Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Vietnam News Update

Vietnam has Increased Childcare

April 12, 2006

An official of the Vietnam Commission for Population, Family and Children said that Vietnam has started to pay more attention to childcare and protection and better executed child rights during the last period of time (2000-2005).

According to VietNamNet:

“The malnutrition rate among five years old children was also reduced from 33.8% to 25.2% in the period.
According to him, in the five years, special attention was paid to children with particular difficulties, with various programmes and projects being carried out. These programmes included the prevention and improvement of the situations of street children, sexually abused children and children working in hard, toxic or dangerous conditions as well as care of orphans, abandoned children, children with HIV/AIDS and child victims of Agent Orange.”

“In 2005, the Government allocated more than VND 20 billion from the State budget for the assistance of children with particular difficulties. The Vietnam Commission for Population, Families and Children mobilised hundreds of millions of VND to finance activities to help street children return to their families and to provide loans and vocational training for poor children in Hanoi and northern Ha Nam province.”

“Vietnam's child care and protection work received support from various international organizations, including the United Nations Children's Fund, the International Labour Organisation, Plan International, World Vision, and Save the Children UK, he said.”

Click here to read the article.

Da Nang to Launch Study Abroad Program for Post-Grad Students

April 11, 2006

Da Nang City plans to send 100 students abroad to get their masters degree and doctorates from 2006-2010.

According to VietNamNet:

“The subjects for this project will be state employees who are working at State agencies and organizations in the city and some top scholarly students.”

“Priority subjects for training in this period of time include health, education, tourism, urban management, architecture, public transport, information technology, project management, financial market and biotechnology. The countries for training are planned to be the United Kingdom, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Australia, France, the US, and China.”

“According to the project, from now to 2010, Da Nang will have around 70-80 masters and 20-25 doctors.”

Read the whole article here.

Sanchez Gets Visa to Vietnam, with Restrictions, after Several Failed Tries

April 10, 2006

An update on Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s Vietnam visa rejection:
Last week Rep. Loretta Sanchez finally got approval from the Vietnamese government to obtain a visa, after having her visa application rejected repeatedly. But Ms. Sanchez was not satisfied, saying there were so many restrictions on the visa that it wound not give her a legitimate reason to visit the country.

Rep. Sanchez told the Associated Press:

“"I'm not going to play that game with them," said Sanchez, who would have been part of House Speaker Hastert's forthcoming trip to Vietnam to focus on trade. Sanchez, whose suburban Los Angeles district has the largest population of Vietnamese outside Vietnam, has been a vocal critic of Vietnam's human rights records.”

“She had hoped to travel to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands to meet with dissidents, look into the sex trafficking of young Vietnamese women to Taiwan and meet with the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam. While Hastert submitted a request for a visa on behalf of Sanchez, Vietnam would only grant her entry to Hanoi -- and said she could only participate in meetings that its government sets up. "That's like being under hotel arrest," Sanchez told the Associated Press.”


Egypt’s Child Labor Problem
April 10, 2006
Amhed, now 14, was 11 when he first began working in the rock quarries. All Africa Global Media reports that he, like 2,000 to 3,000 other children under the age of 18, is being illegally employed in one of the more than 500 rock quarries in and around the central Egyptian town of Minya, located some 250km south of Cairo. Because of the severity of the work and dangerous nature of the rock-cutting machines used in the quarries, the children work in risky environments where the slightest slip-up can lead to disabling injuries, or even death. Some of the blades are up to two feet in diameter- making dismemberment a constant danger.

All Africa Global Media reports:
"Quarry work is one of the worst forms of child labor in terms of hazardous occupations," said Nevine Osman, child-labor coordinator at the Egyptian office of the International Labor Organization (ILO). "The quarries are the worst of the worst."

Children take quarry jobs over others because they pay more. With new attention on the issue, Osman believes it is possible to eliminate child labor in quarries. The First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, has stated her desire to have all child laborers out of quarries within the next two years.

Click here for the full story.

Bahai Rights Recognized
April 6, 2006
All Africa Global Media reports a ruling by the Administrative Court announced on April 4th recognizing the right of Egyptian Bahais to have their religion accredited on official documents.

“This is a landmark case. We feel our efforts have paid off," said Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. "The authorities felt so threatened with exposure that they backed down and ruled in favor of the Bahais' inherent rights."

A similar ruling in 1983, for Bahais to properly identify themselves on documents, was ruled out later in 2004 by the interior ministry’s CSD. Since then they have had to sight themselves as either Muslim or Christian.

"It's unlikely that the ruling will, in itself, transform the situation of Bahais," said Eid. "But it does constitute a step on the long road to the creation of a more religiously tolerant society."

Click here for the full story.

News Update Iraq

Remembering the Fall of Baghdad Three Years later

The intensive news coverage of the war in Iraq has, in some ways, given the international community a sense of understanding the situation on the ground, and, to some extent, what the Iraqi people are thinking and feeling about U.S. presence there. Watching news reports on car bombings, mosque attacks and body counts, along with positive stories of elections and the completion of a new constitution, however, cannot give outsiders a true sense of what it is like to live in this country in the middle of great turmoil and transition. Washington Post contributor and Baghdad resident Bassam Sebti, reflecting on the U.S.-led invasion three years ago, remembers some of the shock and fear that accompanied the first days of war, which still lingers in Iraq. Sebti writes:

“My aunt hurried to turn on the generator so we could look at the TV to see if it was true. The news came as shocking as thunder to us. "U.S. soldiers are gathering in front of the two main hotels in Baghdad," I recall the anchor of the Iranian Arabic-language station, al-Alam, saying.”

“A few days before the war started, one of my aunts had called. "Can we come and stay with you till the war is over?" she asked my mother.Without any hesitation, we said yes. As the fighting commenced and theAmericans closed in on Baghdad, my other aunt decided to come to our home as well to escape the horrible battle taking place at Baghdad's airport, near her house.
"There is a huge [Iraqi] tank in front of the house," she explained. By the time she arrived, we heard that Iraqi soldiers were deserting one after the other.”

“On April 4, the Iraqi army sealed our neighborhood. "The Americans are close," a friend and neighbor told me while I was looking at a U.S. warplane dropping bombs and firing rockets from a far distance. "No way out. We'll be dead if we stay," I told my neighbors. Within hours, they all fled. We were one of the only families left in the neighborhood when we finally decided that we had to leave.”

“April 9 was like all the preceding days. We woke up dizzy, unwilling to hear more tanks and bombs fall here and there. Silent, we all gathered at the table, staring at the food but unable to make ourselves eat. My sister sobbed. "I want to go back home. I want to die in our house. This is not life. This is hell," she said, making my mother cry as well.”

“When we moved to the living room, our deep depression and sorrow followed. While we were gazing at the TV screen, hearing and watching the news of Saddam's fall, we saw the image of his statue in Firdaus Square, surrounded by a crowd of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers and tanks. I stared in amazement as a soldier climbed the giant bronze figure and covered Saddam's visage with the American flag. My mother raised her hands to her mouth in shock. I finally realized that it was over: Our leader is gone and Iraq is occupied.”

To read the whole story, click here.

Hussein Trial

April 10, 2006

Saddam Hussein committed many crimes against the Iraqi people through the decades that his regime was in power, but now he is finally being brought to accountability for the genocidal acts committed against thousands of innocent civilians. He will be forced to answer for these crimes against humanity. However, it is unlikely that he will be tried for every person he killed – some victims of his regime have never been found.

The Kurdistan Regional Government posted the following from a New York Times editorial on the important implications of Hussein’s trial:

“The trauma of those attacks and the long postponement of justice greatly intensified the conviction of many Kurds that they could never live safely under Iraqi Arab rule. Since 1991, the Kurdish northeast has had an autonomous Kurdish government and not much concerned itself with trends in the Arab areas of Iraq, including the recent drift toward civil war. Had it been otherwise, the Kurds, who are largely Sunni by faith and relatively secular in their habits, could have applied a powerful brake to the divisive sectarian policies of the Shiite fundamentalist parties.”

“Mr. Hussein's first trial, in which he has now admitted ordering the execution of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail to punish an assassination attempt, is now moving toward its final stage. If he is convicted and draws the expected death sentence, the genocide trial may never take place. That would be perverse.”

“This long-delayed genocide trial cannot fully right history's wrongs or bridge Iraq's dangerous ethnic and religious divisions. But it can help. It needs to proceed, with Saddam Hussein alive and in the dock.”

Click here to read the whole editorial.
The Role of Oil in Iraqi Politics

April 11, 2006

Washington D.C – The Wilson Center welcomed Yahia Said, Director of Iraq Revenue Watch Initiative at the Open Society Institute and a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance of the London School of Economics to discuss the role of oil in Iraqi politics.

“What has dominated the news the past months has been the compositional resources,” Said began. He said that he had been in meetings for the last week to discuss what could be done in Iraq regarding its oil supply. These sessions included a variety of people, from policymakers to ordinary civilian Iraqis, and were designed to alleviate growing tensions about who will control the country’s oil.

Said raised the difficulties which would arise from the different ways of governing Iraq’s oil. Since the Iraqi constitution has created a decentralized state, control of the oil would be divided between each province. The Iraqi federalists are very pro-constitution, and some compromises were made during the meetings, he said.

There is a sharp divide between those who want petroleum to be ruled by federal authorities and those who want it to be controlled by regional authorities. Today 90% of the Iraqi budget comes from oil revenues, which explains the perceived need for some federal control. Said said that others believe it would be good to separate the oil industry from politics for the sake of government transparency.

Said added that there have been talks about equalizing oil prices with those of neighboring countries, and also about subsidizing all the Iraqi oil revenues. Said also said that people think that Iraq should take in less foreign investors, but in fact Iraq really needs foreign investment for the country’s reconstruction efforts.

The question was raised from the audience whether the tribes within Iraq could be the ones to protect pipelines and the oil; Said answered that such a system had been tested before but it did not work out as hoped. He said that in the end the tribes started to pressure their own interests. He also said that Iraq lost $18 Billion last year through oil smuggling.

Said answered a question about privatization of the oil, saying that there are three or four oil companies and if privatization happened Iraq would become very dependent on them. Today those few entities oversee 94% of all the oil within the country.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cherie Blair Discuses the Women of Afghanistan

April 9, 2006

Kabul – Agence France Presse reported that Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Blair, a human rights lawyer, “discussed a variety of issues, including human rights in Afghanistan, reform of the justice sector, and empowerment of women,” according to the British embassy.

Blair visited a girls’ school and held a discussion on human rights at the embassy, also attended by the head of the Afghan human rights commission and UN officials.

Click here to read the full story.

Afghan Health Workers Killed in Weekend Attack

April 10, 2006

BBC reported on a clinic attack in Badghis province late Sunday, where a doctor and several nurses were killed by unidentified gunmen. In a separate incident, three people, including two policemen, were killed in Helmand province.

The clinic, the only one in Badghis, was set on fire by the attackers.

Violence has risen sharply in recent months, with a string of suicide attacks, mostly in Afghanistan's south.

Click here to read the full story.

Karzai Signs Agreement with India

April 10, 2006

President Karzai met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to boost economic relations between the two countries.

Delhi is one of Kabul's leading donors and has spent over $500 million since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, BBC reports. India is helping to rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure with regular contributions in sectors like education, health care, communications and power. Afghanistan plays a major role for India, as it is a gateway to Central Asia, which India will need for its growing energy demands.

Click here to read more.