March 30, 2010

  • Leaders call for increased Haiti aid ahead of world donor conference
  • Haitian organizations call for more involvement in recovery
  • Millions still left out of health care reform coverage
  • Immigrants with mental disabilities face ‘deeply flawed’ detention system
  • Tennessee and Delaware win race to the top funds

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Amnesty International says China executes thousands each year
According to Amnesty International, fewer people were executed worldwide in 2009 than the previous year – but the use of execution as a political tool is on the rise. Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty last year – bringing the number of countries who ban the death penalty to 95. The US – of, course, is not among them. Amnesty International’s Claudio Cordone explains.

“What we see last year for the first time ever, there were no executions in Europe. In the Americas, the United States was the only country that was still killing people through executions. Even in sub-Sarahan Africa – only two countries are still doing so.”

At least 714 people were put to death in 18 countries last year. However, these figures do not include China, where the majority of executions are likely carried out but where information on them is considered a state secret.

“… What ever figures one can come up with from available information grossly underestimate the reality. Thousands of people continue to be killed in China.”

Methods of judicial killing around the world include hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, electrocution and lethal injection.


UK arms sold to Israel used during so-called Operation Cast Lead
In London, a Parliamentary report says British arms exports were almost certainly used in the Israeli attack on Gaza last year, despite a UK policy that bans Israel from using these weapons in  the occupied territories. From London, Naomi Fowler reports.

The government has admitted exported weapons from the UK were very likely used in the Israeli attack last year referred to as Operation Cast Lead. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights claims 1,417 were killed, 926 of them civilians. The Campaign against the Arms Trade argues it’s folly to assume any weapons supplied to Israel will not make their way to conflict in the occupied territories. They’re calling for an all-out embargo of arms to Israel.  A Parliamentary Committee welcomed the government’s subsequent decision to revoke five export licenses for equipment destined for the Israeli navy. But, they want more: an urgent review of arms export policy. Amnesty International has warned that if countries continue failing to implement tough policies, international arms trade treaties will become worthless pieces of paper that will do little to protect people from armed violence. Naomi Fowler, FSRN, London.

Palestinian teen killed at demonstration
Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teen today at a demonstration along Gaza’s border with Egypt — FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

The15-year-old boy was killed and at least three others were injured when Israeli forces fired live ammunition in the south-eastern towns of Rafah and Abbassan. Demonstrations were called by the Popular Committee for resisting an Israeli imposed buffer zone, a 300-meter-deep strip along the border that deprives hundreds of farmers from cultivating part of their farm lands. Shehada Abu Moukhaimar is one of the organizers.

“We own nothing but our Palestinian flag. Such demonstrations will continue everywhere
in Khan Younis, Rafah , in the north and in Alshija’ya. No one can deter us and make us retrea.”

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of demonstrators also protested the buffer zone. Palestinians also marked the 34 anniversary of Land Day today. In 1976, Israeli authorities killed six Palestinians during demonstrations against the confiscation of Arab-owned lands.  Today’s incidents come as tension in the region has been on the rise since last Friday, when two Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were killed during armed clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian resistance fighters in southern Gaza Strip. Rami al Meghari, FSRN, Gaza.

Key human rights witness killed in Argentina
A key witness to the country’s ongoing human rights trials was killed yesterday in Argentina. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports from Buenos Aires.

Silvia Suppo was stabbed to death, 14 times, allegedly during a robbery at her artisan shop in the province of Santa Fe.  Last year, Suppo testified in a human rights trial against a former judge for his role in abuses during the dictatorship. Human Rights groups worry that Suppo was killed to send A message to those still willing to testify as human rights trials progress. Suppo was detained at the age of 18 during the 1military dictatorship, during which more than 30,000 people were forcefully disappeared.  She testified that she was raped during her detention and spoke out against sexual violence as a method of torture. Other witnesses in the Santa Fe trial, and around Argentina, have received death threats. Patricia Isasa, a torture survivor who met Suppo while in a clandestine detention center has entered a witness protection program following threatening phone calls. Another key witness, Julio Lopez went missing three years ago following his testimony that helped to convict a police chief for crimes against humanity and genocide. 2010 has been called the year of the human rights trials – with close to two dozen high profile military officers prosecuted for torture, kidnapping, murder and disappearances. Marie Trigona, FSRN, Buenos Aires.



Leaders call for increased Haiti aid ahead of world donor conference 
In New York tomorrow, officials from more than 100 countries will gather for an international donors conference on Haiti. The United Nations is hosting the gathering, and calling for $3.8 billion to be used for recovery and reconstruction. Edmond Mulet is the top UN envoy in Haiti.

“For the next 18 months, Haiti will need investments of four billion US dollars to build back hospitals, schools, roads and ports, but also to rebuild and redesign the country in a way that would put the country on the road to growth and modernization.”

One of the initiatives UN officials want to continue is a food and cash for work program. The World Food Program raised about $260 million for it so far. But WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella says that’s not enough.

“In order to implement the cash and food for work projects that are planned to begin in April, we estimate that the World Food Programme would need some $100 million for that specific programme. And it’s also worth pointing out that as the World Food Programme also manages the logistics and telecommunications clusters, which are the clusters that function for the whole humanitarian community to bring out supplies and telecoms to the whole humanitarian effort.”

Over the long-term, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says the country will need more than $11.5 billion over the next 10 years. One of the most immediate needs is housing – especially as the rainy season approaches. Aid agencies have been struggling with where to locate more permanent camps. Jean Philippe Chauzy with the International Organization for Migration says finding available land is one challenge.

“The other challenges are obviously linked to getting the material. You need wood. Ninety seven percent of the forest coverage in Haiti is non-existent, has been cut down, so you don’t have local wood. You need also to get materials such as corrugated iron sheets to be able to put these shelters in place.”

Haitian organizations call for more involvement in recovery
As the donors conference gets underway in New York, in Haiti thunderstorms and rains are expected this week.  Thousands of displaced families in crowded camps are considered at risk for disease, without adequate shelter and sanitation.  The United Nations maintains it is providing aid to people as fast as possible, but continues to face criticism from grassroots Haitian organizations who say they’ve been frozen out of a relief operation obsessed with concerns over security.  From Port-au-Prince, FSRN’s Ansel Herz reports.


Millions still left out of health care reform coverage
Today, President Obama signed into law the health care reconciliation fixes bill. The legislation also overhauls college financial aid and makes the government the issuer of federal loans. For health care, The changes are expected to increase the number of newly insured to 32 million people. But that leaves about 21 million people uninsured, far from universal coverage. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on who could be left out.


Immigrants with mental disabilities face ‘deeply flawed’ detention system
Immigrants in the US detention system face a complex and daunting judicial process. But a study released today finds that one population in particular is especially overlooked, often with dire consequences: detainees with mental disabilities. According to the study released by Texas Appleseed, a policy and advocacy organization based in Austin, detainees with mental disabilities often are not properly diagnosed or tracked and face challenges in securing adequate representation in court proceedings. The report calls the immigration system “deeply flawed” and “over-burdened” at a time when more than 30-thousand immigrants are in detention every day.

To discuss the report, we’re joined by attorney Steven Schulman, he’s a pro bono partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He directed the study with Texas Appleseed.

To download the report in PDF format, go to:


Tennessee and Delaware win race to the top funds
The Department of Education has named two states that will recieve funds through the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top education program.

Tennessee and Delaware won the first round and are set to recieve funds that reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Today’s states who did not make the cut are planning their next steps.  FSRN’s Karen Miller has more.