Syria: A few Insights

Syrian rebels have issued a ban on women using make up or wearing “immodest dress” in a neighborhood in the city of Aleppo. Critics have blasted the move as another attempt by Islamists to impose Sharia in rebel-controlled territory.

The fatwa (an order based on Sharia law) was issued by the Islamic law council in Aleppo’s Fardous neighborhood.

Muslim women are banned from leaving the house in immodest dress, in tight clothing that shows off their bodies or wearing makeup on their face. It is incumbent on all our sisters to obey God and commit to Islamic etiquette,” the statement on the Fardous council’s Facebook page says as cited by Reuters, which reports that Aleppo residents have confirmed the news.

Some of the comments showed support for the ruling, arguing there was nothing wrong in requiring that people follow “certain etiquette in public“. Critics lashed out at the Islamist-led rebels for abusing their power.

The women’s clothing fatwa has been viewed as the latest example of Islamic radicalism growing within rebel-controlled Syrian areas.

A video released a few days ago features public beheadings of alleged Assad loyalists.

The executed men were Christians according to some media reports, with one of the dead being a priest. Various local sources have accused Jabhat al Nusra – the Al Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad– of carrying out the killings.

At the beginning of June a teenage boy in the northern city of Aleppo was allegedly executed for blasphemy in front of his family by an al-Qaeda-affiliated opposition group.

But European MP Nick Griffin, who was in Damascus with a fact-finding delegation in June, argues Syrians are not going to accept the implementation of harsh Sharia laws.

We’ve been able to talk with ordinary Syrians at all sorts of different levels. Something that comes out from all those people who we speak to is that Syria wasn’t perfect, but it was a secular and tolerant state where no one even cared if someone was Sunni or Shia or Christian or Jewish,” Griffin told RT after his visit.

Imposing Sharia could backfire against the anti-Assad forces as the most recent events in Egypt suggest. The 2011 revolt saw Islamists come to power in the North African state and attempt to push through a Sharia constitution. The move eventually sparked an even greater uprising, with millions now in the streets protesting the “islamization” of their country.

All [Morsi] has done is introduce or he tried to introduce that fundamental constitution that would turn Egypt into a Sharia state. Most Egyptians don’t want that. They want to have their religion in private, but not to have the state dictate to them exactly what it is going to look like,” political analyst and author William Engdahl told RT.

Source

The Vatican has confirmed the brutal beheading of a Catholic priest by Syrian rebels.

Under Assad Christians had religious freedom, but the Rebels persecute them.

Syrian Rebels Massacre Christian Village Report from May 20 2013 Many of the Rebels are not from Syria, but come from other countries

Syrian rebels execute teenage boy for ‘heresy’

From May 31 2013

Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb.

The sarin gas was found in the homes of suspected Syrian Islamists detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersia following a search by Turkish police on Wednesday, reports say. The gas was allegedly going to be used to carry out an attack in the southern Turkish city of Adana.

On Monday, Turkish special anti-terror forces arrested 12 suspected members of the Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliated group which has been dubbed “the most aggressive and successful arm” of the Syrian rebels. The group was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in December. For the rest go HERE

Then of course we have a Rebel cutting out the heart of a Soldier and eating it. You can do a google search to get that one.

These are the things Death Squads do. So are there Death Squads in Syria?  Look for those masked Rebels and you will find the answer.

Well do a bit of research and then decide.  Start HERE for a bit of History on US interventions

“The Salvador Option For Syria”: US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate “Opposition Forces”

You’re not familiar with the ‘Salvador Option’? Well, remember in the 1980s, when all those fiery, irrationally passionate Latinos and their wacky hippy allies advanced the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the CIA was orchestrating bands of marauding assassins and torturers in El Salvador against the left-wing FMLN guerrillas, as well as Catholic clergy and innocent civilians? For the rest go HERE

During civil wars in which the US does not want to be seen getting its hands dirty in Latin America, the superpower loans Israel money at a very good rate, and then Israel uses these funds to do the “dirty work”. In this regard, in Latin America at least, Israel has become the hit-man for the US. For the rest go HERE

 HERE is a search of Death Squad uses by the US

Under the “Leahy Law,” named after Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the U.S. government is not allowed to fund foreign military units who have committed gross human rights violations with impunity.

That being said, how many countries, have the US helped finance/fund their military, that commit Human Rights violations with impunity?

What makes it even worse is the American people fund the US Gov, who in turn fund Human rights violates. The US itself violates Human Rights, on many levels.

How the US has affected those in Afghanistan and the World.  Addiction and death.  This helps people does it?

Afghanistan, Heroin, Addiction, Death

How the US and other help pollute, other countries with Radioactive DU.

War “Pollution” Equals Millions of Deaths

US, NATO and Rebel war crimes in Libya

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Anti-War Activists Targeted as ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Iraq War Veterans “Last Words”

California man faces 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk

Secret tax-haven names released to public

Who protects you from TSA Abusers?

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm  Comments Off on Syria: A few Insights  
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Philippines: Arrests, Torture, and the Presidential Election

By James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya

April 18th, 2010

The run-up to presidential elections is a time of heightened state-sponsored repression as Asia’s foremost ‘death squad democracy’ wages war on its progressive rural medical workers.

The notoriously violent and corrupt elections in the Philippines stand in sharp contrast with those in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Malaysia, where the ruling elites have secured their hegemony via economic prosperity, rising salaries, increased employment and extensive social services for their citizens. In these countries, the elite can abide by the results of a relatively ‘open’ election, whereas in the Philippines, any challenge to the closed, family-based ruling class is met with relentless terror.

In the Philippines, stagnation in the agricultural sector and a backward manufacturing sector, combined with electoral politics dominated by a coalition of landlords, warlords and oligarchic family clans, have led to mass poverty, deepening class inequalities and social polarization. The elites are unwilling to tolerate any challenge or movement for change. Since they have not been able to establish their legitimacy or hegemony via programs and policies which create rising prosperity for the Filipino masses, the Philippine political elite rely on the military and paramilitary to repress popular social movements, while their allies among the local warlords and clan leaders ‘deliver’ the votes.

Elections in the Philippines are violent contests between rival ‘oligarchic’ families – a pattern frozen in 19th century style rivalries – where guns and assassinations, as well as ballots, decide which ‘faction’ will rule. Political elites actually enlist the help of the local police, military, paramilitary and death squads to kill leading rival contenders, in order to ensure a ‘win’ for their candidates. The recent massacre of 57 civilians (including 30 journalists), on their way to register a local candidate by a warlord ally of the president, has ensured that the coming election will be among the bloodiest.

The primary challenge to the politics of the oligarchs in the Philippines comes from the independent social organizations. These community-based, grass-roots movements are engaged in organizing health programs as well as environmental and women’s organizations and human rights groups defending workers, peasants and social activists, along with class-based trade unions and organizations of small farmers and rural workers.

The ‘battle for votes’ among the elites is narrowly focused but intense: The perks of office and unfettered access to the public treasury is what sustains Filipino crony capitalism, despite the rhetoric of ‘free market’ and ‘private enterprise’. The electoral ‘process’ ensures the right number of votes for the right candidate through a combination of bribes, threats, violence and outright fraud.

The 2004 Philippine presidential race was the template for election in the ‘death squad democracy’: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s ‘victory’ was secured through an assassination and terror campaign against candidates and political organizers belonging to the sectoral ‘party-list’ parties representing marginalized groups, like the urban poor, workers, farmers, women and students and guaranteed in an unforgettable taped conversation of the President ordering her election commissioner(“Hello Garci”) to deliver specific percentages of votes.

While elite candidates compete with each other, they work together to oppose any popular social movements that emerge within their social and political domain; hence the unprecedented increase in repression as the electoral process unfolds. For these war-lord politicians, all independent organized activities within their ‘territories’ directly threaten their clientelistic hold over the voters and must be violently stopped. This dynamic is key to understanding the thousands of instances of violence perpetrated against independent journalists, health care workers, legal aid workers, union organizers, teachers, church rural workers and many others.

Mass Arrest of Health Workers Accused of ‘Terrorism’

On February 6, 2010, 300 heavily armed soldiers and militarized police, with their faces masked, broke into the provincial home of Dr. Melecia Velmonte, a distinguished infectious disease specialist and Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine, and arrested 43 rural health workers, physicians and nurses who had been holding a seminar on rural disaster preparedness in the wake of the devastating Typhoon Ketsana. The participants were blindfolded, tied and brought to a military camp where they underwent harsh interrogation and torture and were charged at first with terrorism and membership in the guerrilla movement, the New Peoples Army. The owner of the home where the ‘terrorist’ medical workers were meeting, Dr. Velmonte and her son, who were present during the arrests and protested the invasion of her property without a warrant, were not arrested.

The 43 medical detainees have been held in a military camp ever since without access to family and attorneys. Trumped-up weapons charges against the health workers were based on explosives, guns and ‘bomb-making’ manuals, obviously planted in their belongings. One nurse was accused of keeping a hand-grenade under her pillow. A parade of transparently phony charges, including participation in ‘communist assassination units’ were leveled at the physicians, especially a 62 year old public health specialist suffering from diabetes and hypertension, as well as the nurses and health workers. These preposterous charges, the bizarre commando-style ‘raid’ on Dr. Velmonte’s home and the prolonged isolation and abuse of the detainees were defended at the highest level of government with few complaints or calls for inquiry by the elite-led opposition. The Dean of the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine, issued a stern denunciation of the mass arrest, describing the military’s abuse of medical workers as part of a pattern of attacks on members of the health sector seeking to fulfill their mission of service to the underserved rural population.

The detainees have become known as the ‘Morong 43’ after the village in Rizal Province where the arrest took place. Mass protests and support groups have emerged among a wide range of professional associations, civil society organizations, and class-based popular movements in the Philippines and nurses groups and human rights organizations in North America and Europe. The incident was reported in the Lancet, Britain’s prestigious medical journal. The US press, which routinely covers ‘human rights’ abuses against independent professionals in China and Burma, has yet to mention the detention and torture of 43 medical workers in the Philippines, whose President Macapagal Arroyo is a staunch political ally of the Obama Administration.

The ‘Reasons’ behind the Repression

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime’s brutal assault and arrest of 43 health workers, engaged in providing accessible basic medical services and disaster aid and training to the rural poor, may appear irrational from an economic point of view: After all, in a country where over 70% of the rural population are born and die without ever seeing a physician, these health workers provide vital social services to marginalized populations at no cost to the government.

However, economic considerations are not what inform the politics of an unpopular regime deeply immersed in corruption scandals and electoral chicanery. The principle concern of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime is political: How can this regime retain control of a restless rural electorate deeply disenchanted with the local warlords, clan leaders and paramilitary thugs, who ‘round up’ their votes for the regime’s chosen candidate. In this context, local health clinics run by independent health workers under community control are a threat to the regime’s local chain of command, which runs the vast ‘patronage machine’ dictating who among the people vote and how. Whatever meager social services do exist in the rural areas must be totally under their control to underscore the electorate’s dependency on the local representative of the regime.

Grassroots community health centers, where health workers provide and teach preventative care, basic hygiene, disaster preparedness and many other services, empower small farmers, rural workers and their families to think and act independently of the local bosses. Volunteer health workers provide a micro-model of what a comprehensive rural health program should be like in contrast to the inaccessible, corrupt, privatized system of medical care promoted by the national government.

Under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, the pillage of the public treasury has impoverished the health system to the point that over 3,000 nurses and doctors are forced to leave the country every year. The private clinics and health insurance companies provide quality medical services to salaried employees of larger businesses, affluent middle class professionals and members of the upper class. In the public hospitals, especially the major teaching hospitals, like the huge Philippine General Hospital, young doctors, who provide critical services to tens of thousands of lower middle class and poor patients, go without salaries for months and even longer. Faculty and department staff are so poorly paid that they are forced to take additional sideline jobs in private clinics to survive.

With the upcoming presidential elections this May, the political elite have made a logical calculation: As a result of their pillage and brutality, promises of prosperity cannot ‘buy’ the support of the electorate whose ‘loyalty’ must then be ‘secured’ through the traditional double G’s of Philippine governance: Guns and goons.

Heavily funded and encouraged by the US in its ‘World-Wide War on Terror’, the regime of Macapagal Arroyo has drawn up its own list of threats: First on the ‘order of battle’ are the popular social movements, whose dedicated activists cannot be bought. This explains the widespread use of mass arrest and continued detention of the ‘Morong 43’ by the regime’s military and the ‘targeted assassination’ of independent, popular political candidates and independent community leaders.

The military has ignored the Philippine Supreme Court’s orders to transfer the 43 health workers to Manila where they would have access to their attorneys and to medical care. The regime’s continued detention and abuse of ‘the Morong 43’ is a gangster-style message to the Filipino civil society movement: “Stay out of poor communities or face a similar fate!” The tactic of the Macapagal Arroyo government and its supporters in the White House is to proceed with the electoral charade as if ‘nothing is wrong’.

What is urgently needed is an international campaign exposing the dark underside of Philippine elections and securing the freedom and safe return of the ‘Morong 43’ to their families and communities. What is at stake is not only the lives of the jailed health workers, but the lives and well-being of many thousands of poor farmers and their families who depend on their vital services. Source

Related
Philippines: The Killing Fields of Asia
From May 2006 not much has changed, things just kept getting worse for the citizens..
Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo joined the U.S. global “war on terrorism,” the Philippines has become the site of an ongoing undeclared war against peasant and union activists, progressive political dissidents and lawmakers, human rights lawyers and activists, women leaders, and a wide range of print and broadcast journalists. Because of the links between the Army, the regime, and the death squads, political assassinations take place in an atmosphere of absolute impunity. The vast majority of the attacks occur in the countryside and provincial towns. The reign of terror in the Philippines is of similar scope and depth as in Colombia. Unlike Colombia, the state terrorism has not drawn sufficient attention from international public opinion.

Between 2001 and 2006 hundreds of killings, disappearances, death threats, and cases of torture have been documented by the independent human rights center, KARAPATAN, and the church-linked Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research. Since Arroyo came to power in 2001, there have been 400 documented extrajudicial killings. In 2004 63 were killed and in 2005 179 were assassinated and another 46 disappeared and presumed dead. So far in the first two and a half months of 2006 there have been 26 documented political assassinations.
Source

Among those arrested were 2 doctors, 1 registered nurse and 2 midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers.

They are :

1. Merry Clamor y Mia, 33 y/o, medical doctor, CHD staff
2. Alexis Montes y Sulinap, 62 y/o, medical doctor, Commed volunteer
3. Gary Liberal y Apuhin, 43 y/o, registered nurse, AHW
4. Ma. Teresa Quinawayan y Roncales, 26 y/o midwife, CHD staff
5. Lydia “Del” Ayo Obera, 61 y/o, AHW staff & health educator
6. Reynaldo Macabenta y Torres, 30 y/o, CHD staff
7. Angela Doloricon y Manogon, 50 y/o, health educator
8. Delia Ocasla y Medrano, 46 y/o, community health worker
9. Janice Javier y Quiatchon, 22 y/o, community health worker
10. Franco Remoroso y Bilugan, 28 y/o community health worker
11. Linda Racel Otanez community health worker
12. Pearl Irene Martinez y de los Reyes, 25 y/o community health worker
13. Eleonor Carandang y Orgena, 30 y/o community health worker
14. Danny Piñero, community health worker
15. Ray-om Among, community health worker
16. Emily Marquez y Manguba, 23 y/ocommunity health worker
17. Emilia Marquez y Manguba,20 y/o, community health worker
18. Jane Balleta y Beltran 27 y/o, community health worker
19. Glenda Murillo y Cervantes, 26 y/o, community health worker
20. Eulogio “Ely” Castillo, community health worker
21. Jovy Ortiz y Quidor, 23 y/o, community health worker
22. Samson Castillo y Mayuga, 42 y/o, community health worker
23. Miann Oseo y Edjao, 31 y/o, community health worker
24. Sylvia Labrador y Pajanustan, 43 y/o, community health worker
25. Lilibeth Donasco, 24 y/o, community health worker
26. Jenilyn Vatar y Pizarro, 19 y/o, community health worker
27. Ramon de la Cruz y Santos, 21 y/o, community health worker
28. Jaqueline Gonzales, community health worker
29. Maria Elena Serato y Edeo, 35 y/o, community health worker
30. Ma. Mercedes Castro y Icban, 27 y/o, community health worker
31. Leah de Luna y Bautista, 28 y/o, community health worker
32. Judilyn Oliveros Y Abuyan, 26 y/o, community health worker
33. Yolanda Yaun y Bellesa, 51 y/o, registered midwife
34. Edwin Dematera y Bustamante, 37 y/o, community health worker
35. Cherielyn Riocasa Tawagon, 31 y/o, community health worker
36. John Mark Barrientos y Roldan, 20 y/o, community health worker
37. Mark Escartin y Esperida, 20 y/o, community health worker
38. Julius Duano, 30 y/o, community health worker
39. Ronilo Espera, 31 y/o, community health worker
40.Romeo de la Cruz, 53 y/o, community health worker
41. Valentino Paulino y Abale, 35 y/o, community health worker
42. Ace Millena, community health worker
43. Lorelyn Saligumba, community health worker

Source

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION TO FREE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS!!!
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Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 5:06 pm  Comments Off on Philippines: Arrests, Torture, and the Presidential Election  
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US-COLOMBIA: Activists Target “World of Coca-Cola”

By Matthew Cardinale
November 24 2009

ATLANTA, Georgia,

Activists from the U.S. and Colombia are targeting the World of Coca-Cola museum, located near its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, accusing the company of “union busting”, paying its workers “poverty wages”, and engaging in environmentally destructive practices.

“We’re an unofficial coalition with the India Resource Center, focusing on Coca-Cola overusing waters in drought areas. We’re supporting Corporate Accountability International, that have been trying to stop the use of bottled water over tap water,” Lew Friedman, of Killer Coke, told IPS.

“We’re working on behalf of Sinaltrainal, the food workers in Colombia. They had eight union leaders murdered. We’ve been augmenting their legal suit,” Friedman said.

“There’s plenty of evidence that shows the plant managers were very cozy with the paramilitaries,” he added.

Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola was filed in 2001 by the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal, several of its members, and the estate of Isidro Gil, one of its officers who was murdered.

Coca-Cola bottlers “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilize extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders”, the lawsuit states.

In addition, Killer Coke claims that many of the Colombian paramilitary troops were trained at the controversial formerly-named School of the Americas, now called the U.S. Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Economic Cooperation, in Fort Benning, Georgia.

In 2003, the U.S. District Court removed Coca-Cola as a defendant in the case because the murders took place in Colombia, not in the U.S. However, two Coca-Cola bottlers remained as defendants in the case. In 2006, the judge dismissed the remaining claims.

When IPS asked Coca-Cola about Killer Coke’s demonstration in Atlanta last week, the company replied in an email statement that it “was based on an uninformed and inaccurate portrayal of The Coca-Cola Company and independent Coca-Cola bottlers in Colombia and based on allegations that are over ten years old”.

“The unfounded allegations have been reviewed over the years by multiple courts in Colombia and most recently in the United States, as well as by the International Labor Organization, and outside law firms – all concluding that the Coca-Cola bottler employees in Colombia enjoy extensive, normal relations with multiple unions and are provided with safe working conditions there,” Coca-Cola said.

While much of Killer Coke’s focus seemed to be on the Colombian trade union issue, activists said other issues involved the alleged use of child labour in other countries and questions about the healthiness of Coca-Cola products in general.

“There are issues of health, the use of high fructose corn syrup,” Friedman said.

As part of their campaign, Killer Coke has been successful at getting over 50 U.S. colleges and universities to stop selling Coke, and at getting the Service Employee Industrial Union (SEIU) and teachers’ unions to stop carrying Coke in their offices.

Killer Coke decided to target Coca-Cola headquarters on its own turf, in Atlanta, in part by driving a mobile billboard around town that read, “Don’t Drink Killer Coke Zero: Zero Ethics, Zero Justice, Zero Health.” This is a pun on one of the company’s products, Coke Zero, which is a near-zero calorie beverage.

“The World of Coke is basically one large advertisement for Coca-Cola. It’s the centre of Coca-Cola, it’s a mile away from their headquarters, it’s basically their public image that’s there,” said Ian Hoffmann, a young activist from Minnesota.

“We’ve got people coming forward and saying it’s an anti-union company. Coca-Cola usually says ‘we’re an Atlanta-based company. What happens in Colombia is out of our control, and more importantly, not our responsibility’, even though they [the bottling plants] are bottling Coca-Cola products and helping the company with huge profits,” Hoffmann said.

“We want some accountability. From my end, I’d like them to acknowledge what’s going on there, explaining to us why after the union leader gets shot dead, that the next day no one signs a new contract with Sinaltrainal. How do they stand by that? How do you defend that?” Hoffmann said.

“If these are people that are working, bottling Coca-Cola products, how is it okay for this company to stand by and not take some kind of action?” Hoffmann said. “How could this be happening at Coca-Cola with management turning a blind eye?”

Hoffmann acknowledged it is difficult going up against a multinational corporation like Coca-Cola. “It’s usually difficult because of the brand name. They have forced their way into every American fridge. The money they spend to get their name out and marketing to children. It’s a Coke culture, you know, starting out with those ads with Santa Claus.”

At a protest last week, activists chanted slogans and played a recording of a contemporary folk song called, “Coke is the Drink of the Death Squads”.

They came from all over the U.S., including states like Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as Washington, DC. Groups like Witness for Peace and School of the Americas Watch were also represented.

Martha Giraldo, 31, of Colombia, charged Coca-Cola’s bottling plants with “using temp [temporary] workers on contracts three months or less long, and they don’t pay a just wage, exterminating labour leaders, violating our Constitutional right to be unionised. In Colombia, we’re in a human rights crisis.”

Giraldo and another speaker spoke to the mostly English-speaking audience through a translator.

“People are marginalised in large cities of our country. We’re all suffering a humanitarian crisis. It’s not true what [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton says when she says in Colombia we’re safe and live in peace. It’s only for some, large landowners and the paramilitary; the rest are marginalised for denouncing it. We are being accused of being guerrilla supporters,” Giraldo said.

“In Colombia there are four million internally displaced people, who’ve been driven off their land because of terror campaigns of the paramilitary,” Giraldo said. “In addition to fumigating coca crops and food crops and water sources we use to drink, approximately 30,000 people disappeared in Colombia. We don’t know where they are. It’s been years since they disappeared.”

“We’re here in front of one of the symbols of capitalism. This company represents one of the perverse ways of accumulating capital. We’re here to demonstrate on behalf of our dead brothers,” said Gerardo Caja Marca in a speech at the rally.

“They systematically violate human rights in Colombia. All workers have the right and obligation to defend their rights. Simply exercising those rights has cost the lives of workers in Colombia,” Caja Marca said.

“Lastly we came here to demand justice. These are the men of war. These are the ones who put seven US military bases in Colombia. These are the ones who create paramilitaries. We accuse Coca-Cola of financing assassins. We want truth and reparations,” Caja Marca said.

Source

List of  union leaders at Coca-Cola’s Colombian bottling plants who have been murdered. Hundreds of other Coke workers have been tortured, kidnapped and/or illegally detained by violent paramilitaries, often working closely with plant managements.

Source of information here.

Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to be a union activist. According to the Solidarity Center of the AFL-CIO, roughly 4,000 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered in the past 20 years, more than 2,000 of them since 1991. The ITUC reports that despite the current government’s strong emphasis on security and a fall in the murder of trade unionists over the last few years, 2008 saw a disturbing 25% rise in cases of anti-union violence due to increased paramilitary activity. A total of 49 trade unionists were assassinated in 2008 and 2009 has seen a similar labor homicide rate. Despite continued violence, the Bush Administration negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia that has yet to be ratified by Congress.

U.S. corporations such as Coca-Cola, Chiquita, Dole, Nestle and the Drummond mining company have been complicit in such egregious union rights violations.  The International Rights Advocates (comprised of ILRF’s former lawyers now part of Conrad and Scherer law firm) have brought a number of lawsuits against these companies. The lawsuits charge that companies’ practices of hiring right-wing paramilitary groups to kill and intimidate union leaders is a violation of the Alien Torts Claims Act, a law meant to hold U.S. corporations accountable for human rights violations abroad. View the cases here.

Click here to tell the Justice Department to investigate Dole’s links to union murders in Colombia!

Workers are also intimidated through the use of death threats, attacks, disappearances, black lists, arrests, dismissals for organizing and widespread contract labor arrangements which limit collective bargaining rights. Only 1.2% of workers in Colombia are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and the rate has been declining over the years as workers see the danger in organizing. Paramilitary groups such as the AUC (United Self Defense Forces of Colombia), which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, are responsible for the majority of the violence targeting trade unions. There is also a pervasive culture of impunity for crimes targeting unions. The ITUC estimates that over 99 percent of the cases were unpunished and/or not investigated and not a single person/organization to order a labor homicide has ever been convicted.

Many corporations such as Coca-Cola have also used more subtle methods to undermine unions by overwhelming forcing workers into contract labor schemes through employment agencies and labor “cooperatives”. According to a 2008 report of the International Labor Organization, at a Bogota Coca-Cola bottling plant “outsourcing involves 81 percent of the workers.” Such overuse of subcontracting has severely undermined workers’ rights to equal pay, social benefits and the right to organize. A new law passed in July 2008 on workers’ cooperatives has not resolved the situation, in the view of the ILO.

Drummond Coal company has also been notoriously unresponsive to workers concerns about health and safety and bargaining rights. 3 workers employed by partially owned Drummond contractors died in 2009. 4000 workers went on strike in 2009 to protest the company’s refusal to negotiate a CBA and the poor and precarious working conditions pervasive in Drummond owned mines.

According to the ITUC, labor law and policy still exclude more than two thirds of workers from social and worker protection measures, by denying basic workers’ rights to over 12 million people. The laws and practices of the Colombian State do not favor the creation of stable, permanent jobs, leaving nearly 70% of workers in a precarious employment situations. Source

Related Articles

RIGHTS-COLOMBIA: Less Torture, More Impunity

RIGHTS: Harsh Language for Colombia at UN Review

DEVELOPMENT-INDIA: Farmers Vs Coca-Cola in Water Wars

Related Sites

Corporate Accountability International
International Labor Rights Fund

There are also Boycotts called against Coca Cola, as they support Israel as well.

Seems they are not well liked.

Might I suggest a world wide boycott of of Coca Cola.

Take away their money,  take away their power until they bend to the will of people not profit.

US Recruits Death Squads

US Recruits Death Squads

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

By Mark Mazzett

August 19, 2009

WASHINGTON

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Backwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.
Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.
Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”
Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm  Comments Off on US Recruits Death Squads  
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Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza ‘war crimes’/Israels Latin America “Trail of Terror”

Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza ‘war crimes’
Israel has warned military officers and senior officials that a threat of prosecution for alleged war crimes in Gaza could hinder future travel abroad.

By Damien McElroy in Jerusalem
January 24 2009

Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza 'war crimes'
Daniel Friedman, Israel’s justice minister, was appointed to head a special task force to defend individuals detained abroad and the military censor declared that names of officers from lieutenant to colonel must not be published Photo: AFP

At least four human rights groups are believed to be compiling suits alleging that Israelis perpetrated war crimes in planning or carrying out the three-week operation Cast Lead.

Daniel Friedman, Israel’s justice minister, was appointed to head a special task force to defend individuals detained abroad and the military censor declared that names of officers from lieutenant to colonel must not be published.

More than 1,300 Palestinian deaths were reported during the offensive in Gaza and the United Nations has led demands that Israel investigate high-profile incidents including the shelling of its facilities.

Private prosecutions are already being prepared. “We are building files on war crimes throughout the chain of command from the top to the local level,” said Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. “We are convinced these have been the most bloody days for Gaza since the occupation and that war crimes were perpetrated against Palestinian civilians.”

Courts in six countries, including Britain, have accepted petitions to prosecute alleged war crimes in previous wars. Most notoriously, activists in Belgium used a clause, since removed from the statute, to target the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Accusations of war crimes strike an especially sensitive chord in Israel, a nation founded in the wake of the Holocaust. Comparisons between the long siege of Gaza and the Jewish ghettoes of central Europe draw a vociferous denunciation from the government. Israel insists troops did their best to limit civilian casualties in heavily populated areas where Hamas gunmen were attacking from tunnels and had booby-trapped civilian homes.

While senior politicians travel with diplomatic immunity, retired officials have already faced problems travelling abroad.

A retired major general, Doron Almog, was forced to remain on an El Al plane at Heathrow in 2005 after the Israeli military attaché warned he would be arrested if he disembarked. Gen Almog commanded Israeli forces in Gaza when a bombing raid on an apartment block that killed a Hamas commander, Salah Shehadeh, resulted in the deaths of 14 others. The magistrates’ warrant was later quashed.

An unknown number of officials have been notified that they should submit future travel plans to the military for review. Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli lawyer, said that thousands of serving officers could be affected. “I would highly recommend any soldier or officer contemplating going to the UK to reconsider,” he told an Israeli newspaper.

According to Lt Col David Benjamin of the Military Advocate Corps, lawyers were deployed at divisional commands in operation Cast Lead. He said: “Approval of targets which can be attacked, methods of warfare – it all has gone through us.”

But ensuring that those involved in the Gaza Campaign are never sentenced is set to be a long-term challenge for Israel. “The government will stand like a fortified wall to protect each and every one of you from allegations,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, at a military gathering after a ceasefire was called last week.

Source

How dare they scream  Holocaust, when in fact they have helped in the murder of millions.

Screaming Holocaust is there favorite pass time, but it doens’t cut it,  when you look at their history.

Israel was on the road, long before the Holocaust transpired at any rate anyway. Anyone who knows the history of the Jewish Community would know that.

Seems they always use that as a tactic. The rest of the world is suppose to feel guilty and forgive them for their terrorizing innocent people.

Well there have been numerous Holocausts. Like all the Aboriginal Indians in North and South America. In Africa  and other countries. There has even been a Holocaust in Palestine.  Perpetrated by the Israelis them selves. That being said lets move on.

Here are a few Facts about Israel, I had tucked away for prosperity.

They are not the sweet wonderful country, they pretend to be.

Israel’s Latin American trail of terror
By Jeremy Bigwood
June 5, 2003

“I learned an infinite amount of things in Israel, and to that country I owe part of my essence, my human and military achievements” said Colombian paramilitary leader and indicted drug trafficker Carlos Castao in his ghostwritten autobiography, Mi Confesin.

Castao, who leads the Colombian paramilitaries, known by their Spanish acronym AUC, the largest right-wing paramilitary force to ever exist in the western hemisphere reveals that he was trained in the arts of war in Israel as a young man of 18 in the 1980s.

He glowingly adds: “I copied the concept of paramilitary forces from the Israelis,” in his chapter-long account of his Israel experiences.

Castao’s right-wing Phalange-like AUC force is now by far the worst human rights violator in all of the Americas, and ties between that organisation and Israel are continually surfacing in the press.

Outside the law

The AUC paramilitaries are a fighting force that originally grew out of killers hired to protect drug-running operations and large landowners. They were organised into a cohesive force by Castao in 1997. It exists outside the law but often coordinates its actions with the Colombian military, in a way similar to the relationship of the Lebanese Phalange to the Israeli army throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

According to a 1989 Colombian Secret Police intelligence report, apart from training Carlos Castao in 1983, Israeli trainers arrived in Colombia in 1987 to train him and other paramilitaries who would later make up the AUC.

Fifty of the paramilitaries’ “best” students were then sent on scholarships to Israel for further training according to a Colombian police intelligence report, and the AUC became the most prominent paramilitary force in the hemisphere, with some 10,000-12,000 men in arms.

The Colombian AUC paramilitaries are always in need of arms, and it should come as no surprise that some of their major suppliers are Israeli. Israeli arms dealers have long had a presence in next-door Panama and especially in Guatemala.

In May of last year, GIRSA, an Israeli company associated with the Israeli Defence Forces and based in Guatemala was able to buy 3000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition that were then handed over to AUC paramilitaries in Colombia.

Links with the continent

Israel’s military relations with right-wing groups and regimes spans Latin America from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Chile, starting just a few years after the Israeli state came into existence.

Since then, the list of countries Israel has supplied, trained and advised includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
But it isn’t only the sales of planes, guns and weapons system deals that characterises the Israeli presence in Latin America.
Where Israel has excelled is in advising, training and running intelligence and counter-insurgency operations in the Latin American “dirty war” civil conflicts of Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and now Colombia.

In the case of the Salvadoran conflict – a civil war between the right-wing landowning class supported by a particularly violent military pitted against left-wing popular organisations – the Israelis were present from the beginning. Besides arms sales, they helped train ANSESAL, the secret police who were later to form the framework of the infamous death squads that would kill tens of thousands of mostly civilian activists.

From 1975 to 1979, 83% of El Salvador’s military imports came from Israel, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. By 1981, many of those in the civilian popular political movements who had survived the death squads headed for the hills to become guerrillas.

By 1981 there was an open civil war in El Salvador which took over a decade to resolve through negotiations.

Even though the US was openly backing the Salvadoran Army by 1981, as late as November 1983 it was asking for more Israeli “practical assistance” there, according to a declassified secret document obtained recently by Aljazeera.

Among the assistance asked for were helicopters, trucks, rifles, ammunition, and combat infantry advisors to work at both the “company and battalion level of the Salvadoran Army”.

One notable Salvadoran officer trained by the Israelis was Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who always held a high opinion of the Israelis. It was Major D’Aubuisson who ordered the assassination of El Salvador’s archbishop amongst thousands of other murders.
Later he would organise the right-wing National Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) and send his son to study abroad in the relative safety of Israel.

Dirty war

Amazingly, while the Israelis were training the El Salvadoran “death squads” they were also supporting the anti-semitic Argentine military government of the late 1970s and early 1980s – at a time when that government was involved_in another “dirty war” of death squads and disappearances.

In 1978, Nicaragua’s dictator Somoza was making his last stand against a general uprising of the Sandinista-led population who were sick of his family’s dynasty which had ruled and monopolised the county for half a century. The Israelis and the US had been supplying Somoza with weapons for years. But when President Jimmy Carter came into office in 1976 he ordered a cessation of all US military assistance to Nicaragua.
Filling the void, the Israelis immediately increased their weapons supplies to Somoza until he fled the country when the Sandinistas took power.

Israeli operatives then helped train right-wing Nicaraguan Contras in Honduran and Costa Rican camps to fight the Sandinista government, according to Colombian police intelligence reports Aljazeera_has obtained.

At least some of the same Israeli operatives had also previously trained the nucleus of the paramilitary organisations that would become the AUC in Colombia.

But by far the bloodiest case of Israeli involvement in Latin America was its involvement in Guatemala from the 1970s to the 1990s. As in El Salvador, a civil war pitted a populist but, in this case, mainly Indian left against a mainly European oligarchy protected by a brutal Mestizo Army.

As Guatemalan President Carlos Arana said in 1971, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so.”

Active involvement

The Israelis supplied Guatemala with Galil rifles, and built an ammunition factory for them, as well as supplying armoured personnel carriers and Arava planes. Behind the scenes, they were actively involved in the bloodiest counter-insurgency campaign the hemisphere has known since the European conquest, in which at least 200,000 (mostly Indians) were killed.
Like Israel’s original occupation of Palestine, several entire Guatemalan Indian villages were razed and a million people displaced. “The guerrilla is the fish. The people are the sea. If you cannot catch the fish, you have to drain the sea,” said Guatemalan President Rios Montt in 1982.

Guatemalan army officers credit Israeli support with turning the tide against the uprising, not only in the countryside where Israeli counter-insurgency techniques and assistance set up strategic-hamlet-like “development poles” along the lines of the Israeli kibbutz, but also in the cities where “Israeli communication technicians and instructors” working through then-sophisticated computers were able to locate and then decimate guerrillas and their supporters in Guatemala City in 1981.

From the late 1970s until the 1990s, the US could not overtly support the Guatemalan army because of its horrendous human rights record (although there was some covert support), but many in the US government, especially in the CIA, supported Israel in taking up the slack.

Wrong

But the US grew to regret its actions. On 10 March 1999, US President Bill Clinton issued an apology for US involvement in the war: The “United States… support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression…was wrong.” No similar statement has ever been forthcoming from the Israelis.

At the present time, the only major insurgency war in Latin America is in Colombia, where Israel has an overt involvement.
Besides the dozen or so Kfir IAI C-7 jet fighters they have sold the Colombian government, and the Galil rifles produced in Bogota under licence, most of the Israeli ties to the government’s counter-insurgency war are closely-guarded secrets.

Aljazeera’s attempts to obtain clarification on these and other issues for this story were stonewalled by the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Why does Israel continue to provide arms and expertise to the pariahs of the world? Clearly, part of the reason is the revenues produced by arms sales, and part of it has do with keeping up with trends in counter-insurgent war across the globe.
But another factor is what is demanded of Israel by the world’s only superpower, the US, in partial exchange for the superpower’s continued support for Israeli dominance in the Middle East.

Assistance

This relationship can be best illustrated by recently declassified 1983 US government documents obtained by the Washington, DC-based National Security Archives through the Freedom of Information Act.

One such declassified document is a 1983 memo from the notorious Colonel Oliver North of the Reagan Administration’s National Security Council and reads: “As discussed with you yesterday, I asked CIA, Defense, and State to suggest practical assistance which the Israelis might offer in Guatemala and El Salvador.”

Another document, this time a 1983 cable from the US Ambassador in Guatemala to Washington Frederic Chapin shows the money trail.

He says that at a time when the US did not want to be seen directly assisting Guatemala, “we have reason to believe that our good friends the Israelis are prepared, or already have, offered substantial amounts of military equipment to the GOG (Government of Guatemala) on credit terms up to 20 years…(I pass over the importance of making huge concessionary loans to Israel so that it can make term loans in our own backyard).”
In other words, during civil wars in which the US does not want to be seen getting its hands dirty in Latin America, the superpower loans Israel money at a very good rate, and then Israel uses these funds to do the “dirty work”. In this regard, in Latin America at least, Israel has become the “hit-man” for the US.

Wars funded by American Tax Dollars.

Wars and funding to prop up Brutal governments or regimes.

Israel the, Money Laundering, “Funnel Tunnel” for the US.

They love extermination pure and simple. They were more, then willing to help other regimes exterminate innocent people.

Of course it doesn’t end there, they also supplied weapons etc to other countries as well. Africa is also on my list as well. It’s a pretty long list.

What has changed over the years, not much.

Why would anything change.

We will in the future find out who and how many.

The trail of cookie crumbs, is not all that hard to follow.

Have a cruel bloodthirsty regime and you will find both the US or Israeli involvement.

Most time they work together. All in the name of profit, power, control and death.

They call it Self Defense or I am rescuing you.

Iran is evil because thy want to help innocent victims rebuild.

Hamas is pure evil are they?  The Hamas they helped create.

Haitian’s are pure evil are they?

Indians are pure evil are they?

All the innocent people they had a hand, in murdering are all evil are they?

Death Squads are a good thing are they?

I can almost bet, the “Death Squads” in the Philippines, were trained by Israelis.

The Israeli Gov. and the US Gov. should mind their own business and clean up their, own moral bankruptcy.

They both should clean up their own Weapons of Mass Destruction.

They are two the most corrupt, countries in the world.

They blame everyone else of crimes, they themselves are actually committing.

Well like all criminals they will plead not guilty. They are no different from any other criminal.

Both countries lied to their people.

Both oppressed their own people.

Both are warmongering countries.

They could pass as twins, in their sins against humanity.

Those who are corrupt past and present should be rooted out and charged.

There is no statute of limitation on murder or war crimes.

They should be held responsible for the millions, they have murdered or helped murder. Directly or indirectly they are responsible.

Can or will Obama be able to clean up the US.

Maybe:  We will have to wait and see.

Will the corruption in Israel, get cleaned up, not flippin likely.

Will the corruption in the International Agency’s get cleaned up, we will have to wait and see.

The less they do to stop those in the US Gov. and Israeli Gov. the more obvious it is, they are corrupted.

Information Wanted by the International Criminal Court/ UN: Falk Likens Gaza to Warsaw Ghetto

Israel Accused of Executing Parents in Front of Children

White Phosphorus Victims in Gaza

What Types of Gruesome Weapons Did Israel Use in Lebanon?

UN: Israel should pay for Humanitarian Aid they Destoyed

Father: ‘I watched an Israeli soldier shoot dead my two little girls’

Unusually Large U.S. Weapons Shipment to Israel: Are the US and Israel Planning a Broader Middle East War?

Outrage as Israel bombs UN and Hospital

Israel Navy ships turn back “Spirit of Humanity” carrying Gaza humanitarian aid

President of the United Nations General Assembly: Israel violating International Law

Israel Hits another “United Nations” Building in Gaza

Israel Violating Egyptian Airspace to attack Gaza

Israel continues to attack Hospitals, Clinics and Public Buildings in Gaza

Red Cross slams Israel over 4 day wait to access wounded

The making of Israel’s Apartheid in Palestine

Samouni family recounts Gaza horror

79 % of the time: Israel caused conflicts not Hamas

Gaza War Why?: Natural Gas valued at over $4 billion MAYBE?

Israel ‘rammed’ medical aid boat headed to Gaza

Israel Used Internationally Banned Weaponry in Massive Airstrikes Across Gaza Strip

Shoot Then Ask, Israeli Soldiers Told

Gaza (6) A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Israel’s ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

Gaza Families Eat Grass as Israel Blocks Food Aid

Will the world do nothing to stop Genocide in Gaza?

Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty

Israel blocks foreign media from Gaza

U.N.: Israel won’t allow food aid to enter Gaza

Indexed List of all Stories in Archives

900 people killed in Philippines by ‘mysterious death squads’

Peasant leaders, environmental campaigners and student activists in the Philippines are being murdered by mysterious death squads who appear to have close links to the army.

By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
January 19 2009

Since President Gloria Arroyo came to power in 2001, campaigners say over 900 people have been extra-judicially executed and 200 more have “disappeared”.

A United Nations report in 2007 blamed the army for most of the killings, but no action has been taken and the unexplained murders continue.

One of the most dangerous areas is the Compostela Valley, on the southern island of Mindanao. It is a place of great natural beauty as well as rural poverty which is home to several foreign owned gold mines and a long-standing communist insurgency. In the final few weeks of 2008, five apparently peaceful, law-abiding men were mysteriously shot dead in the area.

The first victim was Danilo Qualbar, a 48-year-old activist for the Left-wing People First party, who was shot on November 6. Human rights researchers said there was no autopsy and no investigation – the police did not even interview the victim’s family.

According to Mr Qualbar’s widow, a group of soldiers called out “that one” as her husband passed through a military checkpoint a week before his murder.

The next victim was 4 days later when Rolando Antolihao, 39 – a banana plantation worker and People First party member – was shot dead in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter. There was a small army post 50 metres away but according to reports the soldiers on duty did respond to the shooting.

In the following weeks two more activists were shot.

Finally, two days before Christmas Fernando Sarmiento, a 39-year-old environmentalist who argued that a local gold mine was damaging the interests of local people, was killed by assassins fitting the same description.

Mr Sarmiento’s friends said he was arrested by the army in July and accused of being a communist guerrilla.

Witnesses noted that the killers in the Compostela Valley usually arrived on a red Honda motorcycle and used a .45 pistol. At the top of the list of suspects are soldiers from local army camps, but there has been no official investigation into the shootings, or whether the deaths are even in any way connected.

Human rights campaigners claim that the killings are part of an offensive launched by President Arroyo in an attempt to defeat Maoist guerrillas called the New People’s Army (NPA) by 2010.

Although they deny the murders, senior army officers claim that legal parties such People First and other activist groups which most of the victims belong to are fronts for the communists.

Instead, the army frequently claims, the deaths are a result of feuds and purges within the communist party.

According to Lt Col Ernesto Torres, an army spokesman the “security forces are convenient scapegoats” for the killings and he claims allegations against the army are made by “groups who want to bring down the government and replace it with their own brand of government”.

Yet, according to Alan Davies, director of the Philippine Human Rights Project, “No agency, either international or local, is trying to properly investigate and map these killings to see how they are linked”.

One woman who knows the pain this official silence causes is Erlinda Cadapan. Her daughter Sherlyn was a 29-year-old university student campaigning for peasant rights when she was abducted along with a friend by suspected soldiers in 2006.

A witness, who claims he met the two women in army custody, has testified that he saw them raped and tortured by soldiers and that soldiers told him they were later killed.

Mrs Cadapan has written to President Arroyo but received no response.

In September a court ruled that, if they were still alive, the women must be released.

“That makes me really angry because in spite of the ruling no one from the government is willing to help me. They are trying to protect the armed forces,” said Mrs Cadapan.

“There is some rumour that my daughter is still alive so we are hoping and praying fro that,” she said. “But still they deny everything.”

President Arroyo has remained mostly silent on the 900 killings and 200 “disappearances” on her watch, the army denies any role and no-one has ever been prosecuted.

Source

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 9:10 am  Comments Off on 900 people killed in Philippines by ‘mysterious death squads’  
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