Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Egypt: Two Police officers arrested over death of Khaled Mohammed Said

On 30 June 2010 two police officers were arrested over the death of Khaled Mohammed Said. Khaled Mohammed Said, 28, was brutalised to death by two plainclothe policemen in the city of Alexandria, Egypt - on 6 June 2010. Khaled has become the face of Eyptian police brutality.

The death of Khaled Mohammed Said sparked protests against Egyptian police brutality. During a protest in Cairo police beat and arrested protesters, but many were undeterred. Despite police crackdown on demonstrators and protesters, many refused to be silenced. Human rights activists and groups like Amnesty International continued to demand justice! Demonstrations, protests and criticism of the Egyptian government for alleged impunity in relation to rampant police brutality didn't go in vain. Two police officers were arrested over the death of Khaled Mohammed Said - 24 days after the murder. The two officers, Mahmud Salah Amin and Awad Ismail Suleiman, were arrested on charges of "illegal arrest, using physical torture and brutality"; not murder.

It is worth mentioning that official autopsy results revealed that Khaled Mohammed Said  died as a result of suffocation (asphyxiation) after swallowing a bag of marijuana. As ridiculous this may sound, Egypt's State Prosecutor shared the same view.

Photos of Khaled Mohammed Said, yet another battered and disfigured victim of Egyptian police brutality, surfaced on the internet. Looking at the photographic evidence - does suffocation leave victims bruised, bloodied and disfigured with broken teeth and shattered jaws?

The arrest of two police officers over the death of Khaled Mohammed Said signals a move in the right direction. But a lot more needs to be done to put an end to rampant police brutality in Egypt. Perpetrators should be tried and they should bear the full weight of the law.

Photos: Khaled Said Facebook page.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heal the World: Tribute to Michael Jackson

It is hard to believe that the 25 June 2010 marked one year since the King of Pop passed away. At this point, it makes sense to concede that everything has been said and written about Michael Jackson - arguably the greatest pop star the world has ever seen. As a matter of fact, on 25 June 2010, another well-written bittersweet tribute to Michael Jackson - Memories of a Light that keeps Shinning, was published on BlogFace2Face. However, here On The Road To Success, there is still room, no matter how humble, to pay tribute to Michael Jackson - an unrivaled pop star and humanitarian in his own right.

Through his works, Michael Jackson, sought to, in his own words - heal the world and make it a better place for all natural persons. This is a mission shared by human rights activists, humanitarians and freedom fighters worldwide. Consequently, many do not hesitate to pause - to pay tribute the legend, one year after his death.

Events around the world reiterate the urgent need to heal the world, and resound Michael Jackson's call to make the world a better place: In Myanmar, the military junta rules with an iron fist, and a symbol of freedom remains under house arrest - despite a global call for her immediate release; in Egypt, police brutality and imprisonment of human rights activists is the order of the day; in the D.R Congo, an armed conflict rages - with civilian casualties of epic proportions; in Finland, decision makers face death threats - for favoring laws that protect the less fortunate, precisely refugees and immigrants; in Scandinavia, rapists enjoy impunity; in Malawi and other parts of Africa, homosexuals are convicted; in the U.S., blatant racism still reigns and some still shamelessly suggest that the zoo has an African; in Russia, there is a battle against justice; Turkey jails Kurdish children for supporting anti-government demonstrations. These are just a few of the many reminders of an urgent need to heal the world.

As Michael Jackson rightly pointed out, you can make the world a better place - starting with yourself. Learn to respect other persons; shun discrimination and hatred, help the less fortunate, and speak out against any form of injustice. In a nutshell, try as much as possible to positively impact the people around you. By so doing, you will help heal the world and leave a legacy; a legacy that your next-generation will be proud of.

You are encouraged to do more than just listen to Michael Jackson's music - Heal The World...

Michael Jackson may be dead, but he is clearly not forgotten. He continues to positively impact the world through his music - music that inspires more and more people of goodwill to help heal the world - "starting with the man in the mirror."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Street Lawyer: Novel Review

You might be looking for an interesting novel to read. Personally, the legal thriller genre is my favorite, and I would recommend this genre to law students, lawyers, or anyone interested in advocating justice and the rule of law. A Legal thriller is sure to take you into the mind of a seasoned lawyer and endow you with a legal mentality - a much needed mentality in today's world of law suits and litigation. THE STREET LAWYER is a must-read legal thriller.

THE STREET LAWYER is written by the "lord of legal thrillers" - John Grisham.

The novel tells the story of Michael Brock, 32, a Yale graduate and Senior Associate at Drake and Sweeny - one of the biggest law firms in Washington D.C. For five years, Michael has been working eight hours a day for six days a week and is on the right track to becoming a partner at the big firm.

Fortunately or unfortunately - depending on how you see it - Michael's career takes an unexpected turn - on a cold winter morning when a "street bum", later identified as DeVon Hardy, takes hostages on the sixth floor of the mighty Drake and Sweeney building. The hostages include Michael Brock and eight other lawyers. What does DeVon Hardy want?

As you would expect, the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team is called in to rescue the nine white affluent lawyers - held hostage by a homeless black male, in a renown law firm in D.C. A marksman (sharpshooter) from the SWAT team takes out Hardy - with a bullet in the head. The homeless man's blood splashes on Michael's face - marking a turning point in the young lawyer's life!

Michael Brock, having survived a hostage situation, makes it his mission to find out why DeVon Hardy, picked Drake and Sweeney from among the many law firms in Washington D.C. Michael's research takes him to the 14th Street Legal Clinic - a law firm that protects homeless people. The Clinic's top dog - Mordecai Green, takes Michael into the lives of countless homeless people in Washington D.C. What he saw pricked his conscience!

While on the streets, Michael discovers that Drake and Sweeney recently engineered the wrongful eviction of "squatters" who were paying rents in an old building in D.C. The evictees were all powerless people entitled to compensation for eviction without due process - DeVon Hardy, now of blessed memory, was one of the evictees.

Michael Brock makes even more shocking and disheartening discoveries!

In a bid to defend society's powerless and homeless people, Michael Brock turns his back on a promising future at Drake and Sweeny - where "the money seems endless", and becomes a street lawyer with less pay - representing homeless people in desperate need of an advocate at law. Michael initiates a lawsuit on behalf of the evictees; a lawsuit against his former employer - Drake and Sweeney.

If you have read a book by John Grisham, you would agree that the writer is a master of legal thrillers. His protagonists are mostly lawyers, and as a successful lawyer himself - John Grisham's protagonists capture the true essence of what it takes to succeed in the courtroom.

As a [former] law student, I can relate to Michael Brock in THE STREET LAWYER. We all study the law - hoping to advocate for justice, but somewhere down the road, many stray away from the cause; many prefer to represent clients with the deepest pockets - to the detriment of the poor and powerless. Like Michael Brock, many lawyers and advocates need a wake-up call!

I absolutely enjoyed reading THE STREET LAWYER, and I highly recommend the novel. Every lawyer, law student and anyone in position to help the powerless should read this novel. It is an inspiration.
Author: John Grisham
Pages: Paperback 458 pages
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Publication Date: February 1999
ISBN: 0-440 22570-1 

In the words on Michael Brock - in THE STREET LAWYER - "I'm thinking about Public Interest Law... It's when you work for the good of society without making a lot of money." 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi turns 65 years old under House Arrest

Today, 19 June 2010, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate - Aung San Suu Kyi turns 65 years old under house arrest in Myanmar (Burma). Today, freedom advocates and human rights activists worldwide join prisoner of conscience - Aung San Suu Kyi, to celebrate her 65th anniversary - by holding protests - calling for the unconditional release of Myanmar's "symbol of freedom" - Aung San Suu Kyi.

In commemoration of her birthday, world leaders have called on the repressive military regime of Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, unconditionally.

According to the BBC, Ban Ki-moon, U.N Secretary General said, amongst other things: "I'm deeply concerned that she is still under house arrest without being released..."

President of the United States - Barack Obama, said in a statement: "I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens." 

Since 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi's right to freedom and liberty of person has been repeatedly denied.

This tale of political persecution started when Aung San Suu Kyi's political party - National League for Democracy (NLD) - sought to challenge Myanmar's repressive military regime and won the 1990 general election. Despite the landslide victory, NLD was not allowed by the military regime to form a democratic government in Myanmar - where political activists face persecution.

The most prominent political activist in the Southeast Asian country is the co-founder of the NLD - Aung San Suu Kyi. WATCH...

As of today, NLD is not recognised as an official political party, and its leader - Aung San Suu Kyi has been barred from participating in elections in Myanmar.

Amnesty International holds that the military junta has ruled Myanmar with an iron fist since 1962. The repressive regime has imprisoned over 2,100 political prisoners who dare to challenge the status quo.

Aung San Suu Kyi - a prisoner of conscience - turns 65 years old under house arrest. Her civil, political and fundamental human rights have been consistently violated by the government of Myanmar. She remains a beacon of democracy and fundamental freedoms in Myanmar and beyond. She should be released and allowed to particiapte in the upcoming political elections in Myanmar.

It is worth mentioning that Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She also has many other human rights awards on her shelf.

Like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, she represents non-violence in the fight against an oppressive regime in Myanmar.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Francois Bazaramba: Slammed with Life Imprisonment in Finland

On 11 June 2010, Finland recorded a victory for international criminal law! In line with the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, the Porvoo District Court slammed an African - Francois Bazaramba with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Francois Bazaramba, a Rwandan, sought asylum in Finland in 2003. According to Trial Watch, he lived in the city of Porvoo, prior to his arrest in 2007. He was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda - during the 1994 genocide - a crime that shocked humanity.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left more than 800,000 people dead - predominantly people from the Tutsi ethnic minority group. Tutsis were brutally killed by Hutu militias, in what is known as "ethnic cleansing".

In June 2009, Finnish Prosecutor charged Francois Bezaramba, a Hutu, with genocide - for his participation in the 1994 carnage. At the time of the genocide, Francois was a Preacher in a local Baptist church. The Porvoo District Court held that he inspired deadly attacks against Tutsis, aimed at destroying the Tutsis "partly or totally".

The verdict of the Porvoo District Court is a victory for human rights and international criminal law. It sends a strong message to perpetrators of grave crimes against humanity, that justice awaits them - even if they seek refuge abroad.

Apparently, by seeking asylum in Finland, Francois Bazaramba mistakenly thought he had evaded justice for his role in the Rwandan genocide. Little did he know that international criminal law has ushered in a new era in the administration of justice. Thanks to the principle of universal jurisdiction - a principle which Finland religiously applies - states can prosecute crimes against humanity, irrespective of where they are committed.

It is worth mentioning that in 2009, Rwanda requested the extradition of Francois Bazaramba, but Finland rejected the request - in line with the international law principle of non-refoulement. Finland rejected the request because the authorities believed the then-accused - Francois Bazaramba would not be given a fair trial in Rwanda. After the extradition request, Finland launched an investigation into the allegations. Following a thorough investigation, Francois Bazaramba was charged with genocide.

More countries should enact the principle of universal jurisdiction. If this happens, perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will have nowhere to hide.

Update: Here's a summary of the judgement.

*Photo: Helsinki Times

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Khaled Mohammed Said: Another Casualty of Egyptian Police Brutality

When will the government of Egypt put an end to police brutality and utter disregard for human dignity and security of persons? Today, I read the story of a 28-year-old Egyptian who was tortured to death by plain-clothes Egyptian security forces in the City of Alexandria, also known as the "Pearl of the Mediterranean". His name was Khaled Mohammed Said.

Although there are varying accounts of his death, all accounts point to the fact that Khaled Mohammed Said was killed in a cyber cafe in the city of Alexandria.

According to Amnesty International, the killing took place on 6 June 2010. Khaled was brutally beaten by two plain-clothes security forces in a cyber cafe in Alexandria. He was later dragged out of the cyber cafe, and tortured to death. Police later told his relatives that he died from an overdose of narcotics.

Other sources reveal that Khaled was brutalised in the full glare of shocked eyewitnesses.

An investigation into the death of Khaled Mohammed Said is on-going, and Amnesty International has called on the government to move quickly to bring the perpetrators of this brutal killing to justice. Failure to carry out a thorough investigation will send a wrong message to perpetrators of such barbarism and gross disrespect for human life.

Khaled Mohammed Said is, unfortunately, another casualty of Egyptian police brutality. It remains to be seen whether the government of Egypt will end the culture of impunity enjoyed by abusive Egyptian state agents - many of whom abuse the people they should protect. Impunity can be brought to an end by cracking down on the two security forces who engineered the premature death of an unsuspecting citizen - Khaled Mohammed Said.

Shocking images of the battered corpse of Khaled Mohammed Said have surfaced, and can be viewed, here. Viewer discretion is advised.

Egypt clearly has an appalling human rights record.

By the way, Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, a young human rights activist, and many other activists are still locked away in Egyptian jails.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cameroon: Samuel Eto'o help eradicate extreme poverty

Cameroon, like many African countries, is far from achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. With only five years left until the deadline, no region in Cameroon is untouched by poverty - many cannot afford a decent meal; many cannot afford education, child and maternal mortality is unusually high, HIV/AIDS is on the rise, you name it. While it is true that it is the responsibility of the government to fight poverty, it is also true that many ordinary Cameroonians are positioned to effectively contribute, no matter how small, to ensure that poverty is eradicated in the West African country. Cameroon's favorite striker - Samuel Eto'o Fils, recently demonstrated his capability to help eradicate extreme poverty in his community.

Earlier this week, Eto'o reportedly spent 1.3 million dollars on watches for his team mates in Cameroon's National Soccer team - the Indomitable Lions. Converted to the local currency of Cameroon, 1.3 million dollars amounts to about 706.3 million Francs CFA (the last time I checked). This is a lot of money - which if channeled to the right quarters and properly managed, would effectively lift a whole community from abject poverty, in a country where 51% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day.

As you would expect, many have hailed Samuel Eto'o for this lavish spending. No doubt, the striker acted in good faith - probably to motivate his team mates, and in fulfillment of a promise - a promise made after the Indomitable Lions qualified for the South African 2010. Mindful of the adage that "a man of honor keeps his word", it is fair to say Eto'o is truly a man of honor. He has proven that he does not make a promise he cannot keep.

However, you would agree that spending a staggering sum of $1.3 million on watches, while your community languishes in poverty, amounts to wasteful spending. This is misappropriation of much-needed funds - funds that could change thousands of lives in many poverty stricken regions in Cameroon. Why spend such a huge sum of money on luxury watches?

Don't you think $1.3 million could enable Samuel Eto'o Foundation to impact more lives through more educational and health programs?

Samuel Eto'o clearly has the resources to help eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in his community. Make no mistake - he is already doing a phenomenal job. Through the Samuel Eto'o Foundation, he has implemented a good number of social projects in Cameroon. But with a slight change in scale of preference, and a reduction of wasteful spending, Eto'o will be a force to reckon with in the fight against poverty and hunger in Cameroon.

Eto'o currently plays for F.C Internationale Milano, and he is the highest goal scorer in the history of the African Cup of Nations - as of today.

*Photo from Wikipedia

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Suspension of Spanish Judge: Victory for Impunity ?

A Spanish Judge, Baltasar Garzón, 54, was suspended for allegedly abusing his authority - by launching an investigation into "crimes against humanity" committed during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorial era of General Francisco Franco. Judge Garzón launched the probe, ignoring widespread criticism from right-wing organisations and Franco supporters. He made it his mission to investigate the forced disappearances of more than 100,000 people in Spain. Right-wing organizations criticized Garzón for overstepping his judicial power, and a complaint was launched against him. Under mounting pressure, the judge suspended the investigation, but the complaint against him led to his suspension, on 14 May 2010. Is the suspension of judge Garzón, a victory for impunity?

Baltasar Garzón is famous for his role in high profile international investigations into grave crimes.

In the 1990s, he launched an investigation into atrocities committed by Augusto Pinochet, a former Chilean dictator. This investigation culminated in the arrest of Pinochet - when the former military ruler visited London in 1998. It is worthy to note, that Garzón issued an international arrest warrant for the dictator, under the principle of Universal jurisdiction - a principle whereby some grave crimes can be tried anywhere - irrespective of where they were committed

Garzón was also behind the arrest and trial of 24 al-Qaeda operatives in 2005, and the conviction of an ex-naval officer from Argentina, in Spain, for crimes against humanity.

As a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón sent a strong message in favor of international criminal law, with a considerable amount of success in international investigations. Unfortunately, an attempt to investigate "crimes against humanity" committed at home, earned him a suspension.

There has never been an investigation into untold atrocities committed during the Franco era in Spain. This is partly because in 1977, parliament granted amnesty for the atrocities. Despite the amnesty, many questions about the crimes, remain unanswered and many citizens are longing for justice. This explains why Baltasar Garzón enjoys the support of people of conscience in Spain and abroad.

In Spain, Garzón enjoys the support of left wing organizations, and family members of Franco-era victims; many of whom need answers. No doubt, there were demonstrations against the judge's suspension.

The suspension is widely seen as the end of a commendable career, as well as a victory for impunity. Judge Garzón lashed out against impunity and represented a threat to perpetrators of atrocities against humanity. Garzón helped deliver justice to victims of grave crimes, both in Spain and abroad.

*Photo from Wikipedia

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stop killing Ahmadis in Pakistan

The Ahmadis, are members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The Ahmadis believe they are Muslims, but orthodox Muslims think otherwise. This is the case because the Ahmadis do not believe that the Prophet Mohammed was the final prophet; they believe that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839–1908), was the "Awaited One", foretold by Prophet Mohammed. In other words, the Ahmadis do not believe in the "finality of prophethood." It follows. therefore, that in Pakistan, the Ahmadis make up a religious minority community. They face untold discrimination, persecution and killings - simply because their belief is considered to be flawed. In Pakistan, Ahmadis are up against threats, violence and killings, engineered by Islamist extremists. The Pakistani government should take immediate steps to stop the killing of Ahmadis.

According to Human Rights Watch - on 28 May 2010, Islamist extremist militants attacked two Ahmadiyya mosques -Baitul Nur Mosque and Darul Zikr mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. The attack left 94 people dead and many injured. On 30 May 2010, militants attacked an Intensive Care unit - where the victims of the previous attack were being treated. This time, 12 people were killed - mostly police and hospital staff.

No natural person should be killed or face persecution threats and violence, because of religious views. The killing of Ahmadis in Pakistan, and the impunity surrounding the killings, should be stopped by the government. Repeated attacks and threats against the Ahmadis, highlight religious intolerance in Pakistan, as well as the government's failure to bring perpetrators to justice.

It is worth mentioning that laws in Pakistan are discriminatory against religious minorities, and legalize persecution of Ahmadis. The Penal Code, for example, prohibits anyone from “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim.” This, in my mind, targets the Ahmadis - who profess to be Muslims.

In Pakistan, blasphemy is a capital crime, punishable with a death penalty! As mentioned earlier, the Ahmadis believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the "Awaited one". In Pakistans, this belief is considered to be blasphemous. Consequently, numerous Ahmadis are charged under the Blasphemy Law and jailed.

It is true, that by failing to stop the killing of Ahmadis, prosecute perpetrators and repeal the repugnant Blasphemy Law - that discriminates against Ahmadis, the government of Pakistan has "emboldened the extremists" in Pakistan and worldwide.

Photo by CharlesFred

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Israel: Right to defend and Secure Borders?

May 31, 2010 went down in history as the day Israeli naval forces intercepted a flotilla (small fleet) of ships in international waters. The flotilla was bound for Gaza and was determined to break the Gaza blockade - in a bid to deliver humanitarian aid to a people in need. According to Aljazeera, at least 19 people were killed and many wounded (UN reports that 9 people were killed) when armed Israeli commandos descended on one of the ships - the Mavi Marmara. The question is - does the storming of the flotilla have anything to do with Israel's right to defend itself and secure its borders?

You would agree that over the years, Israel has repeatedly asserted its right to defend itself and secure its borders. This, no doubt, is Israel's famous justification for using excessive force in military operations that more often than not result in civilian casualties.

Like many people, you are probably wonder why the government of Israel is so suspicious and "obsessed" with defending and securing its borders. To feed your curiosity, I did a little research and found a video clip that clears the doubts. WATCH...

Israel unconditionally has the right to defend and secure its borders. But this right comes with obligations to respect basic principles of international law.

Since Israeli commandos intercepted the flotilla, Israel has been on the headlines - for all the wrong reasons. The international community has condemned the action, with strong words from Palestine, Iran, Turkey, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, just to name a few. The European Union, Arab League and the Vatican also issued statements against the attack. Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General, was "shocked" by the tragedy and condemned Israel's action.

It is worth mentioning that the White House was more cautious in its statement: "The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy."

Personally, I understand Israel's security concerns and respect its right to defend and secure its borders. But the flotilla incident left me with no doubt that Israel used disproportionate force against humanitarians in international waters. Israel should be held accountable! No civilian should die on a humanitarian mission to deliver aid to a people in need. Israel should exercise restraint in the assertion of its right to defend itself and secure its borders.

It is fair to say - the activists would have simply used "authorised channels" to deliver the much needed aid to Gaza. The loss of innocent lives was preventable.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has ordered an investigation into the flotilla raid.

UPDATE - UN Report: Israel violated international law during flotilla raid.

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