British banks invest in cluster bomb manufacturers

An investigation by the UK newspaper, the Independent, revealed yesterday that British banks continue to invest in companies that manufacture cluster bombs. The Royal Bank of Scotland, 83% owned by the tax-payer, reportedly invested over $190 million into two companies alleged to be making cluster munitions – Alliant Techsystems and Lockhead Martin. HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds TSB are also reported to have made investments into similar companies. Although the banks have subsequently refuted such claims, anti-arms charities have pointed out that the companies concerned are yet to publicly deny the manufacturing of cluster bombs. Britain has signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, effectively banning cluster bombs. However the banks utilise a legal loop hole that permits investment in companies that manufacture cluster bombs, provided there is no direct investment into the bombs.

The potential of America's 'Atrocities Prevention Board'

Welcoming the Obama administration’s launch of a new inter-agency body – the Atrocities Prevention Board – and other measures to enhance US responsiveness to the threat of mass atrocities and genocide , the Council on Foreign Relations this week put forward an analysis of its key benefits, as well as potential obstacles to the new doctrine. The Council on Foreign Relations is one of the most influential foreign policy think-tanks in the US.

UN calls for probe into Sudanese war crimes

The UN yesterday called for an independent and through inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan, weeks before the country was divided into two independent nations. The preliminary 12-page report (see here ) issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights detailed incidents of “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property”. Focussing on events between June 5th and 30th, the report went on to say "If substantiated (the allegations) could amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be sought ". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “This is a preliminary report produced under very challenging circumstances and with very limited access to affected areas... However what it suggests has been happening in Southern Kordofan is so serious that it is essential there is an independent, thorough and objective inquiry with the aim of holding perpetrators to account .”

United Nations: weak leaders wanted

Extracts from the editorial of The Guardian (see full article here ): The myopia of powerful governments is clearly shown in their preference for weak candidates for UN secretary-general. Occasionally they misjudge their man, with interesting results. With Dag Hammarskjöld, it was peacekeeping. Kofi Annan's staff devised the millennium development goals. This time – with the quiet reappointment of secretary-general Ban Ki-moon this summer – they got what they wanted. Mr Ban presides over the slow decay of the UN secretariat, an institution that should be working, as Hammarskjöld said, on the...

US search for Korean War dead continues

Almost 60 years after an armistice ended the Korean war, the United States has resumed its efforts to bring home the remains of more than 2000 American soldiers. The US has written to North Korea on the matter, the Pentagon said. Despite the complete absence of diplomatic ties and particularly frosty ties over recent attacks on South Korea, the US has long sought cooperation with North Korea over the repatriation of soldiers’ remains. North Korea has reportedly received several millions of dollars in exchange for cooperation. Speaking at this year’s Korean War Armistice Day, war veteran and Democratic congressman, Charles Rangal, called upon Americans to remember the fallen. "As we pay tribute to the nearly two million Americans who answered the call to defend the freedom of Korea, we should not forget about those who never returned” he said.

The myth of sports and repressive regimes

David Clay Large , professor of history at Montana State University, writes in the New York Times (see full article here ): Few Olympics are as famous as the 1936 Berlin Games, whose 75th anniversary falls this month. The publicity that accompanied the competition, held under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler, supposedly tamed the Nazi regime. But much of that story is myth. Indeed, the Olympics gave the Nazis a lesson in how to hide their vicious racism and anti-Semitism, and should offer today’s International Olympic Committee a cautionary tale when considering the location of future events...

Israel to extradite citizen over Srebrenica genocide

A court in Jerusalem has ruled that an Israeli citizen who took part in Srebrenica massacre of 1995, be extradited to Bosnia to face charges of genocide. The AFP reported that Aleksandar Cvetkovic, a Bosnian Serb who obtained Israeli citizenship through his Jewish wife, is accused of "involvement in the offence of genocide during the massacre carried out in 1995 at Branjevo farm in the vicinity of the town of Srebrenica." The massacre, which was the worst on European soil since World War Two, involved the execution of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Serbian troops. After his arrest in January , the state prosecutor's office called the extradition process, part of "an international legal action that investigates and prosecutes those responsible for planning and carrying out genocide."

The unspeakable truth about Israel’s social crisis

As mass demonstrations, marches and occupations of public spaces extend into a third week, Israel is seeing the rise of a new social movement. In recent weeks hundreds of thousands have been marching in cities throughout Israel, demanding action against the sharply rising cost of housing. Since mid-July, growing numbers of Israelis have been taking to the streets, outraged at the rapid increase in Israel’s property prices over the past few years. The protests have become the largest in the country’s history. However, amid the popular support from the Israeli people, discussion of a key issue underpinning it has been avoided: Israel’s massive state funding for settlement in the Palestinian territories.

Pakistan prosecutes its paramilitary soldiers for extrajudicial killing

A Pakistan court prosecuted six paramilitary soldiers and one civilian security guard for the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Karachi two months ago. A video of the killing, recorded by a local cameraman, showed the young boy begging for mercy, before being shot, twice. The video was widely broadcast across television channels and internet sites. The killing was severely condemned by human rights groups and politicians, whipping up public outrage at the incident. President Asif Ali Zardari swiftly launched an inquiry into the incident. The defendants were brought to the courts and tried in...

US Senators urge Clinton to act on Burma rapes

Thirteen female US Senators have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to take action against Burma’s military-backed regime for its alleged use of rape by government troops. "Given the Burmese regime's unabated use of rape as a weapon of war , we urge you to call on the regime to end this practice and pursue our shared goal of establishing an international commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity ," the group wrote in a letter to Clinton. The letter went on to cite Noble Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who said that “rape is used as a weapon by (...

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