In its annual report on human rights Amnesty International slammed the Bush administration for holding prisoners at Guantanamo bay and at secret black sites across the globe. The group called for Guantanamo to be shut down. Amnesty’s Secretary-General Irene Khan said “Guantanamo prison camp is an aberration under international law. It places people outside the rule of law. And it sends a message to other regimes around the world — like Egypt or China — that they too can ignore human rights.” The group said the U.S.-led war against terrorism has sparked a rise in human rights abuses as countries turn a blind eye to violations by their allies. It also accused UN Security Council members Russia and China of consistently flouting human rights in pursuit of their own agendas. On the issue of Sudan, Amnesty called on the United Nations to take a more active role in addressing the abuses occurring in Darfur.
Court martial proceedings have begun for an Army sergeant accused of using military dogs to threaten detainees at Abu Ghraib. The trial of Sgt. Santos Cardona may expose who within the Pentagon’s chain of command ordered soliders to abuse and torture detainees at the Iraqi prison. For the first time Major General Geoffrey Miller is expected to testify about what happened at the prison. Until now Miller has refused to publicly speak about his role overseeing interrogations at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Meanwhile it has now been revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly communicated with Miller and other senior defense officials by video-teleconference about interrogation matters in November and December 2003. Lawyers for Sgt. Cardona are attempting to obtain copies of these videoconferences to use as their defense.
This news from Burma: a top United Nations official is reporting that jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains in good spirits and still wants to make a contribution to society. On Saturday, the official, Ibrahim Gambari, became the first foreigner to meet with Suu Kyi since she was put under house arrest in 2003. Suu Kyi leads Burma’s National League for Democracy. The group won a landslide election victory in 1990 but the military refused to hand over power. For the past three years Suu Kyi has been held in near complete isolation from the outside world. Her phone has been cut off and she is barred from having visitors except for a doctor and a maid. This week, the generals who crushed Suu Kyi’s democracy movement are expected to decide whether to extend her house arrest beyond its present term, which expires on Saturday.
In news from Israel — British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith is expected to meet with senior Israeli officials on Thursday. Goldsmith plans to discuss whether war crimes charges should be filed against the Israeli soldiers who shot and killed the British filmmaker James Miller and the British peace activist Tom Hurndall.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have captured the leader of the military wing of Hamas in the West Bank in a raid in Ramallah. The Israeli government has accused the man, Ibrahim Hamad, of masterminding a string of suicide bombings.
In Washington, the House is scheduled to vote today to ban direct U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian government and restrict money to private aid groups that operate in Gaza and the West Bank. The bill is expected to be overwhelmingly approved even though it does not have the support of the White House. According to the Knight Ridder news agency, the United States would only be allowed to provide limited humanitarian assistance to Palestinians through non-governmental organizations. Assistance beyond food, water, medicine and sanitation would require a presidential waiver.
Leading the lobbying effort for the bill has been AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has been accused of threatening lawmakers who oppose the legislation. Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota said an AIPAC activist warned her chief of staff that her “support for terrorists will not be tolerated.” McCollum said she is no longer allowing representatives from AIPAC in her office or to meet with her staff. McCollum has said she opposes the bill because it could destabilize the situation and heighten chances of a humanitarian crisis.
President Bush warned Monday that Venezuela and Bolivia are suffering from what he described as an “erosion of democracy.” Bush’s comments come a week after the U.S. cut off military sales to Venezuela and three weeks after Bolivia announced it would nationalize its natural gas resources. Bush said he had a message for Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the hemisphere. President Bush: I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace. I’m going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice; that when we see poverty, we care about it and we do something about it; that we care for good — we stand for good health care. I’m going to remind our people that meddling in other elections is — to achieve a short-term objective is not in the interests of the neighborhood.”
In media news, a national coalition of community media organizations is organizing a day of action to save public access television and protect net neutrality. Protests are planned for Wednesday in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco. Protest organizers are calling on Congress to reject the COPE Bill which would effectively end what is known as “net neutrality” the concept that Internet users should be able to access any web content without restrictions of limitations imposed by their internet service provider. Another provision of the bill would cut back the obligation of cable TV companies to devote channels to public access and fund the facilities to run them.
Meanwhile a group of major telecoms including AT&T and Bell South have launched a counter campaign to attack the concept of net neutrality. The group has hired President Clinton’s former spokesperson Mike McCurry. It has also begun taking out ads on progressive websites urging readers to “say no to government regulation of the internet.”
In other media news, a group of investors led by a public relations executive with ties to the Republican party appears to be on the verge of buying both daily newspapers in Philadelphia, the Inquirer and the Daily News. The former Knight Ridder newspapers were bought by the McClatchy newspaper chain in March and then put up for re-sale. The Newspaper Guild union also put up a bid to buy the papers in an effort to keep Philadelphia as a two-paper city. Many fear the new owners will decide to close the Daily News.
And U.S. immigration officials have blocked the Sri Lankan music star known as M.I.A. from entering the country to visit or work. The artist wrote a message to her fans online saying “I’m locked out! They wont let me in. Now I’m strictly making my album outside the borders!” M.I.A. was born in Britain but raised in Sri Lanka where her father was a founding member of the militant Tamil Tigers. Earlier this year, the editors of the Village Voice named her debut record the second best recording of 2005.