Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)
Legislator Tien Chiu-chin of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party has issued a call to her fellow lawmakers to act on restitution of traditional lands to the country's aboriginal peoples. Her comments came at a press conference Nov. 24 where she was joined by Pastor Kavas, a member of the Bunun people, who said he had been harassed by security forces as he attempted to guide a small group of scholars into a forested area usurped from the Bunun. Kavas said that while guiding National Taitung University professor Liu Chiung-shi and his assistants through the forest near Jiaming Lake in Taitung county, they were stopped by a dozen police officers, who arrested the academics, citing a breach of "national security." Ironically, despite having been designated a restricted area by the Ministry of National Defense in 1993, the area has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, Kavas said. He called restriction of Bunun access to the area "beyond belief."
Bangladesh opposition figures Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid were hanged together at Dhaka Central Jail Nov. 22 for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence. In the prelude to the executions, the government ordered all ISPs to block Facebook and other social media in a bid to head off protests. In the electronic chaos that followed the order, the entire country lost Internet access for over an hour. Protests were effectively suppressed, but a reporter from Mohona TV was shot and wounded when his car was sprayed with bullets by roadside assailants while returning to Dhaka from covering the funeral of Chowdhury in Chittagong district. (Dhaka Tribune, Gizmodo, Al Jazeera, Nov. 23; France24, Nov. 22; AFP, Bangladesh News, Nov. 21)
Colombia's Fiscal General Eduardo Montealegre on Nov. 9 announced an investigation into possible war crimes by surviving commanders of the M-19 guerilla group that demobilized in 1991. The M-19, a mainly urban guerilla group founded in the 1970, was responsible for storming and occupying Colombia's Palace of Justice in 1985. The initial siege and the subsequent counter-attack by the military left more than a 100 people dead, including half the Supreme Court justices. When the group disarmed, its members were pardoned by then-president Virgilio Barco and allowed to found the M-19 Democratic Alliance political party. A number of its followers, including Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro and former Nariño governor Antonio Navarro, have since become prominent leftist politicians. Now, nearly 25 years after its demobilization, Montealegre wants to investigate the group's armed actions and revise the pardon. "If actions constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, the prosecution's office can begin investigations against members of the M-19 leadership," Montealegre said. His announcement came only days after the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ordered President Juan Manuel Santos to publicly apologize on behalf of the Colombian state for the disappearance of 11 civilians and guerillas during the Palace of Justice siege.
The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) delivered a judgment Oct. 30 in a land-rights case brought by indigenous Maya elders in Belize, finding that the government violated communal rights. The case, Maya Leaders Alliance et al v the Attorney General of Belize, concerned indigenous communities in Toledo district whose lands have been usurped. The case was first brought in the Belizean courts more than 20 years ago. The country's Court of Appeal ruled in 2010 that the Maya do have communal land rights, but failed to order any restitution in the case. Maya leaders then brought suit before the CCJ. In its new ruling, the CCJ wrote that the Belizean government had "breached the appellants' right to protection of the law by failing to ensure that the existing property regime, inherited from the pre-independence colonial system, recognized and protected Maya land rights." It ordered Belize to take positive steps to secure and protect constitutional rights and to honor its international commitments, including its obligations to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Judge Jose de la Mata of Spain's Audiencia Nacional on Nov. 12 ordered the Civil Guard and police forces to notify him if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or any of six of his former officials set foot on Spanish soil, as their visit could re-open a case filed against them in the country. The judge put the case on hold in June 2014 after Spain reformed its Universal Justice doctrine. The case was opened by the Audenica, following the 2010 Israeli raid on the Freedom Flotilla bound for Gaza on a humanitarian mission. The list of Israeli officials also includes former defense minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, former strategic affairs minister (and current defense minister) Moshe Yaalon, former interior minister Eli Yishai, minister-without-portfolio Benny Begin, and the vice-admiral in charge of the operation, Maron Eliezer. (LAHT, Nov. 16; EFE, Nov. 13; El Diaro, Madrid, Nov. 12)
Nicaragua's Canal Commission on Nov. 5 approved environmental and social impact assessments for construction of the inter-oceanic canal by Hong Kong company HKND. "We are officially authorizing HKND to now begin the structural design and construction processes," said commission president Manuel Coronel in a ceremony. The impact studies were undertaken by UK-based Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and handed in to the government in September after a year and a half of prerparation. The assessment found that the canal project "will have significant environmental and social impact," but that this can be mitigated if it is developed properly. Project adviser Bill Wild said the approval marked a "giant step" for the project, and assured rapid advancement in the construction. The studies had not yet been approved by the official groundbeaking on the project last December.
Brazilian mining company Samarco has agreed to pay at least $260 million in compensation for the Nov. 11 collapse of two dams it used to hold waste water from iron ore, which caused an avalanche of mud to inundate nearby villages in Minas Gerais state. Eleven people were killed and 12 are missing, presumed dead. The village of Bento Rodrigues was totally destroyed, with more than 500 people left homeless. Residents are being temporarily housed in hotels in the city of Mariana. Some 250,000 local residents are also left without drinking water. The mud is still being tested for potential toxins from the mine. In imposing the fine, Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA called the disaster "the worst mining accident in Brazil's history." Operations at the facility remain suspended, with Samarca admitting that two more dams at the site are "at risk of collapsing."