Protests Swell in Ukraine
Protesters in Ukrainian capital of Kiev have begun preparations for an extended occupation of the city’s Independence Square, after a brutal police action failed to dislodge the protestors over the weekend. What began as demonstrations against President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a fair trade deal with the European union, has grown in scope and demands into something Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov says bears “all the signs of a coup“.
Speakers addressing the crowd assembled in Independence Square demanded early presidential and parliamentary elections, the release of opposition leader and former president Yulia Tymoshenko, and renewed talks with EU officials. President Yanukovych’s administration has dismissed each demand as political theater, telling local media, “If we want European standards, we must do everything within the framework of the law — this is the principle of democracy.” Furthermore, he chastised politicians supporting the protests for their haste. “I urge all politicians not to rush,” he said. “They are all still young, and they have everything ahead of them. Elections are coming. People will determine. Whoever is elected, so be it.”
UN Says al-Assad Ordered War Crimes
United Nations Humans Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said her office has obtained evidence that war crimes have been authorized by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The abuses including suspected massacres, chemical attacks, torture, and rape, are cataloged by an expert U.N. panel of investigators. “They’ve produced massive evidence,” she told media. “They point to the fact that the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state.” Pillay’s study suggests “the scale of viciousness of the abuses being perpetrated by elements on both sides almost defies belief.” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad rejected the UN’s study out of hand, saying, Pillay “has been talking nonsense for a long time and we don’t listen to her.”
The names of those accused of war crimes in Syria and specific evidence relating to them remain confidential pending a prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Syria is not a party to the ICC, so any investigation by the court would need to be ordered by the UN Security Council, an order the council has been loathe to give.
Thai PM Holds in Face of Ongoing Protests
Despite ongoing riots in Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has rejected demands that she step down, suggesting such an action was not permissible under the current constitution but that her administration is open to negotiation. Four people died over the weekend when the hitherto peaceful protestors attempted to storm the governor’s palace, but were rebuffed by police barricades. Police and protestors have been engaged in running clashes since.
FARC Accepts Soccer Challenge
Members of Colombia’s Marxist Resistance group the FARC have accepted Carlos Valderrama’s challenge to play a friendly soccer match in Cuba in order to foster reconciliation during the ongoing peace process. Valderrama, the former Colombia team captain and Golden Foot winner, joined a state program in support of victims of the long-running Colombian civil war and formally challenged the insurgents in a recent interview with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
Citing Valderrama’s “commitment with the victims in particular and with Colombia’s peace in general” in their open response letter, the Farc claimed they were “fanatical about football” and suggested a second match in Colombia and a parallel women’s contest. The letter goes on to suggest famed goal keep Renee Higuita participate. The matches will be played in the spirit of “fairness and with the flag of reconciliation flying.”