Latest Developments, July 31

In the latest news and analysis…

Upside-down justice
Amnesty International, though pleased to see Wikileaker Bradley Manning acquitted of the “aiding the enemy” charge, accuses the US government of punishing those who reveal wrongdoing while protecting those who order or commit the crimes:

“ ‘Since the attacks of September 11, we have seen the US government use the issue of national security to defend a whole range of actions that are unlawful under international and domestic law,’ said [Amnesty International’s Widney] Brown.
‘It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning’s trial was about sending a message: the US government will come after you, no holds barred, if you’re thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behaviour.’ ”

UN ultimatum
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo has issued a statement threatening to disarm by force all non-military armed actors in and around the eastern city of Goma:

“In light of the high risk to the civilian population in the Goma-Sake area, MONUSCO will support the [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo] in establishing a security zone in Goma and its northern suburbs. Any individuals in this area who are not members of the national security forces will be given 48 hours as of 4pm (Goma time) on Tuesday 30 July to hand in their weapon to a MONUSCO base and join the [Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration, and Resettlement] process. After 4pm on Thursday 1 August, they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement.”

Pattern of violence
London-based law firm Leigh Day has announced the launch of a suit against a subsidiary of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold over alleged complicity in “the deaths and injuries of local villagers” in Tanzania:

“The claims relate to incidents occurring over the last three years, including one in which five young men were shot and killed on 16 May 2011. The claimants allege that the mine and [North Mara Gold Mine Limited] are controlled by [African Barrick Gold] and that ABG failed to curb the use of excessive force at the mine, including deadly force used by police on a regular basis over a protracted period of time.
‘Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. We are aware of many other instances in which local people have reportedly been seriously injured or killed at ABG’s mine,’ said Leigh Day partner, Richard Meeran.

Two years ago, Barrick announced that ABG had launched a full investigation into what it called ‘credible’ allegations of sexual assault at the North Mara mine in Tanzania. The results of the investigation have never been released.”

Defining atrocities
The Globe and Mail reports on a movement to get the Canadian government to recognize that the country’s history of abuses against First Nations people constitutes genocide:

“As early as this fall, they could ask the United Nations to apply its definition of genocide to Canada’s historical record. This push comes five years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the treatment of children at aboriginal residential schools.

The UN defines genocide as the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through any of a number of means including killing its members, causing them serious mental or physical harm, subjecting them to unsustainable living conditions, preventing births of their children, and forcibly transferring their children to another group.
In 2000, four years after the last residential school closed, the government of Canada adopted a definition of genocide that excluded the line about the forcible transfer of children. Courts have rejected native claims of genocide against Ottawa and the churches because Canada had no law banning genocide while the schools were operating.”

Last minute deals
L’Indicateur du Renouveau reports that an Irish and a Czech company obtained oil licenses from Mali’s interim government mere days before Sunday’s presidential election:

“Circle Oil Ltd, a company that already operates in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, is now authorized to ‘carry out exploration activities in blocks 21 and 28 of the Taoudenni Basin and to exploit any commercially viable deposits found therein,’ according to the government. In return, the company has pledged to invest at least $6.5 million in block 21 and $3.9 million in block 28.
As for the Czech Republic’s New Catalyst Capital Investments, a newcomer to the oil industry, it obtained carte blanche for exploration, production, transport and even refining of oil and gas in block 4 of the Taoudenni Basin. In return, it pledged to invest a minimum of $69 million.” [Translated from the French.]

Lies of omission
Politico reports that US Senator Ron Wyden has alleged that American spy agencies’ violations of court orders are “more serious” than the government is admitting:

“ ‘We had a big development last Friday when Gen. [James] Clapper, the head of the intelligence agencies, admitted that the community had violated these court orders on phone record collection, and I’ll tell your viewers that those violations are significantly more troubling than the government has stated,’ Wyden said.

Wyden has been an outspoken critic of the surveillance programs but has been restricted with what he can release about them because of his position on the Intelligence Committee. He said since the government made the compliance issues public, however, he could warn about them.”

Resumption of hostilities
The Long War Journal reports that US drone strikes have started up again in Yemen:

“Today’s strike is the second in Yemen in four days. The previous strike, on July 27, which is said to have killed six AQAP fighters in the Al Mahfad area in Abyan province, broke a seven-week pause in drone activity in Yemen.”

Dodgy deal
The Guardian reports on a mining agreement that has outraged the people of Guinea and prompted the FBI to investigate the Guernsey-registered company that hit the “jackpot”:

“The deal was notable not only because BSGR’s expertise was in mining diamonds, rather than extracting and exporting iron ore, but because the glittering prize of Simandou had cost the company so little: rather than paying the government of Guinea for the concession, it had invested $165m in an exploration programme in the area.

Even within the buccaneering world of African mining, the deal was regarded as stupendous. For an investment of just $165m, [Beny] Steinmetz’s BSGR had secured an asset worth around $5bn.”

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