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In the News
Last Updated: 06/09/200330 May - 9 June
Amisha Koria, News Editor
This week saw a common factor: the Death Penalty. From the stonings in Nigeria, the arrest of Tsvangirai (who faces possible sentencing for treason) and for human rights activists in Cuba. However on a more optimistic note, Russia stops exporting nuclear products to Iran, an African Peace Keeping force has been given the go-ahead and we see the flip side of the coin in relation to the post-war lootings in Iraq.
Iran Nuclear Energy
The G8 Summit in France was the stage for President Vladimir Putin to announce Russia’s decision to “halt all nuclear exports” to Iran until they signed up to the international protocol. This in addition to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty would pave the way for more nuclear inspections. Iran justifies its case for nuclear technology by pleading the threat of a domestic energy shortage. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2956902.stm
A stone’s throw away from death, 30-year-old Amina Lawal from Bakori in Katsina State, Northern Nigeria has had her appeal against a sentence of public stoning, (a result of her child born out of wedlock) postponed. The Katsina state, which is governed under Islamic Shari’ah Law, sentenced Lawal to death by stoning on 22 March 2002. Lawal bore a child 16 months after her divorce and this under the penal system used by the Shari’ah was sufficient grounds to convict her for adultery. Sadly Amina’s case does not stand-alone.
A farmer from the nearby Bauchi state has also been sentenced to death by stoning under the same legal system. Yunusa Rafin Chiyawa who also committed adultery is currently awaiting his sentence to be carried out, meanwhile the Commissioner of Justice for the state has filed a case to the State council in an attempt to overthrow the Shari’ah’s sentence.
Another couple from the Niger state, Ahmadu Ibrahim and Fatima Usman were convicted of having extra marital sex. They were initially fined however failure to pay the fine resulted in a 5 years sentence. When Fatima’s father appealed the sentence rather than a lesser term, the Shari’ah court imposed the death sentence. http://web.amnesty.org/pages/nga-010902-background-eng
Aung San Suu Kyi -Burma
International concern is growing over the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition and pro Democratic Party in Burma. Suu Kyi who won the country’s 1990 elections with her party: the National League for Democracy (NLD), never actually made it into government. The Burmese military refused to accept the people’s decision and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest where she has spent the majority of the past decade.
Suu Kyi had been approaching the end of a political tour in Northern Burma when she and many members of the NLD were taken into custody. The junta was growing increasingly concerned about the unflagging level of support Suu Kyi continues to attract. A number of violent incidents had broken out between supporters of the NLD and those of the government, resulting in 4 dead and at least 50 others injured.
The military are saying that Suu Kyi has been placed under “Protective custody” for her own safety and welfare meanwhile during this strange and unprecedented concern for her wellbeing, the NLD’s headquarters in Rangoon have been closed down. Amongst those calling for her immediate release are George W. Bush, Kofi Annan, the Commissioner for Human rights and the EU, so far all calls have fallen on deaf ears.
African Peacekeeping Force.
Plans for an African peace keeping force have been given the go ahead by the G8 summit. The efforts of New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), which has been requesting such a force for nearly 2 years have finally been approved and it looks as though a French led deployment agreed by the European Union could be dispatched as early as 12 June 2003. It appears the severity of the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo have pushed through the plans earlier than anticipated.
The forces will primarily be placed in Bunia where there have been recent reports of massacres between the Lendus and Hemus tribes. More than 300 people have died in the fighting and some 50,000 have fled from the region to an nearby town called Beni also raising concerns of a food shortage. http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/06/04/congo.eu/index.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2962948.stm http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1054416341929&p=1012571727102 http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1054416384929&p=1012571727172
Iraqis Work Together.
The long awaited end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was followed by chaos lack of organization for the people finally freed after decades of oppression. Mainly portrayed were images of looting and ransacking of government buildings, shops, museums and even hospitals. However this was not the only activity in the cities. What failed to make headlines were the hundreds of civilian Iraqis working together trying to protect their cities.
When the warehouses belonging to the Ministry of Health were attacked and looting of medical supplies began, Muslim clerics called upon the people to be faithful to Islam and help protect the supplies to ensure availability for the needy. One group of civilians formed a 24hour armed guard unit. Looters who were caught were taken to the local mosque, made to confess their actions, given a religious lesson and released. The lack of official sentencing systems, U.S. or Iraqi made detaining the captured impossible.
This particular group called themselves The Al-Dabbash Islamic Assembly, went on to provide security for the Al-Hurriya district in Bagdad. They connected up a generator to a new system to provide electricity for the homes, mended the sewage systems, used funds from the mosque to provide food for almost 1500 families and created a health care center in the mosque. http://www.ipr.net/index.pl?archive/irq/irq
President Robert Mugabe’s opposition party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, has been arrested for treason. Tsvangirai who heads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had been approaching the end of a weeklong protest against the president when he was arrested at his home. The protesters called for an end to Mugabe’s power saying that he has devastated Zimbabwe's economy and forced more political repression on the people.
However the MDC is a fairly loose coalition, that may be insufficiently cohesive to replace Mugabe with an effective government based on Democracy and the rule of law. http://edition.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/06/06/zimbabwe/index.html
See also the Book Review in this edition: Martin Meredith, Our Votes, Our Guns published by Public Affairs, June 2003.
Cuba Human rights
The human rights of political activists in Cuba have been the grounds for recently imposed economic sanctions by the European Union. However the Cuban government is justifying their recent actions by saying that they reintroduced the death penalty (after a 3 year long suspension) because those executed were involved in a “US funded conspiracy” against Castro’s government.
The harsh trade embargos enforced by the US gives the Cuban government a channel to defend their treatment of political activists. If Cuba is subject to further economic sanctions by the EU will this pave the way for further human rights violations? Will the Cubans be any better off? http://news.amnesty.org/mavp/news.nsf/VwDocid/370668A29205C01480256D36003F34CE?openDocument http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2967148.stm