Tuvalu, the tiny island nation that is slowly disappearing into the sea, is planning to sue several countries for the pollution it claims caused the global warming which in turn caused the sea level to rise.
The nation of 26 square kilometers, most of it only a few meters above sea level, has set the ultimate challenge of wresting control of the global warming agenda before it sinks forever beneath the waves. When that will happen is anyone's guess. But Prime Minister Koloa Talake says the only thing rising faster than the tide around his country's nine atolls is the cost of moving the 11,000 inhabitants elsewhere.
Talake blames the United States and other leading economies for their half-hearted commitment to emissions reductions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its protocols. Washington, the only country to repudiate its signature on the critical Kyoto Protocol, will presumably be the first target of the US law firm that has been engaged to pursue this intriguing legal action. After that it gets a little tricky.
While the battle only has begun, we already have achieved significant objectives. Afghan citizens have been released from the brutal and oppressive rule of the Taliban. Afghan women, who suffered violence and repression, are now beginning to resume their roles in society. Indeed Afghanistan is a triumph for human rights in 2001.
There is, however, much more work still to be done. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001 captures a world still reeling and reacting to the events of last September. Yet the Reports' central mission remains the same--to give voice to those who have been denied the freedoms and rights provided for in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Reports confirm that the battle of ideas between those who suppress democracy and human rights and those who would see them flourish remains far from over. Only through the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms can the international community be secure from the scourge of terrorism.
What does it say about our new friends?
The Government's human rights record remained poor and worsened in several areas. Numerous serious irregularities in the October 1999 parliamentary elections and the April 2000 presidential election limited citizens' right to change their government. Several deaths in custody were blamed on physical abuse, torture, or inhuman and life-threatening prison conditions. Reports of police brutality continued. Security forces continued to torture, beat, and otherwise abuse detainees. Corruption in law enforcement agencies was pervasive. Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening; however, some steps were taken during the year to address problems in the prison system. Arbitrary arrest and detention increased during the year. Neither the President nor other senior officials took concrete steps to address these problems, and impunity remained a problem. The judiciary was subject to pressure and corruption and did not ensure due process; reforms to create a more independent judiciary were undermined by failure to pay judges in a timely manner. There were lengthy delays in trials and prolonged pretrial detention remained a problem. Law enforcement agencies and other government bodies occasionally interfered with citizens' right to privacy. The press generally was free; however, security forces and other authorities intimidated and used violence against journalists. Journalists practiced self-censorship. The police restricted freedom of assembly and law enforcement authorities dispersed numerous peaceful gatherings. Government officials infringed upon freedom of religion. The Government continued to tolerate discrimination and harassment of some religious minorities. Violence and discrimination against women were problems. Trafficking for the purpose of forced labor and prostitution was a problem.
There was little information available on the human rights situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia due to limited access to these regions.
But hey, let's train and equip their military.
The Government's human rights record remained poor; there were continued efforts to improve the legal framework and institutional mechanisms, but implementation lagged, and serious problems remained in many areas. A small percentage of total human right abuses reported are attributed to state security forces; however, government security forces continued to commit serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings. Impunity remained a problem. Despite some prosecutions and convictions, the authorities rarely brought higher-ranking officers of the security forces and the police charged with human rights offenses to justice. Members of the security forces collaborated with paramilitary groups that committed abuses, in some instances allowing such groups to pass through roadblocks, sharing information, or providing them with supplies or ammunition. Despite increased government efforts to combat and capture members of paramilitary groups, security forces also often failed to take action to prevent paramilitary attacks. Paramilitary forces still find support among the military and police, as well as among local civilian populations in many areas.
But let's give even more money and equipment to Columbia's military too.
I think I'll stop now.
'This time, Bob, it's personal': Barrie Collins asked if the rest of the world should really be meddling in Zimbabwe?
The European Union has imposed 'smart' sanctions on Zimbabwe - meaning that President Robert Mugabe and his high-ranking officials will be refused visas to travel to EU member states and will have their assets in Europe frozen. The sanctions have generated a lot of anti-colonial rhetoric and gestures of defiance from Mugabe and co, which have dominated news headlines worldwide.
This isn't the first time the international community has meddled in Zimbabwe's affairs. And in Zimbabwe's forthcoming presidential elections, the USA, the UK and the EU have made a list of demands and plan to monitor the elections to see if Zimbabwe passes the democracy test - seeming to have overlooked the fact that democracy imposed from without is not democracy at all.
'Rarely can one phrase have caused such confusion and controversy', wrote BBC journalist Jon Leyne in early February, after US senators started asking awkward questions about President Bush's 'axis of evil' speech. 'I was confused by it...I'm not exactly sure what he means...I don't know what the president had in mind', blurted Democratic senator Joe Biden. According to Leyne, Bush's evil axis seems to 'have frightened America's allies as much as it scared its enemies.
It's not only journalists and Democrats who were confused by Bush's rhetoric. Since calling Iraq, Iran and North Korea an 'axis of evil' in his State of the Union address on 30 January 2002, Dubya himself and his secretaries of state seem unclear about where to go next. 'It is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight', said Bush in his address, threatening to bring the 'war on terror' to other evil states - but two days later he told journalists that if the three evil states 'showed a clear commitment to peace', 'we would be more than happy to enter into dialogue with them'