JFP News 8/24: Coup Protestor Gang-Raped by Honduran Police
Just Foreign Policy News
August 24, 2009
Coup Protestor Gang-Raped by Honduran Police
On Friday, Latin America scholars sent an urgent letter to Human Rights Watch, urging HRW to speak out on violations of human rights under the coup regime in Honduras and to conduct its own investigation. One of the things Human Rights Watch should investigate is allegations by Honduran feminists and human rights groups that Honduran police are using rape and other sexual violence as weapons of intimidation against Hondurans nonviolently protesting the coup regime.
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1) Sen. Feingold called on President Obama to announce a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, ABC News reports. "After eight years, I am not convinced that pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well thought out policy," said Feingold. "I think it is time we start discussing a flexible timetable so that people around the world can see when we are going to bring our troops out," said Feingold. "Showing the people there and here that we have a sense about when it is time to leave is one of the best things we can do," he added.
2) The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is part of the OAS, published "preliminary observations" on its visit to Honduras. The Commission confirmed a pattern of disproportionate use of force by authorities, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation. The Commission confirmed the use of repression against demonstrations through the placement of military roadblocks; the arbitrary enforcement of curfews; the detentions of thousands of people; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and poor detention conditions.
3) The US promised the military forces it will deploy in Colombia will be far from the borders with neighboring countries and that their intervention in other nations would only be possible if these were to make a request, the Buenos Aires Herald reports. The US Ambassador in Colombia, William Brownfield, defined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group as the principal objective of the joint military action. [This assertion undermines the claim that the basing agreement merely reassigns the purported counter-narcotics functions of the base in Ecuador which is closing - JFP.]
4) U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan say they don't have enough troops to carry out their assigned mission, the New York Times reports. Admiral Mullen described the situation in Afghanistan as "serious" and "deteriorating."
5) There were widespread accounts of ballot-box stuffing, a lack of impartiality among election workers and voters casting ballots for others in the Afghan election, Carlotta Gall reports in the New York Times. Preliminary results were not expected until Tuesday.
6) The group Feministas de Honduras en Resistencia said it has documented 19 instances of rape by police officers since the coup, EFE reports. The activists say that women taking part in the resistance to the coup are being targeted.
7) Now that the Maliki government has taken concrete steps to put a referendum in place on the security agreement with the U.S., the US should stop trying to undermine the referendum, write Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway in the Financial Times. Instead, the US should make clear that it respects the decision and prepare for the contingency that, if the referendum is defeated, the US might have to withdraw from Iraq on a timeline earlier than that advocated by Bush, though still not as early as Obama and Biden advocated before the US election.
8) President Lula asked Obama to meet with the leaders of the Union of South American Nations to address their concerns about Washington's basing agreement with Colombia, EFE reports. Lula told Obama of the need for "formal, legally valid guarantees that the equipment and personnel won't be used outside the strict declared purpose." Lula urged the Obama to increase pressure on the coup regime in Tegucigalpa to accept the return of President Zelaya, something the Brazilian leader views as "indispensable" for democracy in Honduras and the wider region.
9) Government authorities in Haiti face recent criticism over allegations that they continue to jail political dissidents, Inter Press Service reports. Amnesty International called for the release of Ronald Dauphin, a Haitian political prisoner. Dauphin is an activist with the Fanmi Lavalas movement of former President Aristide. He was seized by armed paramilitaries on Mar. 1, 2004 - the day after Aristide's government was ousted in a coup. In May, Rep. Maxine Waters wrote to Haitian Prime Minister Pierre-Louis and Secretary of State Clinton, warning that the failure to provide adequate medical treatment to Dauphin could "cause the injustice [of illegal imprisonment] to become a death sentence."
1) Feingold to Obama: Announce Withdrawal Timetable from Afghanistan
David Chalian, ABC News, August 24, 2009 2:27 PM
The Obama administration has been keenly aware of discontent among many in its liberal base with regard to its Afghanistan policy and an expected request for additional troops following General McChrystal's upcoming assessment of the situation there.
That liberal base just got a high-profile voice to lead its charge.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, called on President Obama to announce a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. "This is a strategy that is not likely to succeed," Sen. Feingold said about the troop buildup in Afghanistan.
"After eight years, I am not convinced that pouring more and more troops into Afghanistan is a well thought out policy," said Feingold. The liberal Democrat said he has expressed his reservations with President Obama, Admiral Mullen, and others inside the administration and he says he has "never been convinced they have a good answer."
"I think it is time we start discussing a flexible timetable so that people around the world can see when we are going to bring our troops out," said Feingold. "Showing the people there and here that we have a sense about when it is time to leave is one of the best things we can do," he added.
Sen. Feingold didn't offer up a specific timetable for when he would like to see American troops out of Afghanistan. The senator opposed the war in Iraq and eventually became a leading voice among Democrats in pushing the Bush administration to adopt a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
In an interview with the editorial board of The Post-Crescent in Appleton, WI this afternoon, Sen. Feingold highlighted that the three top terrorist targets originally in Afghanistan - Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar - are now in Pakistan. "Aren't we helping to drive more extremists into Pakistan?," Feingold asked. He went on to call Pakistan the home of the "witch's brew of every kind of nightmare."
Sen. Feingold pointed to Af-Pak Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's recent comments when asked about what success will look like in Afghanistan. "We'll know it when we see it," said Holbrooke. "That's not good enough for me," Feingold responded.
Feingold said that he believes the United States needs to maintain its ability to go after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and continue operations there to "make sure we can do the most we can in the remaining time."
The Wisconsin Democrat is starting to be a bit of a liberal thorn in the President's (left) side and has some Democrats wondering if he may be plotting a 2012 primary challenge to Obama.
2) IACHR Presents Preliminary Observations on Its Visit to Honduras
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, August 21, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today concluded its on-site visit to Honduras, which began on August 17, 2009. The purpose of the visit was to observe the human rights situation in the context of the coup d'état of June 28, 2009. The delegation was composed of the IACHR President, Luz Patricia Mejía; the First Vice President, Víctor Abramovich; the Second Vice President and Rapporteur for Honduras, Felipe González; Commissioner Paolo Carozza; and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Catalina Botero, was also part of the delegation.
The IACHR requested the visit on June 30, 2009, received consent from the State on July 13, 2009, and came to an agreement with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice to conduct the visit. The preliminary observations presented today are based on information received before and during the visit. The Commission will prepare a final report that it will publish in the near future.
Along with the loss of institutional legitimacy brought about by the coup d'état, which affects the regular functioning of democratic institutions, during its visit the Commission confirmed a pattern of disproportionate use of public force, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. The Commission confirmed the use of repression against demonstrations through the placement of military roadblocks; the arbitrary enforcement of curfews; the detentions of thousands of people; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and poor detention conditions. The control of information has been implemented through the temporary shutdown of some media outlets; a ban on the transmission of signals of certain cable television stations that were reporting on the coup d'état; the selective use of power outages to affect the transmission by audiovisual media reporting on the coup; and attacks and threats against journalists from media outlets with editorial positions opposed to the coup d'état.
The Commission learned that in demonstrations that were suppressed throughout the country-including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Comayagua, and the town of El Paraíso-there was a pattern of excessive use of public force. In fact, several of the demonstrations held since June 28, 2009, were broken up by public security forces, both police and military, resulting in deaths, cases of torture and mistreatment, hundreds of injured, and thousands of arbitrary detentions.
The IACHR received testimony from more than 100 people verifying that the repression of public demonstrations was characterized by a disproportionate use of force. In fact, in the various departments to which it traveled, the Commission received testimony about individuals wounded by lead bullets or injured by blows with police truncheons and other blunt objects made of rubber, iron, and wood, and about the indiscriminate use of tear gas, as customary methods used to deter demonstrations. The Commission received testimony from dozens of people with serious injuries to the head as a result of the repression exercised both by police and military personnel. The IACHR verified that men, women, and elderly people showed bruises on various parts of their body, and it heard various accounts of people who were subject to humiliation and torture. In San Pedro Sula, in particular, the Commission was told that during the acts of repression, police officers raped a woman, and several persons received blows to the abdomen and the genitals, and pepper gas was sprayed in their eyes.
The IACHR has received information about situations that have arisen since the coup d'état that constitute serious violations of the right to freedom of expression. During the visit, it was confirmed that on June 28, 2009, various media outlets-in particular, television channels and radio stations-were forced, by military occupations of their facilities, to suspend their broadcasts. In some cases, they were subject to technical restrictions such as power outages and takeovers of broadcast repeaters and transmitters, which made it impossible for them to report on what was happening. It was also verified that several cable channels were taken off the air and that TV programs that took a critical view of the coup were suspended. Other mechanisms for controlling information have included calls from various public officials, especially members of the public forces, about the inadvisability of transmitting information or opinions against the de facto government. There have also been detentions, attacks, and the destruction of equipment that reporters use to do their jobs, as well as violent attacks and death threats by private individuals against the media.
3) Conflict over US military bases in S. America
Buenos Aires Herald, Monday, August 24, 2009
US promises to stay away from borders
The United States promised that the military forces it will deploy in Colombia will be far from the borders with neighbouring countries and that their intervention in other nations would only be possible if these were to make a request.
The US Ambassador in Colombia, William Brownfield, assured that the operations that his country's military forces undertake "won't be close to the borders without specific authorizations from all the governments involved," in reference to the fears in Caracas and Quito.
Similarly, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe said he believed "our agreement with the US should progressively expand to include all the countries in the region. This has to be efficient and practical, it cannot assume theoretic positions." Brownfield, speaking before the governments in opposition to the agreement with Colombia, said that Washington is willing to give explanations "at the correct time," although he did not specify when that would be.
Also, he defined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group as the principal objective of the joint military action between the north and south American nations.
4) U.S. Military Says Its Force In Afghanistan Is Insufficient
Helene Cooper, New York Times, August 24, 2009
Bagram, Afghanistan - American military commanders with the NATO mission in Afghanistan told President Obama's chief envoy to the region this weekend that they did not have enough troops to do their job, pushed past their limit by Taliban rebels who operate across borders.
The commanders emphasized problems in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents continue to bombard towns and villages with rockets despite a new influx of American troops, and in eastern Afghanistan, where the father-and-son-led Haqqani network of militants has become the main source of attacks against American troops and their Afghan allies.
The possibility that more troops will be needed in Afghanistan presents the Obama administration with another problem in dealing with a nearly eight-year war that has lost popularity at home, compounded by new questions over the credibility of the Afghan government, which has just held an as-yet inconclusive presidential election beset by complaints of fraud.
The assessments come as the top American commander in the country, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has been working to complete a major war strategy review, and as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described a worsening situation in Afghanistan despite the recent addition of 17,000 American troops ordered by the Obama administration and the extra security efforts surrounding the presidential election.
"I think it is serious and it is deteriorating," Admiral Mullen said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics." He added that General McChrystal was still completing his review and had not yet requested additional troops on top of the those added by Obama.
5) Intimidation And Fraud Observed In Afghan Election
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, August 23, 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan - Reports of fraud and intimidation in Afghanistan's presidential election continued to mount Saturday, with anecdotal but widespread accounts of ballot-box stuffing, a lack of impartiality among election workers and voters casting ballots for others.
A particular concern was the notably low turnout of women, who election observer organizations said were disproportionately affected by the violence and intimidation.
Election officials said that all the reports needed to be investigated, and that it was too early to draw broad conclusions about the overall validity of the vote.
The reports by election observers came as officials were still counting ballots from Afghanistan's second nationwide election in the nearly eight years since an American-led invasion ousted the Taliban.
More than 30 candidates ran for president, and while preliminary results were not expected until Tuesday, the prospect of a runoff election appeared likely, with the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, facing a stiff challenge from his former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah.
The reported problems also included voter intimidation, by the Taliban and also by some powerful candidates, in particular local candidates running for provincial council seats. Voter turnout appeared to be low, especially in the volatile south where the Taliban is strongest.
6) Group Says Honduran Cops on Rape Spree Since Coup
EFE, August 21, 2009
Tegucigalpa - The group Feministas de Honduras en Resistencia said Thursday that is has documented 19 instances of rape by police officers since the June 28 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya. There have been many other cases of rape, but the women have not reported them out of fear of reprisals, Gilda Rivera, the executive coordinator of the Honduran Center for Women's Rights and head of Feministas, told Efe.
The activists say that women taking part in the resistance to the coup are being targeted. "We've obtained testimonials from women who've been sexually abused, beaten with cudgels on different parts of their bodies, especially the breasts and buttocks," adds the report presented Thursday at a press conference in Tegucigalpa. Others have been verbally attacked in a systematic way with phrases like "Whores, go home," Rivera added.
She also said that some of the women who have had their rights violated "have had to hide and live apart from their children and families to protect their children and avoid raids at their homes."
The charges from the Feministas coalition come as a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is visiting Honduras to appraise the state of human rights since the army ousted Zelaya and erstwhile Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti was installed as "interim" president. At least a half-dozen Zelaya partisans have been killed in the wake of the putsch.
7) America needs to prepare for early Iraq pullout
Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway, Financial Times, August 23 2009
[The writers are professors of law at Yale.]
America's legal relationship with Iraq is falling apart. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, has announced a referendum next January on the agreement that governs US military operations. If voters say No, as most expect, Iraq will withdraw from the accord. Under the terms of the agreement, American troops will then have to leave the country in January 2011, nearly a year earlier than planned.
The referendum would follow through on a pledge Mr Maliki made last December. Back then, he followed Iraq's constitution and submitted the accord to parliament for its consent. The assembly agreed, but only on condition that the Iraqi people were given a chance to reverse course at the polls. In pushing ahead with the referendum, Mr Maliki is taking his promise to parliament - and Iraq's constitution - seriously.
Indeed, Mr Obama and Mr Biden campaigned for a more rapid withdrawal than Mr Bush was contemplating. They set the summer of 2010, not the winter of 2011, as their deadline.
With General Ray Odierno focused on the December 2011 withdrawal date, American officials have been lobbying the Maliki government to renege on its commitment to a referendum.
But now that Mr Maliki has taken concrete steps to put it in place, Mr Obama should call a halt to these efforts to undermine the referendum. It was one thing for Mr Obama and his team to forget their protests against Mr Bush's unilateral actions. It is quite another to encourage Mr Maliki to run roughshod over his own constitution.
At the earliest opportunity, Mr Obama or Mrs Clinton, as secretary of state, should make it clear that they respect Mr Maliki's decision and that the US military should start work on a contingency plan for expedited withdrawal.
If the Iraqi people vote No in January, America must honour their decision. It is far better to leave early than to continue fighting in defiance of the constitutions of both Iraq and the US.
8) Brazil's Lula Talks Regional Concerns with Obama
EFE, August 22, 2009
Brasilia - Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva telephoned President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss regional issues such as the possible stationing of U.S. troops in Colombia and the recent coup in Honduras, the Brazilian foreign minister said.
Lula asked Obama to meet with the leaders of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, to address their concerns about Washington's prospective basing agreement with Bogota, Celso Amorim told reporters in Brasilia.
The U.S. president told his Brazilian counterpart that he would consider the idea, Amorim said.
He said Lula tried to convey to Obama that "there is a sensitivity in the region" about the possibility of an expanded U.S. military presence, news of which has brought angry reactions from leftist-governed Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Amorim also noted Brazil's own concerns about the proposed accord that would allow the U.S. military to operate from up to seven bases in Colombia.
Lula, according to the minister, told Obama of the need for "formal, legally valid guarantees that the (U.S.) equipment and personnel won't be used outside the strict declared purpose, which is the fight against drug trafficking, the FARC (Colombia's main rebel group) and terrorism."
Unasur heads of state are due to meet next Friday in Bariloche, Argentina, for a special summit focusing entirely on the issue of U.S. basing rights in Colombia.
Another topic addressed in Lula's 30-minute phone call to Obama was the situation in Honduras, Amorim said
He said Lula urged the U.S. president to increase pressure on the coup regime in Tegucigalpa to accept the return of ousted head of state Mel Zelaya, something the Brazilian leader views as "indispensable" for democracy in Honduras and the wider region.
No nation has recognized the coup regime, the OAS has suspended Honduras and Washington has revoked the U.S. visas of Micheletti and several of his associates. [Actually the U.S. has only revoked "diplomatic" visas - all of the coup leaders are still free to travel to the United States - JFP.]
But the Obama administration has signaled that it doesn't plan any sanctions to force the coup regime to step down.
9) Calls Mount to Free Lavalas Activist
Wadner Pierre and Jeb Sprague, Inter Press Service, Aug 20
Port-Au-Prince - Government authorities in Haiti face recent criticism over allegations that they continue to jail political dissidents.
On Aug. 7, Amnesty International called for the release of Ronald Dauphin, a Haitian political prisoner. Dauphin is an activist with the Fanmi Lavalas movement of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was seized by armed paramilitaries on Mar. 1, 2004 - the day after Aristide's government was ousted in a coup d'état.
According to Amnesty, "the delay in bringing Ronald Dauphin to trial is unjustifiable and is politically motivated". The organisation "opposes Ronald Dauphin's continued detention without trial, which is in violation of his rights, and urges the Haitian authorities to release him pending trial."
Amnesty noted that Dauphin's health has deteriorated severely in Haiti's National Penitentiary, which is notorious for the appalling conditions to which it subjects inmates. One of Dauphin's co-defendants, Wantales Lormejuste, died in prison from untreated tuberculosis in April 2007.
In May 2009, doctors examined Dauphin and called on the authorities to immediately transfer him to a hospital. But today, nearly five and half years since his original arrest, he has not seen his day in court and remains locked up.
Demonstrations in downtown Port-au-Prince, with hundreds of supporters, occur here on a weekly basis, calling for the release of political prisoners. They are organised by local grassroots groups such as the Kolektif Fanmiy Prizonye Politk Yo, Fondasyon 30 Septanm, Organizasyon AbaSatan, and the Group Defans Prizonye Politik Yo.
At one protest, Rospide Pétion a former political prisoner and Lavalas supporter, told IPS, "It is unjust to keep Dauphin in prison while criminals are on the street working without prosecution. We ask for justice for Ronald and all the unknown political prisoners from the slums."
Last year, the Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ordered the Haitian government to immediately improve prison conditions.
Ronald Dauphin is the last of 16 Fanmi Lavalas members and supporters imprisoned based on allegations made by the organisation Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), as well as some relatives of the victims, that a massacre was perpetrated between Feb. 9 and 11, 2004 in St. Marc, 100 kms north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.
RNDDH received funding from the Canadian government for the prosecution of the supposed perpetrators of the massacre. However, U.N. investigators - despite U.N. hostility to Fanmi Lavalas and support for the coup-installed government that ruled Haiti until 2006 - have not backed the accusations made by RNDDH.
In 2005, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's independent expert on human rights in Haiti, Louis Joinet, concluded that what happened at St. Marc was that armed groups -supporters and opponents of the Aristide government - clashed and that there were casualties on both sides.
In 2006, Thierry Fagart, head of the Human Rights department of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, rebuked RNDDH for never substantiating its allegations by even providing a list of the names of the victims.
Amnesty International's appeal on behalf of Ronald Dauphin also called for an impartial and thorough investigation into the events that took place in St. Marc, and it observed that "The investigating magistrate has only focused on the alleged crimes committed by the group supporting former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and failed to identify the victims among the former president supporters and their alleged perpetrators."
Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) agreed that the shortcomings of Haiti's legal and prison system punish the innocent and guilty alike.
However, Concannon noted that the coup-installed government of 2004-2006 "arrested hundreds of political opponents, some at the insistence of RNDDH. Over five years after the arrests began, not a single political prisoner has been convicted of any crime."
Others argue this is part of a pattern, part of a concerted campaign to silence Haiti's poor that continues today with the blocking by the government's Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP) of Fanmi Lavalas from taking party in recent elections.
Speaking last Wednesday on Free Speech Radio News, Pierre LaBossiere, a founding member of a North American-Haiti solidarity organisation, the Haiti Action Committee, said, "We have petitions to President René Préval to free the political prisoners. People shouldn't be in jail because of their political beliefs."
"Because of their strong feelings that President Aristide is the true spokesman for their aspirations they were put in jail on trumped up charges, never a day in court and they are sitting there for years," he said.
In May, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters wrote to Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, warning that the failure to provide adequate medical treatment to Dauphin could "cause the injustice [of illegal imprisonment] to become a death sentence."
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