Turkmenistan

This Week in Asian Conflict… February 15th-22nd, 2012.

  • President Karzai of Afghanistan confronted the Pakistani leadership on Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the Taliban; he also was quoted as saying there were secret contacts between the US, Afghan governments and the Taliban, and that the militant group was interested in ending the war; while the Pakistani President publicly pledged efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban with hopes of ending the Afghan war. On Saturday, the two days of high level talks ended in acrimony with Afghanistan saying it was “preposterous” to think that Pakistan could deliver the Taliban chief Mullah Omar to the negotiating table. On Sunday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that education in the country would be taking a big step backward, as new textbooks would cut out much of the country’s post-1973 history since none of the major groups can agree on a basic set of facts. On Monday, a prominent female lawmaker repeated her intention to run for the presidency when Karzai’s term runs out in two years time; while a car bomb in Kandahar killed one policeman and wounded four other people. On Tuesday, US and NATO forces rushed to apologize for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of angry Afghans protested outside the Bagram military airbase; Chatham House released a new report on how the withdrawal of international forces will affect the country; Afghan officials reported that Taliban militants beheaded four Afghan civilians who they believed had been spying for the government; President Karzai reportedly invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help with negotiations; a man wearing an Afghan police uniform killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb killed four civilians including a child in southern Kandahar; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two insurgents, wounded three and detained one more in Kabul and Logar provinces; and Pakistan announced it will not support an American-driven initiative to start Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar until it is clear that they have backing from Kabul. On Wednesday, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced that three of their soldiers were killed in Helmand province while serving alongside NATO forces; while President Karzai appealed for calm as demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Qur’an clashed with security forces, resulting in at least seven deaths.
  • The military in Pakistan rejected criticism by Human Rights Watch concerning the murder of a Pakistani journalist that suggested the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was beyond the reach of the criminal justice system, as “derogatory, biased and contradictory”; while intelligence officials said two suspected US drone missile attacks killed more than 10 people in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. On Thursday, a suspected US drone aircraft reportedly fired two missiles at a car in the North Waziristan region, killing ten people; a homemade bomb planted in a vehicle exploded in the city of Quetta; a militant threw a hand grenade at police officials in Peshawar, injuring three people; one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes between Pakistani forces and a group of militants in Wana; a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded five others in the Upper Dir district; and a suspected US drone aircraft killed six and wounded two others as it fired two missiles at a house in Miranshah. On Friday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that the Americans should “suck it up” and apologize to Pakistan for the “friendly fire” incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall; a homemade bomb exploded, killing three Pakistani soldiers in Tirah; three militiamen were killed when Pakistani forces and a pro-government militia attacked a militant base in Bara; a clash between two militias left five militants and three members of a government-sponsored militia dead; while a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed up to 32 people and injuring at least 60 in a market in a town close to the Afghan border. On Saturday, the death toll from Friday’s suicide bombing rose to 39; and militants ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded in the northwestern Khyber region, killing seven pro-government militia members and critically wounding five others; while militants reportedly attacked a military checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding three others in Wana. On Tuesday, the Interior Minister announced that the government in Islamabad intends to ask Interpol to arrest the former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former PM Bhutto; a homemade bomb exploded outside a hospital in Peshawar with no reported casualties; a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the Bagzai area with no casualties; and policeman was killed when militants attacked a police checkpoint in Panjgur.
  • The International Crisis Group released a new report on Timor-Leste’s upcoming elections, and the possibility of a more peaceful future.
  • The President of Kyrgyzstan announced on Friday that he plans to demand overdue fees for Russian military assets on Kyrgyz soil during upcoming talks in Moscow. On Monday, the President announced at a meeting with visiting US State Department officials that “no foreign troops” should remain at the Manas airport after 2014, which the US pays to use as a transit centre for operations in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a state-controlled Internet provider blocked access to a leading independent news website.
  • Activists suspected of playing a role in December’s violence in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan are reportedly still being rounded up by authorities and detained. On Tuesday, five men were reportedly sentenced on terrorism charges for creating an illegal armed group and of organizing and conducting a bombing in the northwest, to jail terms varying from 5 to 13 years; while the former VP of the Kazakh national nuclear company was arrested in Canada for violating immigration laws.
  • Human Rights Watch criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan for the alleged forcible eviction of hundreds of residents to demolish the last standing building in the neighbourhood of Baku where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is to be held. On Saturday, security forces allegedly arrested and jailed an Iranian journalist within the country without any specific charge. Authorities announced on Tuesday that they had busted an alleged terrorist group working for Iran’s secret services.
  • The government of Myanmar/Burma announced it expects to reach a ceasefire deals with all of the ethnic minority rebel armies within three months time before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”. The Bangkok Post ran an article that suggested that the recent ceasefire deals are driven by a desire of the army and politicians to capitalize on the booming narcotics business and not a real desire for change. On Thursday, the World Bank said it was in the process of returning to the country after 25 years, but the nation must first clear its arrears to global financial institutions before the bank resumes lending. On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting travel restrictions and sanctions against the country, in the first step towards rewarding the government for democratic reforms. On Sunday, a dissident monk who helped lead the 2007 anti-government uprising is facing fresh legal action for “squatting” illegally in a government-sealed monastery and breaking into two others. On Monday, the Guardian reported that a monk jailed for his role in the 2007 protests and then released in an amnesty in January now faces action by the authorities because he has “repeatedly broken Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law” by rejoining the religious order without requesting authorization and joining a monastery that has been sealed off by the government. On Wednesday, Karen rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy in the country for the last six decades, outlined their demands for peace with the government, including a complete withdrawal of government troops from posts near villages along the Thai border.
  • Recent re-elected President Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan vowed to lay the foundations for a multiparty system and a free media on Thursday, after being elected with some 97 percent of the vote.
  • Radio Free Europe reported that articles in the Uzbek language on Wikipedia have not been accessible in Uzbekistan for weeks, though no official statements have been released by authorities about the blockage. On Wednesday, it was reported that prominent cleric Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov survived an attempt on his life in a Swedish city where he was granted political asylum in 2006.
  • The government of China reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans who were returning from teaching sessions by the Dalai Lama in India and is forcing them to undergo political re-education. On Wednesday, Chinese police reportedly detained a Tibetan writer in a western area. On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan PM said that the plight of Tibetans has deteriorated since a wave of deadly protests in 2008, stressing that Tibetans live in a “lockdown”. On Saturday, another Tibetan Buddhist monk reportedly set himself on fire in western China.  On Sunday, the 21st Tibetan monk this year set himself on fire after shouting slogans in favour of Tibetan independence and the exiled Dalai Lama.
  • The new President of the Maldives agreed to hold early elections on Thursday to break the political impasse brought on by the allegations that the former President was forced to resign in a coup. On Friday, thousands of supporters of the former President rallied peacefully in the capital as Commonwealth ministers arrived to investigate the circumstances of his exit from power.
  • Two fishermen in India were reportedly shot dead in a confrontation with an Italian oil tanker off the southern Indian coast on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Indian police detained the entire Italian crew.
  • North Korea threatened to launch “merciless” strikes against South Korea over its planned regular live-fire drills near their disputed sea border on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with the North, despite their threat of retaliation; while North Korea’s state media announced that the ruling Worker’ Party will hold a key conference in April where it will likely make official the succession of power to Kim Jung-un.
  • The family of two young brothers in Indonesia have blamed police brutality for the death of their two boys, aged 13 and 17, who died in police custody. A new poll on Monday suggested that the ruling Democrat Party has lost major support, to the point that it could be pushed out in the next election. On Wednesday, security forces reportedly stormed a prison on Bali following a riot by inmates, injuring several people.
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This Week in Asian Conflict… February 8th-15th, 2012.

  • A criminal court on the island nation of the Maldives issued an arrest warrant for the first democratically-elected President, Mohammed Nasheed, who awaited arrest in his home on Thursday, following last week’s alleged coup attempt. The ousted President was still walking free on Friday despite the arrest warrant and called upon new elections and vowed mass street protests if the new government did not relent. On Sunday, the new President Mohamed Waheed told a visiting American diplomat that he would be willing to cooperate with a probe into the circumstances of the transition of power; while he expanded his cabinet to strengthen the new coalition government, swearing in six members from four political parties as ministers; and the Commonwealth announced it would send a team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the President leaving power. On Monday, a senior UN official called on all sides to urgently reach agreement on forming an inclusive government of national unity and for a credible and independent probe into recent events, though said that it was up to the local population it is up to them to resolve violent divisions. On Tuesday, the new President pledged “peace and order” in the country and assured the visiting European delegation that he would form a “fully inclusive” cabinet.
  • The Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency in Pakistan is facing charges in the courts over the case of 11 men who were allegedly abducted and tortured; while a US drone missile strike is reported to have killed Taliban leader Badar Mansoor and three others in the North Waziristan region on Thursday. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from PM Gilani, upholding that he must appear before the court next week to answer contempt-of-court charges; a second US drone attack in two days in the North Waziristan region killed at least four people, including a senior militant commander with alleged links to al-Qaeda; militants fired two RPGs at a military airport in Miranshah near the Afghani border; unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades and opened fire on a police vehicle after a political rally in the northwest, wounding some 12 people; a homemade bomb planted in a donkey cart exploded in the Khuzdar area, killing one person and wounding another; and Pakistani forces fired artillery shells at three militant hideouts in the Mamozai area of the northwest, killing some 11 militants and wounding another 19. On Saturday, a homemade bomb exploded in a house in the outskirts of Peshawar, killing some seven people and wounding another three; while PM Gilani said that corruption charges against the President were “politically motivated” and that the President had immunity as head of state. On Monday, PM Gilani was formally charged with contempt at the Supreme Court, accused of failing to reopen old corruption cases against the President; and a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the southwest, killing two and wounding 14. On Tuesday, militants opened fire on a group of labourers in the southwestern town of Turbat, killing seven. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article that claimed that the US Special Forces have infiltrated Pakistan, the CIA entering after the 2005 earthquake under the guise of construction workers and aid workers, others slipping in through the Afghani border.
  • A young man was killed late on Friday in Kashmir when a soldier reportedly accidently fired his rifle as security forces combed the area for militants. Angry demonstrators blocked the main highway to protest the killing the following day, with police using batons and tear gas to disperse them.
  • The Atlantic ran an article about the razing of historic neighbourhoods in Beijing, China and the subsequent displacement of often-resistant families. On Sunday, a teenage Tibetan nun reportedly set herself on fire in the latest protest against treatment of Tibetan regions it rules.
  • Exiled students from Myanmar/Burma are reportedly returning home for the first time since a failed student uprising in 1988 after receiving visas from the government, a further sign of political reconciliation; though reports will still coming out of refugees facing violence as they flood across the Chinese border. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has reportedly been greeted by cheering crowds on Friday as she began her campaigning in the constituency where she is standing for Parliament for the first time.
  • One person was killed and 13 others wounded when a truck bomb exploded on Thursday in south Thailand that police blamed on ethnic Malay rebels.
  • President Karzai of Afghanistan strongly condemned a NATO air strike that reportedly killed at least 8 children in the eastern part of the country on Wednesday and called for an “all-out probe” into the details of the incident. On Thursday, Karzai extended the unilateral deadline for the transfer of full control of Bagram Prison to the Afghan authorities until March 9th and suspended all legal and judicial operations at the prison; two policemen were killed and one wounded when they tried to defuse a mine in Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand; while two alleged insurgents were killed and more than 30 detained in joint operations of Afghan security forces and foreign troops across the country. On Friday, the French Defense Minister said that using the route through Uzbekistan to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan was too costly, and that Pakistan was the better option. On Saturday, an ISAF soldier died in an insurgent attack in Kabul; while a roadside bomb killed five policemen while they were traveling in their car in the south. On Sunday, gunmen burst into a family home of a provincial judge in the east, killing him and his niece. On Monday, NATO conceded that several children died during a recent military operation in the northeast, but that it’s not clear if NATO was actually to blame for the events as the children might have been carrying weapons; and the Afghani Taliban says the militia’s former defence minister died two years ago in a Pakistani jail; six Taliban insurgents and two policemen were reportedly killed in fighting in the Ab Band district; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 10 insurgents in several operations across the country; and an ISAF service man was killed in an insurgent attack in the south.
  • The Prosecutor-General’s Office in Kazakhstan announced on Thursday that a group of suspected religious extremists were arrested in the northwestern city of Oral and were found with explosives and extremist literature in their apartments. On Monday, the wife of the jailed chairman of the unregistered opposition Algha party said her husband’s rights as a prisoner are being violated, as he has not had access to a lawyer, she has not been allowed to meet with him and the National Security Committee officers refused to accept food and clothes she has been trying to pass him since arrest.
  • Authorities in Turkmenistan closed the Turkmen-Kazakh border on Thursday, citing the February 12th Presidential elections as the cause of the closure. On Sunday, incumbent President Berdymukhammedov was reportedly leading at the polling stations, defeating seven other relatively unknown candidates running against him. On Monday, reports claimed Berdymukhammedov had won a new term with more than 97 percent of the vote, with a more than 96 percent turnout.
  • The State National Security Committe in Kyrgyzstan said its forces captured a member of the Zhayshul Mahdi terrorist group on Friday. On Monday, a jailed former policeman was found hanged in his cell, prompting some 200 protesters to block the Osh-Batken highway in the south the following day.
  • A rumour of the assassination or coup of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un during a visit to Beijing went viral this week after a couple of posts on a Chinese website Weibo that was then forwarded onto Twitter. A senior American envoy is set to hold nuclear talks next week in Beijing with North Korea, resuming a dialogue put on hold by the death of Kim Jong-il last year.

This Week in Asian Conflict… December 8th-14th, 2011.

  • A US citizen was jailed by authorities in Thailand for translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the King and posting them online. On Friday, the former PM was being questioned by police in connection with a deadly military crackdown on the “Red Shirt” mass opposition protests that occurred while he was in office.
  • On Thursday, assailants set fire to more than 20 NATO fuel tankers in Pakistan after firing rockets at a terminal for the tankers near the city of Quetta; while armed men gunned down the coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the northwest while driving his motorbike to his office; and four militants were reportedly killed after they attacked a check post and killed a paramilitary soldier. On Friday, President Zardari told a journalist in a phone interview that he was “fine” and would return home soon amid rumours of his death and possible coup plots; a roadside blast killed three paramilitary soldiers and wounded four in Karachi; a senior military officer said the NATO air strike that killed Pakistani troops last month was pre-planned and warned of more attacks; and Pakistani security forces reportedly killed 5 militants in a clash in South Waziristan. On Saturday, security forces reportedly killed five militants in an exchange of fire in the Swat valley; security forces killed four militants and wounded three others in a clash that erupted after insurgents attacked a military check post in the northwest; while the deputy chief for the Taliban in Pakistan announced that they are in peace talks with the government, though by Monday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, the PM and a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban all denied the peace talks, with the government saying they would only do so if the militants first disarmed and surrendered and the Taliban saying it would only talk if the government agreed to impose Sharia law. On Monday, it was reported that President Zardari would need two weeks rest in Dubai following his medical treatments; gunmen in the south west attacked a NATO supply convoy, killing one truck driver; while the PM announced that the blockade of NATO supply lines into Afghanistan is likely to stay in place for weeks and warned that further retaliatory action, such as the closing of airspace to the US, is possible amid the withdrawal of US forces from Shamsi Air Field in the south. The Senate gave final approval to two bills containing new laws that would stiffen the punishment for acid attacks against women and criminalize practices such as marrying off young girls to settle tribal disputes and preventing women from inheriting property. On Tuesday, police in the south found and released dozens of students chained and held in the basement of an Islamic seminary, some of who claimed they had been tortured and were being trained as jihadist fighters; while a US Congressional panel froze $700 million in aid to Pakistan until it could give assurances that the country is tackling the spread of homemade bombs; and one soldier was killed and seven others wounded when militants reportedly fired RPGs at a military camp in the Shawal area. On Wednesday, the government began drawing up plans to tax NATO for using its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan in retaliation for the “friendly fire” incident last month.
  • On Monday, Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit reportedly amid concerns over North Korea’s missile program and to monitor natural disasters in the region. The radar satellite will be able to capture images at night and in cloudy weather and cost about $512 million to develop.
  • On Thursday, British PM Cameron announced that up to 4,000 British troops could leave Afghanistan early, before the end of 2013; one of three options to be considered by the PM. On Friday, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up, killing at least five people outside a mosque in Kunar province; and unknown gunmen killed three civilians in the north. On Saturday, a bicycle bomb exploded in Kunduz city, killing two people and injuring 16; while three civilians were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province. On Monday, the National Army and coalition forces reportedly killed 14 armed insurgents while police arrested 11 others during three joint operations in Kunar and Zabul provinces. On Tuesday, it was reported that the Afghan government has made a deal with the Taliban to end attacks on state schools in return for a more conservative religious curriculum and the hiring of Taliban-approved mullahs as teachers; six civilians were killed in a homemade bomb explosion in Helmand province; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed 18 alleged insurgents, wounded six and detained 55 in eight separate operations across the country; Afghan police killed a would-be suicide bomber near an airport in Badghis; and unknown gunmen killed some six civilians in Nangarhar. On Wednesday, the government recalled its Qatari ambassador for “consultations” amid media reports of the opening of a Taliban office in the country.
  • The Time of India reported on Wednesday that inequality in earnings has doubled in the country over the last two decades, making it one of the worst performers in terms of salary disparities from all emerging economies.
  • A former cabinet member in Turkmenistan has criticised the ruling party for being an “unlawful institution” and for the absence of democracy and human rights within the country. Upcoming Presidential elections scheduled for February 12th have only one legal party, that of the incumbent.
  • A militant group Jund al-Khilafah confirmed that five of its fighters were killed in a shootout with security forces in Kazakhstan last week. The group has been posting messages threatening the government since October, when the country adopted a new, restrictive law on religion. On Saturday, President Nursultan Nazarbaev said he would refuse to accept the “People’s Hero” award, but had no objection to December 1st being marked as the “Day of the First President of Kazakhstan”. On Tuesday, officials at a university in the northwest lifted a hijab ban for students after eight female students threatened to sue the school. On Wednesday, twelve men were jailed for up to 15 years after being called “associates of Kazakhstan’s first-ever suicide bomber”.
  • Buddhists in Tibet are burning themselves alive in China as a plea for freedom, with as many as 12 self-immolations since March. Workers’ unrest continued in China this week, as hundreds of factory workers staged a mass rally and faced off against riot police. China said its armed police have begun a joint patrol of the Mekong river with forces from neighbouring Myanmar/Burma, Laos and Thailand in response to the deaths of 13 Chinese sailors who were attacked in October. On Monday, it was reported that a man accused of rioting over land-grabs in a southern Chinese village died while in police custody, allegedly of cardiac failure, a claim his family rejects; while police in central China detained two men for spreading a rumour and video online that thousands of police were called out to guard a wedding convoy. The government said the police being there was a coincidence, as officers were returning from a training drill when the coincided with the wedding convoy. On Wednesday, villagers barricaded themselves in front of a ring of riot police calling upon the government to intervene in their land dispute after one of their activists died in police custody earlier in the week; while a commercial US satellite company said it had captured a photo of China’s first aircraft carrier in Yellow Sea off the Chinese coast.
  • On Monday, it was reported that a retired French colonel had killed himself in protest against “indifference” to the plight of the Hmong minority in Laos in October who he fought alongside in the 40s and 50s. Ethnic Hmong have been complaining of discrimination in Vietnam and Laos.
  • A human rights group has called upon the government of Sri Lanka to investigate the disappearance of two activists who disappeared sometime last week from a northern city. The two men were organizing protests to highlight the desperation of the families of those missing from the civil war. At least nine other men were reportedly abducted within the past couple of months.
  • A campaign group on Friday warned that the continued military offensive against ethnic Kachin rebels in the north of Myanmar/Burma has sent tens of thousands fleeing from their homes and threatens a humanitarian crisis, as fighting intensified this week. Aid agencies estimate that between 30,000 and 40,000 people are living in makeshift jungle camps, inaccessible to most aid organizations. On Monday, the President ordered commanders of the security forces not to launch offensives against the Kachin Independence Army, but only defend from attacks, though on Wednesday, UN bodies reported several clashes between the two armed groups. Myanmar/Burma denied this week that it had been cooperating with North Korea on nuclear weapons technology, instead saying it had merely signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two armed forces.
  • The Philippines re-launched an old US Coast Guard cutter (warship) on Wednesday to guard potentially oil-rich waters that are at the centre of a dispute with China and is potentially seeking used fighter jets from the US during a visit next year. Territorial defense has reportedly become increasingly important to the country amid renewed tension in the South China Sea.
  • On Monday a coastguard from South Korea was fatally stabbed while trying to seize a Chinese fishing boat, in the latest in a series of deadly clashes over diminishing fish stocks in the Yellow Sea that is forcing Chinese fishermen to go further and further from their own shores. South Korea has seized about 470 Chinese ships for illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea so far this year. North Korea warned South Korea of “unexpected consequences” for the “psychological warfare” created if it lights up a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the border.
  • Around a thousand protesters picketed outside the mayor of Osh’s office in Kyrgyzstan on Monday to demand that it stop blackmailing a Parliament speaker for his alleged criminal links and for the resignation of the party leader, though the former Parliament speaker persuaded them to end the protest on Wednesday. On Tuesday, hundreds of inmates in seven prisons started a hunger strike to demand better living conditions and meals. On Wednesday, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture said that police, investigators and prison guards in the country still use torture during their investigations and is expected to present his full report to the government with recommendations on how to eliminate it by next month; while the former chief of the State Committee for National Security was put under house arrest in Bishkek after he unexpectedly showed up in court where he was being tried in absentia for alleged abuses during anti-government protests in April 2010.
  • Human Rights Watch condemned Uzbekistan over its rights record in a new 104-page report titled “No One Left to Witness: Torture, the Failure of Habeas Corpus, and the Silencing of Lawyers in Uzbekistan”. A chairwoman of the Committee of Legislation and Judicial Issues of the Uzbek Senate suggests that although some abuses do take place, that reality is a far cry from the systemic abuses alleged in the HRW report.
  • The deposed PM of Papua New Guinea was reinstated by the governor-general on Wednesday in an effort to resolve months of deadlock in the government after an earlier court ruling that the current PM had taken power illegally. O’Neill toppled Somare in August while he was overseas seeking medical treatment, and is now refusing to accept the governor-general’s decision. Police are calling for calm amid fears of unrest in the streets. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the political tensions and called upon all sides to “exercise maximum restraint”.
  • A three-month old strike at a giant gold and copper mine in Indonesia owned by American Freeport-McMoRan was reportedly settled after a wage deal was reached with the workers’ union. Nine people were killed during violence since the walkout began.

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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