Amnesty International reported Feb. 11 that nearly five years after Bahrain's Day of Rage protests sparked international concern over Bahraini government accountability in human rights, the hope for reform has dwindled. In Bahrain, February 14, 2011, was a day of protests that ultimately ended in the death and torture of rights activists. AI reported that peaceful opposition activists still face arbitrary detention and even physical punishment. AI called for the government to take accountability not only for current conditions but for the security forces that committed abuses during the initial protests.
The Palestinian Prisoners' Society on Feb. 10 said Israel was "not showing attention or willingness" to solve the case of Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq as he entered day 77 on hunger strike. The society reiterated that the Palestinian prisoner remained in critical condition, slamming Israel for failing to make serious steps in his case and holding Israeli authorities "completely responsible" for al-Qiq's life. Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old and father of two, launched his hunger strike after being detained in November and held in Israeli prison under administrative detention without charge or trial. Over 100 Palestinians marched in solidarity with al-Qiq in front of HaEmek Hospital where the journalist is still being held under Israeli custody. Participants raised Palestinian flags and chanted slogans calling for al-Qiq's release.
Amnesty International USA alleges that Mustafa al-Hawsawi, one of the accused 9-11 ring-leaders, is in desperate need of medical care in a letter (PDF) to the Pentagon that was made public on Feb. 10. In the letter, AI-USA states that Hawsawi is in severe rectal distress due to interrogation methods that amount to torture and that he has yet to receive adequate medical care. The letter further urges the Pentagon to look into the treatment of all current Guantánamo detainees due to ongoing complaints. A government spokesperson declined to comment on the letter other than to say that all detainees receive medical care equal to that of service members.
The body of Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter for El Sol de Orizaba who was abducted from her home near the city of Orizaba in Mexico's Veracruz state on Feb. 8, was found the following day in the neighboring state of Puebla, according to a Puebla state official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The CPJ called on Mexican federal authorities to take over investigation and prosecution of the crime and to consider journalism as a motive.
Colombia's Constitutional Court on Feb. 7 revoked all licenses granted to companies that sought to carry out mining activities on paramós, the high alpine meadows that protect watersheds. The ruling overturns Article 173 of the government's new National Development Plan (PND), which allowed 347 existing licenses in the alpine zones to move ahead, although barring the issuing of new ones. The ruling also struck down provisions of the PND that barred victims of the country's armed conflict from reclaiming usurped lands that had been converted into so-called "Projects of Strategic National Interest" (PINE). Additionally, the court overturned a third article that allowed the government to forcibly expropriate privately-owned land for mega-projects. The decision is seen as a blow to the ambitions of Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras, mastermind of the PND. The case was brought by the left-opposition Polo Democrática. (Colombia Reports, El Tiempo, Equilibrio Informativo, El Heraldo, Barranquilla, Feb. 9; El Espectador, RCN Radio, Feb. 8; Silla Vacía, Feb. 7)
Amid concerns over impunity for past atrocities in Colombia's peace process, a court in Villaviencio last week sentenced ex-FARC commander Gildardo Forero García, AKA"'Arley" to 40 years in prison for his role in the guerillas' August 1998 siege of the town of Miraflores, Guaviare, department. Three civilians were killed and many wounded in the siege as the guerillas used improvised "cylinder-bombs" indiscriminately. Sixteen members of the security forces were also killed in the siege, and many taken captive by the guerillas. (El Espectador, Feb. 5) The previous week, former army sergeant Iván Mauricio Ochoa Yepes was sentenced to 43 years by a court in Medellín for the "false positive" killings of two civilians, including a minor, at Concepción, Antioquia, in April 2006. The human rights division of Colombia's Fiscalía said that it is investigating 2,308 "false positive" cases. (El Colombiano, Feb. 7; Colombia.com, Jan. 29; Radio Caracol, Jan. 24)
Just as hopes had risen for a peace dialogue with Colombia's second guerilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) carried out an attack with improvised mortars (tatucos) on the barracks of the army's 18th Brigade in the city of Arauca on the Eastern Plains. There were no casualties in the Feb. 8 attack, but the compound was left without electricity. President Manuel Santos convened an emergency meeting of his National Security Council, and pledged to respond harshly. Since then, the ELN has carried out numerous atacks in the region—including a blast on the Caño-Limón pipeline that caused a leak of crude oil.
Scuffles broke out between pro-Kurdish protesters and police outside the National Higher Studies Institute in Quito where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was speaking Feb. 4. Three women who maaged to infiltrate the audience during Erdogan's speech and stood up to shout slogans in support of the Kurds were forcibly ejected by Turkish security guards. Local media also reported that a member of Erdogan's security entourage attacked a protester as the Turkish president exited the building. Ecuadoran MP Diego Vintimilla was also injured during the incident, posting pictures to Twitter of his bloodied nose. Ecuador's government formally protested the violence, with the Foreign Ministry summoning the Turkish ambassador and calling the guards' behavior "irresponsible." Nonetheless, Erdogan and his Ecuadoran counterpart Rafael Correa signed a series of bilateral deals to boost diplomatic and trade relations. (EuroNews, BBC News, Feb. 5)