JFP 4/9: U.S. Military Still Lying About Special Forces Night Raid in Afghanistan

Just Foreign Policy News
April 9, 2010

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U.S. Military Still Lying About Special Forces Night Raid in Afghanistan
Regardless of whether U.S. Special Forces removed bullets from the bodies of the Afghan women they just killed, as charged by the victims' relatives - and if they did, what their motivation was for doing so - spreading the story that the women's bodies had been found "tied up" and "gagged," as NATO did in a Feb. 12 press release still posted on its web site, if that was not true, would meet any disinterested observer's definition of the word "coverup."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/us-military-still-lying-a_b_532364.html

Sean Penn: 'Action has to be taken'
Sean Penn, at a refugee camp in Port-au-Prince, tells CNN: this is going to be a catastrophe if we don't get these people to safer ground…hospitals are being allowed to close despite all the enormous funds that people have put forward…it's time that people demand that those funds be released and spent decisively.
http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/04/09/sean-penn-action-has-to-be-taken/

Urge Congress to Oppose U.S. Killing of Afghan Civilians
In the next several weeks, Congress is expected to be asked to approve $33 billion more for war and occupation in Afghanistan. Urge your representatives in Congress to oppose the killings of Afghan civilians by the U.S. military.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/civilians

Call Congress Monday Against the War in Afghanistan
Groups are collaborating in generating calls to Congress against the war, urging: opposition to the war supplemental, support for a military withdrawal timetable, support for a public exit strategy and support for peace negotiations. Mark your calendar..

Palestinian Center for Human Rights Fact Sheet: Impact of the Gaza "Buffer Zone"
As a result of Israeli military restrictions, 30% of Gaza's agricultural land cannot be worked without severe personal risk, causing the loss of livelihoods.
http://www.pchrgaza.org/facts/factsheet-bufferzone.pdf

Highlights of the Afghanistan Debate

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/video/housedebate

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) U.S. Special Forces are the focus of a high-profile investigation that could shed unprecedented light on their methods and tactics, the Los Angeles Times reports. US and Afghan officials are probing a possible attempted coverup in the deaths of five Afghan civilians in February in a raid carried out by U.S. Special Forces. Special Forces account for a disproportionate share of civilian casualties caused by Western troops, military officials and human rights groups say, though there are no precise figures because so many of their missions are deemed secret.

2) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled his plans to attend the Nuclear Security summit meeting in Washington next week, the New York Times reports. Israeli news media reported that the prime minister feared that Muslim states were planning on using the occasion to raise the question of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed power in the Middle East, but it refuses to discuss the issue and has declined to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

3) Arab diplomats said they suspected Netanyahu had canceled mainly to avoid further confrontation with President Obama over Jewish settlements, and denied having any plans to press Israel on atomic policy, Reuters reports. Two senior Arab officials accused Netanyahu of trying to evade questions on the Palestinian issue. "We believe that Netanyahu withdrew from the summit because he did not want to face President Obama and is using Egypt and Turkey as an excuse," a senior Egyptian diplomat said. Another senior Arab diplomat said Arab states had no plan to "politicize" the venue and raise the Israeli issue there. "We are surprised that the Israeli prime minister would use this as a pretext for not attending," the second diplomat told Reuters. But Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Erdogan would demand at the summit that Israel disarm as part of a nuclear-free Middle East. Le Monde quoted Erdogan as saying this week that "Israel has nuclear weapons but doesn't belong to the NPT. Does that mean that those who don't sign the NPT are in a privileged position?"

4) Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan said they had no immediate plans to close the U.S. air base at Manas International Airport, the Washington Post reports. But they indicated that, at a minimum, Washington would be forced to negotiate fresh terms to maintain the military installation, less than a year after the Bakiyev government tripled the rent and extracted $150 million in other concessions. Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the interim government, suggested the new government would honor the U.S. lease for the base, which expires in July. But she made no promises beyond that.

5) The international community could help Haiti "become more self-sufficient" by purchasing the entire Haitian rice crop over the next two years for just 2.35 percent of total current committed aid funds, says the Center for Economic and Policy Research in an issue brief. CEPR finds that buying up all of Haiti's rice should be close to the amount of food aid for rice that the international community is likely to provide this year, and would provide a tremendous boost to Haitian farmers, who currently are unable to compete with low-cost rice imports from the U.S.

Turkey

6) Turkey's top prosecutor criticized planned constitutional changes but stopped short of launching a repeat of an attempt he made in 2008 to shut down the ruling AK party, Reuters reports. Markets fell by almost one percent during the prosecutor's press conference but rose by 1.5 percent when he failed to mention "a closure case against AK Party," one financial analyst said.

Colombia
7) Colombia's Constitutional Court called on President Uribe to sign the "Law of Forced Disappearance" passed by the Congress, which sets out new provisions on registering and searching for people who have been secretly kidnapped or murdered, writes Colombia Reports, citing Caracol Radio. The bill would lead to the creation of a genetic database of forcefully disappeared individuals, and the construction of monuments to honor the victims. In 2009 the UN said there were 17,000 cases, NGOs reported 24,000, while Colombia's prosecutor general said there were 50,000.

8) An Ecuadorean judge announced charges will be re-filed against Colombia's front-runner presidential candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, for his role in the 2008 cross-border attack on a FARC camp in Ecuador, writes Colombia Reports, citing Eco Diario. Santos was Colombia's defense minister at the time of the cross-border bombing.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Inquiry Puts Spotlight On U.S. Special Forces In Afghanistan
A joint U.S.-Afghan investigation into a raid in February may shed light on the secretive role of Special Forces, who are said to account for a disproportionate number of civilian deaths.
Laura King, Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2010
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/asia/la-fg-afghan-special-forces9-2010apr09,0,7174357.story

Kabul - In nearly nine years of warfare in Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces have done their fighting in the shadows, governed by rules largely of their own making. Now, these elite and secretive troops, their actions long shielded from public scrutiny, are the focus of a high-profile investigation that could shed unprecedented light on their methods and tactics.

American and Afghan officials are probing a possible attempted coverup in the deaths of five Afghan civilians in February in a raid carried out by U.S. Special Forces accompanied by Afghan troops. Three of those killed were women and among the charges is that the bodies were tampered with by coalition forces to conceal the cause of death.

The U.S. military this week accepted responsibility for the Feb. 12 slayings, initially blamed on insurgents, and on Thursday, senior officials met with family members of the slain civilians to offer an apology. But U.S. officials say allegations that bullets were dug out of the bodies as part of a coverup are baseless.

A new investigation has been opened, military officials in Afghanistan said Thursday, to further look into the differences between findings by Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and an initial American inquiry, which remains classified.

Special Forces are inextricably linked to one of the most contentious issues between the Afghan government and Western forces: civilian deaths and injuries. Special Forces account for a disproportionate share of civilian casualties caused by Western troops, military officials and human rights groups say, though there are no precise figures because so many of their missions are deemed secret.

U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who took command of Western forces in Afghanistan last summer, has said such casualties are highly damaging to the Western effort, because they galvanize opposition to the foreign troop presence and fuel support for the insurgency.

McChrystal last year instituted strict new rules of engagement meant to limit civilian casualties. But even under the new rules, Special Forces members, who have the task of hunting down key Taliban figures, continue to have more operational leeway than other troops.

In mountain villages and desert hamlets, the Special Forces inspire dread among Afghans, who tend to speak of them in whispers. Their strikes are usually swift and violent, most often taking place in the dead of night.

At Western military bases, Special Forces troops are readily identifiable by shaggy beards, vaguely Afghan-looking dress, preternaturally fit physiques and a forbidding manner. Usually housed in separate compounds, they rarely mix with other troops and tend to react explosively if anyone snaps a photo that might show their faces.

Initial military accounts of the February raid in the Gardez district of Paktia province made it sound as if it were a successful instance of Western raiders swooping down on wanted militants.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization at the time described the slain men as armed insurgents who fired on coalition troops and said the women were already dead when the Special Forces arrived. But in the ensuing two months, the narrative changed dramatically.

The slain men turned out to be an Afghan police official and a district prosecutor, according to local leaders. They identified the others as a teenage girl and two pregnant women whose deaths left motherless a total of 16 children.

"We deeply regret the outcome of this operation, accept responsibility for our actions that night, and know that this loss will be felt forever by the families," said Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Both U.S. and Afghan officials say questions remain about whether the scene of the raid - a family compound in the village of Khatabeh - was tampered with afterward in an effort to conceal the circumstances of the deaths. "By the time we got there, there was a foreign guy guarding the bodies, and they wouldn't let us come near," said Gen. Azizdin Wardak, chief of police in Paktia.

Both the Interior Ministry and the U.S. military, under NATO's auspices, are investigating reports that coalition forces washed down the compound, dug bullets from the walls and collected casings from the ground. Though such actions could be consistent with a coverup, they could also have represented a legitimate effort to reconstruct and record the night's events, military officials say.

A British newspaper, the Times of London, cited an Afghan investigator as saying raiding forces may have tried to extract bullets from the bodies in an apparent attempt to conceal how they were killed. The report said the unidentified investigator interviewed a relative who described a coalition soldier standing over one of the bodies with a knife.

U.S. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, McChrystal's spokesman, said no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony had been presented to support that account.

Zemari Bashary, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, declined to detail the Afghan investigators' findings, which he said would be released in coming days. Smith said NATO would issue a report on the raid's aftermath, though he said some details might remain classified.

Even in the absence of any proven coverup, the incident was a highly damaging one - especially since the military had initially suggested that the women had been killed execution-style by insurgents or in a so-called honor killing by their own relatives, not in the course of the raid itself. "Joint Force Operating in Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery," read the headline of NATO's first news release about the incident.

The Special Forces raiders also apparently mistook a large celebration taking place in the compound for a gathering of insurgents.

Shortly after the raid, McChrystal, a former high-ranking special ops commander, moved to assert control over Special Forces units operating here. Previously, many had separate chains of command.

He also moved this year to limit night raids, a prime weapon in the Special Forces arsenal, because of the heightened risk of confusion and mistaken identity. In rural Afghanistan, most family compounds contain weaponry of some kind, increasing the likelihood that any accidental confrontation will take a lethal turn. Upon hearing gunshots outside at night, men will almost invariably grab a gun and try to defend themselves, drawing the raiders' retaliatory fire.

Moreover, in this complex tribal society, Afghans sometimes try to settle clan feuds and other rivalries by fingering the other side as insurgents, as a means of bringing deadly raids down on the heads of their enemies.

A notorious Special Forces-ordered nighttime airstrike in Azizabad in August 2008, which killed up to 90 people, was reported to have been prompted by a deliberately false tip about insurgent activity that reached the ears of the Western coalition. Most of the dead were civilians, according to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Special Forces are regarded with mistrust not only by many Afghans, but also by some in the conventional ranks of the Western military. Coalition field commanders responsible for operations in a given area often are not even aware of that a Special Forces strike is planned or taking place in their territory, but are left to deal with the consequences.

In the southern province of Oruzgan, an airstrike in late February that was reportedly called in by Special Forces killed at least 27 people when their vehicles were mistaken for an insurgent convoy. Dutch troops operating in the area, who are acknowledged to be among the coalition's best at developing good relations with Afghan villagers, said they were not consulted, and said the raid was a serious setback to their efforts to win residents' trust.

In Khatabeh, residents' anger remained palpable despite the high-level apologies, local leaders said. "People are still very, very upset," said Jannat Khan, a provincial council member from Gardez. "The Special Forces do these operations without telling anyone. And they don't know who is the enemy and who isn't."

2) Netanyahu Cancels Trip to U.S. Nuclear Summit
Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, April 8, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/world/middleeast/09mideast.html

Jerusalem - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has canceled his plans to attend the Nuclear Security summit meeting in Washington next week and will send a minister in his place, Israeli and American government officials said Thursday.

The official declined to explain the last-minute cancellation. But Israeli news media reported that the prime minister feared that Muslim states were planning on using the occasion to raise the question of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed power in the Middle East, but it refuses to discuss the issue and has declined to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The official said that Dan Meridor, the minister for intelligence affairs, would attend the meeting, which starts Monday.

In Washington, an administration official confirmed that Mr. Netanyahu had canceled his plans to attend. The official said the United States believed that the cancellation was linked to Israeli concerns that the meeting would be used by some countries to focus on Israel’s nuclear program and its refusal to sign the nonproliferation treaty.

Leaders of nearly four dozen countries are scheduled to attend the meeting, where President Obama is hoping to reach an agreement on securing vulnerable nuclear stockpiles in an attempt to keep them safe from terrorists. But that issue could be further complicated if attending leaders insist on broadening the conversation to include Israel’s reported arsenal. Many Muslim countries, while acknowledging their concern over Iran’s nuclear program, have insisted that the entire region must be made nuclear free.
[...]
The Israeli prime minister’s cancellation also comes against the background of recent tensions between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over the terms for restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States has asked Israel to take certain steps, and Mr. Netanyahu has yet to respond. The main disagreement is over Israel’s building in contested East Jerusalem.

3) Netanyahu ducks U.S. nuclear summit, fearing censure
Dan Williams, Reuters, Friday, April 9, 2010; 1:31 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/09/AR2010040900935.html

Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has withdrawn from a nuclear security summit in Washington next week, fearing Muslim delegates will demand Israel give up its assumed atomic arsenal. Netanyahu, who plans to send a deputy and two senior advisers to the April 12-13 conference instead, canceled "after learning that some countries including Egypt and Turkey plan to say Israel must sign the NPT," an Israeli official said.

Arab diplomats countered that they suspected Netanyahu had canceled mainly to avoid further confrontation with U.S. President Barack Obama over Jewish settlements, and denied having any plans to press Israel on atomic policy.

Netanyahu's attendance at the 47-country summit would have been unprecedented. Israeli premiers long shunned such forums, hoping to dampen foreign scrutiny on their nuclear secrets.

By staying outside the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Israel has not had to forswear nuclear arms nor admit international inspectors to its Dimona reactor, which experts believe has produced plutonium for between 80 and 200 warheads.

Aides said Netanyahu had agreed to attend the summit after being assured it would focus on efforts to secure fissile materials and shun language challenging Israel's nuclear "ambiguity" policy.

Such coordination between the allies has been clouded by rifts over stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

But two senior Arab officials accused Netanyahu of trying to evade questions on the Palestinian issue that has lately clouded Israel's ties with its largest U.S. ally. "We believe that Netanyahu withdrew from the summit because he did not want to face President Obama and is using Egypt and Turkey as an excuse," a senior Egyptian diplomat said.

Another senior Arab diplomat intimately involved in the negotiations said Arab states had no plan to "politicize" the venue and raise the Israeli issue there. "We are surprised that the Israeli prime minister would use this as a pretext for not attending," the second diplomat told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would demand at the summit that Israel disarm as part of a nuclear-free Middle East.

The French newspaper Le Monde quoted Erdogan as saying in Paris this week that "Israel is the principal threat to peace in the region today."

"Israel has nuclear weapons but doesn't belong to the NPT. Does that mean that those who don't sign the NPT are in a privileged position?"
[...]
Israel says its nuclear secrecy helps ward off enemies while avoiding the kind of provocations that can trigger arms races.

The official reticence, and the tacit U.S. acceptance of Israel's nuclear monopoly, aggrieves Arab and Muslim powers.

India and Pakistan - both scheduled to attend the nuclear security summit - are outside the NPT, like Israel. Unlike them, Israel has not openly tested or deployed atomic weapons.

4) Future Of U.S. Air Base In Turbulent Kyrgyzstan Uncertain
Philip P. Pan and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, Friday, April 9, 2010; A08
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/08/AR2010040800787.html

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - Rival political groups were vying for control of this Central Asian republic Thursday, a day after protesters toppled the president for the second time in five years, raising fresh doubts about the future of a U.S. air base here that is critical to the NATO troop surge in Afghanistan.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev refused to step down, but he remained in hiding as opposition leaders declared they would form an interim government and were in control of the capital, Bishkek, and most of the provinces.

Dawn arrived in Bishkek on Friday to reveal a city scarred from a second night of violence, though residents said civilian militias had restored order to much of the downtown area. Garbage and broken glass littered streets lined with looted stores, while the charred remains of a few police and military vehicles sat outside the seat of government, the White House, which had been ransacked and burned, along with the chief prosecutor's building. Across the boulevard was an abandoned armored personnel carrier, its tires slashed and an empty beer bottle sitting on the hood.

At least 75 people were killed and hundreds injured when security forces fired on protesters, who fought back and stormed key installations Wednesday.

Opposition leaders said they had no immediate plans to close the U.S. air base at Manas International Airport, a major transit hub for personnel and equipment en route to Afghanistan. But they indicated that, at a minimum, Washington would be forced to negotiate fresh terms to maintain the military installation, less than a year after the Bakiyev government tripled the rent and extracted $150 million in other concessions.

The instability in Kyrgyzstan could complicate President Obama's plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan as part of an even larger NATO buildup there. In March, 50,000 U.S. and allied forces heading to and from Afghanistan transited through the Manas air base, more than three times the monthly average last year.

U.S. officials said they were forced to curtail flights at Manas on Thursday and confine all troops to the base.

Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and ambassador to the United States, was named the leader of the interim government. She suggested that the new government would honor the U.S. lease for the base at Manas, which expires in July. But she made no promises beyond that, saying at a news conference, "We still have some questions on it."

Several opposition leaders had criticized Bakiyev for agreeing to host the base and the Obama administration for overlooking his government's human rights abuses and suppression of democratic freedoms.

One leader of the interim coalition said the lease on the base might not last, citing Russia's support for Bakiyev's removal. Last year, Moscow thought it had persuaded Bakiyev to expel the U.S. military, but he changed his mind after Washington agreed to pay more.

"You've seen the level of Russia's joy when they saw Bakiyev's ouster," Omurbek Tekebayev, a former opposition leader now in charge of constitutional matters, told the Reuters news agency. "So now there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened."

Russia has operated an air base in the city of Kant - about 40 miles from Manas - since 2003.

The U.S. military began operations at the Manas base in December 2001, soon after it invaded Afghanistan. In addition to serving as a hub for troops flying back and forth from the war zone, the base is a refueling center for U.S. planes flying missions over Afghanistan and is home to a KC-135 tanker squadron.

Excluding Afghanistan, Manas has been the only U.S. military air base in Central Asia since 2005, when Uzbekistan evicted the United States from the Karshi-Khanabad air base there. The U.S. military separately relies on several overland routes - mostly via Pakistan and Tajikistan - to deliver supplies and equipment to Afghanistan.

Alexander Cooley, a Columbia University professor who studies U.S. military relations in Central Asia, said the interim government in Kyrgyzstan was unlikely to order the Americans to leave because the country needs U.S. financial assistance and because the American presence serves as a useful counterbalance to Russia's influence in the region.

But he said the U.S. government had been so intent on securing the base that it had turned a blind eye to corrupt dealings by Bakiyev and his allies. As a result, Cooley said, many Kyrgyz citizens saw Manas as the poisonous fruit of relations with Washington. "It's symbolized the U.S. disregard for democracy and human rights," he said. "The base took over the entire U.S. foreign policy in dealing with Kyrgyzstan."
[...]

5) International Community Can Boost Haiti's Self-Sufficiency by 'Buying Local' Rice
Center for Economic and Policy Research, April 7, 2010
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/international-community-can-boost-haitis-self-sufficiency/
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/using-food-aid-to-support-haiti/

Washington, D.C. - The international community could, in the words of former President Bill Clinton, help Haiti "become more self-sufficient" by purchasing the entire Haitian rice crop over the next two years for just 2.35 percent of total current committed aid funds. A new issue brief from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that buying up all of Haiti's rice should be close to the amount of food aid for rice that the international community is likely to provide this year, and would provide a tremendous boost to Haitian farmers, who currently are unable to compete with low-cost rice imports from the U.S.

"The international donors have said that they do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, which have destroyed much of Haiti's agriculture," said Mark Weisbrot, economist and CEPR Co-Director, and lead author of the paper. "It would be very easy and inexpensive for them to keep this promise. Now we will see if they mean it."

There has been a growing recognition that past food aid to Haiti has had a significant negative impact on local food production and contributed to the sharp decline of Haiti's rice sector. Last month, Bill Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that exporting cheap rice to Haiti "was a mistake … I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did."

The paper notes that while there is much that can and should be done to support Haitian agriculture and the rebuilding of the economy, it is most important to immediately reduce the harm caused by imported, subsidized rice. The authors propose that this can be done by having the international community immediately commit to buying Haitian rice for the next two years. Since food aid was 13 percent of the total rice supply last year, and Haitian rice production is about 15 percent of total supply, buying up all of Haiti's rice would be close to the amount of food aid for rice that the international community would be expected to provide this year.

The paper also suggests the aid donors buy the rice at a price that is high enough to encourage local production. Even though this would have to be somewhat higher than an average of past years' market prices, the cost would only be between $62.1million and $82.8 million per year. Since international donors have committed $5.3 billion in aid for the next 18 months, or $3.53 billion annually, the cost of buying Haiti's rice crop would be only 1.76 to 2.35 percent of committed international aid funds.

Since there are funds allocated to bringing in a similar amount of rice in any case, the additional cost of buying the Haitian rice crop would actually be considerably less than the high estimate of $82.8 million, or 2.35 percent of committed funds.

On March 25, former President Clinton and UN special envoy to Haiti told representatives of aid groups: "Every time we spend a dollar in Haiti from now on we have to ask ourselves, 'Does this have a long-term return? Are we helping them become more self-sufficient? ... Are we serious about working ourselves out of a job?"

Turkey

6) Turkish prosecutor says reforms bad, lets AK off hook
Reuters, Friday, April 9, 2010; 1:26 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/09/AR2010040901859.html

Ankara - Turkey's top prosecutor criticized planned constitutional changes on Friday as undemocratic but stopped short of launching a repeat of an attempt he made in 2008 to shut down the ruling AK party.

The Turkish media had speculated for months that prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya could again try to use laws banning anti-secular activity to close the governing party, and thereby prevent constitutional changes which the senior judiciary deeply opposes.

Markets fell by almost one percent during Valcinkaya's press conference but rose by 1.5 percent when he failed to mention "a closure case against AK Party," Halil Recber, a strategist at Anadolu Invest, said.

Turkish stocks closed at a fresh all-time high, as investors bought into Turkey's expected strong growth this year.
[...]

Colombia
7) Court calls on Uribe to sign 'Law of Forced Disappearance'
Brett Borkan, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:37
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/9042-court-calls-on-uribe-to-sign-law-of-forced-disappearance.html

Colombia's Constitutional Court on Wednesday called on President Alvaro Uribe to pass the "Law of Forced Disappearance," which sets out new provisions on registering and searching for people who have been secretly kidnapped or murdered. The court stated that Uribe's objection to the "Law of Forced Disappearance" are unfounded, and that he should sign the bill, reports Caracol Radio.

The bill, which has already been passed by Congress and is awaiting Uribe's approval prior to becoming a law, seeks to establish an official policy on finding, registering, and caring for the victims of forced disappearance. The court argued that the bill should be converted into law because the Congress has already approved it, and that the government has the resources to fund it.

One of Uribe's objections to signing the bill is that it it exceeds the resources the government has allocated for such programs.

The bill, if enacted into law, will lead to the creation of a genetic database of forcefully disappeared individuals, and the construction of monuments to honor the victims.

The official figures of forced disappearances differ, in 2009 the United Nations said there were 17,000 cases, NGOs reported 24,000, while Colombia's prosecutor general said there were 50,000.

In 2008, the UN said that Colombia was the only country where forced disappearances continue to be a problem.

8) Ecuador to re-file charges against Santos
Brett Borkan, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 08 April 2010 11:14
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/9047-ecuador-to-re-file-charges-against-santos.html

An Ecuadorean judge announced on Thursday that charges will be re-filed against Colombia's front-runner presidential candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, for his role in the 2008 cross-border attack on a FARC camp, reports Eco Diario.

The judge, Francisco Revelo, explained that the initial charges, which were launched in 2009 but put on hold in February of this year, were permanently dropped on Wednesday because they didn't follow formal procedures. According to Revelo, the accused "were not notified by the prosecution," which violates their right to defense.

As a result, Revelo explained, new charges against Santos, who was Colombia's defense minister at the time of the cross-border bombing, will be filed.

Santos was not the only Colombian named in the charges. Armed forces commander Freddy Padilla and former army chief Mario Montoya were also named by the Ecuadorian court.

The charges against the three Colombians stem from their alleged personal and criminal responsibility for the March 2008 cross-border attack on a FARC camp that killed the rebels' number two, Raul Reyes, and 25 others, including one Ecuadorian citizen.

The incident led to a break-down in diplomatic relations between the two nations, with Ecuador requesting the extradition of the high ranking Colombian military leaders.

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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