- Tens of thousands of people took part in rallies across Europe on Saturday to protest against an international anti-piracy agreement they fear will curb their freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage internet surveillance.
- Pro-Europe politician Sauli Niinisto won the Presidency in Finland on Sunday to keep the country in the euro zone with a 63 percent majority.
- The PM and his cabinet in Romania resigned on Monday after weeks of protests over widespread corruption and austerity measures, naming the foreign intelligence chief Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as the new PM-designate. Emil Boc said he was quitting to “release the tension in the country’s political and social situation”. On Thursday, the Parliament approved the new government headed by designated new PM Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.
- A group calling itself the Russian arm of Anonymous reportedly hacked private emails that show that a pro-Kremlin group in Russia allegedly runs a network of internet trolls, seeks to buy flattering coverage of PM Putin and is set to hatch plans to discredit opposition activists and media. PM Putin said on Wednesday that the world faced a growing “cult of violence” and warned of outside interference from the West; while officials announced that nearly 40 soldiers in one unit were hospitalized and one died from pneumonia in Siberia that critics charge is due to insufficient uniforms for the extremely cold temperature. On Thursday, the Defense Ministry said that two of their strategic bombers returned to their base in Siberia following a 16-hour training patrol over international waters north of Japan, a move that prompted the air forces of Japan and South Korea to send F-15 and F-16 fighters to monitor the mission; Eurasianet ran an article suggesting that Putin’s nationalist philosophy may lead to a redrawing of Russian borders; a federal judge in New York upheld the conviction of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout after rejecting his motion to have his conviction dismissed; while former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev again said that Vladimir Putin has exhausted himself as Russia’s leader. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters again gathered in the capital to challenge PM Putin’s grip on power. On Tuesday, President Medvedev ordered the top security service to “detect and curb provocations” by extremists ahead of elections. On Friday, authorities in the Serbian city of Barnaul declared it now illegal to organize antigovernment demonstrations by using toy collections, unless advance permissions are granted; Defense Minister Serdyukov announced that the Navy will get two new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines this summer; the Federal Security Service (FSB) said that a military officer was jailed for 13 years for passing missile secrets to the American CIA; and President Medvedev dismissed the police chief of St. Petersburg after a 15-year-old boy died after allegedly being beaten in police custody. On Saturday, a group of European vote monitors say they have been denied a meeting with Putin because of his busy schedule; while pro-democracy protests continued despite the freezing temperatures. The Atlantic ran an article about the viral music video that is become a sensation in Russia that suggests Putin was sent to the country by God, and at just the right time.
- A 24-hour general strike took place on Tuesday this week in Greece, as workers protested austerity measures from being imposed to prevent the country from going bankrupt. On Friday, at least four members of the coalition government are reported to have resigned over austerity cuts. On Sunday, Parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill to secure a second bailout from the EU and IMF and avoid a messy default; while thousands protested against the bailout, pushing the country on to edge of a precipice.
- Serbia and Kosovo reportedly resumed dialogue after a three-month break, helping to ease some of the tensions between the two. Serbian authorities reported two high-profile, convicted professional killers attempted to escape from a high-security prison in Belgrade on Tuesday.
- The Parliament in Bosnia voted in a new central government, formally ending a 16-month political crisis that followed the October 2010 elections. The nine portfolios in the new government will be divided among six parties—two Bosnian Serb, two Bosnian Croat, the main Muslim SDA party and the multi-ethnic Social Democrats.
- The Supreme Court in Spain disbarred Judge Baltasar Garzon for 11 years on Thursday for illegally recording defence lawyers’ conversations with clients, without any chance of appeal. Garzon is also charged in two other cases, one for allegedly abusing his authority by ordering an inquiry into the murder and forced disappearance of more than 100,000 people by forces loyal to late dictator Franco and violating the 1977 amnesty law.
- A former senior official in Croatia has plead not guilty to charges that he ordered torture and killing of Serbian civilians during the 1991-5 war. Former Deputy Interior Minister Tomislav Mercep has begun his war crimes trial for allegedly ordering the killing, illegal detention, inhuman treatment and looting of property of 52 ethnic Serbs.
- A former opposition candidate for the de facto Presidency of South Ossetia is reportedly in “serious but stable” condition after being taken to the hospital for a hypertensive crisis. She allegedly suffered the attack while being questioned during a police raid of her headquarters.
- Some 13 militants and one soldier were reportedly killed in a series of operations in southeastern Turkey on Thursday between security forces and Kurdish PKK fighters; while the national intelligence agency rebuffed a demand from state prosecutors that it answer questions about secret talks it allegedly held with Kurdish rebels.
- The radical feminist group FEMEN in the Ukraine hosted a topless protest to draw attention to the poor human rights record in Belarus that was recently chosen as the host of the 2014 Hockey World Cup. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Parliament rejected to bills that would have freed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to prison in a process that rights groups and foreign governments have condemned; while President Yankovych fired the Defense Minister without citing a reason for the dismissal.
- The Interior Minister of France, who is also in charge of immigration, said he is standing by his remarks that not all civilizations are equal, even as critics denounced his comments as dangerous and xenophobic.
- The top military commander in the US announced that he believes the eurozone is at great risk and warned that any breakup of the bloc could have serious consequences for the Pentagon. He warned of the potential for civil unrest after 26 of the 27 EU countries agreed to forge a tighter fiscal union.
- On Sunday, opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov was arrested by plainclothes police in Russia on his way to a protest calling on Russians to boycott the day’s problematic elections processes. The ruling United Russia party garnered just fewer than 50% of the votes, amid allegations of people being bused from polling station to polling station, vote rigging, fraud and other problems, including the shutdown of several websites that provide independent election data by suspected hackers intent on silencing allegations of violations in the vote. Hundreds were arrested in a protest in central Moscow on Tuesday, including opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, journalists, several other human rights leaders, bloggers and opposition activists; while an election observer in the republic of Tatarstan says she witnessed several cases of vote rigging in the elections and several other international election observers complained of violations tilted in favour of the ruling United Russia party. PM Putin responded to the allegations and protests by promising to reshuffle the government next year, amid warnings from his spokesman that any unsanctioned rallies would be stopped. On Wednesday, ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged authorities to annul the parliamentary vote results and hold a new election as protests and instability increased while police blocked any new protest attempts. Though as many as 800 protesters were arrested in less than 24 hours, opposition groups began calling upon daily protests. President Medvedev posted an insulting post on his Twitter feed against the opposition that was later blamed upon an unidentified official who interfered with the feed. On Thursday, Putin accused US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of encouraging the Russian protests and giving “the signal” to opposition leaders to protest; while more than 35,000 demonstrators took to the streets with Russians flooding Facebook and Twitter to organize. On Friday, the founder and director general of a Russian online social network was summoned to the prosecutor’s office in Saint Petersburg after he announced they would not comply with an order from the Federal Security Service to block seven groups calling for demonstrations.
- On Tuesday, three people were charged with a plot to murder a cartoonist in Sweden who depicted the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a newspaper in 2005.
- Serbs in Kosovo started to dismantle roadblocks on Monday that had caused clashes with NATO peacekeepers. A local Serb leader said the removal was part of an agreement with the peacekeeping mission (KFOR). On Tuesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resumption of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo to adopt border controls.
- Croatia went to the polling stations in its general elections on Sunday, electing a new centre-left government. On Friday, the country was embraced as the 28th member of the European Union, formally joining on July 1, 2013.
- A letter bomb addressed to Deutsche Bank Chief Josef Ackermann was intercepted in Frankfurt, Germany on Wednesday. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
- A letter bomb exploded at a tax collection agency office in Italy on Friday, wounding the organization’s director. The Italian group, Informal Anarchist Federation, claimed responsibility.
- Several Greenpeace activists stormed into the grounds of a nuclear power plant in France trying to show the vulnerability of atomic sites in the country. Seven of the nine intruders were detained.
- On Monday, politicians in Belgium finally agreed to form a government after almost 18 months after the last elections. The government will be headed by Elio Di Rupo, an openly gay francophone from the Wallonia region.
- On Wednesday, the coalition government in Greece passed an austerity budget aimed at shrinking its debt amid clashes between police and protesters outside of Parliament. Police fired teargas at protesters, who reportedly hurled petrol bombs; broken pavement slabs, and sticks at them, causing over two dozen injuries and 38 arrests.
- Hundreds of farmers protested in Sofia, Bulgaria on Tuesday against subsidy cuts due next year, calling upon the finance and agricultural ministers to resign.
- The opposition leader in South Ossetia announced that a deal with former de facto President Eduard Kokoity to end protests had been violated, calling upon her supporters to demonstrate in the capital. Dzhioyeva said that just prior to quitting his post as President, Kokoity created a Constitutional Court and made dozens of appointments.
- On Saturday, at least 15,000 supporters of the Communist Party in Moldova demonstrated to demand the resignation of the government, which they say is run from Brussels, the US and Bucharest. Presidential elections are set to be held on December 16th.
- The European commissioner for human rights warned that any attempt by the government to overhaul human rights laws in the UK would have a damaging effect on global democracy, after the PM expressed his desire to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights. The convention was drawn up after the Second World War and ratified in 1950.
- Twelve of the some 30 hunger strikers in Kyiv, Ukraine protesting social benefits cuts for Chernobyl cleanup veterans have switched to a so-called dry hunger strike in an attempt to intensify the protest.
- On Sunday, Parliamentary elections in Slovenia saw a narrow victory for the centre-left mayor of the capital, Ljubljana. The Positive Slovenia party won some 28.5% of the votes (or 28 seats), the Slovenian Democratic Party garnered 26.3% and the Social Democrats got 10.5%.
- An opposition activist in Belarus reportedly disappeared after reporting to police for questioning in the eastern part of the country. Dzmitry Toustsik has been missing since December 6th.
- The UN will be having its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in New York city from the 20th to the 22nd of September. They are looking to accelerate the progress towards the MDGs by 2015, review successes, best practices and lessons learned, obstacles and gaps, challenges and opportunities to lead to more “concrete strategies of action”.
- A new machine was invented to convert used plastic back into oil. The machine is relatively small, and lightweight and could have enormous impact on global waste management.
- For the first time in 15 years the number of hungry people in the world has declined, however these figures do not include the millions of hungry people in three “emergency” areas of Pakistan, Haiti and the Sahel in Africa and are not significantly lower than previous years. Rising grain, meat and sugar prices are threatening to increase the number of hungry and malnourished in the upcoming year.
- The number of children who die before reaching the age of five has fallen by a third since 1990, UNICEF reported on Friday. The estimates suggest that 12,000 fewer children are dying each day around the world compared to 1990.
- Scheduled run-off elections in Guinea will be delayed following the conviction of the head of the election commission for election fraud, who died on Tuesday in a Paris hospital. The run-off was scheduled to take place September 19th. Outbreaks of violence killed at least one person and injured another 50 as rival political factions clashed on Sunday.
- Somali police claimed to have foiled a suicide attack by Islamist rebels in Mogadishu on Saturday. Security forces blew out the tires of a petrol tanker and arrested the wounded gunman found with explosives in his bag before he could ram the tanker into the seaport. A senior government minister in Somalia’s separatist region of Somaliland has admitted that a group of rebels have secretly landed along Somaliland shores to fight against the Ethiopian government, a claim that the Ethiopian government adamantly denied. An escalating dispute between the PM and the president could result in the PM being forced from his post. The president later denied the dispute had taken place. Clashes on Thursday between government troops and insurgents around the government buildings killed 15 people and injured at least 50.
- It appears that Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni will run for a fourth time in next year’s presidential election. Museveni has been in power since 1986 and that he does not want any independent competition. The government issued its Public Order Management Bill which is intended to control public political gatherings. Opposition parties and human rights group claim the law is designed to stifle dissent and intend to challenge it. The government also dismissed the UN draft report’s accusations that it committed war crimes during its operations in the DR Congo in the 1990s. A journalist was beaten to death by an angry mob in the southern town of Rakai after filming an attack by a crowd of angry motorcyclists on a local home, and another journalist was murdered three days later as he walked to work.
- Senegalese courts issued a new ruling forbidding marabouts (Muslim holy men) from enlisting children to beg on their behalf. Going against decades of tradition, the ruling is said to be a victory for the near 50,000 street children endangered in Senegal. Amnesty International reported that Senegal’s security forces are continuing to torture prisoners, while its ministers of state block investigations into those claims.
- The Rwandan Army is rumored to be sending new soldiers to neighbouring Congo. This followed several private meetings between Congolese President Kabila and Rwandan President Kagame during Kabila’s three day trip to Rwanda. Following the meeting, Kabila announced that he would suspend all mining from three eastern provinces, with no details of how it would possibly be enforced. Prices have already tanked and experts are concerned about rioting and increasing lawlessness around the mines. Civil society in the Congo are calling for action against harassment following the recent imprisonment, torture, kidnapping and disappearances of several activists. A ceremony marking the destruction of the 100,000th weapon by Mines Advisory Group in the Congo was held in Kinshasa this week and was seen as a step towards positive peace even though violence rages on through much of the country.
- Mobile phone companies in Mozambique are being accused of bowing to government pressure and suspending their texting services and then lying about it in the wake of the Maputo riots at the beginning of the month. The riots were thought to have been organized through text message.
- The UN Security Council extended its mandate in Liberia (UNMIL) for another year and authorized the peacekeeping force to provide support to the government through its elections next year.
- Assassins killed a top anti-graft official in Nigeria on Tuesday. Around 1,000 hoodlums have allegedly been hired to burn down the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission office.
- Twenty-three constitutional outreach meetings had to be canceled in Zimbabwe after ZANU PF supporters brought guns to disrupt the meetings where contributions are deemed to contradict the party. In other areas, their representatives have simply boycotted the meetings, forcing an abandonment of proceedings under the outreach meeting rules.
- Protests continue in Afghanistan, with protesters setting fire to police checkpoints and shops in response to the now withdrawn threat by a US pastor to burn copies of the Qur’an. Two people are said to have been shot and killed during the first day of demonstrations after police opened fire on the protesters. The violent protests continued during the week with dozens of injuries and an unknown number of deaths. NATO forces acknowledged this week that there could have been civilian casualties in an air strike earlier this month that wounded an election candidate that was strongly condemned by President Karzai. Election officials declared that thousands of fake voter registration cards have been found all across Afghanistan for the Saturday parliamentary elections. The Taliban took claim to the murder of two election staff members on Wednesday, while NATO forces are said to have shot an armed protester on Thursday. The Taliban have threatened that they would try to disrupt the poll, urging all Afghanis to boycott the election. On Friday they claimed to have kidnapped 30 campaign workers, elections officials and even a Parliamentary candidate. The UN has evacuated about a third of its permanent workforce over fears of election violence and fraud. The “war on terror” has not had the exact effect on security that was hoped, as this cool graphic shows. The number of attacks each month and travel risks have both increased dramatically.
- Five militants were killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan near the Afghan border on Sunday and another 10 suspected killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. At least 11 are reported killed in another series of US unmanned drone missile strikes on Wednesday. A journalist was shot dead outside his office after receiving repeated death threats on Tuesday. Gangs torched vehicles and a shop in Karachi following the death of a senior politician in London.
- North Korea made a surprise gesture of reconciliation with the South this week by proposing that families separated by the six decades of war be allowed to reunite. The proposal has been suggested by the South in the past. Former President Jimmy Carter suggested that North Korea has sent “strong and clear signals” that it will abandon its nuclear weapons programme if the US guarantees it will not attack. The death of two North Korean journalists became public this week. The two died in a prison camp in 2001, while many more are thought to still be held inside in terrible conditions.
- The Timorese national police force in the eighth district took back its primary policing responsibilities from the UN in the gradual transfer of security functions that has been ongoing since May of 2009.
- Tajiki security authorities killed at least 20 Taliban fighters in a clash along the Afghani border on Saturday. Officials are concerned with growing Islamic radicalism in the country.
- Tens of thousands of Muslims marched through Indian Kashmir on Saturday in violent protests injuring at least 20 people. Government and police buildings were set on fire, and an indefinite curfew was re-imposed, but did little to stop the over 300 protesters who stoned the home of the state education minister. More than a dozen people were killed in protests on Monday following a report on an Iranian TV channel about the desecration of the Qur’an in New York on 9/11 and another 18 people were killed on Tuesday after police fired into protesting crowds. At least five more protesters were shot and killed by police on Wednesday as the violence began spreading to new areas. The protesters wounded six soldiers on Thursday night as they attacked government forces with rocks and another two people were shot dead by Indian troops in demonstrations on Friday.
- Myanmar/Burma’s ruling military claims to have defused a bomb threat aimed at disrupting the upcoming November 7th elections. Observers are concerned that recent incidents might spark wide-spread unrest in the country.
- Thousands of Russian, Chinese and Kazakh soldiers began two weeks of war games in Kazakhstan on Monday to prepare for regional threats. More than 3,000 troops will take part in the exercise.
- More than 70 gay rights activists were detained in Nepal on Tuesday after a rally demanding government identification papers for transgendered people. Without papers, these sexual minorities are unable to get a job, enroll in schools or colleges, seek treatment in hospitals, inherit property or travel.
- A UN backed court in Cambodia formally indicted four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge on Thursday on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and murder. These cases are said to be more difficult than the recent Duch case, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the torture and death of at least 14,000 people.
- Freedom of expression is being curtailed in Azerbaijan in advance to this year’s elections. Nine NGOs met and conducted a three-day mission to collect testimonies of violations earlier this month.
- Three soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Philippines on Thursday. The attack was linked to al Qaeda militants.
The Middle East
- In an ironic case, the Iraqi government has agreed to pay around $400 million to American citizens who were tortured or traumatized by Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1990s. This move is likely to anger many Iraqis who consider themselves the victims of both Saddam and the current US invasion. Amnesty International issued a report saying that tens of thousands of detainees are being held in prisons without trial and are facing physical and psychological abuse or other mistreatment. At least four people were killed in clashes between militants and security forces in northern Iraq on Sunday. Seven Iraqi civilians were killed near Falluja on Wednesday during a raid by American and Iraqi forces while nine Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in a separate incident in Mosul.
- Barack Obama has called on Israel to extend its partial freeze of settlement building on occupied Palestinian lands during the newly-resumed Middle East peace talks, with PM Natanyahu later indicating that it might be possible to limit the scope of future building but refusing to extend the freeze. The Palestinians have made it clear they will walk away from the talks if settlements continue. Air raids and rocket launches continued despite the peace talks, killing at least two Palestinians on Saturday, another three on Sunday, and at least one on Wednesday, with Hamas vowing to carry out attacks in the coming weeks to undermine the “useless” talks. Israeli soldiers killed a local Hamas commander on Friday during a raid on a refugee camp. The UN General Assembly President condemned the desecration of the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla in Jerusalem. The UN has reported that at least 40,000 Palestinian children eligible to enroll in UN schools had to be turned away this year because building materials for school construction have not been approved to enter the area for the past 3 years.
- Iran has barred two key nuclear inspectors from investigating into the country’s nuclear program. The UN atomic watchdog head voiced “great regret” over the decision. President Ahmadinejad has also called off plans to attend a high-level UN global disarmament meeting next week. A senior Iranian diplomat has defected after resigning from his position in the Finnish embassy, and another defected on Tuesday from his post in Belgium. The diplomat said he stepped down due to the attacks by government forces on protesters during the disputed 2009 elections.
- Armed militants failed to bomb a key gas pipeline on Monday in Yemen, after their hand grenades fell metres away from the pipeline. It was not yet determined who was behind the attacks.
North and Central America
- Two religious leaders burned Qur’ans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in Tennessee claiming that the act was an act of love and to defend the US Constitution and the American people. At Ground Zero in New York City, several Qu’rans were desecrated in protest.
- The US is moving ahead with its plans to sell $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft and other weaponry to Saudi Arabia in what is thought to be the largest US arms deal ever. The Senate has also advanced the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, which would bar each side from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads or 700 launchers starting 7 years after ratification.
- A Jordanian reporter claimed that some of the women who were raped at the US’s Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq were later “honor killed” by their families due the shame this inflicted. Robert Fisk reported that “a very accurate source in Washington” has confirmed “terrible stories of gang rape” by US forces in the prison, including videotape evidence of underage boys being sodomized.
- The Pentagon scurried to buy up all 10,000 copies of the first printing of Anthony Shaffer’s new book Operation Dark Heart for destruction because it threatens to expose highly embarrassing information about secret operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how the US missed to opportunity to win the war against the Taliban.
- Mexican marines captured the alleged leader of one of the country’s top drug cartels on Sunday in a raid. Several drug lords are now surrendering without a fight when surrounded. More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence in the past 3 years. Members of several Mexican political parties attacked 170 Zapatista supporters and expelled them from their homes in retaliation for the construction of an autonomous school.
- The Cuban government has announced plans to lay of at least half a million state workers by mid-2011 while reducing the restrictions of private enterprise to help them find new employment. Nearly 90% of the Cuban work force has been state-employed for many years.
- The UN has launched a new operation against rape and gendered violence in Haiti. The head of MINUSTAH voiced his continued concern over the situation of women and children in refugee camps, but noted that a 200-strong police unit maintains a permanent presence in six high risk camps.
- Peru’s President asked Congress to repeal his two-week old decree that gave virtual amnesty to hundreds accused of atrocities during the civil war amid harsh criticism. Activists are alleging widespread rights abuses during the President’s first term and are seeking to put him on trial along with previous President Fujimori.
- Peruvian police clashed with protesters on Thursday, resulting in the death of one man and injuring at least 18 others. The protesters opposed an irrigation project that will leave their town without water.
- Serbia has indicted nine ex-paramilitaries over the killing of ethnic Albanians during the 1998-9 Kosovo conflict. Serbia, who is also seeking ratification of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, is thought to have taken the move in a step in their process towards EU membership.
- A clash between ethnic Serbs and Albanians broke out after the Turkish defeat of Serbia in the World Basketball Championships. Two NATO soldiers were injured in the clashes.
- The Russian government has found a new way to quash dissent, confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. Dozens of outspoken advocacy groups say they have been raided. Microsoft was quick to respond, changing their policies to prohibit its Russian division from taking part in piracy cases. The government was also quick to shut down an attempted protest outside Moscow City Hall that was protesting against the government.
- A senior security police officer was gunned down in the Northern Caucasus region of Daghestan, following several attacks from the previous week that killed at least two officers dead and several wounded. At least seven militants were said to have been killed in a separate incident on Sunday and another 10 militants on Monday.
- The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearings on Monday of charges by Georgia of Russian human rights abuses in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Charges were filled by Georgia in 2008 with claims that Russia had violated the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. Hundreds of protesters gathered in North Ossetia on Wednesday demanding better security after recent violence.
- Presidential aides in France are charged with violating the law on the secrecy of sources of journalists by using a domestic intelligence agency to identify an informant in the Bettencourt scandal. If true, this would violate freedom of the press in the country. The French Senate also voted almost unanimously to ban face-covering Islamic veils in public, with 246 votes for and just one against. The ban should come into effect in spring of next year. A bomb threat at the Eiffel Tower resulted in the evacuation of approximately 25,000 people, but was later declared unfounded. The French government may also face legal action from the European Union for its expulsion of hundreds of Roma on the basis of discrimination based on ethnic origin.
- Turkish voters have approved a referendum on changing the constitution, which critics say will give the ruling party more power over the judiciary. Turkish rights groups, seizing on the opportunity of the reforms that would remove previous immunity, immediately launched petitions to try a retired general over his role in a 1980 coup. At least 8 people were killed by a landmine while traveling in a bus in the south-east. The attack has so far been attributed to the Kurdistan Workers Party. Another attack on Friday killed at least 10 people near a taxi stand amidst clashes between police and demonstrators following a funeral for victims of the bus attack.
- Spanish police have arrested nine people suspected of leading a Basque separatist group Eta. The group is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and had announced a ceasefire in March of 2006, which was subsequently broken.
- A Belarusian activist was detained by police and later fined for distributing newspapers with the logo of the opposition Tell the Truth campaign. The campaign encourages Belarusians to speak out about social problems. An opposition leader says he will not run in the upcoming December elections because he believes it will be rigged.
- A dissident republican group in Northern Ireland has threatened to target bankers and financial institutions on mainland Britain. The group is said to have broke away from the Provisional IRA during peace talks.
This week in conflict…
- The world’s twenty richest nations will be footing an $83 million (USD) bill for three new man-made “floating islands” in Seoul for the upcoming G20. The November meetings will be assisted by apparently more than 400,000 police.
- Rwanda’s election process saw President Paul Kagame win again by a landslide amid a climate of repression. Opposition candidates were arrested and media silenced in advance of the elections. Kagame is said to have won 93% of the votes, and even as much as 100% of the votes in some districts. His team began celebrating the victory before the polls had even closed. Two days later Kigali was struck by a grenade attack that injured at least 20 people.
- The Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has warned the UN mission and aid missions in Darfur that they will face expulsion if they do not support his government authorities. On Wednesday, gunmen killed 23 people, including police officers in an ambush on a truck in the south. On Wednesday, an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in western Darfur was reported, though it was not clear who fired the shots.
- Government forces in Puntland, Somalia have made two military offensives against allies of the Shabab militant group killing at least 21. The UN warns that the long-running conflict in Somalia is spreading beyond its borders and becoming increasingly concerning.
- 2,000 illegal miners stormed a mining site in the DR Congo burning trucks and stealing copper from Tenke Fungurume mine. 32 have been arrested.
- The Central African Republic pleaded for the UN Security Council for help just as the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission MINURCAT is coming to an end. Concerns of rebellion, banditry and inter-ethnic conflict still loom.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army has abducted at least 697 people, nearly one third of who are children, in central Africa in the last 18 months according to a human rights group investigation despite previous assurance from the government of the DRC that the LRA has been decreasing its violence. At least 255 of those abducted were killed, often by crushing their skulls with clubs. Up to 74,000 people have been forced to flee the situation in the CAR and Congo.
- North Korean soccer coach Kim Jong-hun has apparently been fired, ridiculed, expelled from the Worker’s Party, forced to work as a construction laborer and will possibly be executed after his team’s World Cup loss. The North Korean team is said to have faced reprimand and ridicule in front of a large audience of party officials upon their return. FIFA has decided to investigate these claims.
- North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds at waters near a disputed western sea border on Monday, escalating tensions between North and South Korea. South Korea has responded by saying that any North Korean shells found falling south of the border line would be considered an attack and responded to in kind. North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat from the Sea of Japan claiming that it had intruded into their exclusive economic zone. Maybe 13-year-old Jonathan Lee’s proposal to Kim Jong-Il of a “children’s peace forest” in the demilitarized zone can create some calm in the region.
- Thousands have been displaced in rebel infighting in the Philippines. In response, the army fired artillery rounds and rockets to separate warring rebel factions, in breach of the year long ceasefire.
- Two suicide bombers killed up to five Afghans in an attack on a residential area in Kabul on Tuesday. This comes only days after a report by the UN that the number of civilians killed or wounded has soared by 31% in the first six months of this year. A crowd of about 300 Afghani villagers yelled “Death to the United States” while blocking a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as a reprisal for what they call the murder of three innocent villagers by the US forces. On Thursday at least 20 insurgents were killed in Paktia, not far from the Pakistan border and on Friday, 3 international coalition service members were killed in the south Helmand province. A problem of nearly 500 former militants rejoining the insurgency after officials failed to deliver on their aid and amnesty promises has the Afghan government scrambling.
- At least 50 protesters have been injured in Bangladesh during clashes with police on Thursday. The protest was said to have been sparked by an ongoing electricity shortage.
- British and US troops will train with Kazakh forces in mock peacekeeping operations for the next 10 days in an attempt to strengthen links between the three counties on Central Asian soil.
- India announced the development of a new Agni-II intermediate-range nuclear missile in attempt to demonstrate that it is a credible nuclear threat against Pakistan and poised as a great power in the world. The Agni-II has a range of approximate 3,000 km.
- Four people were killed and 10 wounded on Friday in Kashmir as police again fired into thousands of demonstrators over the past two months during anti-India protests.
- Myanmar (Burma) has set its first general election in two decades for November 7 of this year. Western countries are calling the election a sham for the current leaders to increase their power.
- The Sri Lankan military court has convicted its former military chief, Sarath Foneska of meddling in politics while in uniform, resulting in a dishonourable discharge. These charges fall short of accountability for what the UN, the US and many rights groups have considered possible war crimes.
- Israeli authorities have been charged with using “unnecessary force” to demolish homes of Bedouins in the southern Negev desert. Residents immediately began to rebuild all the structures as soon as police and construction crews left the village.
- Iran has begun digging mass graves in which to bury American troops in case of attack on the country. This show of force comes in response to America’s contingency plan to attack Iran in case of nuclear development. According to popular American magazine, “The Atlantic”, they have a 50% chance of being bombed by Israel over the next year. The US administration has also said that it is planning to sell as many as 209 of the latest Patriot interceptor missiles to Kuwait to bolster its defenses against Iran. The interceptors are valued at upwards of $900 million.
- The Gaza Strip’s only power station has been shut down due to a fuel dispute between Hama, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is the third time the plant has been shut down since January.
- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah showed evidence of Israel’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri in a two-hour long television appearance on Monday. Israel dismissed the allegations. According to Nasrallah, a UN court probing the assassination is planning to charge Hezbollah members with the killing, a move which could bring civil violence once again to Lebanon. Nasrallah criticized the investigation of being biased, saying it “does not look into the possibility that Israel is implicated”. The court has since asked Nasrallah for copies of his evidence.
- A series of deadly explosions have killed many in Iraq this week. At least four people were killed in Baghdad, at least 8 in Ramadi, 8 soldiers in Baquba, 11 people in Sadiya and at least 20 in Basra.
- More than 1,000 Mexican journalists marched through the capital to protest the killing and disappearance of their colleagues in the escalating drug violence that is increasingly targeting reporters.
- The confessions of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen charged with terrorism, can be used as evidence at his trial even though they may have been obtained through torture. Khadr stands to be the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes in modern history, as under international law, children captured in war are to be treated as victims and not perpetrators. His trial, which was to start this week, was delayed for the next 30 days after his lawyer collapsed from illness in the courtroom and had to be medevaced out of Guantanamo Bay.
- The US appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocks Massachusetts schools from using literature that denies the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 was a genocide.
- Colombia has sworn in a new president who has vowed that he is willing to hold talks with leaders of Farc, the country’s rebel group and reconstruct relations with Venezuela and Ecuador.
- A suspected car bomb exploded in Bogota injuring four people on Thursday.
- Suriname swore in its “new” president Desi Bouterse on Thursday. Bouterse, who was previously in power following a 1980 coup, ruled the country from 1980-7 and 1990-1. He was accused of violating fundamental human rights and the murders of 5 journalists during his time as dictator.
- Peru’s indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, who the government accuses of starting an Amazonian uprising that killed 33 people, is considering running for president next year.
- The families of 32 Mapuche prisoners have been on a month-long hunger strike in southern Chile over trial irregularities for the twenty self-declared political prisoners imprisoned over land conflicts.
- All of the major European countries are planning mass expulsions of Roma populations and demolitions of Roma settlements. Even though they are European citizens, the Roma are now threatened with expulsion, in breach of the EU basic right to free movement. Some rights group worry that such an action is tantamount to the criminalization of an entire ethnic group.
- Three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion in southeastern Turkey on Sunday. On Monday Turkish soldiers killed 5 Kurdish militants in a firefight after discovering guerrillas laying mines and on Tuesday another 2 people were killed after a pipeline was blown up by Kurdish militants.
- Russia has deployed an S-300 air defense missile system over the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia complained of the strengthening military control over these territories that it insists are still an integral part of Georgian territory.
- North Caucasus rebel groups have begun to split ranks after the contradictory statements of resignation of leader Doku Umarov last week. Chechen field commanders have announced that they are rescinding their oath of loyalty.
- Four former Bosnian Serb army soldiers have been charged with genocide for crimes committed during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The four are said to have assisted in the deaths of at least 800 people.
This summer brought to light complicated global hostilities and the probability of continued conflict in the Caucasus region. Russia has sent a clear message to the West, who has been trying to lure away countries on Russia’s western border and turn them democratic and market-oriented, that it will not tolerate excessive signs of independence from its neighbours.
For many months preceding the war, Russia imposed heavy sanctions on Georgia and rounded up Georgians in Moscow for deportation. In revenge for Kosovo’s independence, Prime Minister Putin established legal ties with the governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Georgia’s northern borders, two regions who have broken away from the Georgian territory. In early July, Russia staged a massive military exercise on the border with South Ossetia, and many Russian jets flew over the region, increasing tensions. In August, Georgia and South Ossetian separatists exchanged fire and explosive attacks. Expected peace talks were halted, after the Russia diplomat in charge of facilitating the process blew off the meetings. Russia then claimed that Georgia broke the unilateral ceasefire by ordering a massive “ethnic cleansing” offensive in South Ossetian villages. According to Georgia, the ceasefire was broken by the South Ossetians. Georgia then began to shell and invade South Ossetia, leaving the Russian army (who was conveniently nearby after its military exercises) to move in to “protect” the South Ossetians.
Blood is clearly on all hands. Civilians are caught in the cross-fire. Thousands have been displaced, hundreds have died, and although a ceasefire has been signed, peace is far from a reality.
The region has been struggling to rebuild itself for the past twenty years. Nationalism flourished after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and began dividing the region ethnically and ideologically. Factions that lived in relative peace for centuries, were suddenly ideological enemies, and displaced to their new ethnically fixed territorial regions. Conflicting histories plague the peace process as claims to land are ‘legitimized’ by different regional versions. Massive ethnic cleansing of regions (including forced displacement and relocation) has left pockets of clashing ethnicities eager to slit each others’ throats.
The tendency since the Cold War to describe all conflicts as “ethnic” conflicts has left many wondering if these are in fact “ethnic” conflicts at all. If the tensions are a product of ancient ethnic hatreds, then this would assume that there is something inherently conflictual about ethnicity, making conflict increasingly inevitable since we live in such an ethnically diverse world. We often forget that ethnicities are not some homogenous group, but are in fact constantly changing and fluid. The problems have more to do with access to raw materials and political choices that have pitted one group against another.
Separating ethnicities into homogenous enclaves is a dangerous game.
Academics claim that the more ethnically diverse a society, the less its propensity towards conflict. In fact the chance for conflict increases the more ethnically singular an area is, especially if the society is ranked. Ethnicities need to be recognized and the rights of all peoples, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, background, etc. need to be enforced.
Violent conflict is always avoidable. There are many ways to transform conflict through non-violent means. Diplomacy must begin to work, and to do this we must demand it work. Our governments must sanction aggressors to the full extent, and ensure that the do not get away with violence. We must write letters, stage protests, and make our voices heard. Violence has no need to continue, but the only way it will ever stop is if we make it stop through international sanctioning, pressures and peace building initiatives. We can transform war into peace, but only through intense solidified effort. We must all work together.