Nonviolent Action around the World – 29 May 2009 (Part 1)

Africa: Human rights group links repression to food price protests
By: allAfrica, May 28, 2009
A leading advocacy group has linked escalating food prices and the sharp rise in living costs across Africa to violations of human rights across the continent in the last year. In its annual report, Amnesty International notes that protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against “the dire social and economic situation and the sharp rise in living costs” during 2008.
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Zimbabwean journalists and lawyers brought before the courts
By: Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa, May 28, 2009
There was much activity in the magistrates’ courts in Harare on Thursday when human rights lawyers, two senior journalists and WOZA activists appeared in court for separate, routine, remand hearings. Two editors from the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, Vincent Kahiya and Constantine Chimakure, appeared before Magistrate Catherine Chimanda, who ruled that they will stand trial on June 16 th.
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Zimbabwe: Armed men abduct MDC pastor
By: ZimOnline, May 28, 2009
A church pastor involved in counselling traumatised MDC activists was abducted by unknown armed men from his Harare home on Monday, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party said on Wednesday. “Pastor Lawrence Berejena was abducted by unknown armed men at his Tynwald home in Harare on Monday,” the MDC said in a statement to the media. “Pastor Berejena has been involved in offering spiritual counselling to thousands of MDC supporters who were victims of political violence across the country perpetrated by ZANU PF thugs and state security agents,” it added.
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Zimbabwe: ZANU PF tackles Mugabe succession
By: Cuthbert Nzou, ZimOnline, May 25, 2009
The inner politburo cabinet of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party will meet today to discuss his succession, a sensitive and highly divisive matter with potential to split apart the former liberation movement. Impeccable sources said the communist-style politburo that is chaired by Mugabe himself will meet at party headquarters in Harare, the second time in 10 days that the committee will be sitting to discuss the contentious succession issue that has seen fault lines starting to emerge right through the centre of ZANU PF.
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Anti-slavery gong for Mauritanian
By: BBC News, May 27, 2009
A Mauritanian non-governmental organisation run by the son of a slave has won this year’s Anti-Slavery International Award. SOS Esclaves was set up by Boubacar Messaoud, whose father was a slave, and Abdel Nasser Ould Othman Yessa, a former slave-owner. It is estimated 600,000 Mauritanians – one in five people – live in slavery despite it being outlawed in 2007. But the government in Nouakchott denies that the practice still exists.
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Dictatorship, Tunisia’s undeserved fate
By: Bassam Bounenni, Daily Star, May 18, 2009
At a press conference on May 4, Naji Bghouri, the head of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT), was prevented by pro-government journalists from finishing comments in which he mentioned of declining press freedoms in Tunisia. The episode showed that the regime of President Zine al-Abedine ben Ali had lost patience even with a body that it had helped establish in January 2008 to cut the grass out from under the feet of the country’s most critical journalists.
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Venezuela: Cold welcome for Vargas Llosa and freedom forum
By: Jeremy Morgan, Latin American Herald Tribune, May 28, 2009
It wasn’t the happiest of 25th anniversaries for Cedice Libertad, a conservative intellectual group committed to democratic ideas, when the National Guard turned up the day before a forum organized to mark the occasion. Cedice Libertad Director Rafael Alfonzo said “irregularities” took place after the guardsmen’s sudden appearance.
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In Venezuela, hundreds march for press freedom
By: Rachel Jones, AP, May 28, 2009
Hundreds of opponents of President Hugo Chavez marched in support of press freedom in Venezuela on Wednesday, two years after his government refused to renew the concession of an opposition-aligned television station. Many protesters also waved flags in support of Globovision – a second anti-Chavez channel now under investigation by broadcast regulators. Protesters carrying torches marched peacefully to Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission to turn over a symbolic copy of the constitution. Hundreds of police and National Guard troops looked on.
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Brazil: ‘Dalai Lama of the rainforest’ brings climate change warning to Britain
By: Survival, May 28, 2009
A Yanomami Indian shaman from the Brazilian Amazon, dubbed ‘the Dalai Lama of the Rainforest’, will journey to Europe in June to give a message to world leaders in advance of the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. Shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami will tell MPs at the British Houses of Parliament that the world’s rainforests cannot be bought, and can only be saved if indigenous peoples’ land rights are recognized.
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Remaining four mountaintop removal activists released from jail
By: Mountaintop Justice, May 28, 2009
Seventeen mountaintop removal activists had no choice but to enforce the laws since all administrative remedies have been exhausted, said some of the activists and supporters at a press conference today. The four still-jailed activists were released on their own recognizance by Judge Burnside shortly after the press conference, which was held on the Raleigh County Courthouse steps.
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Podcast: Account of recent nonviolent action taking place in WV against mountaintop removal mining
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Canada: Demonstrators protest at Lansdowne defence trade show
By: Brendan Kennedy, The Ottowa Citizen, May 27, 2009
Demonstrators from peace and church groups gathered Wednesday morning outside Lansdowne Park to oppose the opening of a military trade show on city property. Led by Ottawa’s Raging Grannies, a women’s social justice group with chapters across the country, demonstrators gathered outside a perimeter fence set up around the park waving flags and placards promoting peace.
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Brazilian environmentalists demand deeper investigation into the murder of union member
By: Don Anque, Impunity Watch, May 27, 2009
Environmentalists and human rights activists in Brazil are demanding a deeper investigation into the murder of Paulo Santos Souza. Santos Souza, a fisherman and trade unionist, was fighting corruption and irregularities in the construction of a Petrobras gas pipeline. The Associação dos Homens do Mar (AHOMAR) for which Santos Souza was the treasurer, and other unions and civil society groups have called for a demonstration today in front of the headquarters of the state oil firm Petrobras.
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Ecuador: Correa’s re-election poses more challenges for social movements
By: Jason Tockman, North American Congress on Latin America, May 27, 2009
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has marched from one victory to the next. But Ecuador’s leading social movements remain skeptical about whether his re-election will translate into the deep social changes promised by the country’s new Constitution. Ecuador’s indigenous federations are still reeling from a bitter fight over a controversial mining law that the President pushed through the interim Congress in January.
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US: Torture and truth
By: Jonathan Schell, Truthout, May 27, 2009
It has fallen to President Obama to deal with the policies and practices of torture inaugurated by the Bush administration. He started boldly, ordering an end to the abuses, announcing the closing in one year of the detention camp at Guantanamo and releasing the Bush-era Justice Department memos authorizing torture. Subsequently, he seemed to grow cautious. He discouraged formation of an independent commission to investigate the torture and reversed a previous position in favor of releasing Pentagon photos of abuses and instead opposed release.
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US: In San Francisco, nonviolent protests follow ruling
By: John Cote, Meredith May, Matthew B. Stannardand, and Kevin Fagan, SF Chronicle, May 27, 2009
There were tears, chanted slogans and a street-clogging protest that resulted in scores of arrests, but Tuesday’s reaction to the state Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Proposition 8 – by the usual San Francisco standards of polarized movements – was comparatively tepid. In San Francisco, the statements went one step further into nonviolent civil disobedience at a lunchtime demonstration, followed later by a twilight march through downtown from City Hall.
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US: 14 years after Ken Saro-Wiwa’s death, family points finger at Shell in court
By: Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, May 27, 2009
In 1995, at a trial that resulted in his conviction and execution, the Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa vowed that the oil giant Shell would one day be brought to justice. That day is looming large as a New York court prepares for a trial in which the oil giant Shell stands accused of crimes against humanity over its activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta of southern Nigeria. But when it does start, the trial will excite huge interest on the part of multinational companies and human rights bodies.
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US: Coal mine laws written in blood – an interview with Judy Bonds
By: Frank Joseph Smecker, Toward Freedom, May 27, 2009
Judy Bonds is the co-director for Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia. Bonds is a coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter, has been fighting for justice in the Appalachian coalfields since 1998, and in 2003 won the Goldman Environmental Prize. In this interview with Toward Freedom, she talks about what inspired her to become an environmental activist, some recent examples of coal mining devastation, the lasting impacts of coal mining on communities, and what people around the world can do to help.
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US: FBI infiltrates Iowa City protest group in 2008
By: Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, May 26, 2009
He was very well dressed. He claimed he’d been in the military. But he said when he was ordered to go to Iraq, he refused and was granted conscientious objector status. That’s how activists in Iowa City are now recalling a person they believe was working undercover for the FBI. Three FBI documents obtained by The Progressive show the extent of the monitoring of the Iowa City activists. Entitled “Confidential Human Source (CHS) Reporting Document,” each one was written by FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Reinwart on the material provided by the informant, who was “in person” at the events.
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Argentina: An anti-paper-mill protest celebrates its fifth year
By: Matthew MacLean, CS Monitor, May 26, 2009
In an odd mix of environmentalism and patriotism, more than 20,000 Argentine activists recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of their blockade of an international bridge that connects Gualeguaychú with Uruguay, demanding a halt to a paper mill they say is polluting the river that divides the two countries. With an agrarian economy and relatively little industry, the Finnish-built Botnia pulp factory represents the single largest foreign investment in Uruguay’s history – a big boost for jobs and tax revenue.
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Human rights probe continues to taint Colombian army
By: Anastasia Moloney, World Politics Review, May 18, 2009
Over 400 members of Colombia’s armed forces have been detained for allegedly taking part in extrajudicial killings of civilians in the last two years, according to the country’s attorney general’s office. An ongoing probe into human rights abuses in the Colombian army, known locally as the “false positives” scandal, continues to unfold following the recent arrests of more military personnel.
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China cuts off dissent ahead of Tiananmen anniversary
By: Malcolm Moore, Telegraph, May 28, 2009
Beijing has taken steps to prevent dissent in response to a groundswell of pressure for the authorities to atone for what happened. Students at Beijing and Dalian Universities have been banned from giving any interviews to the foreign media until after the anniversary. The Public Security Bureau in Dalian warned: “Any indication of an approach from a foreign journalist must be reported immediately.” University exams have been scheduled across China on June 4, in what appears to be an attempt to keep students inside their classrooms.
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China: Silence on the square
By: The Economist, May 28, 2009
Among journalists at a Chinese newspaper, there has been some surprising talk of publishing a story to mark the 20th anniversary on June 3rd and 4th of the massacre of hundreds of Beijing citizens by Chinese soldiers. One journalist even told his colleagues he would be ready to go to jail for doing so. But such bravado, especially if it proves more than rhetoric, is likely to be rare. For many in China the nationwide pro-democracy protests of 1989 and their bloody end have become a muddled and half-forgotten tale.
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China’s race to supremacy
By: AC Grayling, Guardian, May 28, 2009
Churchill’s famous remark about the Battle of Britain pilots, could now be applied to China’s dissidents, the few to whom the many (the world’s population) could come to owe a very great deal indeed, because the burgeoning economic, industrial and political influence of China in the world – it is the next great superpower – makes it absolutely imperative that the country should be a democratic one, signed up to the rule of law and the idea of human rights, rather than what it is now: an imperialist, irredentist, massively human-rights-violating totalitarian state that will use any means to get its way.
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Burma hits back at critics of Suu Kyi trial
By: MSNBC, May 28, 2009
Army-ruled Myanmar lashed out at foreign critics of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial on Thursday, accusing them of meddling in its affairs and denying the prosecution of the opposition leader was a political or human rights issue. Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint rebuked his counterparts from Southeast Asia and Europe at a meeting in Cambodia, saying the trial that could jail Suu Kyi, 63, for up to five years was an “internal legal” issue. “It’s not political. It’s not a human rights issue, so we don’t accept the pressure and interference from abroad.”
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Burma: Obama calls for release of Suu Kyi
By: Human Rights Tribune, May 28, 2009
Statement from President Barak Obama White House press release: “I call on the Burmese government to release National League for Democracy Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from detention immediately and unconditionally. I strongly condemn her house arrest and detention, which have also been condemned around the world. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued opinions affirming that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi dating back to 2003 is arbitrary, unjustified, and in contravention of Burma’s own law.”
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Burma: Security ‘didn’t stop’ Yettaw visit
By: Naw Say Phaw, Democratic Voice of Burma, May 28, 2009
Soldiers guarding Aung San Suu Kyi’s house knew of John Yettaw entering the compound earlier this month and did little to prevent it, Yettaw told the courtroom yesterday. Suu Kyi told the courtroom yesterday that the breach of security that allowed Yettaw into the house was the fault of authorities charged with guarding her compound, and not Suu Kyi. Yettaw yesterday added substance to this argument with claims that he had passed a number of soldiers en route to the compound.
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Burma: Solo protestor arrested outside Insein
By: Naw Say Phaw, Democratic Voice of Burma, May 28, 2009
An elderly solo protestor demonstrating today outside of the prison courtroom where Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial was arrested by plain-clothed security officials and taken away. Security has tightened outside of Rangoon’s Insein prison where Suu Kyi, her two caretakers and US citizen John Yettaw are on trial. Observers say there is an increase in numbers of both uniformed and plain-clothed security officials, including members of the Swan Arr Shin militia group.
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Tibet: Chinese police shoot six protesters
By: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, May 28, 2009
Armed police in a Tibetan area of south-western China opened fire on protestors who opposed resettlement for a new dam, seriously wounding at least six Tibetan women, the Tibetan government-in-exile said Tuesday [26 May 2009]. The police ‘indiscriminately fired at Tibetan residents of Tawu and Nyagchu counties’ during the protest Sunday [24 May 2009] in Sichuan province’s Kardze prefecture, which is called Ganzi in Chinese, said the report posted on the government-in-exile’s website, .
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China: Beijing protest honours Pelosi’s visit
By: Robert J. Saiget, AP, May 27, 2009
At least 100 Chinese with grievances against their government staged a protest in honour of US congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in Beijing Wednesday, little more than a week before the Tiananmen anniversary. The protesters, or petitioners, from all parts of China, gathered in front of the news office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, passing out leaflets and scrawling graffiti on the office gates. “Pelosi we warmly welcome you, Pelosi we love you,” they wrote in red paint on the gate of the compound in central Beijing. “Human rights matter, down with corruption.”
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China lawyers in touchy cases could be disbarred
By: Alexa Olesen, The Buffalo News, May 27, 2009
China’s judiciary is warning law firms to rein in lawyers who take up human rights and other politically sensitive cases, lawyers said Wednesday, increasing the pressure in a government campaign that has so far failed to curb growing legal activism. Lawyers said authorities had met or talked on the phone with senior members of at least nine law firms in recent weeks, urging them to not seek the renewal of licenses for certain lawyers or to submit partial applications that would allow authorities to reject them on technicalities.
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Tibet: Mine standoff said resolved
By: Radio Free Asia, May 27, 2009
Talks have resolved a standoff over a planned gold mine in Tibet at a site local Tibetans consider sacred, a local official said Wednesday, while some Tibetans said they were determined to keep protesting. An official at the Markham [in Chinese, Mangkang] County Business Bureau, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Chamdo prefecture, said a protest involving several hundred Tibetans has nearly concluded. “All county leaders are at the scene and the incident is almost over.
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Bangladesh, India: No to Tipaimukh dam
By: Global Voices, May 27, 2009
The Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project is being constructed near the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers, in Manipur, India and within 100km of Bangladesh border. While Hydroelectric projects are typically considered greener than other power generation options in short term, it has significant long-term impact to the environment. No wonder right from the start this project faced protests from potentially affected people in India, and from the downstream neighbor Bangladesh. The people of Manipur have been fighting legally to stop the project but have so far been unsuccessful…
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Burma: Web campaign launched for Suu Kyi’s release
By: Mizzima News, May 27, 2009
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has posted a message on a new website launched Wednesday calling for the release of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. is a website calling for the release of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and aiming to collect as many supporting messages as possible from around the world to send to her on her 64th birthday on June 19th. “I add my voice to the growing chorus of those demanding your release. For too long the world has failed to act in the face of this intolerable injustice.” Brown said in his message.
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Burma: Suu Kyi’s witnesses ‘rejected’
By: BBC News, May 27, 2009
Lawyers for the detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi say judges have rejected their request to call four defence witnesses. They say only one defence witness is being allowed in her trial on charges of breaking house arrest regulations. This, they say, means a verdict could be reached as soon as Thursday. The BBC’s Jonathan Head, reporting from neighbouring Thailand, says there has been little pretence at fairness by the Burmese authorities during the eight-day trial.
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Bring ‘people power’ to Pakistan
By: Rick Barton, CS Monitor, May 19, 2009
How should the United States respond to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan? In a proudly sovereign country of 165 million people, billions of US dollars and thousands of US troops will not produce the necessary change. Instead, America should put its new commitment to “smart power” into practice: Success will depend on galvanizing the burgeoning power of popular opinion to bring about reform. When the people and a purpose are publicly aligned, change is possible – even when faced with violent extremism, as with the Taliban syndicate in Pakistan.
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Kyrgyzstan: Same old plot for upcoming elections
By: Erica Marat, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, May 27, 2009
Preparations for the upcoming Presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan resemble any other in Central Asia. The incumbent President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has shown no sign of willingness to give up office, while the opposition is not able to create a viable challenge to the regime. To date, 17 candidates have registered to run for president, with most of them seeing the presidential bid as an advancement of their own positions in local, as opposed to national, constituencies.
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