News in brief

Asian Gaza Convoy

Asian Gaza convoy

The “Asia 1 solidarity convoy” entered the Gaza Strip on 2 January, to deliver 300 tons of medical and food supplies. The convoy started from Delhi on 2 December, but was refused permission to go through Pakistan, so went by air to Syria before heading to Egypt by sea. The Egyptians excluded Iranian and Jordanian participants.

Tear Gas Death

Tear gas death

On New Year’s Eve 2010, 1,000 Palestinians, Israelis and international activists participated in the weekly Friday demonstration against the Israeli separation wall at the Palestinian village of Bil’in.
After speeches, including by the Palestinian prime minister, a march towards the wall was tear gassed. Small groups of protesters still removed a chunk of the wall using bolt-cutters. One man was seriously injured after being shot by a tear gas canister and a woman, Jawaher Abu Rahma, died of asphyxiation from the gas.
Since 2005, more than 20 people have been killed – many by so-called “non-lethal” weapons – during protests against the wall and settlements. Jawaher’s brother Bassem was killed in 2007 by a tear gas canister.
On New Year’s Day, hundreds reacted by blockading the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv. Protesters also threw spent tear gas canisters from Bil’in into the US ambassador’s front yard. 11 people were arrested for illegal arms possession and were detained in jail until bailed on 4 January.
The next Bil’in protest on 7 January was again showered with tear gas, knocking out two people. (Tear gas supplied by Combined Systems International (US) and by BAE Systems (UK).)

Nepal News

Nepal news

Nepal’s political parties have begun to remove one of the biggest blocks in the peace process – the stalled integration or rehabilitation of fighters from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). On 22 January, 19,600 former Maoist guerrillas were ceremonially handed over to government control at Shaktikhor PLA cantonment in Chitwan district.
The issue has not really been resolved, however, as the PLA ex-combatants have not been integrated into the Nepali security forces, as promised in the comprehensive peace accord of 2006. They have only been placed under the authority of a multi-party “special committee”.
The Nepali army gives little sign of being willing to admit significant numbers of former PLA soldiers, who for the time being retain their existing command structure.
The Maoists claim to have reached an agreement with the current government that will see the rehabilitation or integration of former PLA fighters within three months.
The United Nations mission in Nepal (UNMIN) finally left the country on 15 January. It had been opposed by the Nepali army and by the other main political parties, and supported only by the Maoists, whose forces it monitored.
Crucially, UNMIN was opposed by India, which regarded UN involvement in its backyard as unwarranted interference. In the post-UNMIN environment, India apparently hopes to isolate and break down the Maoists.
As PN went to press, the political parties in Nepal were promising, once again, that a government of national unity was just about to be formed. Nepal’s new constitution is due by 28 May.

Sizewell Error

Sizewell error

On 4 January, Andreas Speck and Ian Mills walked free from Lowes- toft magistrates court after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to persuade a judge to change the charge at the last minute. The pair were arrested on 22 February 2010 after locking themselves together outside Sizewell B nuclear power station. The CPS said a computer error had led to the two being charged under the wrong law.

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning
An appeal has been made to lift restrictions imposed on US private Bradley Manning, detained at Quantico marine base since July. He is charged with leaking 250,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, including field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan detailing US troops killing civilians. Bradley is in solitary confinement, checked every five minutes, having to respond each time. He is not allowed newspapers or TV news and can only correspond with approved people. His lawyer reports that his mental and physical health are suffering.

CO Status Refused

CO status refused

Michael Lyons, a 24-year-old “leading medical assistant” in the navy, was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan in June, but, after reading WikiLeaks documents, decided to leave the service. Taking advice from military counselling group At Ease, Michael appealed to the “advisory committee on conscientious objectors”, which last met in 1996.
At its 17 December hearing, Michael argued that the Wiki-Leaks documents led him to conclude: “I couldn’t serve on moral grounds and I couldn’t see any political reason for being [in Afghanistan]”. The committee upheld the refusal to recognise Michael as a CO.

Israeli jails

Israeli jails

On 12 December, nonviolent protest organiser Adeeb Abu Rahma from Bil’in was released after 18 months’ imprisonment, but banned from participating in political activity for four years. On 27 December, prominent Israeli nonviolent activist Jonathan Pollak was sentenced to three months in prison for “illegal assembly” for participating in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza. (No one else on the ride was arrested.) On 14 December, 18-year-old Ajuad Zidan was sentenced to 20 days for refusing on grounds of conscience to enlist in the Israeli army, his second sentence in a month for the same “offence”. Ajuad is a member of the Druze religious community, who unlike other Palestinians, face conscription into the Israeli army.

Western Sahara

Western Sahara

As PN went to press, the Western Saharan resistance movement Polisario was holding its third round of talks in two months with the Moroccan government, which illegally occupied Western Sahara in 1975. The talks, on the outskirts of New York, were under the auspices of the UN.
Meanwhile, Morocco is facing some pressure from the EU, as the renewal of the €36.1m a year EU-Morocco fisheries agreement expires on 27 February. As previously reported, a European parliament report has concluded that the agreement is illegal because it includes Western Saharan waters, but the people of Western Sahara do not receive their share of the money.
The European commission has demanded that the Moroccan authorities prove that the fisheries agreement is also benefiting the people of Western Sahara. Back in October, the fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “We cannot renew this agreement until the Moroccan authorities have transmitted this information.”

Brian Haw update

Brian Haw update

We reported last issue that anti-war activist Brian Haw had been in hospital since September diagnosed with cancer, in fact lung cancer. Brian’s website now reports that Brian flew out of the country to begin cancer treatment at a Shen clinic on 1 January.
Brian’s peace camp continues in Parliament Square, opposite the House of Commons, though the government is making another attempt to get rid of it in the “Police Reform and Social Responsibility” bill, published on 30 November. This gives the police powers to stop protesters from erecting structures in Parliament Square and to remove any “sleeping equipment”.

DU Secrecy

DU secrecy

On 8 December, 168 countries voted for a UN general assembly resolution that states should provide “data on Depleted Uranium munitions use” to affected countries. Only four countries voted against: the UK, the US, France and Israel.

America's Watch

Americas Watch

In November 5,000 protestors engaged in religious witness, performances, processions, vigils and direct action at the School of Americas in Georgia, USA, renowned for training Latin American soldiers in repression.
Thirty people were arrested and held for several days by police. Six people were sentenced to six months for trespass.

Disarm Now verdict

Disarm Now verdict

After a seven-day trial, on 13 December a US jury found five peace activists guilty of trespass, damage and conspiracy to damage federal property in November 2009 when the five entered the “strategic weapons facility, Pacific” at the Bangor, WA, naval base, home port for eight Trident nuclear submarines, where more than 2,000 warheads are stored. Sentencing was adjourned to 28 March, when the five face up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

White House Protest

White House protest

Despite snow, in a protest organised by Veterans for Peace on 16 December, over 100 people, many veterans, handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in an act of civil resistance to “unjust” charges being brought against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and associates and to call an end to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. The protest resulted in 134 arrests for “refusing to leave the sidewalk”.
Whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, who took part, commented: “I want more Bradley Mannings.”

Afghan Youth

Afghan Youth

An excerpt from a conversation between the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (in Kabul) and Noam Chomsky (in the US) on 17 December 2010:
Abdulai: My name is Abdulai. Obama announced in his diagnostic December review that the US is making significant progress in Afghanistan. Could you please comment on this review being a “diagnostic” review rather than a real, evaluative review of facts on the ground?
Chomsky: Well of course you know vastly more about what's happening in Afghanistan than I do. I only know from secondary sources but it’s worth noting that a few days ago the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies] released a report, which is extremely unusual for them – they rarely do it – in which they said that the situation on the ground has deteriorated radically. They gave particulars and said it's now far worse than it's been in the past. They're actually working there and have experience. Plainly that's not consistent with the picture of progress.
Lala (a young farmer): The US is constructing a narrative of success. Are they doing this so they can eventually leave gracefully or do you think they are constructing a narrative of success so that they can stay permanently?
Chomsky: Well, the United States – we have to bear in mind that the US government like other governments and other states is not dedicated to serving the interests of the people of the countries where it intervenes or attacks or interferes.
In fact, it’s not even dedicated to the welfare of its own population. It’s dedicated to the policies of the states, and this has been understood for centuries, states are controlled by concentrations of power within the domestic society and those are the interests that are pursued. In the case of Afghanistan, the US government and other sectors of concentrated power and capital in the United States – they do have interests, for example they are very interested and have been for decades in their TAPI pipeline plan, a plan to get natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India which would go through Afghanistan and which would undercut reliance of the South Asian states on Iran.
The United States is trying to isolate and change the regime in Iran. So that’s a longstanding interest. Nevertheless I think that at this point when the US government defines success it means not success for the people of Afghanistan or Vietnam or Nicaragua or whatever but success for the interest that it is pursuing.
At this point, I think it’s not unlikely that even just for domestic, political reasons, the US will try to find a way to withdraw most of its forces and try to portray it as some kind a victory. That’s for domestic reasons.