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Friday, October 18, 2013

Saudi Arabia Rebuffs U.N.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has turned down its newly granted seat on the United Nations Security Council over what its foreign ministry calls the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues. According to a statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry, “The mechanisms of action and double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities toward preserving international peace and security.”

Saudi Arabia, a founding member of the United Nations, was one of five countries elected yesterday by the body’s General Assembly to serve a two-year term on the 15-member Security Council. The decision to reject the seat was evidently made directly by either King Abdullah or Crown Prince Salman, as many Saudi officials were celebrating their election to the seat when then news broke. Said one Saudi official, “Saudi Arabia has been working on [the council seat] for the last three years. They trained diplomats, male and female, the cream of the Foreign Ministry, our best talented youths. Then somebody made the decision suddenly to pull out.”

Some suggest participating on the Security council may have hamstrung Saudi efforts to contain or influence the ongoing Syrian civil war, but Guatemalan U.N. Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, currently a council member, said: “They should have thought of that before competing for the seat.”

U.S. Files Charges Against Blackwater Employees

The U.S. government has brought renewed manslaughter charges against four former Blackwater mercenaries over a 2007 incident in Baghdad. Prosecutors say Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard were part of a team which fired on unarmed civilians, killing 14 people and grievously injuring another 18. Prosecutors originally brought charges in 2008, but after a number of legal challenges, those charges were thrown out the following year, when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that prosecutors should have done more to exclude statements that the guards gave under threat of losing their jobs as government contractors.

U.S. Attorney Ron Machen declared, “the vast majority of the U.S. contractors who served in Iraq did so with honor and integrity, but, as alleged today, these defendants abused their power through a relentless attack on unarmed civilians that recklessly exceeded any possible justification.” Muchen’s office alleges the four Blackwater employees used a sniper rifle, machine guns and grenades against an unarmed crowd in Nisur Square.

India Arrests Crew of Anti-Pirate Ship

Police in India have arrested the crew of the U.S-owned Seaman Guard Ohio as it sailed through Indian waters off the coast of Tamil Nadu, weighed down with undeclared weapons. India’s coastguard said it stopped and detained the ship, discovering a cache of 30 assault rifles and around 4,000 rounds of ammunition. Police took 33 crew members to a local station for questioning. Two were allowed to remain on the vessel in port at Tuticorin.

AdvanFort, the ship’s owner, downplayed the detainment and said the vessel, which is involved in anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, was carrying properly registered rifles and munitions when it sought safe harbor from the effects of Typhoon Phailin. AdvanFort president William Watson thanked the Indian government for their assistance. “I want to personally thank the Indian government for offering a safe harbor during this typhoon to the crew of our good vessel Ohio.”

Chilean Men Convicted of Fatally Torturing Zamudio

Four men in Chile were convicted of first degree murder for beating Daniel Zamudio to death and carving swastikas into his corpse. According to the court, Patricio Ahumada Garay, Alejandro Angulo Tapia, Raul Lopez Fuentes, and Fabian Mora Mora burned Zamudio with cigarettes, beat him with glass bottles, and broke his right leg with a stone before they abandoned him in San Borja Park in Santiago on March 3, 2012. Zamudio died from his injuries 25 days later. Judge Juan Carlos Urrutia said the men were guilty of a crime of “extreme cruelty” and “total disrespect for human life.” Sentencing will be announced on the 28th, prosecutors are asking for life in jail.

The astonishing assault against Zamudio caused revulsion among members of Chile’s political class, says Rolando Jimenez, president of the Gay Liberation and Integration Movement. “It generated such outrage because of the brutality, the hate, that it helped raised awareness,” Jimenez said. “We’ve witnessed a cultural change that finally led to an anti-discrimination law.” The law, which enables people to file anti-discrimination lawsuits and adds hate-crime sentences for violent crimes, had been mired in Congress for seven years, but President Sebastián Piñera put significant resources into getting it passed last year after Zamudio’s death.

Weekend Reads: My Year with Malala

Malala Yousafzai became internationally recognized after she survived being shot in the head by the Taliban. Christina Lamb spent a year with her writing what will be Yousafzai’s first book. Lamb recounts their time together in The Sunday Times.

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