human rights

Georgia Death Penalty Under Renewed Scrutiny After 11th-Hour Stay

Georgia Death Penalty Under Renewed Scrutiny After 11th-Hour Stay

NPR – A Georgia inmate’s execution was halted Tuesday night with less than an hour to go. Prison officials had already given Warren Lee Hill one of the drugs when a federal appeals court stepped in. Hill has an IQ of 70 and his attorneys have long claimed that he’s mentally impaired. His case is now raising questions about Georgia’s law, which makes it difficult for defendants to prove they should be exempt from execution. The 52-year-old Hill is in prison for killing his girlfriend, whom he shot 11 times, in 1986. Then, while in prison in 1990, he used a wooden board with nails to beat another inmate to death. Read Article

Millions strike in India over high prices

Aljazeera – A strike by millions of low-skilled workers in India has seen banks close and public transport disrupted, amid reports of two deaths in the north. An estimated 100 million Indians, angry about rising prices, low pay and poor working condition, walked off their jobs on Wednesday, on the first day of a two-day strike organised by eleven major trade unions. The strikers are demanding a legal minimum wage, fairer contracts and improved working conditions. “Workers are being totally ignored and this is reflected in the government’s anti-labour policies,” said Tapan Sen, general secretary of the umbrella Centre of Indian Trade Unions. Read Article

Bulgarian government resigns over protests

DW – Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has said his government is resigning from office. The announcement follows nationwide protests against austerity measures and high electricity prices. Borisov announced that the entire government would be stepping down on Wednesday, citing protests that had turned violent the previous day as the reason. “After the last Cabinet meeting today, I will submit the resignation of my government,” Borisov told parliament. “I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people,” he said. Read Article

Thousands across Greece protest austerity

DW – Tens of thousands have filled city streets across Greece in protest of the government’s deep-cutting austerity measures. The 24-hour general strike comes amid projections of 30 percent unemployment this year. An estimated 40,000 people marched through the capital city on Wednesday in an effort to curb fiscal policies they say are damaging recovery efforts. “We won’t become slaves in the 21st century,” read one banner spotted at a union march in Athens. Unions called the strike to force the government to do more for workers, including strengthen collective bargaining rights and heal the ailing labor market. Read Article

Germany’s top court extends gay adoption law

DW – Germany’s highest court has extended gay adoption laws to bring them in line with rules that apply to heterosexual couples. Judges ruled that existing laws were discriminatory. The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe overturned a ban on Tuesday on so-called “successive adoptions” for gay couples in civil partnerships. Under the ruling, if one partner has adopted a child, the other partner now has the right to become the adoptive mother or father of that child as well. Until now, they could only adopt their partner’s biological child. Read Article

Insurgent violence against women, girls in Afghanistan jumps 20% – UN

RT – Violence against women and girls in Afghanistan is growing. A UN report says crimes against females jumped by 20 per cent last year, adding that the Taliban and other insurgent groups were responsible for 81 per cent of civilian casualties in 2012. The annual report on the Protection of Civilians in armed conflict, released Tuesday, said that more than 300 women and girls were killed in 2012 as a result of targeted killings by insurgents. More than 560 were injured. Deliberate targeting by the Taliban and other insurgents tripled last year. Most of the victims were hit while tending their homes or working in fields. Read Article

Australian Senate seat a possible path to freedom for Assange

RT – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange believes winning a seat in the Australian Senate would force the US and others pursuing him to back down, securing his safe passage out of the UK following his 8-month confinement at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. The September 14 elections in Australia could provide a platform for a man once described by Vice President Joe Biden as a “high-tech terrorist,” by raising the political stakes for those seeking his extradition, Assange explained in a recent interview with Australian website the Conversation. By winning a seat in Australia’s upper house, “the US Department of Justice won’t want to spark an international diplomatic row,” Assange was quoted as saying. Read Article

As EU discusses arms for rebels, UN finds atrocities in Syria’s war

DW – UN investigators have identified Syrians who may be responsible for war crimes. The news comes as EU foreign ministers are meeting to decide whether to supply the Syrian opposition with arms. Investigators found that government forces and rebels are committing war crimes, including killings and torture, and spreading terror among civilians in Syria’s nearly two-year-old conflict. The report found that official soldiers and paramilitary groups have targeted funeral processions and even lines at bakeries with the goal of “spreading terror.” The report recommends referring human rights violators to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Read Article

Thousands of Spanish medical workers protest healthcare cuts, privatization

RT – Thousands of health care workers, many dressed in white lab coats, took to the streets in 16 cities across Spain to protest government budget cuts and plans to partially privatize the country’s public healthcare system. Several thousand protesters, many chanting, banging drums, and blowing whistles, converged on Madrid’s iconic Plaza de Cibeles after marching from 27 hospitals in the region. Some in attendance waved signs reading “Your health is being sold” and “Cutting back on health care is a crime.” It was the third “white tide” demonstration in Madrid, named after the color of the medical scrubs worn by many of the protesters. Read Article

Burma police used incendiary weapons against mine protesters, report says

Guardian – Activists in Burma have demanded action against officials who were responsible for the use of incendiary weapons against peaceful protesters at a copper mine, causing serious burns to dozens of people including Buddhist monks. Lawyers and others who investigated the crackdown at the Letpadaung copper mine in November said President Thein Sein must share responsibility and ensure justice was achieved. Launching a report on the incident, they said police used shells containing white phosphorus, an incendiary munition, to disperse the protesters. White phosphorus can be used legally in some battlefield conditions, but activists say it should not be deployed against civilians. Read Article

CTC says opposition to a New World Order is terrorist activity

Digital Journal – According to a report from the “Combatting Terrorism Center” at West Point, ‘Anti-Federalists’ who oppose a New World Order as well as members of several other far right wing activist groups are potential terrorist threats. West Point is the U.S. Military Academy that trains, educates, and prepares Cadets for their service in the U.S. Army. The CTC (Combatting Terrorism Center) at West Point was established following the events on September 11, 2001 because of the belief that strong initiative was needed to prepare Cadets for the new environments they would be headed into upon graduating in the post-9/11 era. The CTC provides a unique terrorism-based education and since its creation, the program has received international recognition for its studies, reports, and teachings on terrorism and terrorist threats. Read Article

US used ‘Christian heavy metal’ to torture Iraqi militants

RT – Torture doesn’t necessarily have to deal with physical pain. The US military have used Christian heavy metal music by the band Demon Hunter after rockers Metallica asked they stop using their recordings on prisoners. The US Navy SEAL involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden told Esquire magazine that prior to using Demon Hunter recordings, the commandoes used Metallica music to pull information out of Iraqi prisoners. “When we first started the war in Iraq we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them,” the spokesperson said. Read Article

Afghan Officials Admit Torturing Detainees

VOA – An Afghan presidential investigative commission has confirmed that Afghan police and security officials are torturing detainees, despite promises of reform. But the head of the commission denies statements by the United Nations that torture and ill-treatment are systematic in Afghan detention centers. Commission head Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa acknowledges that almost half of the people they interviewed said they had been tortured and even more said they had no access to defense lawyers. He says members of the delegation confirm the existence of torture, mistreatment, beatings and threats that occurred mostly during the arrest of detainees or during interrogations. Read Article

Amazon ‘used neo-Nazi guards to keep immigrant workforce under control’ in Germany

Independent – Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers. Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres. The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. Read Article

Bangladesh war crimes protest turn deadly

Aljazeera – Four people have died in clashes between Bangladeshi police and protesters during a new round of protests over war crimes trials as the unrest spread to the country’s main tourist resort. Police said violence on Friday erupted at Tarabunia in the southeastern Cox’s Bazaar region as 5,000 supporters of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets to protest at the trials of their leaders by a government-appointed court. Read article

At Least 20 CIA Prisoners Still Missing

ProPublica – In one of President Barack Obama first acts in the White House, he ordered the closure of the CIA’s so-called “black-site” prisons, where terror suspects had been held and, sometimes, tortured. The CIA says it is “out of the detention business,” as John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the agency, recently put it. But the CIA’s prisons left some unfinished business. In 2009, ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer listed more than thirty people who had been held in CIA prisons and were still missing. Some of those prisoners have since resurfaced, but at least twenty are still unaccounted for. Read Article

New police powers ‘will curb Press freedom’: Officers will be allowed to confiscate material from journalists

Daily Mail – Police are set to be given new powers to seize confidential material from journalists. In a worrying blow to Press freedom, the changes may also mean journalists will be forced to identify whistleblowers to the police. Critics said the Home Office proposals, which follow recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, would undermine investigative journalism and free speech. It is feared that the changes will remove legal protections for anyone who releases material to reporters unless journalists can show their source did not breach confidentiality or act illegally. Read Article

Commander not aware of Gitmo ‘bugs’

UPI – The Army officer in charge of a prison camp at Guantanamo says he knew nothing about microphones hidden in the compound where detainees met their lawyers. Col. John V. Bogdan, the commander of a compound called Camp Echo II, testified in a hearing his men had strict orders not to listen to conversations between prisoners and the attorneys, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday. The hearing was ordered by a judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, after defense attorneys discovered hidden microphones last week inside devices thought to be smoke detectors. Read Article

‘Go on, shoot me!’ Grief-stricken protester confronts Bahraini riot police

RT – The death of a teenage boy during the violent second anniversary of Bahrain’s popular uprising drove one enraged protester to face down riot police in a dramatic scene caught on film. Through the haze of smoke in the debris-littered streets of Daih, over half a dozen riot police were met with a volley of screams by an unidentified protester who was overwhelmed after witnessing the death of Hussein Jaziri – a teenager killed by shotgun fire on Thursday. The tense standoff in the predominately Shiite village outside the capital Manama seemed likely to end in violence, though the pure force of the protesters indignation reportedly had police rattled. Read Article

Protests Mark 2nd Anniversary Of Bahrain Uprising

NPR – The movement opposing Bahrain’s autocratic monarchy is gaining strength in what has become the longest-running uprising of the Arab Spring. Feb. 14 marks the revolt’s second anniversary. The opposition predicts more demonstrations on Friday. Read article

FAA moves toward creating 6 drone test sites in US

Associated Press – In a major step toward opening U.S. skies to thousands of unmanned drones, federal officials Thursday solicited proposals to create six drone test sites around the country. The Federal Aviation Administration also posted online a draft plan for protecting people’s privacy from the eyes in the sky. The plan would require each test site to follow federal and state laws and make a privacy policy publicly available. Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a “surveillance society” in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities. Read Article