Israel: Armed forces accused of war crimes

In a report submitted to Israeli officials on Monday, Amnesty International accused Israeli forces of committing war crimes during military operations in the West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus, during large-scale military operations last spring.

The 76-page study focuses on Israeli Army actions between April and June in Nablus and Jenin. It is based on interviews with witnesses, medical crews and aid workers, visits to sites of fighting, autopsies by a forensic specialist and assessments by a military expert. The report says soldiers used people as human shields, beat detainees – some of them severely – and prevented ambulance and medical aid personnel from reaching areas of combat even after fighting had stopped. It describes incidents in which unarmed Palestinian civilians were fatally shot while in custody or in their homes.

Cuba: Blockade costs over $70 billion

In a document to be discussed by the UN General Assembly on Nov. 12, Cuba is calling on the international community to once again overwhelmingly reaffirm its call to end the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade of the island nation.

The report emphasizes that the Cuban people continue to be victims of a genocidal blockade imposed by the U.S. government in an effort to undermine their exercise of self-determination and their will for independence, social justice and equality.

The report says losses have exceeded $70 billion during the four decades since the U.S. imposed the blockade. It also warned that the Bush administration has stepped up its aggressive economic policy in open violation of UN General Assembly decisions.

South Africa: SACP urges social security overhaul

The KwaZulu Natal Province organization of the South African Communist Party (SACP KZN) is calling on the Provincial Legislature to fundamentally upgrade the social security program.

Problems the party has identified include the fact that many poor families are not aware of their social security rights. Poor people also often encounter huge problems in applying for social security because they lack ID, there are massive delays in Home Affairs offices, the process is cumbersome, and officials are rude, the SACP KZN said.

The party is calling for improvement of service delivery, consideration of a basic income grant, review of privatized pension payout systems with a view to making a publicly owned agency the main distributor of social welfare grants, and action on food prices and food security.

Korea: Joint industry complex planned

Negotiators for North and South Korea, meeting in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, have agreed to complete the first phase of a joint industrial complex at Kaesong, in the DPRK, by the end of 2003.

Initially, some 100 South Korean small manufacturing firms will produce textiles, shoes and athletic gear on the 3.3 million acre site. But the complex is ultimately expected to become a center of heavy industry serving the entire peninsula.

Haiti: Financial embargo leads refugees to flee

The U.S.-led international financial embargo against Haiti – now in its second year – has left the island’s 8 million people lacking basic health care, education and critical infrastructure, critics charged last week.

Responding to reports that another 200 refugees arrived in South Florida by boat Oct. 30, former Rep. Ronald V. Dellums called the incident “a direct result of an economy that is being strangled by an embargo imposed by the international financial community.”

Dellums added, “We hope that the U.S. government will show leadership on this issue and work with the global aid organizations to give Haitians, both rich and poor, real opportunity and hope. Eventually, it will be bold leadership that will best resolve the refugee matter.”

Indonesia: Class action suit vs. privatization

The National Assets Defenders Front plans to launch a class action law suit against Indonesian State Enterprises Minister Laksamana Sukardi to protest against the government’s privatization policy. The Front includes state employees, student activists and non-governmental organizations.

“We would like to solicit support from all components of the nation to launch a class action lawsuit against the minister for having inflicted and planning to inflict losses on the state through cheap sales of national assets,” Front spokesperson Eddy Zanur told the press last week.

The government hopes to earn over $700 million this year from asset sales to the private sector, and to significantly increase the amount next year.

Zanur said the Front opposes any moves for short-term economic recovery through selling state assets such as the oil and gas company Pertamina, the satellite company Indosat, and telecommunications firm