Mullah Jailed 20 Years for Raping Child

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A twenty-year sentence has been handed down to a mullah in an Afghan court. The man was found guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl known as Brishna. The girl has faced death threats from her community in the wake of her bringing suit against the man.

A Kabul judge handed down the sentence Saturday, hailed as a rare victory for women’s rights by support groups.

Hassina Sarwari, who runs a women’s shelter in Brishna’s province, said that the decision would most likely have been different except that the trial had been transferred from the girl’s village to Kabul.

Rape is often viewed as adultery in Afghanistan, where rape victims have been jailed themselves.

Brishna was violently raped last May in the village of Kunduz, Kunduz province.

While recovering in hospital, community members threatened her and her family, speaking of killing Brishna and dumping her in the river.

The threats of “honor killing” continued when Brishna was removed from the shelter by police and returned to her family.

Sarwani was also threatened by members of the girl’s family and powerful community members. She faces threats of “honor killing” for protecting Brishna.

By Sid Douglas
Photo: isafmedia

World Bank-Backed Corps and Small-Scale Fishers Fight Over Fishing Rights

World Bank-Backed Corps and Small-Scale Fishers Fight Over Fishing Rights (2)
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Enclosures of water are being dispossessed from small-scale markets in a rising trend of so-called “ocean grabbing,” according to a recent report by Transnational Institute (TNI) and Afrika Kontakt. Claiming that seas and shores must be taken from common fisher people in order to preserve sustainability, the World Bank is backing corporate interests and a rise in large-scale aqua-industry market-based fishing policies.

“Ocean grabbing is occurring in varied ways,” stated TNI in their report. “One common denominator is the exclusion of small-scale fishers from access to fisheries and other natural resources and access to markets through the adoption or reinterpretation of laws, regulations or policies affecting fisheries governance.”

“Throughout the world, legal frameworks are emerging that undermine the position of small-scale fisheries producers and systems, while strengthening or reinforcing the position of corporate actors and other powerful players. Such ‘perfectly legal’ reallocation processes may or may not involve coercion and violence, but are far from being considered as socially legitimate. They typically involve three types of mechanisms.”

World Bank-Backed Corps and Small-Scale Fishers Fight Over Fishing Rights (2)Some key examples offered by the report were used to illustrate the variety of ways in which common access to fishing was being blocked. Luxury beach-resorts occupying long swathes of coastal land, destruction of mangrove areas for purposes of promoting export-oriented shrimp farms, and the rise of Rights Based Fishery (RBF) policies were some of the “technically legal” ways listed by which fisher people were dispossessed or their waters were destroyed in Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Europe, Canada and elsewhere.

The World Bank enabled “ocean grabbing” through legal frameworks such as its Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO), the report found. GPO enabled the spread of private property rights over the ocean’s fish resources, and was justified by the lack of economic and environmental “sustainability” in the world’s fisheries.

Growing populations around the world are placing stress on fish resources, according to the justification for GPO. For example, in South Africa, access to fish was curtailed for over 60,000 fisher people when a similar privatization program was passed.

The numbers of fisher people wanting access to water resources worldwide is in the billions.

“FAO estimates that 58 million people are engaged in the actual fishing and harvesting in wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture, and that more than 800 million people worldwide depend on fisheries in various ways,” stated TNI. “In addition to these figures, a large number of rural peasants and other people working in rural areas also depend on fishing as a supplement to their main livelihoods.”

By Sid Douglas

Cambodian Land Grabbing Is “Crime Against Humanity” – British Lawyer Files with International Court

Evicted: Borei Keila and Cambodian Land Grabbing.
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Cambodian land-grabbing constitutes a “crime against humanity,” British lawyer Richard Rogers has told the International Criminal Court (ICC). The lawyer is officially representing 10 Cambodian victims of the alleged abuse in the suit.

“I am confident,” said Rogers, who is a member of the Global Diligence LLP as well as the Cambodian Nation Rescue Party’s (CNRP) international counsel. “The law is very clear.”

Rogers has filed for the International Criminal Court to investigate a wave of violent land-grabbing in Cambodia which has displaced approximately 770,000 people. The land grab has been carried out by Cambodia’s ruling elite, Rogers alleges, and constitutes a crime against humanity.

The land grab has been “widespread and systematic” over the past 14 years, Rogers has stated. The elite classes have perpetuated mass rights violations in pursuit of wealth and power, “include murder, forcible transfer of populations, illegal imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts,” according to Rogers, who says that the acts amount to international crimes.

The elite has accomplished the land grab by exploiting land tenure insecurity in post-war Cambodia (particularly when the Khmer Rouge abolished land titles) and exploiting a corruptible judiciary and state security forces.

“The question for the ICC is, at what point do these types of human rights violations become so grave that (when taken together) they amount to an international crime and meet the gravity threshold? Do we wait until 5 percent of the population has been affected, or 10 percent?” Rogers said.

“The communication contends that senior members of the Cambodian government, its security forces, and government-connected business leaders carried out an attack on the civilian population with the twin objectives of self-enrichment and preservation of power at all costs.”

Individual perpetrators are not specifically indicated in the complaint, but it does recommend that court prosecutors investigate the role played by specific police and military units involved in evictions. “Deportation or forcible transfer of populations” falls under the ICC’s definition of crimes against humanity, Rogers has pointed out.

Approximately 770,000 people–6% of the Cambodian population –have felt the effects of land grabbing since the year 2000, according to Rogers’s evidence.

More than 145,000 people have been forcibly relocated from Phnom Penh.

Dissent and criticism have also been silenced through human rights abuses, Rogers contends. Lawyers, activists, journalists, unionists and opposition members have been silenced through threats and violence in order to protect the interests of the ruling elite.

“I am confident that the ICC will initiate a preliminary examination. The law on this is very clear. The definition of crimes against humanity does not require an armed conflict.” Rogers said.

The actions of land grabbers in Cambodia represent “widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” and are “pursuant to state policy”, according to Rogers’s complaint.

Cambodian officials are attempting to discredit Rogers’s claims.

Government spokesman Phay Siphann called the complaint “a joke”–the complaint was not only exaggerated, but politically motivated as well, Siphon stated.

“It’s polarised by politics. We might know who sponsors or who pays money for him and who belongs to whom. I understand [opposition deputy leader] Kem Sokha’s daughter is also involved in the complaint… It was [started] during the [post-election] campaign and related to the political deadlock.”

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann countered Siphan’s criticisms, stated that although Rogers was CNRP counsel, the complaint was not politically motivated.

“Because Cambodian courts have proved unwilling and unable to deal fairly with human rights violations raised in the ICC complaint,” said Sovann, “we support the request for an investigation by the ICC prosecutor.”

By Sid Douglas

Photo: Luc Forsyth

Deforestation Now Driven by “Globalization and Commercialization” – Report

Deforestation Now Driven by Globalization and Commercialization - Report
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The nature of deforestation has changed dramatically in recent years, according to a new study by Chalmers University Scientists. Deforestation today is driven by globalization and commercialization to a large and increasing degree–international trade is contributing to deforestation through a demand for beef, soy, palm oil and timber.

“From having been caused mainly by smallholders and production for local markets, an increasing share of deforestation today is driven by large-scale agricultural production for international markets,” said Martin Persson, lead researcher on the study.

Persson’s team looked at seven major deforestation case countries–Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea–and found that one-third to one-half of deforestation could be attributed to overseas trade.

Deforestation Now Driven by Globalization and Commercialization, Deforestation, Globalization, Commercialization, rain forests
Martin Persson

“More than a third of global deforestation can be tied to rising production of beef, soy, palm oil and wood products,” said Persson. “If we exclude Brazilian beef production, which is mainly destined for domestic markets, more than half of deforestation in our case countries is driven by international demand.”

“The trend is clear, the drivers of deforestation have been globalized and commercialized.”

The study was commissioned by the Center for Global Development (CGD) and was completed by Martin Persson of Chalmers University of Technology and colleagues in Linkoping, Sweden, and Vienna, Austria.

In addition to their findings about market trends, the research team found that 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions could be linked to production of the commodities analyzed in the study–and one-third of that amount was due to commodity exports.

The research also found trends in the response of companies to the negative publicity associated with deforestation.

“Another key trend is that more and more corporations have pledged to rid their supply chains from deforestation,” said Persson. “Pushed by environmental organizations and seeing the risks of being associated with environmental destruction, companies like Unilever and McDonalds are pressuring their suppliers to stop expanding production on forest land.”

The countries on the receiving end of the commodities produced through deforestation were China and EU nations. It was not enough, Persson said, to blame the nations in which deforestation occurs.

“Today both public and private consumers, be it individuals or corporations, have the possibility to contribute to the protection of tropical forests by holding suppliers accountable for the environmental impacts of their production,” Persson concluded.

By Sid Douglas

Photo: gillyan9

1,000 Malaria Cases This Week in Yei, South Sudan

1,000 Malaria Cases This Week in Yei, South Sudan
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Over 1,000 cases of Malaria have been diagnosed in Yei River County, Central Equatoria State, South Sudan this week.

“In total those who are registered on OPD we have is one thousand eighty three cases of malaria, and among these cases we have four hundred and fifty four under five, with three dead which means these cases are increasing weekly,” said County Disease Surveillance Officer Michael Lugala.

Three children among the new cases have died.

1,000 Malaria Cases This Week in Yei, South SudanReasons for the increase in cases were attributed by Lugula to limited access to mosquito nets and dirty conditions in an interview with South Sudan’s Eye Radio.

1,000 Malaria Cases This Week in Yei, South SudanMosquito nets should be made available to residents by health partners and the State Ministry of Health, and living environments should be kept cleaner, Lugula advised.

Mosquito nets, which cost a couple of dollars and last a few years, are the most effective means of preventing malaria is sleeping under a mosquito net, specifically long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLIN).

It is estimated that for every 50-250 nets that are put over the beds of people in malaria-prone areas, one child is saved from death.

The malaria organization Against Malaria has stated that “Mosquito’s typically bite between 10 o’clock at night and two in the morning – and that’s one of the most important things we have on our side: if we can protect people in affected areas when they sleep at night we have a very good chance of preventing them contracting malaria.”

Each net costs about $3, lasts for 3-4 years, and protects, on average, two people.

The statistics are well known given the scale of the problem. Every 50-250 nets we put over heads and beds, one child doesn’t die.

By Sid Douglas

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)
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Wary that Hong Kong police might move into protest areas and destroy the array of art created inside the grounds of the democracy movement, a Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)band of “art guardians” has been standing by in case they are needed.

The protests have extended over a month, calling for greater democracy within Hong Kong. The Chinese government continues to deny the calls.

Within the kilometer-long stretch of highway opposite the government headquarters that is the site of the ongoing protest, many pieces of protest art have been created–including the famous “Umbrella Man,” a 12-foot tall wooden sculpture. The umbrella is symbolic of the defense of the people against police batons as well as rain and tropical heat.

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)

New works are constantly being made. Demonstrators sketch chalk art on roads and fold origami umbrellas. Almost all of the walls and pillars is now decorated with art.

The art guardians are ready to protect this art, should police be called in, according to the members.

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)

“Their job is to call me,” Meaghan McGurgan, who runs a theatre blog and founded the Umbrella Movement Art Preservation group. “I can then mobilise the rescue teams standing by.”

This is a people’s art, according to McGurgan. “Everyone can see it, everyone can go, everyone can participate.”

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)

There is currently nowhere for the art to go, however.

“We phoned the museums,” McGurgan said. “They either didn’t get back to us, or said they wouldn’t take the art as it was political. I thought that was really sad.”

A dozen art galleries have offered to take the works temporarily.

Even the “Lennon Wall”–a wall covered in thousands of sticky notes posted by both supporters and detractors of the movement–will be reassembled, according to McGurdan.

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)

“We’ve taken large-scale photographs from far away and gridded them off into sections. If necessary we can put it all together again like a puzzle later on.”

As a last resort, the art guardians will allow the art to be destroyed, McGurdan said. If the police move in and the guardians can’t safely get the art out, they will do their best to document “the destruction of something beautiful”.

By Sid Douglas

Hong Kong Protest Art Still Stands, Protected by Art Guardians (5)

Chinese President Xi Jinping Takes Direct Control of Key Law Enforcement Agency

Chinese President Xi Jinping Takes Direct Control of Key Law Enforcement Agency (2)
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Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken direct control of a key law enforcement agency, according to Communist Party state-run media outlets.

In order to focus concern on the reform of China’s legal system, Xi took direct charge over China’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC). Xi’s taking charge was an “upgrade” of the government’s control of the agency, according to media outlets–members of the Politburo Standing Committee had been in charge of PLAC in times past.

Xi criticized government corruption harshly at a Central PLAC meeting early this year, and vowed to eliminate corruption and corrupt officials with “the strongest will and the strongest action.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping Takes Direct Control of Key Law Enforcement Agency (2)Xi’s government put former PLAC leader Zhou Yongkang–a top ally of former Chineseleader Jiang Zemin–under formal investigation in July. Under Zhou, PLAC had become a highly powerful organization in charge of all law enforcement authorities, including the Ministry of Public Security, the Armed Police, the courts, the Procuratorate, and prison and labor camps.

Religious practitioners such as Falun Gong members were persecuted under PLAC’s authority, after being banned in 1999. Practitioners were detained, tortured and brainwashed under Zhou.

Petitioners and rights defenders were also suppressed under PLAC and Zhou.

By Sid Douglas

One Glacial Mountain Range in Pakistan is Unaffected by Climate Change

One Glacial Mountain Range in Pakistan is Unaffected by Climate Change
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Although mountain glaciers around the world are melting at increasing rates in our warming climates, at least one range is unaffected. Pakistan’s Karakoram range, the highest point in Pakistan and the source of much of the water of the Indus River, is not melting–and scientists expect that it will not melt, but may put on snowmass in coming years.

Scientists are not sure why Karakoram range is not melting. An early theory was that the range was covered in rubble that may have had an insulating effect.

But now, researchers at Princeton University think they may have a better answer: seasonal weather patterns.

In their recent report, “Snowfall less sensitive to warming in Karakoram than in Himalayas due to a unique seasonal cycle,” the scientists credit Karakoram’s snowmass retention to temperatures that never rise enough to melt mountain glaciers–all year round.

One Glacial Mountain Range in Pakistan is Unaffected by Climate ChangeAlthough most of the Himalaya’s experience heavy summer rains stemming from the South Asian monsoon, which far outweigh winter snows, this is not the case in Karakoram, where cold winter winds from Central Asia bear most of the precipitation. The South Asian monsoon seldom reaches Karakoram–it is uniquely blocked by the Great Himalayan Range to the south.

Investigating Karakoram for data has been a challenge. The topography of the area is extreme. K2 and three other pinnacles exceed 8,000 meters. In the past, researchers relied on average altitudes for the region, but the Princeton study used high-resolution maps and monthly precipitation data to create climate model simulations from 1861 to 2100.

One Glacial Mountain Range in Pakistan is Unaffected by Climate ChangeWhile Karakoram does experience some warming in summer, the higher slopes were too cold in summer for glaciers to melt, the researchers found.

Not only are the glaciers and snowmass above 4,500 meters not melting, the scientists expect them to remain until at least 2100, which is good news for Pakistan.

The range provides water to most of Pakistan through the Indus River. Although snow and ice at lower altitudes will melt, these declines will be offset by the higher cold. The cold upper regions provide water at a controlled rate, rather than the boom-bust cycle of flood and dry associated with sudden melts.

The rest of the Himalayas are bound to melt too, the researchers believe. They expect sharp glacial declines in coming years.

“Something that climate scientists always have to keep in mind is that models are useful for certain types of questions and not necessarily for other types of questions,” said Sarah Kapnick, a postdoctoral research fellow in Princeton’s Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and lead researcher on the work. “While the IPCC models can be particularly useful for other parts of the world, you need a higher resolution for this area.”

By Sid Douglas

Xinjiang Uighurs Will Not Join Islamic Caliphate Despite Al Qaeda and IS Recruiters – Exile Leaders

Xinjiang Uighurs Will Not Join Islamic Caliphate Despite Al Qaeda and IS Recruiters - Exile Leaders
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Despite Attempts by recruiters from organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), Xinjiang Uighurs will not join the jihadist movements of Islamic caliphates, according to exile Uighur activists. Uighurs do not share the same ideology, according to the activists, despite caliphate claims that the region should be “recovered [into] the shade of the Islamic Caliphate.”

These claims will have “little impact,” said Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association and director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project in a recent interview.

“These claims are mostly likely attempts by these groups to lure and recruit disillusioned young Uighurs to their cause. That is not going to happen because Uighurs do not share their ideology.”

“The Uighur people will simply ignore such claims,” said Seytoff.

The Chinese government, which administers the far-western province of Xinjiang, has taken advantage of recent Islamist terrorist movements, according to Seytoff.

“China has been opportunistically taking advantage of the rise of ISIS and attempting to artificially create links between ISIS and the Uighurs in the world in order to mute international criticism of its systematic and egregious human rights violations of the Uighur people in East Turkistan,” he said.

“This has not prevented the Chinese government from demonizing the Uighurs as supporters and sympathizers of these groups in order to justify its heavy-handed repression of the Uighur people since 9/11.”

By Sid Douglas

China Executed Three Times More People Last Year Than Rest of the World Combined – Report

China Executed Three times More People Last Year Than Rest of the World Combined - Report
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China executed more people than the rest of the world combined, according to a nonprofit US-based rights group. China executed 2,400 people in 2013, three times the number executed by the 195 other countries, which executed a total of 778 people.

“China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the (Supreme People’s Court) in 2007,” said the nonprofit human rights foundation, Dui Hua, which seeks clemency and better treatment for at-risk detainees.

Courts in China used final review to send 39 percent of death sentences back to lower courts for additional evidence in 2013, and 10 percent of the verdicts were overturned.

Executions are treated as state secrets in China. Amnesty International, which collects information on death sentences around the world, was forced to abandon publishing statistics on death penalties in China in 2009 because of the difficulty in obtaining information from Chinese authorities.

According to Amnesty, death sentences worldwide increased in 2013–14 percent. The total death sentences in 2013 were 778. Eighty percent of those 778 were recorded in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran executed 369 people and Iraq executed 169.

Most of the 23,392 people (excluding Chinese executions since 2009) recorded by Amnesty have been executed for offenses related to drugs.

China also uses the death penalty as punishment for drug trafficking, as well as corruption offenses.

Dui Hua estimated that the 2,400 figure was down 20 percent from the previous year, and that China would likely execute the same number of people in 2014.

The report was published in the Guangzhou-based newspaper Southern Weekly. Information for the report was based on a judicial official who had access to the annual number of executions, reportedly.

By Sid Douglas


Peru’s Glaciers Have Decreased Over 40 Percent Since 1970

Peru's Glaciers Have Decreased Over 40 Percent Since 1970
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Since 1970, the glaciers of Peru have decreased by over 40 percent, according to the National Water Authority of Peru (ANA), causing concern regarding the hydroelectric plants, agricultural basins and cities that lie below–particularly in the dry coastal region where most Peruvians live.

Peru used satellite images to inventory their glaciers ahead of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 20), which Peru will host in December.

ANA found that 40 percent of Peru’s glaciers had melted since 19070, and some glaciers had lost more than half of their surface to melting during that time. The worst affected, the 5,200 meter (17,000 foot) Pastoruri Glacier, situated in the Andes Mountains, lost 52 percent of its surface in the last four decades.

The melts have created nearly 1,000 new lagoons, according to the ANA.

Peru's Glaciers Have Decreased Over 40 Percent Since 1970Peru's Glaciers Have Decreased Over 40 Percent Since 1970Peru has 2,670 glaciers in 20 mountain ranges that cover approximately 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles).

The glaciers feed hydroelectric plants and irrigate agricultural basins and cities below,

Peru is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations. Below the snowy Andes Mountains lie Amazon rainforests. The coastal region, where most of Peru’s population lives, is dry, and environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact of the melting glaciers on these populated areas.

Peru is the third most sensitive country when it comes to the impacts of climate change, according to Britain’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Changes in Peru’s glaciers could have a significant impact on precipitation and water availability.

Lima has a population of almost 10 million. It is the world’s second largest desert city after Cairo, Egypt. Lima relies mostly on non-glacial water supplies–specifically, 20 regulated lakes in the Andes, runoff from Yuramayo Lake, and the Rimac and Chillon rivers. However, Lima’s water supply is currently strained due to its growing population, and only 80 percent of Limans have access to running water.

The ANA warned that the Peruvian government needed to adopt preventative measures to protect water resources in the face of natural disasters.

By Sid Douglas

First Sitting President Arrives for Hearing at International Criminal Court, Allies Warn Trial Risks Destabilizing Already Threatened Nation

First Sitting President Arrives for Hearing at International Criminal Court, Allies Warn Trial Risks Destabilizing Already Threatened Nation
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Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, arrived at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague Wednesday for a hearing over his indictment on charges of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta is the first sitting leader to appear at the ICC, and his trial court proceedings are taking place as Kenya is under threat from active militant groups in the region.

Kenyatta is accused of orchestrating a wave of violence in Kenya in 2007. The violence followed a set of contested elections. Kenyatta has denied the charges.

Kenyatta and his allies have warned that the trial poses a risk of destabilization for Kenya, where an active threat exists. Al-Qaeda-linked militant Islamists in Somalia are conducting ongoing attacks in the region.

“This is no time to weaken a country and a region by removing its President for trial,” said Mahboub Maalim, head of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional organization, who attended the hearing.

The ICC has secured only two convictions in its 11 years of service. Both convictions were of Congolese warlords for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

All of the ICC’s cases to date have been in Africa. Many Africans leaders continue to ignore the court, and the African Union has decided not to cooperate with the ICC.

The ICC has 34 judges, over 700 staff, and a budget of $166 million annually. To date, the court has cost $2 billion.

By Sid Douglas