Kuwait Police Accused of Torture

    Jassim Al Qames and Bashar Al-Sayegh were arrested and tortured by the Kuwaiti secret police.  The police’s grounds for apprehending the two Kuwaitis was that someone had anonymously posted on their blog, Al Jareeda, a negative comment concerning the Emir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.  Although the bloggers quickly removed the comment within fifteen minutes, the police noticed the comment and acted upon it.  Therefore, the police apprehended Jassim Al Qames forced him to sign a document of consent, which he was prohibited from reading.  Bashar Al-Sayegh was not apprehended.

    This action by the Kuwaiti police is deeply concerning because the men running the blog were not connected to the anonymous commenter, rather they only hosted the website where this person decided to criticize the Emir.  This action by the government encroaches on the country’s journalism, since it makes journalists accountable for their readers’ reactions.  This increased burden on will make journalists and bloggers more hesitant to publish information concerning volatile issues.

    Also, two Egyptian laborers recently complained that they were tortured by the Kuwaiti police.  The men were laborers arrested for forging their work papers.  The Egyptians claim that the Kuwaiti police’s interrogation techniques included the police pouring sulfuric acid on the men’s bodies, including the genital organs.  The Egyptians’ lawyer produced a forensic report, which allegedly supports the men’s claim. 

    The local Egyptian papers have tried to appeal to the local Egyptian authorities to investigate the Kuwaiti police action.  The Egyptian newspapers have covered the story closely to create a strong public reaction through publishing photos of the men’s burns.  The probable long term purpose of the independent Egyptian media’s coverage is the hope that this review of the Kuwaiti interrogation policies may lead to reforming Egyptian police’s torture techniques, by providing a safe way to criticize police brutality.

International Herald Tribune.  Kuwait releases Egyptian who claimed police torture.  30 August 2007.
Almasry Alyoum.  Kuwaiti Police Torture Two Egyptians with Sulfuric Acid.  23 August 2007.
Kuwait Times.  Torture, a way of life?  24 August 2007.
Social Work Society of Kuwait Blog.  BASHAR AL SAYEGH AND JASSIM AL QAMES HARASSED AND ATTACKED BY SECRET POLICE IN KUWAIT.   19 August 2007.

Human Rights Watch Visits Jordanian Prisons

Members of Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently spent two weeks in Jordan, touring five prisons and interviewing their prisoners.  While the organization commended Jordan for opening its prisons, it stated that Jordan needs to address the beatings and mistreatment that are widespread among its prisons. 

On August 22, the day following HRW’s visit of Swaqa Correction and Rehabilitation Center, the security staff beat nearly all 2,100 prisoners held there.  The guards also forcibly shaved the heads and beards of all the inmates.  Most of the inmates are Muslims whose religious beliefs require them to keep a beard.  Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, commented that shavings occurred to humiliate and degrade the prisoners and served no “legitimate penal purpose”.

Following reports of the new beatings, HRW returned to Swaqa on August 26.  They spoke with over 40 inmates who reported that they heard cries of inmates being beaten for over eight hours and showed HRW bruises on their backs, arms, and legs.  The inmates believe that all the prisoners were beaten that night and one, `Ala’ Abu `Utair, died as a result from the abuse.

In response to these new beatings, 350 prisoners at Swaqa cut themselves during HRW’s second visit to the facilities.  Members of HRW report seeing prisoners with cuts on their chests, arms and legs and seeing prisoners cut themselves when the delegation was exiting the prison.  Inmates report that self-mutilation is a common reaction and, like hunger strikes, is designed to draw attention to the abuse of the inmates.

On August 27, Jordan suspended Majid al-Rawashda, the director of Swaqa.  The beatings of August 22 occurred on his first day as the director.  HRW welcomed the suspension as a “swift and necessary action”.  While al-Rawashda was implicated in the earlier abuses, Maj Bashir al-Daaja, the spokesperson for Jordanian Public Security Department, did not say whether the dismissal was connected to the incident.

In addition to the beatings at Swaqa, HRW documented abuses at each prison its delegation visited.  Other abuses include inmates being hung by their arms and beaten over the course of an entire day, an inmate losing teeth as a result of being hit by a metal pipe, and at Aqaba prison, an inmate died as a result of beatings over the course of two days.  Also, at Qafqafa prison, the unsanitary conditions seriously affected the prisoners’ mental health. 

For more information please see:
Human Rights Watch:  “Jordan:  Rampant beating in prisons go unpunished”  30 August 2007. 

BBC:  “Jordanian prison head dismissed”  29 August 2007. 

France24:  “Jordan fires warden after prison disturbances”  29 August 2007.

Middle East Times:  “Jordan inmates hurt themselves during watchdog visit”  28 August 2007.

Students Killed in Capital Bombing

Two school children and three others were killed in a bombing this past Sunday in the capital of Somalia. Nine people were also injured. Sunday is a school day for a majority in the majority of Muslim Horn of Africa nations. This region has endured significant fighting and is patrolled daily by government troops and Ethiopian allies.

Thousands have been killed this year because of the periodic gunfire and attacks of government officials and stations. Random attacks have been so frequent, that troops are more concentrated on their own safety than that of the people and city. However, in this attack no government troop was in the area. Witnesses reported that the bomb was planted near the school in south Mogadishu where hundreds of students attend.

Again, remnants of the Islamic court’s militias and those unhappy with the presence of Ethiopian troops have been blamed for the bombing. These groups have also been blamed for a grenade attack on police officers that killed one civilian and another grenade attack in the capital’s main market that killed one person and wounded five. In many attacks, civilians are the ones killed or injured. The tactics are widely viewed as “barbaric”.

For more information please see:

“5 Somalis killed in violence, nine hurt” Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070826/ap_on_re_af/somalia;_ylt=At07Xtk5twFyd3Q5smB5QCu96Q8F 26, Aug. 2007.

“Somalia: Roadside Bomb Explosion Kills 2 Students in Mogadishu” AllAfrica.com: http://allafrica.com/stories/200708260009.html 26, Aug. 2007.

“Fear Stalk Somalia’s Capital Once Again” BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6252359.stm 11, Jan. 2007.

Saudi Arabia Bans London Based Arabic Paper

Al- Hayat, a popular London based pan-Arabic paper, was recently banned by the Saudi government.  It is unclear what caused the banning of the paper, especially because officials stated it was not any single article that caused the government’s regulation.  However, two possible reasons emerge for the government’s displeasure with the newspaper causing the banning of the newspaper.  The first possibility is related to the Al-Hayat’s insinuations that the recent deaths of camels in Saudi Arabia were actually caused by infectious diseases, rather than the government’s view that blamed the mysterious deaths on the camels’ poor diet.  Secondly, the Associated Press suspects that the paper may have been banned because the newspaper recently published an article connecting a Saudi man, Mohammad al-Thibaiti, to an Iraqi extremist group, the Islamic State of Iraq.  Although Saudi Arabia’s reasons for banning the newspaper are unclear the fact that they have silenced the newspaper probably because it criticized the government is alarming.  However, the ban of Al-Hayat may be a unique situation and may not indicate a shift from Saudi Arabia’s new found openness in reporting. 

    Al-Hayat has always had a strenuous relationship with the Saudi government.  In the past the newspaper was banned by the government multiple times, and the government always allowed the paper to circulate again.  Therefore, it is likely that soon this ban will also be removed.  The newspaper has close connections to the government causing the strain.  Al-Hayat is owned by the Assistant Defense for Military Affairs for Saudi Arabia, Prince Khaled bin Sultan.  Also, he is the eldest son of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.  Since the owner, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, is so closely related to the Saudi government it is likely that his paper is more closely monitored then other news sources.  The Saudi government may have banned Al-Hayat because of Al-Hayat’s close alliance with the government, which allowed the newspaper to access and propagate information that the government deemed sensitive.  Thus, the banning of Al-Hayat is not a clear indicator of stricter rules of monitoring independent news sources from the Saudi government.

BBC News.  Saudis ‘ban’ pan-Arab newspaper.  29 August 2007.

Khaleej Times Online. Saudi bans Al Hayat newspaper for 2 days.  28 August 2007.

Arabian Business.  Leading Arab daily still banned in Saudi.  29 August 2007.

Associated Press.  Saudi Government Bans Leading Arab Paper.  28 August 2007.

Twelve more South Korean hostages freed

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One of twelve hostages released

Taliban militants released twelve more South Korean hostages Wednesday and the remaining seven hostages may also be released as early as the end of this week.  Among the 12 released were two men and ten women.

On Wednesday, the Taliban released 12 of 19 South Korean hostages as part of a deal with South Korea.  The Taliban originally demanded release of imprisoned insurgents in exchange for the South Korean hostages.  They later backed down on these demands.  Under the terms of this deal, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge it made before the hostage crisis began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.  Seoul also said it would prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working in the Muslim country, something it had already promised to do.

The Taliban originally kidnapped 23 South Koreans and killed two male hostages in late July.  They also released two women in early August was a gesture of good will.

Both Seoul and the Taliban have said that no money was exchanged in this deal.  Furthermore, the Afghan government was not a party to the negotiations.  South Korea’s government was under intense domestic pressure to bring the hostages home safely.

As the hostage crisis comes to an end, the father of one of the two hostages killed in the crisis accused the church that sent the Christian volunteers of being reckless.  Critics also said the government would suffer diplomatic damages for negotiating directly with the extremists.

For more information, please see:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-08-29-korea_N.htm

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/08/30/news/hostages.php

http://www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2007/08/30/afx4066960.html

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/08/30/taliban.hostages/

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aL5wx3d8ia1Q&refer=home

UN Secretary General to Visit Sudan

Khartoum, Sudan – UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon made a statement on Tuesday that he is deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence in the Darfur region.  In his statement, he said that several hundred people have died in incidents including an August 1 attack on a police station and air strikes in South Darfur.  On Wednesday, the Sudanese government quickly rejected the statement, with the foreign ministry spokesman saying the statement was based on fabricated news stories.

The Secretary General is now planning a trip to the region, so that he can see for himself the conditions under which the UN-AU peacekeeping mission planned for Darfur will operate.  He is also looking to know firsthand the plight of the people in Darfur.

The trip is scheduled for September 3-6, and will be Ban’s first trip to Sudan as secretary general.   Mr. Ban has also laid out a three-point action plan for Darfur, focusing on peacekeeping efforts, humanitarian aid, and the search for a long-term political solution.  The joint UN-AU force, comprised of more than 25,000 military and police personnel, is one of the most complex operations the UN has ever undertaken.  The cooperation of Sudanese’s government is needed in order for the operation to be a success, and Ban is looking to get this support when he travels there next week and meets with President Omar al-Bashir.

After visiting Sudan, Ban will continue to meet with Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, a key regional leader who will be useful in bringing some of the Darfur parties to the negotiations.  Ban will then continue on to Chad, where the Security Council indicated yesterday they would be willing to authorize a UN presence to support an EU force in the east of the country and in the Central African Republic, which have both had problems due to clashes between rebel and government forces and the spillover from Darfur.

Since the conflict began in the Darfur region in 2003, at least 200,000 people have died and more than two million have been displaced.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America – Sudan Rejects UN Statement Alleging Increased Darfur Violence – 29 August 2007

Voice of America – UN Chief to Visit Sudan Next Week – 28 August 2007

Independence Online (South Africa) – UN leader is banking on new plan for Darfur – 28 August 2007

AllAfrica.com – Ban ki-Moon to Visit Next Week to ‘Lock In’ Progress Towards Darfur Peace – 28 August 2007

Washington Times – UN’s Ban to visit Sudan’s Darfur region – 29 August 2007

President to Declare Emergency in Sierra Leone

Tejan Kabbah, the president of Sierra Leone has threatened to impose a state of emergency due to extreme violence between rival parties in the current national election. Presently, supporters of two rival parties have been fighting for two days.

President Kabba’s warning came as the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) issued a statement citing that supporters of the leading opposition party, the All People’s Congress (APC), had “brutally assaulted” SLPP supporters.

A statement by the APC said, “We all must, as a matter of duty, stop those who are threatening the state with brutal and murderous war and genocide.”

The rising threats make President Kabbah fear that election violence will cause civil unrest and chaos. Kabbah stated, “All those responsible for the violence and lawlessness should be prepared for the consequences.”

In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, police had to use tear gas to end rioting between rival supporters who clashed on the streets on Sunday and Monday. Furthermore, in the diamond-rich town of Kono, several people were injured when police used tear gas in that region.

For more information, please see:

“Sierra Leone: President Threatens to Declare Emergency.” 28 August 2007. Allafrica.com http://allafrica.com/stories/200708280582.html

“Sierra Leone President threatens to impose state of emergency.” International Herald Tribune. 28 August 2007. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/28/africa/AF-POL-Sierra-Leone.php

“Emergency threat in Sierra Leone.” 28 August 2007. BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6966339.stm

China drafting laws to curb pollution

In an effort to curb pollution, China began drafting a new law that would save energy and reduce emissions.  Where most Chinese cities are often wrapped in a toxic gray shroud, the issue has become more urgent as China prepares to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The China Daily newspaper reports that the drafted amendment to China’s old water pollution law would remove a 1 million yuan ($132,000) cap on fines for water polluters and allow penalties of 20 to 30 percent of the direct economic losses caused by a spill or pollution.  The law also stipulates that governments at all levels should control energy use and emissions, strengthen management of resource-intensive companies and divert capital into environmentally-friendly industries.

The New York Times has examined the human toll, global impact and political challenge of China’s epic pollution crisis, naming it “Choking on Growth.”  China’s speedy rise as an economic power has given rise to its unparalleled pollution problem.  China’s success and growth derives from the expansion of heavy industry and urbanization that requires colossal inputs of energy, almost all from coal, the most readily available, and dirtiest, source.

The Ministry of Heath says pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death.  Nearly 500- million people lack access to safe drinking water.  Furthermore, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides spewed by China’s coal-fired power plants fall as acid rain on Seoul and Tokyo, and much of the particulate pollution over Los Angeles originates in China.

China’s leaders recognize that they must embrace a new model that allows for steady growth while protecting the environment.  As Wang Jinnan, one of China’s leading environmental researchers says: “It is a very awkward situation for the country because our greatest achievement is also our biggest burden.”

For more information, please see:

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/27/ap4055935.html

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-29160120070826

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003851947_sundaysell26.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/asia/26china.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Fatah and journalists protest in Gaza

On August 24, Fatah supporters staged the largest protest in Gaza since Hamas took over in June.  Thousands of Palestinians gathered in Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza City for noon time prayers.  They were protesting “incitement” against Fatah members in mosques controlled by Hamas. 

After prayers, the protesters marched to Al Sayara, a Hamas security complex formerly controlled by Fatah.  There, members of Hamas’s Executive Force fired their guns into the air to disperse the crowds and clashed with protesters.  Palestinian Authority television claims that seventeen demonstrators were injured.  However, Hamas denied that any injuries occurred.

During the protest, members of the Executive Force arrested four journalists covering the event.  While the journalists were quickly released, the Executive force broke a TV camera belonging to Al Arabiya’s cameraman and other reporters claimed to have been “roughed up”.  In addition to the four arrests, the Executive Force attempted to arrest two others but were prevented from doing so by the demonstrators.

Two days later, on August 26, a hundred journalists staged their own protest at the journalists’ union building in Gaza.  They carried banners which read, “Yes to freedom of the press!  No to journalists arrests!  Keep journalists out of politics!”  They were protesting not only the earlier arrests but also Hamas’s policies against journalists covering pro-Fatah events and the confiscation of equipment.

For more information please see:
London Times:  “Journalists protests Hamas pressure”  27 August 2007. 

Middle East Times:  “Gaza journalists sit-in for press freedom”  26 August 2007. 

New York Times:  “Protest broken up by armed Hamas force”  25 August 2007. 

Al Jazeera:  “Rivals battle at Gaza protest”  24 August 2007. 

BBC:  “Hamas opens fire at Fatah rally”  24 August 2007. 

Ma’an News Agency:  “Thousands of Fatah supporters demonstrate in Gaza”  24 August 2007.

50 Africans Deported to Egypt

    African asylum seekers were deported from Israel and returned to Egypt, where they had originally been granted asylum.  These 50 refugees also included some Darfur survivors.  The Africans had fled to Egypt in order to escape genocide and other atrocities that refugees had faced while in their home nations.  However, because of their maltreatment in Egypt the refugees later tried to flee to Israel.  A Sudanese leader in Egypt reported in the Washington Post that the deported Africans “have escaped from an Egyptian reality of suffering very similar to that of Sudan — racism in the Egyptian street, killing by the authorities” and have not received help from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees.  The refugees also fear that the Egyptian government will try to transport the refugees back to Sudan.  However, Israeli officials asserted that part of the agreement with Egypt regarding the deportation of the refugees included an Egyptian promise not to send the Africans to their native countries.  Yet, this promise does not fully relieve the deported immigrants fear.  One of the fears is that if the refugees can be unilaterally moved without their consent or without following the internationally outlined protocol the refugees will always have to fear future movement.

    Many refugees fled north to Egypt from Sudan and other war torn nations.  The war in Sudan, which is centered on the western Darfur province, has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties.  Therefore, those who are afforded the opportunity to escape the genocide in Sudan usually take the opportunity.  Millions of people fled their homes in order to gain safety and protection.  The Israeli and Egyptian governments must afford these survivors these basic rights, and if they are deporting the refugees they must follow internationally recognized standards to ensure the protection of the refugees.

IRIN.  ISRAEL-AFRICA: Deportation of 50 Africans sparks concern.  22 August 2007.

NY Times.  Israel Returns Illegal African Migrants to Egypt.  19 August 2007.

Washington Post.  A Crisis of Conscience Over Refugees in Israel.  24 August 2007.

Girl Soldiers

Among the millions of child soldiers across Africa kidnapped, drugged and manipulated into fighting, girls represent an estimated 30 percent. Girls face an even harder challenge following the release from soldiery. Many girls, like boys are abducted from their homes, drugged, beaten, and in many cases forced to kill their family members. But unlike boys, the girls are raped and/or forced to “marry” rebel leaders. Their children are then ostracized as “Kony children”, referring to Joseph Kony, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The LRA, based in northern Uganda, kidnapped an estimated 25,000 children during the 20-year war against the government. According to Human Rights Watch, children were used in the frontlines, as spies, minesweepers and concubines.

Although several children, either abandoned or orphaned, joined the rebels out of desperation, the majority was kidnapped from the family.

On June 20th of this year, the UN-backed courts convicted junta leaders of using child soldiers during the Sierra Leone civil war. This marks the first time the use of child soldiers was treated as a war crime.

For more information please see:

“Another side of child-soldiering: girls” Yahoo News: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070825/ap_on_re_af/africa_s_child_war;_ylt=AqSK.u0PgSvdETjY_rF9F7.96Q8F 25, Aug. 2007.

Sudan Expels Western Diplomats

Khartoum, Sudan – Sudan expelled the European Commission envoy, Kent Degerfelt, and a Canadian diplomat, Nuala Lawler, on Wednesday.  Sudan’s state Suna news agency reports that they were asked to leave the country and were each declared persona non grata due to their “intervention in the internal affairs of Sudan.”  Foreign Ministry officials in Sudan have accused the two of meeting with Sudanese opposition leaders.

Canada and the EU, however, have said that they were given no reason for why they were expelled.  The Canadian Foreign Minister said Lawler was standing up for democracy and freedom in Sudan. The spokesman for the European Commission said Degerfelt was not in the country when he was ordered out.

Canada and the EU have both been highly critical of the Sudanese government’s role in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since 2003 when a rebel group with ethnic-cleansing ideas took up arms in the Arab-dominated central government.  Khartoum has been accused of sending the janjaweed militias, who are blamed for atrocities during this conflict.

On Friday, Amnesty International accused the Sudanese government of continuing to deploy offensive military equipment in Darfur, in violation of a UN arms embargo and peace agreements.

Last month, the UN Security Council approved a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force for Sudan, and it is hoped that the troops will be sent by the end of the year.  However, the peacekeeping resolution does not give the troops authority to disarm or demobilize the janjaweed or other armed opposition groups.

Meanwhile, a UN report was released earlier this week detailing rapes in Darfur.  Sudan’s justice minister attacked the report on Thursday calling it a “false report” and questioning the commissioner’s credibility.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Sudan expels two Western envoys – 23 August 2007

Times Online – Sudan expels European and Canadian diplomats – 24 August 2007

Voice of America – Sudan Expels Canadian, European Diplomats for “Meddling” – 24 August 2007

Guardian Unlimited – Sudan expels western diplomats as pressure mounts over Darfur – 24 August 2007

NGO Claims Uzbekistan Regional Threat

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), Uzbekistan is a serious threat to itself and Central Asia.

The non-governmental organization (NGO) claims that the human rights situation is grave and the government severely persecutes its critics. Citizens who seek to leave the country live in constant danger of attempts to return them forcibly.

An ICG report says that the Uzbek government has almost eliminated civil society and the independent media; foreign news journalists face threats and persecution.

President Islam Karimov’s term ended in January, but he has not yet left office, and there are no signs that he plans to do so. His eventual departure could lead to a power struggle.

The government justifies its policies by citing the dangers imposed by radical Islamist groups. However, according to ICG, there is no evidence that these groups pose a clear threat.

The European Union recently renewed sanctions imposed in 2005 after Uzbek troops fired on protesters.

The ICG is an (NGO) that works to prevent and resolve conflicts.

For more information, please see:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6959934.stm

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/08/13ab3d10-5598-487e-91f8-3f6331a7c97a.html

http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5027&l=1

Attack on Peacekeepers in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

There was an attack on UN peacekeepers stationed in the Rusthuru region of North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. The incident took place when North Kivu brigades were hit with rocks on August 20th in Bunugana village by rebels who wanted to prevent the UN police from entering their village.

The peacekeepers were attempting to gather information on the assault of two Congolese intelligent agents that took place last weekend. Three Indian peacekeepers and an officer from the Congolese police were wounded during the attack.

The rebels were part of a militia organized by General Nkunda, who was a former general in the Congolese army. Nkunda’s militia is responsible for attacking government positions in North Kivu. While the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers have been able to force Nkunda’s militia to withdraw in the past, there have still been numerous clashes between the militia and army.

The general instability in the region has resulted in the displacement of 10,000. Moreover, since 1999, fighting between six armed forces has resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people.

UN Refugee Agency estimates that over 10,000 Congolese crossed to Uganda’s southwestern district of Kisoro in attempts to seek refugee on August 21st. Presently, Uganda hosts about 29,000 refugees from eastern DR Congo.

For more information, please see:

AllAfrica – Congo-Kinshasa: UN Peacekeepers Caught Up in Continuing Unrest in North Kivu – 23 August 2007

BBC – Congo Refugees Return from Uganda – 23 August 2007

IRIN – DRC: Thousands Disarm and Join Reintegration Process in Ituri – 21 August 2007

Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam agree to evacuate the last civilians

On May 20, the Lebanese army began their fight with the militants from Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared.  Since the conflict began, over 140 Lebanese soldiers have died, 100 militants, and about forty were civilians.  While 40,000 Palestinian refugees fled Nahr al-Bared and went to nearby camps, eighty civilians have remained.  Those who remained are mostly wives and children of the remaining militants. 

After three months of heavy bombing, all that remains of Nahr al-Bared are tunnels and niches beneath piles of rubble.  Since the militants refuse to surrender, the Lebanese army continues to bombard the camp.  Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army recently reached a temporary cease-fire agreement to allow the families of the militants to evacuate the camp.  This agreement is not an official cease of fighting but rather provides the remaining civilians an opportunity to leave the camp.  Officers in the Lebanon Army view this agreement by the Fatah Islam as a signal that the end of the fighting is near.

Lebanese officials do not believe that Fatah al-Islam is capable of fighting back from their current position.  Rather, army officials speculate when Fatah al-Islam will be completely destroyed in Nahr al-Bared.  This agreement is seen by the Lebanese officials as the militants’ last opportunity to evacuate their family members before the end of the fighting. 

Also, Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza charged 107 members of Fatah al-Islam in custody with terrorism.  Mirza also charged an undisclosed number of individuals at large with terrorism.  In addition to Lebanese, there were also Palestinians, Saudis and Syrians.  If convicted of terrorism, the individuals could face the death penalty.

For more information please see:
The Daily Star:  “Mediators await word from Fatah al-Islam on evacuation”  24 August 2007. 

Al Jazeera:  “Fatah al-Islam seeks Lebanon truce”  22 August 2007. 

BBC:  “More Lebanese army raids on camp”  22 August 2007. 

Gulf Times:  “Lebanon army agrees to let families move out of camp”  22 August 2007. 

The Daily Star:  “Army steps up siege of Nahr al Bared, former general assures militants are ‘doomed’”  21 August 2007. 

International Herald Tribune:  “Lebanon’s military agrees to militants’ request to allow their families leave camp”  21 August 2007. 

International Herald Tribune:  “Lebanon charges over 100 people suspected of battling army with terrorism”  18 August 2007.