In Other News
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UN human rights experts on Dec. 9 called on the Iraqi government to provide information on seven residents of Camp Ashraf who were allegedly abducted in September amidst an attack that left 52 people dead. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances demanded that the Iraqi government "speed up the investigations in order to disclose the fate and whereabouts of the individuals." UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez, added that "[d]etention in secret places can facilitate the perpetration of torture and other ill-treatment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment." UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, noted that failure to investigated allegations of killings in a prompt, effective and impartial manner is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. More than 3,000 Irani refugees have been based at the camp since the 1980s.
Pakistan's military partially complied with a Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 7 by producing before the court several prisoners out of the hundreds it has been secretly holding without charges. Human rights lawyers and relatives of the prisoners have fought to obtain information about the detainees, some of whom disappeared from jails while others were directly apprehended by security forces. Most have not appeared in court to be officially charged with a crime, and other prisoners were acquitted in court but seized by the military after their release. The court ruled that the army had to produce the prisoners to establish that they were still alive. Fourteen men in the courtroom had scarves over their faces, but the military would not identify how many of those men were prisoners and how many were relatives or other people who could have identified the prisoners. The identities of the 14 men were not revealed.
Ecuador's government ordered closed the environmentalist Fundación Pachamama Dec. 4, with the Interior Ministry saying it was "affecting the public peace." The Environment Ministry issued its own statement accusing of the organization of "interference in public policy." Plainclothes police were sent to seal off the group's offices in the morning. The action stemmed from the previous week's protests at the XI Round for selling oil leases in the Ecuadroan Amazon. President Rafael Correa accused Pachamama and another group, Yasunidos, of attacking the Chilean ambassador, Juan Pablo Lira. Pachamama denies the allegations, saying its members were not even present at the protest in front of the Hydrocarbons Ministry. Fundación Pachamama plans to appeal the government's decision.
Libya's ongoing internal chaos briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a US national, a teacher at the Benghazi International School named Ronald Smith, was shot to death under circumstances that are still unclear. Whoever was behind it, it will be a headache for Obama, whose opponents are still milking the "Benghazigate" scandal. (CNN, Dec. 5) Other than when a US citizen dies, the world media take little note the near-daily violence in the city. On the same day Smith was killed, a member of Libya's Special Forces and a young cadet were gunned down in Benghazi. And the head of the Presidential Guards of the city, Anwar al-Dous, lost a leg when an explosive device detonated under his car. (Libya Herald, Dec. 5) Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, speaking to reporters at a Franco-African summit in Paris, responded by implying that Libya could be next for intervention: "Our fear is that Libya falls into the hands of Salafist terrorists and that the state becomes like Somalia... Sadly, we're seeing that the terrorists are there and that armed Salafist militia are in Benghazi, with people being killed almost every day. We must stabilize Libya." (Reuters, Dec. 6)
Dozens of Palestinians were injured and one detained as Israeli forces opened fire to disperse protests against the Israeli occupation and commemorating Nelson Mandela's death across the West Bank on Dec. 6. Protests against the Israeli occupation and separation wall took place in villages across the West Bank, including in Bilin, al-Masara, Kafr Qaddum, and Nabi Saleh. Demonstrators raised slogans and posters of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in many villages, commemorating the legacy of the "freedom fighter" who passed away the previous day.
Yemen's ongoing internal war briefly made world news Dec. 5 as a suicide bomber and gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked the defense ministry building in the capital, Sanaa, killing 52 people. One attacker drove a car packed with explosives into the gate of the ministry's compound, then gunmen in another vehicle sped in and opened fire on soldiers and medical staff working at a hospital within the compound. Seven foreign doctors and nurses—from Germany, India, Veitnam and the Philippines—are among the dead. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but authorities of course suspect al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The attack came as Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser is on a visit to Washington. (Reuters, BBC News, Dec. 5)
Lebanon's government has ordered the coastal city of Tripoli placed under army control amid growing sectarian clashes. The move was announced after a 15-year-old boy was among four killed Dec. 3. It marks the first time since the end of the country's civil war in 1990 that the military has been ordered to take full control of a city. The new violence broke out when Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood began flying Syrian flags to demonstrate their support for Bashar Assad, and Sunni residents of nearby Bab el-Tebbaneh raised the flag of Syria's rebel coalition. The four killed were Alawites, persumably slain by Sunni gunmen, and sparking Alawite protest marches. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 3; AFP, Dec. 1)
Lawyers for two Guantánamo detainees, arguing before the European Court of Human Rights on Dec. 3, accused Poland of providing a secret torture site for the Central Intelligence Agency's "extraordinary rendition" program. The case involves 48-year-old Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national facing terror charges in connection with the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in 2000, and 42-year-old Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian who has never been charged with a crime. According to their lawyers, Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were victims of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" and waterboarding techniques, as well as mock executions. Crofton Black, a researcher with the human rights organization Reprieve and witness to the closed trial, called the Polish government's investigation into the matter nothing more than a smoke-screen.
A new massacre is reported from Ciudad Juárez, again raising fears of a return to the wave of deadly gangland violence that convulsed the Mexican border city for much of the past decade. Eight members of a single family—including two four-year-old girls and a six-year-old boy—were killed in their home Nov. 17 in the colonia (neighborhood) of Morelos Zaragoza. The bodies of the children were found on their beds, with multiple stab wounds, as were those of two young women. The two men were on armchairs, handcuffed and gagged. A two-month-old baby, known to have lived in the house, was not found among the dead. The family had been planning an event for their Jehova's Witnesses congregation when the attack took place. (Pulso, IOL, Proceso, Nov. 17)
France is escalating its military mission in the Central African Republic, airlifting troops and equipment to the capital Bangui ahead of an anticipated UN-backed intervention. With some 400 French troops stationed in Bangui presently, at least another 1,000 are on their way, said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Paris, echoing the findings of rights groups, says the country has descended into chaos since the Seleka rebel coalition, many of its fighters apparently from neighboring Chad and Sudan, ousted president François Bozize in March 24. (France24, Nov. 29) With the French announcement, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the UN Security Council to "authorize a robust peacekeeping force" for the CAR. "If the Security Council does not act now to stem the horrific cycle of violence in the Central African Republic, that failure will hang heavily on the international community for years to come," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general. (AI, Dec. 12)
Seventeen members of families who lost relatives in Israel's 2008 war on Gaza staged a mass suicide attempt in protest over unpaid compensations from the Hamas government, a representative said. Alaa al-Barawi, speaking on behalf of the families, told Ma’an News Agency that 17 people related to those who died in the fighting attempted to hang themselves after a 39-day sit-in went unanswered. Witnesses said ambulances arrived at the scene and took a number of the family members to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Al-Barawi added that the families would continue seeking promised financial compensation from the government, which has paid families who lost loved ones in the 2008-2009 war.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Dec. 1 urged the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to expedite inquiry into international crimes committed in Afghanistan. In November the ICC released the Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (PDF) finding that over 14,300 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2007 and that violence against women has increased. The report also stated that armed anti-government groups and government armed forces have reportedly recruited and used children in attacks. The HRW said that the Afghanistan situation has been under analysis by the ICC since 2007 and that given the alleged ongoing commissions of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC should now expedite their fact-finding mission to Afghanistan.
On the morning of Nov. 28 some 60 men and women attacked an encampment of protesters who for the past two months had been blocking construction of a seed-drying plant in Malvinas Argentinas, a town in the central Argentine province of Córdoba, by the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company. The attackers, arriving in two rented buses, used rocks and clubs to drive away protesters at two points where they were blocking access to the construction site. Once the road was cleared, seven trucks delivered construction materials. Later, a confrontation broke out between the attackers and the protesters, who included Malvinas Argentinas residents and environmentalists from other parts of Argentina. Police agents finally intervened by firing rubbers bullets. As many as 20 protesters were injured in the incident, along with three police agents; it was unclear how many attackers were hurt.