Gillard drops controversial Malaysia swap plan

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dropped controversial plans to implement a refugee swap deal with Malaysia, after facing almost certain defeat in the Australian House of Representatives . The plan which involved sending 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for 4,000 UN approved refugees over a four year period, was deemed illegal by the Australian High Court in September as the safety of the refugees could not be guaranteed in Malaysia. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Gillard withdrew the bill after it was staring parliamentary defeat, which would have made it the first bill since 1929 to have been defeated in the lower house. Commenting that Australia would still accept the 4,000 refugees from Malaysia, Gillard said , "It's clear that the migration law of this country will not be amended, and as a result the government is not in a position now... to have asylum-seekers processed in third countries." Graham Thom of Amnesty International, hailed the withdrawal as very significant but warned Australia still has a long way to go. “I think we need to remember that this just brings Australia back into line with most Western democratic countries. So, it’s only a first step; an important step, but a first step that brings us into line with other like-minded countries.” See him talking to Al Jazeera below.

US sends special forces to assist hunt for LRA leaders

US President Barack Obama will be sending 100 “combat-equipped” troops to Uganda, to help defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group accused of gross human rights violations. In a letter to John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, Obama wrote , "These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA." He went on to say that the move was “in the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States”. Obama also stressed that they would not be there to lead the effort but would not engage in combat unless “necessary for self-defense”. The LRA leader Joseph Kony is accused of war crimes and wanted by the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for his arrest in 2005. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the move was part of a broader effort in "pursuing the LRA and seeking to bring top commanders to justice ." Obama's decision was commended by human rights groups and anti-genocide groups, against the group he once labeled "affront to human dignity".

Outrage at Malawi's refusal to arrest Bashir

Malawi's refusal to arrest Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes in Darfar, has sparked international condemnation. Bashir arrived in Malawi for a trade summit on Thursday. Human rights groups and the European Union have urged Malawi, a signatory to the ICC, to arrest Bashir. A n arrest warrant was issued for Bashir, by the International Criminal court, in 2008. In a statement released on Friday, EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said, " The European Union is a staunch supporter of the ICC and the fight against impunity ." " The Court is a valuable instrument of the international community to ensure that there is no impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern : genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes must not go unpunished and their prosecution must be ensured by measures at both domestic and international level ,"

Philippines army fabricated ‘child warriors’

Human Rights Watch has accused the Philippines army of falsely labeling innocent children as members of the rebel New People’s Army and taking them into custody. In a press release , Elaine Pearson deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The army is concocting stories of rebel child soldiers that are putting children at risk for propaganda purposes. The government should get the military to stop this despicable practice and investigate the officers involved.” The New York-based group investigated three cases of alleged child soldiers being captured by the government forces and...

Amnesty: detained Gaddafi forces subject to abuse

Amnesty International has stated that upto 2500 Gaddaffi forces being detained by Libya's National Transitional Council are beign subjected to beating, torture and abuse. In a report released on Thursday, Amnesty alleges that whipping and screaming could be heard from detention centres and those prisoners who have subsequently been interviewed by the human rights group have confirmed such reports. Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said, "There is a real risk that without firm and immediate action, some patterns of the past might be repeated...

Kosovo key to Serbia EU membership

Serbia must re-engage with Kosovo and improve relations in order to become a candidate for joining the European Union said the European Commission in a report released today. Enlargement commissioner for the EU Stefan Fule said he recommended granting candidate status to Serbia "on the understanding that Serbia re-engages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date." Membership talks will commence when further steps are taken to normalise relations with Kosovo, Mr Fule added. Serbia has handed over the last two war crimes...

Britain summons Syrian ambassador over diaspora intimidation

The British Foreign Secretary has summoned the Syrian ambassador and warned that Britain will not allow the intimidation of Syrian dissidents in the UK. William Hague told Parliament on Thursday, "The Syrian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office this morning and told that any harassment or intimidation of Syrians in our country is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. " British police are also launching an investigation into allegations that Syrian diplomats photographed pro-democracy protestors in London and sent them back to Damascus. It is alleged that these photos were then...

Canada is obliged to arrest George Bush – Amnesty

Amnesty International has called on the Canadian government to arrest former US President George W. Bush. Amnesty opines that enough evidence exists in the public domain to give rise to an obligation for an arrest by Canadian authorities if Bush arrives for a planned visit on the 20th of October. Former President Bush is accused of having authorised the CIA to conduct a secret detention programme where acts of torture were committed and of publicly stating that he himself authorised the use of waterboarding on individuals whose torture has been confirmed. As the former Commander-in-Chief for...

US hails dramatic change in Burma as Kachin complain of atrocities

Recent developments in Burma have been cautiously welcomed by western diplomats, while NGO’s accuse the Burmese government of war crimes. Burma has seen a shift in policy since the first elections in 20 years and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in November last year. Talks between the Nobel Peace laureate and the government are thought to be behind positive steps taken by the government to address concerns of the Burmese population.

China calls on Assad to speed up reforms

In a sign that they may be losing patience with the Syrian regime, China called on President Assad to speed up with implementing reforms as anti-government protests continue to rock the country. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin gave a statement saying , “China is highly concerned about the situation in Syria, is against the use of violence, and we hope not to see any more bloodshed and casualties.” "We believe the Syrian government should move faster to honour its reform pledges and swiftly start to push forward the inclusive political process with the broad participation of all parties...

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