News (handpicked)

Gaza pounded amid push for truce

Israeli tanks have pushed deep into Gaza City, prompting fierce exchanges of gunfire with fighters of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The UN's relief agency, Unrwa, says part of its HQ in the city is on fire after being shelled by the Israelis. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed outrage at the attack, and said Israel had told him it was a grave mistake. Efforts to reach a truce continue, with Israel's head negotiator due in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian ceasefire plan.

Hamas said the talks had made progress, but did not elaborate. Speaking to reporters on the Israel-Gaza border, Unrwa spokesman Christopher Gunness said three of the agency's employees were hurt in the attack.

He said the compound was hit by what Unrwa believed to be three white phosphorus shells, which are incendiary weapons used as a smoke screen. About 700 people were still in the compound, he said, and he was particularly concerned about the proximity of the fire to five fully loaded fuel tanks.

Asked whether he was sure the attack had been carried out by Israel, he said he was not aware of Hamas having access to white phosphorus. Mr Gunness added that Unrwa would not be able to distribute food or medical supplies on Thursday as its trucks have been unable to leave the compound.

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El Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU concluye una reunión de urgencia sin acuerdo sobre Gaza

Los países occidentales rechazan el alto el fuego presentado por la Liga Árabe a propuesta de Abbas.- Tropas hebreas entran brevemente en territorio palestino para atacar a Hamás. El Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU ha concluido esta madrugada (hora española) una reunión de urgencia sobre el conflicto bélico desatado en Gaza sin llegar a un acuerdo sobre un proyecto de resolución propuesto por Libia que insta al cese inmediato de las operaciones militares israelíes en el territorio palestino. Mientras tanto, en la franja, las tropas terrestres israelíes han entrado brevemente esta madrugada en territorio palestino, donde se enfrentaron con el brazo armado de Hamás, pero esta incursión no parece forma parte de la invasión anunciada por Israel. En los seis días de conflicto, han muerto 400 personas y se han producido 2.000 heridos.

Seis personas han muerto esta madrugada durante un bombardeo aéreo contra Rafá, en el sur de la Franja, donde la aviación atacó la vivienda de un líder de Hamás, Anas Shabana, un parque, el único centro médico para niños que sigue operativo y algunos túneles. Además, un avión atacó una casa en Ash Shaboura, en la zona de Rafá, donde murieron cinco personas. Otro bombardeo casuó una sexta víctima mortal en el sur. Asimismo, una mujer, Fatima Balusha, falleció después de que una bomba impactara contra una mezquita próxima a su casa en Jabalia, en el norte de la Franja de Gaza.

El texto debatido en la ONU, presentado por la delegación libia en nombre de los países árabes, fue rechazado por las potencias occidentales al considerarlo desequilibrado por no hacer referencia a Hamás. La propuesta culpa exclusivamente a Israel de la actual crisis, sin mencionar los lanzamientos de cohetes de Hamás contra el sur del territorio israelí, que el Gobierno de Tel Aviv cita como el motivo de su actual ofensiva. No obstante, los representantes de varios países árabes han indicado su disposición a negociar el contenido del texto libio, con el ánimo de lograr un alto el fuego lo más pronto posible.

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Zimbabwe Police Ignore Judge's Order To Release Human Rights Activists

Zimbabwe (AHN) - A lawyer representing human rights activists in Zimbabwe is reporting police in the country appear to be disregarding a High Court order to release members of the government's opposition currently being held by authority.

On Wednesday a judge ordered the unconditional release of 23 people associated President Robert Mugabe's opposition. Those currently being held also include a two-year-old who was seized with his mother.

Allegations of torture prompted High Court Judge Yunus Omarjee ordering another nine to be sent for medical treatments. Of those who may have been tortured and in need of medical attention include human rights activist Jestina Mukoko leader of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said a senior police officer knew nothing about the order and it is unclear where ht activists are being held.

"We are now hearing reports that they have been moved from the remand center where they were being held ... and we don't know where they have been taken," Mtetwa told CNN. "We are, however, investigating their whereabouts."

Law enforcement officials in the country had been denying for wee

ks the activists were being held, yet were delivered to their court appearance on Wednesday. Mukoko, was abducted by armed men on Dec. 3 following countrywide protests against the country's worsening economy and various health crises.

Mukoko arrest and imprisonment is widely seen as a fabrication and a sign that Mr. Mugabe, 84, is not prepared to back down, even as some world leaders are becoming increasingly vocal and critical of his rule and treatment of those who oppose him.

 

Ayinde  O Chase

'Enemies of humanity' jailed for war crimes

The man accused of masterminding the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Theoneste Bagosora, was jailed for life by an international court yesterday as prosecutors described his conviction as the most significant since Nuremberg.

Bagosora, 67, a former colonel who was the chief of staff in Rwanda's defence ministry, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes at the end of a five-year trial after judges found that he used the military and an extremist Hutu militia to kickstart the massacre of about 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days.

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Europa deja solo al trabajador

Andreu Missé

Dos modelos se enfrentan mañana en la UE: la jornada de 48 horas y la flexibilidad - El acuerdo privado entre empresas y empleados que propugna Brown puede dinamitar el sistema de protección.

¿Europa es sólo un mercado o es también un espacio de protección social? ¿Las relaciones laborales deben establecerse entre el trabajador de manera individual y el empresario como si tuvieran igual capacidad para negociar o deben fijarse de manera colectiva? ¿Las leyes laborales deben ser sólo estatales o también europeas?

Todas estas cuestiones son las que están en el fondo del debate que estos días se dilucida en el Parlamento Europeo y que va a poner en tensión las fuerzas políticas. El incierto resultado de la votación de mañana -se requiere mayoría absoluta y las posturas están muy ajustadas- marcará también el camino futuro que emprenderá la Unión. Y, de manera especial, la participación y el debate de las próximas elecciones europeas de junio de 2009.

La piedra de toque es la discusión sobre la duración máxima de la jornada laboral, que actualmente es de 48 horas semanales. Si prosperan las tesis liberales que impulsan el Reino Unido y sus aliados, los nuevos países del antiguo bloque comunista, hoy se impondrá la llamada "libertad de opción", que implica que la duración del tiempo de trabajo la pactarán "libremente" el empresario y el trabajador, y la jornada se podrá alargar hasta las 60 o 65 horas según los casos.

"Con esto renace la idea de que el contrato de trabajo será un acuerdo entre el trabajador y el empresario", advierte Alejandro Cercas, eurodiputado socialista español, ponente de la directiva, quien ha organizado la defensa de los derechos laborales desde la trinchera del Parlamento Europeo. Cercas asegura que si se generaliza la exclusión voluntaria, "no habrá leyes, no habrá convenios, y será el fin de los sindicatos". "Esto es sólo la punta del iceberg. Empezamos por la jornada y luego vendrán los salarios y los demás derechos laborales", advierte.

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Ten years on, human rights defenders continue to pay a high price

GENEVA, BANJUL, STRASBOURG, WARSAW and WASHINGTON D.C.,

Ten years after the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, defenders continue to pay a high price while advocating for and protecting human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of a landmark instrument adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in 1998. The Declaration has offered new possibilities for the support and protection of defenders and their activities, by articulating existing human rights in a way that makes them easier to apply to the reality of human rights defenders.

In 2000, the UN mandate on the situation of human rights defenders was established to support States in their implementation of the Declaration. It has contributed to the protection of thousands of human rights defenders throughout the world, given visibility to them and to the Declaration, and encouraged the development of networks and coalitions of human rights defenders. The mandate has also included a gender perspective in its work, and raised awareness about the situation of defenders most at risk and about violations committed against them.

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Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse may come into force in 2009

The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse provides States with a valuable tool for preventing and combating all violations of children's fundamental rights. The Council of Europe has undertaken to alert governments to the need to ensure that the convention comes into force quickly and to support them in the ratification process by means of regional conferences. The third conference will take place in Warsaw, Poland, on 15 and 16 December.

It seems that a sizeable minority of European children (10 to 20%) suffer sexual violence in the course of their childhood. There is even greater acknowledgement that this problem exists now that the spread of the Internet has spawned new offences. Poland is not immune. In September, in the course of a large-scale police operation covering the entire country, the Polish police took 138 people suspected of possessing paedophilic images and disseminating them on the Internet in for questioning.

The Council of Europe convention will do much to strengthen international co-operation, which is essential for prosecuting the perpetrators of such offences and putting an end to impunity, regardless of the country where the offence is committed. The convention is, moreover, the only treaty in the world to consider "grooming" (where adults seek to enter into contact with children or adolescents for sexual purposes, for example through chat rooms) a criminal offence.

It is therefore of prime importance that as many governments as possible follow the example of the 32 countries that have already signed the convention, so that it can come into force in 2009.

The Council of Europe has made the promotion of children's rights and the protection of children against violence a priority, as is borne out by the programme "Building a Europe for and with children" (2006-2008). A game called "Wild Web Woods", now available in 20 languages, enables children to learn to surf the Internet safely.

The conference, which is open to the press, will begin at 10 am on Monday 15 December (Sofitel Victoria, Warsaw).


Las bombas de racimo quedan fuera de la ley

 ORIOL GÜELL - Madrid -

 

La Convención sobre las Bombas de Racimo, firmada en la capital noruega entre ayer y hoy, prohíbe la fabricación, almacenamiento, venta y uso de este armamento. Un acuerdo calificado como "histórico" por los países firmantes, pero que nace con el importante borrón de no estar apoyado por los principales fabricantes y consumidores de estas bombas: Estados Unidos, Rusia, China, Israel, India y Pakistán. Otros Gobiernos, como Brasil, también han declinado firmar alegando que necesitan tiempo para adaptar sus arsenales, pero se han comprometido a sumarse a él en el futuro. Sí se han adherido al tratado, en cambio, miembros de la OTAN como Reino Unido, Francia, Alemania o España, y países en conflicto como Afganistán.

 "Es cierto que hay ausencias importantes, pero el mundo debe saber que el paso dado es muy importante", sostiene Daryl Kimball, director de la organización Arms Control Association, con base en Washington. "Con más de 100 países comprometidos en su prohibición, el Gobierno que utilice una bomba de racimo a partir de ahora sentirá los reproches de la comunidad internacional y deberá dar muchas explicaciones", añade.

 

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