the bloc.
  • Poland celebrates as it takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union for the first time since joining the bloc in 2004. Their priorities for the six month term include building relations with the eastern and southern neighbours, encouraging economic growth and promoting enlargement of the bloc.
  • EU leaders gave the go-ahead for Croatia to join the EU in July 2013 on Friday, though reform slip-ups could result in delayed ratifying of the accession treaty by several EU governments who insisted that the completion of talks remain open-ended. This opened the possibility of other Balkan governments to join, should they go forward with proper reform efforts.
  • On Sunday, the deputy PM in Greece warned that austerity measures may not be passed by parliament though lawmakers approved the package aimed at avoiding a national default amid angry protests outside the parliament on Wednesday. The plan involves 28 billion euros of spending cuts and increased taxes, along with sell-offs of state property. On Tuesday, police fired tear gas to disperse a small group of youths throwing sticks and bottles during an otherwise peaceful protest in Athens. On Wednesday, protesters and police continued to clash , amid allegations of police brutality.
  • One of the two opposition parties in Armenia announced that it will continue to boycott the National Assembly sessions to protest against the President’s tightening grip on power. Five deputies walked out February 28th following an agreement that committed to a new power sharing agreement with the President’s junior coalition partners.
  • On Saturday, former PM Tymoshenko of Ukraine refused to stand to address the court and asserted that the charges that she is working against the country’s interests are part of a wider political plot. On Sunday, a judge ruled that the case would continue on Wednesday.
  • Police in Russia arrested over a dozen gay rights activists taking part in a Gay Pride rally over the weekend. On Wednesday, President Medvedev ordered his cabinet to prepare a schedule to sell its controlling stakes in some key state companies, expecting to yield some $30 billion over the next three years. A court house in Ingushetia was attacked with a grenade launcher and an explosive device on Friday, though the incident resulted in no causalties.
  • On Tuesday, Russia announced it would restore power supplies to Belarus by July 1st after receivign a late payment from the government. The Belorussian government is facing a mounting economic crisis and currently owes some $42 million for electricity supplied for the last three months. More than 150 people were detained following demonstrations on Wednesday where some 1,000 people walked slowly through the city and signaled their discontent by clapping their hands. It is the fifth straight week of Wednesday evening demonstrations against the authoritarian government.
  • On Thursday, Germany‘s lower house of parliament approved the government’s plan to shut down the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022.

This Week in African Conflict… June 14th-20th, 2011

This Week in Conflict is now being divided up!

Here is the new schedule:

This Week in the World of Conflict – posted on Mondays

This Week in African Conflict- posted on Tuesdays

This Week in Asian Conflict – posted on Wednesdays (includes Oceania and Australia)

This Week in Conflict in the Americas – posted on Thursdays

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict – posted on Fridays

This Week in European Conflict – posted on Saturdays

Please submit any reports or stories of conflict around the world to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write in the comments below. Here’s a summary of what happened this week in Africa:

  • Different pro-Gbagbo factions continue to support the ousted President of Cote d’Ivoire from a position of exile, including Simone Gbagbo’s daughter, who has hired a legal team to defend what she calls the “illegal detainment” of her parents; and Charles Ble Goude, the “Street General”, long thought dead has now resurfaced and is pledging to play a role in future politics within the country. On Thursday, the new Ivorian government announced the creation of a national investigation commission on the crimes perpetrated during the post-election crisis, that in theory would punish all no matter which side of the conflict they were from, though Human Rights Watch has pointed out that no one from Ouattara’s camp has yet been arrested or investigated and that justice appears one-sided and delayed. The top UN human rights official expressed concern over acts of violence allegedly carried out by members of the new army, the FRCI, including reports of summary executions, rape and torture. On Friday, a huge cache of arms and ammunition was reportedly uncovered in Liberia near the Ivorian border, including RPGs, machine guns and assault rifles, while the mercenary commander known as “Bob Marley”, who is said to have ordered the killing of civilians in Cote d’Ivoire was in custody. Also on Friday, the ICC gave victims of post-election violence 30 days to submit testimony to the chief prosecutor, which personally, I think is far too short, especially considering the number of people still in hiding in the bush or displaced and unable to access media that would let them even know of the deadline. Medicins Sans Frontieres compiled a very telling group of stories from ordinary people who suffered the violence over the past few months and the toll that this conflict took on their families. Concerns remain over the daunting task of uniting the country’s security forces, which remain divided and suspicious of each other. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs remains concerned that the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan for the country is only 25% funded; seriously impeding much needed humanitarian assistance.
  • On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency urged authorities in Sudan to allow road and air access for aid workers trying to help thousands of fleeing people in Southern Kordofan, after being denied permission to land in the state capital for nearly a week and prevented land access by roadblocks of militiamen; while 29 people were reportedly killed in a cattle raid in south Sudan. On Wednesday, air strikes in Southern Kordofan are said to have killed as many as 64 people and caused tens of thousands to flee; while the north and south continued to clash in the disputed Abyei border region, with unconfirmed reports of civilians being targeted at checkpoints for torture, harassment and sometimes summary executions. On Thursday, North Sudan’s army vowed to continue fighting against the south in Southern Kordofan to end what it calls an “armed rebellion” and South Sudan’s army said it was ready for more attacks by northern forces in the Abyei region. It was also reported; however, that mediator Thabo Mbeki said that the warring parties in Southern Kordofan agreed that hostilities should cease and that talks should start. On Friday, the UN condemned the detention and abuse by the Sudanese armed forces towards four UN peacekeepers that were on patrol in Southern Kordofan; while six shells fired by the SAF were said to have landed 150 metres away from an UNMIS base near Abyei. While everyone is worried about the future of Southern Sudan, Rebecca Hamilton discusses the possibility that the North is actually in the most danger of returning to full out conflict. On Saturday, Nigeria announced it was considering the possibility of keeping its troops in Southern Sudan beyond the July 9th Independence. On Sunday, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) categorically denied allegations of misconduct against its peacekeepers in the state of South Kordofan, made by independent observers and both parties to the conflict, and complained that the closure of airspace and restrictions on access are undermining its humanitarian operations there. The SPLM has accused Egyptian peacekeepers of complicity with SAF and of raping local women under UN protection; while local activists accuse UNMIS of reacting to violence with silence or a refusal of requests for evacuation of individuals who were in danger. On Monday, Ethiopian peacekeepers moved into the contested Abyei region under a new deal negotiated between the north and the south that also called upon both sides to remove their troops and demilitarize the area; while Sudan’s defence minister accused anti-government fighters of trying to create a “second Benghazi” in Southern Kordofan and vowed that the military would “clean” the area. Texas in Africa compiled a great list of further reading on Sudan’s conflict, if you want to know more about the situation.
  • On Tuesday, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation said that he learned that Libya’s Gaddafi is open to talks with NATO and the country’s rebels after playing chess with him; pro-Gaddafi forces bombarded the Tunisian border post; some 21 rebel fighters were killed in clashes on the eastern front; Libyan tv reported that NATO was bombing civilian and military targets in a central town; while NATO said it had hit several military targets near Tripoli and rockets are said to have damaged generators at an oil refinery near Misrata, allowing the rebels to make fresh gains on the western front. South African President Zuma said NATO is abusing a UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians in order to pursue regime change and political assassinations. NATO is said to be dropping leaflets from the sky showing a picture of a helicopter and a burning tank that tell those below that if they see the helicopters, “it means it is already too late”. On Wednesday, NATO reportedly hit a bus at the entrance to the town of Kikla, killing some 12 people; rebels reportedly pushed deeper into government-held territory south of the capital; and Reuters reported a story that rebels were giving their enemies (some 360 of them) dignified Muslim burials in the town of Misrata. On Thursday, Spain ordered its Libyan ambassador and three embassy staff to leave the country over what it called the illegitimacy of Gaddafi’s rule; while Gaddafi was reportedly losing friends all over Africa. One of his sons announced that Gaddafi would agree to internationally supervised elections on the condition there is no vote-rigging, and that he would step down if he lost, but would never leave Libya, as he intends to die and be buried there; a move the US immediately dismissed, calling it too late. On Friday, rebels and pro-government forces exchanged heavy fire near Zlitan; at least 10 people were killed and 40 wounded in government shelling of Misrata; Gaddafi pledged to defeat NATO in an aired audio speech on Libyan TV and Russia’s envoy to Libya said that representatives of the Gaddafi government are in contact across Europe with members of the Libyan rebellion. On Saturday, gun battles continued in the northwest city of Nalut, killing at least 8 rebels and wounding 13; at least two explosions shook Tripoli; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the beginnings of a negotiation process were underway; while NATO has accused Gaddafi’s forces of using mosques and children’s parks as shields. It appears US President Obama may be in some hot water over his decision to continue the air war in Libya without congressional approval despite rulings to the contrary; and rebels complain they have run out of money, accusing the West of failing to keep its promises of urgent financial aid. Thousands of documents that reveal orders from Gaddafi’s senior generals to bombard and starve the people of Misrata have been gathered by war crimes investigators and will help form damning evidence in any future war crimes trial at the ICC. On Sunday, government officials took journalists to a site it alleges was bombed by NATO warplanes, while NATO admitted its forces mistakenly targeted a column of Libyan rebels, injuring as many as 16 fighters. The UK reported the total cost of its involvement in Libya could run into the “hundreds of millions” of pound and is currently costing tens of millions from reserve funds set aside for contingencies. NATO has also announced that it is investigating Libyan government claims that it bombed a residential area within the capital, killing several civilians. On Monday, three rockets fired by Gaddafi forces reportedly hit a built-up area near the port in Misrata, killing a 13 year-old child and wounding two other children; rebels shut off a pipeline in the Western Mountains region that supplies crude from an oilfield in the south to a refinery near the capital in an attempt to stifle the Gaddafi regime; more than 20 Gaddafi troops are said to have defected from a brigade in the south and joined the rebellion; NATO admitted to launching a missile strike against a compound that killed at least 15 people, including three children, calling it a “legitimate military target under the mandate of the UN resolution”; Italy’s foreign minister said that NATO has endangered its credibility by the killing of civilians; while the EU foreign ministers have agreed to look into the possibility of using frozen Libyan funds to assist the rebels.
  • The curfew on Cairo, Egypt’s streets officially ended on Wednesday, five months after it was imposed by Mubarak in an attempt to stem protests against his rule. Many had ignored the curfew and did what they wanted, with little interference from the police. Egyptian Bedouins are beginning to demand equal citizenship rights in the face of discrimination, hoping that the new regime will represent a change for them. On Saturday, government troops fired shots in the air to prevent hundreds of protesting employees of the Suez Canal Authority from storming its office in Ismailia; and an Egyptian court suspended its order to remove the names of former President Mubarak and his wife from public institutions, pending a review of the case on Wednesday. On Sunday, the PM reportedly said that the country’s critical parliamentary elections, currently set for September, could be delayed in an attempt to avoid giving an unfair advantage to the Muslim Brotherhood. On Monday, former President Mubarak’s lawyer said that Mubarak is suffering from stomach cancer, and cited the need for a medical report to assess whether he is fit enough to face trial.
  • Former President Ben Ali of Tunisia faced trial in absentia on June 20th for conspiring against the state, voluntary manslaughter, drug trafficking and several other civil and military cases. The court found him and his wife guilty of theft, fined the couple $66 million and sentenced them to 35 years in jail. Saudi authorities have not responded to a request by Tunis to extradite Ben Ali. Ben Ali is also to face dozens of charges over civilian deaths that happened between December 17th and January 14th of this year in three military courts. On Monday, Ben Ali stated that he had not simply fled, but rather had been tricked into leaving his country on fears of an assassination plot, and as such, still considers himself to be President.
  • Concern is rising over the expulsion of thousands of Congolese from Angola over the past month. Many report torture and other abuses during their detainment before being deported.  On Wednesday, Congo’s parliament passed an electoral law little changed from the document that governed the last elections, much to the concern of opposition leaders who have expressed concern over the poll’s credibility.
  • A suspected suicide bomb attack killed several people outside police headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday. Police suspect the radical Boko Haram sect for the attack. Hours later, an explosion near a church killed four children in the northeast. The Inspector General of Police stated that the sect’s days were numbered following the donation of 10 armoured personnel carriers and 10 patrol vehicles by the Governor. The sect reacted by reading a statement saying they would soon wage Jihad and that warriors had arrived from Somalia where they received serious warfare training. On Monday, authorities arrested 58 sect members after storming a Boko Haram headquarters in Maiduguri.
  • The ruling African National Congress party in South Africa has re-elected an unopposed Juliou Malema as the President of the youth wing. The election has upset many who are angered at Malema for singing apartheid-era songs advocating the shooting of white farmers and is working to nationalise mines and seize white-owned farms. The opposition in SA has raised new allegations of bribery surrounding a multi-billion dollar arms deal that is to be investigated.
  • The King of Morocco promised a new democratic constitution on Friday that would devolve some of his powers to parliament and the government that Moroccans would be able to vote for in a July 1st referendum. The final draft explicitly grants the government executive powers, although the king would keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and pick a PM from the party that wins the polls. The promises were not enough for many pro-democracy activists who still planned to hold their weekly protests on the weekend to call for greater changes to the system. Reuters offers an interesting timeline of different reforms in the country starting in 1999.
  • Al-Shabaab in Somalia announced on Friday that it will cooperate with al Qaeda’s new leader Al Zawahiri as much as possible. The group pledged its allegiances to al Zawahiri as it used to be under Bin Laden. On Sunday, the PM announced that he had resigned, after initially refusing to step down, following an agreement between the President and parliament to remove him from office. Many fear that the resignation could prompt an intensified power struggle and negatively affect the ongoing offensive against insurgents in the capital. A new study reported that over 4,000 international seafarers were violently attacked by Somali pirates last year, 1,090 taken hostage, and 516 used as human shields; and that new tactics break a previous code of conduct that had kept violence to a minimum.
  • Leaders across southern Africa called for President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to speed up the progress towards fair and free elections conducted on a “level playing field”. South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique assigned a team to work with Zimbabwean officials to ensure elections and the enforcement of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai. Human rights monitors report that the army –loyal to Mugabe—have already deployed units to rural areas to intimidate voters.
  • The new chief justice in Kenya vowed on Monday to fight corruption and impunity, although analysts said he would have to stand up to powerful politicians and businessmen to success in turning the courts around. Analysts have previously said that the country’s post-election violence in 2007-8 might have been avoided if there had been a credible legal mechanism for settling disputes.
  • New official proposed changes to an election law in Senegal  could see current President Wade win re-election with as little as 25% of in a first round vote instead of a majority. The proposal is expected to sail through the majority-controlled parliament in coming days, much to the chagrin of the opposition, who call it a “coup d’état” against the constitution.

This Week in the World of Conflict… June 13th-20th, 2011

Hello all! Hope all is well!

Since the This Week in Conflict report has gotten so incredibly long in recent weeks, I thought it might be easier to digest as 6 shorter reports highlighting the different regions on separate days. The World report, which will highlight different news at international organizations, human rights research and other aspects of peace and conflict that affect global situations, will be posted each Monday. The Africa report will be posted on Tuesdays; the Asia report will be posted on Wednesdays; the Americas report will be posted on Thursdays; the Middle East report will be posted on Fridays and the Europe report will be posted on Saturdays. If you have any news to report for a region, please submit it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com the day before the report is to be posted. Any reports of conflict for Australia or Oceania will be posted within the Asia report.

These changes will begin as of Monday the 20th of June. As such, the news for the World section for this week will only highlight those stories reported from Friday the 10th until Monday the 13th; the Africa report from Friday until Tuesday the 14th; and so on, so that there will be week-long content for each of next week’s reports.

I hope readers find the reports easier to read and comprehend in this manner, and would love any feedback on this change, either positive or negative.

Peace!

Rebecca

  • The 2011 Global Peace Index Report for 2011 was released recently, and demonstrated that the world is less peaceful for the third year straight. This fabulous compilation shows that violence has cost the global economy more than $8.12 trillion in 2010 at a time when most of the world was in severe economic crisis. Iceland moved into the #1 spot, as the world’s most peaceful, overtaking New Zealand and Japan; while Somalia moved to become the least peaceful country on Earth, along with Iraq and Sudan. No big surprise here– despite the “war on terror”, 29 nations experienced a rise in potential for terrorist acts. One disappointment is the lack of recognition of Palestine on the list.
  • On Friday, the UN endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever, passing a resolution that expressed “grave concern” about abuses due to sexual orientation and commissioned a global report on discrimination against gays. The declaration barely passed through the Human Rights Council with 23 votes in favour to 19 against. The declaration established a formal UN process to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence, which would include laws against consensual same-sex relations in 76 countries worldwide.
  • An export poll listed Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous countries for women due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal health care and “honour killings”. The poll asked 213 gender experts from five continents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks: health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation welcomed the historical adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention and Recommendation by the International Labour Organization on Thursday that would call upon ratifying governments to provide laws to protect domestic workers’ rights in their economies. Oppression and violence against migrant domestic workers is reported to be widespread.
  • An interesting article discussed the continued relevancy and future of the United Nations, by dissecting its failure to meet its core values and objectives of forging global understanding, keeping peace, fostering development, ensuring human rights and human equality. As a long time defender of UN peacekeeping, I must say that I have recently lost my ability to believe they are a positive force in the world and have a hard time seeing a future where they are capable of living up to their values and objectives without a major overhaul of the system.
  • On Friday, the Security Council of the UN unanimously recommended that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be elected for a second five-year term beginning in January 2012. The UN General Assembly will formally re-elect him on Tuesday, considering no other candidate was even proposed. The decision was delayed for one day because the Latin America and Caribbean regional group had not agreed to endorse him, though endorsement is not technically necessary.
  • A team of 18 International Atomic Energy Agency experts  released a report on Friday calling on all nuclear power plants to be designed and located so that they can withstand rare and “complex combinations” of external threats, in the first outside review of the Fukushima disaster. The report called for simple alternatives forces to compensate for the total loss of off-site power, the physical separation and diversity of critical safety systems and that “nuclear regulatory systems should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved in all circumstances in line with IAEA Safety Standards”. There will be a major international meeting June 20th– 24th, hosted by the IAEA that will launch a push to strengthen reactor standards as some 150 nations begin mapping out a strategy on boosting nuclear safety.
  • A new report by the OECD and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that higher food prices and volatility in commodity markets are here to stay. The reports suggests that real prices for cereals may average up to 20% higher and meats as much as 30% higher in coming years, raising concerns for economic stability and food security in many countries.
  • A new paper on tackling violence against women was released this week by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development working group. The paper calls on the gender dimensions of armed violence to be taken into account and gives five initiatives that researchers can take to fill the knowledge gaps.

This Week in Conflict… June 11th-17th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

Since the This Week in Conflict report has gotten so incredibly long in recent weeks, I thought it might be easier to digest as 6 shorter reports highlighting the different regions on separate days. The World report, which will highlight different news at international organizations, human rights research and other aspects of peace and conflict that affect global situations, will be posted each Monday. The Africa report will be posted on Tuesdays; the Asia report will be posted on Wednesdays; the Americas report will be posted on Thursdays; the Middle East report will be posted on Fridays and the Europe report will be posted on Saturdays. If you have any news to report for a region, please submit it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com the day before the report is to be posted. Any reports of conflict for Australia or Oceania will be posted within the Asia report.

These changes will begin as of Monday the 20th of June. As such, the news for the World section for this week will only highlight those stories reported from Friday the 10th until Monday the 13th; the Africa report from Friday until Tuesday the 14th; and so on, so that there will be week-long content for each of next week’s reports.

I hope readers find the reports easier to read and comprehend in this manner, and would love any feedback on this change, either positive or negative.

Peace!

Rebecca

 

World

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was hit by a large and sophisticated cyber-attack last week, but did not make a public announcement regarding the attack. The IMF database contains potentially market-moving information and includes communications with national leaders as they negotiate, often behind the scenes, on terms of international bailouts. In response, the World Bank (WB) cut the computer link that allows the two institutions to share information. On Saturday, the Bank of Israel Governor, Stanley Fischer, announced that he will be running against Christine Lagarde for the top job at the IMF.
  • A New York Times report discussed a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems, led by the US, which dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments seeking to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
  • Russia became the last permanent member of the UN Security Council to back Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s re-election bid. The UN General Assembly is expected to hold a formal vote before the end of the month on the position.

Africa

  • Almost ironically, US Secretary of State Clinton warned Africans during an address in Zambia on Saturday of the “new colonialism” they face, as China expands ties and helps build productive capacity on the continent. China responded on Tuesday saying it was far from a coercive and exploitative force in Africa and that it too had been a victim of colonial occupation and oppression.
  • A new report by the International Peace Institute looks at the problems of the security sector in Cote d’Ivoire; how it contributed to the electoral crisis and how security-sector reform is the key to preventing a return to armed conflict in the future. Ongoing insecurity is preventing the return of at least 300,000 civilians who were internally displaced during the post-election crisis, as well as some 200,000 refugees in several neighbouring West African countries. Many have lost their livelihoods during the crisis and are still at serious food insecurity risk.
  • African leaders met in Zimbabwe on Saturday to lay out a roadmap for the country’s upcoming Presidential elections. Members of the Southern African Development Community want to delay elections until a new constitution is adopted, while Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party insist they must be held this year.
  • President Al-Bashir of Sudan and President Kiir of South Sudan met in Addis Ababa on the weekend to discuss the issue of Abyei, four weeks prior to the independence of the South. On Saturday, the ICRC facilitated the transfer of two Sudanese armed forces who had been held by the Liberation and Justice Movement to government authorities; fighting continued in the Southern Kordofan border state between the North Sudanese Army and southern-aligned troops for the seventh day and the airport was closed, hampering humanitarian operations into the region. The SPLM claimed fighters had downed two northern warplanes, though on Sunday, Khartoum denied that any military aircraft were shot down in Southern Kordofan. On Sunday, President al-Bashir agreed “in principle” to pull northern troops out of the disputed Abyei region before the south’s independence on July 9th while Ethiopia agreed to send two battalions deployed under the UN flag as peacekeepers for the region during the discussions in Addis Ababa. On Monday, the UN voiced alarm over continuing clashes in Southern Kordofan, with bombardments and artillery shelling in 11 of 19 localities, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that some 53,000 people were displaced by fighting and that food insecurity was growing.
  • At least three people were killed and another four other injured after armed bandits opened fire on a civilian bus in southern Somalia on Saturday; and the PM announced he would not resign unless Parliament endorsed an agreement signed by the President and Speaker that stipulates he must leave office within 30 days. The PM announcement comes following negotiations in Uganda that more than 200 MPs complained took away Parliament’s oversight of the government.
  • On Saturday, Libyan troops loyal to Gaddafi fought gun battles with rebels in Zawiyah, shutting the road to Tunisia completely and killing some 13 rebels and civilians and also said to have encircled the city of Zlitan; several explosions from NATO airstrikes were heard in Tripoli throughout the afternoon, reportedly wounding a senior Gaddafi aide; and rebels expressed frustration at NATO tactics that prevented them from moving forward. On Sunday, six rebel fighters were reported killed by government artillery barrages near Misrata which were followed by air strikes. On Monday, another member of the Gaddafi regime, Sassi Garada, was reported to have defected and fled the country, while six rockets are said to have hit an oil refinery in Misrata.
  • The Central African Republic (CAR) signed a ceasefire agreement on Sunday with the last big active rebel group, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) paving the way for a peace deal to end years of conflict. The CPJP agreed to enter a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) campaign joining several other rebel groups.
  • Uganda has announced that it will give away free pepper spray to young women to help them fight off rapists, in an attempt to fight a high sex-crime rate. A police spokeswoman said the force would help the government train women how to use the weapon.
  • Madagascar has announced that it will reject a call from South African leaders to allow all political exiles, including former President Ravalomanana who was ejected from the country in a 2009 military coup, to return home to end a crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) called on the government to allow Malagasy people in exile for political reasons to be allowed to return to the country unconditionally, and for political role players to create an inclusive process to hold free and fair elections. The government said former President Ravalomanana will not be allowed to return home until the country is stable and he can be held accountable for acts committed during his rule on Tuesday.
  • Two people died and six were wounded in a clash between security forces and bandits on Sunday in northern Niger. The army is also said to have recovered a four-wheel drive vehicle containing 640 kilos of explosives, 435 detonators, various military arsenal and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Asia

  • Several hundred people gathered in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday to demonstrate against the use of nuclear power, marking three months since the powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
  • Foreign Ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan met on Saturday to discuss their long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On Wednesday, it was announced that the two countries could soon possibly reach a framework agreement on their lingering dispute; while an American journalist and a British human rights activist were reportedly attacked and beaten in Baku, Azerbaijan.
  • On Saturday, the commander of a police rapid reaction forces was killed and 23 others wounded in a suicide attack in Khost, eastern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb hit a bus in Kandahar province, killing 15, including 8 children; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; six civilians were wounded when insurgents fired mortar rounds at police headquarters in Khost; two policemen were killed and nine wounded by an explosion in Laghman; while Afghan President Karzai met with Pakistani PM Gilani to discuss a range of issues including the fight against the Taliban. The UN announced that May was the deadliest month for civilians in the country since 2007 when the organization started recording civilian casualties. On Sunday, a NATO air strike is said to have killed more than five suspected insurgents in western Badghis province. On Monday, four suspected insurgents were caught and killed by police in Kabul; the death toll from the firefight in western Badghis grew to at least 32 suspected insurgents and four Afghan soldiers; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and another ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul.
  • At least 34 people were killed in a suspected suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least one person at a bank in Islamabad; a roadside bomb hit a military convoy killing three soldiers and wounding another four in South Wazirstan; suspected militants detonated a roadside bomb killing one paramilitary soldier and wounding four in Orakzai; a bomb explosion wounded two people in Quetta; two rockets fired by suspected militants landed inside a military camp in North Waziristan with no damage or injuries reported; and a bomb blast destroyed four NATO fuel supply trucks in the north-western region of Khyber. On Tuesday, a woman was reportedly stripped down and paraded naked as a punishment for her son, who was found guilty of rape in the northwest.
  • Another 36-hour general strike called by the opposition disrupted life across Bangladesh on Sunday. The strike aims to amend the constitution, denouncing a government proposal to rescind constitutional provisions under which the government is temporarily handed over to a non-party administration before an election. As many as 100 were injured in clashes with law enforcement and around 150, including two former ministers are said to be detained.
  • Some 25 people were arrested in clashes between residents and security forces in the city of Guanghzou, China on Sunday following a dispute between the police and two street vendors. In a separate incident, hundreds of people laid siege to local government offices in Lichuan city following the death in custody of a respected local official who had been arrested for allegedly taking bribes linked to land seizures and forced demolitions of homes. On Monday, thousands of riot police were called to Zengcheng to quell angry mobs torching government buildings and demonstrating in the thousands against building social pressures, corrupt local officials and economic problems. Authorities later detained a person on suspicion of spreading rumours that led to the three days of rioting and unrest in Guanghzou.
  • On Monday, Vietnam staged live-fire drills in the South China Sea after weeks of rising tensions between Vietnam and China. China said it would not resort to the use of force to resolve maritime border disputes, and warned other countries not to become involved in an escalating border dispute, though days later it sent one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships into the South China Sea to “protect its rights and sovereignty”.
  • The UN declared Nepal free of landmine fields on Tuesday, after the last of the anti-personnel weapons planted by the army during the Maoist rebel revolt was destroyed. The clearing began in 2007 after the signing of a peace deal, though there are still areas where homemade bombs were planted by both sides and efforts to clear those still continue.
  • A mass grave with what is believed to be the bodies of some 14 Maoist rebels was found in eastern India on Monday. Police say they believed the rebels died in clashes with security forces and were buried by the Maoists. India’s popular yoga guru ended his 8 day old hunger strike against government corruption on Sunday after being admitted to hospital for dehydration and low pulse rate. On Wednesday, dozens of journalists went on a hunger strike to demand justice for their colleague who was slain by unidentified assailants on Saturday.
  • Two inmates at a notorious prison in central Kazakhstan threatened to self-immolate themselves after allegedly being beaten by prison guards on Sunday. Striking oil workers in the western part of the country were joined by several visiting activists from opposition groups, who were then detained and threatened with arrest if they don’t leave the area.
  • Various sources reported on Tuesday that the military in Myanmar/Burma had clashed for several days with a militia controlled by the ethnic Kachin minority in a remote but strategic region near the Chinese border. By Wednesday, there were rising fears that fighting could spread to other areas on the heavily militarized border, with thousands of people fleeing the area. By Thursday, China was urging the warring sides to defuse the outbreak and begin talks.

Americas

  • Colombia has passed a controversial law aiming to compensate an estimated 4 million victims of the country’s long-running armed conflict. The Victims’ Law allows damages to be paid to relatives of those killed and seeks to restore millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners. There are fears that some armed groups which still occupy much of the stolen land may respond violently to attempts to repossess the land. On Tuesday leftist rebels are reported to have clashed with security forces at a checkpoint in the southwest and other guerrillas briefly kidnapped a security contractor of an oil company in the east.
  • A “peace caravan” spent the week traveling through Mexico to protest against drug-related violence and crossed the border into the US. The leader of the convoy said the US bore “grave responsibility” for failing to tackle the drugs crisis as Mexico’s drugs gangs are battling for control of the lucrative US drug market. On Tuesday, police say a gang hung a man from an overpass in Monterrey and set fire to him, in the same spot where a youth was found last week, hung by his hands with a gunshot wound. On Wednesday, it was reported that US firearms agents sat by and watched as hundreds of American guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels during an Arizona sting operation, as they were ordered not to intervene, resulting in no arrests of any major traffickers; while some 33 people were killed within a 24 hour period in Monterrey in drug gang violence. Police also found the dismembered bodies of two bodyguards charged with guarding the governor of the state of Nuevo Leon.
  • The complete Pentagon Papers were made public on Monday, describing top-secret American involvement in Vietnam, though much has previously been released through leaks published by the New York Times. The 7,000 page report was commissioned in 1967 by Robert McNamara. Hackers broke into the US Senate’s website over the weekend, leading to a review of all of its websites. Lulz Security claimed to have done the hack “just for kicks”, causing much embarrassment for the American government. On Wednesday, the group claimed to have briefly brought down the public site for the CIA. Ayman al-Zawahiri was appointed as the new leader of al-Qaeda’s General Command and the US vowed to hunt him down and kill him as it did Osama bin Laden.
  • Riots broke out in Vancouver, Canada following the 4-0 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final (hockey) on Wednesday night. At least two people were reported injured, two police cars were burning, and some fires were out of control, after some looters came armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons. Windows were smashed, vehicles overturned, and looters ravished department stores in the downtown core.
  • Some 19 people died and many more were injured in a prison riot in Venezuela after two rival gangs confronted each other on Sunday. Prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with reports suggesting they are three times over capacity. By Wednesday, the death toll was listed as 22.
  • A landless peasant activist was found dead in Brazil’s Amazon state of Para, in the fifth murder in a month believed to be linked to conflict over land and logging in the rainforest region. The activist was killed by a gunshot to his head outside his home.

Middle East

  • On Saturday, two car bombs exploded in Mosul, Iraq killing six people and injuring at least 50; the beheaded body of an activist from a local human rights NGO was found in his home in Abu Ghraib; and gunmen killed a teacher and four members of his family in their home in Samarra On Sunday, two roadside bombs killed three civilians and wounded some 14 others in southwest Baghdad; gunmen killed a government-back militia leader and his wife in Hilla; a roadside bomb wounded two near Mosul; one policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded three policemen in north eastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb wounded an army officer in southern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded three civilians in northern Baghdad. On Monday, two civilians were wounded in a bomb explosion in northern Baghdad; a sticky bomb attack wounded another civilian in northern Baghdad; police found the beheaded bodies of two civilians who were kidnapped last week in Baaj; gunmen shot dead an off-duty Iraqi soldier in front of his house in Mosul; the imam of a mosque was wounded after gunmen stormed his house in Balad; five policemen were killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a police brigade compound in Basra; a sticky bomb attack killed a policeman in Mussayab; three people, including two policemen were killed when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Baquba; and a senior municipal official was wounded in a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad. On Tuesday, nine were killed and another 15 wounded in an insurgent attack on a provincial government compound in Baquba; gunmen killed an army lieutenant-general in northern Baghdad; gunmen killed two soldiers in western Baghdad; two US service members were killed in the south; gunmen killed the manager of the legal department of Baghdad provincial council in his car in central Baghdad; gunmen killed a policeman in western Mosul; and gunmen shot dead a former Iraqi army brigadier inside his car in Kirkuk. The US Pentagon and the Iraqi government close a funding program this month without determining the loss of $6.6 billion in cash to be used for reconstruction and other projects that has been under audit for several years. On Wednesday, a bomb killed one civilian and wounded nine others in Hilla; US military helicopters fired on suspected militia fighters in Basra, killing one and wounding two in response to a rocket attack on an airport; at least 10 Iraqi army soldiers were wounded when a mortar round landed at their checkpoint in Rashad; gunmen killed two soldiers at an Iraqi army checkpoint in Mosul; gunmen attacked an Iraqi military checkpoint in north-western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two in southern Baghdad, and another bomb wounded four in the same area. On Thursday, a dead body showing signs of torture and gunshot wounds was found in Kirkuk; gunmen shot dead a porter in a market in western Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian in front of his home in eastern Mosul; gunmen stormed the house of an Iraqi contractor, killing him and two others in Hilla; and gunmen shot and seriously wounded an Iraqi policeman in northern Baghdad. A UN working group announced that Iraq should tightly regulate private security firms to prevent abuses by their employees when they stay on in the country after the scheduled US military withdrawal.
  • Youths in a poor southern town in Jordan began throwing stones at police in anger over their rough handling during a visit by King Abdullah II on Monday. On Sunday, King Abdullah said he was committed to pushing ahead with democratic reforms in a televised speech, but believed street pressure to change was a “recipe for chaos”.
  • Tanks and thousands of forces sealed the roads leading to Jisr al-Shugour, Syria on Saturday, while defecting soldiers and police officers remained behind to fight against an expected all-out government assault. At least 4,300 people have fled into Turkey, seeking refuge from violence, though the real number is suspected to be much higher as many cross the border unnoticed by the army. Russia and China are said to have snubbed the UN Security Council talks on Saturday that were set to discuss a resolution aimed at condemning the violence happening in Syria; the US is not sponsoring the resolution but made it clear that it supports the text and several sanctions have been placed on the country. On Sunday, state television was reporting heavy clashes between troops and armed men in Jisr al-Shughur, with a resident claiming as many as 150 tanks and armored vehicles rolling into the town and shelling non-stop. Many expressed anger upon learning they were duped by the story of the “Gay Girl in Damascus”, a supposed Syrian-American lesbian blogger who appeared to have been kidnapped by Syrian officials last week that garnered much international attention, after the blogger turned out to be a 40 year old American man living in Scotland. Sadly, this attempt to “get the story out” will only result in giving justification for the government and outsiders to deny “eye-witness” reports of violence experienced in the country. On Monday, Syrian troops reportedly pushed towards the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan after rounding up hundreds in a sweep through villages near Jisr al-Shughour.  On Tuesday, the UN issued a report condemning Syria for its crackdown on protesters, saying the troops are committing “alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights”, while Canada, speaking on behalf of 45 countries, called for credible and impartial investigation into the abuses.  On Wednesday, thousands fled Maarat al-Numaan to escape troops and tanks pushing into the north in the widening military campaign. On Thursday, Syria’s most powerful businessman, a confidant and cousin of President al-Assad announced he was quitting business and moving to charity work, in what many are calling a symbolic gesture of a change of heart in the regime. On Friday, security forces were accused of shooting dead at least 16 people, including a 16 year-old boy, during fresh anti-government protests that took place in several cities across the country and even in northern Lebanon.
  • Kuwait has allegedly arrested a man for publishing criticism of the ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on the social media site Twitter. No charges have been pressed so far, though he has been held for several days.
  • Twenty-one al-Qaeda members and nine soldiers are said to have been killed on Saturday in southern Yemen in clashes between the army and the militant group who had previously seized the town. On Monday, opposition sources said they had met with the VP to discuss a transfer of power within a transitional period and the need to expand the truce negotiated by Saudi Arabia to the rest of Yemen, while fresh clashes broke out between pro-Saleh forces and anti-government protesters in Taiz and Yemeni authorities are said to have arrested several people in connection with the assassination attempt against Saleh. Three guards were shot dead on Wednesday when armed men stormed three state buildings in the country’s south. Protests continued on Thursday, as hundreds of Yemenis demonstrated in Sana’a calling on Saleh to step down; while masked gunmen attacked buildings in the country’s south.
  • Thousands took to the street for the first time since March on Saturday in Bahrain demanding political reform. The government said it granted permission for the rally, but still kept barbed wire and armoured vehicles guarding the Pearl Roundabout where protesters camped out in previous protests, to prevent it from becoming a focal point for protesters. The young Bahraini woman who staged a 10 day fast in April following the beating and arrest of her father, that led to the arrest of her husband and brother-in-law, was allowed just six minutes with her husband this week.  The woman was arrested by police while holding a sit-in protest at the UN offices in Manama on Wednesday, along with two other women, but all were later released by police, after the UNDP refused to press charges.
  • Hamas rejected Fatah’s nomination of Salam Fayyad as PM in a transitional government for Palestine on Sunday, potentially compromising foreign support for the new government, accusing him of co-operating with Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Fatah then expelled a former leader, Mohammed Dahlan, once seen as a possible successor to President Abbas, and referred him to the judiciary over alleged criminal and financial cases. A new report issued on Tuesday showed unemployment standing at 45.2% for the second half of 2010 in Gaza, a record high for a six-month period in the region, even though Israel eased its blockade during that period.  Palestinian officials announced on Tuesday that they would be ready to unveil a new unity government at a meeting between Fatah leader Abbas and Hamas leader Meshaal in Cairo next week. On Thursday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip are reported to have fired a rocket into southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Israel’s Justice Ministry recommended that police open investigations into two soldiers who posted on the Internet pictures and videos in which they humiliated prisoners last year. Pro-Palestinian groups are planning a new flotilla of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and Israel has reportedly planned to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza by any means necessary.
  • The UN Secretary General welcomed the formation of a new government in Lebanon on Monday, after nearly five months of disagreement between various political groups, though others were sceptical of Hizbullah’s influence over the administration.
  • Amnesty International condemned a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia. There have been more than 27 people executed this year; more than put to death in all of 2010 and more than 100 others, many foreigners, on death row. On Friday, some Saudi women defiantly drove through the nation’s capital in protest of the male-only driving rules in the country. No arrests or violence were immediately reported.
  • A jailed journalist in Iran died on Sunday after going on a hunger strike to protest the death of an activist during her father’s funeral. Hoda Saber is said to have died from “cardiac complications” induced from his hunger strike.

Europe

  • Croatia was told on the weekend that it should be able to join the European Union in 2013, as long as it is able to reign in corruption and reform its judiciary. On Saturday about a dozen people were hurt and more than 100 arrested at a gay pride parade after hundreds of locals shouted insults and began throwing bottles and stones at marchers.
  • The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church made a week-long visit to Georgia in hopes of resolving disputes with the Georgian government and Georgian Orthodox Church over the country’s Armenian religious heritage. One of the biggest sources of Georgian-Armenian tensions lies over a 15th century church in Tbilisi that both countries insist is their own.
  • Vanuatu joined Nicaragua, Nauru, Venezuela and Russia in recognizing the breakaway region of Abkhazia this week after last week’s confusion where the Vanuatu ambassador to the UN denied the recognition. The countries have no recorded history of trade or other commercial activities.
  • More than 50 million people headed to the polls in Turkey on Sunday for parliamentary elections.
  • A regional counter-terrorism official from Russia was killed and another officer wounded during a shootout in the North Caucasus on Sunday.
  • The imam of a rual mosque in Daghestan was shot dead on Tuesday, in an unknown attack. Some five suspected militants were killed alongside the commander of an elite police unit in gunfights on Wednesday, while some four other suspected militants were killed by security forces in an exchange of gunfire south of Kaspiisk.
  • The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another year on Monday. The force has been on the island since 1964 and is currently staffed with nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.
  • The President of Belarus has vowed to “strike hard” against any further public protests in the country following a protest on Sunday that was forcibly broken up by police. The protest took place on the border with Poland, by motorists demanding that authorities revoke a decision to limit the amount of gasoline and other goods that can be taken out of the country. On Thursday, it was reported that a jailed activist had been “tortured” in prison. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) suggested that Belarus uses fear, harassment, torture and blackmail to clamp down on its people in a system void of justice and the rule of law in a special report issued on Thursday.
  • Thousands came out dressed as clowns to protest against austerity measures introduced by the government in Hungary on Thursday, in the biggest rally since demonstrations began in April. Early retirement for public sector workers was repealed, and the government has abolished these rights retroactively.
  • It was reported that Greece is likely to get enough money from the EU to survive through the summer this Sunday; because the country’s economic troubles could eventually trigger the euro zone’s first debt default. Many are concerned that a default could send shock waves that would hurt stocks, banks and entire economies around the world. On Wednesday, protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs and clashed with police at buildings housing the finance ministry.
  • Thousands blockaded the parliament in Catalonia, Spain on Wednesday, protesting heavy cuts and austerity measures used to slash the deficit and forcing politicians to enter by helicopter or under police escort.

 

2nd Anniversary

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I just wanted to say a big thank you to all the readers here at A Peace of Conflict. It’s been two years since I first came online to blog and during that time,  much has changed. I am now living on a new continent– enjoying the warm tropical weather– and have started some new projects on the blog that I hope you are enjoying.

Over the last few months, I have started writing  This Week in Conflict… that summarizes issues of peace and conflict from around the world that have been reported each week. It is usually posted on Friday or Saturday and reflects the week from Saturday to Friday. Just a reminder, that if you have any stories or reports to add to the summaries, please email it to me (preferably Thursday or Friday if you’d like to make it in the post for the week) or write it in the comments below the post. I am also willing to accept personal stories of witnessed violence in conflict zones to add to the reports and will respect everyone’s wishes for anonymity in this situation. All personal reports will be marked as such to distinguish them from publicly reported news, and just a warning that any clear attempts at false propaganda or incitements to further violence will not be posted.

A collaborative peace and conflict dictionary was also started during the past year, which was set up to assist those working in the conflict, human rights or international sphere. It’s been a slow start, but I have been trying to add new terms regularly. Please be sure to send any suggestions for terms or modifications to previously defined terms.

When I first started, I was very nervous writing and having my opinions out there for all to see. I wanted to try and stay as objective as possible in my writing, something that can very difficult when discussing conflict and human rights abuses, so as not receive any harsh criticism. Sometimes it’s easy to demonize those who have committed terrible acts, and sanctify those who are the victims of those acts. But most of the times, it’s not as clear cut as that. Every conflict has its root, every evil has its weakness and every innocent has its flaws. I found it has become easier with time to express my opinions (sometimes looking back with a groan over what I have written previously), and have come to learn that criticism is often times incredibly useful. Being challenged allows us to delve deeper into an issue and look at it in new light. I encourage all readers to speak out if you feel I have misrepresented an issue, though to please due so in respectful language in the spirit of healthy debate, as any comments inciting violence or attacking any other users will be removed.

Here are some highlights from last year’s posts:

January

February

  • I discussed the theatre of the oppressed, that looks to address cultural violence by allowing an open dialogue on root problems of a conflict within the safety of a theatrical event.

March

April

May

  • I returned to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where I would spend most of the rest of the year researching human rights issues.

June

  • The Israeli flotilla incident was all over the news and I weighed in on it.
  • I had a change of heart about what to do about conflict minerals in the DR Congo, after many years of researching and pushing for change and discussed the problems with current legislative initiatives.

July

  • I expressed my frustrations about the justice system (or lack thereof) in Cote d’Ivoire.

August

  • The story of the SHONA cooperative in the DR Congo touched my heart. Disabled persons not only finding ways to be self-sustaining in a conflict economy, but getting to the point where they are able to support their extended families as well.

September

October

  • A critique of western democracy; how government is not really representative, and how technology can help to change that.
  • A look at the coming elections in Cote d’Ivoire.

November

December

 

I hope to soon be able to post some more detailed posts about my research into the exploitation of resources and their connection to violence, but am leery to print anything until the research is more conclusive. In the meantime, I would love to hear your personal stories, your academic papers, your rants and your writings (or other art) on violence, conflict, or peace.

Thanks again to all the readers here. I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

Peace to you all!

Rebecca

 

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.

International Day in Support of Torture Victims

Objective:
A day to celebrate and support torture victims and stand united against this cruel violation of human rights.

26 June was the day that the Convention against Torture came into force. It was also the day that the United Nations Charter was signed – the first international instrument to embody obligations for Member States to promote and encourage respect for human rights.

To mark 26 June, torture rehabilitation centres and other human rights organisations around the organise a multitude of events. On the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims’s website, campaign tools, information, materials and suggestions are made available for all who want to join us.

http://www.irct.org/about-us/what-we-do/awareness-raising/day-against-torture-on-26-june.aspx

The Elders

Age doesn’t matter when it comes to the promotion of peace. Young children have evoked positive human rights changes around the world. Elders in many communities across the globe have for generations played the role of political advisors looking out for the welfare of future generations and being positive mentors of the young. Everyone, regardless of age, has a role to play.

In July of 2007, Nelson Mandela gathered together a group of independent elder statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates to share their wisdom to help resolve disputes around the world. Calling themselves the Elders, this group is not bound by the interest of any single nation, government or institution. “They do not have careers to build, elections to win, constituencies to please”; they are instead working together to promote the shared interests of humanity.

Currently the group consists of former Finnish President (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Martti Ahtisaari, former Secretary-General (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Kofi Annan, the “gentle revolutionary” Ela Bhatt, UN peacekeeping reformer Lakhdar Brahimi, former Prime Minister of Norway Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Brazilian President and acclaimed sociology and political science academic Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former US President (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Jimmy Carter, renowned international advocate for women’s and children’s rights Graca Machel, former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Anglican Bishop and international peace advocate (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Desmond Tutu, renowned freedom fighter and advocate of nonviolence (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi and former South African President (and Nobel Peace Prize Winner) Nelson Mandela.  Their collective experience and political access gives them great global clout and they are using this clout for positive change.

The Elders have been tackling seven major projects of peace since their inception. They staunchly uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights using their Every Human Has Rights campaign. They promote universal equality for women and girls; and they are helping to promote an environment conducive to peace to lessen the humanitarian crises in Cyprus , the Middle East, the Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma/Myanmar. The elders have also been outspoken on the issue of climate change.

Elder Desmond Tutu reinforces that we all have a role to play in promoting positive peace, no matter our age, when he shares this wisdom and guidance for the future, “Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for. And laugh more.”

The Elders can also be found online on twitter.

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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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The lack of human rights in refugee camps

Lately certain readings have got me thinking again about the idea of refugee camps and the access the residents of such camps have to fundamental human rights. These camps are most often overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), who have registered over 50 million displaced persons or refugees worldwide. Nearly 90% of these registered persons are living within designated refugee camps.

Refugee camps are precarious places, set up in a state of emergency with the intention of being temporary,  leaving the residents constantly unsure of their future. The goal of the refugee camp is to provide displaced persons with temporary shelter, food, and protection until they can safely return to their homes. In practice, many refugee camps are places of immense insecurity where malnutrition and disease runs rampant that remain lasting over many years. Some refugees have lived in their respective camps now for over 60 years, and have raised children and grandchildren within them, who also retain the refugee status. Their rights are limited, and they remain unsure of their future.

Refugees in camps are often seen by the outside world as essentially non-persons in non-places, whose location is not even worthy of recognition on a local map. They have often fled in a hurried situation, without all their legal papers or documents, making travel or relocation almost impossible. This lack of documentation also makes appeals for asylum in places like Canada nearly unattainable. These camps are often located on the outskirts of towns, away from borders and other communities. Some camps have gates, security personnel and barbed wire fences to restrict the movement of refugees outside of the camp and to provide a sense of security for those living inside.  Many of those who have fled their country of origin are essentially illegals in their new countries of residence, and thus unable to work, freely move, or have any political voice. Instead they must idly wait as an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and uselessness take over.

Considering these camps are often set up by the United Nations, the body responsible for creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), it is startling that the basic human rights of these people are not being met in these supposed “humanitarian” situations. Going through the rights guaranteed by the UDHR, many refugees do not have:

– the right to recognition before the law

– the right to life, liberty and security of person

– the right to equal dignity

– the right to not to be held in arbitrary detention

– the right to freedom of movement and residence

– the right to leave any country and return to their own country

– the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution

– the right to nationality

– the right to own property

– the right to take part in government

– the right to work, to free choice of employment

– the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and their families

… and this list of  rights denied to many refugees does sometimes go on.

Why is this so? And what can be done to change this? How can the UN overcome the hypocrisy of one the one hand, claiming to help these populations, while at the same time, ensuring that their rights are denied, sometimes for decades?

The way the camps are so often spontaneously set up makes the problem of access to rights one that is difficult to overcome, but I think it is necessary for the international community to begin to give this matter serious weight. National borders and immigration laws also become an issue as these populations are denied access to work and have little possibility of any legal economic activity. Some NGOs have come into camps to help provide crafting opportunities or small loans for small business start-up so as to give the residents a sense of purpose, but it is not enough. The vast majority remain completely dependent on handouts, without any other possibility, since they have no access to money or the networks necessary to support themselves.

These refugees ARE capable and we need to start seeing them in this light instead of merely as victims. They need to have access to the rights they sorely deserve so that they can give their own lives purpose. They need access to education. Access to employment. Access to land. Access to government. They need to be seen as persons with dignity who are fully capable of living their own lives. They have had misfortune in their lives, but that does not negate their abilities. Forcing them into camps that can last decades, where they are denied of basic fundamental rights does little to promote anything other than the idea of victimhood.

Since these camps are internationally bureaucratized, it is a global concern. These camps must be restructured to provide their residents with rights. Without access to these rights, their future becomes nearly hopeless. With these rights, their future becomes truly possible. I think for the most part the intentions of these camps are good, but to be able to truly provide  “humanitarian” assistance, they must be restructured. Otherwise, we merely are creating a larger problem in the long run.

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The United Nations Human Development Report 2009: A Very Brief Look

Written by Heather Wilhelm

On Monday, the United Nations (UN) released their Human Development Report (HDR) for 2009, ranking 182 countries into their respective places based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI) of these countries.  GDP is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.  In layman’s terms, it measures a country’s economic performance on a yearly basis.  Since its inception in 1990, the HDR has reached beyond simply looking at a country’s GDP and has created the HDI which measures three dimensions of human development:  life expectancy, literacy and gross enrolment in education, and having a decent standard of living.  While it is easy to argue that these measurements are not an effective way to gauge the success or failure of a country in a numbered ranking system (what of gender, social services, child welfare), for the purpose of this article, let’s just look at the gross difference between those living at the top (Norway, Australia, Iceland and Canada ranked 1 through 4) and the bottom (Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger in spots 180-182).

While it should be noted that this Report was created using 2007 statistics before the current economic crisis, it is still very apparent that there are stark disparities between those countries at the top of the list, and those at the bottom.  For instance, the average life expectancy in Niger is 50 years, which is a full 30 years less than the life expectancy in 4th place Canada.  For every dollar earned in Niger, eighty-five (85) dollars is earned in 1st place Norway.  It is believed that more than half the population in the lowest ranking 24 countries are illiterate.  These kinds of statistics put on paper what most students of global studies already know – we do not live in a world of equality and justice.  These yearly reports simply reiterate that while the privileged can expect to enjoy a long life with education and excellent standards of living the poor seem to be destined to remain in a position of poverty, illiteracy and shortened life expectancies.  I’ve provided a very brief background on the UNHDR for you, and I encourage you to click the link that follows and read a bit more on your own…the results will hopefully shock you back into reality – I know it always does for me.

Click here to view the full Human Development Report 2009.

hw