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Great Nations & Industry Captains Ignore Thugocracies in Burma & Darfur

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While Great Nations & Captains of Industry Look the Other Way, Unchastened Thugocracies Crush the Defiant in Burma & the Defenseless in Darfur

By Richard Power

Image: Tara, the Green Goddess of Mercy, and Her Twenty-One Emanations

Do not allow the leaders of the great nations or the captains of industry to wring their hands and tell you there is nothing they can do; there is a lot they can do economically and politically. They do not act because of business interests. That is the simple, ugly truth.

From Burma, there is the appalling news that Zarganar, a popular comedian who spoke out against the thugocracy, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Imagine Stephen Colbert being sentenced to decades of imprisonment for speaking truth to power (through satire) at the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006. (
Click here for the transcript.)

From the Hague, there is encouraging news that the International Criminal Court has issued warrants for the arrest of three individuals believed to be responsible for attacks on international peacekeepers in Darfur.

Next time you shake your head in astonishment about those, in your own country, who seem to be simply walking off into private life without facing special prosecutors, international tribunals, massive civil suits or at least impeachment proceedings, after brazenly trampling the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Accords and even the Magna Carta; remember the murdered peacekeepers in Darfur.

What were the peacekeepers doing? Well, one of their primary missions was going on "firewood patrols" to protect women and girls from rape and other acts of violence while they gathered grass and wood beyond the perimeters of the refugee camps. And yet, the leaders of some great nations will block efforts to bring their murderers to justice in the Hague; and some captains of industry will continue to do business with the thugocrats who armed and empowered those murderers.

With deepening global economic and environmental crises, it might seem to you that no time, resources or bandwidth for human rights issues. But you would be wrong to indulge in such a false assumption. There has never been a more desperate or urgent need for you to pay attention to human rights violations in Burma, Darfur, the Congo and elsewhere, because as the global economy tanks, and the global environment boils, it is your own human rights that will become increasingly disposable.

Here are excerpts from these two stories, with links to the full texts:

A popular comedian active in Burma's democracy movement has been sentenced to 45 years in jail by a Burmese court.

Zarganar was found to have violated the Electronics Act, which regulates electronic communications.  He is the latest in a string of opposition activists to be given long jail terms by the military government.  He was detained earlier this year for criticising the government's slow response to Cyclone Nargis in interviews with foreign news groups.
More than 100 activists have been sentenced over the past two weeks in a judicial crackdown across the spectrum of Burma's pro-democracy movement.  Some people have been sentenced to terms as long as 65 years.  Many took part in protests against the ruling junta sparked by fuel and food price rises in August 2007.

Zarganar led a group of entertainers who organised private aid deliveries to victims of Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May.  An outspoken satirist of the military government, Zarganar had already been arrested and jailed four times before he was taken from his home again by the authorities in June. BBC, 11-21-08

The request on November 20 by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for arrest warrants for three rebel leaders believed to be responsible for attacks on international peacekeepers in Darfur is an important step toward protecting those who protect civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Repeated attacks on international peacekeepers have severely compromised the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations in Darfur. ...

Security concerns remain a serious obstacle for the joint AU-UN peacekeepers (UNAMID) who took over peacekeeping in Darfur on December 31, 2007. The new peacekeeping force has also repeatedly come under direct attack from both rebel and Sudanese government forces:

* On July 8, 2008, unknown attackers killed seven peacekeepers and wounded 22 in a government-controlled area of North Darfur.
* On two occasions in July, unknown attackers shot at patrols in West Darfur, killing a peacekeeper on July 16.
* On July 21, government forces assaulted and arrested a UNAMID security officer in El Fasher.
* In August and September, unknown gunmen fired on peacekeepers' helicopters on at least four occasions.
* On October 6, a group of peacekeepers were ambushed at Menawashei, 75 kilometers north of Nyala, during an assessment patrol from Nyala to Khor Abeche in South Darfur.
* On October 29, a peacekeeper was killed when UNAMID forces came under attack at a water point near the Kassab displaced persons camp in North Darfur.
* On November 9, a peacekeeping patrol was ambushed by a group of well-armed men near Geneina in West Darfur, wounding one peacekeeper.

The suspects have been charged with war crimes for: murder and causing severe injury to peacekeepers; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission; and pillaging
Human Rights Watch, 11-20-08

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I encourage you to follow events in Burma on Irrawaddy.

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Richard Power writes and speaks on the 21st Century security and sustainability crisis. He is the author of five books. He has also delivered executive intelligence briefings and led professional training in over thirty countries. You can read his (more...)
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