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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Putin Backs Ban on U.S. Adoption of Russian Children

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the country during a televised marathon news conference to defend a ban on U.S. citizens adopting Russian children. A bill to this effect has been proposed by the Russian parliament and is largely seen as a riposte to Magnistky Act enacted by the U.S. which bars Russian alleged human rights violators from obtaining U.S. entry visas. He said he thought the ban on adoptions was “appropriate” because Russian officials were not being allowed to sit in on hearings of cases of mistreatment of Russian children in the U.S. Approximately 4,300 Russian children were adopted by foreign families in 2011, with nearly a third heading to the U.S. Some cases of mistreatment have made headline news in Russia. “The State Duma’s response may be emotional, but I consider it to be appropriate”, said Putin. On the Magnitsky Act, he said that the U.S. had “replaced one anti-Soviet, anti-Russian law with another. That is very bad. This, of course, in itself poisons our relations”.

First Civilian Jailed for War Crimes in Argentina

A court in Argentina has sentenced a former interior minister to life in prison for crimes against humanity during the country’s dictatorship. Jaime Smart, a former interior minister for Buenos Aires province, was found guilty of involvement in the torture and murder of opposition activists at illegal detention centres. He is the first civilian to be sentenced for war crimes committed during Argentina’s so-called “Dirty War”, when tens of thousands of Argentines were kidnapped and killed by the country’s ruling military junta between the years of 1976 and 1983. Prosecutor Hernán Schapiro said Smart played a key role in the direct persecution of at least 43 of the military regime’s opponents in Buenos Aires province. “The illegal detention centres were run in police stations under his command”, Schapiro said.

China Cracks Down on Doomsday Cult

Chinese authorities have arrested nearly 1,000 members of a Christian doomsday sect that advocated the overthrow of the country’s ruling Communist Party, according to state media. The self-titled ‘Almighty God’ sect was accused of spreading rumours related to the Mayan doomsday prophecies that claim the world will end on December 21, urging its followers to slay the “red dragon” of communism. The sect predicts that Friday will mark the beginning of three days of darkness, followed by devastating tsunamis and earthquakes that would herald the arrival of a “female Jesus”. The country’s state media outlets have also accused members of the cult of using “sex communication” to gather more followers, such as calling on its female members to seduce single men. China’s ruling party is notorious for its crackdown of any religious group that calls for civil disobedience. A recent example has been its ban on the Buddhist-inspired Falun Gong movement in 1999.

French President Recognises Algerian Suffering During Colonial Rule

French President François Hollande marked 50 years of Algerian independence by telling the assembled Algerian parliament on Thursday that he did “recognise the suffering that colonialism inflicted on the Algerian people”, but added that he had not come to the country “to repent or apologise”. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands died during the Algerian war of independence between 1954 and 1962 and the French army was repeatedly accused of carrying out indiscriminate massacres and using torture when trying to suppress the local independence movement. “Establishing the truth is an obligation that ties Algerians and French. That’s why it is necessary that historians have access to the archives”, said Hollande. Algeria’s El Watan newspaper reacted to the French President’s words by saying that they would “soothe memories that are still painful”.

Indian Police Chief Suggests Foiling Rapists with Chilli Powder

The head of police of Thane, a city on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, has outraged women rights campaigners in the country after advising that women could avoid being raped by not travelling after dark and carrying chilli powder to throw at potential attackers. “The women have had enough. It’s time for them to act now. The women should learn self-defence and in case if anyone is seen to be misbehaving be it a known or unknown person they should inform the elders about the same,” said Commissioner KP Raghuvanshi. His comments came amid widespread anger following the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in Delhi on Sunday. Police took nearly an hour to recover her and a male friend from the roadside they had been dumped in by the rapists. A crowd of about 50 people had gathered around them, but offered no assistance despite seeing the victims naked and covered in blood. Ranjana Kumari, one of India’s best known women’s rights activists, reacted to the commisioner’s suggestion by telling the Guardian that “this is just a sexist sort of solution. They want women to stay at home. And how is chilli powder going to help against six or seven men?”.

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