Philippines: Blacklist bars rights advocates

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently reported that a government blacklist barred 504 people from 50 countries from entering the Philippines during July and August, before and after a ministerial meeting in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The government, alleging the blacklisted persons have links to the Taliban or Al Qaeda, banned Filipino expatriates and U.S. members of Church World Service, the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

A foreign ministry official cited by Philippines Labor Net admitted previous blacklisting had excluded Brian Campbell, a U.S. lawyer for the International Labor Rights Fund, and other human rights activists, among them former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

HRW spokesperson Sophie Richardson said, “Many people on this blacklist have done little more than criticize the government or work to protect Filipinos from the country’s abusive security forces.”

Afghanistan: Civilian deaths shoot up

In Kabul, a Taliban suicide attack Sept. 30 killed 30 soldiers, and another, two days later, 13 civilians.

The BBC reported a six-month death toll in the Afghan conflict of 3,000 people, most of them civilians. Scores of civilians have been killed in U.S. bombing attacks, leading to repeated protests by President Hamid Karzai.

Government relief officials say that 13,000 internal refugees newly clustered around the southern city of Kandahar urgently need humanitarian assistance and temporary shelter. A promised refugee camp has not been built. A mid-year UN report issued in September documents a looming catastrophe.

Insurgent attacks and other “security incidents” rose from a monthly average of 425 in 2006 to 525 this year. According to the report, “The security situation is assessed … as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007.”

Military analysts, cited at, say insurgents have abandoned conventional attacks on U.S.-led NATO troops and are relying more on suicide attacks, assassinations and improvised explosive devices.

France: Barriers go up against refugees

The Sarkozy government in France is maneuvering to test arriving immigrants with DNA technology. Politicians like former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (“This type of test has no place in France”) and the Catholic Church have rejected the plan, along with immigrant groups, intellectuals and left-wing politicians. In late September, a French Senate Commission did likewise.

Parisian Actress Isabelle Adjani, of mixed German-Algerian parentage, signed an opposition manifesto “in the name of human dignity,” declaring it “unthinkable” that “this kind of racial purification could be launched.”

Nicaragua: With abortions illegal, women die

A Human Rights Watch report released Oct. 2 blames the deaths of 80 pregnant women in Nicaragua on the legislature’s re-criminalization of abortion last November. According to a report from the Spanish EFE news service, the ban has created a climate of fear, keeping women away from even legal health services and influencing physicians to abandon patients with threatening obstetrical emergencies.

Delays in seeking care accounted for the deaths of 11 women who underwent therapeutic abortions, legal under previous legislation but proscribed under the new law. Pregnant women have had to resort to ill-equipped and understaffed public hospitals or to clandestine and dangerous obstetrical service providers.

Abortion rights activists have argued the unconstitutionality of the law before Nicaragua’s Supreme Court. They have sought President Daniel Ortega’s support for safe abortions to preserve women’s lives and criticized the Ministry of Health’s failure to collect data on maternal deaths.

South Africa: Tri-national alliance in the works

A South African foreign affairs official, Jerry Matjila, told reporters Oct. 3 that the heads of state of India, Brazil and South Africa will be meeting Oct. 15-17 in Pretoria to sign agreements leading to an increase in mutually beneficial trade and to new competitive capabilities vis-à-vis the economic powers of the global North.

The three nations will also sign pacts on public administration, education, health care, social development, cultural cooperation and energy.

At their first meeting last year in Brasilia, the top leaders discussed reform of the UN Security Council.

The new agreements are expected to boost trade volume from $6-7 billion annually to $10 billion. According to a UPI report, the three southern powers plan on enhancing their political as well as economic influence in the world. The summit will include symposia and discussions involving businesspersons, academicians and parliamentarians. Each member nation contributes $1 million annually toward an emergency response loan fund for poor countries.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit