Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guinea President Dies, Soldiers Attempt Coup

Hours after the death of President Lansana Conte a group of Guinean soldiers announced their intention to suspend the constitution and the government. The group has been called "the minority" by General Diarra Camara, armed forces chief of Guinea.

President Conte had led the poverty-stricken nation since 1984. There have been several anti-government riots and strikes in the few years as citizens have struggled with a sagging economy. Last year more than 180 people were killed by government forces following one such riot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Musicians Protest Use of Music to Torment Detainees

Musicians are joining together to demand that the U.S. stop using their songs to torment detainees in the war on terror. Reprieve, a human rights group, has organized a campaign in which musicians will feature moments of silence during concerts.

There are many reports of music being played at loud volumns and for extended periods of time in order to "break" detainees. The U.S. military authorized this tactic in part "to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock."

For more, see: Zero dB and The Guardian

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama to Close Guantanamo

President-elect Barack Obama plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison which has held detainees captured as part of the "war on terror." This move is a welcomed one for human rights advocates. Some suspects will be released, likely due to lack of evidence. For those to stand trial, Obama is considering the creation of a new court system following the criticism of President Bush's military tribunal system. The new hybrid system will attempt to combine some of the military tribunal aspects with those of the domestic criminal courts. The goal is to create a more fair and transparent system, while still protecting secret agents and informants.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympics Bring More Abuses

It was hoped that hosting the Olympic games would cause China to better its deplorable human rights record. According to some, however, it has only increased the abuses. Steven W. Mosher, an internationally recognized China expert, says that in preparation for the games the Chinese government has:

-- Arrested, imprisoned, and tortured numerous political dissidents.
-- Broken all of its promises to ensure freedom of the press, speech, and assembly during the Games.
-- Put in place new control on the Internet.
-- Destroyed the homes of millions of citizens to make way for new Olympic structures.
-- Forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.
-- Introduced restrictive and forceful security measures that infringe on the basic freedoms of thousands of Chinese citizens.

Meanwhile, some of the Olympic athletes themselves have denounced China's human rights abuses.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Texas Executes Mexican Despite Objections"

Texas executed Mexican national, José E. Medellín, lat night despite a ruling by the International Court of Justice that further hearings should be held to determine if his trial was fair. His case was part of a debate over 51 trials which were questioned because the Mexican nationals accused were never given an opportunity to talk to a consul. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires foreigners accused of crimes to be given that opportunity. Mexico sent a formal diplomatic protest to Washington following the execution.

Junta Takes Power in Mauritania

Army officers staged a coup in Mauritania today, detaining the president, prime minister and interior minister, key members of the country's first freely elected government since gaining independence in 1960. President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is apparently being held by soldiers in the presidential palace in the capital city, Nouakchott. The move came after the president fired the country's top four military officials. General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian army and head of the Presidential Guard, was one of the men fired and reportedly now in control.

Bush To Speak about Human Rights in China

US President George Bush will give a speech in Thailand today denouncing China's human rights record. The White House has released some of the speech already:

“The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings. So America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists.”

Meanwhile, some feel the President's proposed speech is not enough. Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch, said it is "absurd to try to sustain the claim that America's policies are principled while then effectively standing back and saying, 'We will watch from the sidelines while the Chinese do what they do.' "

Monday, August 04, 2008

Zimbabwe Continues to Suffer After the Election

The US Department of State released some pretty depressing numbers about Zimbabwe today. Since the March 29 presidential elections there have been 129 murders of opposition party members. In the capital city alone, an average of 60 people seek medical care every day as the result of political violence. Over 1000 activists are reported imprisoned on charges of inciting violence. Roughly 33,000 Zimbabweans have been displaced. A loaf of bread cost roughly $12 billion Zimbabwe dollars. For more info check out the Fact Sheet.

Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe is continuing to push for a power sharing agreement despite losing the March election.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"Karadzic Accuses His Accusers"

Former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes, has written a letter addressing "drastic irregularities" in his treatment. Karadzic claims in his letter that he will be unable to receive a fair trial due to irregularities such as a "media witch-hunt."

Former US Ambassador Reflects on ICC

Found an interesting piece by David Scheffer, former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001), who headed the United States delegation to the talks creating the International Criminal Court. Mr. Scheffer provides interesting insight on the development and US position of the ICC.