Rahul Gandhi: anti-corruption campaign undermines democracy

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and widely seen as a prime minister-in-waiting, said Friday that a popular anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by activist Anna Hazare was “a dangerous precedent for a democracy.” See AFP's report here . Hazare’s fast for a strong anti-corruption law is in its eleventh day and millions across India have rallied to the cause in huge protests. It was Gandhi's first public statement on an issue that has snowballed into a full-blown crisis for the government. "A process divorced from the machinery of an elected government, that seeks to undo checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament, sets a dangerous precedent for our democracy," he said. Gandhi also said he had "serious doubts" about the idea that a single piece of legislation would eradicate the corruption that permeates all levels of Indian society. The dispute, however, is over the terms of an anti-corruption law presently before parliament that would create a new ombudsman. The BBC summarised some of the differences thus: Mr Hazare says ombudsman should have power to investigate prime minister and senior judges; the government refuses. Mr Hazare wants the ombudsman to be able to investigate MPs accused of taking bribes to vote or ask questions in parliament; the government says such probes should be carried out by MPs. In recent days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who sat beside Gandhi as he spoke, has sought to reach out to Hazare with a series of conciliatory gestures aimed at bringing the hunger strike to an end. But at the beginning of his campaign, the government had taken a tough line, initially arresting Hazare and several thousand of his supporters in a move widely criticised as repressive and short-sighted. Meanwhile, three top Indian industrialists have expressed concern over the impact worsening corruption has on their businesses.

India under pressure over Kashmir mass graves

Pressure is mounting on India’s government to launch a full-scale investigation over 2,700 corpses found in unmarked graves across northern Kashmir. See report by Wall street Journal here . The existence of the graves, many of which hold the remains of civilians killed during the height of the Kashmir insurgency in the 1990s, has long been known by locals and was detailed in a 2008 report by a Kashmiri human rights group. But the report by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially recognises the existence of the mass graves – and increases pressure on New Delhi to...

South Africa's dilemma over Libya

South Africa is blocking a US proposal at the UN Security Council to unfreeze $1.5bn of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's assets so they may used by the victorious rebel leadership for development and humanitarian work. South Africa says it will approve $500m for urgent humanitarian assistance, but not the rest, because the National Transitional Council has not been recognised by the UN itself. See The Guardian's report here . The NTC has been recognised by dozens of Western states, as well as neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia as the legitimate government of Libya. Urging South Africa to...

Bashir declares ceasefire in South Kordofan, but blocks foreign access

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared a “two-week unilateral ceasefire” with rebels in the troubled state of South Kordofan, during an unannounced visit to the state's capital of Kadugli. Bashir’s declaration was described by BBC’s correspondent as catching “his own military - and the rebels they are fighting - by surprise”. The move follows pressure from both the US and the UN, who are pushing for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as detailed by a UN report . Bashir did go on to say that not a single foreign agency would be allowed into the region, contradicting an earlier acceptance by his government to allow UN agencies access to South Kordofan. It comes days after talks between President Bashir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to reach a solution to end the crisis.

Western states seek Security Council action over Syria's crackdown

A European and US draft resolution will call for UN Security Council sanctions against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and several other top officials, council diplomats told Reuters on Monday. More than 2,200 people have been killed in a five-month-old crackdown by Syrian forces against widespread anti-government protests that have gripped the country. See Reuters' report here . The draft would also call for a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The resolution's drafters are the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal . The five Western powers hoped to circulate a draft to the other 10 council members. Once it reaches the full 15-nation council, there will be further negotiations and the text will likely be revised. Last week the UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, recommended the Security Council refer Syria's crackdown to the ICC saying the government may have been guilty of crimes against humanity.

China patches up with Libyan rebels

China has urged Libya to protect its investments after a rebel member was quoted as saying the new regime would have problems working with countries that did not back the rebel movement from the beginning of the uprising. Reuters reported an official of the National Transitional Council (NTC) at a Libyan oil firm in control of the rebels as saying: “We don't have a problem with western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil." China has responded by calling on the NTC to protect its investments and pointed out that the agreements in place would benefit both countries.

UN Human Rights Council approves international probe into Syria’s crackdown

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has launched a new commission of inquiry into Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters, including possible crimes against humanity. See reports by Al-Jazeera and BBC . By 33 votes in favour to four against and nine abstentions, the HRC passed a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry... to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria since July 2011". China and Russia said they opposed the measure as unnecessary intervention. The resolution condemned the government’s violations “such as...

EU extends sanctions on Syria, mulls oil embargo

The European Union extended its sanctions on Syrian officials and businesses, but stopped short of imposing a full oil embargo on Damascus. However, a diplomatic source told AFP : “We are in a process of working through what further tools we want to use.” “ We are open to all options - the oil embargo, sanctions on banks and telecoms, in line with the Americans - but we want to make sure sanctions are targeted at the Assad regime.” “ We are acutely aware of the need to ramp up sanctions , but we don't want them to impact on the Syrian people.” Some 90 percent of Syrian crude oil is exported...

Libya’s rebels sweep into Tripoli

Libya’s rebels took control of most of Tripoli in a lightning advance Sunday, celebrating the victory in the city’s symbolic Green Square, as Muammar Gaddafi’s defences collapsed with little resistance. The rebels were welcomed by thousands of jubilant civilians who rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters, who linked up with comrades said to have infiltrated the city in recent days.

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