Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, February 10, 2006

CHRC Hosts Roundtable on Muslim Integration in Europe

February 9, 2006

Washington, DC – The Congressional Human Rights Caucus hosted Pulitzer Prize winning Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson Thursday for the briefing, “Muslim Integration in Germany and Europe: ‘Melting Pot’ or Rise in Fundamentalism.”

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA), who chaired the roundtable event, said that while Europe does need to root out the specific threats from its Muslim population of 20 million, “All of us have rights, and we need to protect immigrants and their rights.”

Johnson, who has spent seven years covering China and five years as WSJ’s Berlin correspondent, said that when he arrived in Germany in 2001 he pinpointed a stagnant economy and immigration as the two key issues facing Europe. Europe needs immigrants due to its declining birthrate and because “it needs an infusion of new ideas and talents,” Johnson said. “By virtue of geography those people come from the Arab world.”

With the influx of Muslim immigrants over the 20th century came two types of Islam – a non-political, benign form of the religion, as well as a small strain of political, radical Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological movement which began in Egypt in the 1920s, has established a strong presence throughout Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood’s most important post outside of the Arab world is the mosque it controls in Munich, Johnson said.

While the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology is widespread throughout Europe, it is not representative of most Muslims. Since the Brotherhood and groups like it (under the umbrella of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe) are very organized, however, it sets the agenda, policy and tone for the Muslim communities in European nations. The Federation approaches its agenda from the perspective of human rights and religious freedom, which Johnson called “deceptive,” because its real agenda is one of fundamentalism. European governments deal with the Brotherhood and other similar groups, however, because they are united and they know how to play the bureaucratic game.

Easily susceptible to fundamentalist Islam preached by the Brotherhood are poor, second and third generation immigrants who have not found jobs or been integrated into the European education system. Some Muslim young people “don’t view themselves as part of society,” Johnson said, in part explaining their resentments. Unemployment rates among young adults, especially immigrants, are “astronomical.” “Socio-economic problems radicalize Europe’s Muslim population,” Johnson said. In countries (like France) where there is a “colonial history” – France colonized Algeria, and many Algerian immigrants now live in France – tensions run even higher.

Vietnam News Update

Vietnam Considers Dropping Nine Death Penalty Crimes
February 10, 2006
The China Post reported Friday that Vietnam may abolish the death penalty for nine crimes.

On the list, created by the country’s Ministry of Public Security and submitted to the Central Judiciary Reform Steering Commission, are smuggling, fraud, counterfeiting and bribery, state-controlled media reported Friday. Eliminating the nine crimes would reduce from 29 to 20 the number of offenses in Vietnam which are punishable by death. In 2003, the number of crimes punishable by death was reduced from 44 to 29.
The ministry also proposed adding lethal injection as a more humane method of execution. Currently, Vietnam executes prisoners by firing squad.
International human rights groups have criticized Vietnam for handing down many death sentences and using firing squads for executions.
Read the complete article here.

Vietnam may switch from using firing squads to lethal injection
February 10, 2006
Vietnam's Police Ministry wants to replace the use of firing squads with lethal injection for criminals sentenced to the death penalty, according to a Reuters news report.
"Lethal injection is becoming popular in the countries where the death sentence is still applied," the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper, run by the city's Justice Department, quoted the Ministry study as saying.
"The method's advantage is to cause less pain to the death-row inmate, the execution time is short, some parts can be automated so it will minimise the psychological difficulties for executioners," it said.
Read the complete article here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Boat People SOS helps Vietnamese victims of Hurricane Katrina

Today's Washington Post features an article and photo essay on the Vietnamese victims of Hurricane Katrina, who, along with their neighbors, are struggling to rebuild in the wake of that natural disaster.

According to the piece, reported by Jacqueline Salmon:

"Boat People SOS's task is one of the more challenging: to work with insular, often isolated, Vietnamese communities. An estimated 50,000 Vietnamese live along the Gulf Coast, including 'boat people' who settled in the area after fleeing Southeast Asia in the 1970s and '80s."

Some of these storm victims have sought shelter at a local Buddhist temple, while others continue to live in trailers, tents, and even cars while they work to salvage what, if anything, is left of their homes and fishing boats. Because for many of these victims, English is a second language, they may need extra assistance to process insurance claims and to access other resources they need.

The Leadership Council applauds the efforts of Boat People SOS to address the needs of the Vietnamese Gulf Coast community. To learn more about the misison of Boat People SOS, visit their website.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Report from Capitol Hill: Human Rights in Burma

February 7, 2006

The International Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, met with the joint Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and on Asia and the Pacific to discuss the current human rights situation in Burma and what the United States and the international community can do to help on Tuesday.
The two panelists addressing the topic were Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

“After forty years of brutal military dictatorships, the human rights situation in Burma is frightening,” Rep. Smith said. He added, “That nation’s current military junta, in power for over seventeen years, is an abysmal failure on every conceivable level.”

Rep Smith pointed out some of the United States’ main concerns about Burma, including its current regime, child soldiers, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, political prisoners, torture, systematic rape and corruption.

Assistant Secretary Lowenkron quoted Secretary Rice in his testimony, describing Burma’s military junta as “one of the worst regimes in the world.” The regime is both cruel and destructive and has inflicted tremendous suffering on the Burmese people, Lowenkron said. The South East Asian region has also experienced large refugee surges, which have increased the spread of HIV/AIDS and also the trafficking of drugs and human beings, Lowenkron reported.

Burma has at least 70,000 child soldiers, State Secretary Hill said during his testimony. He also said that the situation in Burma requires the attention not only of the United States but also of the rest of the world, especially by those countries that maintain significant trade with Burma.

Both of the panelists brought up their concerns about the major difficulties within the country, such as the political prisoners which in 2005 numbered about 1,100.
There are an estimated 35 prisons and 70 labor camps in Burma, in which conditions are harsh and life-threatening.

In the end of Mr. Lowenkron’s testimony he quoted President Bush, saying – “The people of Burma live in darkness of tyranny – but the light of freedom shines in their hearts.”

Mr. Lowenkron and Mr. Hill made it clear that the issues within Burma must be addressed seriously, and soon.

Wilson Center Event Report: Al Qaeda Network in Iran and Iraq

January 31, 2006

The Wilson Center hosted Rohan Gunaratna, Head of Terrorism Research, Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore; he is also author of Inside Al Qaeda. The following is LCHR’s synopsis of the event.

Not every terrorist attack is the work of Al Qaeda, Head of Terrorism Research at the Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies said at the Wilson Center panel on Al Qaeda Network in Iran and Iraq. After 9/11 there were many organizations that were established all around the world which trying to started copy Al Qaeda acts.

Gunaratna also said that there has not been any proof what that Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq had any connection with Al Qaeda.
He also gave the background which confirmed his statement. Long before the attacks in the United States, many Kurds in Northern Iraq went to Iran and made links with the Al Qaeda because of their hate against Saddam Hussein.

One thing Gunaratna encouraged people to take with them after the lecture was that “no terrorist group would survive without support.” He also said that he did not think that the world would get rid of terrorism ever, but to limit the organizations all over the world the powerful countries have to work with the poor countries and especially the Muslim countries. Some terrorist organizations are also willing to negotiate, which the world should have in mind, according to Gunaratna.

Gunaratna said before the Unites States was going into Iraq that it would be a big mistake; today he says that it would be an even bigger mistake to withdraw the troops. “That will result in a reestablishment for the Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations” he said.

Gunaratna also said he thinks there will be an Islamic government in Egypt, and more and more terrorists are moving to Egypt.

Rohan Gunartana ended with the observation that the United States should consider dealing with Iran now so that it will not provide Al Qaeda leaders with nuclear weapons in the future.

Muhammad Drawings Incite Violent Protests

Afghanistan -

Violent rioting broke out throughout the Muslim world after the publication of a Danish caricature depicting the prophet Muhammad. The offensive cartoon, which appeared in a conservative publication in September, showed the prophet wearing a turban with a lit bomb on top of it. Many Muslims had gathered to protest outside of the U.S. base in Bagram when police opened fire on a group of 2,000 protestors who were trying to break in. Two demonstrators were killed, 13 were wounded.

In Mihtarlam, police were shot at and had stones and knives thrown at them, leaving two protesters dead and three others wounded, including two police officers. Click for more detail

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

United States Not Trying To Shrink U.N., State's Lagon Says

Human Rights Council should be better than predecessor commission

Washington -- The United States is not trying to rein in the United Nations by advocating reform of the world body, says the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for international organization affairs.
Instead, Mark Lagon says, the United States wants to see U.N. resources applied effectively to the matters of highest priority. The goal is not to cut U.N. programs but to shift existing resources from the least to the most important programs, he told a group of private and public sector development experts at a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Washington roundtable January 26.

Read more about it on http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile english&y=2006&m=Januaryx=20060126172620sjhtrop0.7530939&t=xarchives/xarchitem.html
From the New York Times Op-Ed:

In January more than 800 people — soldiers, security officers and civilians — were killed as a result of the insurgency in Iraq. While the daily toll is noted in the newspapers and on TV, it is hard for many Americans to see these isolated reports in a broader context. The map, based on data from the American, British and Iraqi governments and news reports, shows the dates, locations and circumstances of deaths for the first month of the year.

To see the map, please click here:

News Update on Iraq

Second Bird Flu Death Confirmed
Authorities have confirmed that a second Iraqi has died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, as international teams scrambled to combat the spread of the virus in the country’s north.

Hamma Sur Abdullah, 40, who died of flu-like symptoms a little over a week after his niece, was confirmed by a lab in Cairo as having died of the same cause, a senior Kurdish health official told AFP.

Further tests are underway, in Britain, on virus samples from Mr. Abdullah, as well as on samples from a woman who comes from the same region and remains in hospital with bird flu’s characteristic flu-like symptoms.
Those tests will tell researchers if the virus is in anyway mutating.
To read the article, click here:

(February 7, 2006)

International Help to tackle Bird Flu in Iraq
Iraq was treating six patients from the same part of northern Iraq for suspected bird flu on Monday as international experts began to help the war-ravaged country fight the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) team arrived in the country at the weekend, after laboratory tests last week confirmed that an Iraqi teenage girl who died last month had H5N1 avian influenza, raising fears that the virus had spread from neighboring Turkey.

The girl's uncle also died and a WHO laboratory in London is testing samples to see if bird flu killed him. Tests are also being carried out on samples from a 54-year-old woman with respiratory problems who is being treated in northern Iraq.
To read the article, click here:

(February 6, 2006)

Increasing Kidnapping in Iraq
A wave of abductions is sweeping through Iraq - as evidenced this week by three videotaped demands by groups holding Western hostages.Since last fall the number of foreigners seized has spiked, following a prolonged lull. Meanwhile, Iraqis themselves are being kidnapped in large numbers - some months, more than 30 per day.

"The goal of terrorism has nothing to do with killing innocent victims, or the victims themselves," says Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University. "The goal is to have an impact on outside audiences."

Since May 2003, 268 foreigners have been kidnapped in Baghdad, according to an index maintained by the Brookings Institution in Washington. Of these, 135 were released, three escaped, three were rescued, and 44 were killed, according to Brookings. The fate of 81 hostages remains unknown.
To read the whole article, click here:

(February 2, 2006)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Relatives Riot Over Ferry Accident

SAFAGA, Egypt (AP) -- Relatives of passengers,drowned on a Red Sea ferry, attacked the offices of the owners Monday, throwing its furniture into the street and burning the company's signboard.

Riot police intervened and fired tear gas to restore order.

The mob broke into the offices of El Salam Maritime in this Red Sea port early in the morning and began throwing everything out into the street.

The families need death certificates to claim a payment of $5,200 that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said should go to the family of each victim. The president said survivors would each get $2,600. Neither victim or family member has yet to recieve pay.
for more detail