USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS WANING — Fewer conflicts in the world today involve the use of child soldiers, but children remain on battlefields in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, according to a report released May 20 by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The number of conflicts involving child combatants has dropped from 27 to 17 over the last four years, the Coalition’s “Child Soldier Global report 2008” found. Tens of thousands of children remain on the world’s battlefields, with tens of thousands more former child soldiers suffering from a lack of available assistance […]

Two years ago, the U.N. created the “Human Rights Council” to replace the erstwhile “Human Rights Commission.” One of the instruments that the new body was given in order to overcome the glaring failings of its predecessor is the so-called country review. In the periodic reviews, the human rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member states is examined and recommendations are made for improvement. The review sessions are supposed to be marked not by the rich Western democracies making paternalistic and condescending reproaches against the world’s most brutal governments and most notorious rogue states, but rather by a […]

On the basis of preliminary returns and exit polls, President Mikheil Saakashvili declared an overwhelming victory for his party in yesterday’s legislative elections in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Many observers had hoped that the vote would end the protracted and vicious political infighting that has characterized Georgian politics in recent years, but Saakashvili’s opponents immediately contested his claim. A prominent opposition leader, David Gamkrelidze, accused the government of the incumbent president of falsifying the results and called for new legislative elections. Nine political parties and three blocs competed for representation in the 150-member parliament. Half of the seats […]

GENEVA — Hold in your hand a moral Geiger counter, a tool to find the place where the noblest ambitions of humanity have turned into the coldest machinations of tyrants. The western shore of Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, sets the counter buzzing. The setting looked ideal for the dreams of the League of Nations, the doomed predecessor of today’s United Nations. Founded on the ashes of World War I, when a devastated world sought ways to avoid more devastating wars, it attempted to bring together the moral power of humanity to resolve disputes peacefully and, quite plainly, make the world […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Ten years after the fall of Dictator Suharto, is Indonesia’s democracy a glass half full or half empty? If one looks only at the news headlines that often portray the archipelagic country as a hotbed of terrorists, radical Islamists and corrupt politicians, it would seem that things have worsened since the student-led Reformasi movement forced Suharto to relinquish the power he had held for the past 32 years. That was 10 years ago, on May 21, 1998. Skeptics also point out that Indonesians have little trust in political parties, and that the country’s political and business elite […]

KENYA RIGHTS BODY URGES TRIAL OF OFFICIALS — Kenya’s minister of defense and other high-ranking officials should face trial on charges that thousands of civilians have been abused during a government crackdown that began in March in the Mt. Elgon region, the country’s state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said in a May 15 report. The commission’s report cited numerous cases of abuses perpetrated by Kenyan security forces, including sexual violence, severe food and sleep deprivation and beatings of around 4,000 victims that have no apparent connection to a militia group the government has been battling for the last […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Denmark’s Ambassador to Uganda was away when his wife looked out the window and saw a young man fall from the sky and land on her garden. She made a frantic call to her husband, Stig Barlyng, who immediately sped home to his residence in a posh suburb in Kampala. But by the time Barlyng arrived home, the guards from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) headquarters next door had already overpowered Barlyng’s guard and recaptured their escapee. “I went next door and I started yelling a bit, to put it mildly,” recalls Barlyng, who is months […]

OLYMPIC PARDONS PROPOSED FOR CHINA DISSIDENTS — U.S.- and Hong Kong-based human rights group Dui Hua May 8 made public a previous appeal to Chinese officials to pardon political prisoners ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games. The appeal, which was delivered to the head of China’s parliament through government channels in April, said such a move would reinforce Olympic ideals and promote peace and humanitarianism. “This is a concrete step that China can take. We’ve hopefully tried to raise it as a suggestion, not a criticism,” Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Dui Hua’s research and programs told the Los Angeles Times. […]

MOZAMBIQUE POLICE BLASTED — Police forces in Mozambique torture, murder and systematically commit human rights abuses with almost total impunity, according an April 29 report from Amnesty International. “Police in Mozambique seem to think they have a license to kill and the weak police accountability system allows for this. In almost all cases of human rights violations by police — including unlawful killings — no investigation into the case and no disciplinary action against those responsible has been undertaken, nor has any police officer been prosecuted.” said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of AI’s Africa Program, upon the report’s release. Mozambique’s […]

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HONG KONG — The Olympic torch was paraded through the wet and windy streets of Hong Kong on Friday amid small but rowdy protests and accusations that Beijing is underwriting the atrocities in Darfur with billions of petrodollars. American actress and activist Mia Farrow lent an air of glamour as thousands thronged the streets with the relay, taking in the city’s spectacular harbor and venues for this summer’s equestrian events, which will be held here. But Farrow’s attacks on China over Darfur, along with protests by pro-Tibet and free speech activists, meant hopes were fading that this year’s games can […]

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council voted to renew the peacekeeping mission to Western Sahara late last night, barely making the deadline to extend the mission to the disputed North African territory after sharp disagreements over the final text. A rift in the council hardened after the U.N. mediator in talks between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi rebel group, said last week that independence for the territory was no longer realistically possible. The vote to renew the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (commonly referred to by the French acronym MINURSO) was […]