Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Colonial crimes
The Guardian reports that thousands of documents were “systematically destroyed” and others remained hidden until now in order to conceal crimes committed in the last years of the British empire.
“The papers at Hanslope Park include monthly intelligence reports on the ‘elimination’ of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of aman said to have been ‘roasted alive’; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
However, among the documents are a handful which show that many of the most sensitive papers from Britain’s late colonial era were not hidden away, but simply destroyed. These papers give the instructions for systematic destruction issued in 1961 after Iain Macleod, secretary of state for the colonies, directed that post-independence governments should not get any material that ‘might embarrass Her Majesty’s government’, that could ‘embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers’, that might compromise intelligence sources, or that might ‘be used unethically by ministers in the successor government’.”

Torture ruling
The Courthouse News Service reports that the US Supreme Court has ruled that the Torture Victim Protection Act does not apply to alleged abuses committed by organizations.
“Before courts can extend personhood to corporations, Congress must give some indication of that intention.
‘There are no such indications in the TVPA,’ [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor wrote. ‘As noted, the Act does not define ‘individual,’ much less do so in a manner that extends the term beyond its ordinary usage. And the statutory context strengthens – not undermines – the conclusion that Congress intended to create a cause of action against natural persons alone.’ ”

US transparency
Bloomberg reports the US government has announced new rules that will require banks to declare interest paid to “nonresident aliens,” despite strong opposition from Republican lawmakers.
“The regulations, adopted yesterday, are part of the government’s efforts to work with other countries on tax evasion. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service say the U.S. should ask its banks to report information just as it is requiring overseas banks to provide information on U.S. account holders.”

Françafriqe
Radio France International reports that Senegal’s newly elected President Macky Sall has agreed to allow the continued permanent presence of French troops on his territory, albeit in reduced numbers.
“The two men signed the defence deal, which will published “in all transparency”, according to Sarkozy, as have all such agreements with France’s former African colonies since 2008.
Its most important feature – the reduction of the permanent French troop presence in Senegal from 1,200 to 300 – was already agreed in 2010 with Sall’s predecessor, Abdulaye Wade.”

Joining the club
Agence France-Presse reports that South Sudan has become the 188th member of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“The World Bank, an anti-poverty development lender, also hailed South Sudan’s membership, calling the impoverished country a “test case” on its principles of citizen-led state building with the support of international development partners.
‘I am very pleased to welcome South Sudan, the world’s newest country as our newest member of the World Bank Group, to help it manage and resolve its many formidable development challenges while it also builds a broad national coalition to secure lasting peace and prosperity,’ said Obiageli Ezekwesili, the bank’s vice president for Africa.”

Formula One’s 29%
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre reports that less than a third of “firms linked to Formula One” responded when asked to respond to human rights concerns raised about the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Forty two companies or teams failed to respond.

‘Seldom have we seen a response rate this low from a group of companies anywhere in the world’, said Christopher Avery, Director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. ‘And of the responses that were received, seldom if ever have we seen such a high proportion that completely fail to comment on the human rights concerns that they were asked to address.’

The usual response rate to the Resource Centre is 75% globally.”

ATT concerns
Oxfam’s Scott Stedjan expresses mixed emotions over the US position on the Arms Trade Treaty ahead of July’s UN negotiations.
“On the positive side, Assistant Secretary [Thomas] Countryman stated that the US is open to suggestions from other countries on ways to include ammunition within the treaty’s scope. This is a major shift in the right direction; prior to this speech, the US position was that ammunition must not be included in the treaty in any circumstance.

The US seems to hold the position that as long as a government ‘considers’ the impact of the arms transfer and ‘keeps it in mind,’ the treaty should allow states to transfer weapons to war criminals or human rights abusers. Such an Arms Trade Treaty would significantly lower the current international standards on respecting human rights and the laws of war, and it runs contrary to the US position on human rights and international humanitarian law at the United Nations.”

Different take on the cake
Blogger Nuclear Grrl takes issue with the accusations of racism leveled at a controversial piece of Swedish performance art that involved audience members in symbolic “female genital mutilation” by cutting a cake shaped like a caricatured African woman.
“Blackface has historically been used to dehumanize Black people. [Makode] Linde’s purposeful use of blackface in his ‘Painful Cake’ is meant to call out society for this dehumanization and show that Black women are real human beings. Blackface represents Swedish society’s view of Black women as simplistic caricatures of Black humanity rather than the real pillars of the family that they are. His performance proves his point with exemplary efficiency – no one seemed horrified by what they were seeing, at least not during the portion of the performance released on tape.”

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