The European Environment Bureau (EEB), which brings together most of Europe’s environmental NGOs, this week launched a Europe-wi

30th November, 2001




EU environmentalist lobby calls for taxes on energy

Farm and Trade Policy Head hails Doha “victory”

“The combined forces of activist groups and ministers from developing nations scored a significant victory on the issue of drug patents. Goaded by a backlash against pharmaceutical companies that have limited access to affordable AIDS treatment drugs, the organization agreed to drop WTO rules on intellectual property rights, including patents, when those rules undercut public health objectives.”  For more, read the whole of Mark Ritchie’s article from the US progressive magazine Mother Jones

For more information on the WTO, check out http://www.wtowatch.org/

Harsh sentence on peace activist condemned

Members of the Scottish and European Parliaments have strongly criticised a Sheriff (equivalent to a magistrate) for the sentence she passed on a peace activist in Dumbarton Sheriff Court today for her part in the “Big Blockade” of Faslane naval base last February.

Jenny Gaiawyn, a marine biology student in her early twenties at Bangor University in North Wales, was found guilty on 5th November of a breach of the peace for her part in the blockade. Sentence was deferred for social enquiry reports and today Sheriff Morag Galbraith sentenced her to three months in prison.  Ms Gaiawyn told the court that the Scottish court system was "arrogant and petty-minded" but she was not charged with Contempt of Court for that remark, which could have explained at least some of the heavy sentence.

Leader of the Scottish Socialist Party and Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Tommy Sheridan said: "This is a dammed disgrace. People guilty of threatening life and limb end up with less of a sentence and yet a woman willing to fight for peace is punished by a court system which is increasingly discredited and out of control." Mr Sheridan will ask Scottish Justice Minister Jim Wallace to set up an enquiry into the case.

Dr. Caroline Lucas, a Member of the European Parliament for the Green Party of England and Wales was herself fined £150 on the same charge. Dr Lucas said: "The 3-month prison sentence handed down to Jenny Gaiawyn today is an outrageous attack on her human rights, and a scandalous reflection of the arbitrariness of Scottish law.  The right to peacefully protest is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and it should be upheld in law. The sheer absurdity of this sentence is demonstrated by comparing it to other sentences handed down in recent months for the same offence - one person has been acquitted, most others have received relatively low fines.   When the law is administered in such an arbitrary way, it makes a mockery of the legal system. Coming in the same week as we have heard about the disproportionate number of women in British jails, this sentence also shows a complete lack of proper judgement."  Go to this website for more on the background to the protest.

Democracy

Cuba 167 USA 3!

The UN. General Assembly, for the 10th consecutive year, this week voted overwhelmingly for an end to the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba.

The vote was 167 to 3, identical to last year's record vote. Despite strong UN support for American positions since the Sept. 11 attack against the United States, sympathy for Cuba's financial plight and condemnation of the blockade remained unchanged.

Those opposing the resolution, in addition to the United States, were Israel and the Marshall Islands, the same American client states which supported Washington in 2000. Even the UK joined the rest of the EU in a rare act of independence. Latvia, Micronesia and Nicaragua all abstained, though Morocco, which abstained last year, this time voted against.

EU member states voted against the US largely because of American attempts to enforce its laws outside the area of its jurisdiction, which upsets major corporations as well as Cuba’s more usual friends.  The so-called Helms-Burton Act seeks to prevent foreign firms from having commercial dealings and investments Cuba.

Belgium, currently occupying the EU’s rotating presidency, said that Europeans deplored the consequences of the embargo on the Cuban people. Speaker after speaker, especially those from developing countries, said the unilateral embargo was a violation of the UN Charter, and affected international trade.

The resolution, as in previous years, referred to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that allowed US citizens who were Cuban citizens before the 1959 revolution to file suit in US courts against foreign companies or individuals who "traffic" in expropriated property. Even within the US the law would seem to be unconstitutional: whilst the fashion is now for privatisation, in the past many American states have expropriated private property in a number of perfectly legal ways, and the Supreme Court has upheld their right to do so in the public interest.

Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, moreover, said during the debate that Cuba would be willing to reach an agreement "for the nearly 6,000 US companies and citizens" whose properties were nationalised after the 1959 revolution. He made the unusual offer with the proviso that "Cuba recognises their rights  and would be willing to reach an agreement that also takes into account the extremely burdensome economic and human hardships inflicted on our country by the blockade."

Two years ago, a Havana court claimed more than $180 billion in damages from the US government for deaths and injuries caused to the Cuban population throughout the last forty years. More than 3,000 Cubans have been killed in terrorist attacks since the 1959 revolution, and almost all of these attacks emanated from within US territory.

Mr Perez added that putting Cuba on the US State Department list of terrorist states was particularly outrageous.

"This is an outrage to the Cuban people, who have in fact, as everyone knows, been the victims of countless terrorist acts organised and financed with total impunity from U.S. territory,"  Mr Perez said.

For more news about Cuba go to http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk

US Congress members fight Bush assault on Constitution

Congressmen and congresswomen from both parties have joined forces to resist the Bush junta’s introduction of military tribunals and other elements of what the bipartisan group called “a civil rights calamity.” The Representatives, from Georgia, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, California, Ohio and Texas,  stressed that they shared the  “collective outrage over the September 11 terrorist attacks,” but added “we do nothing to win the battle against terrorism by sacrificing our precious freedoms and liberties.”

One of the group, Democrat John Conyers, said “The Administration and the Attorney General have taken a series of constitutionally dubious actions that place the Executive branch in the untenable role of legislator, prosecutor, judge, and jury. We have been down this road of overreaction before. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. After World War I, our government wrongfully beat and deported thousands of immigrants. During World War II, we placed Japanese-Americans in internment camps. After the Oklahoma City bombing we gutted habeas corpus and decimated our immigration laws. When Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism bill last month, I was concerned that the Attorney General would unilaterally and unjustifiably seek to expand the government's powers. But I never dreamed he would make me a prophet so quickly. Since then Mr. Aschroft (Bush’s Attorney General – ed.) has dealt one hammer blow after another to the very constitutional values he repeatedly promised to uphold at his confirmation hearings.” Mr Conyers went on to enumerate just what these “hammer blows” were: Mr Ashcroft, he said, “totally ignored my letter of October 31 asking for information concerning the 1,000-plus immigrants who have been detained for undisclosed reasons since the September attacks. On October 31, the Attorney General issued regulations permitting the Department of Justice to unilaterally intercept attorney-client phone calls. On November 9, the Administration announced a policy of ethnic profiling by which it would discriminate in granting visas to men from Middle Eastern countries and target 5,000 Arab male visitors for intensive questioning. Surely in 21st Century America we can do better than saying than if you are Arab you are a suspect. Finally, on November 13, the Administration announced the creation of secret military courts to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism offences.”

Representative Conyers  accused Bush’s Administration of sweeping away “the independent judiciary, the right to a public trial, the right to an appeal, the right to counsel, due process, equal protection and habeas corpus,” adding that this was “Not bad for two weeks' work.”

French left women unite in solidarity with Afghan women

An “appeal for the participation of Afghan women in the process of democratisation of their country was launched this week in Paris on the initiative of Sylviane Ainardi, Member of the European Parliament for the French Communist Party (PCF).

Recognising that the people of Afghanistan are “made up of different cultures and ethnic groups” but it is “equally importantly composed of both men and women.”

The signatories of the appeal, who were all women and included elected representatives from the Communist and Socialist Parties and the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR), as well as a number of celebrities, declared that “Women, who make up more than half of the population, have for years experienced the negation of their intelligence, of their faces, of their existence, of their fundamental rights. Without them, neither change nor progress is possible. In the past we have mobilised against the horrors they suffered. Today we mobilise to ensure that they take their rightful place in the political negotiations which are under way and in the future institutions which will come out of them."

Northern Alliance “waged brutal war against women”

“So many of those now involved in what has come to be called the Northern Alliance have the blood of our beloved people on their hands, as of course do the Taliban. Their sustained atrocities have been well documented by independent international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and others. From 1992 to 1996 in particular, these forces waged a brutal war against women, using rape, torture, abduction and forced marriage as their weapons. Many women committed suicide during this period as their only escape. Any initiative to establish a broad-based government must exclude all Taliban and other criminal Jehadi factions, unless and until a specific faction or person has been absolved of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Otherwise, the people will again be plunged into the living hell that engulfed our country from 1992 to 1996 -- under elements now involved in the Northern Alliance -- and continues to the present under the Taliban. The continuation of U.S. attacks and the increase in the number of innocent civilian victims not only gives an excuse to the Taliban, but also will cause the empowering of the fundamentalist forces in the region and even elsewhere in the world."

From a statement by the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan. For more go to  http://www.rawa.org

Collateral damage

“Most children in Afghanistan, lacking toys, play with what they find. In this tiny, dusty village, they have been finding pieces of a cluster bomb.”

                                                New York Times, 23 November 2001



Cynic casts doubt on Bush’s feminist credentials

“But where was President Bush's (and Bill Clinton's) liberating army before the repressive Taliban decided to harbor an American mass murderer? Nowhere. We were too busy pledging to give the Taliban tens of millions of dollars (in May) for its successful crackdown on poppy cultivation -- a plant used to make opium. Encouraging the war on drugs was apparently more vital than interfering in their war against women.”

                                                Robyn E. Blumner, St Petersburg Times (Florida, USA), 25 November 2001

The interesting thing about this piece is that it appeared in a mainstream newspaper in a state run by one of the Bush clan’s warlords. Read the rest at this website

Leading US writer states obvious

"What Osama did is not a war. It can't be a war because Osama is not a nation. He is a gang. It is like being hit by the Mafia. You don't declare war on Sicily because the Mafia happen to live in Sicily. You don't bomb Palermo. You get the international police and you track him down." Gore Vidal