Welcome to the Sunday, August 03, 2008 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

This issue is being sent just prior to the Olympics, to highlight the promise that was given by China to improve human rights and how that has been broken. To be clear, any gold medal won by an athlete will carry the same sheen as in other Olympics. What has been tarnished is China's commitment. And some of the following actions are to raise up that commitment and the way China can move forward on better footing. It should be noted that the broader question of the whole machinery that has become the modern Olympics, must await a future discussion.

In addition to Darfur, this email also covers two other topics, unrelated to the Olympics. One - Bhopal - reaches back almost 25 years. The other - Canada's tar sands projects - raises issues for today and into the future.




President Bush will be attending the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Amnesty International is urging him to pressure China for human rights improvements before the Games. Despite promises to improve its human rights record, China has become increasingly repressive in the run up to the Olympics. Human rights activists are detained without trial, journalists are harassed and imprisoned, "re-education through labor" programs continue unabated and China remains the world's leading executioner. After Amnesty International's report, their web site became inaccessible if you were in China, even for journalists.

Take Action:
    Tell President Bush To Act




To keep the spotlight on Darfur during the Beijing Games, the Dream for Darfur organization is webcasting the Darfur Olympics from August 8 - 15. You'll be able to watch daily alternative programming: exclusive video footage and reports by Mia Farrow from a Darfurian refugee camp, highlighting the desperate need for action. You'll be able to access educational materials about the Darfur crisis -- and take action online.

Watch the Darfur Olympics:

This action kicks-off on August 8, airing an "Alternative Opening Ceremony" which features musicians like R.E.M., Talib Kweli, Carly Simon, and many more who have donated music videos to Darfur. Send a message to China and the Olympic corporate sponsors that the people of Darfur must not be forgotten.

[Non-Olympic Darfur issues are at the end of the email]




More than 7,000 people died within a matter of days when toxic gases leaked from a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India on the night of 2/3 December 1984. With that catastrophe, Bhopal became synonymous with "chemical industrial disaster." But now, almost 24 years later, Bhopal should also be synonymous with "multi-national and governmental gross avoidance of responsibility." Over the last 22 years exposure to the toxins has resulted in the deaths of a further 15,000 people as well as chronic and debilitating illnesses for thousands of others for which treatment is largely ineffective.

The intervening history is full of various parties trying to avoid responsibility, in particular, Union Carbide, Dow Chemical (who later bought Union Carbide, but has denied an obligation to clean up the site, largely due to dealing with the government) and the Indian government from the national to local levels. The end result is that while some people received a modicum of payout, the effects of having never cleaned up the toxic site have had devastating effects on some of the inhabitants - a whole generation has grown up around, and in some cases been ravaged by, its effects. Below is an opportunity to call on Dow Chemical to clean up the factory site and remove the stockpile of chemicals abandoned by the company.

Take Action:
    Tell Dow to Cleanup Site

Background (NYTimes article: requires simple registration to read):
    Decades Later, Toxic Sludge Torments Bhopal





As the world has become more desperate for oil, and in particular as the U.S. has become more desperate for secure oil, the once prohibitively expensive oil that is found mixed in the sandy soil of northern Alberta, Canada, has become an explosive growth industry. But it comes at unnerving costs, largely hidden from view due to its remoteness:

Below you can take action as well as read more background on the negative impact that expanded development will have and is already having on the environment and on people's lives. As well you can hear from former Alberta Conservative Premier Peter Lougheed, who was highly supportive of the project in the 1970's, but now is raising alarm bells about its unbridled nature and negative impact on his province.

Take Action:
    Stop Further Tar Sands Development

Background (toxic tailings ponds can be seen from space):

Hear former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed's concerns:





On 14 July 2008, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court to indict Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. Three judges will now take one to three months to review the material then give their verdict. Technically at that point the UN, who requested the investigation, could act, depending on the verdict."

It is an incredibly bold move . . . and controversial, pitting justice versus peace, in some people's minds. That is, if Bashir is indicted, he could unleash even more misery on Darfur, perhaps kicking out humanitarian aid groups, increasing the level of violence, etc. The worst outcome would be to engulf all of Sudan back into war. Thus some want the proceedings stalled (the UN Security Council has opened the door for that possibility). On the other hand, most accounts from Darfuris who have lived through five years of horrible violence, indicate that doing nothing means continued violence anyway, and many would be willing to accept the consequences if it means Bashir will eventually be brought to justice - in essence, they feel they have so little left to lose, don't take away one of the few things they have left - justice for the perpetrators.

Precedence suggests that a convulsion of violence usually doesn't follow an indictment. You can read some of the scenarios and thinking on both sides below. With this line of thinking, it all comes down to probabilities, which are quite complex.

For me, ideally I would like it to be up to the vote of the Darfuris. Given that is impossible and despite my strong concerns about what Bashir may do, I side with the Darfuri voices I have heard from, as well as the overwhelming cheers from the refugee camps when they heard about the charges.

If you agree, tell your government to support the ICC outcome. For North Americans you can use the toll-free number below, which will lead you through the steps to leave your message. The message could be as simple as "Believing that the people in Darfur want justice, I urge {my country} to do everything possible to support the ICC process and outcome. Thank you."

Call on your government to support the ICC process:

Background: Enough Project's "The Merits of Justice"

Background: Various authors including Harvard's Alex de Waal:"
   Exploration of Various stances




One year ago the UN announced that a peacekeeping force of 26,000 would finally be sent into Darfur to protect civilians and aid workers. However, the force has only 9,000 troops, is struggling to do its job and has even been attacked. The world has failed to provide the troops and equipment that were promised. A report, below, has clearly indicated there are the necessary helicopters from various countries, for the Darfur mission.

Take Action:
    Tell President Bush to do all possible to fully deploy peacekeeping force.

Background (Countries with Available helicopters):
    Report on Available Helicopters



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Rod Downing

Surrey BC Canada
(604) 535-6550