News & Current Affairs

September 8, 2008

Sarkozy leads EU trio to Moscow

Sarkozy leads EU trio to Moscow

Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev in August 2008

President Sarkozy (L) brokered a ceasefire between Russia and Georgia

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due to arrive in Moscow for talks with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the crisis in Georgia.

He is joined by the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and the European Commission head, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Sarkozy is expected to press Russia to fully implement a peace plan he brokered to end the fighting.

Meanwhile, Georgia has gone to the UN’s highest court over what it claims are Russian human rights abuses.

Judges at the International Court of Justice in the Hague are being asked to impose emergency measures to halt what Georgia says is a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Russia in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russian forces remain in South Ossetia and large parts of Georgian territory after it responded heavily to Georgian attempts last month to recapture the separatist region.

Difficult goals

After talks in Moscow, the three senior European figures are due to go on to the Georgian capital, Tblisi, to meet President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Russia says it is honoring the terms of a six-point plan agreed to end the conflict.

However, European nations do not agree.

PEACE PLAN
No more use of force
Stop all military actions for good
Free access to humanitarian aid
Georgian troops return to their places of permanent deployment
Russian troops to return to pre-conflict positions but Russian peacekeepers may take unspecified “additional security measures”
International talks about security in South Ossetia and Abkhazia

President Sarkozy wants Russian troops to pull back from their current positions in Georgia – well beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The European trio is also expected to press the Russians on arrangements for a strengthened international effort to monitor developments on the ground.

Some European leaders have already warned that there can be “no business as usual” with Russia until the peace plan is fully implemented, and the European Union has suspended talks on a new partnership agreement with Moscow.

However, with winter approaching, individual European countries continue to consume Russian oil and gas as usual.

Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and its continuing failure to implement the agreement to the letter, will have profound consequences for Russian relations with the EU.

It will also make it difficult for President Sarkozy to achieve his goals in Moscow, he says.

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August 15, 2008

Nigeria cedes Bakassi to Cameroon

Nigeria cedes Bakassi to Cameroon

Bakassi villagers

Thousands of people have moved from their homes in Bakassi

Nigeria has handed over the potentially oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, bringing an end to a long-standing dispute over the territory.

The handover ceremony was moved from the peninsula’s main town to Calabar in Nigeria amid security concerns.

Over the past year about 50 people have been killed in clashes.

The majority of the local population considers itself Nigerian, but an international court ruled in favor of Cameroon in 2002.

There are unconfirmed reports that militants have attacked a boat traveling to Abana, the main town on the Bakassi peninsula.

Unresolved pain at Bakassi handover

Nigerian security sources said between three and seven people were killed when militants ambushed the boat as it made its way from Cameroon.

Correspondents say security had been beefed up ahead of the ceremony.

On the Cameroonian side, there have been celebrations as people moved back into the peninsula.

In recent years, at least 100,000 people have moved from the peninsula to Nigeria, local leaders say.

The International Court of Justice ruling was based on an early 19th century colonial agreement between Britain and Germany.

Nigeria challenged the ruling, but finally agreed to relinquish the territory two years ago.

“The gains made in adhering to the rule of law may outweigh the painful losses of ancestral homes,” said the head of the Nigerian delegation at the ceremony, Attorney General Mike Aondoakaa.

Part of the territory was handed over to Cameroon two years ago.

Revellers

A spokesman for Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua said the process was “painful… for everyone including the president”, but added that Nigeria had made “a commitment to the international community and we have a responsibility to keep it”.

Map

Cameroon said the final handover would mark “the end of a crisis”.

On the beaches of the northern part of the island there were parties and celebrations as Cameroonians prepared to go into the last section to be turned over to them.

“We are going straight to the place, and we’re going to be happy,” one reveller told in Bakassi.

But in Nigeria there is still bitterness about the deal.

“The government has abandoned its duties,” said Kayode Fasitere, the lawyer acting for some displaced from Bakassi who sought to have the handover delayed.

The transfer of Bakassi had been described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as “a model for negotiated settlements of border disputes”.

A group of Bakassi leaders have been seeking compensation from the Nigerian government.

About 90% of the area’s population, estimated at up to 300,000, is made up of Nigerian fishermen.

About 30,000 of the residents have moved out to an area in Cross Rivers State set aside for them, but it has no access to the sea, campaigners say.

Bakassi has a rich fishing culture and people say the handover has destroyed their way of life.

The Bakassi peninsula juts out into the Gulf of Guinea close to the Niger Delta.

Its offshore waters are thought to contain substantial oil fields – untapped because of the border dispute – which Nigeria and Cameroon will now work together to explore.

August 8, 2008

Honduran killer executed in Texas

Honduran killer executed in Texas

Heliberto Chi

Chi was the 411th Texas inmate to die by lethal injection

A Honduran man, who killed his former employer during a robbery  in 2001, has been executed in the US after the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal.

Heliberto Chi, 29, died by lethal injection at a prison in Texas, watched by the two sons of his victim.

His lawyers said Chi was not permitted to contact the Honduran consulate following his arrest – thus violating an international treaty.

Chi was the second foreign national to be put to death this week in Texas.

Chi was in the United States illegally at the time of the 2001 murder.

He was convicted of the fatal shooting of his former boss, Armand Paliotta, at a clothing store in Arlington, Texas, where he had worked as a tailor.

On Wednesday, Mexican Jose Medellin was executed for the murder and rape of a teenager in 1993.

The International Court of Justice had urged Texas not to execute Medellin, as he had not been told of his right to consular help when he was arrested.

August 5, 2008

Mexican set for Texas execution

Mexican set for Texas execution

Jose Medellin

Jose Medellin, now 33, has been on death row since he was 18

A Mexican man whose case has drawn international legal attention is set to be executed in Texas for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl.

Barring a last-minute stay, Jose Medellin will face lethal injection at 1800 local time (2300 GMT).

The International Court of Justice had ruled that Medellin was entitled to a new hearing as he was not told of his right to contact a consular official.

Texas says its courts are not bound by the rulings of the ICJ.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the US to abide by the ICJ ruling, AFP news agency reported.

“All decisions and orders of the International Court of Justice must be respected by states,” he is reported to have told a television station in Mexico City, where he is attending a world Aids conference.

“The United States should take every step to make sure the execution does not take place.”

Medellin’s case dates back to 1993 when two girls, Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, were raped and murdered by six gang members in Houston.

A general view of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, file pic from February 2008

Set up in 1946, the ICJ is the highest United Nations court

Medellin, who was born in Mexico but moved to the US as a child, was convicted of Miss Pena’s murder.

At the time of his arrest, police did not tell him that he could request assistance from the Mexican consulate – in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In 2003, Mexico, which does not have the death penalty, filed a lawsuit at the ICJ on behalf of Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals on death row in the US who had also not received consular support.

The court ruled in Mexico’s favour, and ordered that their cases be reviewed.

Texas acknowledged that Medellin had not been told he could ask for help from Mexican diplomats, but argued that he had forfeited the right because he never raised the issue at trial or sentencing.

State officials also argued that it would not have made any difference to the outcome of the case.

Earlier this year, President George W Bush ordered Texas to comply with the ICJ ruling, but the Supreme Court justices subsequently decided 6-3 that he had overstepped his authority.

Case is ‘clear’

Last month, in response to an urgent request from Mexico, the ICJ ordered the US to “take all measures necessary” to halt Medellin’s execution.

But Texas judicial authorities said in response that the law in Medellin’s case was “clear”.

“Texas is not bound by the World Court but by the US Supreme Court, which reviewed this matter and determined that the convicted murderer’s execution shall proceed,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a request by Medellin and his legal team for a reprieve.

Medellin’s legal team are still hoping the Supreme Court will grant a stay of execution that would give Congress time to enact new legislation compelling US states to abide by ICJ decisions.

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