Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Egypt Detains Mubarak and Sons. The interim government of Egypt has detained former Hosni Mubarak, who apparently suffered a heart attack, and his two sons. A statement posted on Facebook by Egypt's top prosecutor read "The prosecutor general orders the detention of former President Hosni Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa for 15 days pending investigation after the prosecutor general presented them with the current state of its ongoing investigations." More from Al Jazeera.

UK Unemployment Drops. The latest unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the under-25s and women workers are bearing much of the pain in Britain's jobs market, while average earnings continued to lag behind inflation. But economists were encouraged by an unexpected fall in the total number of people out of work, which cut the UK's jobless rate from 8 percent to 7.8 percent. Still one in five Britons under the age of 25 are unemployed. The full details in The Guardian.

Opposition Leaders Arrested in Uganda. Opposition politicians, including Dr Kizza Besigye and Mr Norbert Mao, were arrested yesterday morning and charged hours later with alleged incitement to cause violence and failure to obey lawful orders. The opposition in Uganda has mounting a walk-to-work campaign every Monday and Thursday in solidarity with Ugandans suffering under the weight of sharply rising fuel and commodity prices. President Yoweri Museven has close ties to the American Christian Right. All Africa has more on the story.

The Gambia Calls on the US to Prosecute Terry Jones. The government of the small West African country of the Gambia has called on US goverment to prosecute as soon as possible, Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida church for recently burning a copy of the Qur'an. In a strongly worded statement indicating the Gambia government's position on Monday, Ebrima O. Camara, the secretary general and head of the civil service on behalf of the Gambia government described the act as heinous, bigotry and provocative. The full text of the protest note can be read at All Africa.

Inflation in India Darkens Outlook. With the latest figures show Indian inflation galloping at 8.31 percent, Kunal Kumar Kundu of the Asia Times looks at the policy options and their implication for the fast growing Indian economy.

Libya Group Calls for Qaddafi's Exit. The newly formed international "contact group" on Libya calls for Colonel Muammar Qaddafi to stand down as the country's leader. The BBC has the full story.

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Clashes in Tahir Square. The Egyptian military and police stormed Cairo's Tahir Square to remove protesters who were demanding the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak and the removal of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi as interim head of state in a pre-dawn raid. Al Jazeera reports that at least one person was killed with scores injured. The violence came after a huge protest drew thousands in the square on Friday. Yolande Knell of the BBC filed this report:

This is the latest worrying sign of tensions between the ruling military and supporters of the 25 January revolution who are becoming increasingly impatient with the pace of change.

There is growing anger that remnants of the former government, including the ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family, have not been charged with corruption. Some blame the former Defence Minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, who is head of the Supreme Military Council. He was very close to Mr Mubarak.

Reports that the army has arrested and tortured demonstrators that have circulated in recent weeks and the fact that military trials continue add to the mistrust.

The armed forces insist they were simply enforcing a curfew when they moved into Tahrir Square overnight and that they are meeting their promises of reforms and justice.

Protests in Syria Leave 37 Dead. A Syrian rights group said on Saturday that state security forces orces killed at least 37 people during Friday's demonstrations in cities across the country. The National Organization for Human Rights said in a statement that 30 people were killed in the southern city of Deraa, the epicenter of protests. Another three people were killed in the central city of Homs and three others in Harasta, a Damascus suburb, as well as one in Douma. This makes Friday the deadliest day since protests erupted against the iron-fisted dynastic rule of Bashir al-Assad three weeks ago. Syrian activists are now calling for daily protests against the regime. More from Haaretz.

More Protests, More Deaths in Yemen. More clashes erupted in Yemen especially in the flashpoint city of Taez. Agence France Press reports that thousands of protesters massed in Al-Hurriya (Liberty) Square in Taez, south of Sanaa, calling for those behind the deadly shooting of protesters to be held to account and for President Saleh to go. As many as 100,000 people marched. Medics said Yemeni security forces shot dead four protesters and wounded 116 in the flashpoint city in clashes that erupted on Friday and carried on into the next morning. On the regional scene, Yemen recalled its ambassador to Qatar, state news agency Saba announced, after a call from the Gulf state for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

A Dry March Leaves Fear of a Drought in Southern Britain. Southern England and Wales have had their driest March since 1961, with each area having only a quarter of the expected rainfall. The driest region, East Anglia, had only 15 per cent of its normal precipitation in its driest March since 1929, and the second-driest since records began in 1910. Water UK, the umbrella body for the water companies in England and Wales, says there is "currently no concern about water supplies, but we are keeping an eye on things after what was a very dry March". Britain last rationed water in 1976. More from The Independent.

Elections in Djibouti. Djibouti's president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, garnered 80.58 percent of votes cast in the country's elections on Friday, according to provisional results out today. The result would give him a third term in power in the small strategically located Red Sea state, where the opposition initially boycotted the ballot and tried to start Egyptian-style protests in February. The interior Minister, Yacin Elmi Bouh, said that Guelleh's rival, Mohamed Warsama, got 19.42 percent of votes cast in the election, which had a 69.68 percent turnout, according to Reuters. Just over 152,000 people are registered to vote in the small Red Sea state which has the only US military base in Africa and the largest French army camp on the continent. There are approximately 2,200 US troops stationed in Djibouti and the Pentagon hopes to locate the headquarters of AFRICOM there. Human Rights Watch said that the US-funded Democracy International election monitoring organisation was expelled from Djibouti in March. The government said the body had failed to maintain its neutrality in the run-up to the vote.

Bombs Mar Nigeria's Legislative Elections. Nigerians finally went to vote in most areas in the twice-delayed National Assembly elections on Saturday, but the exercise was marred by bombings and violence in at least three states. In one incident, up to 25 people were reportedly killed. Bombings were reported in the northern states of Bauchi, Kaduna and Niger, areas where Christian-Muslim tensions have long simmered. A full round on Nigeria's elections from All Africa.

More Atrocities Reported in the Côte d'Ivoire. Ivoirians who have fled across the border to Liberia have reported incidents of rape, sexual abuse and murder to NGOs and human rights groups working in Grand Geddeh and Nimba counties. Children in villages in Liberia's Nimba County have told field workers at NGO Equip that they were forced to watch as their mothers were raped and then killed. In several cases, the children themselves were then sexually assaulted. A woman told Equip staff she was forced to watch while armed men raped her four-year-old daughter. Most attacks have taken place outside villages as people tried to flee, or at checkpoints, refugees said. Refugees say sexual assaults have been committed by both armed supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and of Alassane Ouattara, as well as militia members at checkpoints, and to a lesser extent, opportunists who have preyed on refugees' vulnerability. Last week, at least 800 people were reportedly killed in inter-communal violence in the western part of the country, as rival forces continue to battle for Abidjan, the country's largest city and commercial capital. There are new reports that hundreds more have been killed in fighting on the outskirts of Abidjan. Gbagbo, who disputed Ouattara’s internationally recognized victory in the Nov. 28 presidential election, remains in a bunker with his family and senior aides but has used a lull in the fighting to mount a counter-offensive against the Republican Army of Alassane Ouattara. According to the BBC, Gbagbo forces launched two mortars and a rocket at the residence of the French ambassador in Abidjan yesterday prompting French helicopter gunships to respond.

It's About Power

Greenwald with the ultimate question for the "humanitarian mission" crowd:

For the reasons I identified the other day, there are major differences between the military actions in Iraq and Libya. But what is true of both -- as is true for most wars -- is that each will spawn suffering for some people even if they alleviate it for others. Dropping lots of American bombs on a country tends to kill a lot of innocent people. For that reason, indifference to suffering is often what war proponents -- not war opponents -- are guilty of. But whatever else is true, the notion that opposing a war is evidence of indifference to tyranny and suffering is equally simple-minded, propagandistic, manipulative and intellectually bankrupt in both the Iraq and Libya contexts. And, in particular, those who opposed or still oppose intervention in Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, the Sudan, against Israel, in the Ivory Coast -- and/or any other similar places where there is widespread human-caused suffering -- have no business advancing that argument.

A lot separates the mission in Libya from the invasion of Iraq, and I don't think the comparisons are justified.  But this is worth recognizing.  If humanitarian concerns are the driving impetus for this mission, why not get involved everywhere there is human suffering at the hands of oppressive governments?

Because it's about power.  Humanitarian aid is a secondary concern.

 

 

 

Is Proxy Detention the Obama Administration's Extraordinary Rendition-Lite?

Shortly after taking office, President Obama announced he'd close CIA prisons and end abusive interrogations of terrorism suspects by U.S. officials. But the Obama administration has notably preserved the right to continue "renditions" - the abduction and transfer of suspects to U.S. allies in its "war on terror," including allies notorious for the use of torture.

Although the Obama Administration in 2009 promised to monitor more closely the treatment of suspects it turned over to foreign prisons, the disturbing case of Gulet Mohamed, an American teenager interrogated under torture in Kuwait, casts doubt on the effectiveness of those so-called "diplomatic assurances." It's also raised questions about whether the "extraordinary rendition" program conducted by the Bush administration has now been transformed into an equally abusive proxy detention program run by its successor.

There's more...

Court Order Highlights U.S. Legal Distortions

Last week, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. released a forceful 36-page opinion in the case of a Guantanamo detainee that would ordinarily be shocking. Sadly, such opinions are now so common that, except for one news story and a few particularly alert bloggers, they get barely a mention in the news.

In his opinion, issued in May but publicly released just last Thursday, the Judge found that a young man from Yemen, seized at the age of 17, has been imprisoned in the United States detention center in Cuba for the past eight years without cause. Although five different times since his arrest officials reviewing his case said Odaini should be released, Obama administration lawyers argued against his petition for habeas corpus, insisting that because the Yemeni student had spent one night at the guest house of a fellow student’s family, and because he had a medical visa rather than a student visa (he said his father had gotten him a medical visa because it was cheaper), the U.S. government can lawfully continue to imprison him.

If that sounds bizarre, it’s not, really. Pursuant to the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, it says it has the authority to detain indefinitely anyone, anywhere in the world who it suspects is affiliated with the Taliban, al Qaeda or associated forces. And if its position in the case of Mohamed Hassan Odaini is any guide, then it interprets that right very very broadly.

Odaini is one of many young men seized in the weeks and months after September 11, 2001 during raids on guesthouses in Pakistan. He has consistently claimed that he was a student at Salafia University who was invited for dinner at a fellow student’s home and spent the night there. But that home was also a guest house, and some al Qaeda fighters stayed there. Although none ever named Odaini as being connected to their cause, the United States insisted it can infer based on his overnight stay that Odaini was an al Qaeda fighter.

The other men seized in the raid corroborated Odaini’s story that he was a student with no ties to al Qaeda or terrorism. As Judge Kennedy notes in his opinion, U.S. government interrogators and officials, too, quickly came to believe Odaini’s consistent claim. Indeed, five different times, government interrogators or task forces independently determined that Odaini should be released. Each time, that recommendation was ignored.

Then in January, President Obama suspended the transfer of any detainees to Yemen, Odaini’s home country, after the attempted Christmas day bombing by a Yemeni national. At that point Odaini’s lawyer, who had until then assumed his client would be released, as recommended, resumed his petition for habeas corpus to the federal court.

In ruling on that petition, Judge Kennedy said that the evidence presented to the court “overwhelmingly supports Odaini’s contention that he is unlawfully detained.” Reviewing the evidence in painstaking detail, including Odaini’s and other detainees’ statements, plus summaries of interrogation and intelligence reports produced by the government, the judge himself seems shocked that the government would be arguing the lawfulness of Odaini’s detention based on the paucity of proof.

The government repeatedly “distort[s] the evidence,” writes Judge Kennedy, concluding that the only way to believe the government’s position is “if one begins with the view that Odaini is a part of Al Qaeda and searches for a way to believe that allegation regardless of its inconsistency with an objective view of the evidence.”

The judge concludes:

Respondents have kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six. They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career. The evidence before the Court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure. There is no evidence that Odaini has any connection to al Qaeda. Consequently, his detention is not authorized by the AUMF [Authorization of the Use of Military Force]. The Court therefore emphatically concludes that Odaini’s motion must be granted.

In concluding that Odaini’s detention “has done nothing to make the United States more secure,” Judge Kennedy may as well have been talking not only about this one case, but about the much broader problems caused by the government’s interpretation of the AUMF and international law. After all, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, the continued authorization of abusive interrogation techniques under Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, the prosecution of a handful of terror suspects by military commission, and the controversial drone attacks or “targeted killings” outside declared zones of conflict have all served to foment anger at the United States and been used to justify insurgent attacks. Meanwhile, none of those policies have been shown to have made the United States any more secure.

The administration appears not to be learning from past mistakes, however. Just as it refused to concede the case of Mohamed Odaini, it’s insisting that it maintains the authority to continue to detain indefinitely without trial some 48 more Guantanamo detainees who it has said cannot be tried yet are too dangerous too release – based on evidence that it acknowledges would not hold up in court.

Even more troubling is the administration’s continued detention of some 800 prisoners at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, since the courts have ruled that those prisoners are not even entitled to habeas corpus review, as Odaini finally obtained here – eight years after his capture.

Last week, 15 former federal court judges urged Congress not to write a new detention law to authorize indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, because independent federal judges are best equipped to decide who’s detainable under the law.

The case of Mohamed Odaini is yet another reason to listen to them.

Update: I was thrilled to see this editorial in the Washington Post this morning pointing out that Odaini's case puts the lie to the still widely-held assumption that Guantanamo remains populated with "the worst of the worst" and urging Odaini's repatriation. Unfortunately, as the Post notes, the Obama administration's ban on transferring any Gitmo detainees to Yemen means Odaini is likely to stay stuck in prison even longer, despite Judge Kennedy's scathing criticism and determination that his detention is unlawful.

 

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