Asia Rights Journal | >> Pre-2009 Archive | >> 2004

July – August

Week 19 th of July 2004

THAILAND: Alleged human rights abuses during government crackdown on drug users: In the lead up to the World Aids Conference held in Bangkok this week the Thai government has cracked down on the country's drug users. Human Rights Watch has released a major report criticizing the crackdown, which has resulted in the unexplained deaths of over 2000 people, as an abuse of human rights: “It's a scandal that Thailand is hosting the International AIDS Conference while it persecutes people at high risk of HIV,” said Jonathan Cohen, researcher with Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Program. Click here to go to the report. http://hrw.org/reports/2004/thailand0704/1.htm#_Toc76203861

AUSTRALIA Australian Government under fire for "rendition": Following an expose of the story on Australia's SBS television, the Australian government has been facing intense criticism for its handling of the case of Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib, currently detained in Guantanamo Bay as a "terror suspect". It has been revealed that after his arrest in Pakistan Mr. Habib (who originates from Egypt) was sent to Egypt where he was tortured before being handed over to the Americans (a practice known as "rendition") Speaking at a Human Rights Forum in Melbourne, wife of the Australian terrorist suspect, Mamdouh Habib, says there is no question the Howard government knew her husband had been detained in Egypt before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

SOUTH ASIA: Millions stranded by floods in South Asia Authorities in south Asia are trying to get supplies to at least 23 million people stranded by floods.

Tens of thousands of people in India's eastern Bihar and northeastern Assam states, are trapped on rooftops or high ground awaiting rescue.

The total number of people dead or missing stands at 178 in India, 86 in Nepal, 68 in Bangladesh, 16 in Afghanistan and three in Bhutan.

SAUDI ARABIA: New rules for Saudi Arabia's labour market improve conditions for Asian foreign workers: Saudi Arabia's government has banned a number of labour practices which were causing international concerns. The official news agency SPA says the government has banned all sorts of trading in people, including selling working visas and charging illegal fees for providing entry and exit visas. The new rule bans inhuman and immoral treatment of workers. The move comes after Human Rights Watch said foreign workers in Saudi Arabia were being systematically abused and exploited, some of them living in conditions akin to slavery.

Asians form the bulk of foreigners in Saudi Arabia, who according to Qusaibi number 8.8 million. This compares to an indigenous population of about 17 million people.

Week of 26 th July

INDONESIA: Bali Bomber's Conviction Overturned: An Indonesian court has overturned the conviction of one of the Bali bombers, opening the way for all 33 people convicted for the attack to now appeal their sentences. The Constitutional Court ruled that the retrospective use of anti-terrorism laws to convict one of the Bali bombing suspects breaches the constitution.

PHILLIPINES Hostage Returns Home From Iraq:On July 22nd Angelo de la Cruz returned from Iraq to Manila after the Philippines withdrew forces from the Middle East country to save the hostage from execution. De la Cruz was kidnapped while driving a fuel-supply truck to Baghdad from Riyadh two weeks ago, the Philippines withdrew its contingent in the U.S.-led force in Iraq after De la Cruz's captors threatened to behead him. Arroyo's move jeopardized her reputation as an ally in U.S. President George W. Bush's war on terrorism. U.S., Australian and Iraqi governments said her decision would encourage more hostage-takings in Iraq. In her State of the Union address yesterday, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo linked national economic priorities with her controversial decision to pull troops out of Iraq.

NORTH KOREA: North Korean refugees take refuge in Vietnam Reuters has reported about 300 refugees from North Korea have taken refuge in Vietnam, apparently after fleeing through China, and could leave for South Korea as early as Monday. South Korea and Vietnam appeared to be aiming for utmost secrecy to ensure nothing goes wrong the operation through a communist country that has friendly ties with North Korea. In the past North Korean refugees escaping through China have been exposed to human rights abuses particularly along the border. For an indepth profile of the situation please refer to the 2002 Human Rights report on North Koreans escaping through China. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/northkorea/

TAIWAN: New Constitution Unlikely. Despite plans by President Chen Shui-bian to re-engineer the constitution there are growing doubts over the implementation of a new constitution for Taiwan . In his May 20 inauguration address he stated that he would not push for a referendum to institute a new constitution. This came amid pressure from the US who feared it would provoke China. The news comes as a disappointment for the island's minority groups who had hoped that a new constitution would allow greater freedom of expression and institute more safeguards for human rights within Taiwan.

News

AFGAHNISTAN: Aid Organization pulls out of Afghanistan. After 24 years in Afghanistan Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Frontiers) is pulling out. MSF is taking this decision in the aftermath of the killing of five MSF aid workers in a deliberate attack on June 2, 2004, when a clearly marked MSF vehicle was ambushed in the northwestern province of Badghis. A press release from MSF targeted the US backed coalition's co-option of humanitarian aid organizations to enforce military and political dominance.

“The violence directed against humanitarian aid workers has come in a context in which the United States-backed coalition has consistently sought to use humanitarian aid to build support for its military and political ambitions. MSF denounces the coalition's attempts to co-opt humanitarian aid and use it to "win hearts and minds." By doing so, providing aid is no longer seen as an impartial and neutral act, endangering the lives of humanitarian volunteers and jeopardizing the aid to people in need. Only recently, on May 12, 2004, MSF publicly condemned the distribution of leaflets by the coalition forces in southern Afghanistan in which the population was informed that providing information about the Taliban and al Qaeda was necessary if they wanted the delivery of aid to continue.”

(click here for the MSF site or refer to our links page) http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/index.shtml

Week of 1st of August

CHINA: China jails AIDS protesters China has jailed two HIV-positive protesters in the AIDS-ravaged central Henan province for leading a group of people into a hospital and carrying away equipment. Pan Zhongfeng and Fan Zhenbang were protesting over the lack of support for HIV/AIDS sufferers in the province.Pan and Fan were among a group of four, all HIV positive, who have reportedly been detained in Shangqiu city recently. The AFP news agency says farming provinces such as Henan, have been devastated by AIDS.

VIETNAM: Vietnam court jails dissident for publishing essay over the internet.A court in Vietnam has sentenced a veteran pro-democracy activist to more than two years in prison for undermining the communist system. Dr Nguyen Dan Que is the third Vietnamese dissident to be convicted this month for using the internet to swap information and criticize Hanoi. He was detained in March last year while on his way to an internet cafe. Vietnam curbs access to the internet through firewalls and blocks sites it deems inappropriate. Dr Que was jailed for 30 months. He was found guilty by the Ho Chi Minh People's Court of "abusing democratic rights to jeopardise the interests of the state, and the legitimate rights and interests of social organisations and citizens". Dr. Que, a longtime human rights advocate, was convicted for writing an essay and distributed over the Internet about state censorship of information and the media. Since his arrest in March 2003, he has been held in incommunicado detention.

(For background on his case and petition for his release click here)

http://shr.aaas.org/aaashran/alert.php?a_id=249

INDONESIA / ACEH: Military and police accused of human trafficking. The ABC reports on claims that the Indonesian military and police have been extorting bribes from Acehnese asylum seekers and selling them into slavery. The claims have been backed by refugee advocates working closely with the UN refugee agency in Malaysia, where thousands of Acehnese are facing expulsion under a government crackdown on illegal workers.

VIETNAM: A court jails dissident for publishing essay over the internet. A court in Vietnam has sentenced a veteran pro-democracy activist to more than two years in prison for undermining the communist system. Dr Nguyen Dan Que is the third Vietnamese dissident to be convicted this month for using the internet to swap information and criticize Hanoi. He was detained in March last year while on his way to an internet cafe. Vietnam curbs access to the internet through firewalls and blocks sites it deems inappropriate. Dr Que was jailed for 30 months. He was found guilty by the Ho Chi Minh People's Court of "abusing democratic rights to jeopardise the interests of the state, and the legitimate rights and interests of social organisations and citizens". Dr. Que, a longtime human rights advocate, was convicted for writing an essay and distributed over the Internet about state censorship of information and the media. Since his arrest in March 2003, he has been held in incommunicado detention. (For background on his case and petition for his release click here)

AFGHANISTAN: Aid Organization pulls out of Afghanistan. After 24 years in Afghanistan Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Frontiers) is pulling out. MSF is taking this decision in the aftermath of the killing of five MSF aid workers in a deliberate attack on June 2, 2004, when a clearly marked MSF vehicle was ambushed in the northwestern province of Badghis. A press release from MSF targeted the US backed coalition's co-option of humanitarian aid organizations to enforce military and political dominance. “The violence directed against humanitarian aid workers has come in a context in which the United States-backed coalition has consistently sought to use humanitarian aid to build support for its military and political ambitions. MSF denounces the coalition's attempts to co-opt humanitarian aid and use it to "win hearts and minds." By doing so, providing aid is no longer seen as an impartial and neutral act, endangering the lives of humanitarian volunteers and jeopardizing the aid to people in need. Only recently, on May 12, 2004, MSF publicly condemned the distribution of leaflets by the coalition forces in southern Afghanistan in which the population was informed that providing information about the Taliban and al Qaeda was necessary if they wanted the delivery of aid to continue.” (click here for the MSF site or refer to our links page)

 

Week of 9th August

AUSTRALIA: High Court decision upholds indefinite detention : The Federal Government has won its High Court challenge to keep failed asylum seekers in detention, even when they cannot be deported.The High Court has overruled an earlier Federal Court ruling that failed asylum seekers should not be held in detention indefinitely if no country could be found to take them. The ruling was based on two cases, a challenge by 28-year-old stateless Palestinian man Ahmed al-Kateb and former Iraqi Abbas Mohammed al-Kafaji. The men are prepared to leave Australia but no country can be found to take them. The High Court judgment clears the way for the Federal Government to return the men to immigration detention. Mr al-Kateb's lawyer, Claire O'Connor, says the court's 4-3 ruling is an indictment on Australia's human rights record.Ms O'Connor says her client and other stateless Palestinians are likely to be detained indefinitely. The Age reported Justice McHugh saying: "Eminent lawyers who have studied the question firmly believe that the Australian Constitution should contain a bill of rights which substantially adopts the rules found in the most important of the international human rights instruments. It is an enduring - and many would say a just - criticism of Australia that it is now one of the few countries in the Western world that does not have a bill of rights."

INDONESIA /EAST TIMOR: Court fails to convict military for crimes against humanity in East Timor. Four Indonesian former military and police officers convicted for crimes against humanity during East Timor's bloody breakaway from Jakarta in 1999 have been acquitted on appeal. Former regional military commander Major General Adam Damiri and ex-military chief Colonel Nur Muis, sentenced to three and five years respectively, were cleared on July 29 by Jakarta's appeal court, according to prosecutor Ketut Murtika. The court also acquitted Indonesia's former police and military chiefs in Dili, Chief Commissioner Hulman Gultom and Lieutenant Colonel Sujarwo, sparing them from three and five year prison terms. The ruling means no Indonesian security official faces jail for the violence in which an estimated 1,400 people were killed and whole towns razed in the lead up to and after a UN-backed independence vote in August 1999, as Indonesian troops and their local militia proxies waged a savage intimidation campaign. The court also halved a 10-year sentence for militia leader Eurico Guterres. Indonesia set up its own special court to probe the killings but rights groups described it as largely a sham after it convicted just six out of 18 defendants and ordered them jailed for between three and 10 years. (source : world news)

FIJI: Fiji's vice president sentenced to four years in prison. On Friday Fiji's vice president was sentenced for his role Fijian coup in 2000. Vice President Jope Seniloli was convicted of administering an illegal oath of office when he swore in the rebel government of ethnic Fijian nationalist George Speight. He will be stripped of his vice president's post. Four other defendants: Parliament's Deputy Speaker Rakuita Vakalalabure and three businessmen were also sentenced. Judge Nazhat Shameem, presiding, said there were elements of betrayal in the men's actions which I cannot ignore.

AUSTRALIA: Chinese dissident seeks Asylum : Chinese legal academic, Professor Yuan is seeking political asylum in Australia. The former head of a law department at Beijing University was jailed for six months in 1994, for promoting rule of law and freedom. Between 1994 and 2002, Yuan finished four books that he says details the ill-treatment of Tibetans under communist rule, China's persecution of Mongolians, democratic movements in China and the degeneration of intellectuals under Communist party rule. He transferred the four books onto tiny electronic memory chips and smuggled them to Australia. He arrived in Sydney almost two weeks ago. (To read a transcript of an ABC interview with the author click here)

Week of 24 th of August

INDIA Anti-terror law to be axed : The Indian cabinet has said it will scrap a controversial anti terrorism law enacted by the previous government. The new Congress-led government says the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) had been grossly misused for the past two years, especially against Muslims. They also argue that the act has been used to settle political scores. Pota gave the security forces greater powers to arrest and interrogate terrorist suspects. It will now go to parliament to be repealed.

KOREA Human Rights Commission Calls for Abolition of Security Law : The National Human Rights Commission of Korea Tuesday called on the government and the National Assembly to scrap the National Security Law, a legacy of anti-communism whose existence has been disputed amid increasing inter-Korean trade and exchange. The commission said it has recommended Justice Minister Kim Seung-kyu and National Assembly Speaker Kim Won-ki make efforts to abolish the vaguely-worded law, which was established in 1948 by the pro-American government to defend the country from the threat of communist North Korea. The recommendation came as political parties are preparing for serious debate on whether to scrap or revise the law, which has often been misused by previous governments to gag political dissidents and suppress the democratic movement. (source Korea Times)

PAKISTAN/AFGHANISATAN: Afghanistan and Pakistan agree to prisoner exchange Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed to release hundreds of each others' prisoners in a goodwill gesture. The decision was made during talks between Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and Pakistan's outgoing Prime Minister, Chaudhry Shujaat, on the second day of the Afghan president's visit to Pakistan. Pakistan says the decision to release 400 Pakistanis, who have been held in Afghan jails since the fall of the Taliban almost three years ago, is a breakthrough. At the same time, Pakistan has ordered the release of 250 Afghans from Pakistani jails, imprisoned for entering Pakistan illegally. (source: ABC Radio News)

NEPAL: Rebel blockade of Nepal's capital is lifted A week-long blockade of Nepal's capital city Kathmandu, by Maoist rebels, has been lifted. Our South Asia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, says for one week very few vehicles travelled the five highways into Kathmandu after Nepal's Maoist rebels threatened to cut the hands off any drivers who defied them. But, with promises of government security, road users were becoming increasingly defiant. That reality, plus complaints that only the poor were suffering shortages, has persuaded at least some of the Maoists leadership to sign a statement declaring that the blockade will be suspended for one month.
A key demand connected to the blockade - that Maoist rebel prisoners be released - has not been met by the government. The Maoists have been insisting on a communist republic in Nepal for the past eight years and an estimated 9,000 people have been killed in that time. (source Radio Australia)

AUSTRALIA Ruddock says Terror Laws protect Australians civil rights.

The Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock says Australians' civil rights have been enhanced as a result of Australia's tougher anti-terrorism laws. Mr Ruddock says the stronger laws protect three basic rights of the Australian people - their right to life, safety and security. The Attorney General says critics of the government's methods must realise if people do not feel safe society will crumble. "Failing to recognise that national security can in fact promote civil liberties by preserving a society in which rights and freedoms can be exercised will inevitably lead to the incorrect conclusion that civil liberties have been overlooked in an effort to promote national security." Under recent changes to Australia's anti-terrorism laws, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was given the power to detain people for seven days and question them for 48 hours without charge. And the Federal Attorney General now has the power to proscribe any party or group as a terrorist organisation without needing the approval of parliament. Former Liberal party Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, says he is very concerned by the laws. "Once you start to say you can discriminate against a particular group of people, or you can deny another group proper access to the rule of law, and due process under the law ... After all, if the Government says it can put these people in jail, and deny them access to lawyers, then next time around, who is it going to be." (Source: Radio News)

For an indepth look at this issue: see George Williams article on Australia's lack of a Bill of Rights in the upcoming Issue Two of this journal (out early September)

Week of 30 th August

AUSTRALIA: Inquiry to be made into the ‘Children Overboard Affair'. Prime Minister John Howard had claimed at the Australian last election that asylum seekers on a boat near the Australian coast had thrown their children overboard. There are now reports that the Prime Minister knew that this was not true and had made the announcement in order to influence the election. In response to these reports the Australian Senate has voted to set up a new inquiry into the children overboard affair. A senate committee will investigate the claim of former ministerial adviser, Mike Scafton, that he told the Prime Minister three days before the last election that there was no evidence that asylum seekers had thrown their children into the sea. (source (partial): ABC Radio Australia News)

JAPAN: Russia Angry over Koizumi's Inspection of disputed islands Koizumi to view four disputed islands from a boat outside Russia's territorial waters. The islands, north of Japan's main island of Hokkaido, were seized by the Soviet Union in the final days of World War Two. Tokyo refuses to sign a formal peace treaty with Russia until they are returned, making the issue a major complication in relations that effectively blockes large-scale Japanese investment in Russia. Japan's Kyodo news agency said earlier this month that Koizumi would view the islands -- known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kuriles -- from a Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat on September 2. (Source: Reuters)

REFUGEES: United States admits fewer refugees: The number of refugees admitted to the United States declined sharply in the 2002 fiscal year because security concerns stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration has rejected calls from refugee advocates and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to make up for the shortfall in the federal refugee resettlement program, which officials concede marks the biggest drop in two decades. The United States had allocated space and money for up to 70,000 refugees for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1, 2001, but it admitted only 27,113, sacrificing 61 percent of the slots, the officials said. In the previous year, Washington took in 68,426 refugees. (source: refugees international)

BANGLADESH: Landmines Campaigner Arrested: A human rights group says Bangladesh should release immediately the country's leading campaigner against landmines, who was arrested earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch says Rafique Al Islam, who represents Bangladesh on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, has yet to be charged with any crime after he was taken from his home nine days ago. Reuters reports that Mr. Al Islam was arrested for suspected possession of explosives, but that none were found his home. For further information please click: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/27/bangla9272.htm

KOREA: Revisions to criminal code to improve human rights of suspects. The Justice Ministry has prepared revisions to the criminal code that would grant suspects under investigation greater rights, including a provision allowing for a lawyer to be present when a suspect is interrogated. The ministry said yesterday it would put forward a criminal code revision bill in the next session of the National Assembly.
Under the proposed legislation, all investigators would have to inform suspects of their rights to an attorney, and the suspects may ask for a legal counsel while under investigation. If investigators fail to inform the suspects of the right or if they restrict access to a lawyer, suspects' statements can be considered invalid by the courts, the bill says.
The ministry said most other countries provide for legal assistance after a suspect is taken into custody.
"Our revisions are aimed at guaranteeing human rights for suspects," said Lim Chae-jin, a top ministry official. Many of the proposals stem from earlier decisions by the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.
Another major revision would permit appeals by suspects to higher courts if they think a lower court decision in issuing a detention warrant is illegitimate. Also, prosecutors who request detention warrants but are denied by a court can appeal up the judicial chain.
The nation's two leading legal organizations, the Korea Bar Association and Lawyers for a Democratic Society, welcomed the bill yesterday. (source JoongAng Daily )

September 2004

AUSTRALIA/ INDONESIA: Australian Muslims condemn Jakarta Bombing An Australian Islamic not-for-profit group, the Forum on Australian Islamic Relations, has condemned the attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

The Forum says Australian Muslims are shocked and saddened by the attack, which seriously injured a five-year-old Australian-Indonesian girl and left at least nine Indonesians dead. (Source sbs news)

INDONESIA: Truth Commission to go ahead in Indonesia Indonesian legislators have approved the creation of a controversial Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe past rights abuses in the country. The attorney general, MA Rachman, says the 21-member body will uncover the truth about gross human rights abuses and also assist reconciliation. The commission's mandate will reportedly extend from Indonesia's founding in 1945 until the present day. However, a prominent human rights lawyer has dismissed the commission saying it bears no comparison to a similar body set up to examine apartheid abuses in South Africa.(source ABC Radio Australia)

BANGLADESH : Landmines Crusader arrested:A human rights group says Bangladesh should release immediately the country's leading campaigner against landmines, who was arrested earlier this month. Human Rights Watch says Rafique Al Islam, who represents Bangladesh on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, has yet to be charged with any crime after he was taken from his home nine days ago. Reuters reports that Mr Al Islam was arrested for suspected possession of explosives, but that none were found in his home. For further information click: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/08/27/bangla9272.htm

KOREA: Human Rights Meeting to be held in Seoul: Some 180 leaders of national and international human rights institutions and activists will gather at Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Sept. 14-17 for the 7th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions. Sponsored by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institution, the event will discuss strategies and challenges to uphold human rights during conflicts and while countering terrorism. (Source Korea Times)

REFUGEES: United States to admits fewer refugees : The number of refugees admitted to the United States declined sharply in the 2002 fiscal year because security concerns stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration has rejected calls from refugee advocates and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to make up for the shortfall in the federal refugee resettlement program, which officials concede marks the biggest drop in two decades. The United States had allocated space and money for up to 70,000 refugees for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1, 2001, but it admitted only 27,113, sacrificing 61 percent of the slots, the officials said. In the previous year, Washington took in 68,426 refugees. (source refugees international)

Week of 13th September 2004

HONG KONG: Human Rights Watch reports worst year for rights since '97 :

Hong Kong has experienced the worst year for its civil and political rights since the handover, a human rights watchdog says. In a 40-page report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch also raises the prospect of "a marriage of convenience" between the central government and triads following threats made to former radio show hosts. The group said intimidation faced by politicians, journalists and voters largely stemmed from Beijing's intention to manipulate the election to favour pro-Beijing candidates. The report also highlighted the detention of Democratic Party candidate Alex Ho Wai-to in Dongguan for hiring a prostitute. It said this raised serious concerns, including the "real possibility" that the mainland government was using this to advance its political aims in Hong Kong. Incidents cited in the report included threats to former radio hosts Albert Cheng King-hon and Raymond Wong Yuk-man, who went off the air after claiming they had been politically intimidated. The group said the threats against Mr Cheng and Mr Wong raised the possibility of a "marriage of convenience between Hong Kong triad societies and the central government in Beijing, an alliance that could have extremely negative effects on free expression, and human rights more generally, in Hong Kong". (source South China Morning Post)

AUSTRALIA: Iraqi Insurgents claim to have taken hostage two Australians and two East Asians . An group of Iraqi insurgents claims it has abducted two Australian security contractors in the town of Samarra. Calling itself the Horror Brigades of the Islamic Secret Army, it also claims to have kidnapped two East Asians in another spiral of Iraq's grim series of hostage-takings. Australia says it is investigating the claim, but at this stage there is no evidence of the abduction, or identities of those who have allegedly been taken (source SBS world news)

AFGHANISTAN: International aid workers targeted: Aid workers in the western Afghan city of Herat have expressed dismay after being targeted in weekend rioting that forced many humanitarian staff to flee the city. Offices belonging to international organisations and the United Nations were looted and torched when supporters of governor Ismael Khan went on the rampage after the regional warlord was kicked out of office at the weekend. The targeted attacks forced the United Nations and several non-governmental agencies to withdraw some 60 staff from Herat on Monday. Four people were killed and more than 50 others including three US soldiers were injured in the clashes. (source ChannelAsia)

AUSTRALIA / REFUGEES: Accused people smuggler pleads guilty. A man has pleaded guilty in a Darwin Court to people smuggling charges. He is the first person extradited to Australia to face charges of people smuggling. Iraqi national Ali Hassan Abdolamir Al Jenabi, 32, pleaded guilty to two charges of bringing a boat of five or more people to Australia in 2000 and 2001. The plea came midway through a trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. The court was told Al Jenabi was a key figure in bringing the boatloads of hundreds of asylum seekers from Indonesia to Ashmore Reef in 2000 and 2001. (source SBS)

 

INDONESIA: Editor Sentenced to Jail.

Central Jakarta District Court judges sentenced TEMPO Magazine's editor-in-chief Bambang Harymurti to one-year jail sentence on Thursday (16/09). The judges said that Harymurti was considered guilty for having spread “lies”, that have caused chaotic situation within the society, and slandered Indonesian businessman Tomy Winata. Todung Mulya Lubis, TEMPO's lawyer, confirmed that he would fight the ruling issued by the judges, led by Judge Suripto. “The judges have really eliminated the press freedom,” Lubis said during a speech in front of the Court building on Thursday (16/09). “Not only TEMPO, but the Indonesian press also lost in this matter,” he added. (source:Tempo )

Links:

Please refer to one of our main articles in this issue for more background on the media in Indonesia: National Security, The Media, And The Promotion of Rights In Indonesia By Bivitri Susanti

&

BBC Profile on Tempo

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3652726.stm

INDONESIA: Election under way. Voting has begun in Indonesia in the second round of the country's first democratic presidential election with incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri facing her former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Secuorty during the poll will be paramount, with security forces bracing for an attack by members of the militant muslim group blamed for the Australian embassy bombing, Jemaah Islamyah. Yudhoyono, or SBY as he is known by voters, won an initial ballot on July 5 and has consistently led opinion polls. According to the polls SBY's polished appearance and common touch has swayed support from the taciturn Megawati in a contest as much about personality as policies. Official campaigning for Monday's election has been restricted to three days during which voters were bombarded with commercials and treated to televised discussions in which the two candidates laid out their agendas. Election issues have been dominated by concerns about corruption and economic stagnation in a nation where almost a third of the 153 million voters are jobless or underemployed. (source: SBS)

BURMA: Ex-Military men replace long serving Burmese Cabinet ministers. Foreign Minister loses post to military in cabinet reshuffle. Burma's military regime has removed from cabinet three long-serving members including the foreign minister. Foreign Minister Win Aung and his deputy have been replaced by men with military backgrounds and no major experience in government. The move comes amid speculation the military government may boycott an Asia-Europe summit next month, and has analysts worried that more hardliners could be installed in the cabinet.(source: ABC Asia Pacific News)

AUSTRALIA: Australia's election campaign focuses on security

The focus of Australia's election campaign has shifted to defense and national security, with both sides unveiling multi-million dollar plans to tackle the terrorist threat in South East Asia. In Darwin, Prime Minister, John Howard, will unveil a $US70 million plan to step up the fight against terrorism in the region. The plan proposes using six federal police teams - two specializing in high tech surveillance, two concentrating on counter terrorism intelligence and another two comprising terrorism investigators and experts in tracking financial dealings. Two teams would be based in Asia with the others available to fly in to neighboring countries. In Townsville, in the state of Queensland, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, will outline details of Labor's plans to develop a new white paper on how to tackle the terrorist threat. On Sunday, Mr Latham promised to spend $US210 million on a maritime security strategy, which would include eight ships and three helicopters and would target terrorists, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants (source ABC National Radio news).

November

November 1, 2004

THAILAND Demonstrators to be prosecuted. Hundreds of Muslims will be prosecuted after a demonstration that ended in the deaths of 87 people detained by authorities in southern Thailand. Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Thaksin said 300 detainees would be prosecuted. They will face charges including destruction of government property, staging a riot, and robbery. The military said later that 1,178 detainees had been released while another 113 remain in detention. Security forces arrested about 1,300 people after the demonstration in Tak Bai, Narathiwat province on Monday. Of those, 78 were crushed to death or suffocated after being piled into trucks The government said six were shot dead at the protest and three others were found drowned in a river near the protest site. Under martial law, suspects can be detained for up to seven days without charge. (source sbs news)

JAPAN: Backpacker murder condemned by Koizumi The Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, insists his country will keep its troops in Iraq, despite the murder of a Japanese citizen, who was backpacking in Iraq when he was taken hostage. The 24 year-old was beheaded by men who want Japan to end the deployment. Mr Koizumi has condemned the killing as cruel and atrocious, but insists there will be no change to government policy. Japan's main opposition party is demanding that the Self Defence Forces be withdrawn. Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said: "Murdering innocent civilians is most contemptible and we will never tolerate it. Japan will resolutely continue its fight against terror in cooperation with the international community." (source abc pacific & NHK Tokyo).

MALAYSIA: Illegal Indonesian workers given Amnesty period . The Malaysian government has given illegal Indonesian workers without proper documentation an amnesty period between October 29 and November 14 to leave the country. The department of the director-general of immigration will assist as much as possible in the mass return of illegal workers from Malaysia About 180,000 are expected to leave, while hundreds have already arrived home in Indonesia. Immigration officials will help out at several Malaysian ports. (source TVR Jakarta)

CHINA: Martial Law imposed in rural Chinese Province after clashes between Muslim Hui and Han groups . Martial law has been enforced in the Chinese province of Henan after at least 20 people died in ethnic clashes. The violent attacks were between members of China's majority Han community and the Muslim Hui ethnic group. Fights broke out last week after Muslim truck drivers from the Hui populated Nanren village tried to pass through the Namwei village, mostly inhabited by Han Chinese. New York Times estimates that the number of people killed is close to 150. An imam from Nanren village mosque told AAP that thousands of Han Chinese surrounded Nanren, several houses were burnt down and a brick factory was destroyed. The area was closed to foreign journalists as busloads of police in riot gear and paramilitary soldiers moved in. Clashes between the Han and Hui minority are not common But experts said recent disputes are related to growing economic disparity between ethnic groups in China's rural areas. (sources World News, New York Times & AAP )



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Another resident surnamed Han said hundreds of Muslims arrived from other parts of China and were stopped at road blocks.

"They got off the bus and started fighting with police. Police used tear gas to disperse them but they got through. I heard that 10 people died in that clash," he said.



Local press said a news blackout was imposed and four international journalists who attempted to enter the area were detained.

Human Rights Take a Back Seat to Economic Interests

Gustavo González



SANTIAGO, Nov 12 (IPS) - At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be held next week in the Chilean capital, the agenda will include multilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism, but will completely ignore the human rights violations committed by a majority of its members.

”Both China and Russia have troubling records of human rights abuses,” international analyst Raúl Sohr told IPS. ”But there isn't a single country in the world that refuses to trade with China,” one of the biggest APEC members.

The violations committed in both nations figure prominently in an Amnesty International (AI) report on the APEC member countries, which also highlights the poor human rights record of the United States, including the mistreatment of war criminals and the wide-scale use of the death penalty.

Presidents George W. Bush of the United States, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China will be the most prominent figures in attendance at the APEC summit.

Established in 1989 as an informal dialogue group, APEC has become a powerful 21-member multinational bloc aimed at promoting free trade and economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Chile, Mexico and Peru are the only Latin American members of the forum, which also comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Viet Nam.

APEC's 21 member economies represent 55 percent of world trade and 57 percent of global GDP. Together, they are home to 40 percent of the world's population -- roughly 2.5 billion people -- and accounted for 70 percent of global economic growth over the last decade, thanks largely to the spectacular economic expansion experienced by China with its ”market communism” model.

At the upcoming Nov. 19-21 summit in Santiago, the leaders of the 21 economies will study the idea of converting APEC into a massive free trade agreement to help achieve the group's free trade goals, divided into two stages: liberalisation of trade among its developed nation members by 2010 and with the developing countries by 2020.

Also on the agenda will be a recurring theme since 2001: fighting terrorism by coordinating the efforts of national law enforcement authorities and sharing information on suspicious movements of both people and money across international borders.

But as Sohr, an international analyst for the Chilevisión TV network, pointed out, ”Respect for human rights is one of the most effective ways of preventing the proliferation of terrorism, and should therefore be a prime concern of the APEC members.”

Although APEC deals fundamentally with economic cooperation, ”there should also be room for expressing reservations regarding the human rights violations committed in its member economies,” said Sohr, who is also the author of numerous books, including The Wars That Await Us.

A coalition of left-wing organisations has filed a lawsuit against Bush in a Chilean court, for violations of international conventions on torture and the treatment of prisoners of war, based on the cruel and degrading mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by U.S. soldiers.

The judge who heard the case in a court of first instance declared it inadmissible, on the grounds that the U.S. president is entitled to immunity under conventions on the protection of foreign diplomats and dignitaries. The plaintiffs, however, have filed an appeal that is still waiting to be heard in a Santiago court.

The AI report also documents the mistreatment of prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and in military installations in Afghanistan.

The human rights watchdog additionally notes that since 1976, the death penalty has been handed down 885 times in U.S. courts, and some of those sentenced were under 18 years of age when the offences were committed.

Sohr pointed out that in the republic of Chechnya, which is seeking independence from the Russian Federation, ”atrocious massacres have been perpetrated by the Russian armed forces, but the international community has maintained complicit silence, as a means of preserving an anti-terrorist alliance.”

With regard to China, the AI report notes that the authorities have done nothing to introduce legal and institutional reforms aimed at bringing an end to the grave violations of human rights.

Behind the Chinese ”economic miracle”, AI says, there are thousands of prisoners who are deprived of the freedom of expression and face the risk of abuse in the country's jails, while the death penalty is used on a massive scale. Ethnic and religious persecution of Tibetans, Muslim minorities and other groups is also widespread, the organisation reports.

Repression rooted in religious exclusion, xenophobia and national security measures is common in many of the Asian members of APEC, such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Viet Nam, according to the report.

Human rights violations also occur in some of the most developed member states, including Japan, where the use of torture in jails has been denounced, and 20 percent of women are physically or psychologically abused by their spouses.

Violence and discrimination against the aboriginal peoples of Canada and Australia are frequently reported, and both countries, along with Japan and New Zealand, are accused of violating the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Mistreatment of prisoners is also commonplace in Chile, Mexico and Peru. AI additionally highlighted the murders and disappearances of hundreds of women in the Mexican cities of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, as well as the threats and intimidation against human rights activists in Peru.

”There undoubtedly should be concern for human rights in APEC, because the economy should not only serve the interests of profit, it must also serve human beings,” said attorney Nelson Caucoto, a prominent defender of victims of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) in Chile.

For his part, Patricio Quevedo, a representative of the Chilean branch of AI, told IPS, ”It is wrong to subordinate the defence of human rights to economic interests.”

Quevedo also pointed to the lack of a space for the participation of civil society in APEC. ”We are saddened by the fact that economic affairs take complete precedence, and we have called on the APEC members to pay more attention to human rights, and to develop policies to protect them,” he added.

”The issue of human rights cuts across all countries and the community of nations,” said Caucoto, who criticised the stance of countries that place economic and commercial interests above the defence of basic freedoms in other states. (END/2004)

(Interpress News Agency)

November 22, 2004

ASIA PACIFIC: Terror dominates Summit : SANTIAGO : Leaders of the Asia-Pacific axis took up the cudgel against terrorism and North Korea's nuclear weapons program at a summit in Chile, but they ducked a radical new plan for region-wide free trade. US President George Bush's "war on terror" engulfed the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum's weekend talks in Santiago. But the leaders' rhetoric soared beyond achievements listed in a final declaration Sunday, particularly on the economy, the founding agenda for the 15-year-old grouping, whose members account for nearly half of all world trade.

The written statement:

•  Called for all APEC members to ratify anti-terrorist conventions so as to demonstrate "unmistakable resolve to collectively confront the threat of terrorism and its disastrous effects."

•  Promised to keep a close tab on existing commitments to "eliminate the danger posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related items."

•  Skirted a business leaders' proposal to study setting up a regional free trade agreement, saying they "welcomed" it but committing the leaders to nothing.

•  Vowed to spur negotiations for a global free-trade deal through the World Trade Organization.

•  Bush's security agenda consumed negotiations in the Chilean capital, irking some partners despite a show of laid-back familiarity from leaders, who briefly sported Chilean-style ponchos for the cameras.

"There are so many issues on the trade and economic agenda that needs our attention at this juncture," a Southeast Asian delegate said, citing such issues as trade tariffs, security costs for shipping, and world trade negotiations. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for a deeper understanding of the causes behind terrorism. "Punitive action (alone) cannot really provide a permanent solution but will create more hardened criminals and for every one we kill, five more will emerge to continue their struggle," he warned. Bush's trip, which prompted violent street protests in which three people suffered bullet wounds, also hit a diplomatic bump during a state visit after APEC. Chile scrapped plans to lay on a sumptuous banquet Sunday for 400 diners in honor of a the US president after hearing of American plans to check every guest with metal detectors, a government source said. Instead, it decided to prepare a working dinner for 20. On the surface, however, the summit fell in line with the newly reelected US leader. Russian leader Vladamir Putin said leaders "spoke with one voice" on terrorism and there was "no discord or lack of understanding." "I can report to you today that having visited with the other nations involved in this collaborative effort that the will is strong, that the effort is united, and the message is clear to Mr. Kim Jong-Il: Get rid of your nuclear weapons programs," Bush said on the summit sidelines.
Three rounds of multilateral talks, seeking to urge North Korea to mothball the nuclear program, have taken place since a stand-off erupted in October 2002. North Korea boycotted a fourth round of talks in September. On Iran, Bush said the world was working together over suspicions that the Islamic republic has accelerated production of uranium material that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said the focus on terrorism and security was inevitable. "The issue was essentially security," he said. "You cannot separate the two," referring to trade and security. Next year's November 18-19 APEC summit in South Korea, too, appears sure to take up the anti-nuclear, anti-terror campaign. "The leaders are politicians, when they meet they will naturally discuss security issues," said Cho Wonhyung, deputy executive director of South Korean public information. –(source: AFP)



 

 

PAKISTAN : Bhutto's husband released from prison. The husband of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been released from jail in a move that could improve relations between the country's military leader and one of its main parties. Imprisoned for eight years on corruption charges, the country's Supreme Court has granted bail to Asif Ali Zardari. Hundreds of supporters of the 52-year-old former lawmaker and cabinet minister celebrated outside the Karachi hospital where he had been in custody.
Zardari been accused in a slew of cases alleging graft during his wife's two governments in the early 1990s. "This is a victory for democracy," Zardari told the private Geo television network shortly after he was freed. "This is a victory for (Bhutto's) Pakistan People's Party. This is a victory for all of Pakistan." Mrs Bhutto, twice prime minister of her country, now lives in exile in London and Dubai. She fled Pakistan in 1999 to avoid arrest in graft cases, expressed hope she could be reunited with her husband outside Pakistan and eventually return home. The Pakistani government accuses her of stashing millions of dollars in kickbacks linked to contracts. She also faces legal action in Switzerland. President General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, held parliamentary elections two years ago, but still rules unchallenged. His government has marginalised the main secular opposition groups – Mrs Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N — which accuse him of running a military dictatorship and of persecuting their leaders. However, speculation is growing of a rapprochement with Bhutto, although the president has previously ruled out her taking a role in national politics. Analysts believe the government and Mrs Bhutto's party had likely reached some kind of political understanding to secure Zardari's release, but doubt if Bhutto will return to Pakistan soon. (source sbs news)


INDIA: Tough times lead to suicides Across India's southern states, years of drought and huge interest rates on loans are having a fatal impact. Thousands of subsistence farmers are committing suicide. In Andhra Pradesh, the government has announced a judicial commission to investigate the new deaths. But the state opposition, farmers groups, and economic experts say more drastic steps need to be taken. (source AsiaPacific news ABC)


27 th Of September 2004

PHILIPPINES: Government set to open media to foreign ownership.
The Philippines government has announced it will pursue efforts to open the
nation's newspapers, radio and television networks to foreign ownership. The
move would entail changing the country's Constitution, to remove provisions
which require the mass media to be owned and managed by Philippine
citizens. The plans are outlined in a draft of the Medium-Term Philippines
Development Plan, for 2004-2010, published by the National Economic and
Development Authority (source ABC news)

INDONESIA/ACEH : Human Rights Watch Accuse Indonesian Military of Torture in Aceh. An international human rights group says tortures including beatings and electric shocks are being used by Indonesian security forces on suspected supporters of independence for Aceh province. Human Rights Watch says military and police are using violence to extract confessions from prisoners accused of links to the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM). "We got consistent, credible, horrific testimony about what happened to them once they were detained," he said. Indonesian security forces have been waging a major offensive in Aceh since May 2003 to crush the GAM, which has been fighting for independence since 1976.
click here to go to the report “Aceh at War” http://hrw.org/reports/2004/indonesia0904/ (SBS News)

PAKISTAN: Al-Qaeda Leader Killed by Pakistani Security Forces Pakistan's “most wanted” terrorist, who was allegedly behind an assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf, has been killed, the Pakistani government has announced. The Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid, said that security forces killed the al-Qaeda leader, Amjad Farooqi.

Farooqi was regarded as the lynchpin of Pakistan's al-Qaeda network and was charged over the murder of US journalist, Daniel Pearl. "I can confirm that Amjad Farooqi has been killed in an encounter with security forces and we have also arrested three important terror suspects," said Sheikh Rashid. (Source: SBS World News)

UNITED NATIONS : Asian Leaders Stress UN Role in wake of a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments Asian countries challenged world leaders to redraw their battle plans in the war on terror by training their sights on religious intolerance, poverty and social injustice. Taking centre stage at the annual United Nations debate, Asian leaders also stressed the importance of restoring the UN's legitimacy as a global arbiter following the divisions over the US-led invasion of Iraq. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, current chair of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, warned that the war on terror was being tainted by anti-Muslim bigotry. "There is an urgent need to stop tarnishing the Muslim world by unfair stereotypes," Abdullah said. "Most damaging of all is the increasing tendency to attribute linkages between international terrorism and Islam." Condemning
the "prejudices and bigotry" triggered by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Abdullah said Islam was all too often being associated with violence. Abdullah's remarks echoed those last week of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf -- a key US ally in the war on terror -- who warned the UN General Assembly of an "iron curtain" falling between the Islamic world and the West, with Muslims feeling unjustly treated in international disputes. (source Channel News Asia)




AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister backpedals on Pre-emptive Strike Comments . Australian Prime Minister John Howard has sought to reassure neighbouring countries over his government's policy of taking so-called pre-emptive action against terrrorist groups beyond Australia's borders. On Monday, Mr Howard repeated the policy, first stated in 2002, that he would launch a military strike on terrorists in another country if he knew they were going to attack Australia. Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia, Imron Cota, says when the Australian government two years ago first said it would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on terrorists, he was told Australia would not send any troops to do that, and that the concept was still being developed. Malaysia has now expressed its concerns in the wake of Mr Howard's comments Monday, insisting it would not allow any pre-emptive strike on its sovereign territory. On Tuesday Mr Howard sought to clarify his position, saying if he planned to attack a terrorist group in another country he would collaborate first. "I wasn't saying that we were going to launch an attack against another country," he said. Australian opposition leader Mark Latham said: "You can't have it both ways. You can't make out you're going to be launching unilateral strikes, that is without telling the country, and then say there's some element of co-operation."


7th Of September 2004

UNITED NATIONS : Asian Leaders Stress UN Role in wake of a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments Asian countries challenged world leaders to redraw their battle plans in the war on terror by training their sights on religious intolerance, poverty and social injustice. Taking centre stage at the annual United Nations debate, Asian leaders also stressed the importance of restoring the UN's legitimacy as a global arbiter following the divisions over the US-led invasion of Iraq. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, current chair of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, warned that the war on terror was being tainted by anti-Muslim bigotry. "There is an urgent need to stop tarnishing the Muslim world by unfair stereotypes," Abdullah said. "Most damaging of all is the increasing tendency to attribute linkages between international terrorism and Islam." Condemning the "prejudices and bigotry" triggered by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Abdullah said Islam was all too often being associated with violence. Abdullah's remarks echoed those last week of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf -- a key US ally in the war on terror -- who warned the UN General Assembly of an "iron curtain" falling between the Islamic world and the West, with Muslims feeling unjustly treated in international disputes. (source Channel News Asia)

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister backpedals on Pre-emptive Strike Comments . Australian Prime Minister John Howard has sought to reassure neighbouring countries over his government's policy of taking so-called pre-emptive action against terrrorist groups beyond Australia's borders. On Monday, Mr Howard repeated the policy, first stated in 2002, that he would launch a military strike on terrorists in another country if he knew they were going to attack Australia. Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia, Imron Cota, says when the Australian government two years ago first said it would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on terrorists, he was told Australia would not send any troops to do that, and that the concept was still being developed. Malaysia has now expressed its concerns in the wake of Mr Howard's comments Monday, insisting it would not allow any pre-emptive strike on its sovereign territory. On Tuesday Mr Howard sought to clarify his position, saying if he planned to attack a terrorist group in another country he would collaborate first. "I wasn't saying that we were going to launch an attack against another country," he said. Australian opposition leader Mark Latham said: "You can't have it both ways. You can't make out you're going to be launching unilateral strikes, that is without telling the country, and then say there's some element of co-operation." (source ABC news)

PHILIPPINES: Government set to open media to foreign ownership.

The Philippines government has announced it will pursue efforts to open the nation's newspapers, radio and television networks to foreign ownership. The move would entail changing the country's Constitution, to remove provisions which require the mass media to be owned and managed by Philippine citizens. The plans are outlined in a draft of the Medium-Term Philippines Development Plan, for 2004-2010, published by the National Economic and Development Authority (source ABC news)

INDONESIA/ACEH : Human Rights Watch Accuse Indonesian Military of Torture in Aceh. An international human rights group says tortures including beatings and electric shocks are being used by Indonesian security forces on suspected supporters of independence for Aceh province. Human Rights Watch says military and police are using violence to extract confessions from prisoners accused of links to the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM). "We got consistent, credible, horrific testimony about what happened to them once they were detained," he said. Indonesian security forces have been waging a major offensive in Aceh since May 2003 to crush the GAM, which has been fighting for independence since 1976. (SBS News)

click to go to the report “Aceh at War”

PAKISTAN: Al-Qaeda Leader Killed by Pakistani Security Forces Pakistan's “most wanted” terrorist, who was allegedly behind an assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf, has been killed, the Pakistani government has announced. The Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid, said that security forces killed the al-Qaeda leader, Amjad Farooqi. Farooqi was regarded as the lynchpin of Pakistan's al-Qaeda network and was charged over the murder of US journalist, Daniel Pearl. "I can confirm that Amjad Farooqi has been killed in an encounter with security forces and we have also arrested three important terror suspects," said Sheikh Rashid. (Source: SBS World News)




















INDONESIA: Editor Sentenced to Jail. Central Jakarta District Court judges sentenced TEMPO Magazine's editor-in-chief Bambang Harymurti to one-year jail sentence on Thursday (16/09). The judges said that Harymurti was considered guilty for having spread “lies”, that have caused chaotic situation within the society, and slandered Indonesian businessman Tomy Winata. Todung Mulya Lubis, TEMPO's lawyer, confirmed that he would fight the ruling issued by the judges, led by Judge Suripto. “The judges have really eliminated the press freedom,” Lubis said during a speech in front of the Court building on Thursday (16/09). “Not only TEMPO, but the Indonesian press also lost in this matter,” he added. (source:Tempo ) Links: Please refer to one of our main articles in this issue for more background on the media in Indonesia: National Security, The Media, And The Promotion of Rights In Indonesia By Bivitri Susanti & a BBC Profile on Tempo http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3652726.stm

INDONESIA: Election under way. Voting has begun in Indonesia in the second round of the country's first democratic presidential election with incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri facing her former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Secuorty during the poll will be paramount, with security forces bracing for an attack by members of the militant muslim group blamed for the Australian embassy bombing, Jemaah Islamyah. Yudhoyono, or SBY as he is known by voters, won an initial ballot on July 5 and has consistently led opinion polls. According to the polls SBY's polished appearance and common touch has swayed support from the taciturn Megawati in a contest as much about personality as policies. Official campaigning for Monday's election has been restricted to three days during which voters were bombarded with commercials and treated to televised discussions in which the two candidates laid out their agendas. Election issues have been dominated by concerns about corruption and economic stagnation in a nation where almost a third of the 153 million voters are jobless or underemployed. (source: SBS)

BURMA: Ex-Military men replace long serving Burmese Cabinet ministers. Foreign Minister loses post to military in cabinet reshuffle. Burma's military regime has removed from cabinet three long-serving members including the foreign minister. Foreign Minister Win Aung and his deputy have been replaced by men with military backgrounds and no major experience in government. The move comes amid speculation the military government may boycott an Asia-Europe summit next month, and has analysts worried that more hardliners could be installed in the cabinet.(source: ABC Asia Pacific News)

AUSTRALIA: Australia's election campaign focuses on security The focus of Australia's election campaign has shifted to defense and national security, with both sides unveiling multi-million dollar plans to tackle the terrorist threat in South East Asia. In Darwin, Prime Minister, John Howard, will unveil a $US70 million plan to step up the fight against terrorism in the region. The plan proposes using six federal police teams - two specializing in high tech surveillance, two concentrating on counter terrorism intelligence and another two comprising terrorism investigators and experts in tracking financial dealings. Two teams would be based in Asia with the others available to fly in to neighboring countries. In Townsville, in the state of Queensland, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, will outline details of Labor's plans to develop a new white paper on how to tackle the terrorist threat. On Sunday, Mr Latham promised to spend $US210 million on a maritime security strategy, which would include eight ships and three helicopters and would target terrorists, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants (source ABC National Radio news).
October 4th 2004

AUSTRALIA: Refugees Deported into Danger by Australian Government.

The Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice claimed that Australia has deported at least 35 rejected asylum seekers into dangerous situations, and needs to urgently reform its refugee protection system. In their push to get rid of detainees, authorities "often took a reckless" view of the dangers they faced once deported, the report, by researchers from the Edmund Rice Centre and the Australian Catholic University, said. The researchers interviewed 40 rejected asylum seekers in 11 countries. The report highlights the actions of private South African companies engaged by the Australian government to send failed asylum-seekers home to other parts of Africa. In collaboration with the governments of both countries, these companies were receiving deportees from Australia and passing them across borders without assuming responsibility for their ultimate safety. Click here to go to the report Deported into Danger

KASHMIR: First visit since partition to Indian Kashmir for journalists For the first time since partition of the subcontinent in 1947 a group of Pakistani journalists have begun a visit to the disputed territory of Indian controlled Kashmir. The visit which began on Sunday is being hailed as a first step towards transparency and greater confidence building between the

two neighbours (source ABC News).

INDIA: Separatist violence continues in northeastern states A wave of violence is continuing to sweep India' northeastern states of Assam and Nagaland. In a remote village in Assam's Sonitpur district, six people were shot dead on Monday. The upsurge in violence comes as pressure has been mounting on separatist groups to hold peace talks with the government. Fresh violence has seen 10 people killed in northeast India following the string of bomb blasts and shootings that left 49 people dead at the weekend. Another 205 people have been injured in the attacks that have swept through the adjoining states of Assam and Nagaland (source ABC and SBS news).

THAILAND: Thai PM promises brutal treatment for drug dealers : Thailand's tough-talking premier launched a second round of his controversial war on drugs by warning traffickers they will meet the "Prince of Hell" if they keep dealing. Thaksin Shinawatra kicked off the new year-long drug suppression campaign promising "brutal" new measures against dealers to follow on from a 2003 crackdown which left more than 2,000 people dead. "Nobody will be able to help them if they continue dealing in drugs," he was quoted by the Nation newspaper as telling residents of a low-income housing project in Bangkok on Sunday. "If they want to see the Prince of Hell, let me know," said Thaksin as he encouraged people aware of drug networks in their neighbourhoods to inform police. "Drug dealers and traffickers are heartless and wicked," Thaksin was quoted as saying in the Bangkok Post. Thailand was criticised by governments, the UN and rights groups over the harsh tactics that peaked in early 2003, with claims of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests, but the campaign had the overwhelming support of a public concerned over an epidemic of youth drug addiction. The kingdom was removed from a US international narcotics blacklist last month, a moved that the premier said was a vindication of the drugs war. In its second round, due to run until September next year, the government said it will focus on 1,400 communities particularly along its porous borders with Myanmar and Malaysia. (Source: Channel News Asia).

18 th of October 2004

INDONESIA Bashir to be Charged & Anti Terror Laws put to the test: Indonesian prosecutors are now to charge militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir over the Bali bombings, outside of the anti-terrorism laws which would have been ruled by Indonesia's Constitutional Court as retrospective and thus unconstitutional. Authorities initially dropped plans to charge Abu Bashir in connection with the Bali attacks after the country's top court ruled earlier this year that the retroactive application of the anti-terror law was unconstitutional. The indictment, instead of suggesting "terrorism", states the cleric caused fires or explosions in the Bali's Sari Club and Paddy's Bar in 2002 that resulted in the death and injury of around 200 people. Prosecutors say that various instructions given to the bombers leading up to the attacks amounted to him inciting the attack on Bali, specifying conversations with convicted Bali bombing leader Amrozi. It was initially unclear whether all these charges were included in the 65-page charge submitted to the South Jakarta District Court yesterday. Abu Bashir was already formally charged with terrorism in the dossier, stating he ordered his followers to launch a suicide attack on the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year and heading Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qaeda-linked group also blamed for last month's Australian Embassy blast. Due to the anti-terrorism laws being enacted before the JW Marriott blast, which killed 12, prosecutor Andi Herman says Abu Bashir will be tried under the anti-terror law, which allows the death sentence. (source SBS)












CHINA Zhao Ziyang spends 85th birthday under house arrest

Today marks the 85th birthday of Zhao Ziyang, who was toppled as China's Communist Party chief for opposing the army crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Reuters news agency reports Mr Zhao is in poor health and is living his 15th year under house arrest. r Zhao was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, when he tearfully begged student protesters to leave Tiananmen Square, where their protest was centred. Beijing declared martial law the next day and the army crushed the movement, killing hundreds of people. The New York-based group Human Rights in China says a concerted campaign is mounting in China for Mr Zhao's release.


IRAQ: Car bomb near Australian embassy in Baghdad kills seven
A car bomb has reportedly killed seven Iraqi policemen at a cafe near the Australian embassy in Baghdad. Reuters news agency says the area has been cordoned off by police and ambulances are at the scene. There is no information as to whether Australian Embassy staff have been affected by the blast. The Australian embassy is just off a main street which leads out to the west of Baghdad. There are strip of cafes and shops just opposite the building where the Australian security have their headquarters, which is next to the embassy. It is an area frequented by students from a university up the road and by police in the area. (Source ABC news)


PHILIPPINES: Military takes on corruption in the military

The Philippines has taken a major stride in its war against graft in the military.
On Tuesday the armed forces announced it would try Major General Carlos Garcia in a military court for corruption. Yesterday the Court of Appeals ordered the freezing of 40 bank accounts held by him and his family. It's hoped the charges against General Garcia would pave the way for further corrupt officers to be brought to court.




AUSTRALIA Liberals retain government in Australia
: The Liberal party has retained power in the Australian elections, comfortably winning over the Labor opposition party
Paul Kelly editor of the Australian newspaper commented on Australian Asian relations that :”Alexander Downer will remain Foreign Minister, so in that sense there'll be continuity…that Australia will renew its commitment to Asian engagement. We're likely to see a negotiation underway between Australia and China for a possible FTA between the two countries. “ (sources ABC Asia Pacific and ABC Editors).


December 13, 2004


JAPAN : Anti-Terrorism Unit in Okinawa The National Police Agency will form a special assault team in Okinawa Prefecture from fiscal 2005 to better respond with possible terrorist attacks against U.S. military facilities hosted by Japan's southernmost prefecture and other serious crimes, NPA sources said Sunday. In addition to growing concerns over global terrorism, the geographical position of the prefecture also prompted the action. It takes considerable time for local police with such special units in other prefectures to send their teams in time in Okinawa to handle terrorist attacks or serious crimes such as hijacking, the NPA said. (source: Kyodo News)

PHILIPPINES Bomb Blast kills at least 14 : At least 14 people have been killed in an explosion at a crowded market in the southern Philippines. Around 60 others are said to have been injured in the blast in the port city of General Santos, on the southern tip of the island of Mindanao. Police said they did not yet know whether a militant group was involved in the explosion. Several armed groups, including Muslim separatists, are active in the south of the country. Police cordoned off the area and are investigating the type of explosives used. They say there have been recent threats by Muslim militants from the Abu Sayyaf group, which is linked to the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Bomb in Markets A powerful explosion has ripped through a market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58 others. The military says a homemade bomb or a grenade concealed in a box went off in the market's meat section in General Santos city. Officials immediately stepped up security, fearing more attacks. The Philippine President, Gloria Arroyo, strongly condemned the attack, describing it as a heinous deed. Police say three people were killed outright by the bomb blast and other victims died in hospitals. Despite a crackdown by authorities, Muslim militants are believed to still have a presence in General Santos, a predominantly Christian city of 500,000 people. In 2002, a bomb ripped through a shopping mall in General Santos, killing 14 people in an attack authorities blamed on Islamic militant groups. (Source SBS news)

JAPAN: Tension mounts over North Korean deception Japan is considering giving North Korea a March deadline to disclose exact information on 10 Japanese abductees, officials said Saturday. The decision follows the discovery by Japanese officials that the remains North Korea said were those of Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota were actually those of someone else, the Mainichi Daily News reported Saturday. A special commission in Japan's House of Representatives Friday approved a resolution urging the government impose economic sanctions on North Korea. Abe, who is deputy secretary general of the LDP, said the government should set a deadline for North Korea to explain why it gave Japan false remains of Japanese citizen Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by agents in 1977, along with other information about Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by North Korean Agents. (Source Washington Post)

October 26, 2004

INDIA: Opposition party leader survives another assassination attempt
The leader of Indian Kashmir's main opposition party, Omar Abdullah, and his father Farooq Abdullah have survived an assassination attempt for the second time in a month. One person was killed and six were injured, two critically, when an explosive device was set off, as Abdullah arrived to attend a prayer ceremony for former National Conference minister Safdar Ali Baig, gunned down by militants last Thursday. (sources ABC news and Daily Times, Pakistan)



THAILAND: Six die in riots in South Thailand : Six people were reportedly killed and 20 others injured when police clashed with around 2,000 demonstrators on Monday demanding the release of six people who were being held at the police station .  A Narathiwat district police spokesman said shots were fired after the protesters ignored police appeals to disperse. Wire reports said the protesters wanted the release of six Muslim volunteer security guards who were arrested earlier this month for allegedly giving authorities false information and stealing state-owned guns. (sources: channel news asia, Malaysia Times and ABC U.S)

CHINA: North Koreans seek asylum in South Korean school in China . A group of 29 people claming to be North Koreans entered a school for South Koreans in Beijing this week and sought asylum there, according to a report in Seoul. The group, including 23 women and six men, cut through barbed wire to enter the school through the back gate, Yonhap news agency said, quoting school officials. Unlike embassies or consulate offices, schools for foreigners are not protected by diplomatic immunity, Yonhap said. The school, which has 556 South Korean students, immediately informed the South Korean embassy of the incident and called for support and guidance, it said. South Korean cable news network YTN quoted Yoo In-Hoo, a school official, as saying: "Their entry here has been reported to the embassy, and we are waiting for its order." A week earlier, a group of some 20 North Koreans, including children and women, forced their way into the South Korean consulate in Beijing saying they wanted to go to Seoul.

INDONESIA Jemaah Islamiyah may be banned Indonesia's new President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah may be declared a banned organisation as part of the country's bid to crack down on terrorism. The former general said in an interview with Time magazine he would review the steps being taken against the Al-Qaeda linked network, which is not illegal in Indonesia despite being blamed for a string of deadly attacks including the Bali bombings. "If there are explanations and proof that JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) as an organization does exist in Indonesia, and if it is legally proven that its members are involved in terrorist activities, then it will be declared a banned organization," he told the magazine. "We will use the legal process in order for this to become a legal and law enforcement issue, not a political one," he added in his first interview since being sworn in on October 20. (source Channel news Asia)

December 13, 2004


JAPAN : Anti-Terrorism Unit in Okinawa The National Police Agency will form a special assault team in Okinawa Prefecture from fiscal 2005 to better respond with possible terrorist attacks against U.S. military facilities hosted by Japan's southernmost prefecture and other serious crimes, NPA sources said Sunday. In addition to growing concerns over global terrorism, the geographical position of the prefecture also prompted the action. It takes considerable time for local police with such special units in other prefectures to send their teams in time in Okinawa to handle terrorist attacks or serious crimes such as hijacking, the NPA said. (source: Kyodo News)

PHILIPPINES Bomb Blast kills at least 14 : At least 14 people have been killed in an explosion at a crowded market in the southern Philippines. Around 60 others are said to have been injured in the blast in the port city of General Santos, on the southern tip of the island of Mindanao. Police said they did not yet know whether a militant group was involved in the explosion. Several armed groups, including Muslim separatists, are active in the south of the country. Police cordoned off the area and are investigating the type of explosives used. They say there have been recent threats by Muslim militants from the Abu Sayyaf group, which is linked to the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Bomb in Markets A powerful explosion has ripped through a market packed with Christmas shoppers in the southern Philippines, killing at least 15 people and injuring 58 others. The military says a homemade bomb or a grenade concealed in a box went off in the market's meat section in General Santos city. Officials immediately stepped up security, fearing more attacks. The Philippine President, Gloria Arroyo, strongly condemned the attack, describing it as a heinous deed. Police say three people were killed outright by the bomb blast and other victims died in hospitals. Despite a crackdown by authorities, Muslim militants are believed to still have a presence in General Santos, a predominantly Christian city of 500,000 people. In 2002, a bomb ripped through a shopping mall in General Santos, killing 14 people in an attack authorities blamed on Islamic militant groups. (Source SBS news)


JAPAN: Tension mounts over North Korean deception Japan is considering giving North Korea a March deadline to disclose exact information on 10 Japanese abductees, officials said Saturday. The decision follows the discovery by Japanese officials that the remains North Korea said were those of Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota were actually those of someone else, the Mainichi Daily News reported Saturday. A special commission in Japan's House of Representatives Friday approved a resolution urging the government impose economic sanctions on North Korea. Abe, who is deputy secretary general of the LDP, said the government should set a deadline for North Korea to explain why it gave Japan false remains of Japanese citizen Megumi Yokota, who was abducted by agents in 1977, along with other information about Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by North Korean Agents. (Source Washington Post)

November 8, 2004

THAILAND: Thai Prime Minister visits Tak Bai

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is visiting the southern town of Tak Bai, where scores of minority Muslims died under arrest two weeks ago. Most of the 87 victims suffocated to death in overcrowded military lorries after a protest rally on 25 October. Reprisal attacks by suspected Muslim militants have killed nearly 30 state officials and Buddhist civilians. (source: BBC News)

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Amnesty Reports High Incidence of Violence against Women . A report by Amnesty International has highlighted, what it calls, the continuing abuse of women in Solomon Islands. The report by the human rights body says while the international community has made steps to restore order in the Solomons, violence against women remains high The country suffered years of communal unrest until an Australian-led force was invited to restore law and order in July 2003. Solomon Islands Police Commissioner, Bill Morell, says more rapes are being reported, but that is due to increased confidence in the police force. "…. there is a high incidence of rape and sexual assault - much higher than I had anticipated. A lot of the cases we received in the first six months were old cases. " ... people just now have the confidence to come forward and report them." (ABC Pacific News) click to go to the Amnesty Report http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa430012004

22 December 2004

SOLOMONS: Australian security official shot dead The regional assistance mission to Solomon Islands has suffered its first fatality. An Australian officer serving with the mission has been murdered in Honiara. Australian police say the murder has all the signs of a sniper attack (source abc)

Indonesia : Testimony confirms Basir as Head of JI A former key commander of terror network Jemaah Islamiah, Mohammad Nasir Abbas, has testified that Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir did head the extreme Islamist group. Mr Abbas, a Malaysian, says Mr Bashir is the regional leader for the militant network, and had presided over a graduation parade at a terrorism training camp in the Philippines in April 2000. But as Mr Bashir's lawyers scolded Mr Abbas for repeatedly replying "no comment" as they cross-examined his claims, the trial was suspended in spectacular fashion with police intervening as the cleric's supporters tried to grab him from the witness stand, prompting judges hearing the case to flee the court. Earlier, supporters had been shouting "liar" as Mr Abbas finally testified that Mr Bashir headed JI, boosting the prosecution's faltering case as other witnesses refused to take the stand. (source world news sbs)

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister backpedals on Pre-emptive Strike Comments . Australian Prime Minister John Howard has sought to reassure neighbouring countries over his government's policy of taking so-called pre-emptive action against terrrorist groups beyond Australia's borders. On Monday, Mr Howard repeated the policy, first stated in 2002, that he would launch a military strike on terrorists in another country if he knew they were going to attack Australia. Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia, Imron Cota, says when the Australian government two years ago first said it would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on terrorists, he was told Australia would not send any troops to do that, and that the concept was still being developed. Malaysia has now expressed its concerns in the wake of Mr Howard's comments Monday, insisting it would not allow any pre-emptive strike on its sovereign territory. On Tuesday Mr Howard sought to clarify his position, saying if he planned to attack a terrorist group in another country he would collaborate first. "I wasn't saying that we were going to launch an attack against another country," he said. Australian opposition leader Mark Latham said: "You can't have it both ways. You can't make out you're going to be launching unilateral strikes, that is without telling the country, and then say there's some element of co-operation."


7th Of September 2004

UNITED NATIONS : Asian Leaders Stress UN Role in wake of a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments Asian countries challenged world leaders to redraw their battle plans in the war on terror by training their sights on religious intolerance, poverty and social injustice. Taking centre stage at the annual United Nations debate, Asian leaders also stressed the importance of restoring the UN's legitimacy as a global arbiter following the divisions over the US-led invasion of Iraq. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, current chair of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, warned that the war on terror was being tainted by anti-Muslim bigotry. "There is an urgent need to stop tarnishing the Muslim world by unfair stereotypes," Abdullah said. "Most damaging of all is the increasing tendency to attribute linkages between international terrorism and Islam." Condemning the "prejudices and bigotry" triggered by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Abdullah said Islam was all too often being associated with violence. Abdullah's remarks echoed those last week of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf -- a key US ally in the war on terror -- who warned the UN General Assembly of an "iron curtain" falling between the Islamic world and the West, with Muslims feeling unjustly treated in international disputes. (source Channel News Asia)

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister backpedals on Pre-emptive Strike Comments . Australian Prime Minister John Howard has sought to reassure neighbouring countries over his government's policy of taking so-called pre-emptive action against terrrorist groups beyond Australia's borders. On Monday, Mr Howard repeated the policy, first stated in 2002, that he would launch a military strike on terrorists in another country if he knew they were going to attack Australia. Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia, Imron Cota, says when the Australian government two years ago first said it would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive strike on terrorists, he was told Australia would not send any troops to do that, and that the concept was still being developed. Malaysia has now expressed its concerns in the wake of Mr Howard's comments Monday, insisting it would not allow any pre-emptive strike on its sovereign territory. On Tuesday Mr Howard sought to clarify his position, saying if he planned to attack a terrorist group in another country he would collaborate first. "I wasn't saying that we were going to launch an attack against another country," he said. Australian opposition leader Mark Latham said: "You can't have it both ways. You can't make out you're going to be launching unilateral strikes, that is without telling the country, and then say there's some element of co-operation." (source ABC news)

PHILIPPINES: Government set to open media to foreign ownership.

The Philippines government has announced it will pursue efforts to open the nation's newspapers, radio and television networks to foreign ownership. The move would entail changing the country's Constitution, to remove provisions which require the mass media to be owned and managed by Philippine citizens. The plans are outlined in a draft of the Medium-Term Philippines Development Plan, for 2004-2010, published by the National Economic and Development Authority (source ABC news)

INDONESIA/ACEH : Human Rights Watch Accuse Indonesian Military of Torture in Aceh. An international human rights group says tortures including beatings and electric shocks are being used by Indonesian security forces on suspected supporters of independence for Aceh province. Human Rights Watch says military and police are using violence to extract confessions from prisoners accused of links to the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM). "We got consistent, credible, horrific testimony about what happened to them once they were detained," he said. Indonesian security forces have been waging a major offensive in Aceh since May 2003 to crush the GAM, which has been fighting for independence since 1976. (SBS News)

click to go to the report “Aceh at War”

PAKISTAN: Al-Qaeda Leader Killed by Pakistani Security Forces Pakistan's “most wanted” terrorist, who was allegedly behind an assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf, has been killed, the Pakistani government has announced. The Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid, said that security forces killed the al-Qaeda leader, Amjad Farooqi. Farooqi was regarded as the lynchpin of Pakistan's al-Qaeda network and was charged over the murder of US journalist, Daniel Pearl. "I can confirm that Amjad Farooqi has been killed in an encounter with security forces and we have also arrested three important terror suspects," said Sheikh Rashid. (Source: SBS World News)

   


















 

 

 

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