Posts Tagged ‘Western compliance’
The Associated Press has a summary of unrest in the Middle East:
Syria’s vice president calls for a transition to democracy in a country ruled for four decades by an authoritarian family dynasty, crediting mass protests with forcing the regime to consider reforms while also warning against further demonstrations. Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was speaking at a national dialogue. Key opposition figures driving the four-month-old uprising boycott the meeting, refusing to talk until a deadly crackdown on protesters ends.
Army troops firing in the air clash with stone-throwing protesters in the strategic city of Suez after crowds block a key highway to push for faster reform efforts, including probes of alleged abuses during the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Suez has been hit by days of unrest over calls for swifter action against Mubarak-era officials. In Cairo, protesters block access to the Egyptian capital’s largest government building and threaten to expand sit-ins to other sites.
Elsewhere the Torygraph reports:
“In scenes that would have been remarkable before four months of protests and violent suppression, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad allowed public criticism to be aired at a televised conference and promised “multi-party democracy” in response.
“The bullets are still being fired in Homs and Hama,” said one participant, the writer Tayyeb Tizini, of two major cities that have seen repeated demonstrations. “Laying the foundations for a civil society requires the dismantling of the police state.
“That’s an absolute prerequisite, because otherwise the police state will sabotage all our efforts.” He also called for the freeing of “thousands” of political prisoners, some who he said had been in prison for years.
But the convention was boycotted by many more leading dissidents and opposition figures with links to the street protests, calling its final purpose into question. “I thought 1,500 people died for more than a dialogue between the regime and itself,” one activist wrote on Twitter. “
“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.
Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.
His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.
“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”
Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.
On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.
The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.
“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “
Officials at the UN offices in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, have handed over human rights protesters to the Bahraini security forces according to information coming out of Twitter and Demotix:
“Three Bahrain women, Asma Darwish,Sawsan Jawad and Zainab Alkhawaja have been arrested as they began a hunger strike calling for immediate action to be taken by the UN, on political prisoners in Bahrain. “
So instead of helping the women, the UN officials hand them over to the very people they should be protecting them from. Despicable.
As the regime in Bahrain puts medical staff in the dock, they’ve managed to do what only the worst dictatorships, mad monarchs and authoritarians do, lock up a poet.
“MANAMA — A Bahraini court sentenced a young Shi’ite poet to one year in prison on Sunday for taking part in illegal protests and incitement against the Gulf state’s monarchy.
Ayat al-Qurmouzi, 20, was arrested after she recited a poem mocking the Bahraini king and demanding he step down, during protests led by the country’s Shi’ite majority that gripped the kingdom in February and March.
A relative confirmed her sentence, saying Qurmouzi’s family had feared for her safety in detention.
Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, called in troops from its fellow Sunni-led Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia to help it crush the pro-democracy protests in March.
Qurmouzi is one of about 400 people, most of them Shi’ites, who the Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq says have been put on trial for their roles in the protests.
Some 50 people have already been given sentences ranging from short prison terms to execution, the group says.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in a statement on Sunday that Qurmouzi and others had been ill-treated in custody. “
The Guardian covers it here.
On top of that, Bahrain’s rulers are prosecuting medical staff, in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention:
“Manama, Bahrain (CNN) — Dozens of doctors and nurses went on trial Monday in Bahrain, accused of taking control of a hospital during anti-government protests, storing weapons and keeping people prisoner.
The doctors, their lawyers and international human rights activists say the defendants were tortured to extract confessions against a background of demonstrations in the kingdom.
Eleven male doctors appeared in court Monday, their heads shaven, alongside at least five female doctors. They appeared stressed and anxious.
One of the doctors tried to tell the judge that his confession had been extracted under torture, but the judge told him to stop and that he would be able to give evidence later in the trial.
Human rights groups have accused the government of widespread attacks on doctors and other medical workers.
“We documented a systematic attack on medical staff in Bahrain including the beatings, torture and disappearances of more than 30 physicians,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.
“We found doctors were simply providing ethical and life-saving medical care to patients whom Bahraini security forces had shot, detained and tortured,” Sollom said.
Physicians for Human Rights, a group that shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to ban landmines, says it sent investigators to the Persian Gulf kingdom and interviewed 45 patients, doctors, nurses and witnesses.
The report details attacks on “physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas and unidentified chemical agents,” the group said in an April report.
Its report echoes those released earlier by Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders.
Amnesty International highlights the plight of medical staff in Bahrain that are scheduled to go on trial on Monday.
It seems that the Iranian state is getting people accustomed to the idea of a nuclear test, or at least that is one plausible reading coming out of this piece in the Guardian.
Apparently, a Tory MP has sexually assaulted a woman, and guess who he blames? The woman. Then he proceeds to cast doubt on the veracity of the victim’s account of the assault. I am sure if UCU members read the Indy article with a critical eye they will see a message there.
Another EDL thug.
At the moment, events in Libya are followed with great scrutiny, yet scraps of information are coming in to suggest that a boat carrying 600 people may have sunk on Friday
Perplexingly, it is not too clear if that is the case. The ship left port on Friday and witnesses in another ship say they saw debris etc:
“A boat carrying more than 600 migrants capsized off the coast of Libya Friday and many of the passengers are believed to have drowned, the United Nations said Monday, marking what may be the deadliest chapter yet in an escalating immigration crisis unleashed by the conflict in the North African country.
Migrants arriving in Lampedusa over the weekend told staff of the United Nations’ refugee agency that they witnessed a boat brimming with hundreds of migrants—who were predominantly Congolese, Eritrean, Nigerian, Ivory Coast and Somali nationals—sink near the port of Tripoli, said Laura Boldrini, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A spokesman for the Libyan government in Tripoli declined to comment on the matter.
Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said it was unclear how many people survived the shipwreck, but that some of the people aboard the capsized boat managed to swim ashore. He added that migrants have often drowned in similar incidents, because they don’t know how to swim. One woman who swam ashore told IOM staff that her baby drowned in the shipwreck. Mr. Chauzy said that once ashore, she and other migrants were “herded” by armed men onto another boat that eventually reached the tiny island of Lampedusa. “
It is bewildering. How could you lose a ship full of 600 people between the Libyan coast and Italy, and not know?
How can 600 people be thrown in the sea and it doesn’t get reported (or hardly) in the Western media?
Or is it simply a case of “No WASPs, Europeans or Westerners involved, move along, no story”.
Surely, a record of the ship leaving must have been kept, its Captain, its destination and when it didn’t arrive, why weren’t questions asked promptly?
Update 1: There are a few stories coming out, now, on Twitter, 3 days later:
NPR too, but overall too little and far too late.
“(Reuters) – The fate of Bahrain’s protest movement is a stark reminder of how Western and regional power politics can trump reformist yearnings, even in an Arab world convulsed by popular uprisings against entrenched autocrats.
Bahrain is not Libya or Syria, but Western tolerance of the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown suggests that interests such as the U.S. naval base in Manama, ties to oil giant Saudi Arabia and the need to contain neighboring Iran outweigh any sympathy with pro-democracy demonstrators mostly from the Shi’ite majority.
“The response from the West has been very timid and it shows the double standards in its foreign policy compared to Libya,” said Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
“Saudi influence is so huge on Bahrain now and the West has not stood up to it, which has disappointed many. They’re losing the hearts and minds of the democrats in Bahrain.”
Iran has hardly been consistent either, fiercely criticizing Bahrain’s treatment of its Shi’ites, and praising Arab revolts elsewhere as “Islamic awakenings” — except the uprising in its lone Arab ally Syria, which it blames on a U.S.-Israeli plot.
Bahrain’s king said on Sunday a state of emergency, imposed in March after Saudi-led troops arrived to help crush protests, would be lifted on June 1, two weeks before it expires.
That would be two days before a deadline set by Formula One organizers for Bahrain to decide whether to reschedule a Grand Prix it was to have hosted on March 13. The motor race was postponed because of the unrest then shaking the Gulf island.
Bahrain is eager to prove that stability has returned after the upheaval in which at least 29 people, all but six of them Shi’ites, have been killed since protests erupted in February.
Apart from verbal slaps on the wrist, the United States and its allies have stood by as Bahrain, egged on by Saudi Arabia, has pursued a punitive campaign that appears to target Shi’ites in general, not just the advocates of more political freedoms, a constitutional monarchy and an end to sectarian discrimination. ” [my emphasis.]
There is a good podcast from the New Yorker with Steve Coll, Dexter Filkins, and Ryan Lizza on Osama bin Laden and Pakistan as an MP3.
There were elections going on in Britain for some local councils, FT Westminster has a nice quick summary here. I suspect that the reason the Lib Dems lost was disenchantment from ex-Labour/floating voters. Years back, on paper, the Lib Dems looked more radical, more left than the Labour Party and so acquired those displeased with how right wing and distant the British Labour Party had become. The Tory vote held up because Tory voters have a more ingrained class consciousness than many would care to acknowledge. The Greens also benefited from ex-Lib Dem voters.
Labour’s mediocre performance seems in part due to the unappealing and decidedly uncharismatic Ed Miliband, who still hasn’t decided to throw the wreckage of new Labour overboard yet. He’s Labour’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith. If the Labour Party could renounce new Labour and its modern refried equivalent then they might have a chance of beating the Tories, the old-fashioned way, but as it is I can’t see the plethora of mediocrities in the shadow cabinet achieving much. They are useless and obviously so.
The Economist’s piece on robots and nuclear disasters makes a very salient point:
“Since March 11th when disaster struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, it has become clear that most of that effort has gone to waste. Japan’s much-vaunted robots may play violins and build cars, but the only ones now doing emergency work in its biggest-ever nuclear disaster are foreign, such as the PackBot, previously used in Afghanistan, which is made by Massachusetts-based iRobot.
The reasons for this oddity help explain why the nuclear accident, though caused by a tsunami, has been exacerbated by a string of public-policy failures. Despite several low-level nuclear accidents, Japan’s power generators such as Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima plant, have sworn blind that their safety records are exemplary and there is no danger of any meltdowns. This safety mythology has been used by utilities to bypass domestic opposition to nuclear energy and was tacitly endorsed by the government, media, and public at large.
But it meant the government failed to ensure proper disaster preparedness. And the utilities failed to build up expertise in certain areas, such as robotics. So TEPCO was allowed to spurn the rescue robots built with public money. Commercial robot makers such as Tmsuk, based in south-western Japan, say they were shut out too. “
Hundreds of Western “anti-imperialists” must be breathing a sigh of relief, no longer will they have to defend the rantings of the Iranian President. He’s on his way out after a political clash with the Supreme Leader in Iran. We can only hope that Ahmadinejad’s replacement is not such a racist or a fan of neo-Nazis. Not that many in the West would probably notice either way.
Adam Holland on the shenanigans going on at the City University of New York and the proposed honorary degree for Tony Kushner:
“A member of CUNY’s board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, has blocked Tony Kushner from receiving that university’s honors. In what is usually a pro-forma vote, the rubber stamp was stolen by a trustee with an ideological agenda and an inflated sense of his own importance. That trustee clearly misunderstands both his own role and that of the university in such matters.
The trustee who blocked Kushner’s honorary degree did so because he disagrees with Kushner’s anti-Israel activism. While he may have an argument to make against Kushner’s views, that argument hardly negates Kushner’s considerable achievements. More importantly, as every other trustee in the history of CUNY has understood, this is not the appropriate forum to make such arguments. By making agreement about politics a litmus test for receiving the university’s honors, the trustee has created a terrible precedent for CUNY. If this is allowed to stand, the university’s trustees will not only be free to dictate that recipients of the university’s honors agree with each trustee’s political views, they can blackball any honoree who offends their sensibilities in any manner. ”
Completely agree, Kushner should be granted that degree.
According to the Beeb, documents covering Britain’s colonial past may be released.
Eamonn on Boron, Bin Laden and the Verkrappt Left.
HuffPost has a pertinent piece, What About The Syrians?
“Osama bin Laden’s death took center stage on global media and rightly so because it was an event of the decade. Five days have passed since that episode and it is about time to look at other, and more important issues. More than 600 people have been killed in just under five weeks in Syria and there has been little, if any, attention being paid to them. This has emboldened the repressive dictatorship in Syria to cement its oppressive hold. “No one is paying attention so why shouldn’t I use the most brutal force?” Bashar al-Assad thought before ordering a new wave of arrests and military crackdowns.
Assad is right in his thinking. American and European governments have paid lip service to the cause of Syrians. United States is even defending its policies regarding Syria, despite the growing concern over massive human rights violations. There have been a few lackluster sanctions from Europe but interestingly none of them has a mention of Bashar. Nothing can be more ridiculous than that. Here is a person who is supervising the massacre but is evading the mildest of censure by the international community.
Assad can’t be any happier. He also has full support of the Iranian regime. Iran’s foreign ministry, which was quick to support uprisings in other Arab states, also swiftly dismissed the Syrian struggle for democracy. “
And the Indy.
The Bahraini government has broken so many international conventions in terms of attacking civilians, putting down legitimate protests and quashing freedom of speech, now they are putting doctors and other medical professionals on trial, CNN reports:
“The justice ministry in Bahrain said 47 medical professionals will be tried for crimes that include incitement to overthrow the regime, deadly assault and refusal to help persons in need.
Twenty-four doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics have been charged.
During the protests in the Gulf kingdom, witnesses say security forces in Bahrain stormed the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama beating doctors and demonstrators. Bahraini officials deny those accounts.
Activists and human rights groups have alleged that medical personnel have been targeted by Bahraini officials for treating protestors. “
“Thousands of protesters in the small island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf took to the streets calling for government reform in February and March 2011. The Government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence. On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had first-hand knowledge of government atrocities.
This report details systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel, as a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protestors. The assault on healthcare workers and their patients constitutes extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law. Medical neutrality ensures
1. the protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities, and transport from attack or interference;
2. unhindered access to medical care and treatment;
3. the humane treatment of all civilians; and
4. nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick.
While in Bahrain, PHR investigators spoke with several eyewitnesses of abducted physicians, some of whom were ripped from their homes in the middle of the night by masked security forces. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated.
Armed security forces abducted Dr. Ali El-Ekri from the operating room while he was performing surgery at Salmaniya Hospital on 17 March. Another doctor was abducted in the middle of the night from his home in front of his wife and three children. Police and masked men in civilian clothes stormed the home of Dr. Abdul Khaliq al-Oraibi on 1 April. The security forces dragged him out of bed, handcuffed, and then blindfolded him. They did not say where or why they were taking him. His family has not heard from him since.
Physicians for Human Rights uncovered egregious abuses against patients and detainees including torture, beating, verbal abuse, humiliation, and threats of rape and killing. For example, security forces shot Ali in the face and head at close range with birdshot. He woke up later in Salmaniya Hospital where he was held for five days. On his second day, three armed security forces handcuffed Ali and a dozen other wounded men behind their backs with plastic wrist ties and began to beat them. Then the security forces threw Ali and the other patients face first onto the floor and dragged them out into the hallway, leaving trails of blood on the floor. Interrogation, torture, and forced confessions followed. “
Reuters on Gaddafi and the ICC:
“(Reuters) – International Criminal Court investigators have proof that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces committed crimes against humanity, and the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said on Monday he would soon ask for up to five arrest warrants
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously in February to refer Gaddafi’s violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrators to The Hague-based ICC and Moreno-Ocampo said his first recommendations for indictments should reach ICC judges within weeks.
“We have strong evidence on the beginning of the conflict, the shooting of civilians,” he told Reuters in an interview, noting that killing unarmed civilians would qualify as a crime against humanity.
“Also, we have strong evidence of the crime of persecution,” he said. This includes “massive arrests and torture of people, and some forced disappearances … (for) talking to journalists or going to demonstrations.”
Without giving precise details of his proof, Moreno-Ocampo said “for these two crimes we have a lot of evidence.” He plans to brief the Security Council on his probe on Wednesday.
Once Moreno-Ocampo makes his recommendations to the ICC’s pretrial chamber, the judges must decide whether there are sufficient grounds to issue arrest warrants.
Moreno-Ocampo said he would initially ask for up to five arrest warrants, but disclosed no names. “
You can always trust on the inflated ego of dictators to get the better of them. In this case, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez expresses his support for the Syrian dictatorship, AFP reports:
“”From here we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez said, after witnesses reported that Syrian troops backed by tanks had rolled into the town of Daraa, the epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people.
“Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the (Syrian) president, without anyone investigating anything,” said Chavez.
He gave no further details to support his claims.
Chavez, a close Assad ally in Latin America, criticized the “imperial madness” of the international community which, according to him, seeks to attack Syria under the pretext of defending its people.
“They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’
“Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the empire, it’s imperial madness,” he said.
When Chavez talks about “the empire,” he is usually referring to the United States.
While critics say Damascus is using its troops to crush dissent, the Syrian army said that citizens invited the soldiers into Daraa to hunt “extremist terrorist groups.”
Some 390 people have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria, rights activists and witnesses say. “
This is despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has killed about 400 civilians since the start of the revolts in Syria, according to Reuters:
“Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.”
This is Amnesty International’s page on Syria:
“In 2008, Syria ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights. However, laws continue to restrict freedom of expression and give the police powers to arrest and detain without trial due to an official state of emergency that was introduced in 1963 after the Ba’th party took power. In 2005, permission was given for the formation of new political parties, but human rights defenders, women and ethnic Kurds face discrimination in law and daily life.
The country retains the death penalty, torture is carried out with impunity and 17,000 disappeared people are unaccounted for. Syria currently hosts around 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and has a 500,000-strong longstanding Palestinian refugee population. “
Whilst protesters across the Middle East and elsewhere are using social media and the Internet to coordinate actions against dictators and other despots, they are not alone.
“Egyptian anti-regime activists found a startling document last month during a raid inside the headquarters of the country’s state security service: A British company offered to sell a program that security experts say could infect dissidents’ computers and gain access to their email and other communications.
The discovery highlights the emerging market of Western companies that sell software to security services from the Middle East to China to spy on the kinds of social media activists who recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
Amid the scattered papers, interrogation devices and random furniture found during the raid, the activists uncovered a proposed contract dated June 29 from the British company Gamma International that promised to provide access to Gmail, Skype, Hotmail and Yahoo conversations and exchanges on computers targeted by the Interior Ministry of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The proposal from Gamma International was posted online by Cairo physician Mostafa Hussein, a blogger who was among the activists who seized the ministry’s documents. “
There’s a lot of things going on, and normally I would like to do separate posts, but following Bob’s shining example, here is a slew of Middle East and related issues:
The Syrian President (and presumably many of his entourage) might end up at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, according to the Torygraph, for their murderous behaviour. Chance would be a fine thing. At latest count 350+ killed by the Syrian regime.
Meanwhile, the Gulf Daily News relates that in Saudi Arabia preparations are underway for a Royal visit to Bahrain and then presumably on to the Royal wedding in London, with blood still dripping from their fingers.
In Royal matters, numerous bloodsoaked dictators are coming over to meet the newly weds, share canopies and chat about how best to shoot the plebs, or whatever counts for small talk in royal circles nowadays. The Bahraini Crown Prince said, regrettably he couldn’t come as killing protesters was a more pressing matter at the moment, or something like that.
We shouldn’t forget that the Bahraini rulers are very close to the Royal family, particularly Charles.
They are very chummy with David Cameron too.
Elsewhere, forget Gaddafi’s “ceasefire” his forces are lobbing rockets into Misratah, killing civilians all over the place.
Modern slavery exists, as Burmese workers are enslaved in the Thai fishing fleet.
Fawaz Turki on the intolerant streak continues to afflict Palestinian society.
Reuters has more on events in Nouakchott:
“NOUAKCHOTT, April 25 (Reuters) – Security forces using teargas and batons dispersed several hundred anti-government protesters in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Monday, the most serious clash in the West African state for nearly two months.
Inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, critics of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz began street protests in late February in the poverty-stricken desert country, although their number has rarely risen above one thousand.
“Mauritanians are fed up with this regime, and it is time that we said it loud and clear,” Cheikh Ould Jiddou, a leader of the protest, told Reuters.”
Jeff Goldberg is good on the Mysteries of Richard Goldstone.
Oh, just in case anyone asked, the US already has sanctions on Syria,
Channel 4 reports that Gaddafi is now using children as cannon fodder:
“Sixteen-year-old Murad, banters with his doctors from his oversized wheelchair.
Smooth faced and wide eyed, with a big innocent smile, he talks about football, computers, and blushes at the mention of girls.
Murad is still too young to shave, but until last week he was handling weapons on the deadliest front of Libya’s brutal civil war. Until he was injured, and captured by the opposition, Murad was an unwilling soldier in Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s conscript army.
Now his arm is in plaster, and the white bed sheet draped over his thin frame covers the bloody, bandaged stump where his leg has been amputated.
Murad is one of an ‘army’ of child soldiers being used by Colonel Muammer Gaddafi in the battle to regain the besieged Libyan town of Misrata. School boys as young as 15 are being conscripted to the front line say government troops captured by the rebels.
Dozens of school boys who have been taken from Tripoli, and forced to fight for Gaddafi say eyewitnesses. “