Daily Archives: 20/03/2011

( International Atomic Energy Agency believes there have been some positive developments in the last 24 hours, but the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious. The latest IAEA Briefing on the Emergency (20 March 2011, 15.30 UTC) said radiation levels in major Japanese cities have not changed significantly since yesterday and remain below those which are dangerous to human health.

Graham Andrew, Special Adviser to the IAEA Director General on Scientific and Technical Affairs reported:

1. Current Situation

There have been some positive developments in the last 24 hours, but the overall situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious.

Efforts to restore electrical power to the site continue. Off-site electrical power has been connected to the local substation for Unit 2 today. Work is continuing under difficult conditions to connect power from the substation to the reactor building. Seawater is still being injected into the reactor pressure vessels of Units 1, 2 and 3.Water injection is not needed for Unit 4 as the reactor is in outage.

White smoke or vapour from Unit 3 is still being observed, but it is less intense than on previous days. Spraying of the reactor building with water is in progress. Following an initial rise in pressure in the Unit 3 reactor pressure vessel, plans were made to vent the vessel should it become necessary. However, from information recently provided by NISA they have decided not to vent as the vessel pressure has started to reduce.

The situation in the reactor spent fuel pools is relatively stable, but is still of concern. Spraying of water into the pool of Unit 4 started yesterday. The Agency still lacks data on water levels and temperatures at the spent fuel pools at Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.

A positive development is that cooling has been restored to the reactor pressure vessels in Units 5 and 6. Temperatures in the spent fuel pools at these two units, which had been rising in the last few days, have now fallen significantly to around 40 degrees centigrade from a maximum of about 69 degrees yesterday. Two diesel generators, one for each Unit, are providing electricity.

2. Radiation Monitoring

Radiation levels in major Japanese cities have not changed significantly since yesterday and remain below those which are dangerous to human health.

The IAEA radiation monitoring team took additional measurements yesterday between Tokyo and locations up to 150 km from the Fukushima site. Dose rates were typically a few microsieverts per hour compared to a typical background level of around 0.1 microsieverts per hour.

From the measurements taken within the exclusion zone, no significant alpha radiation has been detected so far.

This morning, we received additional data from the Agency’s monitoring team which indicated contamination on the ground at a location 50 to 70 km from the Fukushima site. The team will make confirmatory measurements tomorrow at the same locations to help validate the initial results. Grass and other samples have also been taken by the team from various locations in the Fukushima Prefecture for analysis. In the coming days, the IAEA monitoring team plans to take measurements at the same locations monitored by the Japanese authorities. This will assist in the validation of measurements. The IAEA is sending additional monitoring experts to Japan to supplement its capabilities in the field.

Some results on the monitoring of foodstuffs have been made available by Japan to the IAEA and FAO. We can confirm measurements indicating that, in some areas, Iodine-131 in milk and in freshly grown leafy vegetables, such as spinach and spring onions, is significantly above the levels set by Japan for restricting consumption of these food products.



( Jerusalem – Hamas authorities in Gaza should punish those responsible for attacks on peaceful demonstrators calling for Palestinian political reconciliation, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Hamas police violently dispersed several peaceful demonstrations in Gaza beginning March 15, 2011, including sealing off access to public squares and universities and beating trapped demonstrators. “It is a dismal reflection on Hamas that it is violently cracking down on peaceful demonstrators calling for political reconciliation,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is just the latest instance of Hamas assaulting Palestinians’ fundamental freedoms.”Coordinated protests were also held on March 15 in the West Bank, where men in civilian clothes beat protesters, and the Palestinian Authority police briefly detained two protesters.

In Gaza, youth organizers had called for protests against the Palestinian political division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which is led by the rival Fatah movement, at Gaza City’s Unknown Soldier Square on March 15. Prime Minister Ismail Haniya’s office stated on March 14 that it “supports the efforts by the young people and the factions that aim to end the division.” However, Hamas authorities had refused the unity protesters a permit while granting a permit to a pro-Hamas group, according to news reports.

Shortly after the unity protesters arrived at the square at 9 a.m., pro-Hamas demonstrators confronted them. The unity protesters relocated to al-Katiba square, where Hamas authorities told them they could stay until 7 p.m.

“The [pro-unity] organizers had planned to set up tents and stalls – they wanted to make it another Tahrir [Square],” one protester who asked to be identified only as “Heba” told Human Rights Watch, referring to the site of anti-government protests in Cairo. “There were university students, mothers, fathers, kids, all kinds of people. Then at 7 p.m., plainclothes and uniformed police besieged the square and started to beat everyone, with clubs and other things. Someone hit me with a chair.” She said that plainclothes police insulted women protesters, using derogatory sexual language.

Salah abd el ‘Ati, a researcher for the Independent Commission for Human Rights, the official Palestinian rights ombudsman, told Human Rights Watch that police beat him while he was monitoring the protests. “At 7 p.m. the police came in from all four entrances to the square, closing them off so people couldn’t escape, and started beating people,” he said. “There were already security officers in plainclothes in the crowd who began beating people when the police came in. Five people attacked me, three in civilian clothes and two in uniform. They were hitting my head with batons, and when I protected my head with my arms they beat my arms and by back.”

Abd el ‘Ati said he saw police and other security forces using electro-shock devices against protesters, and that they fired guns in the air and drove motorcycles through the crowd.

A freelance journalist, “Samoud,” told Human Rights Watch that an unknown assailant stabbed her in the back with a knife as she tried to flee. “It felt like a sharp sting in the upper left-hand side of my back,” she said. “I was trying to escape when I overheard an officer say ‘Don’t let her leave, I want her in the Jawazat [police station].'”

Police arrested her, confiscated her cell phone and took her to the police station, where she was placed in an interrogation room. “I didn’t see other detainees there but I heard someone yelling, ‘Don’t beat me! Give me back my camera.'” When she asked police to let her seek medical care, they brought in another detainee, gave her a bottle of iodine, and told her to treat the wound. “She said the cut was deep and demanded that I get real help since she had no medical training,” Samoud said. More than an hour later, after Samoud and the other detainee repeatedly asked for an ambulance, police summoned a nurse, who eventually convinced the police to let Samoud go to al-Shifa hospital.

Samoud told Human Rights Watch that police detectives at al-Shifa told doctors to register her under a false name, “Sausan Badr,” possibly to avoid creating medical records that could be used as evidence of her assault. She and her brother, who joined her at the hospital, demanded that she be registered under her own name. “The detectives said OK, but then said that the medical file had to say that I was also under arrest,” she said. After she had been treated and she and her brother were temporarily left alone, they fled the hospital.

At least five demonstrators were hospitalized with injuries, The New York Times reported.

On March 16, students at Gaza City’s al-Azhar University planned to walk to the Unknown Soldier Square to protest, students told Human Rights Watch. But plainclothes police officers trapped them in the university’s science building and randomly beat students inside, they said. Female students from al-Quds Open University who went to join the students at al-Azhar were beaten as well. Later that morning, plain clothes security officials also attacked students demonstrating at al-Quds.

An al-Azhar student, “Haneen,” said that before police arrived, members of the university’s pro-Hamas student group (al-Qutle al-Islamiyya, the “Islamic bloc,”) “took off their belts and started beating the demonstrators. Then around 30 police in civilian clothes came in, armed. They prevented us from leaving for an hour and a half while they talked to the university administration, and beat people with clubs and sprayed and soaked us using water hoses from the university. All the time they were insulting the girls. The men were also spitting at us.”

Students initially refused a police offer to leave the university if they pledged not to continue to demonstrate outside, but agreed after the university administration “asked that we comply for our own safety and that of the university,” Haneen said. “We went outside and the police there also insulted us, especially for demonstrating in the same place as men, which they said was against morality.”

“Heba,” the protester who described how she was beaten on March 15, said that plainclothes police beat her again at al-Azhar the following day and insulted women protesters. “I called my father to come get me out, but police refused to allow him to enter the university and threatened to beat him,” she said.

A student at al-Quds, “Mahmoud,” told Human Rights Watch what happened there. After the students returned from al-Azhar, about 150 male and female students began to demonstrate and chant, “We want an end to the division,” Mahmoud said.

“Then a large number of men in civilian clothes came, with guns and clubs. They beat us and I saw them hit a student who was pregnant, who fell on the ground. They even pursued students who took refuge inside the university mosque.”

Mahmoud said he fled the university but was followed by a van marked “medical services.” “The men grabbed me and took me in the van, drove me to an alleyway, and then threw me on the pavement, where one of them stood on my chest, another on my legs, and a third one beat my knee with his club until my knee broke,” Mahmoud said. “Then they drove me to my home and forced me out. My father took me to al-Shifa hospital, but he left me in the car for a minute and went in and asked a doctor for advice, and the doctor said that Hamas would take all my information and to go to a private clinic instead, so that’s what we did.” Mahmoud said he had knee surgery and would need another operation in six months.

Al-Mezan, a Palestinian human rights group, reported that police assaulted its fieldworker Yamen al-Madhoun and confiscated the memory card from his mobile phone as he was covering the events at al-Azhar University. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that plainclothes police prevented journalists from covering the protests.

“Hamas authorities appear to believe that only demonstrations against Israel are legitimate modes of public expression,” Whitson said. “Yet Gaza’s youth have made loud and clear their wish to express their views peacefully on a range of concerns, including that their leaders have failed to resolve factional disputes at the expense of the population.”

Protest organizers in Gaza coordinated with organizers of the demonstration in the West Bank on March 15. The West Bank organizers told Human Rights Watch that Palestinian Authority security forces assaulted them during a peaceful demonstration in Ramallah’s al-Manara square. At around 6:30 p.m., plainclothes members of the General Intelligence Services assaulted and arrested Farj Harb, one of the organizers, and another demonstrator, Fadi Quran. A brief video by Quran shows him apparently being assaulted by several men in civilian clothes. Quran said that he and Harb were later released.

At 11 p.m., protesters trying to erect a tent were attacked by about 15 men in civilian clothes who confiscated the tent poles and canvas. Human Rights Watch observed as the men turned over the confiscated items to uniformed police in a nearby street, and as men in civilian clothes detained, beat, and dragged two of the protesters toward the police station.

A foreign freelance photographer, Lazar Simeonov, told Human Rights Watch that men in civilian clothes assaulted him and tried to confiscate his camera as he was taking pictures of the protesters being dragged toward the police station. Simeonov later went to the police station to complain, where he saw one of the two men being detained. Men in civilian clothes also assaulted another man, who loudly identified himself as a cameraman for Palestine TV. Human Rights Watch later saw men in civilian clothes block him when he tried to walk to the police station to file a complaint.

Human Rights Watch previously reported how the security services of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority had interrogated, threatened and beat organizers and protesters at earlier public demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas cannot be party to international human rights treaties, but both have publicly indicated they would respect international standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights grants everyone the right to peaceful assembly. It states that restrictions on this right are permissible only if implemented according to law, for a legitimate aim such as public safety, and “necessary in democratic society” – that is, is the least restrictive measure possible.

“Local authorities aren’t fooling anyone by hiding behind thugs who assault protesters,” Whitson said. “The Palestinian people deserve leaders, whether Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, who will respect their basic rights.”


( This bibliographical entry is a contribution to the recovery of the history of anarchism in Tunisia. It tells only part of a larger story.

Born in Roseto Capo Spulico (in the province of Cosenza, Calabria) on 18 March 1855, his parents were Leonardo and Elisabetta Aletta, both from well-off families. He attended primary school in Calabria and moved to Naples to attend high school, where his teacher for the final year was Giovanni Bovio. He went on to university to study medicine, though he did not graduate – as he said to A[ndrea]Costa (with whom he would always remain friends) – until several years later in 1909 when, after a long spell in Tunis, the city he was to choose as his principal residence, he returned to Italy for the first time.

Becoming attracted to the ideas of libertarian socialism, which were widely known in Naples thanks to the influence of Bakunin who had lived in the town, he became friends with E[milio] Covelli and other Neapolitan militants. He joined the International, quickly becoming the most active member of the Neapolitan group, and carried on intense propaganda activity, both with contributions to the existing press at the time and with the creation of new bulletins. In 1878 he joined the editorial board of the periodical “Il Masaniello” a fortnightly which, in seeking to fill the gap left by the move of the weekly “L’Anarchia” to Florence, favoured an alliance with the authoritarian socialists. The newspaper, however, was short-lived and after nine issues, each systematically impounded by the police, it suspended publication.

Relations between CConverti and the other Internationals, however, did not come to an end, and led to the founding of the “Pisacane” circle, with Converti as secretary and Merlino as treasurer; there were also several projects, such as one to print a Neapolitan anarchist newspaper (entitled “La Campana”), reviving the previous newspaper and founding a newspaper to counter the positions of Costa. Both plans went awry, partly as a result of clashes amongst the workers among the members, who favoured policies linked to the particular problems of labour but who often lacked the ability to think in wider terms, and the “intransigently” anarchist intellectuals, who were all given to utopistic dreaming and were often unable to reconcile “final goals and intermediate objectives”.

In May 1885, Converti published “Il Piccone” in brochure format (as it lacked the necessary authorization). It was an anarchist communist newspaper that was quite rigorous with both the legalitarian socialists and Costa, and with the Republicans, who were in those years of irredentism, held to be the most dangerous elements to the anarchist cause. But his forced departure for France meant that he left the Neapolitan anarchist movement in difficulty (and indeed the movement would henceforth become indistinguishable from the socialist movement and radical democracy in general), halting publication of the newspaper for a month and only succeeding in recommencing, until November, thanks to an editorial team composed entirely of students.

Though by now out of Italy, C. also supported “Il Demolitore”, the newspaper of the Neapolitan “Il Lavoratore” Circle, in which he published a letter written together with G(aetano?) Grassi where the two anarchists took a strong position in favour of a modern revolutionary organization. He contributed to the Milan magazine, “Rivista internazionale del socialism” (in which he published an article entitled “La proprietà” [“Property”]), to the Pesaro weekly “In Marcia” and to other anarchist-inspired periodicals, including “Il Proletario” from Palermo, in which he published an article entitled Anarchia [“Anarchy”] that concluded by saying “anarchy without communism is impossible”. A turning point in his life came in 1885 when, having been sentenced to 22 months in prison for signing “a manifesto by the International (the last to be published in Italy) signed by over 300 delegates of branches and federations”, for which “only about fifteen were tried” and “appeals were lodged just to give enough time for the accused to flee the country” (“L’Adunata dei refrattari”, 28 Oct. 1939, p.5), he took the decision to leave Italy.

Embarking at Livorno, he took refuge in Corsica and then moved to southern France, first at Nice, where he shifted the editorial line of the newspaper “Lo Schiavo” to one of revolutionary anarchism, and then in Marseilles. Here he would once again begin to engage in revolutionary propaganda and with the help of some Italian and French anarchists, he founded the “L’Internationale anarchiste”, which eventually came out on the 16 October 1886 after struggling to find funding. The newspaper, containing articles in both French and Italian, had a run of four issues and was quite an important novelty for the anarchist press.

As he wrote in the editorial, the paper set itself the task of “bringing an end to the hatred created and sustained by the bourgeois press between French and Italian workers”, and also the goal engaging in quality criticism of Republican institutions and doctrine.

These positions were later set out in the pamphlet “Repubblica ed Anarchia” (Tunis, 1889), which is the most important theoretical contribution by Converti and were also republished in the Italian press at the time. The programmatic elements of the pamphlet were rejected however, in particular by E. Matteucci in the Rome newspaper “L’Emancipazione”, and it was impounded by the authorities. Having failed to conclude an arrangement to contribute regularly to two medical journals in Paris, C. moved definitively to Tunis with his friend Grassi on 10 January 1887, once again leaving the Italian anarchist movement in southern France in difficulty.

Since the earliest period of the liberal movement during the years of the Risorgimento, the African city had become a place of refuge for numerous Italians (particularly Sicilians) suffering from political persecution, and was home to a community of bourgeois and illiterate proletarians who mixed readily with the locals and consisted of over 100,000 individuals by 1912. In this community, considered at the time to be a sort of African appendix to Italy’s territory and which was predominantly Italian-speaking, and thanks to the circle of friends he soon made (through his uncle, a bishop, according to some sources), Converti was to live the rest of his life, working with great dedication as a doctor in the local hospitals.

A note by the Prefect of Cosenza indicates that Converti graduated in medicine in Tunis thanks to favourable intervention by a cardinal. But having obtained his degree, his sterling work contributed to the extension of the Tunisian healthcare system -in his opinion far from being acceptable – and setting up the “Green Cross” Relief Society [Società di soccorso “Croce Verde”], to the approval even of Muslims, an organization which he presided over for several decades.

Apart from his work as a doctor to the indigent, C. soon became one of the fathers of the Maghrebi workers movement, continuing his journalistic battles, remaining in contact with international libertarian circles, contributing to several Italian and foreign anarchist papers and publishing “L’Operaio” in 1887, a weekly that described itself as the mouthpiece of the anarchists of Tunis and Sicily. With simple language and a style which avoided emphasis and rhetoric, this “rag” – produced at the newspapers own press – attacked the two main Christian groups of the local bourgeoisie, the French and Italian, thus seeking to “shake the workers and the grey mass of the indifferent out of their apathy” about the exploitation being carried out by the larger companies. Later there followed a syndicalist newspaper, “La Voix de l’Ouvrier”, in which Converti busied himself by studying the causes of misery and possible cures for this curse.

At the same time, C. formed an active anarchist propaganda group, a real hive of conspiracy which was also set up in order to organize and aid Italian anarchists who had fled to Tunisia in order to escape forced residence [translator’s note: used as punishment for political crimes, but also as a preventive measure; it was not imprisonment or confinement, but one was forced to live in a certain place, usually an inaccessible spot or island and weren’t free to move away] in the various islands of Sicily (mainly Favignana and Pantelleria).

In 1896 he started the theoretical magazine “La Protesta umana”, whose contributors included well-known libertarian writers of the time such as A[ugustin] Hamon, L[uigi] Fabbri, A[milcare] Cipriani and P. Raveggi. Converti published some of his own writings too, including a three-part essay, “Idee generali” (“General Ideas”), in which he polemicized with the German theoreticians of naturalism about the concept of the State, seen as the “brain” of the social body. There was also an important and vibrant protest in defence of some Italian anarchists who had fled their forced residence, landed on the shores of Tunisia and been handed over to the French and Italian authorities. After an interval of some time due to tax reasons, the magazine was moved for one issue (June 1897) to Macerata, qualifying it as the only anarchist publication [in Italy] at the time.

In order to spread his theories, C. did not disdain from writing for certain bourgeois democratic news-sheets in the years between 1894 and 1913; many French and Italian newspapers, anarchist or otherwise, published his articles concerning the debate on the political and economic organization of the working masses. These papers included: “La Petite Tunisie” from Tunis, “L’Avenir social” and “Le Courier”, both from Tunis, “L’Emancipateur” from Algiers, “Il Progresso” from Palermo, “Il Picconiere” from Marseilles, “L’Avvenire sociale” from Messina, all of which were anarchist papers; “Il Secolo” and “La Gazzetta” from Milan, “Il Momento” from Paris and also the “Unione” from Tunis, the official mouthpiece of the Italian community, founded by the Livornese.

In the early 1900s, there was a partial evolution in his revolutionary propaganda, partly due to the conditions of the Tunisian working class, who were the target of great attention from democratic circles, and this led to the creation of benevolent societies as well as a move towards the ideas and the parliamentarianism of Costa, who visited Tunis in December 1907 and who indicated in a letter his intention to see Converti after so many years. The meeting, if it did come about, was certainly decisive in the decision he made in 1913 when in Calabria to allow himself to be carried along by a vast popular movement that started in the Upper Ionian region of Cosenza province in order to bring attention to the need for certain types of infrastructure in the zone.

All this led him into toying with the idea of driving the masses into forms of direct political action and he created uproar in Italian and European anarchist circles by standing as a candidate in the Cassano Ionio constituency for the 26 October elections, on an anarchist-communist platform. His attempt naturally failed, despite a vigorous election campaign, and remained as a purely theoretical protest against the centralizing State.

Having returned once again to Tunis after a further journey of several weeks in November of that year to his own country, he dedicated himself to his work and family. He continued to work until the early 1930s as a doctor on the night shift at the Italian colonial hospital G. Garibaldi, which he had also helped to found. During the Fascist period he continued his activities, maintaining constant links with C[amillo] Berneri and anarchist and anti-fascist circles in France and America, and “in his few remaining writings, he returned to the volcanic phraseology of his early youth” ([A.] Riggio, [“Un libertario calabrese in Tunisia: N.C.”, in “Archivio storico per la Calabria e la Lucania,” nn. 1-4, 1947 ] p.87).

While noting that Converti was a die-hard, militant anarchist and “a declared adversary of the regime against which he speaks and writes quite frequently”, in March 1933 the Italian consul in Tunis (who had him closely watched in case he were to organize a mission to Italy “for unknown reasons”) rejected the possibility that “he [had it] in mind to come to Italy for any criminal intent”, even though he could be considered as an individual who was capable of providing aid of any kind to elements who may well commit criminal acts. On 14 August 1936 – according to the consul – he participated in a demonstration in support of the Spanish Popular Front and spoke out to declare his faith “in a better future for a regenerated, more fraternal humanity and to send his greetings to his comrades in Spain who are fighting for the triumph of liberty”.

He died in Tunis on 14 September 1939 and at his funeral, where he was eulogized by the anarchist Sapelli, the entire anti-fascist community of Tunisia turned out to salute him as one.

From entry by G.Masi, in G. Berti, M. Antonioli, P. Juso e S. Fedele (eds.), “Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani,” vol. 1 (Pisa: Biblioteca Franco Serantini, 2003), pp. 439-442.

English translation by Nestor McNab, 2011.


( Amnesty International has urged the Nigerian authorities to act to stem a rising tide of political, ethnic and religious violence that risks threatening the stability of April elections.

The short report entitled Loss of life, insecurity and impunity in the run up to Nigeria’s elections highlights how hundreds of people have been killed in politically-motivated, communal and sectarian violence across Nigeria ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls.

Authorities have failed to bring suspected perpetrators to justice, or to prevent further human rights abuses. Investigations are infrequent and often inadequate. Hardly anyone has been convicted for the killings.

“The Nigerian authorities must act to protect people’s lives and all political candidates should denounce violence and tell their supporters to campaign peacefully,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa, Tawanda Hondora.

“Candidates should tell voters what they will do to stop the senseless killings and improve security and justice in Nigeria. The Presidential Debate on Friday 18 March is an excellent opportunity to make such a commitment.”

In one of the worst episodes of violence, a bomb attack in Jos on 24 December 2010, killed about 80 people. The attack, which was later claimed by the Boko Haram armed religious sect, also sparked months of reprisals between different ethnic and religious groups in Plateau state that left at least another 120 people dead.

One resident told Amnesty International that authorities had not done enough to prevent the attacks in Jos, saying “there were clear signals that something was going to happen but [the security forces] were not on ground.”

Another said during the violence “it’s chaos, there are people going round on motorbikes, they ride into a community and throw [bombs].”

More than 50 people have also been killed since July 2010 in violence directly related to elections. Human rights defenders, who will play a key role in monitoring the April election, are facing increased threats and violence with no adequate protection from the security forces.

Despite these deaths, there have been no national campaigns against election violence, and very few arrests.

The authorities have also failed to competently prosecute those responsible for the Jos and Plateau State violence, and the results of previous government investigations into reasons behind the violence have never been made public.

In Borno state, in the northeast of the country, Boko Haram has been blamed for attacks on security forces, government officials and religious leaders. More than 50 people, including bystanders, have been killed since July 2010.

The security forces have reacted with wide ranging abuses such as enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution, and sweeping arbitrary detention.

A local resident told Amnesty International “After the killings [by Boko Haram]… they come and arrest all those people around [the area]… Now, if an incident happened in an area you will see most of the neighbours packing out of the area.”

Another resident described his detention as a Boko Haram suspect: “We were taken to SARS [Special Anti-Robbery Squad], Abuja. It’s known as the abattoir… we were not alive. We had no food, no water… One cell held about 45 of us… There were five small children there too.”

Poor police investigation is undermining efforts to bring suspected perpetrators to justice.

Amnesty International is urging political parties and candidates to put justice, security and human rights at the heart of the election campaign, in order to break Nigeria’s nationwide cycle of violence.

“When no-one is brought to justice for violence, this sends the message that you can get away with murder,” said Tawanda Hondora.

18 March 2011

( TRIPOLI— (UPDATE 2) The US, Britain and France pounded Libya with air strikes and Tomahawk missiles on Saturday, sparking a furious response from Moammar Gadhafi who said the Mediterranean had now become a “battlefield.”

United States and British forces fired at least 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libya’s air defence sites, a top US military officer said, two days after a UN Security Council resolution with Arab backing authorized military action.

Libyan state media said that Western warplanes bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing casualties while an army spokesman said strikes also hit fuel tanks feeding the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of Tripoli.

Libyan state television said a French warplane was shot down in the Njela district of Tripoli, but the French military swiftly denied the report.

Gadhafi, in a brief audio message broadcast on state television, fiercely denounced the attacks as a “barbaric, unjustified Crusaders’ aggression.”

He vowed retaliatory strikes on military and civilian targets in the Mediterranean, which he said had been turned into a “real battlefield.”

“Now the arms depots have been opened and all the Libyan people are being armed,” to fight against Western forces, the veteran leader warned.

US President Barack Obama, on a visit to Brazil, said he had given the green light for the operation, which is codenamed “Odyssey Dawn.”

“Today, I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya,” Obama said in Brasilia.

The first missile struck at 1900 GMT following air strikes carried out earlier by French warplanes, Admiral William Gortney, director of the US joint staff, said in Washington.

“It’s a first phase of a multi-phase operation” to enforce the UN resolution and prevent the Libyan regime from using force “against its own people,” he said.

One British submarine joined with other US ships and submarines in the missile attacks, he said.

The first strikes took place near Libya’s coast, notably around Tripoli and Misrata, “because that’s where the integrated missile defence systems are.”

US and allied countries are not yet enforcing a no-fly zone with aircraft patrolling the skies, he said, but “we’re setting the conditions to be able to reach that state.”

The targets included surface-to-air missile sites but it was too early to say how effective the Tomahawk strikes were, he said.

“Because it is night over there, it will be some time before we have a complete picture of the success of these strikes,” the admiral said.

The US operation followed initial missions by French warplanes, which carried out four air strikes Saturday, destroying several armoured vehicles from Gadhafi’s forces.

State television said hundreds of people had gathered at Bab al-Aziziyah, Gadhafi’s Tripoli headquarters, and at the capital’s international airport, ahead of the widely anticipated air strikes.

“Crowds are forming around the targets identified by France,” the television reported, showing pictures of flag-waving people gathering to serve as human shields.

Last week, a highly placed French source referred to Bab al-Aziziyah, a military air base in Sirte, east of the capital, and another in Sebha in the south as likely targets of a strike.

A French official told AFP that air strikes by Britain, France and the US Libyan territory are being coordinated at a US headquarters in Germany.

Russia’s foreign ministry expressed regret over the attacks under a Security Council Resolution 1973 which was “adopted in haste,” while the African Union, which opposed military action, aims to send a delegation to Tripoli on Sunday.

But British Prime Minister David Cameron said he held Gadhafi responsible for the situation in his country and that “the time for action” by the international community had come.

“Colonel Gadhafi has made this happen. He has lied to the international community, he has promised a ceasefire, he has broken that ceasefire. He continues to brutalize his own people,” Cameron told British television.

France said the air strikes would continue through the night.

In the rebel camp, celebratory gunfire and honking of car horns broke out in Al-Marj, 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Benghazi, to welcome the start of military operations against Gadhafi, correspondents said.

Thousands earlier Saturday fled Benghazi as Gadhafi loyalists pounded the eastern city, the rebels’ stronghold, with shells and tank fire after two early morning air strikes.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was troubled by a telephone call from Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi on Friday night.

“He told me that the Libyan government was fully abiding by the Security Council resolution and there will be an immediate ceasefire,” said the secretary general.

“But at the same time and overnight they were attacking Benghazi. It is very troubling; whatever they say must be verified.”

Since Friday, the Libyan government has insisted it was observing a self-declared ceasefire, shortly after the Security Council voted to authorise the use of force against Gadhafi’s troops to spare civilians.

The regime said its armed forces were under attack west of Benghazi, including by rebel aircraft, and had responded in self-defence.

But the rebels, who have been trying to overthrow the Libyan leader for more than a month, said government troops had continued to bombard cities, violating the ceasefire continuously.

In another Middle East hotspot, medics in Yemen on Saturday raised to 52 the death toll from a sniper attack on protesters in Sanaa the previous day, as thousands rallied despite a state of emergency.

The slaughter in Sanaa on Friday was the bloodiest day in weeks of unrest that have shaken the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key US ally in its war against Al-Qaeda.

And security forces in Syria fired tear gas on Saturday at mourners burying two men killed in a protest in the southern city of Daraa the previous day, wounding several, rights activists said.

The official SANA news agency said a committee was being formed to investigate the “regrettable” events in Daraa.

In Bahrain, beleaguered King Hamad pledged to bring in reforms as Shiite-led pro-democracy protesters against the Sunni monarchy said they would not give up despite being cleared by police from Pearl Square in central Manama.

By Imed Lamloum
Agence France-Presse


( The Obama administration recently reaffirmed its “support of a non-nuclear Korean peninsula.”  According to White House National Security Council (NSC) deputy spokesman Robert Jensen, “Tactical nuclear weapons are unnecessary for the defense of South Korea” and the administration has “no plan or intention to return them.”  This was in response to remarks by Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, who expressed his personal opinion:  “If South Korea, a U.S. ally, were to feel threatened by North Korea’s nuclear development and request that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons be redeployed, the United States would naturally agree to it.”  Samore’s opinion was rendered in the aftermath of remarks made by senior members of the ruling Grand National Party, who argued that the U.S. should reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons in the South to protect the country against a military threat from the North.

To begin, that the United States continues to insist that the Korean peninsula be free of nuclear weapons is a bit absurd.  It should be abundantly clear by now that the North Koreans aren’t terribly interested in cooperating.  An eight-year diplomatic effort to end North Korea’s nuclear program has gone nowhere.  The odds of Pyongyang renouncing its nuclear status are pretty much slim and none – and none just caught the last train to Albuquerque.

So what are some options?

According to Robert Eichorn, the State Department’s special advisor for non-proliferation and arms control, “The United States has a range of nuclear delivery capabilities offshore that can provide a very strong extended deterrent to North Korea without the need for nuclear weapons belonging to the United States actually on South Korean soil.”   Over the years, the United States deterred the likes of Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, and Mao Zedong.  So if the United States could deter both the Soviet Union and China (both with much larger nuclear arsenals than North Korea), certainly it can deter North Korea under Kim Jong-il and whoever succeeds the “Dear Leader” (many speculate it will be his youngest son, Jong Un).

But while direct deterrence may work, does it make sense for the U.S. to have a policy of extended deterrence to guarantee South Korea’s security?  Realistically, should (and if push came to shove, would) the U.S. risk Los Angeles (even though North Korea does not currently possess the long-range capability to attack the United States) to save Seoul?  Such a “threat” may not be credible or real.

And more bluntly:  Why does the United States need to guarantee South Korea’s security at all?  The hard truth is that U.S. security does not depend on South Korea’s security (which is not the same thing as saying that the United States doesn’t care about South Korea).

Although North Korea has a large army (over 1 million active duty) and nuclear weapons, it has virtually no economy to speak of.  By comparison, South Korea’s economy is the 15th largest in the world (almost $1 trillion) and eclipses North Korea’s by more than 30-to-1.  So they can afford to pay for their own security,

And part of that security equation should be letting the South Koreans decide for themselves about the best way to counter-balance North Korea’s nuclear capability – including the option of South Korea building it’s own nuclear deterrent (which is not the United States giving South Korea nukes or deploying U.S. nuclear weapons on South Korean soil).  According to one South Korean lawmaker who sits on the National Defense Committee, “We need our own nuclear sovereignty.  The only way we can deter or negotiate or even dismantle North Korean nuclear weapons is when we have nuclear capability.”

To be sure, the idea of South Korea having its own (small) nuclear arsenal runs counter to the notion the world would be a better place with fewer nuclear weapons and fewer nuclear-armed countries.  But which is better (even if it’s not “best”)?  North Korea with a nuclear monopoly that looms over South Korea and forces the United States to risk its own security to defend South Korea?  Or an empowered South Korea capable of defending itself (including it’s own nukes to deter the North)?

by Charles V. Peña