In Iraq, two Iraqi women have been killed in the latest shooting by a foreign military firm. The victims were driving home from work when their vehicle came under fire by guards with the Australia-based Unity Resources Group. The guards fired as many as 40 bullets into the car before speeding away. A witness described the scene.
Witness: “A (civilian) car came out from this side of the road. It was an Oldsmobile with a family inside, two women in the front and children in the back. They were about 80 meters away, which probably made them panic because they went forward a little bit. They started firing at her from all directions. People were afraid.”
Unity Resources Group is in Iraq under contract with the U.S.-based RTI International. RTI has been hired by the State Department for non-governmental work. Foreign military companies in Iraq have been under unprecedented scrutiny since last month’s killing of at least 17 Iraqis by guards with Blackwater USA.
The developments come at a time of increased tension between Turkey and the U.S. The Turkish government has lobbied feverishly against a proposed bill to recognize the Armenian genocide. The measure is expected to go before the House Foreign Relations Committee later today. The White House says it’s against the bill because it would harm relations with Turkey.
The CIA kidnap and torture victim Khalid El-Masri has lost an appeal to have his case tried in U.S. court. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it would not take up El-Masri’s appeal of two lower court rulings rejecting his case. The Bush administration had invoked the so-called “state secrets” privilege to deny Masri a trial. Masri was seized in Macedonia and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret prison and tortured. In December 2005, two years after his abduction, Masri described his ordeal.
Khalid El-Masri: “They took me to a room. I had handcuffs, and I had a blindfold. And when the door was closed, I was beaten from all sides. I was hit from all sides. I then was humiliated, and I could hear that I was being photographed in the process when I was completely naked. Then my hands were tied to my back. I got a blindfold, and they put chains onto my ankles and a sack over my head, and just like the pictures we have seen from Guantánamo, for example.”
Masri was committed to a German psychiatric facility earlier this year following an arrest on arson charges. Attorneys say his kidnapping and torture has left him a “psychological wreck.” The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Masri’s case in the United States. Reacting to the Supreme Court denial, ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner said: “The Court has provided the government with complete immunity for its shameful human rights and due process violations.”
A federal judge has blocked the transfer of a Guantánamo Bay prisoner to his native Tunisia over fears he would be tortured or killed. The ruling in the case of Mohammed Abdul Rahman marks the first time a court has stopped the Pentagon from sending a prisoner abroad. Rahman’s attorney, Joshua Denbeaux, said: “The executive has now been told it cannot bury its Guantánamo mistakes in Third World prisons.”
In Burma, the party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has announced it would hold talks with the military junta but won’t agree to its preconditions. Last week military leaders said they would meet Suu Kyi only if she dropped her support for international sanctions against their regime. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed since a pro-democracy uprising began last month.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli military has ordered the seizure of vast new swaths of Palestinian land in the West Bank. The land surrounds four Palestinian villages outside East Jerusalem. The move appears aimed at expanding the Israeli settlement of Maleh Adumin — already Israel’s largest in the West Bank. The Israeli military says the seized land would be used for a planned Palestinian road between Jericho and Jerusalem. But critics say that will allow Israel to carry out the planned expansion of an area known as E-1, where the current road runs. The confiscation comes as Palestinian and Israeli officials continue to meet ahead of a planned U.S.-brokered meeting next month. The Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper said: “This has to be seen as part of a timeline in which Israel wants to get all its development of the West Bank finished before [President] Bush leaves office.”
In Jordan, a former lawmaker has been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of damaging the government’s reputation. Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi of the right-wing Jordanian National Movement was arrested in May. He had sent an email to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid alleging corruption amongst top Jordanian officials.
In Argentina, a former police chaplain has been sentenced to life in prison for torture, kidnapping and murder of dissidents during Argentina’s so-called “dirty war.” Roman Catholic priest Christian Von Wernich is the first clergy member to go on trial for crimes committed by U.S.-backed military regimes in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s. Outside the courtroom in the city of La Plata, crowds cheered and set off firecrackers as the verdict was announced. Adriana Calvo, who was detained under the Argentine junta, hailed the ruling.
Adriana Calvo: “The only possible reparation for these profound wounds that we and our people have is justice, nothing else. This is a part justice, however small, but it one more genocidal (person) in jail, and we are going after more.”
In Pakistan, some 250 people have been killed in four days of fighting in the North Waziristan region along the Afghan border. Witnesses say dozens of civilians have been killed in military air raids. Earlier today, residents in the village of Epi buried victims said to have died when Pakistani military planes bombed a crowded market. Military officials say they were targeting “militant hideouts.”
The White House is increasing a push for Congress to approve a trade deal with Peru, Colombia and Panama. The Colombia pact has come under opposition over Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s record on human rights. In a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Congress to approve the deal.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “Failing to conclude these agreements would be a great blow to these three countries, for which one cannot assume that there would be easy recovery. It would send a signal loud and clear across the region that the United States can somehow not be trusted to keep its promises.”
Uribe is facing an ongoing scandal over his alleged ties to paramilitaries. Last week, his cousin Mario Uribe resigned amidst allegations he colluded with paramilitary groups.
In Los Angeles, an internal LAPD probe has faulted top police commanders for the breakdown of a largely peaceful immigration march on May Day of this year. Police with riot guns fired hundreds of rubber bullets, shot tear gas, and clubbed protesters and journalists gathered in MacArthur Park. At least 240 protesters and journalists were injured. Hundreds of legal claims have been filed against the city. In a long-awaited report, the LAPD says commanders on the ground gave confusing and contradictory orders to protesters and failed to rein in police officers using excessive force. In violation of LAPD policy, more than 140 “less-than-lethal” rounds were fired directly at protesters instead of at the ground. Officers also struck demonstrators and journalists with batons more than 100 times. Many of them had been standing passively in place. Twenty-six police officers are under investigation for wrongdoing.
And a major auto walk-out could come today for the second time in as many months. Chrysler and the United Auto Workers continued talks through the night ahead of a strike deadline of 11 a.m. Eastern time later today. Last month, tens of thousands of General Motors workers staged a two-day walkout that resulted in a union-run healthcare program and job guarantees. The United Auto Workers is said to be pushing for a deal based on the General Motors agreement.