The Arab League is monitoring in Syria, but their findings and their leader are questionable. Anderson Cooper reports.
The Arab League is monitoring in Syria, but their findings and their leader are questionable. Anderson Cooper reports.
The United Nations says hundreds of Syrian children have been tortured and killed since anti-government protests began in March.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh met one family whose teenage boy went missing after attending a rally. The family has since fled across the border to al-Mafraq, in Jordan, where they are seeking justice for the brutal killing of their son.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s last dictator was convicted Thursday of more crimes against humanity, this time getting 15 years in prison for setting up a secret torture center inside a hospital during the 1976 military coup.
Reynaldo Bignone personally oversaw the takeover of the Posadas de Haedo hospital in Buenos Aires province 35 years ago, leading soldiers in tanks and helicopters in search of medical personnel who allegedly treated leftist guerrillas. The military dismissed all the doctors and nurses, but kept some for questioning, including the hospital’s medical director. Eleven hospital staffers disappeared.
Bignone’s trial involved 21 cases of kidnappings and tortures, including two victims who were killed and made to disappear by a civilian group of thugs who called themselves the “SWAT” team and answered to the air force. The SWAT team set up shop inside the medical director’s home, interrogating the staff.
Some of those crimes are part of a second, upcoming trial involving the same hospital.
Bignone was the military junta’s social welfare delegate at the time. He later served as the junta’s president in 1982 and 1983, ordering the destruction of vast stores of evidence documenting illegal detentions and disappearances, and dictating a military amnesty before democracy returned to Argentina.
Bignone, now 85, already faces life in prison for other kidnappings and tortures in provincial Buenos Aires, including those committed in another torture center inside the Campo de Mayo military base. He’s also being tried along with former dictator Jorge Videla on charges of overseeing a systematic plan to steal the babies of pregnant detainees.
In his defense, Bignone has said that his actions were justified because Argentina was at war against armed leftist subversives.
Also convicted Thursday were SWAT team leader Luis Muina, 57; and a former air force brigadier, Hipolito Rafael Mariani, 85.
Prosecutors asked for 25-year sentences for all three, but Bignone received 15 years, Muina 13 and Mariani eight.
An official count determined that the regime killed some 13,000 people, but human rights groups estimate about 30,000 fell victim. Since Argentina’s democracy was restored in 1983, 268 people have been convicted of crimes against humanity and more than 800 others are being prosecuted, the government said.
Associated Press Writer Debora Rey contributed to this report.
An Ethiopian court has sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years each in prison for supporting terrorism in Ethiopia and entering the country illegally. The court in Addis Ababa handed down the sentence Tuesday (Dec. 27), nearly a week after convicting investigative reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson. Each had faced up to 18 years in prison.
A judge said last week it was not likely the journalists were trying to gather news when they entered Ethiopia in July with the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) , which the African nation has designated as a terrorist group.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists rejected the idea that the journalists were supporting terrorism. In an interview with VOA, spokesman Tom Rhodes said the journalists were simply doing their jobs and he expressed fear the court case signals eroding press freedom in Ethiopia. The journalists admitted to entering the country illegally, but the Swedish government and rights groups have criticized Ethiopia, saying the two men were conducting legitimate work.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed ‘serious concern’ saying that while recognizing the Ethiopian judicial process, they hope that the two journalists can be released as soon as possible.
Ethiopia sharply restricts journalists and humanitarian aid workers in accessing the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia. The ONLF has been fighting for regional independence from Ethiopia since 1984. The rebels accuse Ethiopia of atrocities against the region’s largely ethnic Somali population.
Human rights and aid groups have accused both the ONLF and pro-government forces of numerous rights violations during the conflict. Both sides have denied the charges.
DemocracyNow.org – Communities along Nigeria’s Niger Delta have been put on alert following a major oil spill from the oil giant, Shell. The massive oil slick is making its way to the Nigerian coast, threatening local wildlife and massive pollution along the shore. Much of the available information about the spill comes from the company responsible for it, Royal Dutch Shell, which says less than 40,000 barrels have leaked so far. But Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency says the spill could be three times as large. It comes just four months after the United Nations said it would take 30 years and around $1 billion for a small section of the delta to recover from environmental damage caused by Shell and other companies. We get an update from Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, which monitors spills around the country’s oil-rich southern delta.
Related: Coastal Pollution Fears After Nigeria Oil Spill | Euronews (Video)
A Cairo court has ordered forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons to be stopped.
The court made the decision after a case was brought by protester Samira Ibrahim. She accused the Egyptian army of forcing her to undergo a virginity test after she was arrested during a protest in Tahrir Square in March.
Human rights organizations say the Egyptian military has used the practice widely as a punishment.
“The court orders that the execution of the procedure of virginity tests on girls inside military prisons be stopped,” judge Aly Fekry, head of Cairo administrative court said.
The ruling was greeted by cheers from hundreds of activists inside the courtroom. Activists had demanded that the authorities prosecute anyone responsible for subjecting protesters to such tests.
Earlier this year, an Egyptian general was quoted as acknowledging that the military had conducted such tests, saying that they were used so women would not later claim they had been raped by authorities.
Human rights groups say such tests are a degrading form of abuse and the general’s justification a legal absurdity.
Related: Activist: Verdict Has Shamed Military | Al-Jazeera (Video)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday.
The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.
Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian’s approval. The country’s Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.
Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women the right to participate in the country’s only open elections, male guardian laws in Saudi Arabia remain largely unchanged. Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.
The country is guided by an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism.
Hatoun al-Fasi, a women’s history professor in Riyadh, said just the announcement that Saudi women can run for office and vote without permission will stir debate.
“It’s being brought up out of the blue and could open doors to discussions that we have enough of already,” al-Fasi said.
While King Abdullah has pushed for some changes on women’s rights, he has been cautious not to push too hard against ultraconservative clerics, who have in the past challenged social reforms. Saudi’s ruling family draws its legitimacy from the backing of the kingdom’s religious establishment.
The male guardianship laws are particularly stifling for women, Saudi female activist Wajeha al-Hawidar said.
These laws make the woman like a child in all aspects of her life. She is not dealt with as an adult with a fully developed brain,” al-Hawidar said.
The restrictions are practically all-encompassing.
Saudi women cannot study abroad unless a male guardian approves and accompanies them throughout their studies. Government-run hospitals are allowed to perform surgery on women only with approval from a male guardian, except in emergencies. Male guardians in Saudi Arabia are allowed to remove their daughters or sisters from school at any time. In the case that a father, uncle or brother is not available, mothers turn to their sons for approval to work or travel.
“Male guardianship laws are a problem that the Saudi woman has been dealing with for years. It’s our number one demand that these laws be revoked,” al-Fasi said. “It goes against the social rights that Islam gives women.”
Al-Fasi and other Saudi women have been pushing the Saudi government for social reforms and greater rights for women, including to allow women the right to drive and for the dissolution of male guardianship laws. Saudi women have staged protests defying the ban.
Al-Hawidar said Wednesday’s announcement means another barrier for women in Saudi Arabia has been lifted. However, she said the government might not see it through, because of expected resistance by those opposing such reforms.
“There are people in the government willing to listen reasonably, but people in society are not,” al-Hawidar said. “They will hate you just for being different, and with these people there is no common language.”
United Nations, New York, December 2011 – Earth’s 7 billionth resident was born into a world of contradiction and change. There could be enough for all, yet a billion people remain hungry. Around the world protestors fought for freedom and better opportunities. From conflict in Libya to nuclear disaster in Japan and famine at the Horn of Africa – the UN provided relief and solutions. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared sustainable development and lifting people out of poverty the main goals of his second term in office.
The European Commission has imposed tough new restrictions on the export of anesthetics used to execute people in the US, in a move that will exacerbate the already extreme shortage of the drugs in many of the 34 states that still practice the death penalty.
The EC has added eight barbiturates to its list of restricted products that are tightly controlled on the grounds that they may be used for “capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The eight include pentobarbital and sodium thiopental – the two drugs on which almost all American executions currently depend.
The EC said its move, which follows restrictions introduced unilaterally by the UK in November 2010, was designed to forward the European Union’s stated mission to abolish the death penalty around the world. “The decision today contributes to the wider EU efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide,” said the commission’s vice president, Catherine Ashton.
The new regulations were welcomed by the UK’s business secretary Vince Cable, who pioneered Britain’s export controls. “We have led the way by introducing national controls on the export to the United States of certain drugs, which could be used for the purpose of lethal injection. However we have always stated our clear preference for action at EU level and I am pleased that, following our initiative, these steps are now being taken.”
Cable added that the new measure would ensure that the UK controls and others like it imposed by individual member states could not be circumvented by the movement of drugs around the EU.
Maya Foa, a lethal injection expert with the human rights group Reprieve who has led the campaign for greater controls on drugs used in US executions, said that the new regulations would be of huge importance both symbolically and practically. “This is going to force the states that still practice the death penalty to reconsider their protocols, and anything that gets them to think carefully about what they are doing has to be a good thing.”
Lethal injection has become in recent years the overwhelming method of judicial killings, with very rare exceptions such as Utah, which carried out an execution by firing squad in June 2010. Some states use a triple injection comprising a barbiturate to put the prisoner to sleep followed by other drugs to paralyze the body and then stop the heart.
Other states use a massive dose of barbiturate alone – but in either case sodium thiopental or pentobarbiatal are essential to the process.
In 2009 the only American manufacturer of sodium thiopental, the Illinois-based Hospira, suspended production because it was suffering commercially as a result of having its drug connected to executions. Then this summer, a Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, Lundbeck, blocked the sale of its product trademarked Nembutal to any penal institution in the US.
Many states still have stocks of the two sedatives, but many are running low or passing their expiry date, leading to ever more desperate measures.
In March Georgia had its last supplies of sodium thiopental siezed by federal agents acting on information that the state had imported the substance from the UK before the British restrictions had been imposed, but without a proper license.
That did not stop Georgia, however, from executing Troy Davis in September having switched to pentobarbital.
Earlier this year the Obama administration made a direct appeal to Germany asking for supplies of the anesthetics, only to be roundly rebuffed by the German vice chancellor Philipp Rosler. “I noted the request and declined,” Rosler told Der Spiegel.
Reprieve hopes the European move will be just the start of an ever-tightening grip on medical drugs reaching US penitentiaries. Though the new restricted list covers the only two drugs currently used in American death penalties, the fear is that intrepid states will find a way round the controls by using other sedatives not on the list.
“We need to see a broad, catch-all provision to prevent any drugs from being used in capital punishment in order to ensure Europe is never again complicit in the death penalty,” Reprieve’s director, Clare Algar, said.
The EC, mindful of the possibility that states may try to circumvent the new regulations, says that it has the power to add other drugs to the list at will. It is also going to carry out a full review next year to see whether the controls on drugs used by US death row prisons are fool-proof.
In ‘Honour Killing’, taken from her 2001 collection I Speak For the Devil, Imtiaz Dharker – who describes herself as a ‘cultural mongrel … a Scottish Muslim Calvinist, brought up in a Lahori household in Glasgow’ takes on the vexed twin subjects of religion and identity.