Weekly News Review

30th November, 2003

Left MEPs welcome decision to free the "Thessaloniki 7"

The recent decision by the Council of Magistrates' Court of Thessaloniki to release the 7 persons held in jail since the Thessaloniki Summit of June 21 last, has been welcomed by Greek MEPs Mihail Papayannakis and Emmanouil Bakopoulos, members of the European United Left /Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament (GUE/NGL).

The Greek authorities had been holding seven people in custody, following the demonstrations that took place during the Summit. They were charged with constructing and possessing explosives and intentionally causing an explosion. Five of the prisoners had begun a hunger strike some 50 days ago, which had put their lives at risk. However, television footage revealed that the bag in which the explosives were found appeared to be placed on the scene by riot police and then later attributed to the seven demonstrators.

Following the decision of the Council, the Greek MEPs said the following: "We welcome the decision of the court to release the detainees on bail and allow them a fair trial and the right to fair representation. However, it saddens us to see that the Greek government was willing to prolong their detention, and would only yield when faced with international pressure. It appears that the 9/11 attacks has resulted in such distorted legislation that the dignity of our citizens and the right to free representation have now been seriously compromised in the name of the fight against terrorism".

 Three of the demonstrators are seriously ill in hospital following their hunger strike, and must undergo a painstaking rehabilitation.

The two MEPs added: "We must make sure that the right to voice a different opinion is upheld. These people should be considered innocent until a court proves them guilty. No one should have to spend five months in jail without the right to fair representation".

Bush Junta opens 9 million acres of Arctic wilderness to its Big Oil financiers

Disregarding conservationists calls for common sense and balance between oil and gas development and environmental protection, the Bush junta announced this week that it would put up for leasing the entire nearly 9 million-acre northwest planning area of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. This 23.5-million-acre area, also known as America’s Western Arctic – the largest remaining block of unprotected land in the US is home to myriad wildlife and waterfowl.

“The administration has certainly given big oil and gas plenty to be thankful for this holiday,” said Eleanor Huffines, Alaska Regional Director of The Wilderness Society. “The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) announced today fails to give real protection to one single acre, resource, or cultural value. Just like the energy bill now before Congress, this plan makes drilling and spilling the dominant activities on this spectacular wildlife and culturally-rich region.”

The FEIS also weakens current environmental safeguards, by allowing the Bureau of Land Management to modify or waive all of them on a case-by-case basis for “economic” reasons. In addition, it changes existing prescriptive lease stipulations to vague “guidelines” set by the industry itself. These decisions were made in the absence of a monitoring program and were made without scientific basis.

BLM will initially delay offering leases in some areas near Peard Bay and Kasegaluk Lagoon, but these deferrals offer no real or permanent protection for these important wildlife and subsistence resources. The decision apparently recognizes the sensitivity of these vital resources, yet still makes these areas available immediately for seismic work, as well as future oil and gas development.

A report this year by the National Academy of Sciences found that after more than 25 years of drilling on Alaska’s North Slope, the impacts of the current extent of industrial activity have eroded wildland values, human health, clean air, and clean water over an area far exceeding the area of the industrial oil drilling complex itself. The NAS report also reported that wildlife have suffered in a number of ways, including direct mortality and displacement, reduced reproductive rates of birds and caribou, and altered distributions of caribou and bowhead whales.

“By ignoring a record number of comments from the American public who urged a more balanced approach that would allow drilling in non-sensitive areas but protect special areas with critical wildlife habitat, the administration has yet again put the interests of its big oil and gas friends ahead of the public interest,” said Deirdre McDonnell, an attorney with Earthjustice in Alaska.

To view the executive summary of the Final Plan for the Northwest NPRA go to www.ak.blm.gov.

Weapons of ass destruction

I see a donkey was arrested by US forces in Baghdad for its involvement in attacks on the Iraqi oil ministry and a hotel complex. The donkey, one of two involved in attacks by rockets mounted on donkey carts, appeared calm and composed although the guns of the occupation soldiers were trained on it.  The donkey reminded me of other donkeys involved in similar attacks in  Lebanon and Palestine. It seems donkey attacks have become a popular form of Arab resistance. The strategy is some sort of legacy, handed down through the ages.  Read the rest of the Iraqi resistance’s answer to Dubya (no offence meant to the donkey) at


Amnesty International: The Case of a Rape Foretold

Amnesty International is primarily motivated not by human rights but by publicity. Second comes money. Third comes getting more members. Fourth, internal turf battles. And then finally, human rights, genuine human rights concerns.

-- Francis Boyle, Prof. of International Law and former board member of Amnesty International

Human Rights organizations used to play an important role raising awareness of human rights abuses, scoring an occasional point with one state or another, and were instrumental in releasing a handful of hapless prisoners. However, they have increasingly abdicated their role as modern-day paladins of justice, to become politically manipulated organizations that are more concerned with fundraising or appearing on TV. Several authors have described how human rights organizations have played a role in priming the propaganda pump prior to war; these accounts make sobering reading, and they dispel preconceptions about some of these organizations. Read more at  here

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper: this week’s issue features the US terror in Iraq and the strengthening resistance. Plus news, information, opinion and debate on Australian and world affairs from an environmental and left perspective.  Read it all at http://www.greenleft.org.au


Volunteer wanted in London for anti-racist office: The Institute of Race Relations is looking for a volunteer, 'ready and willing', to undertake basic clerical tasks and provide support to the full-time staff two days per week. These tasks would include photocopying, publication orders, the ordering of stationery, books and reports and other general office duties. We can pay travel and provide lunch. If you are looking for office experience and have an interest in race relations, please discuss possible volunteer work with Jenny Bourne at the IRR on 020 7837 0041.