Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 January, 2009


  • Democratic Republic of the Congo = Rwandan Troops Enter Eastern Congo to Pursue the FDLR Hutu Group (AT)
    • Congolese troops are denying Red Cross workers and other aid groups to cross the check point north of Goma into the area where Rwandan and Congolese forces are operating. Their alleged objective is to disarm the FDLR Hutu rebels in 2 weeks.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo = The International Criminal Court in the Hague has accused Jen-Pierre Bemba of ordering mass rapes while he was serving as a rebel leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement. He allegedly ordered rape as a tool to terrorize the populace to prevent them from supporting any resistance to Ange-Felix Patasse, the Central African Republic president. He faces counts of crimes against humanity as well as war crimes. (AJ)
  • Nigeria = A group of divorced women who planned a protest have been ordered by authorities to cancel the event. Authorities claim that street protests are “un-Islamic” and morally wrong. Additionally, the Director General of the Hisbah, the police force, stated that “never in the history of Islam have women taken to the streets to press for their demands.” Hmm. I imagine lots of women’s human rights activists would disagree with that comment … and even if the comment were true, wouldn’t the international community rally around these gutsy ladies? I hardly think a lack of historical precedent would be a deterrent for these activists. (AWID)
  • Somalia = Check out this Amnesty Int’l interview with women’s human rights activist Zam Zam Abdullahi Abdi (AI)
  • Sudan = 16 civilians killed in Darfur when Sudanese government planes bombed a “rebel town” (AJ)
  • Uganda = Supreme Court Keeps Death Penalty, claiming it is a deterrent to murder (all evidence to the contrary), but the Court did commute the death sentences of people who have been on death row for greater than 3 years, changing their sentences to life in prison, after ruling that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional. This overrules a 2005 Ugandan Constitutional Court ruling which found the death penalty unconstitutional. It is now up to the Parliament to decide the fate of the death penalty in Uganda, as well as the particulars of it if they keep it (i.e. death by hanging is still legal, though the Constitutional Court has previously deemed it unconstitutional). (AT, AI)
  • Zambia = Chipata, the Provincial Capital of Eastern Province has seen at least 4 deaths by drowning so far this rainy season. Authorities from the local Council blame the recent landslides and floods on hillside cultivation. To address this problem, authorities, in full riot gear, destroyed many local maize fields. Many of these had already been fertilized and planted, prompting local residents to protest. Some threw stones at the officers, who fired warning shots into the air and tear gas into the crowd. (JHR)


  • Iraq = 14 of Iraq’s 18 Provinces will be voting on January 31st. The 2005 elections were largely boycotted by voters who are Sunni. This time, a dramatic increase in Sunni voting is expected, which puts into doubt whether the Islamic Party that took power in 2005 will win these elections as well. (WPWB)
  • Palestine, Gaza Strip
    • After a 22-day assault on Gaza, Israel called for a unilateral cease-fire. During those 22 days, Israel bombed 4 United Nations schools, among many other civilian targets. (DN)
    • The United Nations compound in Gaza is essentially destroyed, prompting harsh words from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who calls the destruction “outrageous and totally unacceptable.” He has also called for Israel’s attack upon the UN compund to be investigated as a war crime. (DN)
    • Amer Shurrab, a Washington, DC resident and graduate of Middlebury College, told Democracy Now his heartbreaking story of his brothers’ deaths in Gaza and his father’s distress at not being able to get his wounded son an ambulance. This is worth a listen by you. Really. (DN)
    • Dr. Mousa al Hadad, in an interview with World Vision, described his impressions of the current situation in Gaza. He is a retired doctor living in Gaza City. Dr. al Hadad estimates there have been greater than 4,000 injuries, greater than 60% of which he guesses to be women and children. He has been staying in his home which currently has no electricity and hardly any running water. He says that a pregnant woman and three of her friends who were helping her to the hospital were killed by an Israeli missile. (WVR)
    • White Phosphorous = was used as a weapon by Israel against Palestinian civilians. White phosphorous causes 3rd degree burns, eating away one’s skin down to the bone, and attempting to wash it off with water only makes it worse. (WVR, DN, HRW, AI)
    • What will the effect of this be on the kiddos?
    • President Obama of the US called the leaders of the PLO, Israel, Jordan, and Syria … but not Hamas. George Mitchell has been appointed by Obama as the United States’ Special Envoy to the Middle East; seems like a good guy for the job based on his Ireland experience … (DN)


  • Zimbabwe = New Album: Rebel Woman by Chiwoniso released and getting great reviews (WVR)
  • United States = Bishop Eugene Robinson’s invocation at the Be The Change concert at the National Mall on January 17th was not included in the HBO coverage of the event, but is available online here. He is the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop and censorship and bigotry are suspected in the neglectful coverage of his invocation. (DN)


  • United States = Barack Hussein Obama is the new Prez. JOY! Needless to say, as a human rights advocate, I am feeling invigorated with the possibility of having a leader who may actually care about constitutional as well as international legal obligations. With cautious optimism, I’m waiting to see how this all shakes out.
    • In his first week, Obama ordered a 4 month suspension of all Guantanamo cases (but no word on other US prisons abroad – Bagram anyone?), instituted a pay freeze for all top White House staff members, and unveiled new White House ethics rules for lobbyists, among other things. (DN)
  • United States = The Meridian Star newspaper in Meridian, Mississippi offered an apology for its coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, stating that they had “acted with gross neglect” in their coverage of the movement. (DN)
  • United States = The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture stated that Bush and Rumsfeld should be prosecuted for sanctioning abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay. (DN)
  • United States = Before ending his tenure as President, George Bush pardoned 2 US Border Patrol agents (Ignatio Ramos and Jose Campion) who were imprisoned for killing an unarmed Mexican civilian. (DN)
  • The International Court of Justice ruled that the US’ killing of a Mexican citizen in Texas breached US obligations under international law. (DN)
  • United States = Leonard Peltier, in jail since 1975 for his participation in a shootout at the Pine Ridge Reservation was transferred to the Canaan Federal Prison in Pennsylvania. He is considered by many to be a political prisoner within the US. Upon his transfer, he was put into the general population and severely beaten, likely with the implicit consent of the guards. Mr. Peltier suffers from diabetes and was placed in solitary confinement after being beaten. (DN)


  • Nepal = Uma Singh, a Nepalese journalist, has been assassinated for voicing her human rights convictions. (WVR)
  • Russia = human rights lawyer Stanislav Markilov was assassinated after protesting the release of a Russian officer convicted of atrocities during the Chechen war. (DN)
  • Denmark = Is the happiest country on earth. Denmark. Happiest Country. Who knew? (60M)

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