Foreign Digest


March 02, 2004

Human rights group returns to Libya, finds serious abuses

TRIPOLI, Libya- Amnesty International, given its first access to Libya in 15 years, has reported numerous serious human rights violations, including the disappearance of prisoners and intolerance of political activity.

"We have people imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their views. We have a wide practice of holding people for years without being given access to their families and lawyers, with facilities of torture used often," Amnesty team leader Claudio Cordone. "We have the death penalty for a variety of offenses, including some that criminalize freedom of expression. We have people's courts with unfair trails."

The Amnesty team toured a police academy and the Abu Salim prison, notorious in Libya for the inhumane conditions in which its 625 political and military prisoners are kept. They also visited the town of Beni Waled, where several houses belonging to families of suspected political activists were demolished in October 2002.

China charges U.S. with racism, aggression

BEIJING- China issued a report yesterday assailing the United States for what it termed government crimes and racism at home, and "military aggression around the world."

Responding to U.S. criticism of China's human rights record, the 61-page document says Washington "acted as `the world human rights police'" and distorted conditions in its annual State Department world survey of human rights, which was issued last week.

It was the fifth straight year that China has issued such a report in response to the State Department survey. This year's reports says it intended to "to help the United States repair the American human rights record."

Schroeder says loss at polls won't deter benefit cuts

BERLIN- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pledged yesterday to keep his unpopular program of welfare-state cuts on track despite a defeat in Hamburg state elections, the latest of the setbacks that have eroded his support nationwide.

In his first reaction to Sunday's vote, Schroeder said the drubbing for his Social Democrats in a former stronghold was "painful" and alluded to his battle to pass cuts in cherished state benefits for the sick, elderly and jobless.

Schroeder began his reform drive in March last year, saying the cuts would help boost the economy and get Germans off the unemployment rolls. He has alienated core center-left voters and organized labor without picking up support elsewhere, sending his party's approval ratings into a slump.

Police in Egypt storm town; gunmen free 160 hostages

ASSIUT, Egypt- Police stormed a town in southern Egypt yesterday, freeing at least 160 hostages and ending a six-day standoff with a band of drug and weapons traffickers, authorities said. At least one gunman was killed.

The battle began at dawn with police firing rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to force their way into the center of Nakhilah. The gunmen surrendered in the afternoon, releasing at least 160 civilians they had been holding.

U.S. turns over to Russia 7 Guantanamo prisoners

MOSCOW- The United States has turned over to Russia seven Russian citizens who were being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. and Russian officials said yesterday.

Russian authorities have charged the men with illegally crossing borders, mercenary activity and participating in a criminal group, according to the Interfax new agency. They were captured in Afghanistan and accused of fighting alongside the Taliban.

The Russian prosecutor's office has said that the detainees include residents of Russia's Muslim-majority republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk, western Siberia and the Caucasus Mountains region.

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