International Briefs

Indypendent Staff Dec 12, 2008

The United States has refused to join more than 90 countries in December in signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use, stockpiling and trade of a weapon that has killed or injured tens of thousands of civilians. Cluster bombs explode in mid-air, dispersing smaller bomblets which can fail to explode on impact. The bomblets remain potentially lethal on the ground, posing a danger to civilians and render agricultural land unusable. The United States last used cluster bombs in Afghanistan in 2001 and in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when coalition forces dropped an estimated 1.8 million bomblets. The United States has instead pledged to implement a policy to improve the reliability of bomblets, so only 1 percent fail to explode on impact, by 2018.

VIOLENCE SPREADS IN PALESTINE Israeli airstrikes in Southern Gaza killed two Palestinian teenagers and a third man was shot by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank Dec 2. Israeli settlers wounded three Palestinians during a non-violent protest in the town of Bil’in while dozens of Palestinian homes and businesses were attacked across the West Bank. The violence came in response to the eviction of 250 Jewish settlers from a disputed house in Hebron, Israel. Premier Olmert declared that he was “ashamed” by the “pogrom.” In Gaza, Israel lifted its four-week ban on journalists and aid workers, although the United Nations describes conditions there as the “worst ever.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and U.N. General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman equated Israeli policies to apartheid, while d’Escoto Brockman called for “boycott, divestment and sanctions.” To read three interviews comparing the situation to apartheid South Africa, click here.

Online journalists are imprisoned in greater numbers than journalists in other mediums, a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says. The annual study found that of the 125 imprisoned journalists around the world Dec. 1, 56 publish on the Internet. The CPJ said this was the first time the number of online journalists jailed surpassed that of imprisoned print journalists, which is currently at 53. China was the world’s worst offender, where, out of 28 incarcerated journalists, 24 publish online. “The future of journalism is online and we are now in a battle with the enemies of press freedom,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Oil giant Chevron was acquitted by a San Francisco federal jury Dec. 2 for alleged human rights abuses in Nigeria. In May 1998, Nigerian military forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators occupying an off-shore oil drilling platform in protest of environmental devastation caused by Chevron’s operations in the Niger Delta. Two people were killed and two others were wounded in the attack. The lawsuit alleges that police forces were flown to the platform in Chevron helicopters. Chevron argued it did not know the Nigerian military would use excessive force in spite of its well-known history of human rights violations. A Nigerian newspaper reported that while Chevron was in court Nov. 20, police forces shot into a peaceful protest against the company in the Nigerian town of Warri.

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