Occupy movements in the US went on the offensive last week, a few days after police forcibly cleared tents in cities from New York to Oakland. In addition to holding their ground in the face of violent intimidation, they began to interrupt business as usual. Rejecting the logic that compels the poor to bail out the rich, they restricted access to New York’s stock exchange, they marched on bridges and subway stations, they targeted banks and corporations, they overwhelmed university campuses. Meanwhile, in defiance of an eviction order, Occupy London undertook a “public repossession” of an abandoned office building and began its conversion into a “bank of ideas”; in its first couple of days, this new variation on a public university has already arranged a full schedule of meetings and talks about privatisation, tax havens, globalisation, direct democracy, the Tobin tax, photography and contemporary fiction. More forceful protests against neoliberal austerity measures and other forms of tyranny, meanwhile, have continued in Tahrir Square and in cities across Europe and the Middle East.(...more)
Saturday, 3 December 2011
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian government. Pillay said that during the eight-month uprising the death toll in Syria has surpassed 4,000 with tens of thousands arrested and over 14,000 detained as a result of the crackdown. The Human Rights Council established an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate the human rights violations in Syria during the eight-month uprising. Pillay stated:
The Commission’s report documents widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by Syrian authorities by acts such as: killing of children by beating or shooting during demonstrations, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment. It records at least 256 deaths of children—I understand since increased to 307 children—and instances of schools being used as detention facilities, demonstrating the State’s disregard for children’s right to education and personal safety. The Commission collected evidence of sexual violence against civilians, especially sexual torture of male detainees and children and sexual assaults upon women in places of detention.(...more)
Political parties with clear Islamic identities appear to be gaining a majority in preliminary results from Egypt’s first round of parliamentary elections: the Muslim Brotherhood backed Freedom and Justice Party has around 40% of the vote and a further 25% went to the more extreme Salafi, An-Nour party. While the Brotherhood and the FJP have pledged to respect democratic principles and the rights of other Egyptians, the Salafis are explicitly hostile to the rights of women and minorities and to freedom of expression.
These parties believe that the law of God is superior to that of men and that they are in unique possession of the authoritative interpretation of the divine will. Their apparent strength is bad news for human rights in Egypt, but it should focus the minds of those who wish to see Egypt’s democratic transition move forward.
Here are five reasons not to give up on Egypt’s democratic transition at the first hurdle…(...more)
Why does change seem so desirable and so exhilarating in our times? Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was fueled by the promise of change. In Burma today there is continuous debate on whether the new government means real change or whether it is no more than the old army dictatorship in new civilian garb. Almost every day I am asked if I believe that measures taken by the new administration should be seen as mere window dressing or as signs of genuine change in the right direction. After 23 years under authoritarian rule, impatience to see and to experience change is understandable. It has been sharpened by events in other parts of the world during 2011.