Four explosions that rocked an eastern Ukrainian city Dnepropetrovsk April 27 injured at least 27 and have authorities scratching their heads. The usual jihadist suspects have not been ruled out. CNN's Global Public Square blog tells us: "From 2003 to 2008, Ukraine had some 1,600 soldiers in Iraq, and it is one of only two post-Soviet countries contributing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, though Ukraine's contingent numbers less than two dozen." (Wikipedia puts the number of post-Soviet states with troops in Afghanistan at five: Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.) "Ukraine might also have been a victim due to its close association with Russia, a country on Islamic extremists' list of enemies because of the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus..." But Ukrainian conspiracy theorists have been very busy over the past 24 hours concocting theories related to the country's own internal political crisis...
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled April 13 that the relatives of Bosnian men killed by Serb forces in 1995 cannot sue the UN for failing to protect them during the massacres. The ruling essentially held that the UN is immune from prosecution in Dutch courts. The group bringing the lawsuit, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, are claiming that the UN is liable for their failure to protect civilians during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The UN is claiming that it is immune, citing Article 2 Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, which says that the UN "shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except it has expressly waived its immunity." Both a District Court at The Hague and the Supreme Court agreed with the UN, but the Mothers of Srebrenica have said they plan to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The two most annoying icons of the rad left, WikiLeaks and Anonymous, team up to target the equally annoying Stratfor. Their joint press release of Feb. 24 headlines that Dow Chemical paid the "strategic intelligence" firm to spy on satire group Yes Men and grassroots activists seeking justice in the Bhopal disaster. The small print says they sent someone around to attend the Yes Men's public appearances. The coup wins WikiLeaks more gushing alterno-coverage, while Max Fisher in The Atlantic scoffs that WikiLeaks has fallen for Stratfor's "marketing campaign," and that nobody has taken them seriously for years. But, predictably, nobody is talking about WikiLeaks' shameful silence on charges of complicity with grave human rights abuses in Belarus, the country dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship."
The European Union approved a second bailout for Greece in the wee hours of Feb. 21, signing off on a $170 billion rescue package—a day after thousands of protesters took to the streets to oppose austerity in both Greece and Spain. As Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos flew out to Brussels to try to clinch the deal, 3,500 marched in Athens, with another 1,200 reported from Thessaloniki. In Athens, hundreds of police trailed the marches—held a week after Parliament approved the austerity measures as rioters torched dozens of buildings in the city center. A new clash was reported at the Parliament biulding, with stone-throwing youth met with tear-gas canisters. In Spain, there were protests in more than 50 towns and cities. The largest were in Madrid and Barcelona, which both drew hundreds of thousands of marchers. (LAT, Feb. 20; AFP, Feb. 19)
The government of Cyprus has launched a second licensing round for offshore exploratory drilling amid hopes that new fossil fuel deposit discoveries will boost the eurozone country's drooping economy, with record unemployment and a near-junk status credit rating due to its banks' high exposure to Greek debt. An initial licensing round in 2007 only won interest from US firm Noble Energy—which discovered a huge find of some 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Last year, it began drilling in Block 12, the southeastern section of the Cypriot economic zone, which sits close to a large Israeli gas field. However, the effort is raising tensions with Turkey—which claims that blocks included in the second licensing round are within its continental shelf. The Cypriot Foreign Ministry called the claim "unfounded and contrary to international law." The statement said: "The Republic of Cyprus calls on Turkey to end its illegal, provocative and arrogant behavior, to steer clear from issuing threats and to adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea."
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Feb. 10 expressed its concern over the trial of Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, which involves his investigations of acts that occurred during the Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville indicated that judges should not be criminally charged for investigations performed within the scope of their judicial duties. Colville stated, "judges should not be subject to criminal prosecution for doing their job...Spain is obliged under international law to investigate past serious human rights violations, including those committed during the Franco regime, and to prosecute and punish those responsible."
The Greek cabinet approved new austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF in return for a €130 billion ($170 billion) bailout, as unions began a two-day general strike Feb. 10. This second proposed bailout would cut €3.3 billion from state spending, lower the minimum wage by more than 20%, and lay off thousands of workers. Demonstrators in front of the parliament building threw rocks and petrol bombs at police, who retaliated with tear gas. The austerity bill must be approved by parliament. Five ministers have resigned from the government in protest of the bill, and junior parties in the ruling coalition have defected over the "humiliating" terms. But interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said rejecting the measures "is not an option that we can allow as the country will pay a high price for the consequences... Any other option would be catastrophic." (SETimes, BBC News, NYT, Feb. 10)