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United Kingdom
West Papua
Indigenous Peoples

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Dodging the ban
British Government passive on arms dealing

Word corner

The Fascists, founded in 1919 by Benito Mussolini, were a fasci, or political group. Roman builders often carried their axe in a bundle of rods, tied together by a fascia or band. The bundles themselves became known as fasces and were used as a symbol of authority in ancient Rome. By 1900 fasci was used in Italy to mean a group or union. Fascination (originally meaning spell-bound) is from the same root.

Susan Watkin

Policing of the Ottawa Treaty against the use of landmines has been criticized following two incidents in which international arms dealers attempted to sell the banned weapons in Britain. Last September, Romanian arms company Romtehnica advertised banned anti-personnel landmines at the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition in Surrey. I visited the Romtehnica stand, was given a list of banned anti-personnel landmines and then told by the salesperson: 'If people wanted these mines then factories in Romania could make them available and an arrangement could be made.'

Once the story broke, the British Government set up an investigation into the incident and a police inquiry ensued. I gave a statement to the Ministry of Defence and have since learnt that: 'A case file has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service where the matter now rests.'

Channel Four also revealed on British television that Pakistan Ordnance Factories had been offering banned anti-personnel landmines for sale at the same show. Their evidence was passed to British Customs and Excise who have not yet reported on the outcome of their investigations.

Britain is one of fifteen countries that has not only ratified the Ottawa Treaty but also passed enabling legislation that incorporates it into domestic law. But the way in which these two incidents have been dealt with calls into question the willingness of the Government to enforce its own law. Tim Carstairs, from Mines Advisory Group, says: 'The follow-up by the British authorities has been negligible. The British Government should be taking a lead in showing how the treaty can be made to work by effective policing.'

Richard Lloyd, co-ordinator of the UK Working Group on Landmines, believes that the Ottawa Treaty lacks teeth. 'More governments need to ratify the treaty and pass domestic legislation otherwise there really is no ban,' he says. 'In countries like the UK where all of these steps have been taken there is a large question mark over enforcement that has been raised by the way in which the Romanian and Pakistan companies' cases have been handled.'

Paul Donovan

Censorship pays
Liberia, once famed for its vibrant fourth estate, has been hit by a series of closures of radio stations by the Government of President Charles Taylor. Police forcibly evicted the employees and seized communications equipment at Star Radio and Radio Veritas earlier this year. Both stations had recently aired stories on Liberia's human-rights record. But through Taylor's Kiss FM radio, it was reported that the closure was ordered because of a 'security threat created by agents provocateurs using the news media to abuse the unprecedented freedom of speech and press now prevailing in the country'. The closures will lessen competition with Taylor's own Liberian Communication Network - a media empire that currently runs a television service, three radio stations, two newspapers and a printing press.

Newslink Africa

Terrorist techies
Hackers could possibly steer warships off course, says an alarmed US Army official.

Major Sheryl French says modern tanks and ships rely so heavily on computers for their navigation, targeting and control, that someone could conceivably seize control of one remotely. As a test, an Air Force officer has managed to plant false navigation data in a ship's steering system from a laptop computer in a hotel room.

New Scientist Vol 166 No 2232

Quebec stalemate
Polls in Quebec indicate that support for sovereignty is at its lowest point in a generation. After 40 years of debate over whether to leave Canada including two referenda, the election of four secessionist governments and two failed attempts at reforming the Canadian constitution, locals seem to have lost interest in the issue. A book by Jean-François Lisée, which made the local bestseller lists, suggests that the secession debate has ended in stalemate - separatists have failed to persuade voters to take the plunge toward independence and federalists have not convinced people that the current setup suits them. Others point to income disparities between French and English speakers. These were once a source of dissent but now incomes are almost equal and younger French Quebecers seem to have no memory of discrimination.

The Guardian Weekly Vol 162 No 12

Indigenous peoples
Shooting Sun Dancers
Canadian police criticize attack

Two Canadian officers involved in an armed siege that pitted over 400 soldiers against less than 20 indigenous protesters have strongly criticized the 1995 military operation. One officer has since quit the police force in disgust while another is suing the Canadian Government for $3 million because explosives blew off part of his hand during the military's confrontation with indigenous 'Sun Dancers'.

Constable Bob Woods refutes the well-publicized police allegation that the Sun Dancers were terrorists. He says his superiors ignored him when he reported that a peace agreement had been negotiated with the protesters. 'It didn't matter what I said,' he insists. 'They were going to make a show of force and set an example. And nothing was going to change their mind.'

Another member of the force, Sergeant Mike Schlueter, was injured when an explosive went off in his hand while laying a 'security perimeter' around the indigenous people's camp. He says that the operation was poorly planned - many officers were given less than an hour of 'guerrilla' warfare training. In what he calls a 'mad minute', Schlueter says the officers lost their composure and fired.

These claims from those involved in the military operation strengthen calls for an inquiry into this excessive and allegedly illegal use of force against the indigenous protesters.

Ben Mahony
For more information, view excerpts or order the film
Above the Law II: http://home.uleth.ca/map/map/film

Unnatural disaster
The southern African flood disaster has been partly human-made, say environmentalists. David Lindley, co-ordinator of the South African-based Rennies Wetlands Project, says: 'What humans have done, in our infinite arrogance and lack of foresight, is to upset the integrity of our wetlands and mess with the dynamics of our rivers.'

Construction and farming on wetlands and floodplains have combined to destroy the rivers' natural safety valves - increasing the ferocity of floodwaters downstream.

'Floodwaters often have nowhere safe to go any more,' Lindley notes. 'They cannot sink into the ground or be held back by marshes and floodplains. So they build up to monstrous proportions, finally offloading their water on to land at the end of the chain - in this case Mozambique.'

Russell Molefe & Vincent Zulu / Gemini News Service

Baby snatchers boom
The theft and sale of babies in Guatemala within the international adoption process is common practice, according to the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ofelia Calcetas-Santos. The UN expert says that inter-country adoptions in Guatemala have become a 'lucrative business'. 'Illegal activities many times take place in the hospitals,' says the report.

'At the birth, hospital workers have been known to falsify the birth records, social workers to facilitate the declaration of abandonment, doctors to give false information to the biological mother that the newborn is seriously ill.' Guatemala has the fourth highest number of international adoptions in the world. In 1998 there were 1,323 international adoptions and in the first five months of 1999 there had been 772.

For more information see:

Letting 'mad dog' lie
The West gives up its war against Qadhafi

For much of three decades, Western powers plotted to oust and even to kill Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi. But it seems this covert campaign - waged by the British, French and US secret services - is now at an end.

A maverick former London intelligence officer, David Shayler, has alleged British involvement in a 1996 plan to kill Qadhafi. His claim of an assassination plot has been reported as an isolated event. In fact, it could be seen as part of a wide-ranging and long-standing Western strategy to remove a leader perceived as a threat for his pursuit of his own revolutionary brand of Arab socialism and, allegedly, international terrorism.

Since Qadhafi's coup in 1969, he has faced and survived a number of coup attempts by the British and French. But in the 1980s, Qadhafi caught the CIA's attention. The agency reportedly undertook covert operations in neighbouring Chad. In 1985, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Qadhafi, but President Hosni Mubarak refused. President Ronald Reagan portrayed Qadhafi as one of the US's most hated foes and branded him a 'mad dog'.

After two terrorist incidents linked to Libya, the US went after its crazy canine enemy. On the morning of 14 April 1986, 30 US military jets struck Tripoli and Benghazi. More than 30 laser-guided bombs were supposed to blast Qadhafi's barracks at Splendid Gate in Tripoli, but only two hit their target. Hana, his 15-month-old adopted daughter, was killed, while his eight other children and wife were hospitalized. The press remained positive about the attack with Britain's Daily Express hailing the raid as 'a blow for freedom'.

Following the 1986 attack, away from the media glare, the CIA launched an extensive effort to spark an anti-Qadhafi coup. A secret army was recruited from among Libyans captured in border battles with Chad. And, as concern grew among British intelligence officers over Qadhafi's alleged plans to develop chemical weapons, London funded various opposition groups.

The West has also sought to link Qadhafi's regime to the 1988 Lockerbie airplane bombing. But his agreement to send two Libyan suspects for trial in the Netherlands has resulted in a lifting of international sanctions against Libya, and secret-service efforts to destabilize the country may now become a thing of the past.

Richard Keeble / Gemini News Service

Speaking out of turn
Indonesians have slammed former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for urging their Government not to review its business deal with the giant mining company Freeport. With a large mine in Indonesian-occupied West Papua, Freeport has been accused of massive environmental damage and involvement in human-rights abuses perpetrated by Indonesian soldiers.

Kissinger is a member of the board of directors of Freeport's New Orleans-based parent company, which owns 81.3 per cent of the mine. He was appointed by Indonesian President Wahid as a political adviser in March 2000. Says Indonesian Forum for Environment/WALHI: 'At this moment, the Government, the people and the legislature are in the process of building a correct system, one based on pure democratic principles. Henry Kissinger must give respect to this process, and must be willing to adjust Freeport's Contract Of Work if he really represents the interest of the United States which claims to make democracy a top priority.'

WALHI: www.walhi.or.id

No more doughnuts
Police officers have been forced to diet in the Philippines. 'It's really taboo for police to have pot bellies,' says Felix Vargas of the Central Police District in the Philippines. 'Because how can they go on beat patrol and chase criminals?' A National Police Directive has declared officers are becoming too rotund and failure to attain an 86-centimetre waistline by October will be grounds for dismissal.

Far Eastern Economic Review Vol 163 No 11

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Big Bad World by Polyp
Big Bad World cartoon.

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