Rights & Wrongs: China, Egypt, Rwanda and More

Rights & Wrongs: China, Egypt, Rwanda and More

MORE PRESSURE ON CHINA — Members of the European Parliament, human rights activists and dissidents appeared before a hearing of the European Parliament”s Human Rights Subcommittee Nov. 26 to testify about efforts to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to hold China to a higher human rights standard.

Speakers chronicled a wide array of human rights abuses in China and argued the IOC should honor its own precedent — set when it banned South Africa from Olympic events in 1964 because of apartheid — and publicly censure Beijing.

From press freedom and privacy rights to Darfur and Tibet, various rights groups are increasingly using the games to spotlight the Chinese government”s abysmal human rights record.

The Dalai Lama has long been critical of China”s control over Tibet, but he is also capitalizing on the growing attention brought by the Olympics. On Nov. 27, he announced a proposalHYPERLINK “http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2955350.ece” to hold a referendum before his death on the system for identifying Tibetan leaders — an effort to avoid Beijing”s appointment of his successor.

The proposal, announced after a recent Chinese dictate that Beijing approve all future Tibetan leaders, would see Tibetans vote on whether to amend the centuries-old practice of having monks identify the reincarnated Dalai Lama in favor of either ending the lineage with his death or allowing the Dalai Lama to choose a successor before his death.

MORE EGYPTIAN POLICE FACE PUNISHMENT FOR TORTURE — A court in the northern Egyptian town of Mansoura convicted four policemen, including a captain, for beating a man to death during interrogation. The four received sentences of three to seven years for banging the head of a local carpenter against the wall while seeking to learn the location of his brother — a suspect in a drug-related case.

The decision came just weeks after the conviction of two police officers on charges of sodomizing and beating a Cairo bus driver in 2006 before releasing him without charge. Video of the session, which the two recorded with their cellular phones, ended up in the hands of Egyptian bloggers, who posted it online, unleashing a storm of international criticism.

Egyptians and human rights activists have long complained of abuses by Egyptian security personnel and a culture of absolute impunity surrounding such treatment. Observers applauded the decision but cautioned against viewing the recent case as part of a wider shift on the part of the government.

“This is the judiciary, it”s not the government; if the government wants to get tougher on this it should start by amending the legislation to conform to international law,” Gasser Abdel Razzak, Human Rights Watch Middle East representative, told the Associated PressHYPERLINK “http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/28/africa/ME-GEN-Egypt-Police-Torture.php”.

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER ABUSED IN JAIL — The first Egyptian blogger to be jailed for writings posted on the Internet is being abuses by prison officials, two rights groups report.

Abdel Kareem Suleiman was convicted and sentenced to a four-year prison term in February for eight articles he wrote and published online, beginning in 2004. Reporters Without Borders and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information say Suleiman has been handcuffed and beaten, been in and out of isolation, and denied proper food and water during his detention at the Borg el-Arab prison near Alexandria.

Egyptian bloggers have become a force to be reckoned with in calling attention to issues, such as police brutality and political repression, that the government would rather see go unreported.

Reporters Without Borders called the conviction a “disgrace”HYPERLINK “http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=21075” in February, saying the “sentence is a message of intimidation to the rest of the Egyptian blogosphere, which had emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the regime”s authoritarian excesses.” (For more on the Arabic blogosphere, see “Blogging the New Arab Public: Arab Blogs” Political Influence Will GrowHYPERLINK “http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/article.aspx?id=694”.”)

Next Page: Russian elections and Rwandan war crimes . . .

DESPITE ABUSES, PUTIN SAYS RUSSIAN ELECTIONS WILL BE FAIR — Despite violent public crackdowns on political demonstrations and widespread allegations of pressure on the electorate, Russian President Vladimir Putin insistselections scheduled for Dec. 2 will be free and fair.

“We know the value of authentic democracy and are interested in conducting honest, maximally transparent and open elections,” Putin reportedly told ambassadorsHYPERLINK “http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gPKmb_U3vgO0EV1iFRDCgCUuZrWQD8T6TJL80” at a Kremlin reception. “I am certain that this is precisely what these elections will be.”

In the last few months, Putin”s government has detained political opponents, applied pressure on Russian media and refused to allow international observers into Russia to monitor the elections. Critics have charged the Russian president is setting the stage for continuing to wield significant power even after he steps down as president in 2008.

“From the unprovoked arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Garry Kasparov, to the beating of journalists and human rights defenders and the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, the Russian authorities have created a climate in which it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to express dissenting views and to report these,” Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Program Director Nicola Duckworth said in a recent statementHYPERLINK “http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGEUR460562007”.

RWANDA GENOCIDE COURT REVIEWS SENTENCES — The United Nations-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda confirmed one sentence and reduced three others last week after reviewing a number of its previous convictions.

On Nov. 26, the court dismissed former Rwandan army colonel Aloys Simba”s appealHYPERLINK “http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L2726714.htm” of his conviction on charges of genocide and upheld his 25-year sentence for providing guns and grenades to murderous Hutu militias.

The next day, the court reduced the sentences of three journalistsHYPERLINK “http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L28262217.htm” convicted of playing a role in the 1994 genocide that saw the death of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month period.

Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze saw their life sentences commuted to 30- and 35-year sentences, respectively. A third journalist, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, saw his 35-year sentence reduced by three years. Nahimana and Barayagwiza were founding members of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), a radio station that became known as “hate radio” for its role in inciting the slaughter of Tutsis. Ngeze owned a radical pro-Hutu newspaper.

Rwanda”s media was instrumental in stirring up hatred amongst the Hutu population, with RTLM broadcasters repeatedly calling for a war to “exterminate the cockroaches.” During the three months that saw the worst bloodletting in African history, media outlets listed the names and locations of those who should be killed.