Citizens Speak Out – 13 Apr 2011

Citizens Speak Out. As calls continue across
the world for governments to respect basic human dignities and allow truly representative
governments that work for the benefit of all citizens, people gather in countries that
include Bahrain, Belarus, Egypt, Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) Libya, Pakistan, Uganda,
Syria, Swaziland and Yemen. Zainab Alkhawaja, daughter of prominent activist
and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja started
a hunger strike Monday evening to call for the immediate release of her father, husband,
brother-in-law and uncle. She announced her hunger strike on her website in a letter to
US President Barack Obama, explaining that she chose him because she no longer had any
faith in her own government’s concern for citizens rights or lives. Meanwhile, the UK-based
Bahrain Freedom Movement spoke out against support by the US and the UK for the participation
of Saudi Arabian troops in the repression of Bahraini citizens, stating that these governments
should now also be held accountable for the crimes against humanity and other violations
of human rights being inflicted on the citizens of Bahrain. Following an explosive subway blast Monday
in the capital city of Minsk, Belarus, where 12 people died and at least 200 were injured,
the government immediately arrested dozens of activists and others who had been speaking
up for greater democratic freedoms, with some who are still detained. A new UN report has concluded that the Palestinian
Authority in the West Bank is ready to rule as an independent state, emphasizing at the
same time the importance of reunification with the Palestinian Hamas group in Gaza and
achieving peace with Israel for continued progress. In Egypt, where the caretaker military government
has recently been criticized for not supporting the progress to an openly democratic society,
a lawyer for Egyptian Maikel Nabil reports that his client was tried in a near-secret
court setting on a charge of insulting the military, where he was sentenced to three
years in prison. According to UK-based War Resisters’ International, the arrest and sentencing
of the 25-year-old peace activist and online journalist Mr. Nabil violate his right to
freedom of expression as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, to which Egypt is a party. Meanwhile, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was
admitted to a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday after feeling unwell and
is reported to be in stable condition. With questioning of Mr. Mubarak and his two sons
continuing, other former high-ranking officials have also been detained on charges of abuse
of power, including former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, as well as the former chief of
staff and ministers of tourism and housing. One youth was killed in Syria as around 500
Damascus University students held their first-ever rally Monday to protest recent deaths and
to call for more political freedom. Meanwhile, the Damascus Declaration group, which has
been calling for a democratic system in the country since 2005, estimates that 200 people
have lost their lives thus far to the violent suppression of protests and they called for
the support of the Arab League to impose sanctions on the Syrian regime in an effort to bring
positive change. Since Sunday, Syrian security forces have surrounded and locked down the
port city of Baniyas, blocking roads with tanks and cutting most power and telephone
lines, with residents reporting 13 killed, dozens injured, and many in the city now lacking
food and medicine. Troops also stormed the nearby town of Bayda, where one resident stated
that bullets were falling like rain. Human Rights Watch also said that government forces
in several cities blocked both the wounded and ambulances from getting to hospitals,
leading doctors to treat patients in private homes or mosques in Daraa, Harasta and Douma. On Tuesday, amidst the recent surrender of
former President Laurent Gbagbo, the French government announced a €400 million aid
package to Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), to help provide emergency supplies, public services,
and economic support toward the country’s reconstruction. President Ouattara also called
for all parties to lay down their arms as he urged his supporters to refrain from retaliation
and pledged to create a truth and reconciliation commission. In Uganda, three minority party leaders were
arrested by security forces after they called for a “Walk to Work” day in protest of rising
fuel prices, with police informing them the walk was illegal. Police in Swaziland arrested
at least 13 people who had planned to call for reforms in commemoration of the 38th anniversary
of a ban on political parties. In Pakistan, the New York Times reports that
officials are demanding a reduction in the number of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
and other special forces personnel carrying out operations in Pakistan, and for an end
to unmanned plane attacks in Northwest Pakistan. As Italy’s pledge giving thousands of newly
arrived African migrants permission to travel freely throughout the European Union was announced,
other European nations have expressed strong concern and some plans to reinstate border
control. In Libya, the Interim Transitional National
Council rejected the African Union’s peace proposal, saying that it did not include the
resignation of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister
Alain Juppé has added his country’s voice to concerns being expressed that the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not doing enough to halt attacks by government
forces using heavy weapons on the innocent citizens of Misurata. On Wednesday, international
leaders comprising a Libya contact group are meeting in Doha, Qatar to discuss a diplomatic
approach to resolving the Libyan conflict. Attending the meeting are recently defected
Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and the UN’s Special Envoy to Libya, Abdelilah
Al-Khatib. Other participants include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as representatives
from the Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, Qatar, Turkey, United States, European
Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Arab League, and the African Union.
Meanwhile, a ship has been sent by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) from Italy
to Misurata to evacuate migrants stranded in the besieged town, while also delivering
food, water, blankets, and medical supplies. About 7,000 migrant workers, many from sub-Saharan
Africa and Asia, will eventually all be brought to Egypt. As reported by PressTV, concerns have been
raised that munitions initially dropped by the UN-sanctioned coalition forces to protect
the Libyan people contained depleted uranium, which can pose serious and long-term health
hazards. However, NATO coalition representatives have stated that depleted uranium has not
been used. Meanwhile, the costliness of war for the US in Libya is proving to be much
higher than previously understood, according to an article in Forbes magazine online by
US-based Lexington Institute official Loren Thompson. Mr. Thompson pointed out that the
real taxpayer cost of maintaining a constant state of US military readiness is about US$2
billion per day, which is truly unaffordable given that the nation currently borrows US$4
billion daily just to keep the budget afloat. With sympathies for the loss of precious lives,
we are heartened by the emerging peace in some conflicted regions as we pray for the
day when all turmoil is ended and people in every nation live together in safety, harmony
and freedom�

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