Afghanistan: Officials accused of war crimes

Human Rights Watch issued a report July 7 pointing out that many high-level officials and advisors in Afghanistan’s current government are implicated in major war crimes and human rights abuses that took place during the civil war that wracked the country in the 1990s.

The report, reflecting over 150 interviews with witnesses, survivors, government officials and combatants, documents incidents during the Afghan calendar year 1371, from April 1992 to March 1993, following the collapse of the national democratic government of President Najibullah.

HRW called for creation of a Special Court made up of both Afghan and international judges to try offenders. They also called for an international prosecutor.

Among leaders named in the report: Abdul Rashid Dostum, now holder of a senior post in the ministry of defense; Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf, a top advisor to President Hamid Karzai; and Karim Khalili, one of the country’s two vice presidents.

Finland: Long paper strike ends

The national council of the Paper Workers Union said the collective agreement it won with the paper industry late last month fulfills its goal of meeting the income standard set by other industries in Finland. The agreement brings to an end a seven-week strike and lockout that has cost the Finnish paper industry over $33 million.

The union said the worst employer demands were defeated: unpaid sick leaves, split holidays, 12-hour working days with no overtime pay, and easier layoffs. The union will have more of a say in decisions on outsourcing, a key issue in the dispute.

“The support of our brother organizations during our lockout was a great source of power for us,” the union said. “The Paper Workers Union will pay its debt of gratitude by supporting brother unions in facing similar problems and by strengthening its solidarity work.”

Colombia: Soldiers arrested, charged

The Colombian attorney general’s office earlier this month ordered six soldiers arrested and charged with homicide in the killing of five civilians in the village of Potosi, in Tolima department, in April 2004, Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York reported.

The army claimed the villagers were killed in crossfire during dense foggy conditions, while a military patrol was pursuing left-wing guerrillas. The soldiers claimed the fog prevented them from distinguishing the victims as civilians.

But an autopsy showed 17-year-old campesino Albeiro Mendoza was shot at virtually point-blank range.

Among the other victims were Mendoza’s wife and 6-month-old son. The family was taking the baby to the doctor for an ear infection when they were killed.

S. Africa: Cosatu to organize ‘informal economy’ workers

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is poised to launch a new union to organize workers in the informal economy, the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reported.

The move was decided at a national workshop in February that brought together Cosatu affiliates, former members of the now-disbanded Self-Employed Women’s Union (SEWU), the new union Skhula Sonke, representing seasonal agricultural workers in the Western Cape, and StreetNet, a nongovernmental organization for street vendors.

The new union is to represent street vendors and home-based industries. Informal workers in other sectors will join Cosatu affiliates in those industries, Cosatu national organizer Mncedisi Nontsele said.

An estimated 2.3 million South Africans out of a total population of around 43 million work in the informal sector, contributing up to 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The new union plans to campaign for the right to trade, for banking services and credit, and for government services and less stringent municipal laws.

Vietnam: CP conference emphasizes economy

Economic growth and strengthening the party’s leadership were major topics at the Communist Party of Vietnam’s recently completed Central Committee conference, the CPV’s newspaper Nhan Dan reported.

The conference emphasized bringing the country out of underdevelopment as quickly as possible, through achieving an annual growth rate of 7.5 percent to 8 percent or more, further liberalizing and developing the productive forces, finalizing a legal system for a market economy based on socialist guidelines, and speeding national industrialization and modernization.

The conference called for greater efforts to integrate into the global economy and to develop education, training, sciences and technology.

The gathering also emphasized strengthening national unity and the exercise of democracy, as well as strengthening the party’s leadership capabilities.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org). Tim Pelzer contributed to this week’s notes.

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