human rights

Egypt tear gas delivery raises US questions

Concerns raised over shipments of tear gas used against Egyptian protesters…

 

© Shadizm

 

Months after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and just days after many people were reported to have suffocated and died allegedly because of new types of tear gas used by the Egyptian police, a new tear gas shipment arrived at the Suez Port from the United States (US) a few days ago.

The story broke when it was reported [ar] in Al Ahram Arabic daily that the employees of the custom service in Suez refused to receive a shipment with containers of seven tons of tear gas in each, creating an uproar on social networking sites. Here is part of the conversation from Twitter:

@Psypherize: A new tear gas shipment 7 tonnes heavy just arrived in #Cairo from #Suez and stored by the #MOI. Get ready for another crackdown.

@RashaAbdulla: So apparently, the 7-ton tear gas shipment from the #US to #Egypt is only part 1 of 3. Total is 21 tons!!

@sharifkouddous: Suez rocks. Port workers in Suez refuse 7-ton shipment of tear gas from US to restock Interior Ministry supply

Later on, people knew that the workers will be subject to investigations for their refusal to receive the shipment:

@3alaelhawa: The employees of Suez customs will be subject to investigations for refusing to receive the tear gas shipment.

Netizens were also worried about the government’s intentions:

@elkammar: I pay my government to get a better tear gas, a better way to kill me and my brothers

The tear gas bombs in this shipment are manufactured in the United States, hence people are wondering how the US claims to support the Arab world revolutions yet continues to support tyrannies across the region.

@freddydeknatel: But what does that say then, when you’ve got tear gas shipments arriving in the Port of Suez with “Made in the USA” on the side of them?

@waleedrashed: To U.S. and European governments:instead of asking how can we promote democracy in the Egypt, just stop exporting the gas used against today

Finally, it was reported that the shipment was released and headed to the Ministry of Interior:

@sayedfathy2006: From Suez: The port management decided not to investigate with the employees … and the 3 containers have already been handed to the Ministry of Interior now.

Prince of Razor created Storify covering this topic. Check it out for more reactions. Also, here is the transcript of the US State Dept comment on the tear gas used in Egypt.

 

by Tarek Amr

This is an edited version of a report that originally appeared at Global Voices Online

 

 

UN says Syria forces killed 256 children

An independent UN commission has found that Syrian security forces have committed “crimes against humanity”.

Among the claims in the report are that:-

  • The regime’s forces have killed 256 children
  • There are patterns of summary execution, torture and violence (sometimes directed at children)
  • Arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearances have been used by security forces
  • Army defectors report snipers targeting unarmed protesters, particularly those carrying cameras, loudspeakers or mobile phones

The report is the result of interviews with 233 witnesses, with the UN team being refused entry into Syria by the Assad regime.

Read the full 39-page report at United Nations Human Rights

Bahrain torture condemned in rights report

Independent commission finds evidence of torture, beatings, threats of rape…

 

Pearl Roundabout re-taken before protests were crushed © Al Jazeera English

 

The commission set up by Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa, charged with investigating rights abuses following protests earlier this year, has found that security forces committed a litany of abuses in the country.

Bahrain dictator al-Khalifa, head of the minority Sunni-ruled kingdom, set up the commission in response to widespread condemnation from rights organisations and the international community.

Commission chairman Prof. Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni said that during the crackdown aimed at clearing protesters, security forces used physical and psychological  torture. This included beatings with iron bars and batons, and threats of rape and electrocution.

Bassiouni said that those responsible for the abuses should be held accountable, no matter how high their position in the government.

In response the King said the country accepted the report and would try to meet international standards of human rights:

We are determined, God willing, to ensure that the painful events our beloved nation has just experienced are not repeated, but that we learn from them, and use our new insights as a catalyst for positive change,

The commission also found that there was no evidence of the idea -pushed by Bahraini authorities and the US administration- that Iran was involved in the protests:

Evidence presented to the commission did not prove a clear link between the events in Bahrain and Iran,

However it also found that there had been violence against Sunnis and foreign workers during the protests, and that a more peaceful outcome may have been achieved if the oppostion had accepted a Bahraini government initiative in March.

Read more at Al Jazeera

 

What kind of Iraq is the US leaving behind?

Evidence of repression during the Arab Spring shows Iraq still has a long way to go…

 

Iraq © The U.S. Army

 

Since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the country has gone through tumultous and violent times. Come 31 December 2011, all 30,000 remaining US troops will leave the country, and after nearly a decade some of the statistics from Iraq make for stark reading:

  • Nearly 4,500 soldiers have lost their lives
  • The war has cost the US government close to £635bn ($1tr)
  • Conservative estimates suggest north of 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died
  • Just last month 258 people died in shootings and explosions

While violence in the country has certainly ebbed in recent years, it remains one of the most dangerous places on earth. And aside from arguments over whether infrastructure and daily life have improved since Saddam’s time, Iraq during the Arab Spring has not been the beacon of democracy that many would have hoped for.

Largely ignored in the face of events elsewhere, Iraqi protesters who came out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to protest corruption were brutally cleared by security forces. Independent journalist Daniel Smith witnessed the scenes earlier in the year:

For 40 minutes they chased us, shooting. People fell down, it looked like they were shot but it was tough to tell. Then people would catch up with them and be beating them with sticks. These were security forces.”

After the demonstration, four journalists were picked up in a cafe at the other end of town, arrested and threatened with rape and other violence. They were told: ‘Don’t go back to Tahrir’.

There followed a campaign on state television alleging that protesters were Ba’athists intent on bring down the government, and the response added to a growing feeling that dissent in Iraq is being stifled under the pretext of preventing ‘Baathist terror’.

Read more at the BBC

 

Costs mount in a failing drugs war

Nobody is winning in Mexico’s bloody fight against the cartels…

 

La policía, Juárez, México © Scazon

 

Prior to Felipe Calderon’s election as Mexican President in 2006, the country’s murder rate had halved since the early 1990s. While Mexico’s drug cartels became more powerful and their tentacles spread, the government had essentially endorsed a policy of ‘soft’ enforcement.

Calderon changed this by declaring war on the cartels, and since then the conflict has become increasingly militarised, though the ‘results’ are yet to be seen.

The flow of drugs into the United States has not been halted in any significant manner, while 45,000 citizens have lost their lives in a ‘war’ that has been characterised by a seemingly endless stream of gruesome atrocities.

Severed heads turn up on poles as a warning to those that cross the cartels, critical bloggers have been hung from bridges, journalists are attacked, government employees are threatened and killed if they don’t comply, and the value of life has become seemingly meaningless.

A recent press release by Human Rights Watch shows that Mexico’s security forces are not absolved from guilt either. The group found evidence that since Calderon took office, government police and army units have been responsible for 170 cases of torture, 24 extrajudicial killings, and 39 disappearances.

Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, says:

Instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country,

While the war seems to be in a bloody stalemate, it is continuing to be financed by the United States, in a programme started by George W. Bush and endorsed still by President Obama. At the same time, Bush’s relaxation of gun laws has helped to arm the cartels, whose automatic weapons usually come from the other side of the border.

Read more at The New Yorker

Read the full 12 page report on Mexico at Human Rights Watch

 

Russian torture story slips past the censors

Story of torture in Chechnya makes it onto to Russian TV, before promptly disappearing again…

 

Islam Umarpashaev on Russian TV (briefly) © NTV

 

When the Russian news programme Central Television broadcast a piece on torture in Chechnya this week -shortly after a typical segment with a grandstanding Vladimir Putin ploughing a field- viewers probably couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

The expose showed a young Chechen called Islam Umarpashaev, beaten and bloodied, after being arrested and held without charge for four months. According to Umarpashaev, he was originally detained after criticising the Chechen police online, before being held for months chained to a radiator in a basement. During this time he says he was beaten, electrocuted and pistol-whipped.

Umarpashaev says that when he then refused to confess to terrorism charges, the police forced him to grow a beard (so he would look like an Islamist) in preparation for what they called ‘preparing results’.

The programme explained that this meant he would be killed and his death falsified, a common practice in Chechnya. Eventually Umarpashaev was released after a local human rights groups petitioned on his behalf.

What is remarkable is that the story managed to get onto Russian TV, where the issue is almost always censored.

Government torture and murder may be prevalent in Chechya, but with the country run by Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, stories of abuse don’t usually make an appearance in Russia’s tightly controlled media.

The outbreak of freedom wasn’t to last however; as the programme aired one by one across Russia’s nine timezones, the torture story mysteriously disappeared.

So the call from the Kremlin came in the end…

Read more at Time

 

HSBC accused of helping Egyptian generals

The global bank is helping the military to stifle dissent in Egypt say campaigners…

 

Protester holds Field Marshal Tantawi poster © lilianwagdy

 

Democracy and social justice campaigners in Egypt say that HSBC bank is colluding with the Egyptian military generals currently running the country, in order to intimidate them and stifle their legitimate activities.

A range of NGOs and human rights groups say the global banking giant has been contacting them over the last two months, requesting information and documents relating to their work and activities in Egypt.

Nawla Darwiche of the New Women Foundation, says the group was asked to provide a list of all planned future projects:

They also said they could release our accounts to the government if they were asked,

This is very serious.

The suggestion is that the military, increasingly at odds with the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, are using such channels to stifle attempts to investigate military abuses and related issues.

Omnia Samra, HSBC Bank Egypt’s head of communications, said the bank had an obligation to reply to the Central Bank of Egypt (also accused) “on a wide range of queries”, adding:

We are not in a position to advise the nature of such queries to third parties,

Read more at The Independent

 

Moussa Koussa tortured Libyan prisoners

The BBC have tracked down former Libyan intelligence chief Moussa Koussa and confronted him over torture allegations. Koussa defected from Libya during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, and came to Britain before being allowed to go to Qatar, as no international arrest warrant has been issued for him.

Reporters from the BBC tracked Koussa down and confronted him over evidence that he personally tortured prisoners at the Abu Salim jail in Tripoli, with one former detainee saying Koussa used an electric batton on him. Koussa refused to answer the allegations.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi’s darkest hour

A new biography of the Burmese democracy leader reveals the moment she closely escaped death…

 

© Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

On 30 May 2003, the Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, recently released from house arrest, narrowly escaped death at the hands of a pro-government mob.

While campaigning near the township of Depayin, Suu Kyi and her supporters were unaware that thousands of USDA (paid pro-regime militia) were waiting for them. Armed with sharpened bamboo sticks and iron rods, the thugs -often convicts and drug addicts- surrounded the convoy and began attacking Suu Kyi’s non-violent supporters.

Speaking about the USDA in 1996, Suu Kyi said of the militia:

It is now being used in the way Hitler used his Brownshirts… [it] is being used to crush the democratic movement.

While Suu Kyi was able to escape thanks to her quick thinking driver, the Dapayin massacre ended with 70 of her supporters dead, and with her own return to house arrest. Burmese leader General Than Shwe would later admit to having organised the attack.

The Lady and the Peacock: the Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, by Peter Popham, is released on 3 November

Read more at The Independent on Sunday

 

Rights groups call for George W. Bush arrest

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say former US president should be arrested…

 

© Marion Doss

 

The groups have called for George W. Bush to be arrested when he arrives in Canada for an economic summit on October 20th, though reportedly the Canadian government has no intention of ‘engaging in cheap stunts‘. In a statement the activist groups said that there was:

overwhelming evidence that Bush and other senior administration officials authorized and implemented a regime of torgure and ill-treatment of hundreds of detainees in US custody.

Canada’s immigration minister Jason Kenney replied to request by saying:

Amnesty International cherrypicks cases to publicize based on ideology. This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,

However Amnesty Americas director Susan Lee said the Bush visit was:

a crucial moment for Canada to demonstrate it is prepared to live up to its…obligations with respect to human rights…and must now demonstrate that…no one…is above international law.

Read more at The Huffington Post