2009年3月24日 星期二

U.N. Rights Official Fears War Crimes in Sri Lanka

Published: March 13, 2009

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Government forces and Tamil rebels may be committing war crimes against civilians trapped in a conflict zone and should suspend their fighting to allow them to escape, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said Friday.

The military, in what it says is a final assault in a 25-year separatist war, has cornered the remnants of the insurgency on a sliver of land that is packed with civilians — as many as 180,000, according to the United Nations official, Navi Pillay.

In a statement issued in Geneva, Ms. Pillay said the government had repeatedly shelled the area, which it had designated a “no fire” zone for civilians. At the same time, she said, the rebels, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or L.T.T.E., were using the civilians as human shields and had reportedly shot some as they tried to flee.

“Certain actions being undertaken by the Sri Lankan military and by the L.T.T.E. may constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” Ms. Pillay said.

“The world today is ever sensitive about such acts that could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she added.

The government strongly denies that it has shelled civilian areas, and it puts the number of people in the combat zone at 70,000, lower than most independent estimates.

“We have very clearly stated that we have not at any time fired at the no fire zone,” said Mahinda Samarasinghe, the minister for disaster management and human rights, speaking to The Associated Press.

Independent reporters and most humanitarian groups have been barred from the battle zone, and reports from the area are difficult to verify.

In addition to barring civilians from leaving the area, the rebels are also reported to be recruiting civilians, including children, as soldiers, Ms. Pillay’s office said in the statement.

“The brutal and inhuman treatment of civilians by the L.T.T.E. is utterly reprehensible, and should be examined to see if it constitutes war crimes,” she said.

Citing “a range of credible sources,” Ms. Pillay said more than 2,800 civilians had been killed and more than 7,000 had been wounded, including hundreds of children, since Jan. 20. She said 150,000 to 180,000 civilians remained trapped by the fighting, which is in northeastern Sri Lanka.

The Tamil rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The Hindu Tamils are a minority in the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese nation. Their insurgency has been particularly brutal, marked by suicide bombings and attacks on civilians.

“The current level of civilian casualties is truly shocking,” Ms. Pillay said, “and there are legitimate fears that the loss of life may reach catastrophic levels, if the fighting continues in this way.”

2009年3月17日 星期二

quote of the week

"I get to work and pull up my Google news. I guess I am part of the problem."

Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money


Published: September 30, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.

“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.”

The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on whom you ask.

In a 45-minute interview, Mr. Sugule spoke on everything from what the pirates wanted (“just money”) to why they were doing this (“to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters”) to what they had to eat on board (rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food”).

He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

The pirates who answered the phone call on Tuesday morning said they were speaking by satellite phone from the bridge of the Faina, the Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia on Thursday. Several pirates talked but said that only Mr. Sugule was authorized to be quoted. Mr. Sugule acknowledged that they were now surrounded by American warships, but he did not sound afraid. “You only die once,” Mr. Sugule said.

He said that all was peaceful on the ship, despite unconfirmed reports from maritime organizations in Kenya that three pirates were killed in a shootout among themselves on Sunday or Monday night.

He insisted that the pirates were not interested in the weapons and had no plans to sell them to Islamist insurgents battling Somalia’s weak transitional government. “Somalia has suffered from many years of destruction because of all these weapons,” he said. “We don’t want that suffering and chaos to continue. We are not going to offload the weapons. We just want the money.”

He said the pirates were asking for $20 million in cash; “we don’t use any other system than cash.” But he added that they were willing to bargain. “That’s deal-making,” he explained.

Piracy in Somalia is a highly organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. Just this year, pirates hijacked more than 25 ships, and in many cases, they were paid million-dollar ransoms to release them. The juicy payoffs have attracted gunmen from across Somalia, and the pirates are thought to number in the thousands.

The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.

“From there, they got greedy,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”

By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, United Naitons-chartered food ship.

“It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business,” Mr. Mohamed said. “And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.”

The United States and several European countries, in particular France, have been talking about ways to patrol the waters together. The United Nations is even considering something like a maritime peacekeeping force. Because of all the hijackings, the waters off Somalia’s coast are considered the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.

On Tuesday, several American warships — around five, according to one Western diplomat — had the hijacked freighter cornered along the craggy Somali coastline. The American ships allowed the pirates to bring food and water on board, but not to take weapons off. A Russian frigate is also on its way to the area.

Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said on Tuesday that he had heard the unconfirmed reports about the pirate-on-pirate shootout, but that the Navy had no more information. “To be honest, we’re not seeing a whole lot of activity” on the ship, he said.

In Washington, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to discuss any possible American military operations to capture the ship.

“Our concern is right now making sure that there’s a peaceful resolution to this, that this cargo does not end up in the hands of anyone who would use it in a way that would be destabilizing to the region,” Mr. Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the United States government was not involved in any negotiations with the pirates. He also said he had no information about reports that the pirates had exchanged gunfire among themselves.

Kenyan officials continued to maintain that the weapons aboard were part of a legitimate arms deal for the Kenyan military, even though several Western diplomats, Somali officials and the pirates themselves said the arms were part of a secret deal to funnel weapons to southern Sudan.

Somali officials are urging the Western navies to storm the ship and arrest the pirates because they say that paying ransoms only fuels the problem. Western diplomats, however, have said that such a commando operation would be very difficult because the ship is full of explosives and the pirates could use the 20 crew members as human shields.

Mr. Sugule said his men were treating the crew members well. (The pirates would not let the crew members speak on the phone, saying it was against their rules.) “Killing is not in our plans,” he said. “We only want money so we can protect ourselves from hunger.”

When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed and said, “Because we have a lot of men.”

Mohammed Ibrahim contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

The Somalia's coast are considered the most dangerous shipping areas in the world. The pirates groups are getting more and more stronger, they plunder all kind of vessels nearby, no matter the food, nessesaries, especially the weapons. The pirates claimed that the cases of maritime conflicts which happened recently are sort of protecting their water's sovereignty. They were preventing illegal fishing and dumping waste of their seas. As for the plunderage, they just want money but anything, it's a great group of them, they have to prevent hungary. But there were so many vessels of all the nationalities had been attacked, the international society is even considering to union a patrol or a martitime peacekeeping force of the somalia's coastline. The international society couldn't bear the hijacking anymore. The pirates said they never think about selling the weapons to those Islamist insurgents. All they want is just "money".

2009年3月10日 星期二

Tensions high in advance of Tibet anniversary

By Jaime FlorCruzCNN Beijing Bureau Chief

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule and the chasm between Beijing and critics of its Tibet policies remains deep and wide.

Pro-Tibet supporters have marched in London and other cities to mark the anniversary. "Tibetans have had enough Chinese rule," said Matt Wiskase, a protest organizer in London. "They emphatically reject Chinese rule in Tibet and they want to be free."

But Chinese officials blame the 50-year conflict on the Dalai Lama, accusing the Buddhist leader of seeking to sever Tibet from China.

"The Dalai side still insists on establishing a so-called Greater Tibet on a quarter of China's territory," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of China's parliament. "They want to drive away the Chinese armed forces on Chinese territory and ask all non-Tibetans to relocate themselves, people who have long spend their lives in that part of the Chinese territory. You call this person a religious figure?"

Yang said China's "contradictions" with the Dalai Lama "is not about religious, human rights, ethnic or cultural issues but whether or not China will remain unified."

The Dalai Lama, 74, has repeatedly denied China's accusations. He says he seeks genuine autonomy for the region -- not independence -- and advocates the "Middle Way" of non-violence. He has won a Nobel Prize for advocating peace and is revered as an iconic figure overseas, but the Dalai Lama has never been allowed to return to Tibet, after fleeing his homeland in 1959. His emissaries have held sporadic talks with Chinese officials. But the talks, encouraged by the United States and other countries, have failed to break the impasse.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops to "liberate" the region from what it said was serfdom under the Dalai Lama. China has decreed that March 28 -- the day the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India -- is to be celebrated as "Serfs Emancipation Day."

"Prior to 1959, Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under theocratic rule, a society which was even darker than medieval society in Europe," according to a white paper issued by the Chinese government last week. In recent days, China's state-run television has been airing prime-time programs showing just how good Beijing believes Tibetans have it under Chinese rule.

China for decades has poured billions of dollars into Tibet to modernize one of its most isolated regions.

Since 1994, the local gross domestic product has grown at an average annual rate of 12.8 percent, spurred by rapid growth in local industry, trade and tourism, according to the paper released by Beijing last week. Such a figure is higher than the national average for the same period, and is symbolized by a high-altitude railway link from Beijing to Tibet which opened in 2007.

In recent years, the region has seen an influx of Han Chinese and other ethnic groups, enticed by business and job opportunities. Although some Tibetans have benefited from the economic expansion, others are being left behind. China's critics complain of "cultural genocide" and repression of religious freedom. Resentful Tibetans say they are often treated as second-class citizens.

Last March, resentment spilled over when a peaceful protest in the Tibetan capital Lhasa turned violent, as mobs burned vehicles and shops and attacked ethnic Chinese. China blames the Dalai Lama for inciting protesters -- an allegation he has denied. Tibetan exiles say more than 200 people died when Chinese security forces clamped down, but Beijing denies this, saying 22 people, mostly Chinese civilians, died during riots.

Tension remains high ahead of the 50th anniversary. Journalists are not allowed to travel into Tibet but there are reports that China has deployed extra security troops into the region to avert a repeat of last year's violent unrest. Tibet's top official, Qiangba Puncog, says the anniversary is always a sensitive period but predicts there will be no major protests. "There should be no big problems in Tibet," he told reporters in Beijing.

But Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party chief in Tibet, says they are not letting their guard down. "We must keep a watchful eye, and with clenched fists, constantly be on the alert," he told the officers of the local riot police. "We must resolutely and directly strike at criminal elements who dare to stir up incidents. We must foil the separatist schemes of the Dalai clique."

The conflict that Tibet against Chinese rule 50 years ago resulted to Dalai Lama's exile. Tibetans have been trying to sever ties with Beijing, but Chinese government thinks it's kind of depriving their sovereignty. The independence of Tibet will never be allowed, Chinese government said resolutely. According to the violent repression which was happened in Tibet last year, Chinese government claimed that's a non-violent action, it aimed to end the Tibetan mobs unreasonable riot. But, obviously, Chinese government were kidding the whole world. They sent the armed forces into Tibet and killed some people. China did everything excessively to repress Tibet like a gangster. They sent a lot Hen Chinese to Tibet in order to dilute the genuine Tibetans, and execute riligious persecution. Dalai Lama's still exiling to India and not allowed to go back to Tibet. He has already announced that they don't want independence, just want autonomy. Even so, there's no room to negociate with unyielding Chinese government. Tibetans can just pray and keep waiting for the chance to change their fate.

2009年3月3日 星期二

U.S. envoy for North Korea may visit Pyongyang

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. envoy for North Korea hopes to visit that nation next week as part of what the Obama administration hopes will be a different relationship between Washington and Pyongyang, senior administration officials told CNN on Thursday.

Stephen Bosworth lectures at Tufts University, where he is dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Stephen Bosworth will travel first to China, South Korea and Japan -- U.S. partners in the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program, the officials said. He will be traveling with Sung Kim, director of the State Department's Office of Korean Affairs, who has also acted as a top negotiator.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce Bosworth's trip to the region Thursday afternoon, the officials said.

They said Bosworth will consult with Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo about the status of the nuclear negotiations and determine whether they are approve of him making an overture to Pyongyang.

If the talks go well, Bosworth will then ask the North Korean government for permission to travel there, the officials said. It would be the first face-to-face contact between representatives of the Obama administration and the North Korean government.

North Korea is aware of the possibility of a visit, the officials said, but nothing has been scheduled.

Clinton appointed Bosworth as special representative for North Korea policy, overseeing U.S. efforts in the six-party talks. In addition to the United States and North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are taking part.

Bosworth, who has visited North Korea several times, served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1997 to 2000 and was executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization from 1995 to 1997. He is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Officials say another option is for Bosworth to meet North Korean officials in Beijing. Bosworth just traveled to Pyongyang last month in his capacity as dean of the Fletcher school before being named to the government post.

The possible visit to North Korea comes as the Obama administration weighs greater engagement with the reclusive country. Clinton said before traveling to Asia last week that if North Korea moved ahead with denuclearization, the United States would be prepared to normalize relations and sign a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula.

Tension between Pyongyang and its neighbor South Korea has increased in recent weeks, with North Korea announcing it would scrap peace agreements with the South, warning of a war on the Korean Peninsula and appearing ready to test a missile capable of hitting the western United States.

U.S. and South Korean officials have said that North Korea seems to be preparing to test-fire its long-range missile, the Taepodong-2. Pyongyang tested one of the missiles in 2006, but it failed 40 seconds after launch. The missile is thought to have an intended range of about 4,200 miles (6,700 kilometers), which -- if true -- could give it the capability of striking Alaska or Hawaii.

Denying intelligence suggesting the missile test, North Korea announced Tuesday it is preparing to launch a satellite from its northeastern coast.

Clinton, who returned from Asia on Sunday after her first overseas trip as secretary of state, called North Korea's nuclear program "the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia" and has said there is a "testing period" at present about how diplomacy can move forward.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Il reportedly had a stroke in recent months and some observers claim he may not be fully in charge of the country. Clinton said last week that if Kim is replaced, "even it if is a peaceful succession, then that creates more uncertainty. It may also encourage even more provocative action as a way to delegate power."

The tension between North and South Korea has increased in recent weeks. North Korea keeps releasing the possibility of launching the missile and developing the nuclear weapon. And now, North Korea has been treated as one of the terroristic country. The U.S. tries to decrease the tension between Washington and Pyongyang in any manner. They'll hold the six-party talks in order to discuss the way to end North Korea's plans. The Obama administration has shown strongly to poise the relationship of Asian countries. First, Hillary Clinton chose Asia as her first trip as the Secretary of States. Now, the U.S. are planning to dispatch the envoy to negotiate with Asian countries especially North Korea. The meaning is not only to convince North Korea to give up launching the missile but also poise the unrest of the Korean Peninsula. If everything goes well, the Obama administration will have the first face-to-face contact with North Korea. And it also means the diplomacy relations of North Korea may lead to normalization.