Tens of thousands of protesters rallied around the world on Sunday in a global day against the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In New York, organizers estimated over 30,000 people gathered in Central Park. Demonstrations and vigils were also held on Sunday in Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, London, Melbourne, Paris, Seoul and Stockholm and dozens of other cities. The global day of protests was organised to coincide with the start of the United Nations General Assembly debate this week on Sudan.
In political developments, the Sudanese government has openly rejected the United Nations’ vote to authorize a peacekeeping force for Sudan. Speaking Sunday at the summit of the Non-Alligned Movement in Cuba, Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir said his country would reject a foreign presence.
Meanwhile, on Capital Hill, efforts to put pressure on the Sudanese government are faltering under the reported influence of the Bush administration and business groups. According to the London Financial Times, supporters of a Congressional measure that backs divestment from companies involved in Sudan say their legislation has been significantly watered down. A new draft of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act has removed a section that supports divestment measures taken in several US states. Bill Reinsch, president of the anti-divestment National Foreign Trade Council, explained: “The president of the United States runs foreign policy; the mayor of Berkeley does not.”
New details have been revealed on the Republican divide over the Bush administration’s plan for the treatment of prisoners in US custody. Newsweek magazine reports the administration wants to maintain at least seven existing CIA interrogation techniques for use against high-level detainees. The techniques include induced hypothermia; long periods of forced standing; sleep deprivation and so called “attention slapping.” The administration is facing resistance from three key Republican Senators on the Armed Services Committee, including John McCain of Arizona. The three helped pass a measure last week affirming Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits inhumane treatment. On Saturday, President Bush answered critics in his weekly radio address.
The Bush administration’s stance on torture is again under criticism from Britain’s attorney general. Speaking in Chicago this weekend, Lord Goldsmith said the US should respect the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of detainees. Goldsmith also called for the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, calling it “a symbol of injustice.”
Meanwhile in Europe, the European Union has condemned the CIA’s detention of suspects in overseas prisons.
The statement marks the EU’s first official reaction to President Bush’s recent admission the CIA has been operating a secret network of overseas prisons.
The European Union’s statement comes as the Associated Press reports the number of prisoners in foreign US jails has now passed fourteen thousand. All but one thousand are being held in Iraq.
Meanwhile in Iraq, at least twenty three people are dead and more than one hundred injured after a series of attacks in the city of Kirkuk. The dead include ten women and two children. Another thirty bodies were found around the Baghdad area Sunday. The Iraqi government has announced plans to seal off most of Baghdad. Officials say they’ll set up of twenty-eight checkpoints to block insurgents from entering the city. Hundreds of roads will be closed and access only available at those checkpoints. Initial reports said Iraq planned to dig dozens of new trenches around Baghdad’s perimeter but defense officials are now denying the claim.
Meanwhile, a leading news agency has gone public with the imprisonment of one its journalists by US troops in Iraq. The Associated Press says Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer, has been jailed for more than five months. The military says he’s a security threat — but has not filed charges or brought him before a judge. Hussein says he’s being targeted because US military leaders have been angered by his photos from Ramadi and Fallujah. The military says Hussein was arrested alongside wanted insurgents. But the AP claims that’s no sign of guilt and that Hussein was on assignment. The AP says it’s gone public after months of failed talks with US officials.
In Lebanon, aid workers are warning unexploded cluster bombs will likely mean a rise in casualties as the country’s harvest season nears. Hundreds of thousands of bomblets lie unexploded across the country, many in the olive trees that will be picked this year. Monitors say unexploded cluster bombs have killed at least eighty-three Lebanese civilians since last month’s ceasefire.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban is claiming responsibility for a suicide attack that killed four NATO soldiers earlier today. The NATO force in Afghanistan is suffering its highest casualty rate of the nearly five-year occupation.
In Singapore, protests against the IMF-World Bank meetings continue despite an ongoing government crackdown. Earlier today, a dozen protesters held a candlelight vigil in protest of the conditions attached to debt relief. Singapore has barred twenty-eight international activists from entering the country. Local activists are also facing pressure. On Sunday, police blocked a protest march by the Singapore Democratic Party to the IMF-World Bank site.
Pope Benedict has apologized for remarks about Islam that set off an angry and sometimes violent reaction world-wide. At a speech in Germany last week, Benedict suggested Islam is an inherently violent religion. He also called some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhhamed “evil and inhuman.” Demonstrators in several countries protested the Pope’s remarks. At least seven churches have been attacked in the West Bank while in Somalia an Italian nun has been killed in what are believed to be acts of retaliation.
In Mexico City, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the central plaza this weekend for a massive conference of supporters of former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. With a show of hands, the crowd voted to establish an “alternative government” to oppose the administration of Felipe Calderon. Calderon was named president-elect earlier this month after Mexico’s top electoral court rejected Lopez Obrador’s claims of voting fraud. Lopez Obrador addressed his supporters on Saturday.
And finally, there are new developments in the Hewlett-Packard spy case. An internal review has found spying and surveillance in the company’s secret investigation into news leaks was more extensive than has been previously disclosed. The New York Times reports detectives hired by top executives tried to plant spy software on at least one journalist’s computer. The detectives also followed members of the company’s board and possibly a journalist in its attempt to identify a source who leaked information to the media. The case has already led to the resignation of the company’s former chair and two board members.