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Immovability

On 10 January, 19-year-old Tair Kaminer turned up at an Israeli army induction centre near Tel Aviv, accompanied by friends and supporters, but instead of presenting herself for military service, presented a statement explaining why she was refusing compulsory military service.

She wrote: ‘I will not take an active part in the occupation of the Palestinian Territories and in the injustice to the Palestinian people…. When I look at all these children… of both sides… I can but see the continuation of trauma and pain. And I say: “Enough!”’

She was sentenced to 20 days’ detention.

Innocence

On 28 December, a 50-strong nonviolent witness was held at the Pentagon in Washington DC, USA, to mark the Christian feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents. Marchers were directed by police into a fenced-off, designated, ‘protest area’.

Seven people did not comply, staying on the building side of the pavement, holding banners and placards saying: ‘Wage Peace – Practice Nonviolence’ and ‘The US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan is a war crime – US out of Afghanistan now!’

The seven were arrested, charged at the Pentagon police centre with ‘violation of a lawful order’, and released to appear in court on 4 February.

Impunity

Charges of unlawful killing during the Iraq war were dropped against 57 British soldiers after British prime minister David Cameron asked ministers to stop ‘spurious’ claims against former soldiers.

The military’s service prosecuting authority halted one other case.

The authorities are now targeting the law firm Leigh Day, which has brought a series of successful claims for compensation against the MoD on behalf of Iraqis who were killed, tortured and/or abused by the British military.

The media are wrongly reporting that Leigh Day ‘failed to disclose’ and ‘shredded’ a key document’ that could have put a stop to the £31m Al-Sweady inquiry into the torture and murder of Iraqi detainees by British soldiers.

Immortality

In January, there was another push to put a plaque on the wall of the old PN office in Blackstock Road, north London, to mark it as the birthplace of the peace symbol created by Gerald Holtom for the Aldermaston nuclear disarmament march in 1958, and later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).

Hackney council is ‘considering options’ ahead of the 60th anniversary in two years.

Protect us!

On 19 January, US peace activist Mary Anne Grady Flores began a six-month sentence for stepping into the road next to a US drones base in New York state in 2013.

Mary Anne had been served with an ‘order of protection’ to ‘stay away’ from Hancock Fields base, at 6001 East Mally Road, (to ‘protect’ the base commander) as the result of an earlier action. She decided not to risk arrest on Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013, but to take photographs of the action.

The court found that Mary Anne stepped onto a surrounding road that was base property (it’s not clear that this violated the ‘stay away’ order). Mary Anne was sentenced to one year in prison (reduced to six months on appeal) for contempt of court.

The eight activists who took part in the Ash Wednesday action were all acquitted on 24 October 2013.

Write to: Mary Anne Grady Flores #12001966, Jamesville Correctional Facility, PO Box 143, Jamesville NY 13078, USA

Preserve us!

Down in East Sussex, after an intervention by the local anti-roads group, Combe Haven Defenders, in mid-January, Rother council suddenly postponed consideration of a planning application for a proposed one-and-a-half-mile North Bexhill access road that would add to the length of the Bexhill-Hastings link road.

Hastings council, meanwhile, has approved a planning application for the second time for the ‘Queensway gateway’ road at the Hastings end of the link road.

The council were forced to withdraw the first permission they gave by legal action brought by PN’s Gabriel Carlyle.

The data showed that the road, if built, would cause serious breaches of air pollution legislation.

Conserve us!

On 14 January, the Haringey council pensions committee pledged to divest its £900m pension fund from coal, and to invest one-third of its equity funds into a ‘low-carbon fund’.

A divestment petition with more than 2,500 signatures was later presented to a full council meeting. Any petition with more than 2,200 names has to be put before councillors for discussion.

Save us!

Bill Gates fun facts are presented in a retro video game, ‘Save Us, Bill Gates’. Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) said: ‘We wanted to challenge the all too common “white saviour” story presented by business leaders, politicians and NGOs that allows the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – often personified by Bill Gates – to present itself as a solution to poverty without facing scrutiny.’


Nepal crisis

Against the backdrop of a four-month blockade of Indian imports, police shot dead three Madhesi protesters in eastern Nepal on 21 January, bringing the total number of deaths in the ethnic unrest to 50.

The authorities tried to justify the shootings by saying the crowd had been throwing stones at the police.

The Madhesis, who live in the Terai plains area of Nepal, have been protesting since August about the new Nepali constitution, which assigns most plains districts to hill-dominated provinces.

On 23 January, the Nepali parliament offered an olive branch, passing amendments to its new constitution which offered ‘proportional inclusion’ of minorities in state institutions.

The amendments were welcomed by India, which eased its blockade of Nepal slightly, but rejected by Madhesi parties.

Meanwhile, former Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai, who left the UCPN-Maoists in September over the new constitution, has launched a new party, ‘New Force Nepal’, for ‘national industrial capitalism’.


Western Sahara

On 10 December, Human Rights Day, the people of Western Sahara, illegally occupied by Morocco for 40 years, won a small victory when the European Union’s court of justice (ECJ) overturned a 2012 EU-Morocco trade agreement.

The ECJ said that the agreement (on agricultural, processed agricultural and fisheries products) wrongly covered produce from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. This is illegal unless the people of the territory are consulted, said Western Sahara Resource Watch.

The ECJ is also considering an EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, and a case brought by Western Sahara Campaign UK, on the labelling of goods.



Kurdistan

Turkey’s Kurdish peace process collapsed last summer. Amnesty International reported in late January that over 150 residents had been killed in areas under curfew, including ‘women, young children, and the elderly’: adding ‘the lives of up to 200,000 people’ were at risk.

In mid-January, the Turkish police arrested 12 academics who had signed a petition calling for a new peace process, and access to the area for independent observers.

The petition condemned the state’s ‘deliberate and planned massacre’ in the south-east: ‘The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighbourhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime.’