July 13, 2007
SIGNS OF CHANGE IN UK RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION?
Gordon Brown is soon to make his first visit to the United States as Britain’s new Prime Minister. But a speech by his new International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, which many see as signaling a shift in UK foreign policy, has ruffled feathers in the White House. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.
There’s been much speculation about how differently Britain’s new Prime Minister might act in foreign policy issues and what many in Britain see as Britain’s subservient relationship with the United States. International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander’s speech last night in the US would certainly go down well with a British audience: “We need to demonstrate by our deeds, words and our actions that we are internationalist, not isolationist’ he said, ‘multilateralist, not unilateralist, active and not passive, and driven by core values, consistently applied, not special interests.” But not long after, this morning’s papers were buzzing with talk of a ‘coded criticism’ of the US, the Development Secretary seemed to be playing down his comments: (sound) “Gordon Brown’s made very clear that he regards a strong relationship with the United States as being one of the fundamental bases for our foreign policy but we must also work with other partners as an international community in the years ahead.” Gordon Brown stressed today that the ‘special relationship’ is strong – although he did also restate his minister’s point on multilateralism over unilateralism. This is Naomi Fowler in London for Free Speech Radio News.
PADILLA PROSECUTION RESTS
Federal prosecutors in Miami have rested their case in the trial of Jose Padilla. The Padilla case made national headlines in 2002 when former Attorney General John Ashcroft accused the US citizen of plotting a radioactive dirty bomb attack within the US. That charge has since been dropped. Padilla and his two co-defendants face charges of providing material support to terrorists and of conspiring to carry out attacks overseas. The trial, which is already in its 9th week, is expected to continue through the rest of the summer.
DRUMMOND COAL ON TRIAL
In other legal news, The overseas business actions of Alabama-based Drummond Coal have been put on trial this week as part of a lawsuit that charges the mining company of conspiring with outlaw Colombian paramilitary groups to murder union leaders at its operations in the South American nation. Mike Ceaser reports from Bogota.
In the opening week of the trial against Drummond coal, a Colombian union leader testified that the head of Drummond’s operations in Colombia made threatening comments to him after the 2001 murders of 3 union leaders by right-wing paramilitary gunmen. Another former employee testified that the paramilitaries fueled their vehicles on Drummond property. However, Drummond, which began operating in Colombia in 1995 and still operates one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines here, denies any involvement in the killings. More union leaders are killed annually in Colombia than in all of the rest of the world combined. Paramilitaries have often targeted union leaders, allegedly at the behest of businesses. Charges have been brought against Drummond under the two-century-old Alien Tort Statute. The statute allows persons affected overseas by the actions of a US-based corporation to sue in US courts. The Drummond case is the first for human rights abuses filed under the Alien Tort Statute to reach trial. It has implications for others, including one against Chiquita Banana, which admitted in March of this year that it had paid millions of dollars to Colombian paramilitary groups. The company said it did so under duress, in order to protect the lives of its workers. For FSRN, I’m Mike Ceaser in Bogota, Colombia.
FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT EVADES CONVICTION IN MASSACRE
A Mexican judge has dropped genocide charges against former president Luis Echeverria in the case of a 1968 massacre of student protesters in Mexico City. While the federal judge determined that the massacre was an act of genocide, he exonerated Echeverria, who was the Interior Secretary at the time. Survivors of the massacre and human rights groups estimate that at least 300 people were killed in Tlaltelolco plaza when snipers and Mexican soldiers opened fire on striking university students just days before Mexico hosted the 1968 Olympics. Echeverria went on to become president during the bloodiest period of Mexico’s so-called “Dirty War” against dissidents.
GERMAN INVOLVEMENT IN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION?
Germany has been accused of assisting the CIA in secret kidnappings of terrorist suspects who have been taken to third countries for interrogation. In his report on Germany, the European Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an investigation into these cases of so-called “extraordinary rendition”. Cinnamon Nippard reports from Berlin.
EU Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, says that such extraordinary renditions “may involve multiple layers of human rights violations”. He refers explicitly to the case of Lebanese born, German national, Khaled el-Masri, who was kidnapped by the CIA in 2003 and unlawfully detained for 5 months in Afghanistan. El-Masri alleges that he was tortured by the CIA and later visited and accompanied back to Europe by a German intelligence officer. The government has set up an internal investigation into Germany’s involvement – but the foreign minister continues to deny Germany had any part in el-Masri’s abduction. In January, the German public prosecutor issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA operatives on suspicion of abduction, wrongful imprisonment and causing grievous bodily harm. The EU Human Rights Commissioner has called upon Germany to fully investigate all cases of extraordinary rendition and to prevent such unlawful acts in the future. Cinnamon Nippard, reporting for Free Speech Radio News in Berlin.
Violence Rages on in Baghdad
13 people were killed in the second day of fighting between Jeish al-Mehdi and U-S and Iraqi troops. The US military says it has targeted Iraqi militants linked to Iran in East Baghdad during the last two days, sparking firefights that have left at least twenty-seven people dead, including a Reuters photographer. Today, US troops fought and killed at least six Iraqi police in the neighborhood of Fadhilia. On Thursday, fighting took place in Al-Amin, which is home to Shiite families that have been displaced from their homes. FSRN’s David Enders is in Baghdad, he files this report.
Bush Promises to Veto House Bill to Decrease Troops
As the war rages on in Iraq, President Bush is at home promising to veto troop withdrawal legislation passed by the House of Representatives Thursday evening. The legislation calls for a dramatic troop decrease by April of next year. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell has more.
Beirut: One Year After Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
A new report issued by Human Rights Watch indicates that one year after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, war crimes committed by both sides have enjoyed complete impunity. In part two of FSRN’s coverage of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Simba Russeau reports from Beirut on how survivors are trying to cope from the horrors of the war.
Congress to Consider New EPA Standards
The EPA wants to tighten standards on smog pollution. Some members of Congress say the new standards are too hard for businesses to meet, and some say they don’t go nearly far enough. Matt Laslo reports.
Weekly Political Round-Up
Republican Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign faced all sorts of challenges this week. Two Democratic candidates were caught chatting about the need to exclude other candidates from future debates. And, the Green Party is meeting and its presidential and vice-presidential candidates are speaking up. Ingrid Drake has more with this week’s political news round-up.
Native American Denounce Desecration of Sacred Sites for Profit
In San Francisco, American Indian activists this week spoke about their struggles to preserve their sacred sites and ancestral remains from desecration in the name of profit. The event was part of Laborfest, and international month-long commemoration of the San Francisco general strike of 1934. Native Americans recalled the support that the labor community had extended in the past. FSRN’s Ed Rippy reports.