Daily Report

Thailand: 'culture of torture' under military regime

Amnesty International on Sept. 28 released a report detailing the prevalence of torture employed by Thai authorities, and asserting that the military government has instated a "culture of torture." The report, "Make Him Speak by Tomorrow," named after an apparently common order given to soldiers, is the product of a two-year investigation and details 74 cases of torture or other forms of ill-treatment implemented by Thai authorities. Although Thailand is a party to the UN Convention against Torture, Amnesty charges that many elements of the legal system allow or incentivize the use of torture. Thailand is currently working on legislation that would criminalize torture, but AI's report also provides suggestions for how the government can resolve the major issues.

Swiss voters approve new surveillance law

Swiss voters on Sept. 25 approved a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence services broad powers to spy on "terrorist" suspects and cyber criminals, as well as to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. While the right to privacy is traditionally considered very important in Switzerland, the new law will allow security agents to tap phones and computer networks. This marks a drastic change from previous surveillance capabilities, under which intelligence agencies relied solely on information from public sources and other authorities. Some left-wing groups have protested, saying the new legislation violates citizens' rights and will undermine Switzerland's neutrality. Amnesty International said the law would lead to "disproportionate" levels of surveillance and was harmful to "freedom of expression." Despite opposition, the new law garnered 65% of the vote.

Bosnian Serbs defy ruling on independence day

Residents of the Bosnian Serb Republic voted in a referendum Sept. 25 to maintain Jan. 9 as a national holiday in defiance of a court ruling. The date remembers Jan. 9, 1992, when ethnic Serbs declared their own state within Bosnia and triggered a brutal conflict in which it is estimated 100,000 people lost their lives. The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina had banned the referendum, and had originally ruled that the date should be changed because it discriminated against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, who had set the date for the vote, said he was proud of the peaceful manner in which the referendum passed.

Colombia: FARC peace deal signed in Cartagena

Colombia's long civil war came to an official end Sept. 26 as President Juan Manuel Santos met with FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri AKA "Timochenko"  to sign a formal peace pact at Cartagena's convention center. The ceremony, with dignitaries and attendees all clad in white, was witnessed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and 15 Latin American heads of state. A place of honor was held by Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz, whose country has hosted the peace dialogue with the FARC over the past two years. On Oct. 2, the deal will go before Colombia's voters in a national plebiscite. but Timochenko has publicly stated that even if the accord is not ratified by voters, there will be no return to war. Santos is more equivocal, telling reporters in the prelude to the ceremony: "If 'No' wins, we will return to what we had at the start of this government six years ago. We return to armed conflict. That would be a catastrophe for the country." 

Peru: indigenous leaders cleared in Bagua massacre

Following a trial lasting seven years and four months, a court in Peru's Amazonas region on Sept. 22 absolved 52 indigenous leaders in charges related to the 2009 Bagua massacre. Initially, charges were brought against 53, but one defendant died over the course of the proceedings. The Penal Chamber of Bagua district found insufficient evidence that the accused indigenous protesters had handled firearms at the scene of the massace, in which at least 32 lost their lives. The defendants faced charges in the deaths of 12 police officers at the scene. The violence began when National Police troops attacked protesters blocking the road at Devil's Curve on June 5, 2009—yet no police officer or commander has served time for the massacre. The incident came amid indigenous protests over changes to Peru's land tenture system pushed through in preparation for the Free Trade Agreement with Washington and aimed at opening the rainforest to oil exploitation.

Prize-winning peasant ecologist attacked in Peru

Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, the campesina grandmother in Peru's Cajamarca region who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for defense of her lands from the Yanacocha mining company, survived an attack that took place on her property the morning of Sept. 18. "She has fainted!" are the last words heard in a video recorded by Yanacocha security personnel. The video indicates between 15 and 20 helmeted security guards entered Acuña's property, and began uprooting a 200-square-meter field planted with potatoes and yucca. When Acuña and her husband, Jaime Chaupe, began shouting and throwing rocks, they were set upon by security guards, sustaining blows to the body and head. Yanacocha claims the family is illegally occupying the field, and issued a statement saying the company was "peacefully exercizing its rights" in the incident.

Trump plays Jerusalem card for Jewish vote

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at New York's Trump Tower on Sept. 25, and pledged that if he is elected, the United States will "recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel." The quote is from a statement issued by the Trump campaign, as reporters were barred from the closed-door meeting. Bibi also met separately with Hillary Clinton that day, but it is the meeting with Trump—the one closed to the media—that is getting the media attention, due to his exploitation of the Jerusalem question. (Reuters, AP, Sept. 25)

Obama vetoes bill approving 9-11 lawsuits

US President Barack Obama on Sept. 23 vetoed a bill that would have allowed 9-11 victims and their families to sue Saudi Arabia, citing concerns that it would open US diplomats and servicemen to suit abroad. Congress overwhelmingly approved the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) earlier this year, with support from both parties for the bill that would allow federal suits against foreign nations determined to have had a hand in terror acts. In rejecting the law, Obama stated:

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