Human Rights Flashpoints – August 11, 2009

AFGHANISTAN – Increased violence prior to elections

As the second presidential election draws closer, increased violence from Taliban militants appears imminent.  This past Monday, Taliban militants attacked official buildings in Pul-i-Alam, launching rockets towards the police headquarters and the governor’s building, threatening to weaken governmental authority. The Taliban have declared that they will continue with the attacks in order to disrupt the August 20th elections while the United Nations fears that intensified violence jeopardizes the voter turnout.  This attack is one of the closest to have occurred to Kabul, the Afghan capital in the days prior to the election.

As the threat to civilian life increases, the White House is in the process of re-evaluating its “metrics” of success to determine if the revamped strategy of the United States in Afghanistan is working.  The new measures include tracking the size, strength and durability of the Afghan National Army, analyzing the number of operations led by the Afghan soldiers.  The plan is also to include further protection of civilians while isolating the insurgents from support and sanctuary.

Must Reads


“My message to my Democratic colleagues is that we made mistakes in Iraq. Let’s not ‘Rumsfeld’ Afghanistan,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R), South Carolina.

“It’s a very aggressive enemy right now.  We’ve got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative.  It’s hard work.”  General McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

MYANMAR – The shameful verdict

Myanmar’s military junta handed down its shameful verdict against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi today, locking her up for at least another year and a half. Conveniently for the oppressive Generals, this will put her under house arrest until next year’s planned elections are over. The time between now and next year’s polls bears the great risk of further arrests and oppression of Myanmar’s political opposition. After all, there are already now more than 2,100 political prisoners locked up in the country’s prisons, where they are held in poor conditions and at risk of torture. To quell any potential protests in the aftermath of today’s verdict, the regime has strongly tightened security in the country.

Today’s verdict led to worldwide condemnations, and the UN Security Council will be holding a special session on the topic. Political leaders around the world have already spoken out against this injustice.

OVERHEARD – The world reacts to the verdict

(…) I join the international community in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate unconditional release. Today’s unjust decision reminds us of the thousands of other political prisoners in Burma who, like Aung San Suu Kyi, have been denied their liberty because of their pursuit of a government that respects the will, rights, and aspirations of all Burmese citizens.  They, too, should be freed.  Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.  I call on the Burmese regime to heed the views of its own people and the international community and to work towards genuine national reconciliation. (…) – US President Barack Obama

Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar (Burma) are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

The reduced sentence was “not a concession — it is a manipulation of an illegal process. It must not be accepted by any government.” – Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town

With respect to Aung San Suu Kyi, she should not have been tried and she should not have been convicted. We continue to call for her release from continuing house arrest. (…) The Burmese junta should immediately end its repression of so many in this country, start a dialogue with the oppositon and the ethnic groups. Otherwise the elections they have scheduled for next year will have absolutely no legitimacy – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Australian government is convinced that Aung San Suu Kyi was tried on spurious charges and not granted a fair hearing – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

The Burmese authorities have shown with this iniquitous ruling their decision to ignore pressing messages from the international community – French President Nicolas Sarkozy

I am both saddened and angry at the verdict today, August 11, following the sham trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. This is a purely political sentence designed to prevent her from taking part in the regime’s planned elections next year. So long as Aung San Suu Kyi and all those political opponents imprisoned in Burma remain in detention and are prevented from playing their full part in the political process, the planned elections in 2010 will have no credibility or legitimacy – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

The Indonesian government is very disappointed over the verdict given by the Burmese court against Aung San Suu Kyi – Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah

Coming This Week

  • August 10: President Obama arrives in Mexico to discuss immigration and the drug cartels
  • August 11: Secretary Clinton to arrive in Eastern Congo
  • Expected later on this week: A report from Congress describing the 50 suspected Afghan drug lords with ties to the Taliban, a status that allows them to be captured and killed at any time.

Jacki Mowery contributed to this post.

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.

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