War on Afghanistan violates international law
The smart bombs aren't smart anymore. From the start of the war by the United States and Britain against Afghanistan the number of civilian casualties has increased, adding new innocent victims to those who died in the 11 September attacks on the US.
But it is not just the war that worries the Afghanis: now, they have to confront the spectre of famine. International aid agencies say about a quarter of Afghanistan's 20 million people depend on some form of humanitarian help after more than 20 years of war and three years of drought. Now, this latest war is making impossible the distribution of food supplies to the population inside Afghanistan or even in the refugee camps in Pakistan.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was unable to distribute food to hungry Kabul residents on Saturday, a day after three of its warehouses were hit in US-led air raids, an ICRC official said. The bombing of the International Red Cross compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for a second time, finally drove the humanitarian organisation to condemn the indiscriminate bombing of the Middle East country. The buildings contained food and blankets for 55,000 disabled people who rely completely on ICRC handouts.
On previous occasions, the international Red Cross has seen its aid supplies looted, its staff threatened, attacked and even murdered. But it was stunned when US warplanes bombed its aid compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul, for a second time on Friday 26 October. The United States dropped eight tons of bombs on the compound, setting fire to three of the four buildings still standing after the previous US attack on 16 October.
After US planes first hit one of the buildings in the Kabul aid compound, the ICRC responded by "informing the US authorities once again" of the location of its facilities. All compounds are marked with a huge flag with a red cross on its roof. The attacks violated international humanitarian law.
The US Defence Department admitted to reporters that the compound had been deliberately targeted and blamed "human error" for the mistake. It added that one of the bombs had missed its target and landed in a residential area of Kabul.
The impact of the US war on the Afghani population and the role of international law in conflict resolution were some of the issues debated at a public meeting organised by the NGO Peace Alliance - an umbrella group of non governmental organisations against the war. Tom Hyland, from the East Timor Campaign, Mary Van Lieshout (US Citizens in Ireland for Alternatives to War), Andy Storey (AfrI) and Karen Kenny, who works with the Human Rights Centre, spoke. They outlined the main concerns that the so-called War against Terrorism is causing to those who support a peaceful resolution.
"We are opposed to this war, we are opposed to the bombs being smart or dumb. We are opposed the ground troops. We are disgraced by the wanton destruction of Afghanistan's civilian life and society, and we condemn George Bush's total disregard for international law and human rights," said Mary Van Lieshout.
She explained that though there is widespread support in the US for the war, the number of US citizens opposed to this war and the number of activities in the US grows each day. "We do not blame the victims of these attacks, but we are aware that the roots of the attack on 11 September lie on the fact that millions of people feel disenfranchised by policies which support the rich at the cost of the poor throughout Palestine, Africa, and Latin America. That sense of injustice and the outrage that goes with it are the foundations of what happened on 11 September. And that outrage will not be destroyed by bombs."
dy Storey, from AfrI, attacked the Irish government for its hypocritical and contradictory statements in relation to the war. He referred to the following statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen - "This was something that was avoidable, were they [the Taliban] prepared to comply with the requirements of the International Community. If the Taliban regime, which have been in clear defiance of the UN resolutions for the past two years, wanted to avoid any prospects of military operations having to be taken in the first place, they would have complied with the International Community and hand over Osama Bin Laden and his associates."
Storey reminded everyone that the Taliban government had offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden for trial in a neutral country, "an offer that you might expect that Ireland, especially when holding the presidency of the Security Council, would have taken seriously and explored to its limits".
Storey reflected that if non compliance with UN resolutions constituted grounds to be bombed, "I only assume that the minister would not have any problem with the bombing of Israel, which has been not compliant with UN resolutions for far longer than two years". Finally, in relation to the idea of the international community supporting the bombing, Storey pointed out that the so-called Coalition Against Terrorism consists almost entirely of unrepresentative governments. "There is no evidence that the vast majority of the world's citizens in any sense approve of what is happening in Afghanistan," he said.
Basque prison support activists arrested
In the early hours of the morning of Wednesday 31 October, Spanish police arrested the leading members of Basque prisoners' support group Amnistiaren Aldeko Batzordeak (Pro-Amnesty Committees - AAB) in different locations across the Basque Country.
More than 200 police took part in the operation, ordered by Judge Baltasar Garz—n. The police broke into several houses and searched the premises and offices of the prisoners' support group. The detainees, 13 in total, are facing charges of membership of ETA. Judge Garz—n bases his accusations on the public activities of the group.
The judge considers that helping the prisoners and their families, denouncing the abuses of the Spanish administration, and providing legal and economic aid to Basque political prisoners amounts to membership of ETA.
Following the pattern of similar detentions, the Spanish Home minister, Mariano Rajoy, released a statement hours after the police operation justifying the detention. The minister pointed out that the organisation of commemorations for ETA volunteers clearly evidences AAB's membership of the armed organisation.
Dirty war against trade unionists in Colombia
Up to 23 October this year, at least 121 trade unionists have been killed, 24 injured, 67 "disappeared" and an unknown number threatened or displaced in Colombia. This is the reality of Colombian democracy, which allows human rights activists and trade unionists to be targeted by right-wing paramilitaries.
Colombian Trade Union group CUT (Unitary Workers Committee) has this week spoken out against the dirty war being waged against trade unionists, aimed at wiping out Colombia's trade union movement and destroying any activism in Colombia on political, human or civil rights. One of the most dangerous areas for trade unionists in the Latin American country is Barrancabermeja, the richest oil port of Colombia, better known for the massacres, kidnappings and killings carried out by the paramilitary group AUC in collusion with the Colombian army.
The government has explained its lack of protection for political activists, human rights activists and trade unionists by claiming a shortage of budgetary funds to develop 'protection programmes'. This is the same government that part-funded Plan Colombia, budgeting up to $4 billion for the military strategy supposedly directed at eradicating the country's coca plantations.
ETA calls for self-determination
In its latest statement, Basque armed organisation ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) has called once again on the Spanish and French governments to recognise the right to self-determination for the Basque Country. "The Spanish and French conflict with the Basque Country could be resolved democratically, allowing the Basque people to decide", explains ETA in its statement, adding that this right is ETA's only demand. "Of course, peace is possible, and ETA will always be ready to negotiate", explains the statement, pointing out that the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement, endorsed by 23 political and social Basque groups was the best opportunity to achieve Basque freedom through a peaceful strategy. ETA accused the moderate Basque party, the PNV, of putting its own petty party political interests before the search for a settlement. However, ETA reaffirms that the organisation will try to do its utmost to solve the Basque conflict and make sure that it does not last another 20 years: "Left-wing Basque nationalists have to work to bring peace to the Basque Country: free the Basque country while showing the rational way to those who bring the war upon us."