On Dec. 10, the mediators responsible for managing the U.N.-supervised negotiations over Kosovo’s final status reported to the U.N. Security Council that they had failed to overcome the differences separating the Serbian government and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority. “Neither party was willing to cede its position on the fundamental question of sovereignty over Kosovo,” the mediators reported. Kosovo’s political leaders then announced they would declare independence in early 2008 even without the approval of the United Nations or the Serbian government, which is prepared to offer its nominal province substantial autonomy but not independence. At the end of the Dec. […]

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BRAZIL REVIEWS PRISON SYSTEM — Brazilian authorities are investigating the country’s prison system in the wake of the weeks-long rape and abuse of a 15-year old girl by male cellmates. Brazilian legislators have announced an investigation into the case and have pledged to build new prisons, upgrade existing facilities and adding space for 5,500 female prisoners. The young girl, identified in the Brazilian press only as “L,” was placed in a holding cell with 20 men aged 20-34 after being arrested on robbery charges. “L” spent a month in the cell, where she was raped, forced to trade sex for […]

Round two of the trial of Salim Hamdan is now underway in earnest. Most will recall that round one ended when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the military commission established by an order issued by President Bush violated constitutional separation of powers limitations (with a plurality of the court also concluding the commission violated the humane treatment mandate of the law of war). Congress responded rapidly to that ruling by passing the Military Commission Act of 2006, providing the president with a statutory basis for resurrecting the commissions. Pursuant to that statute, Salim Hamdan was recharged […]

‘ELDERS’ LAUNCH GLOBAL SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN — A group of distinguished veteran statesmen, diplomats and human rights campaigners known as the “Elders” launched a global drive to gather signatures from one billion people who are committed to living their lives according to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The “Every human has rights” campaign aims “to create an atmosphere in which no person, government, or entity can deny freedom and liberty for any human” and in which “one united human family join[s] together to protect and defend the rights of each other,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an elder, said […]

The words are remarkable, above all, for the self-assurance they express: “Mr. Ahtisaari and I completed the intellectual part of our assignment when we presented our plan in the spring. Nothing more should be changed in this proposal. It is a complicated work. We only have to accompany the plan and explain it.” The speaker is Albert Rohan: the Austrian diplomat and deputy to the U.N. special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari. The plan in question is the “Ahtisaari Plan” for a “supervised independence” of Kosovo. It was the rejection of that plan by Serbia that precipitated the 130 days […]

CHINA URGED TO END CHILD LABOR IN SCHOOLS — Human Rights Watch Dec. 3 called on Chinese authorities to end the use of labor programs in Chinese middle schools because of rampant abuses. “China claims that it is fighting child labor, and repeatedly cites its legal prohibition against the practice as proof. But the government actively violates its own prohibitions by running large programs through the school system that use child labor, lack sufficient health and safety guarantees, and exploit loopholes in domestic labor laws,” Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director Sophie Richardson said in a press release. The Chinese […]

Late last month, U.N.-sponsored negotiations on Kosovo’s final status came to a close — predictably without an agreement. The negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of a “troika” of envoys from the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Dec. 10 is the deadline set for them to complete their work and submit a final report to the U.N. secretary-general. The longstanding demand of the Kosovo Albanian side is well known to the general public: independence. But what has the Serbian government brought to the negotiating table? And what, if any, compromise solutions were proposed by the international mediators? […]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — One looks in vain for names in the 22-page report. Last week, Special Investigator Serge Brammertz submitted the ninth U.N. report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. But hopes that the 45-year-old Belgian prosecutor would name suspects went unfulfilled. Invoking the confidentiality of the investigations, for the seventh time since assuming his responsibilities in January 2006, Brammertz declined to identify the possible perpetrators of the crime. Brammertz’s predecessor, Detlev Mehlis, had proceeded otherwise. In the first report of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) in […]

DENPASAR Indonesia — There is a double set of expectations in Bali this week, where about 15,000 are expected to converge Monday for the 13th meeting of the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The meeting begins on Monday and runs through Dec. 14. In the wake of terrorist attacks in recent years, local residents hope that the 12-day conference signals to tourists worldwide that the island is a safe vacation destination. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of the world’s environmental lobby hope it will pave the way for negotiations toward a new, binding deal to […]

MORE PRESSURE ON CHINA — Members of the European Parliament, human rights activists and dissidents appeared before a hearing of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee Nov. 26 to testify about efforts to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to hold China to a higher human rights standard. Speakers chronicled a wide array of human rights abuses in China and argued the IOC should honor its own precedent — set when it banned South Africa from Olympic events in 1964 because of apartheid — and publicly censure Beijing. From press freedom and privacy rights to Darfur and Tibet, various […]