Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Detained Vietnamese lawyers may get lengthy sentences

After the long sentence imposed on Father Nguyen Van Ly late last month, two Vietnamese attorneys charged with the same crime may receive similar sentences, according to Compass Direct News. The attorneys, Nguyen Van Dai and Le This Cong Nhan, were both arrested in early March and are being charged with providing “material harmful to the state.”

Dai and Nhan have not been able to see family members or lawyers during their detention, the latter being in direct conflict with the laws of Vietnam. Additionally, there has been a government campaign to paint the lawyers in a negative light in articles in state-run newspapers.

Dai and Nhan have been active dissidents and are both tied to Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy movement established last year. Dai is also a well-known human rights lawyer and has taken on many religious freedom cases.

To read this article, click here.

Iranian women activists released; others detained

Two Iranian women, Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh and Nahid Keshavarz, arrested April 2 for collecting signatures for a petition to change Iran’s discriminatory laws toward women, were released from prison Sunday, according to an alert from the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace on Tuesday.

Within the past week though, 11 additional activists from the campaign, known as “One Million Signatures Campaign,” were detained and charged with “violating national security,” “publicity against the Islamic Republic,” and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration,” the article said.

Additionally, Iranian police have announced that beginning this Saturday, women will be arrested if their attire violates Islamic law. According to the article violations would include “wearing short coats, tight outer garments, or inadequate headscarves.” In order to be released, “They will have to give a written engagement not to repeat the offense and can then leave when their family brings the appropriate clothing,” Tehran’s chief of police said.

For the full article, click here.

Vietnam warned about environment

A report released yesterday has warned that Viet Nam’s biodiversity and water resources are under severe threat, according to Vietnam Net. The National Committee on Clean Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation report puts Viet Nam near the top of the list of countries where there is a “rapid degradation of their biodiversity.” As an example of this destruction, the report estimates that within the next 50 years, roughly 75 percent of mangrove tree population will have been wiped out.

Pollution and exhaustion – problems exacerbated by a lack of knowledge among the populace about environmental protection procedures and the dumping of untreated waste – have brought the water resources in Vietnam to dangerously low levels, the report says.
To read this article, click here.

Iraq promises $25 million in aid for refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) held a two-day conference this week to bring Iraq’s humanitarian crisis to the forefront of the international community’s attention. During the conference, which ended yesterday, the Iraqi government pledged $25 million to assist Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan in the form of education, health care and housing assistance, according to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty article the same day.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutteres hailed the pledge as a “major step forward to allow for people to keep their hope alive.” He also said the step is a “major change in the pattern of relations in the region and in the prospects for refugees in the area.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon opened the conference by urging U.N. member states to pledge additional assistance. Iraq’s neighbors should also maintain open borders, he added.

For the full article, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Egyptian authorities looking to arrest journalist blogger

Egyptian authorities last Friday broke into the Alexandria home of Abdel Men’em Mahmoud, a 27-year-old television journalist and blogger, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reported the next day.

Mahmoud was not at home when police arrived, as he reportedly expected to be detained as the result of his recent coverage of police actions against Brotherhood activists and fled his residence.

Mahmoud had been arrested and subjected to torture for 13 days in a previous incident in 2003.

For the full article, click here.

Afghanistan at a critical juncture, experts say

Afghanistan has reached the “tipping point,” according to ex-finance minister Ashraf Gahni Ahmadzai, given that the Taliban has gained partial control of four major provinces in the south and Afghans are losing faith in the international community, freelance journalist Massoumeh Torfeh reported via BBC News Monday.

Ahmadzai says that Afghans do not want the Taliban to regain power, but stresses that U.N. agencies and other international organizations must be more efficient in providing relief to safeguard against the prospect of stronger Taliban influence.

Other experts such as Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s former foreign minister, share Ahmadzai’s sentiment and recommend that President Hamid Karzai and the international community make efforts to secure employment and housing for all Afghans. If these problems aren’t addressed, the fear is that many more Afghans will turn to the Taliban in hopes of a quick solution. Indeed, Abdullah cautions that this may be “the last chance” for authorities.

Hanjörg Kretschmer, the head of European Commission delegation in Afghanistan, also agrees this is a crucial time in Afghanistan, but doesn’t believe that this is the last chance for the international community to improve efforts. “After the last chance there are always many other chances to tackle challenges ahead,” Kretschmer says.

For the full article, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Coptic Assembly of America warns against engaging with Muslim Brotherhood

Hoda Halim of the Coptic Assembly of America has responded to a recent International Herald Tribune article suggesting that the United States should engage with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In denouncing the article, Halim highlighted the Brotherhood’s past and the possible actions that could be undertaken by the group in the future. The group’s goals are not aligned with furthering democracy in Egypt, but are instead aimed at turning Egypt into a solely Muslim state based on Sharia law, Halim writes. The Brotherhood’s violent past is also key to understanding the potential impact of future actions, according to Halim, who notes their actions and other actions taken by groups with similar objectives. Halim also notes that The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom considers the Brotherhood to be involved in violence.

The Brotherhood has indicated it would look to tax any non-Muslim citizens of Egypt, as well as any who fail to convert to Islam. Moreover, arms of the group have said they would rather have an external Muslim leader than a Copt leading the country, though this is in direct opposition to the stated policy of the arm of the Brotherhood in the Parliament. Ultimately, Halim writes, if the U.S. deals with the Muslim Brotherhood, they will be dealing with a terrorist organization.

Muslim Brotherhood candidates may face ban in June election

It is expected that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will try to prevent up to 20 Muslim Brotherhood candidates from running for seats in the upper house of parliament in June, Reuters reported today.

Egyptian authorities, under the leadership of Mubarak, may use a set of disputed consitituional amendments passed last month as justification for banning or arresting Islamist candidates. Despite this prospect, Brotherhood candidates are still determined to campaign under the slogan “Islam is the solution” – which they argue conforms to an Egyptian constitution that lists Islam as the state religion.

In a telephone interview with Reuters, Mohamed Habib, the Brotherhood’s deputy leader, said: “Despite the restrictions, we are going forward with determination and steadfastness in our pursuit of reform, and the arrests will not stop us.”

For the full article, click here.

Vietnamese Cyber activist to face trial

A young Vietnamese man, Truong Quoc Huy, will be put on trial starting today on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms.” Radio Australia reported.

Huy was originally arrested in October 2005 for joining in online discussions on democracy while at an internet cafeHuy in Ho Chi Minh City, but after nine months in custody he was released. Not long after his release, Vietnamese authorities detained Huy again.

To read this article, click here.

2006 the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since fall of Taliban

According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, “2006 was the deadliest year for civilians in Afghanistan since 2001,” The Associated Press reported today.

The newly released 116-page report says that approximately 669 Afghan civilians were killed last year by insurgents and at least 230 civilians were killed during coalition and NATO operations. The high civilian death toll in 2006 can be partially explained by the drastic increase in suicide bombings, which hadn’t previously been a common Taliban tactic. As such, those who worked on the report drew parallels between the Taliban’s current activities and insurgents operations in Iraq.
This year, there were also a growing number of direct attacks on teachers, school officials, students, aid workers, journalists, and government employees.

For the full article, click here.

New encroachment on Montangard land likely

A new project is being developed in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands, more specifically in Ban Ma Thuot in Dak Lak province, according to Thanh Nien Daily. This project, spearheaded by the Vietnamese coffee company Trung Nguyen, would create a “coffee paradise” aimed at attracting tourists to the Central Highlands and bettering the economic circumstances of coffee plantation owners. The program would also lead to massive rezoning of areas in and around Ban Ma Thuot.

The People’s Committee for the province is behind the project and would like to see it started soon. The project would require 3,000 hectares of coffee plants plus land to build museums and other buildings on.

To read this article, click here.