Tens of thousands who peacefully demonstrated against President Bashar Assad are languishing in Syrian prisons, subjected to a policy of torture, according to a new Human Rights Watch report, "Lost in Syria's Black Hole." Citing testimony from former prisoners, HRW found that detainees have been raped and abused, including with electric shocks to the genitals, and beaten with batons, cables, metal rods, and wires. HRW stated: "The systematic use of torture by the government is strong evidence of state policy which would constitute crimes against humanity. Concerned governments need to make clear that the Syrian government and those responsible for the abuse will ultimately face justice for their actions." HRW also called on the Syrian government drop charges against political detainees who are currently before the military field courts or special counterterrorism courts.
Over the past year of growing violence and chaos in Pakistan, the Karachi Stock Exchange has surged more than 44%, placing it among the world's top-performing stock markets according to Bloomberg. (NYT, Oct. 3) On Sept. 29, a bomb placed in a Peshawar marketplace killed more than 40 and injured over 100. (BBC News, Oct. 1) On Oct. 3, Taliban militiants attacked the headquarters of local chieftain Nabi Hanafi Karwan in Spin Thall, Bulandkhel district, Orakzai agency, Federally Administered Tribal Areas. A car bomb and suicide attacker overwhelmed the guards, and gunmen followed, killing 17. Nabi Hanfi has been leading an anti-Taliban militia. (The News, Pakistan, Oct. 4; AP, Oct. 3)
A judge in Quito on Oct. 1 ordered the house arrest of three army and police officers in Ecuador's first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity. They are part of a group of 10 former senior officers accused of abducting and torturing three members of an illegal opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces, in 1985. Activists converged on the capital for the opening day of the landmark trial. The events took place under the conservative government of late Leon Febres Cordero, who was elected to a four-year term in 1984. Judge Lucy Blacio tunred down prosecutors' request to have one elderly army general detained, on the gorund that he is seriously ill; however, he is barred from leaving the country. The three victims—Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin and Luis Vaca—are to testify in the case next week. The charges were brought by a special Truth Commission created to address rights abuses. (Jurist, Oct. 2; BBC News, AFP via Milenio, Oct. 1)
On Sept. 13, the White House released its annual score card on other countries’ compliance with US drug policy demands, the presidential determination on major drug producing and trafficking countries. It identified 22 countries as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries," but listed only three—Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as having "failed demonstrably" to comply with US drug war objectives. Among those countries that are not listed as having "failed demonstrably" are the world's largest opium producer (Afghanistan), the world’s two largest coca and cocaine producers (Colombia and Peru), the leading springboard for drugs coming into the US (Mexico), and the weak Central American states that serve as lesser springboards for drug loads destined for the US. They are all US allies; Bolivia and Venezuela are not.
An in-depth Sept. 29 Reuters report on the multi-billion-dollar but very murky jade trade in Burma raises the specter of "blood jade"—without actually using the phrase. Almost half of all jade exports are "unofficial"—apparently spirited over the border into China with little or no formal taxation, representing billions of dollars in lost revenues. Official statistics are said to indicate that Burma produced more than 43 million kilograms of jade in fiscal year 2011-12, worth a low-balled $4.3 billion. Yet official exports of jade that year stood at only $34 million. (It isn't explained how all that "unofficial" jade made it into the production stats in the first place.) China doesn't publicly report how much jade it imports from Burma, but jade is included in official imports of precious stones and metals, which in 2012 were worth $293 million—a figure too small to account for billions of dollars in Burmese jade.
Street clashes continued in the Sudanese capital Khartoum for a second day Sept. 26 after massive protests broke out over the regime's move to cut fuel subsidies. At least 30 have been killed, and protestors have taken up the slogans of the Arab Revolutions, "Freedom, Freedom!" and "The people want the fall of the regime!" The regime has suspended Internet access for 48 hours in a bid to head off new demonstrations that have been called for after Friday prayers. Authorities say that police are among the dead, and that armed militants from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) are infiltrating and inciting the protests. Opposition figures, in turn, accuse agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of being behind arson attacks on government buildings and public buses. (Sudan Tribune, Sept. 26; BBC News, Sept. 25)
On Sept. 22, more than 300 Lakota, Dakota, Anishinabe and Apache activists and local white anti-racists organized by UnityND converged on Leith, North Dakota, to rally against Craig Cobb and members of his National Socialist Movement who settled in the village with the stated intention of taking over the local government and declaring a white separatist homeland. But Cobb and his followers did not offer resistance as Native American activists tore down and burned the neo-Nazi flags they had raised around their properties—adorned with swastikas, skulls, iron crosses and SS symbols. A large contingent of riot police were on hand, but did not interfere. The next day, the state health department announced it would shut down Cobb's home, which has no indoor plubling, for violating sanitary codes. (ICTMN, Sept. 26; Political Blind Spot, Sept. 23; ICTMN, Political Blind Spot, Sept. 22)
Campesino leader Nelson Giraldo Posada, a founder of the Ríos Vivos movement that opposes the HidroItuango hydro-electric project in Colombia's Antioquia department, was slain by unknown gunmen near his lands in the town of Ituango Sept. 17. Giraldo Posada was among a group of some 350 Ituango residents forcibly relocated from their lands along the Río Cauca to make way for the hydro project. With negotiations over compensation still underway, they have been housed since March in a sports stadium at the University of Antioquia in Medellín. Leaders of group had repeatedly received death threats, and on Sept. 9 a local court, the Medellín Superior Tribunal, ordered that authorities take measures to guarantee their safety. (Radio Santa Fe, Corporación Juridica Libertad, Bogotá, Sept. 19)