March 13, 2006
BRITAIN TO REDUCE TROOPS IN IRAQ
The British government has indicated it may pull ten percent of its troops out of southern Iraq and hand over tactical responsibility to Iraqi forces. Helen Kelly reports from London.
Up to 800 British troops could be taken out of Iraq by May, Defence Secretary John Reid told the House of Commons today. The reduction leaves 7,000 troops stationed within Iraq – mostly across four southern provinces. At its peak, Britain had 10,000 troops serving in the country. Mr. Reid said the move was part of a plan to develop the Iraqi forces and was not prompted by a rise in violence or part of a wider handover of responsibility. The defence secretary maintained a total commitment to the Iraqi people and said troops will remain in the country as long as they are needed. The UK government has always insisted there is no strict timetable for British troops to quit Iraq and that withdrawal depends entirely on the ability of Iraqi troops. However, the cutbacks sparked fears of an escalation of violence in the nascent democracy – and some question whether the Iraqi army is in any condition to take over. Helen Kelly, reporting from London for Free Speech Radio News.
JAPANESE CITY REJECTS EXPANSION OF U.S. MILITARY BASE
Voters in the Japanese city of Iwakuni decided overwhelmingly yesterday to reject plans to expand the US military presence in their community. Although the referendum’s vote is non-binding, it does indicate a gap between public opinion and government policy regarding the US military presence in Japan. According to the results of yesterday’s referendum, Iwakuni’s voters reject the planned expansion by a margin of nearly 9 to 1. Japan’s Prime Minister said today that there are no plans to change the unpopular policy.
NIGERIAN LAWYERS BOYCOTT COURTS FOR TWO DAYS
Lawyers in Nigeria have started a two day boycott of the courts to protest persistent disobedience of court orders by the Nigerian government. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.
Courtrooms all over Nigeria were empty today as lawyers heeded a call by their national body, the Nigerian Bar Association, that they should boycott court proceedings for two days. The Nigerian Bar Association calls the court boycott a national sacrifice by lawyers to save democracy and preserve the rule of law. The association says the government’s disobedience of court orders is similar to what the country saw during the days of brutal military dictatorship, when the military refused to recognize the authority of the courts. Many Nigerians have questioned why – after seven years in power – an elected government continues to behave like its military predecessors. The implication of the government’s disobedience of court orders is that Nigerians can not seek justice against the government in court when there is an infringement on their rights. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.
MASSIVE OIL SPILL IN ALASKA
A corroded pipe in northern Alaska has spilled an estimated 267,000 gallons of crude oil onto the surrounding tundra. The leak is the largest on record in the North Slope. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the state of Alaska had ordered BP to install an accurate leak-detection system on the pipeline network nearly 4 years ago. Clean up efforts are underway, but moving slowly due to harsh weather.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS BODY SUSPENDS ANNUAL MEETING
The United Nations Human Rights Commission has suspended its 62nd session due to disagreement over plans to replace it with the proposed Human Rights Council. Haider Rizvi reports from the UN.
The Geneva-based Commission meets every year in March to evaluate the worldwide situation of human rights, but this year it has postponed its meeting for a week because the United States and the rest of the 190 members of the United Nations have failed to reach a compromise over how the Council members should be elected. The creation of Human Rights Council is part of the overall UN reforms. The US wanted the new council to be elected by a two-third majority of the General Assembly members, so that countries like Cuba, Sudan, and Belarus were not able to be part it. The US considers these nations as abusers of human rights. However, a vast majority of countries has rejected the US position by supporting the view that membership should be open to any one who obtains more than 50 percent votes. Earlier, the European Union had sided with the US, but now it agrees with the developing countries that members can be elected by simple majority. Despite this, the US continues to insist that if changes are not made in the final proposal, it will vote against the formation of the Council. However, the US opposition cannot affect the outcome because it does not have the veto power in the General Assembly. For FSRN, I’m Haider Rizvi at the United Nations.
Censuring the President (3:55)
Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin introduced legislation to censure the President. While someprogressive groups hope this will build momentum for impeachment, Democratic party support for SenatorFeingold’s measure is mixed. Leigh Ann Caldwell has more from Capitol Hill.
Milosovic Dies (3:00)
A Dutch toxicologist is raising new questions over the death of Slobodon Milosovic. While full blood test results are not yet known, a medical expert says he found traces of drugs in Milosovic’s blood before his death that may have neutralized treatment for his heart condition. Russia says it does not trust the autopsy report and wants its own doctors to examine the body. Reportedly, Milosovic told Russia that he thought he was being poisoned. The ex-Yugoslav leader was found dead on Saturday in his cell at the UN Tribunal in the Hague. Doctors have said he died of a heart attack. Milosovic’s trial was nearing its end. He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. He also faced genocide charges over the Bosnian war, in which 100,000 people died. At a press conference over the weekend, the UN Special Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte says Milosovic’s death makes it even more important to prosecute and find other higher ups in his regime. To talk about Milosovic’s death and its effect on the region, we’re joined on the phone from Belgrade by freelance journalist Zoran Culafic.
CPT Tom Fox Found Dead (1:53)
Hundreds of people gathered at the Capitol today to call for end of violence in Iraq. The crowd mourned for Tom Fox, a Christian peace activist who was found dead in Iraq on Thursday. Fox was one of four members from the CPT who were kidnapped in Iraq last November. The CPT went to Baghdad to investigate allegations of prisoner abuse. Yanmei Shia has more from Washington.
Colombians Vote (3:16)
Colombians went to the polls over the weekend in what was a relatively calm election day. It came however after weeks of violence and assassinations by the country’s largest rebel group in an effort to obstruct the vote. From Bogotá, Nicole Karsin has more:
Largest Rally in Chicago for Immigrant Rights (1:54)
According to police estimates, one hundred thousand people marched through the streets of Chicago last Friday in favor of immigrant rights. The march was the largest in Chicago history, and came in response to House Bill 4437, which will turn immigration violations into a criminal offense. Shannon Heffernan and Lora Gordon have more.
Juvenile Boot Camp Death (3:10)
On January, 14 year old African American, Martin Lee Anderson was brought by his mother to a boot camp operated by the Florida department of Juvenile Justice, because he had taken a joyride in his grandmothers car. 2 hours after arriving, Anderson had been beaten, kneed and kicked unconscious by several guards at the camp, an incident that was captured on tape. The next day Anderson died. After the autopsy, which was performed by a controversial medical examiner with an expired license, it was ruled Anderson’s death was not due to the beating but to Sickle Cell trait. Calls for the closure of boot camps are now being joined by accusations that the county and state are covering up a pattern of racism and abuse in a boot camp system that needs to be shut down. From WMNF in Tampa, Andrew Stelzer has more.
French Universities Erupt (2:48)
French riot police evacuated occupying students from Paris’s historic Sorbonne University this weekend and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin appeared on television Sunday evening in an attempt to stop a rising tide of protest against the government’s new youth employment scheme. But students’ unions claim that over half of the country’s universities are on strike and workers’ unions plan demonstrations on Thursday and Saturday. Tony Cross reports from Paris.