Tag Archives: UN

Iran executes 2 opposition leaders – how many more will follow?

A supporter of the Iranian opposition. Photo thanks to SIR (Flickr)

Today, the Iranian authorities have executed the first two people connected with the post-election violence.  Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour are being executed for “trying to topple the Islamic Regime” and “for membership of armed opposition groups”. 

I have blogged before about the human rights situation in Iran after the elections of June 2009 (see https://stevehynd.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/fac-and-iran-the-time-for-ashton-to-prove-herself/).  Worryingly there are hundreds more detained after the elections that are facing torture and arbitrary detention.  There are reports of torture, including sexual abuse and rape being used against detainees.  According to recent reports at least 5 of these prisoners are now facing the death penalty. 

I wonder, am I just tired, or is there no chance of things improving any time soon in Iran? They are happy to ignore the EU (and all its Member States) and the US is in a diplomatic no-mans land.  What’s the answer…an Iranian revolution – take 2? It seems unlikely (and quite undesirable).  Before I really give up, I will wait and see what happens in the lead up to, during, and after the UPR process (http://www.upr-info.org/-Iran-.html).  It looks like the UPR is the only international mechanism that Iran has not openly ignored. 

To keep up-dated about the disappearances, detentions and executions have a look at the Guardian’s regularly up-dated spread sheet: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/28/iran-dead-detained-protests-elections-spreadsheet

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Filed under EU politics, Human rights, Politics

The African Cup of Nations in Angola and the World Cup in South Africa – there’s no comparison

I have recently read a whole series of sensationalist articles suggesting that due to the unrest and violence that has occurred during the African Cup of Nations (held in Angola), the safety of the football World Cup being held in South Africa should be questioned.  This is idiotic at best.

Angola is about 2,000km away from South Africa.  A similar distance can be found between Spain and Mali, or Greece and Iraq. Angola only gained independence from Portugal in 1975.  From there it slipped into an intense civil between the MPLA and UNITA (1975-2002).  In this time about 500,000 people were killed.  It was one of the ‘conflict theatres’ of the cold-war that lasted the longest.  This war provided one of the few significant links between South Africa and Angola; apartheid South Africa supported (along with the US) the anti-communist UNITA. 

The civil war spawned a terrible humanitarian crisis, internally displacing about a third of Angola’s population (about 4.2 million).  In 2003 the UN estimated that 80% of the population did not have access to basic medical care and 60% did not have access to safe drinking water.  The life expectancy in Angola is less than 40.

Are we completely surprised then, when the world gives a country (or terrorist movement) a media hook like the Cup of Nations that violence should ensue? The Togo football team defied organizers demands to only fly in and took a bus from neighbouring Congo.  The following attack left at least 3 people dead.  Adebayor, the ex-Arsenal Striker was left holding one of his best friends as he passed away in his hands.  This sort of attack, with its high profile football stars, filled the Western Press (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article6982463.ece).

There is no doubt, that this Cup of Nations has shown some outstanding football, but this has been over-shadowed by the politics and violence that surrounds it.  Commentators have suggested that this has set a precedent for coming competitions, including the South Africa World Cup in the summer.

This is ridiculous!  Firstly, it suggests that this is a new idea (to attack a large sporting event to gain publicity – remember the Israeli athletes at 1972 Olympics?).  In this sense South Africa is no more under threat than it was before the latest violence in Angola.  I strongly suspect, this is another example of the media exploiting Europeans ignorance of geography and politics to paint these two “southern African” nations to be similar.  They have both been through turbulent recent histories, but to suggest that they share much more than this is wrong.

South Africa became an independent republic in 1961, and the government decided to continue to legislate based on apartheid until the early 90’s.  Since then, the country’s politics have been dominated by the ANC, fist with the figurehead of Mandela, then Mbeki and now Zuma.  There is still a high rate of crime across South Africa, especially for murder and rape.  One in three women questioned in a recent survey said that they had been raped in the past year (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/258446.stm).  There are clearly problems facing South Africa, especially in relation to the security issues in the run up to the World Cup; but do you:

A) Think that FIFA have not discussed this with them and are satisfied with their plans and

B) This has any connection to the violence in Angola?

What does this mean for the average footy fan?  It means you should be vigilant when travelling in South Africa.  Have a read up on the risks before you go, take sensible precautions.  Just like with every world cup, there will be a small surge in crime, especially petty.  Should you be afraid of a violent terrorist attack, I really doubt it – you are much more likely to get your wallet stolen.

This African Cup of Nations and the coming World Cup will hopefully illustrate an awkward juxtaposition between the extravagant wealth of modern football and the relative hardship faced in South Africa (and the extreme hardship faced in Angola).  Let the football be enjoyed, but let’s not forget the politics.

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“FAC” and Iran – The time for Ashton to prove herself.

Recent Violence in Iran, Photograph thanks to Doug20022 (Flickr)

On the 25th Jan 2010, Cathy Ashton (High Representative of the Union’s Foreign and Security Policy) chairs her first Foreign Affairs Council (‘FAC’ formally known as ‘GAERC’s).  This is her, and “Post-Lisbon-EU’s” chance to stand up and show that they can act coherently in this interim period and perform as a global player. Just because everything in the Lisbon treaty is not operational does not mean the EU cannot and should not act as a global player.

On the council there are some agenda points that should be easy for the EU to draw up some strong council conclusions on.  Iran and Somalia are both examples of situations with deteriorating human rights situations where a strong external voice could bring about real change. I will briefly look at the situation of Iran to illustrate this.

There has been a human rights crisis in Iran since the disputed presidential election in June 2009. The Iranian authorities have responded to the ensuing demonstrations with the arbitrary detention of demonstrators, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition figures. Torture and other ill-treatment are widely reported, non-violent demonstrations have been met with excessive use of force leading to unlawful killings.  There are now signs that the Iranian authorities may soon start executing people in connection with the post election events.

Iran, however is in an internationally sensitive position (more so than usual) with the up-coming UN Universal Periodic Review process and the up-coming UN Human Rights Council (1-26th March).  Iran has recently sent the defiant message of refusing to accept a European Parliament delegation.  Iran knows however, that they can afford to do this for as long as they are respectful of the main power base of the EU for Common Foreign and Security Policy in the EU (The Council and now Baroness Ashton).  If, Ashton pushes for really strong conclusions in this up-coming FAC then it will leave Iran in a really tricky situation.  Do they ignore Ashton, and the EU’s new structures (possibly damaging future relations) or do they implement the (what will probably be ‘modest’) human rights proposals put forward by the FAC.

The FAC and Ashton must include some human rights language in their conclusions.  As a minimum this must call for the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to be allowed access to Iran.  If they really wanted to be brave they could mention; the excessive use of the death penalty, the routine use of torture, the blanket oppression of the freedom of expression, assembly and association or even the on-going violence used by security forces. 

This is the first real big test for Ashton (as opposed to announcing relief aid to Haiti – which according to some commentators she managed to screw up).  We need a strong performance by Ashton to bring on board all the member states to push for some sort of human rights language in the council conclusions.  We will wait and see if this materialises.

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