Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Eritrea: Free Political Prisoners 10 Years On – President Isaias in New York to Demand UN Respect His Rights, Denies Them to His People

“Instead of lobbying the UN, President Isaias should allow people to speak freely, to worship as they please, and to leave Eritrea if they want,” said Bekele. “Eritreans will continue to face prolonged, indefinite national service, repression, and torture unless President Isaias changes his abusive policies”

All Africa Human Rights Watch Washington DC   September 22, 2011

Ten years after President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticized him, his government should release the detainees or reveal their fate, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Eritrea should also open its jails to international monitors, Human Rights Watch said.

Isaias is visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rehabilitate his country’s image even as his government labors under UN sanctions for its role in supporting the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab.

In the past 10 years, Isaias has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. The paper, “Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners,” outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained in September 2001.

“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To start with, President Isaias should end the inhumanity of prolonged secret, silent detention and allow family members and international monitors to see the prisoners.”

In mid-September 2001, Isaias ordered the arrest of 11 high government officials who had written open letters criticizing his rule. He also arrested 10 journalists who had published the letters and other information critical of him and his policies, and closed all independent newspapers.

The 20 men and one woman have never been seen again by anyone outside the penal system, including their families, lawyers, or prison monitoring groups. They have never been afforded a hearing; rather, all 21 were incarcerated in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement. According to former guards whose reports Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm, 10 of the 21 have died in prison and the remaining 11 are physically or mentally incapacitated and emaciated.

The 21 are the most prominent victims of Isaias’s denial of basic rights, but hundreds of thousands of others in the country of 5 million have been victimized during the past decade. The briefing paper recounts that thousands of Eritreans are incarcerated because they are suspected of not fully supporting the regime or have attempted to flee Eritrea’s compulsory and indefinite national service. They are given no access to a court and no means to appeal to any impartial body. Thousands more Eritreans are incarcerated because they are members of religious groups that the Eritrean government refuses to recognize as legitimate: Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical Christian churches, and reformist wings of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Please read the entire press release here

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Eritrea, Journalists, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LEBANON: Meeting bolsters cluster munitions convention

BEIRUT, 22 September 2011 (IRIN) –

Over 100 children have been killed or maimed by cluster munitions in Lebanon since 2006, a senior army officer told IRIN at a recent international meeting on cluster bombs in Beirut.

Since 2006, cluster munitions have killed or injured 408 Lebanese civilians, 115 of whom were children, Maj Pierre Bou Maroun, chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces Regional Mine Action Centre (RMAC) in Nabatiyeh, told IRIN on the sidelines of the second meeting of states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which ended on 16 September.

RMAC coordinates all demining operations in the country.

Speaking at the meeting, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called cluster munitions a “despicable weapon” designed to “sustain programmed killing and handicapping” long into the future. He said the Lebanese state was “fully committed” to the Convention, “particularly when it comes to assisting victims of cluster munitions and ridding its territory” of the weapons.

The meeting brought together representatives from over 115 governments, the UN, civil society organizations and cluster munitions survivors to discuss how to advance the Convention’s key obligations.

“Governments need to demonstrate that they are acting with the urgency and comprehensiveness that they have promised in eliminating cluster munitions and addressing the effects these inhumane weapons have on civilians all over the world,” said Steve Goose, chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.

Lebanon and Tunisia are the only Arab states to have ratified the Convention. Iraq has signed but not yet ratified.

According to the CMC, Iraq and Lebanon are the worst-affected countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, but Libya is the most recently contaminated country, following use of cluster munitions by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier this year.

The Beirut meeting heard that as a result of the Convention, around 50 percent of the world’s cluster munitions have been destroyed. In Lebanon, the CMC said, around 66 percent of contaminated land has been cleared and returned to residents.

Goose said that while the success was impressive, some 80 countries had still not signed the Convention, including some of the world’s biggest manufacturers, users or stockpilers of cluster munitions, such as Israel, the US, China, Russia, Pakistan and India

Please read the entire report here

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Demining, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Explosive Remnants of War, Landmines, United Nations | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberian police holding top mercenary

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press   June 14, 2011

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A notorious mercenary known as “Bob Marley” who is accused of leading massacres in Ivory Coast to help that country’s tyrannical leader secure his slipping grip on power is in police custody in his native Liberia, officials said Tuesday.

National Liberian Police Spokesman George Bardu said the self-proclaimed general was arrested several weeks ago along with about 10 of his fighters in the pocket of southeastern Liberia where he went to hide after the fall of his employer, Ivory Coast’s strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

Marley was the leader of the mercenaries hired to help Gbagbo, who lost last year’s presidential election and then used force to stay in office for five violent months. Early in the conflict, Gbagbo recruited mercenaries from Liberia because he did not trust the regular army whose soldiers defected en masse when troops aiming to install democratically elected president Alassane Ouattara fought their way to the capital.

Liberia National Police Chief Marc Amblard said Marley, whose nom de guerre is a reference to his voluminous dreadlocks, and the other men have been charged with ‘mercenarism.’

Nelson Chineh, the magistrate in whose court the men are to face the charge, said they had been transported to Liberia’s capital of Monrovia after being initially held in Zwedru.

An official close to the investigation who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press said that Marley was released soon after being arrested. He was re-arrested in late May after Ivorian officials put pressure on their Liberian counterparts.

“The arrest of Bob Marley sends a strong signal, marking a first step towards justice,” said Matt Wells, a researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, and the author of a report on the crimes committed in Ivory Coast. “We credibly implicated him in leading massacres in which a total of more than 100 people were executed.”

Please read the entire story here

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Mercenaries | , , , , | Leave a comment