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Human Rights round-up 31-12-07

A brief look book at some of the issues that have been making the news recently

As the seventh year in a century that Kofi Annan insisted, must be one of humanity, draws to a close the Home Office launches an investigation into the problem of British Girls being led into prostitution which is apparently becoming an increasing problem, leading some groups to call for a ban on 'paid-for sex' in the UK. Home secretary Jacqui Smith drew up plans for an extension of the 'terror limit' targeting a possibility of people arrested by British police being detained without trial for up to 42 days, 2 weeks longer than the present limit of 28. Sport also hit the headlines, firstly on the women's rights front, the England Women's Football team who had qualified for the Beijing Olympics were banned from competing in an argument over sovereignty in the British Isles. Watford who are top of England's second tier football division saw one of their midfield players threatened with deportation. Alhassan Bangura had fled civil war from his native Sierra Leone but he fell foul of Britain's Asylum Iron Curtain, and after passionate appeals from Watford fans the Home Office agreed to allow him to remain whilst he applied for a work permit. A story echoed by thousands who have fled persecution to Britain, only public pressure saved this young man.

In Europe, the Schlengen agreement was a positive move for Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights, as nine EU states including the Czech Republic and Hungary, joined fourteen others in an agreement that allows passport free travel between states. There was not so positive news in Russia however with legitimacy doubts and civil unrest erupting over the re-election of Vladimir Putin. The legacy of the former Yugoslavia also continue to be a headache, as the breakaway province of Kosovo, that has been under UN supervision for the past eight years is set to soon declare independence.

Guantanamo Bay, made headlines across December, with the end of the centre seemingly being in sight, if still very distant. A court battle over the legality of Guantanamo, has prompted senior US officials to begin making moves for Guantanamo's closure. This has been furthered by growing public awareness of the CIA's secret 'rendition' flights and public leaks regarding the destruction of torture tapes. Four of the remaining five British residents were released to the UK of which three were arrested, the confusion seemingly in the media being unable to fathom that the law must be fair everywhere and the argument was against illegal torture as opposed to as to whether or not these men may be criminals. That said if they were not terrorists before, then they may have a reason to be now.

In the Middle East, the treatment of Iraqi refugee's in Lebanon was brought under scrutiny with 500 apparently being left in prison. In Iraq the humanitarian mess continues, Iraqi's working as translators for the British are being targeted and murdered, whist US forces discovered a torture complex in what was likely to have been used by al-Qaeda operatives against Iraqi civilians. The Saudi Arabian woman who was gang-raped and then imprisoned for it received a pardon from the Saudi King, so that makes it all right. . .

Further East, Pakistan faced a month of sorrows. The middle of the month saw Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf lifting the state of emergency and finally resorting the country's constitution, however the situation was about to get worse as opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated less than a fortnight before the scheduled elections, leading for the possibility of the elections being delayed in a situation whereby liberty seemingly cannot flourish. And in the aftermath of Burma, the UN declared that at least 31 people died at the hands of the military authorities in the October crisis, well it least it wasn't 3000 this time . . yet?

Robert Mugabe came under the public spotlight first with the UK boycotting talks involving the Zimbabwean leader in Lisbon, and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel directly lambasting Mugabe over Zimbabwe's appalling Human Rights record. The UN del cared a humanitarian crisis facing the people of Eastern Ethiopia as violent conflict erupts between Ethiopian and Somalian agencies. In Sudan, the British teacher Gillian Gibbons had no harsh words to say for the country after she was jailed over the now infamous 'Mohamed teddy bear incident', however in the Darfur region in the west the International Criminal Court widened its investigations into abuses there. However this is seemingly old news, and in that Africa-Europe summit in Lisbon, leaders were faced down over ignoring the crisis in Darfur. 2007 drew to a close with the United Nations Aid Mission for Darfur being launched, amid concerns that it is under-equipped ala Rwanda. And to end on a high note, Kenya was also plunged into violence as the year closed, as conflict over the legitimacy of national elections had already reached the hundred mark before new year arrived.