< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: October 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Warming Called Threat To Global Economy

From the Washington Post:

Failing to curb the impact of climate change could damage the global economy on the scale of the Great Depression or the world wars by spawning environmental devastation that could cost 5 to 20 percent of the world's annual gross domestic product, according to a report issued yesterday by the British government.

The report by Nicholas Stern, who heads Britain's Government Economic Service and formerly served as the World Bank's chief economist, calls for a new round of international collaboration to cut greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

Click here to read the full article.


Also check out a related article from the NY Times entitled, " Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming."

In Baghdad, a Force Under the Militias' Sway

The Washington Post has an interesting article about how militias are infiltrating Iraqi police forces. The article can be accessed by clicking here.

Also check out, "U.S. Is Said to Fail in Tracking Arms Shipped to Iraqis." From the NY Times.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

UN Passes Arms Trade Treaty Over US Opposition

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Israeli Bomblets Continue to Trouble Civilians in Lebanon

In case anyone missed this important article from the New York Times, which appeared on October 6th:

New York Times
October 6, 2006
ISRAELI BOMBLETS PLAGUE LEBANON
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN; NADA BAKRI CONTRIBUTED REPORTING FROM LEBANON.
Since the war between Israel and Hezbollah ended in August, nearly three people have been wounded or killed each day by cluster bombs Israel dropped in the waning days of the war, and officials now say it will take more than a year to clear the region of them.
United Nations officials estimate that southern Lebanon is littered with one million unexploded bomblets, far outnumbering the 650,000 people living in the region. They are stuck in the branches of olive trees and the broad leaves of banana trees. They are on rooftops, mixed in with rubble and littered across fields, farms, driveways, roads and outside schools.
As of Sept. 28, officials here said cluster bombs had severely wounded 109 people -- and killed 18 others.
Muhammad Hassan Sultan, a slender brown-haired 12-year-old, became a postwar casualty when the shrapnel from a cluster bomb cut into his head and neck. He was from Sawane, a hillside village with a panoramic view of terraced olive farms and rolling hills. Muhammad was sitting on a hip-high wall, watching a bulldozer clear rubble, when the machine bumped into a tree.
A flash of a second later he was fatally injured when a cluster bomblet dropped from the branches. ''I took Muhammad to the hospital in my car, but he was already dead,'' said Yousef Ftouni, a resident of the village.
The entire village was littered with the bomblets, and as Mr. Ftouni recounted Muhammad's death, the Lebanese Army worked its way through an olive grove, blowing up unexploded munitions in a painfully slow process of clearance.
Cluster bombs are legal if aimed at military targets and are very effective, military experts say. Nonetheless, Israel has been heavily criticized by United Nations officials, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for using cluster bombs, because they are difficult to focus exclusively on military targets. Israel was also criticized because it fired most of its cluster bombs in the last days of the war, when the United Nations Security Council was negotiating a resolution to end the conflict.
Officials calculate that if they are lucky, and money from international donors does not run out, it will take 15 months to clear the area. There are now about 300 Lebanese Army soldiers and 30 other clearance teams, each of up to 30 experts, working on the problem of unexploded bomblets.
The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center in southern Lebanon recorded 745 locations across the south where unexploded bombs had been found. Of the million estimated to be scattered around, so far 4,500 have been disposed of, according to the center.
''Our priority at the moment is to clean houses, main roads and gardens so that the displaced people can return to their villages,'' said Col. Mohammad Fahmy, head of the national mine clearing office. ''The next stage will be cleaning agricultural lands.''
In Lebanon there are two explanations of why Israel unleashed cluster bombs at the end of the war: to inflict as much damage as possible on Hezbollah before withdrawing, or to litter the south with unexploded cluster bombs as a strategy to keep people from returning right away.
The United States has sold cluster bombs to Israel in the past and says it is investigating whether Israel's use of cluster bombs in its war with Hezbollah violated a secret agreement that restricted when they could be used.
The final days of the war -- a conflict that began when Hezbollah launched rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel and sent militiamen across the border to capture Israeli soldiers -- were marked by a huge Israeli offensive. Israel hoped its final push would, in part, help force the Security Council to adopt a tougher resolution on Hezbollah than appeared to be taking shape.
Israel has said it leafleted areas before bombing and provided Lebanon with maps of potential cluster bomb locations to help with the clearing process. United Nations officials in Lebanon say the maps are useless.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article on Sept. 12 anonymously quoting the head of a rocket unit in Lebanon who was critical of the decision to use cluster bombs. ''What we did was insane and monstrous; we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,'' Haaretz quoted the commander as saying.
Repeated efforts to get Israeli officials to explain the rationale behind the use of the bombs have proved fruitless, with spokesmen referring all queries to short official statements arguing that everything done conformed with international law.
In Lebanon the problem of the unexploded munitions is magnified by the desire to return to villages and lives in a region that is effectively booby-trapped. People want to begin rebuilding and harvest their crops. In some cases they have tried to clear the bomblets themselves, and some people have begun charging a small fee to clear away bombs -- a practice that officials have discouraged as dangerous.
But the people are desperate.
''If I lost the season for olives and the wheat, I have no money for the winter,''' said Rida Noureddine, 54, who farms a small patch of land on the main road in the village of Kherbet Salem. There was a small black object at the entrance to his farm, and he thought it was a cluster bomb.
''I feel as if someone has tied my arms, or is holding me by my neck, suffocating me because this land is my soul,'' he said.
The bomblets, about the size of a D battery, can be packed into bombs, missiles or artillery shells. When the delivery system detonates, the bomblets spread like buckshot across a large area, making them difficult to aim with precision. A fact sheet issued by the Mine Action Coordination Center says cluster bombs have an official failure rate of 15 percent.
That means that 15 percent of the bomblets remain as hazards. According to the fact sheet, the failure rate in this war is estimated to be around 40 percent. ''We estimate there are one million,'' said Dalya Farran, the community liaison officer of the mine action center.
Ms. Farran has worked at the center for nearly three years. It was set up in 2000 to help deal with the mines and unexploded ordnance left behind after the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and from other wars.
After this war, Ms. Farran said, there are two types of cluster bomb fragments across the south. The most commonly found type is known as M42, a deceptively small device resembling a light socket.
She said a large percentage of the unexploded bomblets were made in America, while some were produced in Israel. Each one has a white tail dangling off the back, like the tail of a kite. As they fall to the ground, the tail spins and unscrews the firing pin.
When the device hits, the front end fires a huge slug while the casing blasts apart into a spray of deadly metal fragments. When they fail to detonate they cling to the ground, and with their white tails look deceptively like toys, so children are often those who are injured.
''This is what they are living with every day,'' said Simon Lovell, a supervisor with one of the clearance teams as he looked at five unexploded bomblets poking out of the soft, rocky soil of the Hussein family farm.
Across the street, Hussein Muhammad, 48, at home with his wife and four children, waited for the clearance team. His olive trees were heavy with fruit, but he could not tend to the harvest.
''I feel that the land has become my enemy,'' he said. ''It represents a danger to my life and my kids' lives.''
Copyright 2006 The New York Times

--JB

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sudan Expels U.N. Envoy Over Report of Losses in Darfur

From the Washington Post:

The Sudanese government on Sunday ordered the chief U.N. envoy out of the country after he wrote that Sudan's army had suffered major losses in recent fighting in Darfur.

The order against the envoy, Jan Pronk, is likely to complicate international efforts to halt the killings, rapes and other atrocities in the strife-torn region of western Sudan.

Click here to read the full article.

Stricter Policy Splits West Bank Families

From the Washington Post.


For decades, Palestinian foreign nationals have entered the West Bank and Gaza Strip on three-month tourist visas, renewing them regularly, because residency cards were difficult to obtain. But in recent months Israel's Interior Ministry has refused in many cases to grant new visas, separating thousands of family members from their relatives inside lands the Jewish state occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

The tightening has coincided with the rise this year of Hamas, a radical Islamic movement, to head the Palestinian government, which most foreign donors have cut off from economic aid. Palestinian officials and Israeli human rights groups contend the shift will undermine private investment in the territories -- investment the Bush administration is seeking to encourage -- while potentially driving out the professional class most likely to have relatives abroad.


Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Russia Suspends Scores of Foreign Groups

From the NY Times:

Scores of foreign private organizations were forced to cease their operations in Russia on Thursday while the government considered whether to register them under a new law that has received sharp international criticism.

Among the suspended organizations were some of those most critical of the Kremlin, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and others, like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, that have been accused by Russian officials of instigating or assisting revolutions against other former Soviet republics.

The Justice Ministry, which is responsible for registering foreign private organizations, insisted that the suspensions were neither retaliatory nor permanent.

It issued a statement saying the suspended organizations had not properly filed new registration materials or had submitted the required materials on the last day before the registration deadline, which was midnight on Wednesday. It said it was rushing to review the applications it had received.


Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bush Signs Detainee Legislation

From the LA Times:

President Bush signed new legislation Tuesday providing for the detention and prosecution of terrorism suspects, and the Justice Department moved immediately to request the dismissal of dozens of lawsuits filed by detainees challenging their incarceration.

Bush signed the legislation in an elaborate East Room ceremony, calling it a "vital tool" in the administration's war on terrorism, while Republican Party officials immediately unleashed campaign broadsides, charging that the measure's Democratic critics advocate freeing terrorists.

The new law thus became both part of the administration's final campaign push to preserve its congressional majority in the midterm election and the beginning of a new chapter in fashioning a judicial process for those captured around the world in U.S. military and counterterrorism operations.

The law is bound to generate new and contentious legal challenges that likely will leave U.S. policies on detainees in an uncertain state. Beside the request that federal courts throw out detainees' lawsuits, judges also will be asked to decide new legal questions that again may end up before the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, human rights groups said it is far from clear how the new law will be implemented, and the CIA has asked Justice Department lawyers to review interrogation guidelines.

Click here to access the full article.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Micro-Credit Pioneer Wins Peace Prize


From the Washington Post:

Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he created won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for leveraging small loans into major social change for impoverished families...

Yunus said he believes the Nobel committee endorsed his view that bridging the gap between rich and poor countries in an age of increasing globalization is critical to reducing conflict around the world.

"You cannot go on having absurd amounts of wealth when other people have problems of survival," he said. "If you can bring an end to poverty, at least from an economic point of view, you can have a more livable situation between very rich people and very poor people, very rich countries and very poor countries. That's our basic ingredient for peace."

Click here to read the full article.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Canadians Agree On Plan to Create Vast National Park

From the Washington Post:

The government and native groups agreed Friday to move forward to preserve an area almost four times the size of Yellowstone Park in far northern Canada, and said they would study making other areas off-limits to burgeoning diamond and uranium mining interests there.

The agreement begins the work to make a huge national park on the eastern edge of the Great Slave Lake, a frigid, pristine area of the Northwest Territories prowled by grizzlies and grazed by caribou...

Work on creating a park started nearly four decades ago but was delayed in part because of the unsettled land claims by native groups. The area being mapped for a park encompasses 8.3 million acres. Yellowstone Park, in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, is about 2.2 million acres.

Click here to read the article.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Documents Reveal Scope of U.S. Database on Antiwar Protests

The New York Times has an article about the Defense Department's database of antiwar protesters. Click here to read the full article.

In China, Children of Inmates Face Hard Time Themselves

The Washington Post has an interesting story about what happens to the children of inmates in China. You can access the article by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000


From the Washington Post:

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

The survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are being published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet.

The same group in 2004 published an estimate of roughly 100,000 deaths in the first 18 months after the invasion. That figure was much higher than expected, and was controversial. The new study estimates that about 500,000 more Iraqis, both civilian and military, have died since then -- a finding likely to be equally controversial.

Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.


Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Human Rights Reporter Killed in Russia

From the LA Times:

A prominent Russian journalist known for reporting of human rights abuses in war-torn Chechnya was shot and killed Saturday in her apartment building in what colleagues and authorities described as an apparent assassination.

Anna Politkovskaya, 48, was shot in the chest as she was getting out of an elevator, then shot in the head, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing investigative sources. The image of the suspected killer was captured on a surveillance videotape, the agency said.

"We have a feeling, almost an assurance, that it is political murder," said Vitaly Yaroshevsky, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where she worked. "It was certainly related to her professional activities."

Politkovskaya, known to her friends as Anya, was one in a series of prominent officials and journalists to die violently in post-Soviet Russia, and her slaying sent a chill through Russia's community of pro-democracy and human rights activists.

Last month, gunmen shot and killed a senior central banker, Andrei Kozlov, who had been involved in shutting down banks suspected of money laundering. American journalist Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was gunned down near his office in 2004.

Politkovskaya, a mother of two, was considered one of the toughest critics of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and of pro-Moscow Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. One of her areas of expertise was documenting mistreatment of ordinary Chechens by Russian troops or forces loyal to Kadyrov.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Iraqi Police Brigade Accused of Mass Kidnappings

From the London Times:

AN ENTIRE police brigade in Baghdad has been suspended and its commander placed under arrest on charges of aiding sectarian death squads that have carried out mass kidnappings.

The Eighth Brigade of the 2nd National Police Battalion, which has more than 800 uniformed officers in western Baghdad, was stepped down a day after armed men in official uniforms herded off 14 shopkeepers from central Baghdad, and two days after 24 workers were abducted from a meat processing plant in the capital.


Click here to read the full article.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Terror Laws Cause Number of Refugees Admitted to United States to Fall 23 Percent This Year

From the New York Times:


New York Times
September 28, 2006
Terror Laws Cut Resettlement of Refugees
By
RACHEL L. SWARNS
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 — The number of refugees admitted to the United States fell 23 percent this year because of provisions in two antiterrorism laws that have sharply reduced the number of resettled refugees, State Department officials said Wednesday.
The laws, the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act, deny entry to anyone who belongs to or has provided material support to armed rebel groups, even if that support was coerced and even if the armed groups fought alongside American troops or opposed authoritarian governments criticized by the Bush administration.
The provisions have derailed the resettlement of thousands of refugees fleeing the authoritarian government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma; hundreds of refugees from Vietnam and Laos who fought alongside American troops in the Vietnam War; and dozens of Cubans who supported armed groups opposed to
Fidel Castro in the 60’s, according to the State Department and the United Nations refugee agency.
Many of the refugees were barred from the United States because, under the new laws, they are deemed supporters of terrorist groups, even though the organizations that they support do not appear on the State Department list of designated terrorist groups.
The statutes have broadened the definition of terrorist groups to include any group of two or more people who take up arms against a state, even if the group supports the aims of American foreign policy.
A result, State Department officials say, is that administration officials will resettle 41,200 of the 54,000 refugees whom they had expected to admit by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. That figure is the lowest since refugee admissions plunged for nearly two years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The State Department can grant waivers for specific populations that have supported armed groups, if they pose no threat to the United States. In May and August, the department issued waivers for Burmese refugees who have supported the Karen National Union, a group that opposes the government in Myanmar.
But the laws do not allow waivers for refugees who were combatants, received military training from groups deemed to be terrorist organizations or were members of such groups. State Department officials say a change in the law is required to address those populations. In recent weeks, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice has met with lawmakers in the House and Senate to discuss such changes.
Ellen R. Sauerbrey, an assistant secretary of state, told senators on Wednesday that the antiterrorism provisions had prevented the United States from resettling 9,500 Burmese this fiscal year. Of that group, 1,500 are expected to enter by Sept. 30 under issued waivers.
“We had anticipated bringing the majority, if not all of those, to the United States,” Ms. Sauerbrey said at a hearing of the
Immigration Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She said the limited waivers meant that the resettlement of many refugees had been indefinitely delayed. In addition to the Burmese, Ms. Sauerbrey pointed to the Cubans and Vietnamese Montagnards.
“We are eagerly looking forward to expanding resettlement,” she said, “to the degree that we can resolve some of these difficulties.”
Refugee advocacy groups, including Human Rights First and
Human Rights Watch, and conservative groups like Concerned Women for America, the National Association of Evangelicals and American Values, say officials are not moving swiftly enough.
Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, has proposed legislation that would bar only members and supporters of groups designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department.
But State Department officials say they do not expect any movement on such legislation before Nov. 7.
Many refugee advocates fear that administration officials and members of Congress are delaying action because they do not want to be viewed as easing up on terrorism during an election year.
Michael J. Horowitz, a neoconservative who worked in the White House of President
Ronald Reagan and testified at the hearing on Wednesday, said in a statement that it was “inexcusable that for more than two years the administration has dragged its feet” in finding a solution for the refugees who fought alongside Americans in Vietnam.
The antiterrorism provisions have also affected 500 asylum seekers in the United States, whose cases have been delayed and has prevented 700 people, who have already been deemed refugees or granted asylum, from becoming permanent residents here for the time being.
Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, urged the administration to redouble its efforts on behalf of the Burmese refugees and others who desperately need to resettle. “I know we have a lot security concerns to watch for,” Mr. Brownback said at the hearing. “But there are huge populations that are absolutely persecuted and have no other option.”

--JB

 

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