04 Oct 2013 | by Sabina Zaccaro | #NobelPeacePrize | Armed Conflicts - Interviews
Oscar Arias Sánchez is simply known as the man who brought peace to Central America. When he was elected President of Costa Rica in 1986, an armed conflict was still raging in the region. Arias launched a peace plan that was signed by Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. After only one year in office, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
He has kept fighting for peace ever since. Today, the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress is one of the most engaged organizations for disarmament, and Oscar Arias is personally committed promoting the landmark Arms Trade Treaty.
The treaty was adopted in April 2013 at the UN General Assembly by 153 nations. 23 decided for abstention, including Russia and China while Syria, North Korea and Iran voted against it.
According to Amnesty International, five hundred people die every year because of violence as a result of arms detention. But how many will die before the treaty becomes law?
Oscar Arias Sánchez talks to Sabina Zaccaro, IPSTV Correspondent from Italy:
Oscar Arias Sánchez: To begin with, I don’t think there has been any progress, world military spending is not decreasing. The world is still spending something around 1.7 trillion dollars per year. I come from Latin America, democracy has never been stronger in the past than today, nevertheless Latin America is the region of the world where military spending has been increasing more and faster, so I don’t think there will be a decrease in military spending until the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is ratified.
Sabina Zaccaro: As you said, we’re in front of two extremes, we have the possibility of a military intervention in Syria and the UN resolution and the treaty of arms, is it possible to reconcile these extremes.
O.A.S.: Well the ATT is going to take some time because it has to be ratified by at least by 50 countries, now concerning Syria I was very upset when Washington and president Obama was preparing to strike Syria, so I’m very glad that at the end the US reached an agreement with Russia, we’re now expecting to see if it is true that the Syrian government is going to hand over all the chemical weapons to UN inspectors so that eventually they can be destroyed, but that is not enough. What I do miss is the fact that we need to fight for a cease fire in Syria, to put an end to the war, to the civil war, and eventually we need to prepare that country to hold elections in the nearest future, so that we can transform Syria into a real democracy.
S.Z.: Your country does not have an army, can it be considered a model of non-armed democracy?
O.A.S: It is not the only country in the world without an army, I believe it was the first country to abolish its armed forces unilaterally, but very few people know that our neighbor to the south, Panama, has no army, I am responsible for that, I persuaded the government at the time in the early 90’s, Guillermo Endara, to get rid of the Panamanian military forces, the safest border in the world is that between Costa Rica and Panama two countries without armed forces. And also very few people know that I also persuaded president Aristide in Haiti to get rid of the Haitian army, not constitutionally, but realistically Haiti has no army because the budget to the army was cut many years ago.
S.Z.: The relationship between the economic interests of arm producers and war is quite complex, do you see it possible to overcome that vicious circle?
O.A.S.: If you eventually get rid of your armed forces, what you need first is to persuade your military your own military that there is no need for an army, and then you have to mobilize the soldiers and for that you need some money, but it is a blessing not to spend money on arms, cause I keep telling my friends that the best way to perpetuate poverty in the world is by spending on arms, instead of educating our children for instance.# vimeo.com/87472366 Uploaded 79 Plays 0 Likes 0 Comments
15 Oct 2013 | by Nadira Tudor | #Guantanamo ì | Armed Conflicts - Interviews
Reprieve‘s office is full of books explaining how the international justice system works and how to help those accused of the most extreme crimes. Based in London, the organization supports prisoners around the world.
Reprieve’s aim is to secure each person’s right to a fair trial, those mainly imprisoned for crime such as terrorism or murder. Many cases involve individuals stuck in death row and Guantanamo Bay.
Strategic Director Cori Crider talks to IPSTV Correspondent Nadira Tudor.
Cori Crider: You go and you meet your client. He has a face and a history, and a personality. It is not just trying to stop something, it is actually trying to defend him. It is about trying to achieve something for him, see him hug his family again. Remember, over half of the people left in Guantanamo today have been cleared for release. Sometimes, for most of the time they have spent in Guantanamo, someone from the US Government has been telling them, “You will go home any day”, for most of their imprisonment. As time went on and promises were broken, they stopped believing it. They say, “well, the world is obviously forgotten me and has forgotten my plight. What option do I have, but to refuse food and protest?”
Nadira Tudor: Why do the authorities then implement force feeding?
Cori Crider: According to the Defence Department this is humane and they have to preserve these people’s lives. They cannot let them commit suicide. I talk to my clients and they just don’t buy it, they say they are not trying to commit suicide. They do not want to die.
You just have to look at the way they do it: Prisoners have a restrained chair, which brochures describe as a padded cell on wheels. They chain a man arms to a chair, they chain up his legs. There is even a strap for his head and it is forced back against the back of the chair. A 100 cm plastic tube is passed up his nose down through his throat into his stomach when he is put against this chair.
Reprieve Guantanamo / IPSTV
Nadira Tudor: What was Obama’s administration attitude towards this issue?
Cori Crider: I remember sitting on a chair listening to Obama’s speech, when he signed the executive order, saying he is going to close the prison within a year. Obviously, this is not what happened. There were political resistances from Republicans after Obama took office and I am sad to say, and certainly my clients are sad to learn that Obama was frankly pretty weak.
Nadira Tudor: Do you think there are now changes in the second term?
Cori Crider: There have been suggestions that Obama is deeply troubled by his failure to close Guantanamo and the fact that it is still going. I think it is a stain on American’s reputation and on his consciousness.
One of my clients was ordered release by a judge. He was a kid, called Mohammed al-Gharani. He was taken to Guantanamo when he was fourteen-year-old. He was a kid from Saudi Arabia and he did not speak a word of English when he got there, but in the end he sounded like a kid from Cleveland. He was smart and irrepressible. He have been treated so badly in the time he was there, but he had a free spirit and managed to keep not only his spirit, but actually the spirits of a lot of his older fellow prisoners. He was just an amazing guy.
If you were an Arab or a foreigner of some kind in Pakistan or Afghanistan, after September 11th, you were very likely to be picked up and sold for a bounty to the United States. We have seen the bounty flyers – they basically have a picture of a bearded Arab, a picture of the same bearded Arab behind some bars and fistful of American dollars. And the flyer says: “We can pay for you and for your village to live comfortably with health care for the rest of your life if you just hand us the called terrorist”.
Afghanistan Bounty Leaflet / IPSTV
Nadira Tudor: Do you think that the work that you and your colleagues do actually makes a difference worldwide?
Cori Crider: When I go to somewhere like in Yemen, that has the largest number of people in Guantanamo and it is also a site of drone strikes and I say “Hello, I am from the United States, in fact I am from Texas, sorry for George Bush, sorry for Guantanamo, and actually I am pretty sorry for the drone war”, people respond incredibly and overwhelmingly positively to that.
Nadira Tudor: If Retrieve had a message, what would that be to the international community?
Cori Crider: The war on terror is wrong and it is counterproductive, but that also, all of us have the power to end it.
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18 Sep 2013 | by Mohammed Omer | Themes ì | Armed Conflicts - Original Feature
Ibrahim Dahman would need to leave Gaza for surgical treatment, yet the Palestinian Authority denied his right to a passport.
He is only one of the tens of thousands of Palestinians that have been refused a passport for alleged “security reasons”.
Ibrahim believes the real reason lies in his political loyalties.
IPSTV Correspondent Mohammed Omer reports from Gaza
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Ibrahim Dahman shares the burden of being trapped inside the Gaza Strip with many others who live under Israeli occupation. His pain goes beyond lack of freedom of movement. He suffers from acute pain stemming from shrapnel embedded in his head during an Israeli airstrike. He would need to leave Gaza in order to seek surgical treatment. Yet, he has been denied his right to a passport by the Palestinian Authority for “security reasons”. But Ibrahim believes the real reason lies in his political loyalties.
Ibrahim Dahman, Gaza national: “I was hit by Israeli shelling, directly and need medical care abroad… I received a phone call from Palestinian intelligence in Ramallah stating never dream of receiving a passport… I am now sending a message to President Abu Mazen, that I am a Palestinian national, my mom is Palestinian, my father is Palestinian, my grandfather is Palestinian and we are originally Canaanites. If we were not Palestinians, say Somalis, we’d send it to Somalia to apply for a Somali passport or Eritrean passport”.
Ibrahim is only one of the tens of thousands of Palestinians that are denied a passport for alleged security reasons. Following the 2007 fighting between Hamas and Fatah, passports for Gazans started to be issued by the Palestinain Authority. Since then, a local service office prepares the file which must then be sent to Ramallah for final approval. The owner of a public service office, explains how the procedure works:
“The middle office has direct contact with the Ministry of Interior in Ramallah. In most cases, the justifications are related to security and you can’t interfere with those reasons for denying passport applications”.
Students looking for higher education (pause), sick people in need of medical care (pause) and those looking for work abroad (pause) – all are affected, not just due to a blanket Israeli closure policy but also PA’s discriminatory practices based on political affiliations. Internal political squabbling in a nation under occupation has meant that their futures and sometimes even their survival remain in limbo.
Wissam Alramalwi, Gaza Interior Ministry: “According to statistics from the Ministry of Interior, it is estimated around 20,000 people have been denied passports, including students who missed opportunities because they do not have one and sick people who have died as a result of the ban or security denial”.
Human rights groups are exploring the possibility of litigation against the Palestinian Authority for violating basic legal rights of Gazans.
Human Rights lawyer Samir Zaqout: “This restriction or ban form a dangerous violation of the law, and I believe this requires the need to prosecute whoever deprives citizens of their right to a passport, as this is a crime in violation of Palestinian law itself.”
Despite official withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2005, Gaza continues to be under a siege with economic, political and humanitarian repercussions . Aside from the closure policies of Israel, Gazans also lack basic constitutional rights to have a passport and mobility, not for tourist or entertainment purposes, but for vital access to education, health care and employment.
Divisive politics in the Palestinian territories has worsened living conditions for Gazans already living in an open prison.# vimeo.com/86991149 Uploaded 32 Plays 0 Likes 0 Comments
04 Sep 2013 | by Kim-Jenna Jurriaans | #StopandFrisk ì | Civil Society - Original Feature
Stop and frisk, the New York policing tactic that allows officers to perform street stops and body searches under reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, has long been controversial for its disproportionate focus on poor communities of colour.
While Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD have long credited the policy for reducing crime and taking thousands of guns off the street, reform advocates have long warned the harm it inflicts on poor communities far outweighs its gains.
Criminal justice scholars, meanwhile, try to raise awareness about the effects that “over-policing” has on young people growing up in these neighbourhoods.
A recent federal legal ruling and a City Council vote could now force a shift in policing across New York City.
Kim-Jenna Jurriaans, IPSTV correspondent in New York, reports.
READ STORY: New York’s Stop and Frisk Tactic Leaves Lasting Mark
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17 Jul 2013 | by Kim-Jenna Jurriaans | Themes ì | Civil Society - Original Feature
The acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed 17-year-old Florida teenager Trayvon Martin last year, has roused strong emotions across the United States.
In New York, thousands took to the street to protest the jury decision and bring the issue of race in the criminal justice system back into the public debate.
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