Peacemakers Trust posts news, reports or announcements of interest to people studying or working in the field of dispute resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Inclusion of an item on the media watch blog does not imply endorsement or agreement of Peacemakers Trust with views expressed by authors of posted items.
Syria’s foremost proponent of nonviolent protest says he’s returning to Damascus this week and will keep delivering his long-standing message despite the country’s worsening bloodshed.
Sheik Jawdat Said is an 81-year-old Islamic scholar whose books and teachings helped inspire young Syrian activists to challenge the regime in peaceful protests last year.
He is little known in the West, but remains an influential teacher, according to activists in Damascus. Said returns to the Syrian capital at a critical time in the 15-month-old uprising, which seems to be descending into its most violent phase yet.
When Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan went on a hunger strike last December he started a new chapter in the Palestinian non-violent movement, which ended successfully two weeks ago when Israel agreed to several of the key demands made by Palestinian prisoners.
Adnan’s 66-day strike ended in February after Israeli authorities agreed to release him in April. It was followed by hundreds of other prisoners who also went on hunger strikes in multiple Israeli prisons in a step that proved that non-violent actions on a large scale can be more effective than violence.
Though the war has ended, Charles Taylor has been sentenced, and mineral companies are thriving, the poor of this West African country are little better off.
By Greg Campbell
ADONKIA, Sierra Leone — Ten years after the end of Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war over control of its diamond fields, children as young as 3 years old continue to toil in its mines, hoping at best to earn a few pennies for food in a country still wracked by extreme poverty.
But the children aren’t looking for diamonds, which at least hold the hope of a big payday. In a sign of how desperate things remain in Sierra Leone, they’re reduced to one of man’s most difficult labors in their attempt to survive — breaking granite rocks into gravel and selling the piles, cheaply and infrequently, to construction companies for use in cement.
Child labor is nothing new in Sierra Leone, but children working in ad hoc rock quarries southeast of Freetown, the capital, is a new wrinkle resulting from the war, said Foday Mansaray, the headmaster of a free school he founded as the only alternative to a life of hard labor for most of the children enrolled there.
A Letter from Fr. Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia Pacific.
Peace. Today we received news that Fr Pierre Ceyrac died early this morning in Chennai at the age of 98. Born on 4 February 1914 in Limozane, France, Pierre had one sister and 5 brothers. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1931. Being destined for India, he studied Sanskrit at the University of Paris and departed for Chennai in 1937. There in addition to the normal studies for priesthood, he studied Tamil literature. He was ordained a priest in 1945. 16 years of his life was given to AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation), which brought him to many parts of India and to deep engagements with young people.
In 1980 Pierre went to Thailand with a Caritas India team to assist the Cambodian refugees who had come in great numbers across the border as the Vietnamese army did battle with the Khmer Rouge. Pierre and several Jesuit companions, notably John Bingham and Noel Oliver, stayed on to be the founding members of a Jesuit Refugee Service program for Asia Pacific. They accompanied the Cambodian refugees until their return in 1993.
Filed under: Myanmar files — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:46 PST
28 May 2012
By Martin Petty
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi ventures outside Myanmar for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday in an unmistakable display of confidence in the liberalisation taking shape in her country after five decades of military rule.
This week, two totally different cases saw real progress towards resolution due to persistence, focus on achievable results and the use of nonviolent means. Palestinian prisoners and supporters of their just and reasonable requests in Palestine, the Arab world, and the international community saw a successful resolution of their demands. The end of administrative detentions was the aim when Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi began the protests with a pair of hunger strikes followed by Thaer Halahla and Bilal Diab. This was followed by 1,600 prisoners demanding the end of solitary confinement, permission for family visits especially for Gaza families denied such visits since 2007 and agreement to allow prisoners to follow up educational pursuits. Thousands of prisoners refrained from eating for over 28 days while the administrative detainees went into their third month of a dangerous hunger strike. The selfless action of the prisoners touched people around the world who began numerous campaigns on social media and in front of UN agencies, and other forms of protests. In Amman, 15 young people, including two women, started their own hunger strike in a tent outside the Professional Associations Complex. They were especially supportive of over two dozen Jordanians in Israeli prisons, including Abdullah Barghouthi. The image of these supporters wearing light brown outfits resembling the prisoners’ uniforms went viral on line as they exchanged their own pictures with a faceless, brown-wearing sketch. Government officials in Jordan, Egypt, the U.S. and the EU, as well as the secretary general of the UN, were forced to take a stand and pressure the Israelis to accept the demands and use international standards for incarceration. The end was an Egyptian government-brokered deal that responded to most demands by Palestinian prisoners.
An escalation of violence in Syria, as well as the enfeebled UN cease-fire, have revived the tactics of civil, peaceful resistance among many of Syria’s democracy activists. Nonviolent means may be their ultimate force.
JERUSALEM — The deal that ended the Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike not only headed off a confrontation with Israel, but also proved the growing success of the Palestinian strategy of non-violent protest.
The agreement, signed just hours before Nakba Day, when Palestinians mourn the “catastrophe” that befell them in the war that accompanied Israel’s independence in 1948, provided a happy ending for local, regional and international players.
Documentary-maker John Pilger has returned to a subject that can’t be revived often enough: the grotesque untruth of “weapons of mass destruction”: a cloudy concept, eagerly amplified and lent credibility by credulous and submissive journalists who, after 9/11, lost their nerve en masse. Pilger’s contention is that on Afghanistan, on Iraq and on Israel and the Palestinian territories, the mainstream media simply take the official line.
Mediation is a valuable and effective tool for conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes, top United Nations officials stressed today, while also highlighting the need to strengthen the world body, which plays a central role in such efforts.
A man was shot dead because he got into a fight with a shopkeeper over change for a packet of cigarettes. This was a fairly un-noteworthy incident in South Africa in the summer of 1994, at a time when the country was in the throes of giving birth to a new constitution. Both the shopkeeper and his customer lived in one of the country’s many shantytowns, and both were well-connected to two opposing factions that had split the township in two. The two factions pledged allegiance to the same dominant liberation movement, but an intense leadership struggle for local control was underway. This meant that the killing assumed local political overtones. The township was tense, with everyone anticipating revenge at the funeral since violence often broke out at these times. The police were perceived as ‘the enemy’ for their role in enforcing apartheid, so local people did not trust they would successfully deal with the situation.
Instead, the local peace committee established under the country’s National Peace Accord (NPA), sprang into action. Meetings throughout the week involved political, religious and social
organizations. There was some tough and angry talk, but eventually all participants agreed on one goal – the funeral had to be peaceful, as indeed it was.1 The local peace committee had managed
to defuse a potentially violent incident. It might also claim credit for having prevented a vicious cycle of revenge attacks.
This study explores these local peace mechanisms and particularly focuses on structures established as part of a larger peace architecture. In 1997, Lederach noted two countries where regional and local peace commissions made effective contributions to peace: Nicaragua in the late 1980s, and South Africa in the early 1990s. Subsequently, similar local peace building mechanisms have been used in several situations as diverse as FYR Macedonia, Kenya, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Serbia, as well as in Northern Ireland. The UN system has been involved in various supportive
roles in some of these countries, and is considering involvement in others. It is too early to arrive at definitive international standards on implementing these structures, but there is a
sufficient body of experience to point to some tentative guidelines – the goal of this study… full paper (pdf)
By Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (CLMG)
On May 21-22, 2012, the United Nations Committee against Torture will review Canada’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Convention against Torture to prevent, punish and remedy the torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of Canadian Omar Khadr during his ongoing detention at Guantánamo prison. In a report to the Committee against Torture, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (CLMG) state that Canada was both a direct participant and indirectly complicit in the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Mr. Khadr by his U.S. captors.
Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen, born 19 September 1986 in Toronto, Ontario. He was 15 years old when he was wounded and captured by U.S. troops on 27 July 2002 during a 4-hour U.S. ground and air attack home near the village of Ayub Khey, Afghanistan. Khadr was imprisoned at Bagram, Afghanistan until October 2002 and has subsequently spent a period approaching ten years at the detention and interrogation facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. During his detention, Khadr was given no special status as a minor, which made him a child soldier and a victim of war crimes under international law. He was interrogated without counsel on at least two occasions while he was still a minor by Canadian officials who knew he had been subject to torture, including sleep deprivation and prolonged solitary confinement. Canadian officials then illegally provided the results of those investigations to his captors while denying him access to his own statements. (read more…)
IN THE LATEST, and very timely, biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, Peter Popham ably chronicles the incredible story of her life.
By Emma Larkin
The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi
By Peter Popham
(The Experiment, 448 pp., $27.50)
Aung San Suu Kyi mania is sweeping Rangoon. The paraphernalia for sale on the streets of Rangoon now includes the hitherto banned image of Aung San Suu Kyi on posters, stickers, key rings, and baseball caps. At one store, staff are hurriedly screen-printing new t-shirts with line drawings of her face while hundreds of freshly stamped flags bearing the peacock and star logo of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), are being hung up to dry—the shop owner is expecting a rush on sales after the NLD’s landslide victory in Burma’s by-elections earlier this month. The party won forty-three out of the forty-four seats it contested, and even snatched up all four seats available in the new capital and government stronghold of Naypyitaw. It was a staggering victory, and most people I spoke to in Rangoon attributed it to the powerful allure of the party’s world-famous chairperson, Aung San Suu Kyi.
GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday offered her encouragement to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in drafting a regional human rights declaration, but called for a meaningful consultation on the draft with the widest spectrum of people in the region before it is presented to ASEAN’s foreign ministers in July.
Attention lawyers – this talk approved for CPD credits
By Press release: Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Amnesty International and Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group
Thursday, 17 May 2012
VANCOUVER – The displacement of Coast Salish legal traditions — snuw’uyulh — will be the focus of a public talk on May 17 by Sarah Morales, a First Nations lawyer and member of the Cowichan Tribes. The talk, sponsored by Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, and the Vancouver Public Library, will be held on Thursday, May 17th at 7:00 pm in the Alice MacKay room of the Vancouver Public Library at 350 West Georgia Street. (poster) Prior to contact with Europeans the diverse norms and practices of different indigenous peoples on the West Coast had evolved into highly developed legal traditions that guided them in the governance of community, the environment and relationships between peoples. In addition to exploring snuw’uyulh,
Morales, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, will examine the concept of legal pluralism — one that embraces indigenous law, in particular Coast Salish law, as part of the legal framework in Canada. Morales’ talk is the fifth and final public discussion in the series First Nations’ Rights: The Gap between Law and Practice, which has also included presentations by Dr. Grace Woo, Robert Morales, Kenneth Deer, and Dr. Cindy Blackstock.
More information: Gail Davidson, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, 604-738 -338; lrwc [at] portal.ca
Recently, two major events received attention in the mainstream media. Both events left their marks on Canada’s human rights reputation. Canada’s actions (or inactions) and positions with respect to these two matters will undoubtedly be judged by the history books.
The first event is the possible return of Omar Khadr to Canada. After spending more than eight years in Guantanamo, and after he has suffered torture and psychological harassment since he was 15, Omar Khadr entered a ‘plea bargain’ in return for an eight-year sentence. Part of the deal was an implicit diplomatic agreement that Canada would recommend his transfer after one year…
The other major event that made news two weeks ago is the closing of the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, also known as Guantanamo North among human rights activists. Despite the fact that this prison was so controversial, its closure went by quietly and slipped under the radar.
Nearly two decades after the Bosnian War ended, thousands of Bosnian women who were victims of sexual violence are still seeking justice.
Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the start of the war this month with a young people’s choir performing John Lennon’s song “Give Peace a Chance.” Row after row of empty red chairs marked the more than 11,500 people who died during the siege of the capital.
But there was no mention of the many thousands of women raped and tortured during the war. The fighting was triggered by Serbs — Bosnia’s second-largest ethnic group — opposed to independence, and produced the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, lasted nearly four years and killed 100,000 people.