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Lending boom to impoverished countries threatens ‘Greece style’ debt crisis

Wed, 2015-04-01 09:57

Figures calculated by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, based on recent data from the World Bank show that loans to impoverished countries have almost tripled since 2008.

Figures calculated by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, based on recently released data from the World Bank, show that loans to impoverished country governments have increased by 40 per cent in just one year, and have almost tripled since the global financial crisis began in 2008.

Lending to ‘low income countries’ increased to $17.3 billion in 2013, the latest year with figures available, up from $12.2 billion in 2012 and $6.1 billion in 2008. Of the loans since the global financial crisis began, 63 per cent are from multilateral institutions, primarily the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, 27 per cent from governments such as China, Japan, France and Germany, and 10 per cent from private lenders.

Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “The current boom in lending is being fuelled by donors giving more ‘aid’ as loans rather than grants, and low interest rates in the US and Europe leading to speculation on developing country debts. A ‘Greece style’ debt crisis could be just around the corner unless action is taken to increase government revenues through tackling tax avoidance and evasion, and measures introduced to signal that reckless lenders will no longer be bailed out.”

Previous research by the Jubilee Debt Campaign has shown that two-thirds of impoverished countries face large increases in the share of government income spent on debt payments over the next ten years. On average, current lending levels will lead to increases of between 85 per cent and 250 per cent in the share of income spent on debt payments, depending on whether economies grow rapidly, or are impacted by economic shocks. The new increase in lending will only heighten concerns about the possibility of future debt crises.

One of the first countries to be entering a new debt crisis is Ghana. Two weeks ago, IMF staff reached an agreement to lend $310 million a year over three years to Ghana, in order to bailout previous lenders. This money will be used exclusively to meet debt payments to other foreign lenders to the West African country, which equal $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion a year over 2015 to 2017 (16-19 per cent of government revenue).

In September 2014, the United Nations passed a resolution to begin negotiations on creating a ‘bankruptcy’ process for governments. Such a mechanism would indicate that reckless lenders would no longer be bailed out by the IMF and other public institutions, as is happening in Ghana and has happened in Greece.

Campaigners warn that these bailouts of lenders incentivises them to continue lending recklessly, whilst leaving large debts with the country concerned. Just 11 countries voted against the UN negotiations taking place, but this included the UK, US, Germany and Japan. The next negotiating session at the UN will take place on 28-30 April 2015.

* Jubilee Debt Campaign http://jubileedebt.org.uk/

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Church leaders plan TV debates to resolve doctrinal differences

Wed, 2015-04-01 09:51

UK Church leaders have decided to use live television debates and phone-in polls to resolve remaining doctrinal disputes.

UK Church leaders have decided to use live television debates and phone-in polls to resolve remaining doctrinal disputes between the different denominations.

The move comes after growing public impatience with nearly 2,000 years worth of wrangling among Christians following the completion of the New Testament.

The first five-way debate involving the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster (Anglican and Catholic), the President of the Methodist Conference, the Moderator of the URC and the President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain could take place as early as 2017.

A spokesperson for the ‘Ecumenism – Live!’ initiative told Ekklesia that the main hold-up was the insistence of Scottish and Welsh church leaders that they should be involved on an equal basis, and concerns about a possible Irish boycott.

The BBC, ITV, Sky TV and Dave!, the main broadcasters, are helping to mediate that discussion in return for exclusive serial rights.

They suggest that there could actually be an initial, straightforward 26-way denominational debate, followed by a more focused ‘head to head’ between the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch to agree a rotating Universal Primacy.

There is reportedly annoyance among some churchgoers in the south of Britain at the increasingly bolshy attitude of small Scottish and Welsh denominations, and at what is being dubbed “the rest of the world”.

“In reality everyone knows that England represents the whole of the UK and is respected by everyone on earth, whereas smaller countries don’t and aren’t,” an anonymous source told Ekklesia this morning. “But we don’t see this as an insurmountable problem.”

Church leaders say they believe that the ‘Ecumenism – Live!’ television debate breakthrough will fundamentally alter the perception of Christianity among sceptics.

“Using one of the great communications inventions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century will show young people how in touch we are,” said the initiative’s Event Coordinator.

“Having church leaders smile a lot will also assuage doubts that they aren’t all on exactly the same page at the end of the day,” he added.

Each debate, starting with the first on the Nature of Baptism in a Postmodern Context, will end with a “purely indicative” phone-in and online public poll, before the leaders go into private convocation to cast their weighted votes.

The results will be announced “at a future date, still to be decided.”

If the format proves successful, an interfaith TV debate may follow, with the winner going head-to-head with atheist Richard Dawkins.

Yes, this was an April 1st story, in case you were in any doubt!

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Christian Aid exhibition showcases photos by Ghanaian farmers

Wed, 2015-04-01 09:42

Christian Aid is hosting a photography exhibition in east London documenting the lives, successes and concerns of Ghanaian farmers, as told through their own eyes.

Christian Aid is hosting a free photography exhibition in east London documenting the lives, successes and concerns of rural Ghanaian farmers, as told through their own eyes.

Running from April 2 to May 5, the My Home, My Farm exhibition will showcase a series of 'fly-on-the-wall' photographs taken by agricultural workers struggling to survive in northern Ghana.

'My Home, My Farm' features a series of portraits capturing everyday themes such as water supplies, food security and women's empowerment. The images will be on display at the community-run Kahaila Café in east London, following the launch event on 2 April.

All the photographers featured in the exhibition are part of a development project in Ghana, where Christian Aid has been helping farmers to build their agricultural skills, increase their income and get the most out of their crops.

As part of this initiative Christian Aid collaborated with a UK-based organisation, PhotoVoice, to provide cameras and photography training to 42 farmers – the majority of them women – so that they could chart their progress. The exhibition showcases the farmers’ most striking snapshots.

Christian Aid’s Donor Communications Adviser, Amanda Farrant, said: "Ghanaian farmers are a marginalised group. They desperately need a platform to voice their opinions and tell their stories, as they often go unheard.

"Putting a camera in their hands gives them a rare opportunity to highlight their needs and take more control over their lives. The result is a compelling set of images that portray a powerful message directly from the farmers.

"This exhibition reflects Christian Aid's desire to engage in an honest and direct conversation with the people on the front-line of the fight against poverty, and to place them squarely at the centre of discussions that determine their development and future."

Visitors to the My Home, My Farm exhibition will have an opportunity to hear some of the positive outcomes of the photography initiative. For example, they will find out how one of the featured photographs, which shows an over-crowded water borehole, has prompted local sanitation authorities to provide an additional borehole for the community.

The women and men behind these photographs are part of Christian Aid's MyPharm project, which has been run by the charity in partnership with a local organisation, Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, since 2011.

The MyPharm project uses a special SMS service to send local farmers weekly text messages containing advice on agricultural methods as well as up-to-date information on the value of their produce.

"By giving farmers access to market information, they now know exactly how much their crops are worth", said Amanda Farrant. "This means they are no longer forced to sell their crops to middle-men at low prices, giving them a higher income and a better chance of escaping poverty. It's a privilege to be able to share their stories - the highs as well as the lows – through the My Home, My Farm exhibition."

* My Home, My Farm runs from 2 April – 5 May at Kahaila Café, 135 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB. For details about the launch event on 2 April, please contact Zoe Parker: zparker@christian-aid.org

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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Categories: News syndication

Christian Aid exhibition showcases photos by Ghanaian farmers

Wed, 2015-04-01 09:38

Christian Aid is hosting a photography exhibition in east London documenting the lives, successes and concerns of Ghanaian farmers, as told through their own eyes.

Christian Aid is hosting a free photography exhibition in east London documenting the lives, successes and concerns of rural Ghanaian farmers, as told through their own eyes.

Running from April 2 to May 5, the My Home, My Farm exhibition will showcase a series of 'fly-on-the-wall' photographs taken by agricultural workers struggling to survive in northern Ghana.

'My Home, My Farm' features a series of portraits capturing everyday themes such as water supplies, food security and women's empowerment. The images will be on display at the community-run Kahaila Café in east London, following the launch event on 2 April.

All the photographers featured in the exhibition are part of a development project in Ghana, where Christian Aid has been helping farmers to build their agricultural skills, increase their income and get the most out of their crops.

As part of this initiative Christian Aid collaborated with a UK-based organisation, PhotoVoice, to provide cameras and photography training to 42 farmers – the majority of them women – so that they could chart their progress. The exhibition showcases the farmers’ most striking snapshots.

Christian Aid’s Donor Communications Adviser, Amanda Farrant, said: "Ghanaian farmers are a marginalised group. They desperately need a platform to voice their opinions and tell their stories, as they often go unheard.

"Putting a camera in their hands gives them a rare opportunity to highlight their needs and take more control over their lives. The result is a compelling set of images that portray a powerful message directly from the farmers.

"This exhibition reflects Christian Aid's desire to engage in an honest and direct conversation with the people on the front-line of the fight against poverty, and to place them squarely at the centre of discussions that determine their development and future."

Visitors to the My Home, My Farm exhibition will have an opportunity to hear some of the positive outcomes of the photography initiative. For example, they will find out how one of the featured photographs, which shows an over-crowded water borehole, has prompted local sanitation authorities to provide an additional borehole for the community.

The women and men behind these photographs are part of Christian Aid's MyPharm project, which has been run by the charity in partnership with a local organisation, Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana, since 2011.

The MyPharm project uses a special SMS service to send local farmers weekly text messages containing advice on agricultural methods as well as up-to-date information on the value of their produce.

"By giving farmers access to market information, they now know exactly how much their crops are worth", said Amanda Farrant. "This means they are no longer forced to sell their crops to middle-men at low prices, giving them a higher income and a better chance of escaping poverty. It's a privilege to be able to share their stories - the highs as well as the lows – through the My Home, My Farm exhibition."

* My Home, My Farm runs from 2 April – 5 May at Kahaila Café, 135 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB. For details about the launch event on 2 April, please contact Zoe Parker: zparker@christian-aid.org

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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Categories: News syndication

Magna Carta and justice denied

Tue, 2015-03-31 14:51
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South African president must make Marikana findings public, says Amnesty

Tue, 2015-03-31 09:33

South African President Jacob Zuma must make public the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the killings of 34 striking miners on 16 August 2012, says
Amnesty.

South African President Jacob Zuma must make public the findings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry into the violence that that led to the killings of 34 striking miners on 16 August 2012 and the violent deaths of 10 other people in the preceding days, says Amnesty International.

The Commission is required to submit its final report and findings to the President today (31 March 2015).

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said: “The surviving victims of the tragic events of Marikana and the families of all those who died have a right to receive justice and reparations for the harm they have suffered.

“President Jacob Zuma must make public the full report as a priority. The South African authorities must also ensure full accountability and the re-establishment of lawful and impartial policing.”

Amnesty has followed the work of the Commission of Inquiry closely since its inception in 2012, including attending many of its hearings and providing support for the victims.

Amnesty published a briefing in August last year entitled, South Africa: Unlawful force and the pattern of concealment – Barriers to accountability for the killings at Marikana. This report noted concerns about the emerging evidence including:

- The decision taken by senior police officials on the night of 15 August 2012 to disarm, disperse and arrest the protesters did not arise from any escalation of threat to life.
- Police fired more than 600 live rounds during the operation, which resulted in the deaths of 34 protesters as a result of gunshot wounds.
- One man, Mr Gwelani, was fleeing when he was shot in the head with a bullet fired from a semi-automatic rifle from a distance of 250 metres.
- One pistol was fired at the police by a striker, but there were no police fatalities during the entire operation.
- Police failed to protect the right to life by not making adequate medical assistance available as well as failing in some cases to provide first aid or similar assistance to persons grievously injured by police action.

* Download South Africa: Unlawful force and the pattern of concealment – Barriers to accountability for the killings at Marikana here https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr53/004/2014/en/

* Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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UK government ‘trying to prevent justice’ for rendition victims

Tue, 2015-03-31 09:18

The UK government is refusing to guarantee that it will not misuse the intercepted lawyer-client communications of two rendition victims in their cases against it.

The UK government is refusing to guarantee that it will not misuse the intercepted lawyer-client communications of two rendition victims in their legal cases again the British government, say the legal charity Reprieve

Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali, from Pakistan, are bringing legal action against the British government for its complicity in their torture and rendition. The men were captured in Iraq in 2004 by British forces, before being rendered by the US to Bagram prison in Afghanistan. They endured a decade of secret US detention and torture in Bagram before their release last May without charge or trial.

The UK Government is refusing to agree to a request by the men to take “reasonable” steps not to “read, listen to or otherwise use” their communications with their lawyers. Those communications are confidential, and enjoy protected status under the longstanding principle of legal professional privilege (LPP).

The men’s request is the latest in a series of recent developments on the issue of government interception in legal cases. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21015) In recent weeks the UK has signed a undertaking not to read or listen to any legally-privileged material relating to another rendition victim, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj from Libya. That agreement, nearly identical to the one submitted by Mr Ali and Mr Rahmatullah, came after the government admitted in the course of Mr Belhaj’s case that UK intelligence agencies’ policies regarding the monitoring of lawyer-client conversations were unlawful.

The Ministry of Defence is claiming that a similar undertaking is not necessary in Mr Rahmatullah and Mr Ali’s case, saying that safeguards already exist. It has declined to say why its view differed in Mr Belhaj’s case, where the same policies that were conceded to be unlawful apply.

Kat Craig, Mr Rahmatullah’s lawyer and Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “Not content with complicity in the torture, rendition and decade-long secret detention of Mr Rahmatullah and Mr Ali, the UK is now trying to prevent them from achieving justice. Why would any government otherwise refuse to implement safeguards which only serve to achieve a fair balance – and protect an age-old principle of our justice system? By preventing our clients from communicating privately with their legal team, and fairly and robustly seeking the justice they so sorely deserve, the UK government is holding itself above the law.”

*Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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Christians 'turn the tables' on UK's nuclear weapons

Mon, 2015-03-30 10:07

Seven Christians have been forcibly removed from the Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment. They were marking Holy Week by disrupting nuclear weapons production.

Seven Christians have this morning (30 March) been forcibly removed from a gateway to Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire. They were marking Holy Week by disrupting production of the UK's nuclear arsenal.

This followed an ecumenical vigil for peace held yesterday, Palm Sunday, at the nearby Aldermaston facility.

Arriving at 6:30am today, the Christians chained their hands together and lay in the gateway, preventing vehicles from entering the base. The site was disrupted for three hours as the police struggled to remove them.

Having travelled from across the country, the Christian protesters were also among those who processed and prayed around the perimeter of AWE Aldermaston yesterday to mark Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The blockade is the latest in an increasingly frequent series of actions against Trident as the General Election approaches. Earlier this month, protesters staged a singing flashmob in the Lobby of Parliament, singing about their opposition to Trident.

The protesters say that the prayer vigil and blockade are inspired by the events of Holy Week, when Jesus turned over tables in the Temple, confronting the political and military powers of his day.

The timing is significant in both the church and political calendar. Those gathered are calling on the Church to enter Holy Week remembering and repenting of the sin of the nuclear weapons industry.

As Parliament dissolves today in preparation for the General Election, they hope MPs will return to their constituencies accompanied by the message that Trident renewal is a vote loser. Polls consistently show a majority of the British public to be opposed to Trident renewal at a time of cuts to public services.

“Nuclear weapons are a threat to everything I believe in: peace, justice, and the wellbeing of creation," said Jo Frew, who was involved in both the vigil and the blockade.

Frew, a member of the United Reformed Church, added, "We see in Jesus’ actions a clear imperative that faith compels us to act. That is why we are here today to call for an end to the atomic weapons industry and for Trident not to be replaced.”

Parliament will make a decision on Trident renewal in 2016. Thecost of renewal is estimated to be up to £100 billion. Critics point out that Trident is not an 'independent' system, but is dependent on technical support from the US.

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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Government must ensure UK arms are not used against Yemen, says CAAT

Sun, 2015-03-29 17:51

Campaign Against Arms Trade has called on the government to ensure that weapons supplied by UK companies are not used in Saudi led air-strikes on Yemen.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has called on the UK government to ensure that weapons supplied by UK companies are not being used in the ongoing Saudi led air-strikes on Yemen.

According to reports from the Saudi owned Al-Arabiya network, Saudi Arabia is leading a six country aerial campaign that also includes Jordan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21550)

The network claims that Saudi Arabia is providing 100 fighter jets and 150,000 soldiers for the military campaign.

In 2010 a report from Amnesty International concluded that it was “extremely likely” that UK supplied Tornado fighter-bombers had been used in the Saudi led bombing of Yemen in 2009. The report found that “Some of these attacks appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries.”

Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of UK weapons. The Coalition government alone has licensed over £3.8 billion worth of weapons to the Saudi regime. UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia include a number of combat aircraft:

- A contract for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft
- A £200 million contract to upgrade 70 F-15 combat aircraft with BAE Systems’ Digital Electronic Warfare System
- In 2012 BAE completed the upgrading of the Saudi Tornado fleet. "Central to the upgrade is a new digital weapons and avionics system"

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against arms Trade said: "UK weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen before, in a bombardment that resulted in civilian deaths?The government must ensure that UK weapons are not contributing to the violence and that there are no UK nationals or employees of UK companies involved, including BAE employees preparing aircrafts for bombing."

* Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/

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Ebola crisis is not yet over, says Christian Aid

Sun, 2015-03-29 17:29

In the week of the first anniversary of the Ebola outbreak, Christian Aid has reaffirmed its commitment to help hard-hit communities in Sierra Leone.

In the week of the first anniversary of the Ebola outbreak, Christian Aid has reaffirmed its commitment to help hard-hit communities in Sierra Leone at a time when complacency could jeopardise the fight to eradicate the virus.

Twelve months after the World Health Organisation (WHO) first announced the start of the outbreak, the virus has infected nearly 25,000 people in three West African countries, of whom 10,300 have died. With nearly 12,000 cases, the WHO situation report shows that Sierra Leone is the worst-affected.

Although the infection rate in Sierra Leone is falling, case numbers continue to fluctuate on a daily basis. Christian Aid has pledged to continue promoting life-saving health messages within local communities there, to encourage people – including traditional healers – to commit to embracing behaviours that could prevent new waves of the virus.

Christian Aid partners continue to distribute food and non-food items to vulnerable individuals, including Ebola survivors. This comes as Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day stay-at-home curfew, which will see 2.5 million people quarantined for three days starting from Friday 27 April, as part of the national government's bid to 'get to zero' new cases.

Christian Aid's Sierra Leone Country Manager Jeanne Kamara, based in Freetown, said: "The emergency has continued longer than we had ever imagined. It's not over yet, so complacency must not set in. That's why the Government of Sierra Leone last week extended the state of emergency by 90 days.

"Worryingly there are signs of complacency, as people start to return to old ways and former behaviours. For instance, we've seen instances of people going against the local 'Ebola bye-laws': these regulations are designed to reduce the risk of transmission.

"Sadly, there still remains a small percentage of people carrying out traditional burials on highly infectious corpses. The removal of buckets of chlorinated water stationed outside office buildings for hand-washing purposes is a cause for concern, as are the relaxing of stringent controls at district border checkpoints.

"That's why we are now firmly and squarely in the area of social mobilisation. This phase of the Ebola fight is looking at how to address gaps within hotspot areas, working through cultural leaders and traditional societies. Christian Aid is working in collaboration with others to move from messaging to having conversations with communities: we believe that in order to respond to the 'zero' campaign, communities must lead and own the fight."

As the outbreak enters its second year, Christian Aid is looking to address some of the impacts of the past year. This has included economic instability, interruption of schooling, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, and limited access to maternal, infant and HIV healthcare.

Jeanne Kamara said: "Attention is now turning towards Sierra Leone's post-Ebola recovery. At the heart of this must be a commitment to rebuild the health system from the bottom up. This means not just strengthening hospitals and medical centres, but also ensuring that local populations have the capacity to respond to future public health emergencies.

"For long-term sustainable economic recovery, Sierra Leone must be supported to stand on its feet. In order for this to happen, multinational companies in the extractives sector must start paying their fair share of taxes. Domestic revenue, when managed well, will ensure that our government has sufficient funds to provide basic essential services in the water, sanitation, health and education sectors."

Since the outbreak started, Christian Aid partners have reached over a million people in Sierra Leone with key advice on Ebola preventative measures and have given hygiene supplies to community health teams, including 200,000 pairs of disposable gloves and over 360kg of powdered chlorine.

Christian Aid is now urging the Government of Sierra Leone to continue to emphasise the need for infection prevention and control measures within health facilities.

"In order to protect health workers and patients from future infections, proper hygiene practices must be in place, such as those relating to water supplies, hand-washing, adequate training of medical staff, sanitation, sterilisation of materials, waste disposal and the use of personal protective equipment. Targeted investments must be made in these areas," said Jeanne Kamara.

* Read the WHO situation report here: http://apps.who.int/ebola/current-situation/ebola-situation-report-25-ma...

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/index.aspx

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Six children among 25 killed in Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes on Yemen

Sat, 2015-03-28 13:03

At least six children under the age of ten were among 25 people reported killed in Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on 26 March 2015, says Amnesty.

At least six children under the age of ten were among 25 people reported killed in Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on 26 March 2015, Amnesty International has confirmed after speaking to hospital officials and eyewitnesses.

Amnesty spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals where the dead were taken after being pulled from the rubble of 14 houses hit in a residential area near the city’s international airport. The rest of those killed were men, mostly in their thirties and forties. It is believed that more people may still be buried beneath the rubble. Meanwhile, at least 20 people – including four women – have been admitted to hospital with shrapnel and other injures.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health said the airstrikes killed 25 people and injured approximately 40 – it is not yet known if there were any fighters among the casualties.

According to a paramedic who witnessed the aftermath, the airstrike near the airport occurred shortly before 3am local time in a residential area called Beni Hawat. Huthi armed groups had allegedly been operating a checkpoint around 100 metres away, as well as al-Dailami base some 500 metres away.

Beni Hawat was among a number of sites in and around Sana’a hit by airstrikes overnight as Saudi Arabia announced it was launching a military intervention against Huthi armed groups as part of a coalition of ten countries. Saudi Arabian officials claimed they had destroyed “all Huthi air defences” at al-Dailami base next to Sana’a International Airport. Meanwhile the US government said it had “authorised the provision of logistical and intelligence support” to the military intervention, and other governments – including those of the UK and Turkey – endorsed the move.

Amnesty is insisting that Saudi Arabia and other states involved in the airstrikes must investigate whether violations of international humanitarian law were committed. If there is evidence that war crimes were committed, said Amnesty, they must properly prosecute the suspects.

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said: “Saudi Arabian and any other armed forces carrying out airstrikes in Yemen are required to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians.

“This includes verifying that targets are in fact military objectives and giving civilians effective advance warnings unless circumstances do not permit.

“The Huthi armed groups and the Yemeni armed forces also have obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks, including by avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating their fighters and weaponry within residential neighbourhoods.”

*Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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Cyclists take anti-cuts message to Berkshire nuclear weapons factory

Fri, 2015-03-27 12:23

A group of cyclists have set off from London this morning, calling on the government to cut weapons, not public services.

A group of cyclists have set off from London this morning (27 March 2015), heading for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) based at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.

On their two-day trip, they will meet communities affected by government cuts and visit the offices of arms companies profiting from government subsidies.

AWE is where warheads are developed for the Trident nuclear weapons system. Protests against Trident are becoming increasingly frequent as the general election approaches.

The cyclists began at 8.30am at the offices of arms giant Lockheed Martin in Regent Street. The US-based company is one of the owners of AWE. Supporters joined them and several passing members of the public expressed their support.

“A few weeks ago I was invited to join Wheel Stop Trident,” said Nikki Ray, who lives in New Malden. “I said yes because nuclear weapons don’t make us any safer. Our safety and security are threatened when vital public services are cut by government – while billions are spent on Trident.”

On their 60 mile journey, the 10 cyclists will visit Ealing Hospital, which is facing the closure of its maternity unit, and meet local residents campaigning to save it.

They will also visit the sustainable community Grow Heathrow and a renewable energy site near Reading. Tonight, they will stay overnight with Slough Quakers.

“Ealing hospital's future is still uncertain,” explained Laura Stringhetti of Ealing Save Our NHS. “The government tells us that austerity is necessary as there is no money left, while there is money for nuclear weapons and wars."

Welcoming the cyclists' plans, she added, "I support initiatives such as Wheel Stop Trident as we need to raise awareness that the money is there but the priorities are all wrong.”

The participants in Wheel Stop Trident are from various parts of London, as well as Yorkshire, Hastings and Gloucestershire. They include people of various religious traditions and none.

As they leafleted Lockheed's employees this morning, the cyclists explained that they do not want anyone to be put out of a job and instead want public investment in alternatives to the arms industry to provide people with meaningful work.

They quoted the recent Arms to Renewables report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which sets out how the skills of arms industry workers could be used in developing renewable energy.

“I'm cycling from London to Burghfield because nuclear weapons do nothing towards the real security threats, such as climate change, that will only become more acute in the future,” explained Andrew Dey, a Christian peace activist from Bradford, who now lives in London.

The ride comes the same weekend as a group of young Quakers gather in Reading to plan activism against Trident. A Christian protest against Trident will also take place at AWE this weekend, marking Palm Sunday, on which Christians remember Jesus leading a march in Jerusalem.

Parliament is due to make a decision in 2016 on whether to renew Trident, at a cost of up to £100 billion. Campaigners point out that polls consistently show a majority of the British public to be opposed to Trident renewal.

Although a decision on Trident renewal has not yet been made, the government has already spent millions on new facilities at AWE. Recent revelations showed that the new developments are already over-budget and behind schedule.

*Arms to Renewables here: https://arms-to-renewables.org.uk/#page_0

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Tribal people call on world leaders to recognise their right to hunt

Fri, 2015-03-27 10:50

Indigenous organisations and people from around the world have called on delegates to a conference on illegal wildlife trade to recognise tribal peoples’ right to hunt for their survival.

Indigenous organisations and thousands of people from around the world have called on delegates attending a major conference on the illegal wildlife trade to recognise tribal peoples’ right to hunt for their survival.

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, indigenous organisations from Brazil, Cameroon, Kenya and many other countries, and over 80 experts on hunter-gatherers, urged delegates attending an intergovernmental conference in Kasane, Botswana, on March 25 2015, to recognise that tribal people should not be treated as criminals when they hunt to feed their families.

Thousands of supporters of Survival sent a similar message to representatives of the EU, USA and UK, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

The Kasane conference follows a similar event in London in February 2014, which was attended by the president of Botswana and Prince Charles and Prince William who called for stronger enforcement of wildlife laws. But they failed to recognise that these laws often criminalise tribal peoples as 'poachers' because they hunt their food, says Survival.

Tribal peoples face arrest and beatings, torture and even death for hunting to feed their families, while fee-paying big-game hunters are encouraged.

Baka 'Pygmies' in Cameroon and Bayaka 'Pygmies' in the Republic of Congo have been beaten and tortured by anti-poaching squads, and fear going into the forest to hunt. And despite winning a major legal victory which confirmed their right to hunt inside the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Bushmen in Botswana are routinely arrested and beaten when found hunting.

During a symposium organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and others on 'wildlife crime' in February, human rights lawyer Gordon Bennett issued a damning legal analysis of the negative impacts of wildlife law enforcement on tribal peoples.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “It’s utterly irresponsible for conservationists and politicians to call for tougher law enforcement against ‘poaching’ without clearly acknowledging that tribal subsistence hunters are not, in fact, ‘poachers.’

"It’s not a matter of semantics – tribal hunters are being systematically arrested, beaten and tortured for ‘poaching,’ and it is happening because conservationists are not standing up for tribal peoples’ rights. If delegates at the Kasane conference cared even the slightest about the lives of the indigenous communities their policies affect most, they would acknowledge that tribal people should not be treated as criminals when they hunt to feed their families.”

* Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/

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