The Global Citizen: May 2012
Hopes, concerns, and anger have all surrounded the recent results of the Egyptian election earlier this week. The two front-runners of the preliminary elections were revealed earlier this week: Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq. Each received 25% and 24% of the vote, respectfully.
Certain groups are worried about the two choices for various reasons. In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution, protesters chanted against both candidates. Pro-Democracy youth were angered and worried that Ahmed Shafiq is now one of the front runners, as he served as Prime Minister under former President Mubarak. Earlier this week, more protests broke out, leaving Shafiq's campaign headquarters burnt and destroyed.
Others are concerned over Mursi as a front runner, including women's rights groups, pro-democracy groups, and the Christian minority. As a conservative member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mursi pledged to implement shariah Islamic law. There are reports that if elected, Mursi would quit the FJP and would appoint a Christian vice president, "if possible." It was further reported that he would not impose the veil on women.
Today, hundreds gathered in Freetown, Sierra Leone to watch the sentencing of Charles Taylor, the former head of state of Liberia responsible for widespread terror amongst civilians by aiding the rebels in Sierra Leone. Taylor was found guilty of all 11 charges of War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, and International Humanitarian Laws on April 26th in The Hague, Netherlands. As his 50 year prison sentence was administered concluding the almost four-year-long trial, many victims of the terror in Sierra Leone were relieved to know Taylor will be locked up. The trial of Charles Taylor is not simply a victory for the international court systems and those victimized by the rebels aided by Taylor, it is a message to the rest of the world that the international justice system is prepared to hold all parties responsible for breaches of human rights.
Taylor will serve his sentence in a British prison for aiding and abetting vast crimes against humanity by rebel forces in Sierra Leone and his personal profiting from the "blood diamonds". The judgment and sentencing through The Special Court for Sierra Leone is a monumental step in the international court system as a former head of state has not been convicted for war crimes since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.
Last Friday over 100 people were killed in the predominantly Sunni Muslim region of Houla, including 49 children. Following this horrific event, the United Nations Security Council will meet today to discuss possible action in Syria. Previously, Russia and China have used their veto to block resolutions that called for stronger action, but recent events have increased hopes for tougher consequences for Syria.
The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, claimed that terrorist were responsible for the mass killing. Witness from the event said that the murders were committed by the Shabiha, a group previously implicated in violence against government protestors. The Shabiha is a Syrian gang, whose loyalties and identities are uncertain. While it is unclear who the Shabiha are working for, it is suspected by many that they are employed by the Syrian government. The group is known for killing innocent people, especially government protestors, and was responsible for killing and maiming protestors during the March 2011 demonstrations. Many believe that the Shabiha commits the crimes that the government cannot do without international condemnation and severe repercussions.
Over the past six decades of its rule, the Chinese government has gained a well-deserved reputation for a disturbing lack of regard for the human rights of its citizens. In light of this reality, it is hardly surprising that, in its annual report on global human rights practices, released this past week, the US State Department directed some harsh criticisms towards the Chinese government for its various human rights abuses.
Given its historically poor track record on the issue, the Chinese government has a fairly low bar to clear when it comes to making "progress" in the arena of human rights. Nonetheless, according to the State Department report, 2011 saw a continued "deterioration" of the country's human rights situation. Among the litany of abuses highlighted by the report:
"We agreed that both, when it comes to economic development and when it comes to peace and security issues, empowering women to have a seat at the table and get more engaged and more involved in these processes can be extraordinarily fruitful. And this is something that we will also be introducing during the G20."
True to his word, President Obama made a historic commitment at the G8 and NATO summits by placing women empowerment as a major part of the summit's agenda this past week. President Obama not only emphasized the importance of protecting women's rights and advancing their participation in the global setting, but recognized that empowering women worldwide is the key to global economic development and international security.
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations resumed a markup of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, setting their priorities for spending on Foreign Affairs for the 2013 fiscal year. This was an important and revealing moment for the Senate because what they designate money for in the international affairs budget shows where their foreign policy priorities lay. The Senate showed a much stronger commitment to international development and human rights than the House did, and we applaud them for that.
Fortunately, the Senate bill provides $1.6 billion for Contributions to International Organizations (CIO), which is slightly above the level requested by the President. However, for contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA), the bill provides $2 billion for UN peacekeeping, which is $100 million less than the President's request.
One glaring issue with the Senate bill is the question of funding for UNESCO. Due to an almost 20-year-old law, the United States is barred from contributing to UNESCO because of the recent vote that made Palestine its newest member.
Today's Washington Post featured a story about an organizational letter that Citizens for Global Solutions, along with nearly two dozen other groups, sent to President Obama that urged him to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit this June.
The letter read in part,"Your presence at this Summit would signal its critical importance to all Americans, demonstrate our country's deep concern over urgent global issues that will inevitably affect our security and well-being, and highlight our nation's determination to be a contender in the race to a low-carbon green economy." To read the full letter, click here.
Citizens for Global Solutions believes strong U.S. leadership at Rio+20 will spur other nations to commit to taking concrete action in preserving our planet for future generations.
If you think President Obama be a leader on sustainable development and attend Rio+20, sign our petition here.
It was not unexpected, but the news was still dispiriting and depressing. Yesterday, the United Nation's Secretary General's top lawyer effectively put the brakes on a resolution which would have, among other things, urged the five permanent members of the Security Council (known as the P-5) to refrain from using their veto power to prevent U.N. action in situations where genocide or mass atrocities are threatening civilian lives.
The resolution had been proposed by a group of nations termed the "S-5", or small five, in contrast to the veto-wielding P-5 countries. The S-5 group--Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Jordan, Singapore and Switzerland--had called for a vote on a resolution to urge the Council to reform the way it works, allow more scrutiny of its actions, and, most significantly for those civilians suffering from oppression by regimes such as Syria and Bahrain, hold off on using their veto when atrocities are being committed and the lives of innocent people are at stake.
It all started with a bar of soap in a Pennsylvania hotel room. Derreck Kayongo was spending his first night in an American hotel room when he became aware of the careless custom of replenishing bars of soap every day. Derreck is a native of Uganda and has seen hardship and illness. He thought of the millions of people that all these barely used bars of soap could help, and had the idea to recycle the discarded bars. Thus, in 2009, the Global Soap Project was born.
Today, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced he would seek new charges against Bosco Ntaganda of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ntaganda was already charged by the ICC in 2006 for the use of child soldiers in battle. Prosecutor Ocampo is now seeking to add charges of crimes against humanity for murder, ethnic persecution, rape and sexual slavery, as well as war crimes charges for "intentional attacks" against civilians leading to murder, rape, sexual slavery and pillaging. These alleged crimes were committed in the DRC between 2002-2003.
Lubanga also asked for an arrest warrant against the DRC's Sylvestre Mudacumura, who he said has "launched a campaign of attacks against the civilian populations in the Kivus." He is charged with charged with five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, inhumane acts, rape, torture and persecution, and nine counts of war crimes: attack against a civilian population, murder or willful killing, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property, pillaging and outrage upon personal dignity.
Speaking about Ntaganda, who is known as "The Terminator" and currently on the run, Lubanga states that,
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