martedì 31 gennaio 2012

USA urged to clarify basis for drone killings in Pakistan.

The USA must disclose details of the legal and factual basis for the lethal use of drones in Pakistan, Amnesty International said today, after US President Barack Obama confirmed that the unmanned aircraft are used to target suspected militants in the country's tribal areas.

President Obama made the rare public acknowledgment on Monday during an hour-long online video chat with users of the social network Google+.

Amnesty International also called for the USA to monitor civilian casualties inflicted by drone attacks in Pakistan.

"The US authorities must give a detailed explanation of how these strikes are lawful and what is being done to monitor civilian casualties and ensure proper accountability, said Sam Zarifi Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.

"What are the rules of engagement? What proper legal justification exists for these attacks? While the President's confirmation of the use of drones in Pakistan is a welcome first step towards transparency, these and other questions need to be answered."

President Obama said that the drone strikes, which are carried out by the CIA rather than the military, were a "targeted focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists".

He asserted that the strikes targeted "al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,"

US drone attacks have doubled overall in Pakistan during the Obama administration. Thousands of people have been killed by the strikes - civilians as well as militants.

Because of the security situation and difficulty in accessing the terrain it has been impossible for organizations like Amnesty International to verify the number of civilian casualties caused by drones.

Available evidence shows that the number of strikes decreased during 2011.

In its June 2010 report As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan, Amnesty International said the use of drones to target insurgents in northwest Pakistan had generated considerable resentment inside the country.

US Attorney General Eric Holder will reportedly reference US legal arguments in support of such killings by drone attacks in a speech on national security in the coming weeks.

Past justifications offered by US officials have invoked legal theories based on a “global war” between the USA and al-Qa’ida, a concept not recognized by international humanitarian or human rights law.

"The US administration must use the occasion of Attorney General Holder's speech to disclose the relevant legal and factual documentation necessary for a meaningful assessment of the lawfulness of the deliberate killings it is carrying out - simply trying to find another way to say 'trust us, it's legal' will not be good enough," said Sam Zarifi.

venerdì 27 gennaio 2012

Maldives: Judge Abdulla "disappearance" case to UN Working Group.

Ahmed Hamdhoon
Jan 26, 2012 - 05:15

Religious intolerance sees Maldives drop to 73rd in Press Freedom Index.

Religious intolerance sees Maldives drop to 73rd in Press Freedom Index thumbnail
The Maldives has fallen 21 places on Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s press freedom index between 2010 and 2011.
The country is now ranked 73, level with the Seychelles and below Sierra Leone but still well above many countries in both the region and the Middle East countries, including Qatar, Oman and the UAE.
The Maldives took a giant leap in 2009 to 51 following the introduction of multiparty democracy – in 2008 it had been ranked 104.
RSF has however recently expressed concern at the rising climate of religious intolerance in the Maldives and its impact on freedom of expression.
“A climate of religious intolerance prevailed in the Maldives, where media organisations were subjected to threats by the authorities and had to deal with an Islamic Affairs Ministry bent on imposing Sharia to the detriment of free expression,” RSF stated.
In November 2011 the organisation reacted to the Islamic Ministry’s order to block the website of controversial blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, stating that “the increase in acts of religious intolerance is a threat to the Maldives’ young democracy”.
“Incidents involving media workers are rare but that is only because most of them prefer to censor themselves and stay away from subjects relating to Islam. The government should not give in to the fanatical minority but must do all it can to ensure the media are free to tackle any subjects they choose,” the organisation said.
Rasheed was subsequently arrested on the evening of December 14 for his involvement in a “silent protest” calling for religious tolerance, held on Human Rights Day. The protesters had been attacked and Rasheed hospitalised after being struck with a stone.
On his release without charge three weeks later, Rasheed expressed concern for his safety.
“The majority of Maldivians are not violent people. But I am concerned about a few psychotic elements who believe they will go to heaven if they kill me – people who don’t care if they go to jail for it. Those people I am afraid of, and I will not provoke the country in the future,” he told Minivan News.
In September 2011 the government published new ‘religious unity’ regulations enforcing parliament’s religious unity act of 1994, with a penalty of 2-5 years imprisonment for violation.
Under the regulations, the media is banned from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio deemed to “humiliate Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith.”
More recently several journalists with the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) were beaten, threatened and tasered after protesters from the opposition and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) clashed outside the station. Both sides blamed each other for the attacks, while MNBC said it would no longer cover the ongoing protests on scene.
The government meanwhile claimed that its commitment to media freedom is “absolute and unwavering.”
“President Nasheed’s administration never has and never will do anything to undermine the independence, integrity or professionalism of the media,” said President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.
Zuhair’s comments followed allegations that Communications Minister Adhil Saleem had intimidated journalists by threatening to withdraw broadcasting licenses, which Zuhair claimed was “merely” a reaction to “certain TV news channels acting unprofessionally when airing footage of recent protests.”
Despite the fall, the Maldives was still ranked significantly higher than many other countries in the region.
Sri Lanka fell to 163, continuing a steady decline over the last decade (it was ranked 51 in 2002).
“The stranglehold of the Rajapakse clan [has] forced the last few opposition journalists to flee the country,” RSF said in a statement on the release of the 2011 Index.
“Any that stayed behind were regularly subjected to harassment and threats. Attacks were less common but impunity and official censorship of independent news sites put an end to pluralism and contributed more than ever to self-censorship by almost all media outlets.”
Bangladesh fared poorly (129) – “despite genuine media pluralism, the law allows the government to maintain excessive control over the media and the Internet” – while Nepal (109) showed modest improvement with a drop off in violence between the government and Maoist rebels.
India’s position fell (131) after the government unveiled the “Information Technology Rules 2011, which have dangerous implications for online freedom of expression. Foreign reporters saw their visa requests turned down or were pressured to provide positive coverage.”
Pakistan (151st) meanwhile remained the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year running.
Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland were ranked as having the greatest press freedom, while North Korea and Eritrea fared the worst.

Olympics ethics chief: London 2012 committee ‘apologists’ for Dow chemicals.

When sports fans and athletes arrive in London this summer to celebrate the Olympic Games, the victims of a gas leak disaster that happened on a winter night in central India almost 30 years ago are unlikely to be at the forefront of their minds.

But today’s resignation of Meredith Alexander, the Olympic Games’ ethics commissioner, may prompt Olympic visitors to take a second look at the plastic wrap that will encircle the east London stadium and remember its connection with the disaster that killed thousands of people in Bhopal in 1984.

The wrap’s sponsor, US chemical company Dow, signed a multi-million pound deal in 2010 to become one of the 11 Worldwide Olympic Partners.

Dow owns US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), the company which held a majority share in the Indian subsidiary that owned and operated the UCC plant responsible for the 1984 gas leak disaster, which killed thousands of people.

“I feel that the commission ended up becoming an apologist for Dow Chemicals and is taking Dow’s side in the debate about whether or not Dow bears responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy,” Meredith Alexander told Amnesty International.

More than 100,000 continue to suffer from serious health problems as a result of the leak, while toxic waste at the plant site is yet to be fully cleaned.

“I can’t look myself in the mirror and be associated with that. And my decision to do this publicly comes from a desire to help ensure that the victims of the Bhopal tragedy actually have their voices heard," said Meredith Alexander.

The Commission for a Sustainable London (CSL), the ethics body that monitors the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), was asked to consider the Dow deal's appropriateness for an event billed as the most sustainable Games ever.

LOCOG gave the deal the green light – but when Amnesty International presented Meredith Alexander with evidence that documented the lasting impact of the Bhopal tragedy, she decided she could no longer continue being part of the CSL.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe’s way of handling the case has angered Alexander, who says LOCOG should cancel the contract with Dow.

“When the organizers were looking at the bids, they claimed that they didn't see anything about Bhopal. I think that’s inexcusable – a simple Google search is going to turn up all kinds of information about Dow and Bhopal. The process was flawed and people like Boris Johnson and Lord Coe should have looked at that.

 “You can still see the impact of the toxic leak in Bhopal today – in the rates of miscarriages, the rates of illness. It just didn’t feel right to be part of a body that doesn’t acknowledge those people,” she said.

Alexander doesn’t buy the argument that Dow only bought Union Carbide in 2001 and therefore cannot be held responsible for what happened in Bhopal.

“When a company buys another company, they get all the good stuff, the assets, the know-how. But they also get the bad stuff. And with Union Carbide, the bad stuff is a horrible toxic legacy of human rights abuse. Dow chose to buy that company, so it’s now Dow’s disaster to deal with,” she said. 

"There are two sides to every story, but right now the people in power are ignoring the victims of Bhopal.”

martedì 24 gennaio 2012


Qual è la più dura città di gangster al mondo? Qualcuno dirà Palermo e qualcuno Los Angeles. Qualcuno Philadelphia (che comanda su New York) e qualcuno Reggio Calabria (che comanda sulla Lombardia, sul Canada e sull'Australia). Qualcuno scherzerà citando Arcore e qualcun altro citando il Vaticano. E così via. Ma il dato, nudo e crudo, ci porta molto lontano dall'immaginario cinematografico, dai saggi e dalle inchieste. Dall'inizio dell'anno, si sono ammazzati in ottocento laggiù, a Karachi, e 315 sono passati a miglior vita solo lo scorso luglio. La maggior parte degli omicidi è stata registrata dalla polizia nel distretto di Lyari, uno dei più degradati, sia roccaforte del Ppp (il partito della famiglia Bhutto al governo), sia centro del narcotraffico e del racket. Una sorta di Corleone di Karachi. E, come a Corleone, accanto ad alcuni cadaveri conciati parecchio male, sono stati trovati messaggi alle bande rivali, con chiari avvertimenti diremmo mafiosi. I detective sono convinti (anche lì) che bande criminali e politici corrotti si appoggino gli uni agli altri, per conquistare il potere. Deduzione elementare: quando tra i tre maggiori partiti, il Ppp, l'Mqm e l'Awami National Party, non c'è tensione, i morti calano. Quando i politici litigano, o cambiano le alleanze, i gangster muoiono nelle strade della capitale commerciale e finanziaria del Pakistan, dove sembra di essere sul baratro dell'anarchia: e magari fosse una sceneggiatura.
(Da D Repubblica delle Donne, di Piero Colaprico)

sabato 21 gennaio 2012

India urged to clean up Vedanta refinery after plant expansion rejected.

Indian authorities should order the immediate clean-up of Vedanta's alumina refinery in the state of Orissa, Amnesty International said today after a court dismissed the mining company's plea for a huge expansion of the plant.

The High Court of Orissa on Thursday dismissed a plea from Vedanta Aluminium, a fully owned subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, to review a similar court order from July 2011. Vedanta has promised to challenge the decision in India’s Supreme Court.

The July 2011 order had upheld the Indian government's August 2010 decision to reject Vedanta Aluminium's plans for the expansion of the Lanjigarh refinery after finding that the project violated the country's environmental laws.

Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.

"This decision vindicates the ongoing peaceful protests by the local communities near Lanjigarh to prevent this expansion from going ahead as it would further pollute their lands and water sources," said Amnesty International's India researcher Ramesh Gopalakrishnan.

"The Indian authorities have remained silent on the issues of cleaning up the refinery and monitoring the health of local communities. They must act on this now," he added.

The refinery and its red mud pond, which have been in operation for four years, does not meet national or international standards in relation to its environmental, social and human rights impact.

The red mud pond, which collects toxic waste by-products from the refinery, covers an area of approximately 38 hectares. The pond is full to the brim and suffered serious leaks during last year’s monsoons.

The latest high court verdict means that Vedanta cannot circumvent conditions issued by India's Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), stipulating that plans for expansion of the refinery should go through a fresh environmental and social impact assessment and a public hearing process.

Residents of 12 villages who live in the shadow of the massive refinery – mostly Majhi Kondh Adivasi (Indigenous) and Dalit communities who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – have long campaigned against the expansion.

Residents of Rengopalli, one of the 12 villages, have been campaigning against the Orissa state authorities' decision to take over one of their two access roads to complete the construction of a second red mud pond for the refinery.

"The state authorities must immediately consult with the affected communities about the potential impact of constructing a second red mud pond," Ramesh Gopalakrishnan said.

India's MoEF had also rejected rejected plans by Sterlite India, another Vedanta Resources' subsidiary, and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation, to mine bauxite at Niyamgiri Hills near Lanjigarh.

The MoEF found that the proposed bauxite mining would violate forest and environmental laws and the rights of the Dongria Kondh Adivasi communities.

Sterlite India and the Orissa Mining Corporation are challenging the MoEF’s decision in India’s National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court respectively.

giovedì 19 gennaio 2012

Maldives courts boycott sessions to protest chief justice's arrest - Judge arrested on Monday after he freed an opposition leader detained for allegedly defaming the government.

This article was published on at 15.08 GMT on Tuesday 17 January 2012. A version appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday 18 January 2012. It was last modified at 15.29 GMT on Tuesday 17 January 2012.
Mohammed Nasheed
President Mohamed Nasheed's government was accused by opposition leader Mohamed Jameel Ahmed of working against the state religion, Islam, with the support of Christians and Jews. Photograph: Sinan Hussain/AP
The Maldives military has arrested the chief justice of the country's criminal court after he released an opposition leader who had been detained without a warrant for allegedly defaming the government.
The arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed on Monday has prompted all courts in the Maldives to boycott sessions on Tuesday, in what could become a showdown between the country's first freely elected government and the independent judiciary introduced by former pro-democracy political prisoner President Mohamed Nasheed after coming to power in 2008.
The arrest of a judge by the military is unprecedented in the Maldives, which became a multiparty democracy after 30 years of autocratic rule. It also sparked street protests in the capital of the Indian Ocean archipelago.
At least 200 protesters gathered near the police and military headquarters on Tuesday to demand adherence to court orders and the release of the arrested judge, but police and soldiers used batons to disperse them. One policewoman was injured in the scuffle.
A government statement quoted the foreign minister, Ahmed Naseem, as saying that Mohamed was arrested "for corruption, in particular for allowing his judicial decisions to be determined by political and personal affiliations and interests".
"The government of the Maldives fully supports and will always protect judicial independence," Naseem said. "However, judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law and can behave as they see fit contrary to the laws of the land. A judge is a citizen of the Maldives no more or less important than any other citizen."
The country's supreme court, the prosecutor general's office and judicial services commission all issued statements calling the judge's arrest illegal and requesting his release.
The prosecutor general's office added that under the constitution a judge can be arrested only after a supreme court decision to do so.
With no positive response to their calls to release the judge, all other judges and court staff announced they were boycotting sessions and not extending detention orders on Tuesday.
Opposition activists said the arrest was in retaliation for the judge's ruling that opposition leader Mohamed Jameel Ahmed's detention a day earlier was illegal.
Police arrested Ahmed for allegedly defaming the government during a television interview in which he accused Nasheed's administration of working against the state religion, Islam, with the support of Christians and Jews. Opposition activists say the government is trying to use an old criminal defamation law to persecute them while it is not part of the current democratic law.
Religious debates have gained prominence in this Sunni Muslim nation of 300,000 people where practiing any other faith is forbidden.

Pakistan, sequestrato un italiano.

Si chiama Giovanni Lo Porto. Con lui anche un tedesco
La Farnesina conferma e chiede riserbo sulla vicenda

Giovanni Lo Porto (Ansa)
MILANO- Si chiama Giovanni Lo Porto, 38 anni, l'italiano rapito a Multan, nella provincia centro-occidentale del Punjab in Pakistan. Con lui anche un 45enne tedesco. Entrambi lavorano per l'ong tedesca, Welthungerhilfe. I due al momento sono stati identificati dalla fonte di polizia come il tedesco «Burnd» e il 38enne italiano «Giovanni». Anche la Farnesina conferma il sequestro ma vuole mantenere una linea di riserbo per «non compromettere gli sforzi per giungere alla liberazione non compromettere gli sforzi per giungere alla liberazione». In ogni caso sono stati «attivati tutti i canali utili per seguire da vicino la vicenda e promuoverne la positiva soluzione», si legge in una nota. Non è escluso che i due siano stati prelevati da agenti dell'intelligence che li tratterrebbero per interrogarli.
VOLONTARIO - Lo Porto, nato a Palermo, si è laureato alla London metropolitan University e alla Thames Valley University. Prima di collaborare con l'Ong tedesca Welthe Hunger Hilfe ha lavorato in qualità di 'project manager' con il Gruppo Volontario Civile, con Cesvi Fondazione Onslus, Coopi- Cooperazione Internazionale.

IL RAPIMENTO - Secondo una prima ricostruzione l'italiano era arrivato giovedì mattina a Multan e con il collega tedesco si erano recati a Kot Addu per verificare lo sviluppo di un progetto di sostegno agli alluvionati della zona finanziato dalla ong tedesca. Testimoni oculari hanno riferito che quattro uomini mascherati sono entrati negli uffici della ong e hanno portato via i due cooperanti con un'automobile verso una destinazione sconosciuta puntando loro una pistola e costringendoli ad indossare un vestito tradizionale pachistano (Shalwar Kameez).

sabato 14 gennaio 2012

Document - Maldives: Further information: Campaigner for religious tolerance released.

Further information on UA: 368/11 Index: ASA 29/001/2012 Maldives Date: 13 January 2012
CAMPAIGNER FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE RELEASED A Maldivian activist who was attacked and detained on 10 December 2011 for organis ing a peaceful protest calling for religious tolerance was released on 6 January . His attackers remain at large.
Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed was assaulted by about 10 men opposing a peaceful demonstration he had organized in the capital, Malé, on 10 December. He sustained a skull fracture after being hit with stones, but was then arrested by police a few days later.
Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed, a Muslim who practices Sufi beliefs, was released on 6 January after an investigation into his involvement in the protest concluded with no charges against him.
Maldives police say Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed was detained because his call for religious tolerance is “unconstitutional”. The arrest came after the opposition Adhaalath Party, which advocates implementation of a strict interpretation of religious law, wrote to the police urging them to take action against him for organizing the protest.
Under the 2008 Maldives constitution, Islam is the only religion that Maldivian nationals can practice.
Conservative religious groups say only a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam is allowed under the constitution. In a political campaign against the President, opposition politicians have sided with these groups. 

Many thanks to all who sent appeals. Amnesty International is in dialogue with the Maldivian government urging that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice, but no further action from the UA network is required at this time.
This is the first update of UA 368/11. Further information: 

Maldive - PPM condemns the government for violating democratic rights.

by Hussain Iyad
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has strongly condemned the attempts of the president and current government to suppress the democratic right to freedom of expression of opposition parties and individuals.

A press release by PPM stated that Ahmed Ibrahim ‘Sandhaanu Ahammmaidhy’ Didi, who has been highly critical of government policies, had been summoned to the police and subsequently detained. PPM also said that they believe that it was a violation of Ahammaidhy’s human rights and his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.
PPM strongly condemned the actions of president Nasheed, stating that his government and the police are continuing to harass and intimidate opposition members, and has condemned the action by the police to take in Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Vice President of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) for interrogation.
PPM also condemned the recent actions of the government in harassing and intimidating private TV channels and journalists critical of the government, stating that “these continued actions have created an atmosphere of fear and repression in Male’”.
PPM also called upon the government to respect the rule of law and the fundamental human rights and freedoms of expression guaranteed to each and every citizen by the constitution.
PPM criticized President Nasheed, stating that the president “who is purportedly a champion of freedom of expression and democracy” is resorting to unconstitutional and uncivilized methods to nullify everyone who oppose him and his government.
The press release also called upon the international community to intervene to protect the rights of Dr. Jameel and Sandhaanu Ahammaidhy.

giovedì 12 gennaio 2012

Maldive - Prison conditions “unchanged since Gayoom’s time”: detained blogger.

By JJ Robinson | January 11th, 2012

Amnesty International has welcomed the release from prison of Maldivian blogger and journalist Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed last Friday, whom the organisation had designated a ‘prisoner of conscience’, but expressed alarm at the government’s failure to prosecute his attackers.
Rasheed was jailed for 24 days in Male’ Custodial following his participation in a ‘silent protest’ on December 10, 2011, International Human Rights Day, calling for religious tolerance.
During the protest at the Artificial Beach he was attacked by several men armed with stones, and was hospitalised with head injuries. He was subsequently arrested on December 14.
“While the release of Ismail Khilath Rasheed is a welcome development, the fact that his attackers have not been investigated points to a serious failure of the government to end impunity for human rights abuses in the country,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher.
“Instead of defending his right to advocate religious tolerance, the government locked Ismail Khilath Rasheed up and have done nothing to bring his attackers to justice – thereby sending a message to the public that crushing a peaceful demonstration is acceptable,” he said.
Amnesty observed that radical religious groups in the Maldives were advocating that “only Sunni Islam is allowed under the constitution”, noting that opposition politicians had sided with these groups ”in a political campaign against the President”.
“It is time for the Maldives government to bring to justice all perpetrators of human rights abuses – past and present – including those who attack religious minorities. The first step in this process should be to carry out an independent, impartial and effective investigation of those who used violence against Ismail Khilath Rasheed and other demonstrators on 10 December,” Amnesty declared.
In November 2011 Rasheed’s blog,, was blocked by the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, on the grounds that it contained “anti-Islamic” material.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also issued a statement on Rasheed’s release, but expressed concern about the ongoing blocking of his blog on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.
“The journalist’s unlawful detention is a reminder that it is impossible to establish a totally free press so long as the government subjects itself to religious extremism, as displayed by the Islamic Affairs Ministry,” RSF said.
“Religion is becoming a taboo subject in the Maldives and media workers are under threat of imprisonment every time it is debated.”
“Just like Gayoom’s time”
Despite the Maldives’ international stand on human rights issues, the prisons “remain unchanged since Gayoom’s time”, Rasheed told Minivan News, following his release.
During the police investigation of his involvement with the protest, the blogger was locked for three weeks in a small, three-sided room with 11 other people. Despite the opening there was no airflow, the room was unventilated and the fan in the room was broken, Rasheed said.
The room was so small and crowded it was impossible for 12 people to fully stretch out and sleep properly, and despite provisions requiring inmates be allowed out for at least an hour’s exercise every day, no one was allowed outside during his detention, Rasheed said.
Inmates had to summon the duty officer to be taken to the toilet, which did not flush. There was no shower, and inmates washed themselves by filling a bucket at the water basin, which was also used to flush the toilet. Inmates in other cells with attached toilets were not allowed out at all.
The prisoners had no bedding apart from a small pillow, and slept on the tiles. Every three days they were given a small amount of detergent to wash the floor of the cell.
Rasheed said that the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office visited once during his detention and observed that prisoners were not being properly treated.
“There were no medical facilities, or means of treating heroin addicts going into withdrawal. One of my cellmates had a [withdrawal] fit and we had to put a slipper in his mouth [to stop him swallowing his tongue],” Rasheed said. “I held his hand.”
Most of the cell’s occupants were awaiting prosecution for drug offences, muggings, theft, and for carrying weapons.
“People had been in there for three months and were very frustrated, and were venting that frustration against the government. The Constitution sets limits to people’s detention, but people are in limbo. One guy accused of murder has been in there for 1.5 years, and still his case has not been sent to the PG’s office for prosecution,” Rasheed said.
The blogger was presented to the court following the expiration of the first 24 hour detention period.
“The investigating officer stated that I was the organiser of the protest and should be detained as I was disrupting the religious unity of the Maldives, and was a threat to society,” Rasheed said.
Police also presented Ali Ahsan to the court, developer of the December 23 protest website which had briefly published slogans calling for the murder of “those against Islam”.
Police argued that Ahsan’s release “could endanger Maldivian religious unity and even threaten life” and requested the court grant a 15-day extension of his detention.
Ahsan’s lawyers however argued that the slogans had been uploaded by hackers, and the website developer was released. Rasheed’s detention was extended by 10 days.
After 10 days in custody, Rasheed was again presented to the court.
“The investigating officer told the judge he had reason to believe I had no religion at all, and that I was promoting gay rights, and therefore my case could be concluded only after the Islamic Ministry provided me with counseling to bring me back to Islam,” said Rasheed, who self-identifies as a Sufi Muslim.
The magistrate extended Rasheed’s detention a further 15 days.
On Friday January 6, two days before he was due to be released, Rasheed was told that his case had been sent to the Prosecutor General’s office and that he was free to go.
“The day I was released a different investigating officer said I had been put in prison for my own protection – the same thing my family had been told. He said they had intelligence suggesting that a gang of brainwashed extremists were out to kill me and anybody identified as associated with the protest.”
Rasheed said he now fears for his safety and is unwilling to walk around Male’.
“The majority of Maldivians are not violent people. But I am concerned about a few psychotic elements who believe they will go to heaven if they kill me – people who don’t care if they go to jail for it. Those people I am afraid of, and I will not provoke the country in the future.”
Rasheed’s blog remains blocked, but he says he is unwilling to risk his own safety by resuming blogging anyway.
“The [silent protesters] made their point, which was in no way anti-Islamic,” he said. “Their point was: the majority of people want to eat apples, but a minority want to eat oranges. We said we have no problem with anyone eating apples, but let us eat oranges.
“We said nothing about trying to get people to leave Islam. Everyone should be able to think and practice and follow what they feel personally, and Islam teaches tolerance. Extremists twist this around, and equate it with apostasy – and call for those who leave Islam to be killed.”
Rasheed said he felt that the majority of Maldivians disagreed with extremism, and were generally “a very laid-back, moderate people who want a peaceful life. They are concerned about disruption to families and society, rather than other religions or beliefs.”

martedì 10 gennaio 2012

Maldives: Attackers remain at large as blogger is released.

A Maldivian blogger who was attacked and detained after organizing a protest calling for religious tolerance has been released after almost four weeks in detention, while his attackers remain at large.

Ismail Khilath Rasheed was assaulted by about 10 men opposing a peaceful demonstration he had organized in the capital, Malé, on 10 December. He sustained a skull fracture after being hit with stones, but was then arrested by police a few days later.

“While the release of Ismail Khilath Rasheed is a welcome development, the fact that his attackers have not been investigated points to a serious failure of the government to end impunity for human rights abuses in the country,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s  Maldives researcher.

“Instead of defending his right to advocate religious tolerance, the government locked Ismail Khilath Rasheed up and have done nothing to bring his attackers to justice – thereby sending a message to the public that crushing a peaceful demonstration is acceptable,” he said.

The blogger, who is a Sufi Muslim, was released Friday night after an investigation into his involvement in the protest concluded with no charges against him.

Maldives police say Ismail Khilath Rasheed was detained because his call for religious tolerance is “unconstitutional”.
The arrest came after the opposition Adhaalath Party, which advocates Islamic Shari’a, wrote to the police urging them to take action against him for organizing the protest.

Under the 2008 Maldives constitution, Islam is the only religion that Maldivian nationals can practice.

Radical religious groups say only Sunni Islam is allowed under the constitution. In a political campaign against the President, opposition politicians have sided with these groups.

They say Ismail Khilath Rasheed’s call for religious tolerance in the Maldives is a challenge to that doctrine and therefore unconstitutional.

“It is time for the Maldives government to bring to justice all perpetrators of human rights abuses – past and present – including those who attack religious minorities," said Abbas Faiz.

“The first step in this process should be to carry out an independent, impartial and effective investigation of those who used violence against Islamil Khilath Rasheed and other demonstrators on 10 December.”

Human rights in the Maldives have increasingly been held hostage to a political impasse between President Mohamed Nasheed, who claims to advocate the protection of human rights, and the influence of hardline Islamist parties and opposition politicians who are against freedom of religion.

domenica 8 gennaio 2012

Maldive - Liberato il blogger prigioniero di coscienza!

Controversial blogger and “prisoner of conscience” released from custody 

By Eleanor Johnstone | January 7th, 2012

Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed was released from police custody last night, where he had been held since December 14 without charges while police investigated his role in a peacefully-intended protest held on December 10.
Police confirmed that Rasheed was released on a court order, and said that the investigation into his involvement in a silent peaceful protest on December 10 had been concluded with no findings against him.
Rasheed was arrested on December 14 for his involvement in a protest for religious tolerance held at Male’s Artificial Beach on International Human Rights Day. The group of approximately 30 protestors were attacked with stones, and Rasheed was taken to the hospital with head injuries.
Rasheed’s detention was twice extended by the court, which subsequently launched an investigation into the contents of his controversial blog which was previously blocked by the Islamic Ministry on the grounds that it contained anti-Islamic content.
After Rasheed’s detention was extended a second time on December 27, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari requested parliament’s National Security Committee to include a clear, strong punishment for those advocating religious freedom within the Maldives in the new Penal Code currently at committee stage.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International declared Rasheed a prisoner of conscience, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) challenged Bari’s argument that calling for freedom of religious was unconstitutional within a democratic Muslim society.
“The Maldivian constitution bans the promotion of any religion other than Islam but guarantees freedom of assembly and expression as long as it does not contravene Islam. Rasheed professes to be an adherent of Sufism, which emphasises the inner, spiritual dimension of Islam,” read the statement by RSF.
Minivan News was unable to reach Rasheed at time of press. 

 E' possibile conoscere più precisamente la posizione di Amnesty su tale  caso leggendo il seguente documento:

mercoledì 4 gennaio 2012

Pakistan, nuovo appello per riformare le leggi sulla blasfemia.

(4 gennaio 2011)
A un anno esatto di distanza dall'assassinio del governatore del Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, Amnesty International ha rinnovato l'appello alle autorità del Pakistan affinché modifichino le leggi sulla blasfemia.

"Taseer è stato ucciso per aver preso la difese di una delle vittime di queste leggi, Asia Bibi, una contadina di religione cristiana condannata a morte per blasfemia nel novembre 2009" - ha dichiarato Sam Zarifi, direttore per l'Asia e il Pacifico di Amnesty International.

Asia Bibi è in carcere dal giugno 2009, tenuta in isolamento per evitare che possa essere uccisa da altre detenute. Le sue condizioni di salute fisica e mentale sono peggiorate negli ultimi due anni e mezzo. L'Alta corte di Lahore deve ancora esaminare il ricorso contro la condanna a morte.

Le leggi sulla blasfemia sono formulate in modo del tutto vago e sono utilizzate per colpire le minoranze religiose:  la maggior parte delle persone accusate di blasfemia appartiene a fedi musulmane ritenute eretiche rispetto all'Islam ufficiale. 

In vigore da oltre un quarto di secolo, le leggi sulla blasfemia hanno creato un clima di paura e di intimidazione nel quale operano pressoché impuniti gruppi di militanti religiosi violenti.

Persino il Consiglio dell'ideologia islamica, un organo costituzionale incaricato di fare raccomandazioni su questioni islamiche, ha chiesto due anni fa di modificare le leggi. Il governo pachistano, nonostante nel 2009 e nel 2010 si sia impegnato a rivedere e migliorare "le leggi che pregiudicano l'armonia religiosa", non ha dato seguito a questa promessa ed è rimasto silente di fronte all'assassinio del governatore Taseer e di quello del ministro per le Minoranze, Shahbaz Bhatti, nel marzo 2011.

martedì 3 gennaio 2012

Talebani, accordo su apertura ufficio in Qatar - "Pronti a intesa con comunità internazionale"

KABUL - I talebani afghani hanno reso noto di aver raggiunto un accordo preliminare per l'apertura di un ufficio politico in Qatar. Si tratta di un passo importante per progredire nel negoziato segreto in vista di un accordo per porre fine alla guerra nel Paese.

(03 gennaio 2012)

Maldives: ‘Political Islam’ here to stay?

Maldivians, particularly the security authorities in the country, may have heaved a sigh of relief after the competing rallies by the NGOs and the political Opposition on the one hand, and the ruling MDP on the other, went off peacefully on Friday last. They had anticipated rioting and violent clashes for which public protests of the kind are often known in the country. Yet, the fact also remains that the competitive posturing on the type of Islam that the moderate Muslim country should follow may have made ‘political Islam’ the core of public discourse in the country in the long run-up to the presidential polls that are however due only in October 2013.
UNHRC chief Navi Pillay thus should be contented, if not happy, for what Maldives is doing since her proposing a national discourse on the kind of Islam that the country should be following. She made the suggestion during a visit to the country in November, both inside and outside Parliament. While protesting Navi Pillay’s proposal making Islam a debatable issue, the otherwise divided Opposition parties lending support to seven NGO organisers of the rally, have done precisely that. By competing with them, the MDP, particularly President Mohammed Nasheed, has thrown a challenge to the rival camp, declaring that the nation had to decide the kind of Islam it wanted to follow.
Addressing the MDP rally on Friday evening, President Nasheed said it was a ‘defining moment’ in the nation’s history. “At this moment we may not realise how important this gathering is, but years down the line we will look back and realise this was a crucial moment,” he said.”This is an old country, people have lived here for thousands of years and we have practiced Islam for more than 800 years. In 2011, we are faced with a question, how should we build our nation: what we will teach our children, how should we live our lives, and what will we leave for future generations?” President Nasheed, according to a Press release issued by his office, stressed that he wanted to continue to practice a tolerant form of Islam.
The President said that he believed that the Maldivians wanted “a better life, the ability to travel, not to have to beg for medicines, for each Maldivian to be able to fend for themselves, feed their families and stand tall.” He said, “To build our economy we need foreign investments and we need to create an environment in which foreigners can invest. We can’t be scared of foreign countries; we can’t just stay within our shells without development. History shows this is the path to economic failure…We can’t achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant.”
Taking the political battle on moderate Islam to the Opposition camp, President Nasheed asked: “Should we ban music? Should we mutilate girls’ genitals? Should we allow nine year-olds to be married? Should we forbid art and drawing? Should we be allowed to take concubines? Is this nation-building?” Even while standing up for values that he has reiterated that he stands for steadfastly, President Nasheed was also setting the agenda for his re-election campaign for 2013, and by his strident position on moderate Islam, possibly hopes to retain much, if not all of the youth voters that had contributed to his success in the 2008 polls. In a country where the 18-25 age-group accounts for 40-45 per cent of the population, that is saying a lot.
This may not end here, though. The Opposition’s protest for protecting Islam has also provided a platform for them to come together after the Dhivehi Rayyathunge Party (DRP) of former President Maumoon Gayoom split earlier in the year, with the splinter group identified with his leadership floating the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) more recently. Both DRP, now under Gayoom’s 2008 running-mate Thasmeen Ali and PPM leader Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of the former President, shared the dais with other Opposition party leaders at the Friday rally. This need not mean that they would settle for a common alliance and candidate to challenge the incumbent in 2013, but that has since become a possibility, nonetheless. This would be more so if the presidential polls run into a second, run-off round, as in 2008.
An ‘Afghanistan’ in the making?
Ahead of the rally, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem too cautioned the nation that an increase in extremist rhetoric might affect the country’s international image and the ability of its citizens to freely travel abroad. Maldives had “a lot to lose” should such intolerance continue, the local media quoted Naseem as saying. “A large number of Maldivians travel outside the country and such rhetoric will have implications for the average Maldivian travelling abroad, and on those Maldivians already living abroad,” he said, pointing out that Maldives was a liberal democracy “with a Constitution based upon respect for the human rights of all.”
Appearing before the National Security Council of Parliament, Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh reportedly expressed concern that Maldives was heading towards becoming another “Afghanistan” – except that unlike Afghanistan, it was not able to produce its own food. Organisers of both the ‘Defend Islam’ and ‘Moderate Islam’ protests also assured the committee that there would be no violence at the rival rallies. As subsequent events proved, the rally organisers proved the police chief wrong, after he had said that local gangs had potential to capitalise on the opportunities to their own benefit if political parties ended up using them, even if for a good cause.
However, there was no immediate response to a report in the Indian newspaper, The Hindu, in which top Government sources claimed that Pakistan funding was available for the Opposition rally. Interestingly, the ‘Defend Islam’ protest and movement has its origins in fundamentalist elements destroying the Pakistani monument for the 17th SAARC Summit in the southern Addu City, describing it as idolatry. The Navi Pillay observations only hastened the process, even though indications are that the fundamentalist Adhaalath Party, which is at the back of the pro-Islam protests has been targeting the US and Israel, and their purported influence on the Government of President Nasheed, in matters that they argue are anti-Islamic.
‘Prisoner of Conscience’
The US has been made the villain of the piece in Afghanistan and Iraq, two Islamic nations, while Israel has been targeted over the Palestine issue, with the Nasheed Government’s decision to permit the Israeli airliner to operate flights to Maldives providing the immediate provocation and justification. Fundamentalist groups, as also the political Opposition, are not convinced that Maldives could not cast its vote on admitting Palestine into UNESCO owing to a communication gap, which meant that the official delegation had flown home early on. In private, they argue that either the decision did not make sense or the Government did not do its homework properly as Palestine was admitted into UNESCO, after all. Here again, they see a western hand.
A day after the Friday rallies, reports said that the Afghanistan monument for the SAARC Summit at the southern Addu City had been vandalised and thrown into the sea, like those of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. A replica of Afghanistan’s Jam minaret, featuring Koranic phrases and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the monument could not be restored, reports from Addu said. The Haveeru quoted local MDP leaders as saying that the party was not behind the vandalism, adding that it owed to ‘political reasons’.
Interestingly, Amnesty International has described as ‘prisoner of conscience’, blogger Ismail ‘Khilasth’ Rasheed, who was arrested after being attacked when he was addressing a small group, defending religious freedom in the national capital of Male a fortnight back. Foreign Minister Naseem said it was a matter of concern to the international community. Rasheed’s initiative followed UNHRC’s Navi Pillay’s call for religious freedom and for a national discourse for ending flogging of women in the country. As may be recalled, Amnesty had named President Nasheed a ‘prisoner of conscience’ for his pro-democracy political and public initiatives, after he was imprisoned more than once by the erstwhile Gayoom leadership.
For now, the ruling party has called off the ‘moderate Islam’ rallies that were to have continued for two more days, what with the Opposition too ending its protest at the end of day one. After the Friday rallies, presidential spokesman Mohamed Zuhair acknowledged people’s participation in the Opposition protest, and said that the Government would consider their demands. However, he wondered who had made those demands, political parties, or individuals and/or NGOs, which needed to be treated differently. Ahead of the MDP rally, many party seniors, including MPs, had urged President Nasheed not to have their programme on the same day. Some of them also publicly suggested that as Head of State, President Nasheed should not participate in what essentially was a political rally.
While this may have quietened the situation, it remains to be seen how various political players take off from here — or, listen to the voice of reason among a substantial section of the people, who do not want them to make Islam a political issue. There is large-scale apprehension among the masses and the current rallies could trigger societal divisiveness that goes beyond politics and elections, and could also concern larger national interests, starting with security issues, in the months and years to come.
N Sathiya Moorthy is a Senior Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. 


22 dicembre 2011: il Parlamento bicamerale indiano ha approvato un disegno di legge che rende punibile con la morte atti terroristici finalizzati alla distruzione di oleodotti e gasdotti che possano causare perdita di vite umane. Il Ddl di emendamento per i Condotti di Petrolio e Minerali è stato così approvato dal Consiglio degli Stati (Rajya Sabha); in precedenza era stato approvato dall'Assemblea del Popolo (Lok Sabha). La legge prevede una detenzione dura di minimo dieci anni per atti di distruzione di condotti usati per il trasporto di greggio, prodotti petroliferi o gas e può arrivare all'ergastolo o pena capitale nel caso in cui il sabotaggio possa provocare la morte di persone. Il Ministro di Stato per Petrolio e Gas Naturale R.P.N. Singh ha dichiarato che finora la legislazione non è bastata per contrastare i crimini e che nuove misure si sono rese necessarie per prevenire furti di petrolio e danni ad opera di bande organizzate e sabotatori.