The visit to the United States earlier this month of Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of more than 60 million Americans, was a whirlwind affair. In between meetings with President Bush, a stopover at the Pope John Paul II cultural center, a meeting with a Jewish community group in New York and a visit to ground zero, Benedict also managed to slip in three masses and a handful of addresses to various ecumenical bodies. While the trip lasted just four days, precious little was left undone. Judging by his schedule, American domestic issues were clearly high atop the Pope’s […]

Rights & Wrongs: Slovakia, Trafficking, Uganda, and More

SLOVAKIA LAW SEEN AS DANGER TO PRESS FREEDOM — As of June 1, anyone mentioned in a Slovak newspaper article will be entitled to a rebuttal in the same publication, according to provisions of a new law that has angered media freedom advocates and raised fears that official and self-censorship may be the law’s result. Under the law, anyone who objects to the use of their name in an article may complain to newspaper editors, who then will be responsible for printing a response by the complainer to the original reference, unless the paper can convince a court it is […]

Over the course of the last month, Chinese officials have engaged in a systematic campaign to purge dissent in Tibet. These actions are part of a long-term policy to assimilate Tibet into Han Chinese society. With the much anticipated 2008 Olympic Games a few months away, the international community and non-state actors have turned up the heat, demanding that Beijing engage in dialogue with the Dali Lama and stop repression of Tibetans and other minority groups, such as Uighurs. Heads of state have variously threatened and committed to boycotts of participation in the games’ opening ceremony. But those calling for […]

U.N. TO CLOSE ANGOLA OFFICES — United Nations officials announced April 18 the world body will close its Angola offices by the end of May at the request of Angolan authorities, who no longer wish to cooperate with the U.N. on formulating a comprehensive human rights policy. Angola, which is still struggling to recover from more than two decades of warfare that ended in 2002, has used growing oil revenues to insulate itself from Western criticism of its rights situation and to lay big plans for its own development. Human rights groups and U.N. officials, however, have expressed grave concerns […]

FORMER SLAVE SUES NIGER GOVERNMENT — Former slave Hadijatou Mani has sued the government of Niger, charging cruelty for its failure to protect her from exploitation. Mani, now 24, says she was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for just over $500 to a slave master who later sexually abused her. The case — being heard by the court of the Economic Community of West African States — is based on the government’s failure to enforce aspects of its own 2003 law banning slavery. The court has said it will announce a verdict in October. While slavery is […]

SEOUL, South Korea — Onlookers watch as a man tied up in ropes is led down a crowded pedestrian street by a woman holding a plastic assault rifle. Another man holding a megaphone explains that the re-enactment depicts a scene that has become an everyday occurrence in China. A multinational coalition of activists, calling themselves the 4-4-4 Campaign, holds this demonstration each weekend in downtown Seoul. In Chinese culture, the number 4 symbolizes death. Protester Nam Hyang Soo says the activists chose their name because Beijing’s refugee policy is killing North Koreans who try to escape their impoverished homeland. “The […]

Editor’s Note: Today, April 9, is the five-year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Five years ago, about 30 kilometers West of Baghdad, just past the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison, I was part of a grisly find that left no doubt in my mind about the rights and wrongs of invading Iraq. There, nearly 1,000 political prisoners were buried in secret graves at the al-Qarah cemetery. All had died in custody. Ten to 15 corpses at a time were buried by Mohammad Moshan Mohammad, the gravedigger who told me how the dead had arrived during the three years before […]

KOSOVO LEADER CLEARED OF WAR CRIMES CHARGES — A United Nations war crimes tribunal at the Hague acquitted former Kosovo guerilla commander and prime minister Ramush Haradinaj April 3 on charges of rape, murder and torture. The charges stemmed from the 1998 actions of Kosovo Liberation Army troops under his command against Kosovo Serbian civilians. Harandinaj, who resigned in 2005 as prime minister to voluntarily turn himself over to the court, was the most senior ethnic Albanian figure to stand trial for actions during the KLA’s battle against Serbian forces in 1998-1999. Haradinaj’s uncle, Lahi, was found guilty of mistreating […]

HONG KONG — As Beijing cracks down on protestors in Tibet in the run up to the Olympics, adherents of Falun Gong — a banned religious movement that draws from Buddhism and Taoism — are also facing the heavy hand of the Communist regime. Falun Gong members claim Chinese authorities are stepping up their crackdown on the group, branded an “evil cult” by Beijing, by using Olympic security as an “excuse.” In early March, the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center announced that 1,878 practitioners from 29 provinces had been arrested since January 2008 and that cash rewards of up to […]