World Briefs and Developments From Around the World
Issue #
174

EUROPE

Human Rights Watch has called on the French government to investigate a new wave of aggressive police tactics against young black and Arab men, saying cops use racial profiling to make random stops and searches even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and that “insulting language, including racial slurs, are not uncommon, and some stops involve excessive use of force by the police.” Police aggression and geographic isolation of the black and Arab communities have long caused tensions in French cities and led to the 2005 civil unrest across France.

 

LATIN AMERICA

Ex-Guatemalan military chief Efraín Ríos Montt will face charges of genocide. Guatemalan human rights campaigner Eduardo de León told reporters last month, “The justice system is settling debts it had with indigenous people and society for grave human rights violations.” In the 1950s, the CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected left-wing government and imposed a reactionary regime that initiated ethnic violence. The United States then provided the military leader with arms, and President Ronald Reagan heralded him as an enemy of communism. Mayan villagers were slaughtered under his watch in 1982 and 1983 during the height of the government’s 35-year military campaign against left-wing rebels.

 

AFRICA

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders announced last month that it was suspending operations in Misrata, Libya, after detainees were tortured and denied medical care. The group’s general director, Christopher Stokes, said, “Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable.” Efforts to pressure military leaders to cease torture proved useless, Stokes said. The revelation has given credence to skeptics of the NATO-led campaign to assist the Libyan rebellion against the former regime; many have said human rights violations were perpetrated by both sides of the conflict.

 

EAST ASIA

A Tibetan activist was shot and killed by Chinese security forces in Sichuan province last month. The BBC reported that the shooting occurred after a Tibetan citizen distributed pamphlets saying “the immolations would not stop unless Tibet was free and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was allowed to return.” The province, east of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, has been on security lockdown, with roadblocks and communications lines cut. This marks the third such murder since unrest against Chinese rule of Tibet increased after a monk set himself on fire in March. Since then, there have been 15 other incidents of self-immolations.

 

SOUTH/CENTRAL ASIA

Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi is on the campaign trail for parliamentary elections in April. Since 1962, Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by a military junta, which held on to power by force in 1990 after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in free elections. She has spent 15 of the last 23 years under house arrest. In December, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Burma to encourage more liberalization, although democracy advocates outside the country have said the junta’s efforts of reform have been few and far between.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Secretary General of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Abd-al- Razzaq Jbeiro was killed near the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhu while riding in a van marked with the Red Crescent, the group said last month. Government violence against pro-democracy protesters has amplified since May, with some 5,000 protesters reportedly killed. Activists claim that the current military crackdown in Damascus has been the worst fighting in the last 10 months. Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, who has ruled the country since 2000, justified the violence against the Arab Spring protesters, claiming that they are backed by foreign governments. The Arab League has suspended Syria due to human rights violations.