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Human Rights round-up - January 2008

A brief look book at some of the issues that made the news in January

2008 heralds a significant date in the history of Human Rights, the 10th December is the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Not that we seem to care in Britain, with 57% of us claiming that the Human Rights Act is being abused, of course to reference Kafka, people will admit they are innocent whilst claiming they do not understand the law. A call for greater understanding as ever. At least we stick to our word however, as represented when Ama Sumani, a Ghanaian woman diagnosed with Cancer was given the boot, although she still thanked the British people. Whilst we are concentrating firmly on the bloody foreigners, our good leaders are busy finding new ways to snatch our liberties, hopefully before we realise what fools we have been made out of so we cant do anything to reverse a descent into a longstanding political cliche. ID cards are still on the go, but nobody seems to know in what form, whilst the plans are out for a 42 day detention limit without charge for terror suspects. For a slice of fun in your free time, ask your local MP to define a terrorist, then you might find such proposals a little frightening. Its not all bad news though, Watford midfielder Al Bangura was granted a work permit to avoid deportation. There are a few key note sin this case, you might point to the fact that Bangura was playing for a club currently ranked 22nd in England and had all their fans to support him, rather than being cynical here is literal proof that with public pressure and awareness, things can be done. Will this individual case rub off however, we'll see, though it seems Bangura has a large responsibility on his shoulders to all his fellow Sierra Leonneians who have been sent back to face the regime there. we have also identified were all those bloody immigrants are coming from, with apparently a million massed in Libya waiting for a chance to get to the UK. Why are they there, persecution, war, poverty the usual, a clear example that if we leave Africa destablised, then we will feel the consequences.

Over in Europe, Sweden has a sexual rights headache as two prostitutes are claiming compensation for abuse. The case flaring up a wider debate over the law regarding sex. Kosovo has made a coalition government headed by Hashim Thai who is calling for independence from Serbia. The EU must ensure that the Balkans see a bit of peace from its recent bloody past, of course Human Rights experts Russia are in opposition. Kosovo is at present under UN control. Across the Black Sea, Georgia has descended into unrest following an alleged 'rigged election', the opposition hinting at a 'Western Conspiracy'. Meanwhile France has 'made amends' with Rwanda, claiming they bore no responsibility, but were perhaps at political fault for not realising what was happening. The film Hotel Rwanda has a line which perhaps sheds the true feelings of the French from the time, 'Africans aren't even niggers'. Still, it is at least a progressive move, maybe the French will not allow something like that to happen again.

There will not be another Rwanda! No, because next time it'll have a different name, Darfur is still plunged in chaos, as the UN began its first month of UNAMID, and a week in its troops were under attack although no casualties were reported. Darfur refugees continue to flee into Chad were violence between the Government and rebel forces has also broken out. The EU approved a peacekeeping mission to protect the refugees but will not deploy until the fighting in Chad has stopped. The Chad government claims the Khartoum is funding the rebels and so the political merry-go-round continues, oiled on by the blood of African people. On Sudan's South-East border we have a country that has been the forefront of reporting on Africa throughout the opening weeks of 2008, that is of course, Kenya. The legitimacy of national elections sparked violence at the end of 2007 and the country has dipped into chaos since. Headlines were reporting seven dead in a single incident on the 17th January, by the end of the month the discussions were about 'cleansing'. Campaigners have called light on the Kenyan police having a shoot to kill policy and that rape was on the increase. Kofi Annan has hit out but as ever the question is how many bodies will it take before intervention. Whatever the number, the death toll keeps rising with factions claiming revenge as the motive, at the end of January it was estimated between eight and nine hundred, and it pains me to type but its happening again and all over the continent that provided the resources to make our lives as comparatively easy today. Some mixed news from the continent is that Charles Taylor is on trial, the former president of Liberia is accused of responsibility for the actions of rebel forces in Sierra Leonne who found much wealth in the diamond fields, brought out to general western attention by the film Blood Diamond. The evidence however is somewhat harrowing. Apparently peace has been brokered in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which borders Western Rwanda, the EU also promising $150 million in aid for reconstruction. As the African Cup of Nations brings people together in Ghana, the ever asked equation on Africa's cohesion remains, when will it be not just for a Tournament every 2 years, when will, to use a Bob Marley song, Africa Unite?

Arab-Israeli conflict has been the main news-maker across the Suez, as ever. At the beginning of January, World President Bush was calling for Israel to end its occupation as Israel had blockaded Gaza on account of rocket attacks. With no power, medicine, food or pretty much anything. The result was the destruction of part of the Gaza Wall bordering Egypt as tens of thousands of Palestinians, do we call them refugees, rushed to buy whatever they could. Egypt is hosting talks between Palestinian Government leader Abbas and rivals Hamas as the month draws to its close. Further East Pakistan President Musharraf has promised free and fair elections as Pakistan tries to refind its head following the assassination of Bhutto in late December. A stable Pakistan is a key element in quelling the potential descent into extremism in the Middle East. At least trade is free and fair in the Middle East however, as US Congress approves a $123 million sale of laser-guided bomb technology to Saudi-Arabia. At least they'll be able to blind their targets before reconfiguring their physicality.

Talk in Asia has been on the death of former Indonesian dictator Suharto, who will have a warm reception no doubt in his new after-life home. The wife of former Thailand president Thaksin Shinawatra was arrested. She was returning to Thailand to clear her husbands name but was charged herself with corruption. Makes you wonder if Benjani's transfer to Manchester City has anything to do with Thaksin's assets being frozen. Pollycarpus Priyanto was jailed in Indonesia for the killing of an activist as the aftermath of so many South East Asian dictatorships continue to unravel. Fighting between the Military and rebel Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka has reached the eyes of the international community again with the discovery of unmarked graves. And apologies are in the air as Australia is set to issue its first formal apology to aborigines on the 13th of February. Maybe the date has an ironic sentiment, the aboriginal people of Queensland for example saw their population drop from 120,000 to just 20,000 between the 1850's and 1920, and it was not on account of an outbreak of celibacy. Will Australia move away from its comparative Apartheid policies?

A hefty spin of the globe takes us across the South Pacific and to Colombia, with its excellent Human Rights record, at least certain Corporations think so. Hostages kidnapped by rebel group FARC has sparked contact between the Roman catholic Clergy and the rebel forces in an attempt to release them following the release of hostages following talks by Hugo Chavez. Some of the hostages have been missing for years. Philip Agee, a former CIA agent who exposed some of the Agency's operations in Latin America died in Cuba, the US had declared him a traitor and European nations wouldn't touch him, not that the US had anything to do with that. of course. In the US itself, the soldiers were are deemed discarded by the government abroad, are equally as neglected on their own soil. Gulf veterans returning from recent operations have been responsible for 120 murders in the US following severe mental instability on account of Post-Traumatic Stress. Now who exactly does receive fair treatment by the US government? It makes you think of those warming depleted uranium weapons again.

The one laptop project has hit troubled waters as Intel withdraws funding citing 'philosophical differences'. It doesn't take much to work out what 'philosophical differences' these may be. Nevertheless the end of January can end on an inspired note, as Mark Boyle begins a 2 1/2 year walk from Bristol to India. His motive - to show his faith in humanity!