This week in conflict… January 22nd-28th, 2011

World

  • A new theory about hunger charges that traders in the global commodity markets are making billions from speculating on food while causing food prices to yo-yo and inflate. Changes to “hedging” rules in the mid-90s caused foods to be turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders that had nothing to do with agriculture, while the 2006 sub-prime disaster in the US caused billions of dollars to be moved into safe commodities, especially foods. Some suggest that the food markets are now heavily distorted by investment banks, to the detriment of the world’s poor. In light of the recent demonstrations across northern Africa, experts are advising policymakers to better control food prices and have released a new guide on how to properly do that.
  • A new report suggests that electronics company Apple is polluting and poisoning the environment, despite their claims of environmental stewardship. The report was put out by a Chinese activist group IPE.
  • The United States Institute of Peace has released a report on gender in conflict, that discusses masculinity concerns in conflict and peacebuilding. The report suggests that the narrow approach to gender (which is often synonymous with women) fails to include masculinity issues in analysis, having important consequences on policy interventions. Women may be combatants or direct participants in sexual violence, though this is often overlooked.
  • Human Rights Watch’s annual report was released on Monday, and was particularly critical of Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General, for failing to speak out more forcefully against human rights abuses. The report suggests that Ban sometimes went out of his way to portray repressive governments in a positive light and that this has filtered down through the system and made people reticent to speak out on abuses in places like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. This year again, I speak my concerns that the report does not address western countries, aside from the US, who are also guilty of human rights abuses but often go unpunished and unnoticed.
  • More than 2,000 business, government, civil society and academia leaders met in Switzerland to discuss a wide array of issues, including the rise of India and China as global powers, anxieties about European debt, austerity, joblessness, the risk of runaway inflation in fast-growing economies, and the failings of the global economic system (such as poverty and inequality), at the 41st World Economic Forum. The meeting is said to be protected by tight security of some 4,000 troops. The head of JP Morgan delivered an angry speech against “banker bashing”, complaining that the entire industry is being tarred with the same brush and implying that bankers have become political whipping boys. On Wednesday, police evacuated a building and removed a suspicious object after a group said they had targeted the St. Gallen business school to coincide with the Forum. A small blast thought to be caused by fireworks at the hotel close to the Forum shattered two windows on Thursday; was later claimed by an anonymous poster who said it was directed at the Swiss government officials and senior executives of the Swiss bank UBS staying at the hotel. UN Secretary-General called the world’s current economic model an environmental “global suicide pact” that will have disastrous results if not reformed at the forum on Friday.
  • The FAO, IFAD, and ILO released a new report on gender dimensions of agricultural and rural development that gives trends and statistics about proportions of women in agriculture versus men. The report argues that women are hampered by persistent gender inequalities.
  • A biologist at Colorado State University is developing a plant that can detect explosives. The biologist has done so by engineering the plant’s DNA so that it turns white when it comes into contact with certain chemicals found in explosives.

Africa

  • Sudan Armed Forces announced late Friday that it had killed 13 rebels and lost 8 soldiers in  clashes with armed groups in North Darfur. On Sunday, the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) announced that the Sudanese authorities conducted a raid on internally displaced people (IDPs) to search for weapons and other illegal items, that violated the Status of Force Agreement in place and that the UNAMID forces had stepped up their presence in a camp for IDPs in North Darfur in response. UNAMID also confirmed reports of intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi in Tabit, though they have been prevented from entering the area by SAF forces invoking security concerns. Provisional results and documents on the referendum vote suggest that their were irregularities, with more than 100% of people registered in seven of the 76 counties in the south voting, but that they were small and unlikely to change the overall results. The ICRC organized a transfer of 31 released soldiers between the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement. The satellite mapping project launched by human rights activists says images captured during South Sudan’s referendum this month confirm reports that Sudanese troops were deployed in strategic areas along the North-South border during the vote. Sudanese President al-Bashir vowed on Tuesday to step down if he ever felt that the people do not want him during a rally in reference to the recent uprisings in other African nations. An independent south Sudan has announced it will consider joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), the body that has indicted Sudan’s president for war crimes and genocide. Fighting between the government and rebel groups in North and South Darfur is said to be returning to past patterns of violence, displacing tens of thousands of people. On Thursday, it was reported that Sudan’s army had bombed rebel positions in Darfur and later surrounded and threatened to burn down a refugee camp. UN peacekeepers are also said to have been threatened by the forces.
  • The Central African Republic voted on Sunday, amid voting delays with around 1.8 million out of 4.8 million registered voters voting. Results are to be announced within 8 days, with either incumbent Bozize (who seized control in 2003), Ange-Felix Patasse (the ex-President ousted by Bozize returning from exile) or Martin Ziguele (a former PM of Patasse) being the top runners. On Monday, the opposition party denounced irregularities and presented a long list of grievances, including alleged fictitious and displaced polling stations and problematic voter rolls. By Wednesday, three of the five candidates in the election were calling on the polls to be annulled.
  • The protesting continued in Tunisia, with police using teargas to try and disperse them, as protesters gathered at the PM’s office in an effort to remove the government linked to ousted President Ben Ali. On Saturday, the PM pledged to leave Tunisian politics after elections, and that all undemocratic laws would be scrapped in the transition to democracy. On Sunday, the owner of a private TV station and his son were arrested for “grand treason” for allegedly inciting violence and working for ousted leader Ben Ali’s return, concerning several rights activists who said the move was a sign that the protests were unnerving authorities. On Monday, the general of the army spoke publicly for the first time since Ben Ali’s ousting, pledging to uphold the revolution and urging patience until elections can be held; and the Paris prosecutor’s office said it was opening a preliminary investigation to determine Ben Ali’s assets in France. On Wednesday, Tunisian authorities asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for Ben Ali and members of his family for possession of expropriated property and transferring foreign currency abroad. Rival protests continued in the capital, with hundreds rallying in favour of the interim government, and another part demonstrating against the government. It is said that “speakers’ corners” are now flourishing within the country. By Wednesday, the Minister of Justice announced that nearly 700 people had been arrested during the unrest on suspicions of “sabotage, violence, and looting”, while some 74 prisoners are said to have died in the uprising. Authorities had also dissolved an agency which acted as an effective censor of foreign media during the rule of Ben Ali, and suggested that the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers would all be replaced as part of the cabinet reshuffle. The reshuffle resulted in the replacement of five key ministers from the Ben Ali government on Friday.
  • The fifth round of UN-backed informal talks on the Western Sahara dispute concluded on Sunday, with Morocco and Frente Polisario agreeing to continue the talks in March. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the Polisario’s position is that the territory’s status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.
  • Civil society organizers in Liberia are expressing grave concern over corrupt practices that they say are marring the voter registration process. They fear that the flawed registration process could lead to a chaotic election.
  • The extra-judicial killings of three suspected criminals by police that was caught on tape last Wednesday has Kenyan rights groups outraged. Despite denials by the government, many suggest that the police have been systematically executing suspected criminals, with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights saying it received 55 cases of alleged police shootings last year.
  • Voter registration problems continued to plague Nigeria this week, with claims that some Direct Data Capture machines used to register were already loaded with over 1,000 names, thumb-prints and pictures before they were even unpacked. Several regions had yet to be supplied with the machines five days into the process, some received medical scanners instead of registration machines, some witnessed protests, some people had fears that HIV/AIDs victims would be rejected by the machines and refused to expose themselves, while other regions had to spend long times registering each person and suggested that the time frame for the registration may need to be extended. On Monday, the army said that gunmen killed a soldier guarding a church in the northeastern part of the country, but did not confirm who was behind the shooting. A new bomb, which allegedly dropped by parachute from an unidentified aircraft, was reportedly found at a primary school in Enugu State on Monday night. On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the commissioners were reviewing the performance of the registration exercise and exploring the possibility of an extension, which is deemed likely.  On Wednesday, House Representatives okayed a four week extension on voter registration and members of the late President Yar’Adua’s family denounced their membership with the ruling PDP party and moved to the opposition CPC party; while renewed violence in Bauchi killed 10. On Thursday, 14 were killed in new violence in Jos, and 29 armed Fulani herdsmen were arrested.
  • Tanzanian MP David Kafulila announced he would table a motion on a vote of no confidence in the government if it pays the firm Dowans over breach of contract. Last year, the ICC ordered Tanzania Electricity Supply Company to pay Dowans TSh 106 billion (some $70 million USD) for the breach. A civilian reader of A Peace of Conflict in Tanzania sent information that there was chaos, threats of demonstration and riots over the concern among the general population.
  • ECOWAS’s leaders are saying they have little option left in Cote d’Ivoire but to deploy ECOWAS standby force to remove Gbagbo from office and install opposition Ouattara after the disputed Presidential elections. The Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister  has urged the UN to sanction the use of force. A new delegation from ECOWAS will meet with US President Obama and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the crisis. On Saturday, the Banque Central des Estats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (Central Bank of West African States), forced an alleged Gbagbo crony to resign his post as governor of the bank under pressure from the region’s leaders and instead requested Ouattara nominate a new candidate. On Monday, Ugandan leader Museveni described the UN’s recognition of Ouattara’s win “simplistic” and called upon an independent investigation, suggesting that the UN had overstepped its role in selecting a winner. On Wednesday, it was reported that Gbagbo had moved to seize local branches of the regional central bank in face of the increasing financial sanctions and that utilities were also seized. A growing number of African nations are said to be backing away from calls for military intervention as African Union leaders are divided about how to continue. Human Rights Watch reported that security forces have carried out torture, rape, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, and that militiamen loyal to Gbagbo are imposing a “reign of terror” against Ouattara supporters, though their research was focused only within Abidjan.
  • Uganda’s upcoming elections are facing possible crisis, as opposition leaders demanded they be postponed on Tuesday until more than four million newly-registered voters were issued their voting cards. They charged that the official figure of 13.9 million voters on the provisional register don’t add up in a country of 32 million where 56% of the population is under 18. The government responded that it would not be possible to postpone the vote and dismissed the case to issue voting cards before the elections. Incumbent Museveni said in an interview with the BBC that he would retire if he lost in the democratic process but that he expected to win by a big majority. Security chiefs have assured Ugandans of peace and stability during the February 18th elections, while 34 observers from the EU Election Observer Mission arrived in the country ahead of the polls. One of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activists was bludgeoned to death in his home on Wednesday, just weeks after winning a court victory over a tabloid that called for homosexuals to be killed. Meanwhile a lesbian being deported back to the country from Britain have been told by a Ugandan MP that she must “repent or reform” when she returns home, sparking fears for the safety of those being deported.
  • Anti-government protesters in Egypt clashed with police this week (you can follow the live updates here), inspired by the Tunisian demonstrations. At least 30 had been reported as arrested on Tuesday, but this number was reported as high as 500 by Wednesday and listed as over a thousand by Thursday. A British journalist with the Guardian describes a telling story of the abuse he received at the hands of the police. The President’s son and family are said to have fled to London on Tuesday, as some four people died in protests that went well into the night. On Wednesday, it appears Egyptian access to facebook, facebook and live vide streaming site Bambuser were denied in order to prevent activists from using those websites used extensively to coordinate their efforts, while later there were reports that the country had descended into a complete internet and SMS blackout with the possibility of landlines even being cut. Despite the outlawing by authorities on Tuesday of any public gatherings and promise of “immediate” arrest, the protests continued. On Thursday, angry demonstrators torched a police post in Suez, while police are said to have responded by firing rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and teargas. The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei warned the President on the fourth day of protests (Friday) that his regime was “on its last legs”, while the President announced a curfew in the main cities to run from 6pm to 7am.
  • UN investigators are said to have many more women than previously thought who were raped by Congolese soldiers during a New Year’s rampage. A senior army commander accused of ordering the rapes was arrested on Friday. Investigators have so far documented at least 67 women, including a teenager and two pregnant women. Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) expressed their concern this week that some 600 nomadic herders in the Northern Congo were being forced to continually flee after being targeted by the FADRC (Congolese Army). The French police handed over Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana to the ICC in the Hague on Tuesday, on charges of rape, murder, torture, and other atrocities committed during a terror campaign against Congolese citizens. On Friday, it was reported that armed men had raped 60 people, men, women and children, in the eastern part of the country in the last ten days.
  • The African Union peacekeepers in Somalia apologized for Mogadishu civilian casualties after AU soldiers opened live gunshots on civilians who rushed to help a boy accidentally hit by a vehicle. On Tuesday, at least 4 civilians were said to be wounded when their bus came under fire by the AU forces. At least 10 people, mostly fighters, are said to have been killed in central Somalia on Tuesday in battles between al Shabaab and a pro-government militia. The UN and the AU held a high-level meeting this week to review efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation in the country in Ethiopia. At least 10 people, including six civilians, were killed in Mogadishu on Wednesday in street battles between al-Shabaab and Somali government forces and AMISOM as the civil war marks its 20th year. The government canceled an agreement with Saracen International, a private security company linked to Blackwater, to train Somali forces on Thursday.
  • Australia is warning of the possibility of a terrorist attack in Ethiopia during the 16th Ordinary Session of the African Heads of State and Government.
  • Zimbabwe’s Mugabe has threatened to dissolve parliament and prepare the country for elections if the coalition government doesn’t come to an agreement on when to hold the poll. PM Tsvangirai has called for elections only when the new constitution is in place, at least a year away. Mugabe has also threatened to revert to the old constitution, that gives him rights as President to dissolve parliament.
  • Gabon faces difficulties after opposition parliamentarian Andre Mba Obame declared himself as the country’s President on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the government dissolved his National Union party and relinquished him from public duties. Mba Obame took refuge in a UN office citing that he would not leave under the UN responded to his demand for recognition. The AU was deeply concerned about Mr. Obame’s announcement and called on the opposition leaders to act responsibility. On Thursday, security forces clashed with anti-government protesters demanding Obame is recognized as President.
  • The San of the Botswana Kalahari won an appeal on Thursday allowing the to now drill water wells within the Kalahari Game Reserve, overturning a previous decision. The government had argued that their presence was not compatible with preserving wildlife, even though new wells have been drilled for wildlife and luxury tourist lodges.
  • Several debates over the future of democracy in Africa were launched this week. With 20 national votes during 2011, some analysts are concerned that the messy aftermath of Cote d’Ivoire would spark trouble elsewhere. Others  talked about the international spread of the Tunisian protests and the role technology is playing in democratic movements.

Asia

  • Several military officials and experts have suggested that China’s recent stealth fighter jet may have been borrowed from downed US technology. China dismissed this possibility entirely, while Pentagon officials said they were unsure, but doubted that much could have been gleaned from the debris of a plane developed in the 1970s. The Chinese premier was said to sit in an unusual meeting with workers, farmers and other disgruntled citizens this week to listen to complaints of unpaid wages, land grabs and forced demolitions. It is said that this is the first time a central leader has done this. A prominent newspaper columnist who challenged government censors by writing about corruption and political form was fired on Thursday from one of the country’s best-known newspapers. The columnist said he was forced out because his bosses were under pressure from the government.
  • Several Asian countries were cited as having worsening human rights violations by Human Rights Watch’s annual report. The Cambodian government was said to have tightened restrictions on fundamental freedoms in 2010, making it increasingly difficult and risky for human right defenders, land rights activists and trade unionists to operate. Singapore is said to have restricted freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and frequently used defamation laws and preventive detention to silence political critics and human rights defenders in 2010. Vietnam is said to have intensified its repression of activists and dissidents and cracked down harshly on freedom of expression, association and assembly during 2010. While, Malaysia’s government’s pledge to “uphold civil liberties” was seen as little more than an empty promise. Bangladesh’s Awami League government was said to not keep its promise after its election victory in December 2008 to show “zero tolerance” for abuses by its security forces, as new extrajudicial killings have been reported and those responsible not brought to justice.
  • A government official was said to have been burnt alive in the Malegaon District of India on Tuesday while conducting a raid on black marketeers. The UN called upon India to repeal a controversial law that gives security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot people in Kashmir this week. Leaders of India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist party were stopped from traveling in Kashmir to hoist the national flag on Monday for fear of provoking violence. The gates to the terminal were locked, preventing them from leaving, and hundreds of supporters blocked the roads in protest.
  • Three Indonesian soldiers who were captured on video torturing suspected separatists last year were sentenced on Monday to up to ten months in prison, to the anger of rights activists who saw the lenient verdict as continuing the military’s impunity. The footage showed three men in uniform in an eastern region of Papua burning the genitals of one unarmed separatist who lay bound and naked on the ground, and then running a knife across the neck of another.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has apparently said that he is opposed to continuing the family dynasty into a third generation, but named his youngest son as heir to keep the country stable. The eldest son Kim Jong-nam talked of his father in a Japanese newspaper.
  • A man was killed and nearly 100 others wounded after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters demanding higher wages in Bangladesh on Sunday. Workers at a pharmaceutical company blockaded a major highway and are said to have vandalized vehicles.
  • Suspected Muslim separatists in southern Thailand shot and killed a Muslim defence volunteer in a roadside ambush, while two other similar attacks wounded a villager and another Muslim defence volunteer on Saturday.  A roadside bomb killed nine civilians and wounded two on Tuesday. The victims are said to all have been Buddhists who were traveling to hunt wild pigs. The bomb is believed to be the work of ethnic Malay militants, though no group made a credible claim.
  • A blast from a suspected bomb ripped through a bus in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday. Four people were killed, and another 14 wounded. Communist rebels are said to have shot and killed a police chief and four other officers in the northern Philippines on Sunday using roadside bombs.
  • Nepal’s Maoists are said to have relinquished control of at least 19,000 former fighters to government control in a move expected to boost the country’s peace process. The Maoist fighters are to be integrated into the security forces or rehabilitated into civilian life.
  • Recent fighting between government forces and armed ethnic groups in eastern Myanmar/Burma has increased the risk of civilian landmine injuries. According to a report released by Geneva Call, there are landmines in 10 out of 14 states with more than 10% of all townships are contaminated. The highest court rejected a move by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to overturn a ruling that dissolved her political party on Friday. Her party remains an “unlawful association” for its failure to register before last November’s election.
  • Sri Lanka’s jailed former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, lost his appeal to retain his parliamentary seat on Tuesday. A court martial verdict found him guilty of arms procurement offenses prohibits him from being qualified to be a member of Parliament. Fonseka said the government was seeking revenge on him for his decision to stand against the President in the January 2010 elections.
  • The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights released its final report on last November’s election in Azerbaijan on Tuesday, saying that serious efforts were needed to create the environment for genuine elections with equal and fair conditions. The President’s party won more than 70 seats in the 125 seat parliament, the almost all the rest going to so-called independent candidates loyal to the President.
  • Local authorities in Tajikistan detained two groups of the banned Salafi strain of Islam, claiming the leaders of two groups organized classes on Islam for some 60 children and planned to send them abroad illegally to study. In an effort to fight extremism authorities currently prohibit sending children to study at religious schools abroad, and allow licenses for only a limited number of imams to teach Islam or the Arabic alphabet.
  • Explosives planted beneath a car exploded killing three people and wounded four in Orakzai, Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, a US drone aircraft killed at least four suspected militants on the Afghan border; a policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Peshawar; and another drone attack killed two suspected militants on a motorbike. On Monday, suspected militants blew up two natural gas pipelines in the southwest, disrupting supplies to a gas purification plant. On Tuesday, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up near a religious procession of Shi’ites, killing at least ten and wounding more than 50 in Lahore; while a motorcycle bomb in Karachi killed as many as four and caused numerous injuries. On Thursday, security forces killed 11 suspected militants in clashes along the Afghan border; and a US Consular worker was involved in a shooting that killed three, claiming he fired in self defense to prevent an attempted robbery. He is in police custody, and could be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon. Human Rights Watch’s report suggested that Taliban violence and religious extremism grew in 2010, with the government doing little to improve the situation and often making it worse.
  • Two ISAF troop members were killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday; while a rocket fired by alleged insurgents on a coalition patrol in Ghanzi province hit a house killing two children and wounded six others. Also on Saturday President Karzai was said to have reached a tentative deal with politicians who threatened to start parliament without him, and had conditionally agreed to inaugurate parliament. Parliament was inaugurated later in the week, despite Karzai’s wishes to delay it by a month to allow a special court to investigate claims of election fraud, angering many losing candidates who held a protest at the move. On Sunday, NATO troops were said to have killed 14 suspected insurgents in separate operations. On Tuesday, it was speculated that US President Obama would soon announce plans to expand Afghan security forces by roughly 70,000 ahead of the July 2011 start of US troop draw-down; an ISAF service member was killed by a bomb in Kabul; and ISAF forces said they killed two alleged insurgents in an airstrike in Ghanzi. An attack by a suicide bomber on a busy Kabul supermarket killed eight and wounded six on Friday. The Netherlands has signed the approval to send troops and police to norther Afghanistan to train new police recruits, despite polls in the country that show a majority of voters were opposed to the mission. A security advice group said that foreign military assertions that security in the country is improving are intended to sway Western public opinion ahead of the troop withdraw, but that there is “indisputable evidence” that conditions are deteriorating , including a two-thirds rise in insurgent attacks in 2010, averaging 33 incidents a day.

Americas

  • US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is asking that a UN expert on Palestinian human rights who suggested that there was a cover up over the September 11th attacks be fired. The Secretary-General condemned the remarks, but said it was not up to him to fire the expert. US House of Representative Republican members have criticized the UN for being “bloated” and “ineffective” and vowed to press for reforms and a reduction in US funding in a January 25th meeting. Obama addressed the country in his annual state of the union address, in which he warned of the threat to US economic power and global influence from China and appealed to Republicans to abandon demands for budget cuts. He asked instead that they back the biggest government investment programme since the 1960s space race, that would focus on research, infrastructure and education that could be paid for, in part, by eliminating subsidies to profitable oil companies. The call was swiftly rejected by opponents, but was backed by more than 3/4 of respondents in an instant polling on CNN. The US may have more difficulty enforcing the death penalty after the sole American manufacturer of the drug sodium thiopental, used in lethal injections, announced it was ending production. Germany’s health minister is also now urging it’s leading drug companies and distributors to ignore requests from the US for supplies of the drug, as American supplies grow extremely short.  Investigators in the Army PFC Bradley Manning case could not find a direct link connecting Manning to WikiLeaks. A judge has sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a US civilian trial to life in prison, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the CIA and others “pales in comparison to the suffering and horror” caused by the bombing of two US embassies in 1998. An 13 year old boy who shot and killed his father’s fiance in Pennsylvania two years ago could possibly be tried as an adult and held for life in prison without the possibility of parole in violation to international laws. 20 people in Phoenix were indicted on firearms charges, accused of participating in a ring that allegedly brought more than 700 guns into Mexico for use by a drug cartel. An alarming story of the vigilante shooting of a family, including the murder of a 9 year old girl, demonstrates the possible consequences of the staunch anti-immigration stance.
  • Former Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier offered his sympathies to those who suffered abuse under his rule, but stopped short of a clear apology for the killings and torture committed during his 15 years of power. Haitian President Preval said that Duvalier had every right to return, but must now face an investigation of his alleged abuses. Duvalier said he was prepared to face “persecution”. The ruling party candidate has decided to abandon the Presidential election race in order to break the deadlock that has paralyzed the government since the November 28th poll. An angering account of Haiti’s aftermath tells of how government relief funds were not only squandered, but actually ended up funding “spiritual need” within the country to help eradicate voodoo (through Billy Graham’s son’s charity), and corporate greed (through Monsanto), instead of helping to rebuild.
  • Mexican federal police announced that they arrested seven drug gang members in Acapulco on Sunday, including the man they claim is behind the murders of 22 people in the resort earlier this month. On Monday, officials in Ciudad Juarez announced that armed men had killed seven people at a park that was built as an anti-violence measure.
  • Canada unveiled a new national equipment standard for emergency workers facing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons this week in an unused subway station in Toronto. The standard provides guidelines for gear and procedures to be used when faced with various kinds of terrorist incidents.
  • Civil disobedience continued at the University of Puerto Rico this week. Nearly 100 students have been arrrested.

Middle East

  • On Sunday, a roadside bomb in Taza, Iraq, wounded the leader of a government backed militia and three of his guards; a car bomb went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing one and wounding seven in northwestern Baghdad; a car bomb exploded near a hotel, killing one and wounding six others in central Baghdad; a car bomb killed two and wounded four in Taji; a car bomb near a police patrol killed on policeman and one civilian and wounded 8 others in southern Baghdad; and a car bomb exploded near a police patrol wounding four people in central Baghdad. On Monday, four gunmen wounded a provincial oil official at his home in Mosul; gunmen killed the imam of a mosque in Falluja; armed men opened fire on the car of a police colonel, killing him in southwestern Baghdad; a car bomb killed at least 8 people and wounded 92 others in Kerbala; two bodies were found showing signs of torture in Riyadh; a roadside bomb killed a brigadier general and wounded an intelligence officer in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded 8 people in northwestern Baghdad;and  a roadside bomb attack targeting a governor wounded five in Tikrit. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded seven pilgrims on a minibus in northern Baghdad. On Wednesday, gunmen killed an employee at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in northwestern Baghdad; armed men shot another Foreign Affairs Ministry employee in central Baghdad; a mortar round killed one civilian and wounded another in their home in Mosul; gunmen killed a civilian in Mosul; gunmen killed a member of a government-backed militia in Tarmiya; and gunmen killed an employee at the National Security ministry in central Baghdad. On Thursday, a car bomb exploded at a funeral, killing at least 50and wounding another 65 in northwestern Baghdad; a bomb in a minibus killed two passengers and wounded seven pedestrians in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded seven others in central Baghdad; a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in northern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb killed one and wounded three others in north-central Baghdad.
  • Demonstrations broke out all across Yemen last week, inspired by the recent ousting of Tunisia’s President. 19 anti-government activists were arrested on Sunday in clashes with police. The protests continued throughout the week, with some 10,000 at the Sanaa University and at least 6,000 elsewhere in the capital.
  • Thousands of Jordanians joined in the demonstrations that have been spreading across the North African and Arab world on Friday against the government. An estimated 3,000 people marched to the capital, along with another 2,000 in other cities.
  • WikiLeaks revealed the largest cache of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict that created quite a stir this week. The cables revealed an insight into the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli state, including concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and the covert cooperation between the two armed forces. Palestinian officials are denying the accuracy of the reports that have been very damning towards them. A Turkish inquiry into Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid deemed the act a violation of international law this week, following Israel’s report that determined the Israeli forces had acted legally, despite the deaths of nine activists aboard the vessel. Peru became the seventh South American country to recognize Palestine as a state this week, rapidly following decisions by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana.
  • Iran carried out the first executions of activists detained in street protests following the disputed 2009 elections. Around a dozen others have been sentenced to death for their role in the unrest. Iran announced it was open to holding further talks with six world power over its nuclear program, following the expressed disappointed over the recent talks in Istanbul by world powers.
  • Lebanon’s President formally appointed a Hezbollah-backed candidate as PM, defeating incumbent Hariri, following the walk-out of Hezbollah MPs that brought down Hariri’s government earlier this month. Sunnis protested the rising power of Hezbollah within their government in a “day of rage”, burning tires and torching vehicles, that continued over the following day.

Europe

  • Human rights violations in Turkey’s southeast are said to have risen by 16% last year as fighting between guerrillas and government forces escalated, according to a new report by the Human Rights Association (IHD).
  • Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday in support of national unity and to demand that rival political groups form a coalition following seven months without a government. The rally of between 20-30,000 was said to be peaceful.
  • The “New START” nuclear reduction treaty between the US and Russia passed through the upper house of Russian parliament on Wednesday, and will now go to President Medvedev for signature. On Monday, a suspected suicide bombing at the busiest Moscow airport killed at least 35 and wounded more than 150. PM Putin later vowed revenge for the bombing, as lax security was blamed for allowing it to happen. France concluded a deal with Russia to sell it four Mistral assault ships on Tuesday. The deal was criticized by the US and NATO allies in the Baltics for providing Russia with a modern carrier for helicopters or tanks.
  • Inadequate prosecution of crimes from the 1990 wars is said to have hampered European integration of the Western Balkans according to the Human Rights Watch Report released on Monday. The report criticized the human rights situation in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.
  • The recently resigned Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin was elected as head of the Republican Fianna Fail party just a week after his failed attempt to oust the prime minister from the party leadership. He will lead until the general election campaign on the 25th February. The lower house averted the immediate collapse of government by passing a crucial finance bill. On Wednesday, a bomb was found near a police station in northern Belfast apparently intended to target police officers, the latest in the increasing attacks since nationalist splinter groups seeking a united Ireland killed two soldiers almost two years ago.
  • The UK government is set to change controversial counter-terrorism measures following a review of procedures. The control orders, which impose 16 hour curfews on suspects, would be replaced by an alternative supervision system that would require them to stay at home up to 10 hours, but only overnight, and allowed to use a mobile phone and be given limited access to the internet. Some experts have called the measures a form of “internal exile” and say it violates basic civil liberties. The rules only apply to terrorism suspects who cannot be prosecuted or deported, either because the evidence against them is inadmissible or sensitive or for fear of their torture abroad.
  • Portugal has re-elected its President Anibal Cavaco Silva in an election largely overshadowed by the country’s economic difficulties. The political conservative obtained around 53% of the vote, with a record low voter turnout of less than 50%.
  • Four people were killed and six injured in a car bomb attack in Daghestan that occurred outside a cafe. No further details were immediately available.
  • Three anti-government protesters were killed last Friday in Albania, while a special session of Parliament on Sunday night saw deputies voting for an inquiry into the causes of violence. On Tuesday, the main opposition politician, who has been accused by the PM of trying to stage a coup, threatened to hold more protests, while calling on the international community to mediate the political crisis. A EU envoy was sent on Wednesday, while the US called on government and opposition supporters not to stage demonstrations planned for the end of the week. The opposition said they planned to continue to protest despite all warnings.
  • A group of Belarussian protesters staged a demonstration outside the Palace of the Republic, just hours after the inauguration of longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko, resulting in several arrests. Activists claim they are having their homes raided by fake police officers. On Thursday, the EU said they would reinstate a visa ban on President Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials next week in response to their crackdown on protests following the December elections, though said they would widen the measure to include around 150 individuals. On Friday, the US announced they would strengthen existing sanctions and increase their financial support to the country’s civil society in response to a crackdown on democracy activists.
  • More than 200 illegal immigrants on a hunger strike in Greece ended a five-day occupation of a university after a tense standoff with police. Police are usually barred from entering university campuses under Greek law, but academic authorities had lifted the ban to give police power to intervene.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s