- President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina sought negotiations with the UK to establish several weekly flights from Buenos Aires to the Falkland Islands on Thursday, a move the Islands’ legislative chairman says is “about as likely as the Falklands Air Service landing flights on the moon”.
- The independent federal elections agency in Canada announced on Friday that it is now investigating more than 31,000 complaints of voting irregularities related to automated telephone calls during the last election that allegedly sent voters to false voting stations. The irregularities have been linked to the ruling Conservative Party, though the party and the PM thoroughly deny any wrongdoing. On Monday, the Conservative parliamentary secretary refused to release its call records in the wake of the growing robo-call scandal, while at the same time calling upon the Liberal party to release their records and shifting blame to Election Canada, the independent election body. On Tuesday, PM Harper refused to explain why Conservative MPs rejected a request by Elections Canada for more power to verify campaign financial returns; while the Conservatives reportedly repaid taxpayers $230,198 for their previous “in-and-out” scandal from the 2006 elections. On Wednesday, the Vancouver Observer ran a report detailed a Conservative adjunct professor’s experience attending the Conservative-aligned Manning Centre for Democracy Campaign School where voter suppression tactics were allegedly discussed.
- President Chavez of Venezuela announced that he will need radiation treatment for cancer in the run-up to the October Presidential elections; though he insisted there was no metastasis after the removal of another tumor. On Saturday, Al Jazeera ran a report on the country’s struggles to stop violent crimes. On Monday, the government and opposition traded blame with each other after a violent melee at a Presidential campaign stop where several people were injured by bullets in Caracas.
- President Martelly of Haiti nominated his foreign minister and close advisor, Laurent Lamothe, as PM on Thursday, raising hopes of a swift end to the country’s political vacuum. On Sunday, the President asked government officials to find ways to clear several sites around the country being occupied by ex-members of the armed forces. On Wednesday, a banker whose son is cooperating with authorities in a major US bribery investigation involving former government officials was shot and killed.
- United States Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to outline the legal framework for the use of lethal force in targeted killings of Americans overseas in a major speech at Northwestern University law school on Sunday, suggesting that lethal force is legal under a September 18, 2001 resolution. On Monday, a bill reportedly passed in the House of Representatives (passing in the Senate on Thursday) that would expand existing anti-protest laws that make it a felony to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted”, which is defined in extremely vague and broad terms and could include a building or grounds where the President or other persons protected by Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting. Tuesday was dubbed “Super Tuesday” as 10 states opened their primary and caucus contests for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination. On Thursday, two people were killed and seven wounded in a shooting at a psychiatric institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre; while a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre suggested that the number of hate and anti-government groups continued to rise in the previous year, fueled by racial tensions, conspiracy theories and anger over economic inequality. Reports suggested that a state senator in Wisconsin introduced a bill aimed at penalizing single mothers by calling their unmarried status a contributing factor in child abuse and neglect.
- Police in Peru announced that they arrested a suspected leader of a Maoist faction of the Shining Path rebel movement on Saturday who was the apparent successor to “Comrade Artemio” who was captured last month.
- Following the rebel group FARC in Colombia’s announcement that it intends to release the last of its captives and stop kidnapping for ransom, families of 10 people currently in FARC custody were provided with new hope. On Tuesday, the ELN guerrillas reportedly freed 11 oil workers who were kidnapped in late February.
- President Correa of Ecuador rallied supporters on Thursday in a show of force against street protests by opponents who he said were trying to destabilize his government ahead of the 2013 election.
- President Caledron of Mexico reportedly unveiled a large advertising board near the American border calling on the US to stop the flow of weapons into the country on Friday. On Sunday, a fight between prison inmates inside a jail near Monterrey reportedly killed some 44 people. On Monday, reports suggested that some 30 members of the Zeta drug cartel plotted with prison guards to orchestrate an elaborate escape that resulted in Sunday’s prison deaths.
- The Governor of New Jersey in the United States rejected a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state and called upon a ballot question to decide the issue a day after the state assembly passed it. On Friday, a 29 year-old Moroccan man was arrested in Washington DC as part of an anti-terrorism campaign, as he carried what he thought was explosives into the city. On Monday, the Obama administration’s plan to revamp the country’s nuclear weapons strategy and possibly reduce the number of warheads was leaked to the press, causing a major uproar among some conservatives who called the proposals “reckless lunacy”. On Tuesday, the US Marine corps discharged the long marine convicted in the 2005 killings of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha, but will not face jail time. On Wednesday, several members of the Congress received mail threatening biological attack and containing suspicious powder, later found to be harmless by law enforcement officials. On Thursday, at least seven US soldiers were reportedly killed after two helicopters collided during a training exercise along the Arizona-California border.
- Authorities in Canada announced plans to toughen their refugee laws to filter out fake claims from “safe” countries like Hungary, which it says are clogging up the system and wasting taxpayer money. Critics say it is an attack on human rights, as it appears to target the large influx of claims from Roma “gypsies” coming from Hungary. The country has also allegedly threatened a trade war with the European Union over the bloc’s plan to label oil from the province of Alberta’s vast tar sands as highly polluting. An indigenous community has launched a lawsuit against the government and a petrochemical company SunCor for failing to prevent pollution that has taken a severe toll on their environment and health.
- The top court in Ecuador upheld a jail sentence on Thursday against three newspaper publishers who were also ordered to pay damages for libelling President Correa. Rights groups claim the ruling puts freedom of expression under threat.
- The President of Haiti was reportedly attacked as he walked in a Carnival procession in Port-au-Prince, but escaped unharmed on Friday. Witnesses say that “troublemakers” were throwing rocks at the President and his accompanying motorcade.
- National police in Panama reportedly broke up protests over plans for a vast copper mine and hydroelectric schemes, killing three men, wounding dozens and detaining more than 100 others.
- Flooding rivers in Peru and Chile displaced people and turned up old land mines from the 1970s, resulting in a closure of the border between the two countries on Monday.
- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela announced that he must receive another operation to remove a lesion on his pelvis where surgeons removed a large cancerous tumour last year, but denied rumours that there was any metastasis. Chavez’s imminent departure for his surgery has reportedly thrown his re-election campaign into uncertainty.
- Hundreds of relatives of inmates who died in last week’s prison fire in Honduras reportedly forced their way into a morgue in the capital to demand the remains of loved ones on Tuesday. The government announced that a dropped cigarette may have set off the fire, going back on the original claims of a purposely set fire.
- A group of 17 leading intellectuals in Argentina criticized the government for supporting the right to self-determination of Falkland Island inhabitants, questioning the country’s claims on the territory.
- The Pentagon in the United States announced their plans on Thursday to change rules in the armed forces to open up more than 14,000 positions for women to serve as frontline medics, helicopter pilots and intelligence analysts, bringing them closer to frontline combat roles. On Saturday, Republican Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney narrowly won Maine’s caucuses with 39% support; while the hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for disabling the CIA website, making it inaccessible for several hours. On Monday, lawmakers in New Jersey passed a bill through the state Senate to legalize gay marriage for the first time, but Governor Chris Christie announced he would veto the bill. On Tuesday, Texas announced that they may be incapable of carrying out further death sentences beyond June because they are running out of supplies of lethal drugs; more than 1.8 million dead Americans reportedly remain listed as active voters, as the voter registration system is “plagued with errors and inefficiencies”; the US Defense Secretary told members of Congress that President Obama’s proposed smaller defense budget won’t compromise US “military superiority” around the world; while the US Department of Defense is apparently asking the federal government for almost $3 billion for “activities” in Iraq, even though they have supposedly withdrawn from the country.
- Argentina accused Britain of sending a nuclear submarine to the disputed Falkland Islands on Friday, in an ongoing feud between the two nations. MPs from a parliamentary committee that oversees defence matters are set to visit the Falklands next month, in a move that is likely to heighten tensions even more between Britain and Argentina.
- The Guardian reported on Sunday on defenders of the Amazon in Brazil who inform on illegal loggers often face death or exile; while the police strike in the north-east reportedly ended, though a similar action in Rio de Janeiro is still continuing.
- Venezuela ran its first-ever opposition Presidential primary on Sunday, where it chose a single challenger to run against incumbent Hugo Chavez. Henrique Capriles, a state governor, won the primaries with around 62 percent of the vote. By Wednesday, allies of Chavez had allegedly begun a smear campaign against Capriles, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the vote, questioning his sexuality and disparaging his Jewish roots.
- The top leader of the Shining Path in Peru has reportedly been found alive, but is badly wounded, after the military had earlier reported him dead. On Sunday, reports were suggesting that the leader was badly wounded after being shot and captured by security forces in a remote jungle.
- Authorities in central Mexico say a mob of around 300 took three suspected kidnappers out of town’s police station and beat them to death, setting two of the men on fire during an attack on Friday. On Saturday, authorities for the first time appointed a female to the role of head of the federal police. On Wednesday, police reportedly found the mutilated bodies of six men inside plastic bags dumped on a road near the city of Cuernavaca with a threatening message inside.
- A fire allegedly started by an inmate in a prison in Honduras killed some 356 prisoners, who were locked in their cells. Outraged relatives of the dead inmates tried to storm the gates of the prison on Wednesday morning to recover the remains of their loved ones, but were driven back by police officers firing tear gas. Reports suggest that most of the inmates in the prison had never been charged, let alone convicted of any crime.
- The UN Security Council finished a four-day visit to Haiti and called for police reform and improvement in living conditions for those displaced in the January 2010 earthquake.
- A Pentagon legal official refused to extend an important deadline to file motions for defense lawyers of the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the September 11th attack on Friday. Dozens of riot police cleared the last remaining Occupy encampments in the United States on Saturday, saying they were banned under park rules; while members of the hacker group Anonymous made a statement on the website of the law firm Puckett and Faraj claiming to have published three GB of private email messages of the attorneys who defended the US Marine who faced charges in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in the Haditha massacre and recently had his charges dropped. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down a California law that strips gay couples of the right to marry, stating it violated principles of due process and equal protection under the law. On Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington State voted to approve gay marriage; while the authorities agreed with Japan to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of American troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind a stalled discussion about closing a major US Marine base there. On Thursday, the Pentagon unveiled a new policy that intends to expand job opportunities for women in the military, but will shift them closer to combat fighting, in an effort to begin eliminating some of the gender-based discrimination in the military. Al Jazeera ran an interesting article asking whether democracy in the US is being bought and sold by corporations, unions and political action committees.
- An article in the SF Chronicle discussed the recent mass evictions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in preparation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, with some 170,000 people reportedly facing threats to their housing or already removed. The army reportedly clashed with striking police officers in the city of Salvador over the weekend. The police officers are striking over pay and poor benefits amid rising crime rates, with some 78 people murdered in only 5 days. On Thursday, the striking police officers agreed to leave the state assembly house they had occupied for several days, but have not yet indicated that the strike was over.
- An ageing peace activist in Ecuador has built a haven for young local gang members called the Barrio de Paz or the “Neighbourhood of Peace”, becoming a grandmotherly figure to the gang members and helping to guide them into a life of non-violence. The activist believes that gang organizations can be transformed to be used for good, as a support system for other members and has had some great successes in her process.
- The ruling centre-right political party in Mexico announced that they had chosen a woman to run for the Presidency. Josefina Vazquez Mota, a former writer of self-help books, economist and former education minister, is currently around 20 percentage points behind Enrique Pena Nieto, the Institutional Revolutionary party candidate. A drug cartel in Ciudad Juarez threatened to kill an officer a day until the city’s police chief steps down, forcing officers into hiding around the city. On Wednesday, a suspected Zeta drug gang member led authorities to a mass grave site at two ranches in the state of Veracruz.
- The United Kingdom dismissed Argentina’s new threat to complain to the UN over what Argentina called the “militarization” of the disputed Falkland Islands, although as a permanent member of the Security Council, they could veto any potential resolution. The British Foreign Office said that the people of the island are British citizens “out of choice”. On Wednesday, Britain ruled out the possibility of talks with Argentina.
- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela celebrated the 20th anniversary of the failed coup that helped launch his political career with a lavish military parade, angering opposition leaders who see the coup attempt as a blemish on the country’s democracy. Two brothers believed to be the leaders of a rightwing paramilitary group were arrested on Tuesday on crimes including murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. On Thursday, the Guardian ran an article about the opposition candidates joining together in coalition to oust Hugo Chavez in the upcoming Presidential elections.
- The federal government of Canada is defending its recent decision to direct CSIS, the Canadian spy agency, to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.
- The most important leader of the Shining Path insurgency has reportedly been wounded in a clash in Peru. President Humala has vowed to step up efforts to catch the group.
- The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council adopted proposals to strengthen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday. Included in the non-binding proposals were three recommendations that threaten the reach and independence of the Special Rapporteurship.
- Last Monday, security forces in Mexico reportedly arrested 11 alleged members of the most powerful drug gang, the Sinaloa cartel, during a helicopter raid of a ranch in the north-west. On Tuesday, six people, five of them policemen, were killed in a failed attempt to free two detainees in the central region. A new study released this week suggests that the Zetas cartel has become the biggest drug gang in the country, overtaking the Sinaloa cartel. This Monday, police in the northern region captured an alleged member of the Zetas drug gang who had confessed to killing at least 75 people.
- The Mexican ambassador to Venezuela was briefly kidnapped on Sunday night after being seized from his car with his wife in Caracas. Kidnapping is reported soared in recent years.
- Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary for Republican Presidential candidates in the United States on Sunday, overthrowing favorite Mitt Romney; while the Occupy Oakland protests were halted, resulting in nearly 400 arrests. On Monday, the UN human rights chief said the US government must close Guantanamo Bay prison as President Obama promised over a year ago. On Wednesday, the director of the documentary Gasland was arrested and escorted out of a Republican-dominated Congressional hearing for refusing to stop filming the hearing; the only US marine to face sentencing for the murder of 24 unarmed Iraqis was acquitted of all charges; while President Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. On Thursday, prosecutors subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Wall Street protester arrested in October. On Friday, Pentagon leaders outlined a plan for absorbing $487 billion in defence cuts over the coming decade by shrinking US ground forces, slowing the purchase of a next-generation stealth fighter jet and retiring older planes and ships; while Republican candidate Newt Gingrich promised to build a colony on the moon should he become President. On Saturday, Occupy Oakland protesters clashed with police as they tried to take over downtown buildings, including city hall, resulting in more than 300 arrests; while the Pentagon announced that their largest conventional bomb isn’t yet capable of destroying Iran’s heavily fortified underground facilities and that they are stepping up efforts to make them more powerful. On Monday, Occupy protesters in Washington vowed to remain peacefully entrenched in two parks near the White House after a police order demanded they stop camping on federal land, defying the noon deadline to remove their camps. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican presidential primary, improving his chances of receiving his party’s nomination. An interesting report on a controversial project treating alcoholic homeless persons in Seattle caught my eye. Several discussions about drone strikes made the news this week, after many called Obama’s comments on them misleading.
- President Rual Castro defended the one-party system in a speech this week at a conference of the ruling Communist Party, saying that allowing other political parties would threaten the independence of Cuba and the socialist system. He also reaffirmed plans to limit political terms to 10 years. Fidel Castro called the American Republican presidential race the greatest competition of “idiocy and ignorance” the world has ever seen and also criticised the news media.
- On Wednesday, Argentina accused Britain of militarizing a sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands, after they sent a warship and the country’s future king to the islands. British diplomats accused Argentina of plotting an economic blockade on the Falklands amid fears that Buenos Aires is attempting to stop all flights from Chile from reaching the islands.
- Authorities in Peru said they are struggling to keep outsiders away from a previously “isolated” Amazon people, as the river has become more popular with environmental tourists, loggers and mining companies who are encroaching on their land.
- A new study was released analyzing how Brazil has assumed the visible leadership of peacekeeping operations in Haiti and Timor in order to increase its international status in a bid to gain a permanent seat at the UNSC. Last Sunday, riot police in the country stormed an illegal settlement of landless workers in Sao Paulo state to reclaim the land for its private owners, evicting some 6,000 residents who had recently lost a legal battle and resulting in intense criticism.
- Transgendered persons and supporters in Canada were outraged this week as new screening regulations for airlines went viral. The new regulations stipulate that an “air carrier shall not transport a passenger if… the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents”, effectively banning transgendered persons from boarding.
- The Clingendael Institute and Impunity Watch released a new report entitled “Breaking the wave: critical steps in the fight against crime in Guatemala.” On Monday, at least 8 people were killed and at least 20 wounded in an attack at a nightclub in Villa Nueva. On Friday, former military leader Efrain Rios Montt appeared in court to face accusations of genocide and other human rights crimes allegedly committed during his 17 month long rule in the early 1980s.
- Last Monday anti-government fighters in Colombia attacked a radar installation in Cauca province, killing a guard and delaying several flights. On Wednesday, the FARC rebels agreed to exchange 6 hostages for jailed guerrillas. On Friday, the UN warned that the country needs to do more to prosecute against forced displacement, after hundreds of thousands of people continue to be pushed from their homes each year by armed groups. On Wednesday, the FARC rebel group announced they would delay the release of six hostages due to military activity in the area. On Thursday, seven people were killed and more than 70 injured when a motorcycle packed with explosives was driven into a police station in the city of Tumaco.
- Nine gold diggers were killed in a gunfight between rival gangs in French Guiana on Saturday. The two groups were allegedly fighting for control of the area.
- A court in Ecuador suspended the appeal hearing lodged by newspaper editors facing charges for allegedly libelling President Correa. The suspension was reportedly the result of an ill judge.
- The UN announced that it is investigating two alleged cases of sexual exploitation of children by UN staff in Haiti. The allegations come just four months after Uruguayan peacekeepers were recalled after being accused of rape. On Monday, a judge in the country announced that he is recommending that “Baby Doc” Duvalier face trial on corruption charges but not the more serious human rights violations during his brutal 15-year rule.
- A wave of protests in Santiago, Chile forced the government to abandon its plans to force journalists to hand over images to police under a controversial new legislation. The bill would have granted new power for the law enforcement and security forces and criminalized expressions of opinion.
- The President of El Salvador is being heavily criticized for naming an army general as the new head of police, with many calling the move “unconstitutional” and in violation of the 1992 peace accord.
This week in conflict…
- The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative has recently launched its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a new way to measure poverty in the world. The MPI expands on the previous Human Development Index (HDI) and includes 10 indicators of health (child mortality and nutrition), education (years of schooling and child enrollment) and standard of living (access to electricity, drinking water, sanitation, flooring, cooking fuel and basic assets like a radio or bicycle).
- The UN is set to transform the way it deploys peacekeeping missions around the world to ensure field operations have the support they need and to improve efficiency and effectiveness of services.
- The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that the Canadian Security and Intelligence System cannot rely on evidence obtained through torture. Hopefully this will have an impact on the practices of CSIS and the RCMP.
- Wyclef Jean from singing group the Fugees has taken legal steps towards running for President in Haiti. Many analysts predict that Jean could easily win the election due to his overwhelming popularity, particularly amongst young people.
- The US has acknowledged plans to attack Iran if needed to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons.
- An annual review process by the Office of the US trade Representative has placed several countries on a “priority watch list” for failure to properly enforce intellectual property rights, specifically in regards to pharmaceutical property. This process puts the manufacture of generic AIDs anti-retro-viral treatments at severe risk, which many NGOs have complained is in violation of the international right to health.
- A military lawyer is seeking to halt the trial of Omar Khadr, held in Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Khadr was just 15 when captured. His lawyer contends that the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals are unconstitutional because it created a second-class court system that applies only to non-US citizens. Khadr’s trial is to begin August 10.
- More than 30 US billionaires pledged to give away at least 50% of their wealth to charity as part of a campaign by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. The Giving Pledge campaign does not accept any money, but merely asks the billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their wealth away to charity.
- California’s gay marriage ban was overturned by a federal judge on Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually force the US Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Sadly, the right has taking to calling into question the bias of the judge who has been reported as himself homosexual. They are expected to appeal the ruling.
- In a similar move, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a law allowing same-sex marriages in Mexico City is constitutional. A car bomb exploded outside a police station in northern Mexico on Thursday, thought to be related to drug gang ambushes. There were no reported injuries.
- Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe denied plans to launch a military attack on neighbouring Venezuela. Recent tensions were sparked by Colombia’s claims that Venezuela was harbouring nearly 1,500 Colombian rebels.
- At least one farmer died in Peru on Tuesday when police cleared a protest roadblock set by coca growers. The government is making efforts to eradicate the coca plantations, which are used to make cocaine. Other protests later in the week saw hundreds of Peruvians sabotaging facilities at a foreign-owned gas pipeline and threatening to take more radical measures.
- In a groundbreaking pact, the Ecuadorean government agreed to UNDP’s proposal to refrain from tapping three major oilfields in the Amazon jungle for at least a decade in exchange for a economic partnership to invest in other resources.
- Violent protests in Bolivia came after the government enacted a new customs law that would punish those who smuggle goods with the same severity as drug traffickers. Another wave of protests in Potosi over regional border disputes over limestone deposits stranded hundreds of foreign tourists. The mining city’s residents went on a general strike for more government investment in their region.
- A suicide bomb attack in Yemen wounded 8 soldiers on Tuesday after an attack on security forces. Al Qaeda has been held as the main suspect of the bombing. The country’s Shi’ite rebels released 100 soldiers and pro-government tribesmen captured in last month’s clashes, a second move towards cementing a fragile truce in the north of the country. Three soldiers were killed at a checkpoint on Thursday in a suspected al Qaeda attack.
- A gunmen killed five police officers at a Baghdad checkpoint on Tuesday. The attacks took place just after mortar rounds had hit the area. A roadside bomb and then a car bomb killed 12 people and wounded at least 55 in a busy commercial area of Kut.
- Israel launched a series of air attacks against the Gaza Strip injuring many Palestinians, which they say was in response to a rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon on Friday. Another rocket, possibly coming from Egypt, slammed into a Jordanian Red Sea resort on Monday. It was thought that the rocket was supposed to hit a nearby Israeli resort but went astray. Another explosion, meant to kill the senior Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip on Monday, instead wounded at least 31 people. At least five rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Eilat in response. On Wednesday Israeli shellfire killed a Palestinian militant and wounded another on the Gaza strip in an attempt to stop a group of Palestinians who Israel claims had approached the Gaza border fence.
- Fighting erupted at the Lebanese-Israeli border on Tuesday between the Lebanese and Israeli armies. An Israeli patrol was said by the Lebanese to cross the border unannounced in order to remove a tree that was blocking their visibility, wherein, the Lebanese army began firing rocket propelled grenades. In response, the Israelis fired two missiles at a Lebanese army post killing at least 4 people. Israel claimed they were fired upon while engaged in “routine activity” and threatened retaliations against Lebanon should violations continue.
- Recent floods in the Koreas have led land mines from North Korea to wash ashore on South Korean riverbanks, and beaches, causing at least one death.
- Government troops fired into crowds of protesters demonstrating against round-the-clock curfews early this week in Indian-administered Kashmir, resulting in the death of at least 4 people. Violence has been escalating in recent weeks, with as many as 47 protesters killed in the last week.
- At least 80 people have been injured during textile workers protests in Bangladesh this week, demanding an increase of their minimum wage (currently around $24 a month) to a livable salary. The workers make clothing for international brands like Marks & Spencer, JCPenney, Wal-Mart and H&M.
- Afghanis rioted in Kabul setting fire to two US embassy vehicles after NATO SUVs collided with a civilian car killing a number of passengers. A suicide car bomber killed at least 5 children in the southern Kandahar province on Monday and more suicide bombers attacked an air base in Kandahar on Tuesday. A deadly attack on an Afghan-NATO convoy resulted in the deaths of at least 7 police officers. July was hailed as the deadliest month for American forces with a death toll of 66. The Dutch mission in Afghanistan has officially ended and their withdrawal has begun.
- Nepal’s parliament failed to elect a new Prime Minister on Monday for the third time in less than two weeks, further delaying a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war.
- Four people were killed in Turkey Monday night after Kurdish separatists attacked a police station with a rocket launcher and automatic weapons. Violence has been said to be increasing on military targets, with nearly 100 soldiers dead since calling off a unilateral ceasefire at the start of June.
- At least 70 people were killed in Karachi, Pakistan by violent mobs this week following the assassination of a member of the provincial Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Quami Movement. A suicide bomber killed a police officer in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, and wounded at least 4 other people; and at least six people were wounded after a grenade was hurled at a mosque during prayers later that evening.
- Another school attack in a kindergarten in China has led to the deaths of at least 4 people; one teacher and 3 children. This is the sixth in a string of school assaults this year. In an attempt to reduce crime, the poor in Beijing are being locked inside their neighbourhoods at night. Officials call the project “sealed management”.
- China is said to be developing an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 km.
- A battle between Indian police and Maoist fighters flared on Wednesday when a police patrol was ambushed in the central state of Chhattisgarh. No word on on the number of casualties has yet been released.
- The controversial death of Papuan activist Yawan Wayeni was broadcast over the internet, sparking outrage in Jakarta. Police officers taunted him as he lay dying from wounds they had inflicted upon him. The original story surrounding the death of Wayeni, who was killed almost a year ago, suggested that he had been shot while resisting arrest and died on the way to the hospital. Video shows that he was tied to a log and forced to chant before his abdomen was sliced with a bayonet.
- South Korea has begun naval drills of its western coast. North Korea warned that it will counter any reckless naval firing with strong physical retaliation.
- Two people died in a bombing at an airport in the Philippines on Thursday. 24 people were injured.
- Around 1,000 demonstrators were prevented from entering Bishkek to attend a rally in the capital on Thursday and another 3,000 demonstrators are said to have amassed near parliament. National Security Services said that the demonstrators planned to demand the installation of a local politician in a position of power or else seize power themselves. Later, the Kyrgyz authorities arrested opposition leader Urmat Baryktabasov and more than 20 of his supporters on suspicion of a coup plot.
- The UN extended its mission in Darfur, Sudan for another year on Friday until July 2011, while the government of Sudan responded by saying it will now monitor travel by UN/African Union peacekeepers. The South Sudan army (SPLA) recovered about 30,000 unauthorized weapons in the semi-autonomous regions. South Darfur’s government called on the peacekeepers to hand over six Darfuris, supposedly responsible for inciting last week’s violence in a refugee camp, who are sheltered in the UNAMID peacekeeping base. The government then denied all aid agencies access to Darfur’s Kalma camp on Friday. Stalled talks between Sudan’s rival northern and southern halves over the disputed oil-producing Abyei region could trigger new conflict in the region. Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) decided to suspend its medical care to the most violent region of Sudan after experiencing three separate attacks on its staff. Cattle raids killed at least 21 people on Wednesday in southern Sudan and in a separate incident, the LRA was accused of ambushing a truck.
- The UN reported that almost 90,000 people have been displaced following recent military operations in the DR Congo, with at least 6 civilian deaths. Fighting occurred in the Beni territory of North Kivu between the national army and the Ugandan rebel group ADF-NALU.
- Presidential and legislative elections in the Central African Republic have been postponed for a third time until January 23.
- Kenya has approved a new legal framework to replace its old constitution which has been in use since independence from British colonial rule in 1963. Ushahidi software was used to track irregularities.
- The European Union (EU) has decided not to extend its security forces reform mission in Guinea-Bissau when its mandate expires on September 30. Failure to respect the rule of law in the country since the April army mutiny has been cited as the reason.
- The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) found a former administrator guilty of genocide on Tuesday, for transporting soldiers to kill thousands of people he had promised to feed and protect during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Dominique Ntawukilyayo was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
- Rising vigilante violence in South Africa saw the death of at least five suspects this week. Police services say that nearly 5% of the nearly 50 homicides a day are the result of vigilantism.
- Lobby group Global Witness intends to sue the British government for failing to refer its companies and citizens who are violating United Nations resolutions on Congolese conflict minerals to a UN sanctions committee.
- A new security law signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev restores Soviet-era powers to the Federal Security Service (the KGB’s main successor agency), allowing Russians to face jail time for crimes they have not yet committed in an effort to combat extremism and terrorist attacks.
- Russia’s most wanted rebel decided to step down as leader of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus due to health reasons, but then later denies quitting calling the previous video a falsification. Analysts are expecting the decision to contribute to increased violence in the area.
- Videos of French police violently dragging women and babies out of their homes after being evicted made waves in France. Many of those evicted are now reported to be living on the streets.
- Drug users and doctors legally prescribing substitution drugs to addicts, in an attempt to battle the growing HIV epidemic, are facing illegal police intimidation and imprisonment in the Ukraine. The country as also announced that they plan to close their top HIV/AIDs treatment centre this month.
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?