March 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to the March 29, 2014 edition of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue gets back to the usual emphasis of this newsletter on tangible actions.  While numerous significant topics swirl, three requiring immediate action have been selected. The first involves our longitudinal focus on Darfur, where recent events have stunningly shifted the violence to the type of atrocities not seen since violence originally erupted.  A second action involves the siege and subsequent starvation of people in Syrian town.  The third action deals with an unbelievable Egyptian court order to execute over 500 people.

In addition, there is also an action related to disturbing trends related to the Rohingya in Burma.  Finally there is some follow-up to a few previous issues.

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DARFUR: IT BURNS AGAIN – TAKE ACTION

The Darfur crisis exploded 11 years ago, resulting in 300,000 people killed and over 2 million displaced.  Violence has never ceased – it only has periods of greater and lesser degrees.  This past year has continued an upsurge – almost 500,000 displaced [Amnesty International], and well over 100,000 in 2014.

Worse, some of the most ominous dynamics are now occurring, mirroring the early days of death and destruction.  It results from President Bashir’s determination to subdue the rebel forces, using the same tactics as during the repugnant early days – relying on militias, who spend most of their time attacking civilians.  The outcome is similar – compare the villages recently attacked over a Sample Few Days  [UntillAll.org] with the horrific events of 2004 to 2006.

The actions are two-fold.  Neither will stop Bashir directly; they are simply the best tools that might lead him and those who support him, to recalibrate their calculus.  One action calls on select countries to prohibit Bashir from entering their nation, in accordance with the ICC mandate.  The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted President Bashir with charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  As such, any member country of the ICC is to prohibit him from entering their country, and if he does, arrest him.  Bashir has entered several countries (though, only after painstakingly being assured he will not be arrested – he does feel the ICC mandate).

The other action (for US citizens) is to advocate support for the “Sudan Peace, Security and Accountability Act”.  It was introduced in 2013, but still sits in committee.  After this recent, ongoing deplorable turn of violence, there is a growing demand to re-engage with this issue, so it is timely to sign.  The Act is better grounded than previous ones, aligning with the common call to address Darfur as part of the Sudan-wide solution.

Take Action (from United to End Genocide):
{US only}: Tell Congress to support Sudan Peace & Accountability Act

{Open to all}: Tell Countries to Uphold ICC, Keep Bashir Out

 

 

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SYRIA: STOP DELIBERATE STARVATION OF CIVILIANS!

The Syrian conflict is now over three years old.  It has resulted in 100,000 people dead (about half of them civilians), and a staggering 2.5 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced.

Among all the horror of this period, has come a new even more perverted twist.  In what would amount to a war crime, Syria has also laid siege to the Yarmouk area, with a reported 128 people having starved to death because the siege prevented access to food.  Rebel forces have also hindered access.   Last week some food made it to the city, for only the second time.  But due to the delicate and tentative nature of this, pressure must be continued.

Take Amnesty International Action(s):
{US-only}:  Tell Your Senator to Cosponsor Syrian Humanitarian Bill

{Open to All}: Tell UN to Stop Yarmouk Siege, Protect Civilians

Background:
Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk: War crimes against besieged civilians [Amnesty report]
Reuter’s article on Yarmouk siege

 

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BURMA: STOP THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Conditions continue to deteriorate for the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar).  We have previously highlighted the agonizing situation of the minority Muslim Rohingya in the predominantly Buddhist country.  Terrible violence erupted in 2012, and new clashes are occurring again (hundreds have been killed, tens of thousands have fled, and 140,000 have been forced into horrible, overcrowded camps where they face severe restrictions and are denied basic necessities including lifesaving medical care).While part of this violence stems from extremist Nationalist/Buddhist groups (e.g., the shadowy ‘969’ movement), see the Background link for some of the much deeper, widespread reasons.

If left unchecked, the trajectory, already considered to be crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Fortify Rights, could eventually plummet to the level of genocide.  Part of advocacy is to raise up such dynamics in order to prevent them from reaching such repugnant end points.

Last week, members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.Res. 418: “Urging the Government of Burma to end the persecution of the Rohingya people”.  U.S. citizens can sign the petition to add their support to this bill.

Take Action (US citizens only; from United to End Genocide):
Urge House to pass bill to stop persecution of Rohingya
Background:
Worsening Plight of Rohingya [Mar/14; The Diplomat]
Acts are Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing [HRW; .PDF]

 

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EGYPT: TELL COURT TO STOP THE MASS EXECUTION

In an utterly stunning move, the Egyptian court ordered the execution of 528 people!  While those convicted were no angels – they were part of the Muslim Brotherhood and had been involved in protests, resulting in the death of one policeman, injury to several people and property damage – it is simply incredulous that any court would sentence them all to death.  The entire trial for all of them lasted only two sessions, with many convicted in absentia.  While this will likely be appealed, it is important that the international community provide strong, clear support for those Egyptians who are trying to bring a semblance of fairness to their legal system.

Take Action:
Tell Egypt to Reject Court Decision [Avaaz]

 

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=== FOLLOW-UP TO PREVIOUS ISSUES ===
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Conflict-Free Minerals – Intel Offers Help

We have followed the attempt to reduce the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by lobbying companies not to buy minerals from the conflict area.  While it was inspired by such pressure initiatives as the boycott against apartheid in South Africa, and more recently, the blood diamond project in Sierra Leone, the DRC initiative seemed manifoldly more difficult.  Nonetheless, Intel has spent five years trying to figure out how to rid itself of such minerals in its supply chain.  Having succeeded (one hopes) via a system of bagging, tagging and verifying minerals as they reach the smelter, it now wants to share the insights with other companies, thereby saving them the need to “reinvent the wheel.”  It will take to time know whether this is primarily PR or a genuine effort to step-up the dynamics.
Conflict-fee Minerals Initiative [Reuters]

 

Central African Republic (CAR) and Warning Signs of Genocide

For the past several months the Central African Republic has seen horrendous chaos and violence that has raised alarms about early warning signs of genocide.  While Muslims and Christians had been living in relative peace, a Muslim rebel coalition (Seleka) seized power last March.  That resulted in looting and killings, followed by reprisals from Christian “anti-balaka” groups. Eventually the leader stepped down, but that did not satisfy the anti-balaka forces, and the killing of Muslims has continued.  Over one million people have been displaced. With signs of genocide, French and then UN peacekeeping troops have been sent in, but in insufficient numbers thus far.  There are calls for a more robust intervention in CAR, with its largely non-existent institutional infrastructure
UN Warns: ‘Seeds of Genocide’ [Reuters]
A Muslim Community under Siege [HRW]

 

Uganda: Passed Harmful Anti-Gay Law

We have followed, and joined the petition against, the anti-gay bill that was introduced four years ago.  At that time it included the death sentence in extreme cases.  The huge outrage removed the death clause and put the bill into limbo.  But in February, Ugandan President Museveni, signed the altered bill into law. It is an affront to basic human rights, specifically the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.  But much worse, many punishments will result in a life sentence.

That said, perhaps even worse, is the effect on society.  If you read the Nigerian article, whose laws were modelled after Uganda, you find that although homosexuality has been illegal since the colonial era, people used to be tolerant.  But not now – mobs sometimes go hunting for gays, beating them, threatening their life and causing them to lose their jobs.  Many HIV/AIDS programs must scale back and thus IADS may skyrocket.  Why the dramatic change?  In several other African countries, “in many cases” much of the caustic change is due to the American anti-gay activists and the Christian right, who have helped change laws in nine countries.
Uganda’s President Sign’s anti-Gay Bill  [CBC]
Running Scared for Your Life if Gay In Nigeria [Mother Jones]

 

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Missed an action email?  An archive is kept at: www.UntilAll.org/archives.htm.

 

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