Terrorism & Security
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Antigovernment protesters in Thailand have entered two government buildings in Bangkok and are calling for the occupation of others in an attempt to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over a controversial amnesty bill that failed to pass.
Traffic ground to a halt and dozens of schools were shut today as 30,000 protesters marched in the city, chanting “get out,” reports Reuters.
An estimated 100,000 demonstrators gathered on Sunday night, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban. Mr. Suthep said protesters would fan out to 13 locations today, including the interior ministry and office of city administration, reports Bloomberg News. Demonstrators broke into the foreign ministry and the finance ministry compounds, meeting little resistance.
“We will walk to those state officials to ask them who they will serve, the illegitimate government or the public,” Mr. Suthep told protesters today. “If those state officials refuse to serve the government, the government will crumble.”
The focus of the demonstrations shifted this week from opposing the amnesty legislation to ending the government’s rule, reports Bloomberg. Critics said the amnesty law would have swept aside corruption and human rights charges dating back to the fall of her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire businessman and twice-elected premier.
Prime Minister Yingluck faces additional protest over her party’s attempt to make the senate fully elected, which was rejected by the Constitutional Court last week. The bulk of her support comes from highly populated areas in the north and northeast, and the change could have strengthened her government.
"This week is precarious. The options are very limited for the government," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters.
Mr. Thaksin has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 after fleeing corruption charges, and was ousted in 2006 in a military coup. Yingluck is accused of running a government that’s actually controlled by Thaksin from afar.
"The amnesty reinforced the perspective that Ms. Yingluck's administration and Mr. Thaksin are inseparable, so that has provided a cause for the anti-Thaksin elements to regroup and restart the protest," Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political scientist at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, told The Wall Street Journal.
"I have no intention to resign or dissolve the House," said Yingluck, who faces a no-confidence debate tomorrow. Pro-Yingluck and pro-Thaksin supporters gathered at stadium about 9 miles away from the heart of the anti-government protests. The Associated Press reports that many fear there could be a violent face-off between the two groups, as the pro-government supporters have said they won’t disband until the opposition calls off its demonstrations.
“We will not stop even if she dissolves parliament or resigns,” Suthep told protesters. “We will create a real democracy with the king as the head of state.”
Thailand has seen a cycle of protest over the past few decades, reports The Christian Science Monitor.
Street protests have shaped modern Thai politics. In 1973, students in Bangkok overthrew a military dictatorship, with support from King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a constitutional monarch. In 1992, protesters faced down an unpopular junta leader. King Bhumibol intervened to mediate after troops killed unarmed protesters.
The rise of Thaksin, a rich businessman who built a mass political base, changed the equation. Instead of opposing a dictator, the [People’s Alliance for Democracy, which laid the groundwork for the 2006 coup] mobilized against a popular, elected leader. When it succeeded, its rivals took to the streets and used the same tactics.
The result is a cycle of protests and counterprotests that has polarized public opinion along class and regional lines and undermined parliamentary democracy.
This week’s protests began after almost two years of relative calm. According to Bloomberg the protests have highlighted Thailand’s societal fissures:
The political upheaval has revealed rifts in Thai society, particularly between the traditional elite and the increasingly vocal rural majority from which Thaksin’s allies pull their electoral mandate. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party and its coalition partners command a majority in parliament.
The government raised minimum wages last year and introduced a program in 2011 to buy rice at above-market prices to boost rural incomes. Thailand’s skillful macroeconomic management, strong fundamentals, high international reserves, and moderate public debt levels have blunted the impact of recent shocks and are underpinning a recovery, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund said Nov. 12.
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The rescue of three women in London who were allegedly held as slaves for three decades underscores the magnitude of human trafficking and that it is not a “third world” phenomenon but something that can happen in the most modern, sophisticated cities in the world.
It does not just happen to the very young, either.
The BBC reports that a Malaysian woman, age 69, an Irish woman, age 57, and a Briton, age 30, were rescued from “horrific conditions” in a house in Lambeth in south London. A couple was arrested in the case on suspicion of holding the women in servitude for some 30 years (the youngest may have been born into slavery). They were released on bail until January.
The plight of the three women was uncovered after the Irish woman called Freedom Charity after watching a documentary about forced marriages by Muslim clerics in British mosques, according to the Irish Times.
That initial phone call, in mid-October, led to a series of secret telephone calls and delicate negotiations that eventually led to the women's rescue later that month. The case was not made public until the arrests of the couple, believed not to be British, were made on Thursday.
"They knew they needed their freedom," said Anita Prem, who founded Freedom Charity, according to the Associated Press. "It took enormous courage and bravery to pick up the phone."
The charity contacted the police, who then worked with the charity and the women to secure the release. Two of the women agreed to meet the authorities on Oct. 25 and easily identified the house where they had been held; police then rescued the third woman. They are said to have had “controlled freedom,” but very little is known about what their daily lives were like or how they met the couple or ended up in a situation of suspected forced labor.
Kevin Hyland, who heads the police's human trafficking unit, said the women are "highly traumatized," as they had "no real exposure to the outside world" for three decades. "Trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time," Mr. Hyland said.
The women are being held in an undisclosed location.
This case is generating worldwide headlines, especially because of the duration of captivity, but it is not unique, and that is something that is often misunderstood.
Ross Reid, a spokesman for the Center for Social Justice in the UK, told the Wall Street Journal that this case “highlights a shocking underworld that is operating in the UK."
"This case in Lambeth proves that slavery is no problem of the past, but one that haunts modern-day Britain," Mr. Reid said. His group had recently released a report on human trafficking, which noted that more than 1,000 trafficking victims were found in the UK in 2012.
According to the Christian Science Monitor in a cover story last year, human trafficking is far more prevalent than most people realize in the US as well:
It doesn't just take place in the sweatshops of impoverished Indian villages or in Thai brothels, but on US streets from San Francisco to New York. The federal government has estimated the number of domestic trafficking victims to be in the tens of thousands annually. Victims range from Southeast Asian indentured nail salon manicurists to Mexican agricultural workers to underage American prostitutes.
And in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote of the movie “12 Years a Slave” to highlight that modern slavery is still very much alive.
The United States is home to about 60,000 people who can fairly be called modern versions of slaves, according to a new Global Slavery Index released last month by the Walk Free Foundation, which fights human trafficking. These modern slaves aren’t sold in chains in public auctions, so it’s not exactly the same as 19th-century slavery. Those counted today include illegal immigrants forced to work without pay under threat of violence and teenage girls coerced to sell sex and hand all the money to their pimps.
There are, of course, many more ambiguities today than in the 1850s about how to count slaves, but the slavery index finds almost 30 million people enduring modern slavery. More are in India than in any other country, and in some countries, such as Mauritania, children are still born into slavery.
This case immediately recalled a high-profile kidnapping uncovered in May, when another three women who had been missing for a decade were found in a home in Cleveland, Ohio. Their abductor, Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life for kidnapping and repeated rape, committed suicide in September.
His neighbors were shocked that such a horrific tragedy had played out under their noses. The same sentiment is being expressed in this case. Ms. Prem from Freedom Charity, for example, said it was “unbelievable” that this could happen on a busy street in London. "I think one of the reasons that nobody knows is that we're so busy all rushing around and people don't ask questions," she told the AP. "We don't know who our neighbors are."
Immigration may be an element to this story. Writing in the Independent, Aidan McQuade, a director of Anti-Slavery International, said that insufficient protections for non-EU members can make foreigners more vulnerable to human traffickers.
Unfortunately, here at Anti-Slavery International we have found that too often the protection isn’t available for those from outside the European Union who find themselves in the UK illegally and are treated merely as illegal immigrants, rather than victims of crime. That protection is crucial, not only for the traumatised to rebuild their lives, but also to build their trust in the authorities so they can work with them to catch and prosecute the criminals who enslaved them. We hope these women will be able fully to enjoy their new-found freedom soon. We also hope thousands of others in slavery will be offered the same chance. Unfortunately, much must be done to achieve that.
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Local officials told The Washington Post that it was the first drone strike in a Pakistani province in five years, while the Associated Press (AP) reports it is only the second strike outside the tribal areas since the US began using drones in Pakistan. Kyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the Northwest Frontier Province, lies to the northeast of Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The morning strike killed at least five people, including Ahmad Jan, a deputy of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the militant Haqqani network; Gul Sher, leader of the Afghan Taliban in Paktia Province; and Maulvi Hamidullah, leader of the Afghan Taliban in Khost Province, AP reports.
Drone strikes are highly controversial to begin with, but today's strike provoked additional outrage for reaching into the more settled areas of Pakistan proper.
"Now no place is safe. The drones are now firing missiles outside the tribal areas," Shaukat Yousufzai, health minister for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, told AP.
Reuters reports that a Pakistan official said Haqqani was at the madrassa as recently as two days ago.
The Haqqani network, labeled a terrorist organization by the US, has long used Pakistan as a base for launching attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan. It was behind the 2011 attack on the US embassy in Kabul and operates largely out of North Waziristan in the tribal areas, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Afghan Taliban also frequently shelters inside Pakistan.
In 2011, the Pakistani military said it would not take action against the Haqqani network, despite US demands. The AP reports that US officials suspect that Pakistan believes the Haqqani network could be an ally in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal next year and is unwilling to crack down on the group.
According to Reuters, the group has been strained since the Nov. 11 killing of Nasiruddin Haqqani, who was the group's "chief financier." Nasiruddin, Sirajuddin Haqqani's brother, was shot outside Islamabad two weeks ago. Officials do not know who killed the brother.
The strike will undoubtedly prompt an outcry from hardliners in Pakistan because the drone strikes are highly controversial. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province governed by the party of former cricket star Imran Khan, were livid. The central information secretary of Mr. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Shireen Mazari, described Thursday's drone strike as "a declaration of war against the people of Pakistan by the U.S."
"[Were] the Pakistan government and military sleeping while Pakistan was being attacked or were they complicit in this latest drone attack?" she said in a statement.
Mr. Khan was already planning anti-drone protests for Saturday in reaction to the Nov. 1 strike that killed the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Mehsud. Thursday's attack was the first believed U.S. drone strike in Pakistan since then.
Khan, a popular and influential politician, held a press conference in Islamabad today in which he berated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not taking a stronger stance against drones, Pakistan's The Express Tribune reports:
He told Nawaz not to “play on both sides of the wicket,” adding that he should give up his “dual policy” of telling the US one thing and Pakistan another.
“If the prime minister strictly told [America] that drone attacks must stop, they would never conduct such attacks,” he said.
“If they attacked Hangu then what will stop them from attacking any other place if they suspect terrorist activity there?” the PTI chairman added, stressing that America could strike based on suspected terrorist attacks, not certain ones.
Khan also reiterated his party's support for blocking NATO supply routes that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan, which are critical to supporting the war effort in Afghanistan. Previously only part of his party's stance, the provincial government will now stand united against the supply routes until drone strikes cease, he said, according to The Express Tribune.
Pakistan's foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz reportedly said yesterday that the US had promised not to carry out any drone strikes while Pakistan tries to hold peace talks with the Taliban, Reuters reports. But the official outrage is often exaggerated. "Pakistan publicly opposes U.S. drone strikes, saying they kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty, although in private officials admit the government broadly supports them," Reuters notes.
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Ten Egyptian soldiers were killed after a car bomb exploded next to their bus in the northern Sinai Peninsula today, underscoring the precarious security situation since former President Mohamed Morsi's ouster.
The number of attacks in the Sinai has increased since the July 3 military coup that overthrew Mr. Morsi, raising concerns that sporadic attacks will flare into a sustained insurgency.
At least 35 people were wounded in the attack, according to the Egyptian military. Egyptian army spokesman Col. Ahmed Quell Ali said the armed forces would “carry on the war against black terrorism...purge Egypt and secure its people from treacherous violence,” according to the Egytian El-Ahram newspaper.
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More than 100 Egyptian security forces have been killed in the Sinai since Morsi’s disposal, according to the BBC. Militants have also targeted officials in the nation’s capital. Today’s bombing comes three days after gunmen assassinated a senior Egyptian security official in Cairo who was responsible for investigating Muslim extremists.
An extremist group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has also struck in the Sinai, claimed responsibility for that attack Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
The bombing was the deadliest since an Aug. 19 ambush in the Sinai that killed 25 Egyptian soldiers. The Monitor’s Christa Case Bryant, reporting after the August attack, explained the security stakes:
While details of today’s attack are still emerging, the overall challenge is abundantly clear. An uptick in militant attacks in Sinai since the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 places additional strain on security forces already preoccupied with escalating political violence in Cairo and elsewhere, and has raised concerns that Sinai is on the road to becoming a magnet for global jihadi groups.
The violence is also the result of the “Egyptian military’s freer hand to crack down after deposing President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood last month,” the Monitor reports:
The Army for the longest time has been holding back from interfering in Sinai,” says Sameeh, a high-ranking security official in northern Sinai who would give only his first name. “The elements in this area fear that they might lose this [strategic area] now that we have deployed more tanks and we’re putting more effort into clearing this area, so obviously they are going to fight back."
The Egyptian army is “fighting an insurgency using very forceful means,” Anna Boyd, the manager for country risk in the Middle East and Africa at London’s IHS Jane told Reuters. In the Sinai, the army has used “helicopters, tanks, and other heavy weaponry in its campaign,” Reuters writes.
Since Mr. Morsi’s ouster on July 3, Egypt has launched a major military operation in Sinai, bringing in two additional battalions, which required Israel’s approval. Israel couldn’t be more eager to contain Sinai militancy after a series of attacks shattered decades of calm along the Israel-Egypt border, causing Israel to boost elite forces and accelerate construction of a 150-mile border fence. Israeli drones were rumored to be behind the deaths of four of at least 16 suspected militants killed in weekend airstrikes.
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Twin explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut today killed at least 20 people, including an Iranian official, in what some observers are calling a clear sign of deepening sectarian divisions across the region, motivated by the civil war in Syria.
Today, a “chaotic scene” overwhelmed the southern Jnah district where the Iranian embassy is located after two suicide bombers – one on foot, one in a car – detonated their explosives, reports The Los Angeles Times. TV images showed dark smoke, several fires, and blazing cars. At least 100 people were injured, and the Iranian ambassador to Beirut confirmed the death of Iranian cultural attache Ebrahim Ansari, who had been in his post for only a month, reports the BBC.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack in a neighborhood known as a Hezbollah stronghold. The BBC reports that the Lebanese Sunni jihadi group the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility. The station also reports the perpetrators were sending a “clear message.”
The area has been hit by a handful of attacks in recent months, and Lebanon as a whole has recently witnessed “cross-border rocket attacks by Syrian rebels into Shiite areas, deadly car bomb attacks against Sunni and Shiite targets, sectarian clashes, and several roadside bomb attacks against suspected Hezbollah vehicles,” according to The Christian Science Monitor.
“The aim of the blast is to stir up the situation in Lebanon and use the Lebanese arena to convey messages,” Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati told state news agency NNA.
Iran and Hezbollah, Lebanon’s largest political group, are major backers of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Just last week, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said that the group would continue to send its militiamen to Syria to fight alongside government forces. The announcement drew condemnation from anti-Assad groups in both Lebanon and Syria.
Lebanese officials, keen to avoid their nation being drawn into Syria’s civil war, have declared a policy of neutrality in the Syrian war. Many in Lebanon fear the Syrian conflict could destabilize Lebanon’s fragile, multi-sectarian democracy, still brittle following Lebanon’s own, 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.
Today's attacks took place in the context of the Syrian government aggressively pushing back against rebel fighters on three fronts, including one in the region of Qalamoun along the Lebanese border, reports The New York Times.
There have long been fears that if fighting in Syria continues, it will drag Lebanon into chaos. Hezbollah’s involvement in supporting the Syrian government is countered by the involvement of Sunni Lebanese fighting in Syria on behalf of the rebels. In addition, Lebanon, a country of about 4 million people, is now host to upwards of 1 million Syrian refugees.
The Christian Science Monitor wrote a series on the regional stakes of Syria’s war, and noted that if there is one out and out “winner” there, it could critically affect Lebanon’s stability.
It is difficult to envisage an ideal outcome for Lebanon if one side or the other triumphs in Syria. If the Assad regime manages to cling to power and reduce the threat posed by the rebels, Hezbollah will remain strong in Lebanon and the cross-regional alliance between the Shiite group and its backers in Damascus and Tehran will endure.
Such a scenario will deepen Sunni grievances in Lebanon and leave unresolved the continuing domestic debate over Hezbollah's status.
If the Assad regime falls and is replaced by a Sunni regime that moves closer to Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf, Hezbollah will be isolated from Iran and will feel dangerously vulnerable. Any move by a newly emboldened Sunni community in Lebanon against a Hezbollah that still would be determined to retain its arms could exacerbate an already precarious security climate.
Perhaps the best scenario for Lebanon is a negotiated solution in Syria which compels rival actors to make compromises.
But despite attacks and bombings on Lebanese soil, the Monitor's Nicholas Blanford writes that Syria still isn’t tipping Lebanon toward its own civil war.
…Lebanese analysts say such assertions [of civil war] are overly alarmist and do not take into account the important distinction between periodic civil violence and civil war, similar to the intensity of conflict experienced by Syria today and Lebanon between 1975 and 1990.
“Civil war in a country like Lebanon entails a large-scale political, financial, and military mobilization of all the major communities with the goal of reshaping power politics in a way that is definitive and difficult to reverse,” says Aram Nerguizian, senior fellow at the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “While civil war in the traditional sense is not likely, there is a far higher likelihood – if not certainty – that Lebanon will experience a protracted cycle of violence, especially if the Syria conflict goes on unresolved.”
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Former Pakistani ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf was supposed to find out that he could at long last leave the country and put his legal woes behind him. But in an unprecedented move, Pakistan's government on Sunday said it was initiating a treason case against him.
The treason case raises the stakes for both Musharraf, who has maintained his innocence, and Pakistan, which for most of its history has been ruled by the military. He'd be the first military ruler to face a treason trial, which could mean life in prison or the death penalty. The charges stem from his enactment of emergency rule in 2007 when, the government charges, he suspended much of the judiciary to consolidate power.
According to The News in Pakistan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan sent a letter to the Law Ministry today to initiate proceedings again Musharraf. The letter will go to the Supreme Court to seek a special panel to try him. "The decision has been taken in the national interest,” Mr. Khan said yesterday at a press conference, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It is happening for the first time in the history of Pakistan.”
The Associated Press adds more from Mr. Khan:
(Khan) specifically mentioned Musharraf's decision to suspend senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and detain them after he declared a state of emergency on Nov. 3, 2007. He was apparently concerned they would challenge his re-election as president. "The constitution was ruined and violated," Khan said. "The judiciary was humiliated. Judges were manhandled physically, confined along with family and children."
Musharraf governed Pakistan, after a military coup, from 1999 to 2008, when he stepped down among generalized discontent with his leadership. He left the country and went into exile, returning this spring with hopes of relaunching a political career. But he was banned from participating in politics for life and has faced a series of criminal cases, including one for the alleged assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
He was placed under house arrest in April and was released earlier this month after receiving bail in all the cases against him. But the travel ban remained intact. He had requested permission to travel to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to visit his mother.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in August that the indictment on murder charges in the death of Ms. Bhutto was a “remarkable moment for Pakistan. Military leaders – former or serving – have rarely faced the civilian courts. Musharraf is facing a host of legal issues, ranging from his role in the murder of the Baloch separatist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti to potential treason charges."
Now that he could officially stand in a treason case, the move toward "civilian supremacy" over the military is cemented, reports The New York Times. But there could also be unintended consequences, the paper notes:
The decision to put General Musharraf on trial also comes at a time of transition for the military. The current army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is due to retire at the end of this month. Chief Justice Chaudhry is due to retire in December. But if (Prime Minister Nawaz) Sharif is seeking to take advantage of this period of transition in Pakistan’s power politics, many warned that it could backfire. “They are adopting an unchartered course of action that contains many hazards,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defense analyst. “This case may ultimately alienate the military.”
General Musharraf has defended his innocence. Raza Bokhari, his international spokesperson, wrote on his Twitter feed that: "treason charges against @P_Musharraf is a botched attempt by Nawaz to take the focus away from existential threats faced by Pakistan."
And some analysts concur that charges are a veiled attempt to take the focus off domestic woes. “It’s a pure political decision to avert public attention from the rather glaring incompetence of the government,” Raza Rumi, an Islamabad-based analyst, told the Los Angeles Times. "Musharraf can be (a) punching bag when there’s a severe crisis of governance.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to be making good on his promise to "shine a light" on the "chilling events" at the end of Sri Lanka's civil war, as he visited the country's Tamil north in a detour designed to increase scrutiny of the Sri Lankan government's human rights record.
Mr. Cameron is in Sri Lanka for the three-day, 53-nation Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo. Ahead of his visit, he came under pressure to boycott the summit over accusations that the Sri Lankan government murdered and tortured minority Tamils after the end of the civil war, which is believed to have claimed a total of 100,000 lives.
But the prime minister argued that his attendance at the summit would do more than a boycott would, and looked to prove that with a visit to former Tamil territory that he said on Twitter would "shine a light on chilling events there first hand."
CNN reports that there was "full-scale chaos" in Jaffna, a city once controlled by the rebel Tamil Tigers before their defeat, as "hundreds of screaming" protesters and police mobbed Cameron. Nick Robinson of the BBC describes in more detail:
On one side of the road, there was a group of clearly pro-regime demonstrators who, amusingly, carried almost identical printed signs written in English.
When I approached this group I could not find a single one of them who spoke English.
They were calling for an inquiry - not into the crimes of the civil war, or the alleged war crimes of their own president, but into colonial abuses, Britain's behaviour here many decades ago.
Their rival group, composed largely of women, was equally well-organised. As the prime minister arrived they rushed forward to try to see him and were held back by a group of soldiers.
They were carrying in their hands identically laminated pictures of their loved ones, the so-called disappeared - sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who went missing during the civil war.
Just hours before Cameron's visit, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse said in his opening speech as host that the Commonwealth should not be a "judgmental body" and warned against other nations' attempts to impose "bilateral agendas," reports the Times of India.
"If the Commonwealth is to remain relevant to its member countries, the association must respond to the needs of its people and not turn into a punitive or judgemental body," he said in a speech ahead of the formal opening of the summit by Britain's Prince Charles.
But Sri Lanka's long, bloody civil war has left many unresolved questions, The Christian Science Monitor reports. Human rights groups have repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into alleged murder and torture by the Sri Lankan military during and after the civil war. And the UN, which says some 40,000 people were killed in the war's closing stages, has singled out Mr. Rajapakse's government for its failure to investigate the abuses.
Steve Crawshaw at Amnesty International told the Monitor that it's important Cameron speaks out in favor of an international inquiry into alleged war crimes.
“The worst thing that can happen is to go there and not say anything,” Mr. Crawshaw says. “There needs to be international pressure from many governments, not just Britain, and the conference is a good opportunity to put pressure on Sri Lanka and change their attitude.”
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The visit – which Egyptian paper Al-Wafd hailed as “historic” – is the highest-level meeting between Russian and Egyptian officials in years, reports the BBC, and it comes shortly after President Barack Obama cut reduced aid to the Egyptian government following a July military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
The Russian visit sends “a strong political message that stresses the desire” of Russia “to bolster relations and cooperate with Egypt in all fields,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Bloomberg by phone today.
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Egypt is seeking MiG-29 fighter planes, air-defense systems, and anti-tank missiles, Ruslan Pukhov, a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s advisory board and head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, told Bloomberg.
Concurrent with the meetings, the Russian military is sending their flagship cruiser Varyag on a six-day visit to Alexandria. It will be the first Russian warship to visit Egypt since 1992.
Both Russian and Egyptian officials stressed that their meeting wasn’t meant to “replace” other countries, according to the Egyptian paper Ahram:
[Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov described the meeting as "very fruitful" and said collaboration between Cairo and Moscow had a long history going back to the 1950s.
He denied, however, that Russia was striving to replace "any country" - a reference to the US - as Egypt's key strategic partner.
[Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil] Fahmy confirmed that Egypt is not looking for a "substitute for anyone."
Yasser El-Shimy, an Egypt analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Reuters that the visit is meant to send a message to Washington:
"It's meant to send a message to say Egypt has options, and that if the United States wishes to maintain its strategic alliance with Egypt, it will have to drop the conditions it attaches to the military aid.”
The US sends $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt annually, but announced on Oct. 9 that it would suspend shipment of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters, missiles, and $260 million in cash until Egypt demonstrated improvements in democracy and human rights.
The question of whether the US will resume aid lingers over the potential Russian deal, as Reuters notes:
Washington has said it would consider resuming some of the suspended aid depending on Egypt's progress in following the interim government's plans to hold elections - a plan the government says it is committed to seeing through.
Seeking to mend fences with Egypt, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed guarded optimism about a return to democracy during a Nov. 3 visit to Cairo.
A Western diplomat in Cairo said the prospect of the United States resuming aid early next year was one factor diminishing the chances of a major new defense deal with Moscow.
Another unanswered question is how Egypt would pay for the new arms. A key source of funding is likely the Gulf, Bloomberg reports:
Egyptian officials are seeking financing from an unidentified Persian Gulf country to buy as much as $4 billion of Russian arms, Palestinian newspaper Dunia al-Watan reported Nov. 6, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged at least $12 billion to Egypt’s new government.
“The only issue is Egypt’s ability to pay,” Igor Korotchenko, [a] member of the Defense Ministry’s advisory board, said by phone from Moscow. “Russia is prepared to supply a wide range of arms to meet Egypt’s requirements.”
Russia and Egypt had close ties until a few years before Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, which opened the door to substantial US aid over the next three decades.
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A flurry of contradicting reports Tuesday on whether Egypt had lifted its three-month state of emergency left news outlets and Egyptian officials confused. But regardless of when it is lifted, legislation either passed or pending in Cairo in the last three months will ensure the curtailment of many freedoms.
The state of emergency, which gives security services expanded powers, was first declared on Aug. 14, after the police dispersal of two protest camps in Cairo killed hundreds of Egyptians. It was aimed at putting an end to demonstrations by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and included a curfew that ran from 1 am to 5 am all days but Friday, when it began at 7 pm in hopes of discouraging large protests as Mr. Morsi's supporters left Friday prayer.
A judicial ruling brought it to an end Tuesday, but the government announced that night that it had not received a formal notice, and would leave the state of emergency -- and the curfew that came along with it -- in place until that happened, The New York Times reports.
Washington praised the decision to lift the state of emergency, but expressed concern about new legislation, Agence France-Presse reports. "We welcome the formal lifting of the state of emergency including the curfew," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said. "However, we would also note that the government is considering other legislation regarding security. We urge the government to respect the rights of all Egyptians."
Life in Cairo after the lifting of the state of emergency may not look all that different from life under it, according to the BBC.
The authorities say security forces will be deployed on main streets and in city centres across the country to tighten control, our correspondent says.
And she adds that stringent new limits on freedom of movement are expected to be introduced soon, in a law regulating public protest.
Human rights campaigners say the proposals will give police the power to ban protests outright.
A draft legislation - currently being considered by Interim President Adly Mahmud Mansour - requires protest organizers to notify police in advance of any meeting of more than 10 people, in public or in private.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement on the legislation banning protests, describing it as giving "carte blanche" to police efforts to halt demonstrations.
The bill would ban all demonstrations near official buildings, give the police absolute discretion to ban any other protest, and allow officers to forcibly disperse overall peaceful protests if even a single protester throws a stone.
The bill would also require organizers to notify the police in advance of any public meeting of more than 10 people in a private or public place. It would allow the police to ban these meetings, which could severely restrict the freedom of assembly of political parties and nongovernmental groups, Human Rights Watch said.
“This draft law would effectively mandate the police to ban all protests outright and to use force to disperse ongoing protests,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The final law will be an important indicator of the extent to which the new government is going to allow for political space in Egypt.”
Egypt was under a state of emergency for most of former president Hosni Mubarak's rule.
A daily roundup of global reports on security issues
Thai and Cambodian troops are staying put, but the peace around the disputed Preah Vihear border temple appears to be holding a day after a United Nations court ruled that the immediately surrounding territory belongs to Cambodia and Thai forces must withdraw.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said that Thai troops would not be withdrawn from a disputed square-kilometer region surrounding the temple – and which the International Court of Justice ruled was Cambodian territory – until Thai and Cambodian officials could meet to discuss implementation. But the National News Bureau of Thailand reports "that the verdict created a win-win situation for both countries and there have been no reports of border clashes as previously anticipated."
Radio Free Asia reports that the ruling caused no tensions between the Thai and Cambodian forces around Preah Vihear, which has been a flashpoint in recent years between the two nations.
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Both countries have laid claim to a few square miles of scrubland around the temple since the ICJ ruled Preah Vihear was Cambodian in 1962. Since 2008, the two countries have had a series of skirmishes over the land, most recently in 2011, when more than two dozen soldiers and civilians from both sides were killed over the course of the year.
But the ICJ ruled on Monday that "Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole territory of the promontory of Preah Vihear," referring to a subregion of the disputed territory currently held by Thai forces, reports Agence France-Presse. "In consequence Thailand was under an obligation to withdraw from that territory Thai military or police forces or other guards or keepers who were stationed there," [Judge Peter] Tomka said.
While the ruling granted Cambodia the most hotly contested portion of the region surrounding the temple, the court declined to rule on much of the rest of the approximately 2 square mile area, instead declaring that Thailand and Cambodia must negotiate the ownership of that territory.
The Phnom Penh Post reports that the ruling is "viewed as a small victory for Cambodia but not a huge loss for Thailand" and that both Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen said they would begin talks to resolve the remaining differences over the territory.
The Post adds that the ruling will boost Shinawatra, whose government has been under fire for trying to ram through an amnesty that would allow the controversial former premier – and Shinawatra's brother – Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand. The government's failed attempt to open the door to Thaksin's return has spurred fierce protests from the opposition. But analysts tell the Post that the ICJ ruling will likely not flare tensions further:
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said yesterday that the verdict had taken some fuel out of the anti-government protests, as well as defusing tensions at the border.
“This is not the bombshell decision that the Thais were fearing. If the decision had been completely in Cambodia’s favour, it would have fanned the flames [of these protests] and the downside was dire,” he said.
“It will be played as a halfway victory for Thailand, not as a defeat … and the Cambodians might play it the same way, “Now they are forced to go back to a bilateral framework … which is optimistic given the leadership of both governments are aligned. They see eye-to-eye on the need to work things out,” he said.
The Economist's Banyan column reports that in some ways, the Preah Vihear dispute "is intrinsically linked to the figure of Mr. Thaksin."
The close relationship between Messrs Hun Sen and Thaksin – the living symbol of the Thai opposition – contributed to escalating tensions at the border zone until Yingluck became prime minister, in mid–2011. In response to an interim ICJ ruling at around the time that Yingluck took office, the two countries withdrew their military forces from a demilitarised zone covering some 17 square kilometres of territory near the temple.
As such, the Economist adds:
Ms Yingluck cannot be seen to be too friendly with Cambodia at such a time. Any misstep in relation to the sensitive issue of Thailand’s territorial integrity would stir up nationalist sentiment. It may provide the army with an excuse to intervene in a bid to maintain its heavy-handed role in Thai politics.