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The big news from HART this week is that our Summer Newsletter has been published! This edition features reports from our recent visits to northern Nigeria and Nagorno-Karabakh, a photo essay of the Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert, and an article exploring the difficult topic of modern slavery. You can download a copy here.
➢ The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma released a statement on the 8th claiming that the number of political prisoners in Burma has increased over the past year. This is in spite of the fact that the president promised to free political prisoners by the end of 2013. Currently there are 84 political prisoners in Burma and a further 122 activists are charged on a similar basis.
➢ According to the Asian Resource Centre, detainees in Burma are still being tortured by Burmese police. The group has stated that Burma’s mechanisms of law enforcement are not enough to alleviate this problem.
➢ On Sunday (7th September), Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) Chairman Tin Aye announced that this year’s by-elections have been cancelled. The primary reason given was that the required campaigning period would be too close to that of the general elections in 2015.
➢ The on-going effect of the flood disaster in Kashmir and Pakistan continues. There have been accusations made against the government that they have not acted with the urgency required. More than 450 people have died in both countries and hundreds of thousands in the region remain stranded.
➢ Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh continues this week. The Defence Ministry have reported 200 ceasefire violations at the Line of Contact this week. Between the 31st of August and 6th of September over 1,600 shots have been fired against Armenian defence guards.
➢ France, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, has stated that it will organise a meeting between President Sargsyan of Armenia and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan. This will follow on from the tripartite meeting between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on the 10th of August.
➢ A recent Gallup International survey has revealed that 64% of Armenians are against Armenia’s Eurasian Union accession without Nagorno-Karabakh. This coincides with a drop in the number of Eurasian Union supporters within Armenia.
➢ Thursday (11th of September) marks 150 days since 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. The Nigerian army has been conducting searches but there is still a lack of public information about their whereabouts.
➢ Lieutenant-Colonel Adeboye Obasanio (son of the ex-president) has been shot and wounded by Boko Haram. This occurred amidst a clash with militant Islamists over attempts to regain control of towns in north-eastern Adamawa state.
➢ On Sunday (6th of September) a federal air marshal was stabbed with a syringe at Lagos airport. This has spiked fears that the Ebola virus may be being used as a bioweapon. Initial tests of the content of the syringe have been negative for Ebola but there are growing concerns of its use as a weapon.
➢ The South Sudanese information ministers said earlier this week that the government will take punitive measures against journalists giving rebels a voice in the country.
➢ The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Tuesday (9th of September) that its initial investigation has revealed that the UN helicopter which crashed near Bentiu late last month was shot down. UNMISS also disclosed that a South Sudanese opposition commander had threatened to shoot down the UN aircraft prior to the attack.
➢ The Chinese government gave US$25 million to the SPLM-Juba faction this week as part of their continued partnership with Salva Kiir’s government.
➢ Author Eric Reeves has reported that the UN refuses to release dates and reports on Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in Darfur. He calls this information ‘perhaps the single most important measure in assessing food insecurity’ in the region. He notes that ‘this refusal is longstanding and reflects the UN’s deference to Khartoum’s demand that publication, even internal promulgation, not occur.
➢ Sudan’s security service released the deputy leader of the National Umma Party Mariam al-Mahdi on Monday after nearly one month of extra-judiciary detention following her meeting with rebel groups in Paris. Since her release, al-mahdi has said that she was subjected to psychological torture during her 28-day detention.
➢ Libya has accused Khartoum of flying weapons to Islamist rebels in Tripoli. In response, Sudan has insisted that the weapons were intended for legitimate border forces patrolling the southern desert.
➢ The European Union will provide 95 million euros to Timor-Leste for rural development, good governance and the support of civil society programs. According to the Timorese Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the funding aims to strengthen democracy and the economy “through greater efficiency and transparency of the services provided to the population.”
➢ Last December East Timor filed a case against Australia at the International Court of Justice following their seizure of documents from an East Timor lawyer’s office. The documents related to an oil and gas treaty between the two countries. The two countries have now agreed to suspend the hearing and ‘resolve their differences amicably.’
➢ 12 people, including 2 Ugandan women and their children have escaped LRA captivity after an attack from armed forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Invisible Children, an international organisation focusing on LRA activity, has stated that the 2 Ugandan women had spent 10 years in captivity after being abducted in 2004.
➢ Ugandan authorities have neglected to investigate the killings of 40 people carried out by security forces during rioting in September 2009. There have been a number of promises to investigate this over the past 5 years but to date, no-one has been held accountable. The senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, Maria Burnett, says “The failure to investigate any case involving a soldier or police officer relating to the September 2009 events shows a serious disregard for rule of law and a government unconcerned about people’s lives.”
➢ Uganda continues to experience high rates of new HIV infection. Despite the progress and success of the 1990s, the country has been labelled as a model of ‘how not to fight HIV.’ The HIV Prevention and Control Act punishes intentional and attempted transmission of HIV, permits mandatory testing of individuals and allows the court to declare individuals’ HIV status without their consent.
To learn more please read intern Kathryn McDonagh’s blog: ‘Can we overcome the stigma of HIV/AIDS in Northern Uganda?’