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Newsblog: 16-21 July

22/07/2011

By ICSR Research Intern Joana Cook

THE MIDDLE EAST AND MORE

On Wednesday Goran Hazdic, a Croatian Serb Wartime leader, became the last major war crimes suspect from the 1991 – 1995 Croatian War to be arrested and sent to the Hague. He was being charged with crimes against humanity for ordering the deaths of hundreds and deportations of thousands of Croats and non-Serbs from the region of Croatia he took over. The move is being seen as a boost for Serbia’s entry into the EU.

Those loyal to President Bashar al-Assad surrounded the Harasta suburb in Damascus on Wednesday in a move meant to crush the growing opposition movement in Syria. The same day, the Syrian Foreign Minister banned any foreign diplomats from leaving the capital after visits by the US and French ambassadors to Hama, one of the area’s hardest hit by Assad’s troops. On Thursday, mass shootings were occurring in Syria’s third largest city of Homs as Syrian security forces swept through making mass arrests and conducting raids. The number of those killed in the four month uprising has reached 1,600, with 12,000 detained say human rights groups.

Egypt has laid out plans to hold the first democratic elections since the ousting of President Husni Mubarak’s regime in February. For reasons of national sovereignty, Egypt will not be allowing international monitors to oversee the election, announced the military. With a referendum planned in the spring, the ‘electoral process’ is set to occur this fall. Two significant changes will be introduced in these elections including the quota for the number of women in Parliament being removed and the age of lawmakers being reduced from 30 to 25. Egypt’s new cabinet will also be sworn in this Thursday to include foreign affairs and finance portfolios.

A human rights organisation in Bahrain has accused security forces of terrorizing hospital staff where injured protestors sought treatment in a report released this week. Specific allegations include the security forces attacking doctors and nurses, laying siege to hospitals and clinics, detaining those seeking medical treatment and prosecuting dozen’s of hospital staff. These were said to have occurred after the February, with many further arrests occurring after the uprising was quashed in mid-March. Around 30 people were thought to have died in the Bahraini protests while over 500 were reportedly injured.

The Taliban released a video on Monday showing the execution of 16 men believed to be Pakistani police officers. The policemen were believed to have been abducted in a cross-border raid by the Taliban on June 1 in retaliation to the alleged killings of six children in the Swat Valley. Pakistani authorities deny that the killings of these children took place and accused the Taliban of trying to use ‘terror as a tool’ to further destabilise the region.

 

THE UK

The UK was particularly busy this week with stories focussed on radicalisation and political violence. As seen in recent weeks, there has been a particular focus on the UK-Pakistan relationship, tackling radicalisation at home and programs abroad that will focus on predicting and addressing countries slipping into political violence.

Pakistan and the UK will be pursuing a comprehensive approach to against extremism and radicalisation, the government announced at a meeting held in London on Tuesday. The meeting was held at Lanchester House and was attended by British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Pakistani Prime Minsiter Syed Yusuf Raza. The importance of economic and bilateral cooperation was also stressed and both sides vowed to continue to work together to promote peace in the region and tackle militancy.

Britain announced on Tuesday that they will be setting up and Early Warning System that will identify and intervene in countries at risk of slipping into anarchy. The system will include new Stabilisation Response Teams and Watchlist, which will identify fragile countries that are at risk of conflict and where Britain has “significant interests at stake”. Countries thought to be analysed by this new program are South Sudan, Nepal, Somalia and Northern Nigeria. The new program will report every six months on political, economic and security shocks around the world that could trigger violence.

Pakistan is enlisting the help of psychologists from around the world to help fight radicalisation in a new non-military ‘war on terror’ strategy. The focus will be on three de-radicalisation facilities that are currently housing al Qaeda and Taliban members in Swat Valley. The new approach will also assist young boys, usually from poor and illiterate backgrounds, that are being recruited by the Taliban, often against their will. A UK psychologist, Dr. Sarah Savage of Cambridge University, has developed a psychological therapeutic approach to extremism called integrative complexity which is currently being used in the UK and now being applied to this program in Pakistan.

An interesting piece to come out of the UK this week was a story by Humza Yousaf, a Scottish Member of Parliament discussing the Scottish approach to radicalisation, including the Solas Foundation which teaches a classical form of Islam flexible enough for 21st century Scotland. Yousaf also states that Western media tends to give excessive air time to ‘fake sheiks’ which is comparable to Middle Eastern news agencies seeking a Christian view from persons like Pastor Terry Jones (the Florida preacher made infamous for burning the Quran) and misrepresents the population.

Senior UK MPs have criticised the UK for arms sales to ‘authoritarian’ regimes in the Middle East such as Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Following this findings earlier in the year, a review had been conducted and was released this week. Foreign secretary William Hague claimed that the review showed no weapons sold to the varying regimes were used in government offensives during the Arab Spring and there was no evidence of misuse of controlled military goods exported from the UK. MPs rebuffed this report stating that the 157 rejected arms export licenses to the region showed the ‘clearest evidence of misjudgement’ and questioned why these arms exports have, in many cases, still not been fully revoked.