News in brief

Let me end / detain you

On 26 May, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem announced it would end a decades-long policy of co-operating with the Israeli military justice system, saying it was a figleaf to legitimise the occupation.

In early July, the youngest Palestinian child held in administrative detention (without charge or trial), 16-year-old Hamza Hammed, originally detained by Israeli authorities on 28 February, had his detention extended for an additional four months.

On 13 June, Palestinian Bilal Kayed, after completing a 15-year sentence for ‘belonging to an illegal organisation’, was ordered to remain in prison indefinitely under administrative detention. Some 29 Palestinian prisoners went on a two-week hunger strike in solidarity.

Bilal, who was first imprisoned at 19, refused deportation in return for release. He continued his own hunger strike, started on 15 June.

Two Palestinian detainees from Beit Liqya near Ramallah carried out long hunger strikes, apparently winning release agreements.

On 25 May, Fuad ‘Aassi suspended his hunger strike after 53 days. The agreement was that his detention without charge would be extended only till September, when it would end.

Fellow detainee Adeeb Mafarja ended his fast on 31 May after 59 days, after the authorities pledged to release him on 21 December.

Both men had suffered dangerous weight loss, were in constant pain and were unable to move by the end.

On 26 May, an Israeli military court ordered the release of astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi after a month’s administrative detention – and a global solidarity campaign. The prosecutor reported that there was insufficient evidence to charge Barghouti and the court refused to renew his detention without charge.

However, prosecutors then charged Barghouti on 29 May – with incitement to violence and terror. He was still in prison at the time of going to press.

Prisoner rights group Addameer estimates that 750 Palestinians are currently detained indefinitely by Israel without charge or trial.

On 20 June, Israelis Tair Kaminer, 19, and Omri Barnes, 18, once again refused military service on the grounds of conscientious objection to the Israeli defence force’s role in the Occupied Territories (see PN2594–2595).

Tair received her sixth sentence for refusal: 45 days in military detention, which will make 170 days in total. Omri was sentenced to another 30 days (total 67 days).

Don't entertain us

On the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme, a French choir was banned from singing Song of Craonne at the 1 July ceremony at a German cemetery. It was too anti-war (sample lyrics: ‘... we are all doomed / We are sacrificed’).

The song was banned by the French military from 1917 – 1974.

Kurdish war

The Kurdish peace process that was killed off by the Turkish state last summer shows no signs of reviving. Instead, the Turkish civil war continues between the state and the country’s Kurdish minority.

In June, the Turkish military moved heavy military operations into the countryside, and away from the Kurdish cities that were so heavily damaged in earlier months. (Though long curfews continue in many of these cities.)

Airstrikes on the Turkish Kurdish guerrilla army, the PKK, took place in both southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. For its part, the PKK continued killing Turkish soldiers and paramilitary ‘village guards’, and were accused of carbomb attacks on police targets in Istanbul and Midyat which together killed 14 people. (The Istanbul bombing was claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, which broke away from the PKK in 2004. The Midyat bombing remains unclaimed.)

There are thousands of political prisoners in Turkey, many of them what Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls ‘unarmed terrorists’.

On 21 June, Erdoğan said that civil society groups ‘working against the state’ had largely been ‘destroyed’, according to the leading Turkish daily Hürriyet.

Western Sahara

A huge investment fund has divested from two oil companies because of their role in the illegal exploitation of the oil resources of Western Sahara (illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975).

Norway’s $835bn sovereign wealth fund dropped Cairn Energy (based in Edinburgh, Scotland) and Kosmos Energy (from Dallas, Texas, USA), after a report from an independent council of ethics.

There was an authoritative legal opinion on this in 2002, given by ambassador Hans Corell, then head of the UN secretariat office of legal affairs. Corell has specifically said that the drilling by Cairn and Kosmos is illegal because it was not in accordance with the wishes and the interests of the people of Western Sahara.

Nepal crisis

Dissatisfied ethnic minorities carried out a month-long relay hunger strike in Kathmandu in June. The Federal Alliance includes Madhesis and Tharus from the lowlands and Janjatis from the hill areas. In July, the coalition announced that it would begin ‘decisive’ protests, probably blocking Nepal’s highways, in mid-September.

The protestors resent the discriminatory way that new state boundaries have been drawn under the new federal constitution.

For the Madhesis, the most urgent demands are: compensation for people killed by the security forces during the protests last year; medical attention for people injured during the protests last year; and the dropping of charges against Madhesi activists.