News in brief

Peace Prisoners

On 1 December, Peace Prisoners' Day, please put aside an hour to write four cards to people whoíve been imprisoned for their commitment to peace.

Please do: send your card in an envelope; include a return name and address on the envelope; be chatty and creative: send photos from your life, drawings; tell prisoners about your own anti-war work.

Don'ts. Please donít write anything that might get the prisoner into trouble; donít write: "You are so brave, I could never do what you have done"; and donít expect the prisoner to be able to reply.

Here are some names and addresses:

Kang Dong-Kyun (#621) (imprisoned 24 Aug 2011-unknown release date), Kim Jong-Hwan (#315) (24 Aug 2011-unknown), Kim Dong-Won (#156) (24 Aug 2011-unknown), all three: 161 Jeju Prison, Ora-2 dong, Jeju City, Jeju Special Self-Governing Island, SOUTH KOREA

Maikel Nabil Sanad (29 Mar 2011-28 Mar 2014):  El-Marg prison, El-Kalag, El-Khanka, Qalyubey, EGYPT

Inan Suver (6 Aug 2010-unknown), Manisa Kapali Cezaevi, Turgut ÷zal Mh., 45040 Manis, TURKEY

Aziz Roziev (4 Aug 2010-3 Feb 2012), Dovleyet Byashimov (12 Aug 2010-11 Feb 2012), Ahmet Hudaybergenov (7 Sep 2010-6 Mar 2012), all three: Seydi Labour Camp, 746222 Lebap vilayet Seydi, uchr. LB-K/12, TURKMENISTAN

Yoel Tsegezab (26 Aug 2008-unknown), Nehemiah Hagos (26 Aug 2008-unknown), Samuel Ghirmay (1 Mar 2009-unknown), all three: Meitir Camp, Meiti, ERITREA

Taron Pirapyan (2 Mar 2010-1 Sep 2012), David Martirosyan (29 Mar 2010-28 Mar 2012), Narek Seyranyan (22 Apr 2010-21 Apr 2012), Narek Chinaryan (21 May 2010-20 May 2012), Narek Pogosyan (24 May 2010-23 Nov 2012), Derenik Minasyan (11 Aug 2010-10 Aug 2013), Vahe Avetisyan (13 Aug 2010-12 Aug 2012), Artashes Arshakyan (6 Sep 2010-5 Mar 2013), Aharon Musheghyan (12 Nov 2010-11 Nov 2013), David Muradyan (30 Dec 2010-29 Jun 2012), Samvel Sargsyan (3 Feb 2011-2 Aug 2013), Arman Nersisyan (14 Mar 2011-13 Mar 2013), Hovik Gasparyan (11 Apr 2011-10 Oct 2013), all at: Kosh Penal Institution, Kosh, ARMENIA

Carl W Stewart (09105-088) (3 May 2010-2 May 2012): FPC Montgomery Federal Prison Camp, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, AL 36112, USA

Bradley Manning (15 May 2010-unknown): JRCF, 830 Sabalu Road, Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027, USA

Stephen Kelly (87783-011) (18 Feb 2011-17 May 2012): FDC SEATAC, PO Box 13900, Seattle, WA 9819, USA

More info on these folk, and others, on the War Resisters International site:

Bil'in bravery

Palestinians continue their weekly nonviolent protests against the illegal Israeli separation wall in the occupied West Bank territory. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and sound bombs at villagers and international supporters protesting against the wall in the central West Bank towns of Bilíin, Nilin and al Nabi Saleh.

An anti-wall protest in the southern West Bank village of Ma'ssara was assaulted with rifle butts and batons by the Israel defence force.

Israeli whistleblower

On 30 October, Anat Kamm, 24, was sentenced at Tel Aviv District Court to four-and-a-half years in prison for leaking over 2,000 military documents to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

She had copied the documents, 700 of which were classified, while serving as a junior clerk between 2005 and 2007 in the office of the Israeli commander in charge of operations in the West Bank.

Using the leaked documents, Haaretz demonstrated that senior Israeli officers had authorised the assassination of Palestinians, among other war crimes.

Palestinian riders

On 15 November, six Palestinians took part in an anti-discrimination day of ìFreedom Ridesî called by the Popular Struggle Committee. They were arrested after boarding what are in effect ìJews onlyî buses through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Two observers were also arrested.

The buses, operated by companies including Veolia, often subsidised by the Israeli state, connect Jewish settlements to each other and to cities in Israel. It is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use this public transport, but it is effectively segregated since Palestinian entry to the settlements without a permit is prohibited by military decree.

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee is a non-partisan group supporting local committees in places like Bilíin, while providing a base for strategic thinking on a wider scale.

Palestine the state

On 31 October, Palestine made another step forward towards international recognition when the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) became the first UN body to accept Palestine as a member state, by a vote of 107 to 14.
The UK was among 52 countries to abstain. The US responded by cutting off its funding to UNESCO, currently amounting to $65m a year or 22% of the total UNESCO budget.

UNESCO, which promotes education and press freedom among other things, was forced to suspend all its activities and programmes, though it had no immediate plans for job cuts.

Nepal crisis

Peace News keeps an eye on the ìpeace processî that has been staggering along in Nepal since the end of the civil war in 2006.
The former insurgents, the Maoists, formed the first post-war government, resigned, and are now back in charge as part of a coalition government.

One of the thorniest problems in the peace process has been the fate of their 19,600 armed followers, who have been living in demilitarised cantonments since the end of the war, waiting either to be integrated into the Nepali army or to be demobilised.
The political establishment balked at integrating the ìpeopleís liberation armyî into the military.

On 1 November, a compromise was reached. Only a third of Maoist fighters (6,500) are to be brought into the security forces, and they will be restricted to a new non-combat army directorate responsible for development projects, emergency rescue and forest patrols. Others will retire with a cash payment or be given training for civilian life.

An early survey of former combatants at four of the seven cantonments showed the overwhelming majority opting for integration into the military.

Problems ahead for the Maoist leadership...

Western Sahara

European countries have long been willing collaborators in Moroccoís illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

As PN went to press, the fisheries committee of the European parliament was set to vote on a fisheries partnership agreement with Morocco that enables European Union (EU) vessels to fish in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters - costing the EU over E36m a year.

On 7 November, the European parliamentís budget and development committees both called on the fisheries committee to reject the agreement on the grounds of its cost inefficiency and its lack of benefit to the people of Western Sahara.

The Fish Elsewhere campaign is mobilising letters to MEPs to influence a vote in the European parliament, likely to be held mid-December.

In December 2010, the former UN legal counsel, Hans Corell, told Swedish radio that the European commission had "misinterpreted", in "a very astonishing way", his legal opinion on natural resource exploitation in Saharawi territory.

On 19 November, the European parliamentís intergroup for Western Sahara called on the European high representative,  Baroness Ashton, to pressure the Moroccan government to immediately and unconditionally release 24 Saharawi prisoners of conscience who have been on hunger strike in Sale prison near Rabat in Morocco since 31 October.

Claimant wins

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECAP), a claimants group based at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, is claiming ìa potentially crucial victoryî in the struggle of unemployed people to defend their rights.

"Peter", an unemployed ex-miner, has been attempting since 2009 to bring an ECAP representative to interviews with the Edinburgh office of A4E, a private contractor implementing compulsory "workfare" for the department of work and pensions.

A4E falsely accused Peter of photocopying material not relevant to his job search and then threatened him with stoppage of benefits.
A social security tribunal has ruled that a claimant cannot have her benefits stopped because she "felt the need to have the representative of his choice."

Wrexham honoured

Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum, which has been actively working for peace and justice in and around Wrexham (and beyond) since 2003, has been chosen to receive the third annual Arthur Hewlett Peace Award.

The award is made by the Movement for the Abolition of War and funded by a legacy left by the late Arthur Hewlett, founder member of the Quaker Peace Studies Trust.

Fossils fuelled

Fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times more state subsidies last year than were given to the renewable-energy industry, the International Energy Agency said on 9 November.

Aid to cut the price of petrol, gas and coal rose by more than a third to $409bn, compared to only $66bn of support for biofuels, wind power and solar energy.

MoD cut

At the end of November, the Daily Telegraph learned that the British ministry of defence (MoD) had increased the number of soldiers due to be cut from the army from 7,000 to 16,500 by April 2015.

Up to a quarter of Britain's infantry battalions and almost half of its cavalry regiments could be disbanded.

Also in November, the national audit office (NAO) reported that financial incompetence by the MoD had led to delays in deploying new

Astute-class submarines, which in turn had caused cost overruns of £500m.

The delays also mean that for two years (2022-2024) the navy will have six rather than the seven hunter-killer submarines thought necessary to carry out all its missions (which include carrying out unspecified secret missions).

The NAO reported that the cuts in the strategic defence and security review had contained the current £10bn overspend on MoD projects, which otherwise would have ballooned to £20bn.