May 19, 2006

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Headlines (6:03)
In Geneva, the UN Committee Against Torture has called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Criticism was not limited to Guantanamo, but extended to US-run detention centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the so-called “black site” secret prisons. In an 11 page report released today, the panel that oversees compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture also called for Washington to (quote) “investigate and disclose the existence of any such facilities and the authority under which they have been established and the manner in which detainees are treated.”

In Dublin, Ireland, a group of Afghan asylum seekers are in their 6th day of a hunger strike. FSRN’s Maeve Conran reports.

A group of 41 Afghans started their hunger and thirst strike last weekend in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in central Dublin. The asylum seekers are all at different stages in their application process, some have had their applications denied, while others have not received a decision on their cases. They say their lives are in danger if they are forced to return to Afghanistan. Hunger striker, Samandar Khan, spoke on Ireland’s RTE television about their motives. (Samandar Khan) “What we are concerned about is that our cases are not dealt with full attention and we are asking why we have got the wrong decisions towards our cases, why we are treated wrongly in our decisions.” A representative from the UN’s High Commission for Refugees visited the group earlier this week and appealed to them to stop their protest, saying that Ireland has a fair asylum process. The Irish refugee advocacy group, Residents against Racism says that Ireland’s asylum process does not give individual cases due consideration and asylum seekers often wait up to 5 years for a decision on their case, forcing them to depend on minimal social welfare during this waiting period. Although there is a mounting police presence around the cathedral, none of the hunger strikers have yet been forcibly removed. More than 4,000 people sought asylum in Ireland last year. For FSRN this is Maeve Conran.

The European Parliament has recommended a total freeze on the assets of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels. This announcement comes in the wake of escalation of violence and violations of the 2002 truce between rebels and the government. Ponniah Manikavasagam has more.

Sri Lankan truce monitor Ulf Henricsson has said his team is now monitoring a war rather than a ceasefire. The monitors say that in the past month, both parties have seriously violated the truce. Tamil Tigers recently attacked a navy patrol with the knowledge that international observers were on board. Officials say more than 200 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the past month and Sri Lanka is now facing its worst crisis since the ceasefire was signed. Two catholic bishops in the north have made an appeal to the UN secretary general Kofi Annan to stop the escalating violence in the north east of the island. Diplomats say the EU is planning to ban the Tamil Tigers listing them as terrorists in order to force them to the negotiating table Political observers say the move of the European Parliament to ban the Tamil Tigers will worsen the situation. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam, in Vavuniya Sri Lanka.

With little more than a week until presidential elections in Colombia, indigenous and campesino protests this week in southern Colombia have been met with brutal force by Colombia’s armed forces. From Bogotá, Nicole Karsin has more.

Thousands of indigenous people and coca growers took over parts of the Pan American Highway in southern Colombian states of Cauca, Meta and Nariño earlier this week to protest Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with the United States, unfulfilled land agreements with the government, fumigations that kill food crops and what many predict will be the upcoming re-election of President Alvaro Uribe. The protests were met with brutal repression: tear gas, use of fire-arms shot at crowds from helicopters, the burning of indigenous houses. The situation in Cauca and Nariño is still critical. In an urgent call to the media yesterday from the offices of Colombia’s National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), spokesman German Cassama . “We want to dialogue. This mobilization was to demand that the government hold a popular referendum about the Free Trade Agreement. The government can’t negotiate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States without the consent of the people.” Hundreds of people have been seriously wounded, at least three people are confirmed dead and there are reports of people who were disappeared by the public forces. From Bogota, I’m Nicole Karsin For FSRN.

The south east of England is facing its worst drought in 100 years. But private water companies may be jeopardizing the recovery of water supplies. From London Naomi Fowler reports.

Public body the Environment Agency has advised private water companies like Thames Water to apply now for drought orders to the governmental Department for the Environment. A drought order gives water companies the power to enforce non-essential water use. According to the Environment Agency, failure to do this could lead to the worst case scenario of the public having to get their water from standpipes in the street. One water company in Surrey which has applied for a drought order affected 58 golf courses; each of them was using enough water to supply up to 3,000 homes. But other water companies seem reluctant to restrict water use in this way. Presently in un-metered parts of the country, companies are still paying the same rates as domestic users of water. According to campaigners, industrial use of water must be addressed; and this crisis in water resources has highlighted the problems of a commodified water service. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.

English as a “National” Language? (4:11)
Yesterday the U.S. Senate approved two amendments to its immigration bill regarding the role of the English language in America. One declares English the “national” language, the other declares English a “common and unifying language.” Some lawmakers say they’re contradictory, and no-one seems to be sure exactly what impact they would have. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

New Orleans to Hold Elections With Half the City Displaced (3:22)
New Orleans will vote tomorrow in eight municipal races including the election of a new mayor. More than half the city’s population is still displaced, and many evacuees will not be able to vote. Christian Roselund filed this report:

Anti-War Candidate Takes on Joe Lieberman In Democratic Primary (2:59)
Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut has been an outspoken supporter of the Iraq war who’s cultivated a close relationship with President George W. Bush—bush even kissed Lieberman on the cheek after his 2005 state of the union address. Now Lieberman’s critics are hoping that Bush’s sagging popularity will catch up with the hawkish democrat. Melinda Tuhus files this report on Anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, who’s challenging in the democratic primary.

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Convenes 12-Day Meeting (1:50)
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has begun a 12 day meeting in New York in the hopes of addressing the economic marginalization, political repression, and mass displacement faced by many of the 370 million indigenous people living around the world. Today, we bring you the voice Western Shoshone grandmother Carrie Dann, who used the occasion to speak out about the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s plans to experimentally trigger a massive explosion to simulate the effects of a bunker-busting nuclear bomb. The project is called Divine Strake:

Dann: “I don’t know why they call it divine? When you are out to destroy things it’s not Divine. This was schedule for June 2, and what I am hearing now is that it is postponed, scheduled June 23rd. And so it’s still you know it is still in the plan to detonate on Shoshone land. It is in Nevada at the nuclear test site, and I think that is a very bad idea, nobody knows what is going to happen. It might destroy the water table underneath and we don’t know if it will contaminate anything. It is a bunker buster, it will go down instead of going up. But we do know that it will disturb the radiation that is already on that land, and certainly that is not good for anybody.” (1:16)

FSRN’s Rebecca Myles spoke with Carrie Dann. The UN Forum on Indigenous issues continues next week.

Malians Protest Sarkozy Tour (3:35)
French Interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy’s controversial immigration bill has secured the support of France’s parliament by a two to one vote. Critics call the bill a racist measure that will cut young African immigrants off from access to jobs. When Sarkozy began a tour of Africa, in Mali Wednesday, protests erupted– some local officials called his visit a provocation. Ndiaga Seck reports from Senegal.

John Howard Drawing Fire For Global Warming (4:00)
Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard is visiting North America this week. His close ally George W. Bush wined and dined Howard earlier this week, and Howard also met with his Canadian counterpart to discuss the Asia Pacific environment partnership, a breakaway group designed to undermine the international Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, back in Australia, Howard’s critics are attacking the latest federal government budget for neglecting the issue of climate change. Erica Vowles has this report.

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