Haiti: Executions continue

Supporters of forcibly deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide continue to be executed, death-squad style, despite the presence of U.S. and French occupation troops. Human rights activists say most killings are by the heavily armed former soldiers who rampaged through the country in February. Several of their leaders had been convicted of assassinations and other crimes during earlier military dictatorships.

On March 24, five Haitian police agents were arrested on suspicion of executing five Aristide backers, whose bodies were found on the streets of Port-au-Prince. An AP photographer later took pictures of three of the bodies in a private morgue, showing their hands were tied behind their backs and their heads covered with bags.

Nongovernmental organizations have reportedly told the United Nations about public executions by the armed band controlling the city of Les Cayes, while French occupation forces and local fishermen around Cap-Haitien report many corpses floating in the sea.

The Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) calls for a speedy end to the occupation. The Haitian Press Agency AHP quoted POHDH General Secretary Eliphete St. Pierre as saying, “The foreign troops have already committed several murders since their arrival in the country.”

Colombia: Coke hunger strike ends

Members of the National Union of Food Industry Workers (SINALTRAINAL) ended their 12-day hunger strike March 27 after winning an agreement with Coca-Cola to start national talks on relocating workers left jobless when the company closed 11 bottling plants. Coca-Cola agreed to refrain from reprisals against the hunger strikers, to revoke existing sanctions, to pay for their medical treatment and to provide two weeks of paid recovery leave.

Though the 30 strikers garnered substantial international solidarity, they faced repression at home, including company efforts to deny them health care and to evict them from their tents outside the plants. There were also firings and increased threats from right-wing paramilitaries.

Europe: Massive protests vs. ‘welfare reform’

A wave of protests swept across Europe the first weekend of April, as hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to oppose cuts in pensions and other social benefits and to demand more jobs and social justice.

Besides Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart, in Italy pensioners came on buses, special trains and even boats from the island of Sardinia to protest the rising cost of living. They were joined in the streets of Rome by workers protesting government demands that they work longer before retirement. “There’s an impoverishment, a situation that every day becomes more untenable for the elderly,” said CGIL union federation head Guglielmo Epifani.

Parisian demonstrators marched behind a banner proclaiming, “Together in Paris and Europe for jobs, social rights, the welfare state and public services.”

Mexico: U.S. must review death row cases

Responding to a Mexican government suit, the International Court of Justice last week ordered the U.S. to review the death penalty cases of 51 Mexican nationals, one of whom is slated to die May 18. The court said the principle should apply to all foreigners accused of serious crimes. On death row are 121 foreign nationals, including 55 Mexicans.

The International Court said “meaningful review of the conviction and sentence” could be carried out under the normal U.S. appeals process, except for three cases where appeals have been exhausted.

Mexican Ambassador Juan Gomez Robledo said the decision vindicated the rule of international law. The Mexican government warned, however, that if the U.S. fails to follow the ruling, Mexico will take further steps. But even if the U.S. accepts the decision, legal observers said it was not certain the federal government has the power to compel individual states to comply.

Nigeria: Sue Chevron Texaco for rights abuses

Five Nigerians who say Chevron Texaco Corp. violated demonstrators’ rights in the late ’90s can sue the corporate giant, a U.S. federal court ruled last week. Judge Susan Illston ruled that although the parent company cannot be held directly liable, it can be held indirectly responsible for the conduct of Chevron Nigeria Ltd., a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

The five plaintiffs contend that Chevron Nigeria recruited Nigerian military and police to fire on protesters at a Chevron offshore oil platform at Warri, Delta State. They also say Chevron Nigeria’s management was involved in the detention and torture of protest leader Bola Oyinbo, and in a helicopter attack on two villages that killed several people.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).