NOBEL LAUREATES CALL FOR ACTION ON BURMA — Eight other Nobel laureates joined with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu earlier this month to call for an international arms embargo, supported by the United Nations Security Council, against Burma’s military junta. Despite international anger and pressure to reform in the wake of the regime’s October 2007 violent crackdown on demonstrations led by Burma’s monks, the ruling junta has largely continued with business as usual – denying basic human rights to Burmese citizens. Several countries, including China, Russia and India, continue to sell military equipment and arms to the regime. “Despite decades […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Three days after Burma’s repressive military regime announced a timetable for its self-styled roadmap to democracy Feb. 9, the generals were back to their old, undemocratic ways. They ordered that the deputy leader of the much-restricted opposition National League for Democracy be held under house arrest for another year. Tin Oo has been detained for almost five years, but aged 81 he hardly seems like a threat to the all-powerful army that runs the desperately poor, underfed country of 54 million, which was Asia’s biggest rice exporter during British colonial days. Tin Oo’s continued detention seems to […]

AFRICA’S RAPE EPIDEMIC SPREADS — Rape has long been a tool of terror for military forces, but in Africa the practice is now spreading to civilian populations, with members of various ethnic groups using it as a weapon against women and young girls of other groups, UNICEF said Feb. 13. “Sexual violence is taking epidemic proportions and it is translating into the civilian populations, no longer only the military and the militia. It seems there is a license to rape when everything falls apart, in the sense that it becomes legitimate to do things that you otherwise never would do,” […]

DAMASCUS CRACKDOWN ON DISSIDENTS CRITICIZED — Human rights groups and Western politicians have united in the past two weeks to criticize the Syrian government’s latest efforts to crack down on dissidents. Thirteen activists have been detained and allegedly tortured as part of a crackdown against individuals who participated in a Dec. 1 meeting of opposition and pro-democracy groups. They face several charges, including “weakening national sentiment,” “membership in an organization formed with the purpose of changing the structure of the state,” and “joining a secret association.” The detained include a cross-section of Syrian artists, writers, medical professionals and journalists, as […]

WOMEN’S RIGHTS DRIVE CONTINUES IN SAUDI ARABIA — A royal decree on Jan. 21 allowing women to check in to hotels or rent apartments without male guardians has raised hopes among Saudi women’s rights campaigners that another key restriction on Saudi women — the ability to drive a car — may soon be removed. Campaigners have submitted two petitions to King Abdullah since September and are collecting signatures for a third. Meanwhile, a number of Saudi royals have issued fairly pointed statements saying they support women’s desire to drive. Since coming to power in 2005, the king has staked out […]