Citizens speak out – 23 Apr 2011

Citizens speak out. People across the globe
continue to demand the universal recognition of human rights along with government reforms
that include greater honesty as well as citizen participation in countries such as Azerbaijan,
Bahrain, Belarus, Botswana, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Mexico, Palestine,
Syria, Uganda, the US and Yemen. As US government employees protest states
reducing their wages in an effort to eliminate budget deficits, US President Barack Obama
has begun addressing their concerns by calling for higher tax rates for the nation’s most
wealthy, who he says are better able to withstand income reductions. Meanwhile, a group of supporters
attending a fundraising event hosted by President Obama on Thursday, April 21 called for the
US government to respect the rights of Private First Class Bradley Manning, a soldier accused
of releasing sensitive information to the press, by ending the harsh treatment he is
receiving in prison, including being kept in solitary confinement and forced to sleep
without clothing at night. In Africa, Ugandans protest the re-arrest
of minority party leader Kizza Besigye, who had been leading calls for walk to work day
as a means of protesting higher fuel prices. Addressing the Bilin Sixth International Conference
on Wednesday, April 20, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad spoke out against
the use of violence to achieve independence from Israel, saying that diplomacy is more
effective in achieving statehood goals. The conference is held in the village of Bilin,
where weekly peaceful demonstrations also occur to protest issues such as Israeli seizure
of land for expansion of settlements. Meanwhile in Israel, around 300 citizens gathered on
Thursday to sign a petition welcoming the declaration of an independent Palestinian
state based upon the borders of Israel set during the 1949 armistice which ended the
Arab-Israeli war. On Thursday, Azerbaijani journalists fasted
to demand the release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, who has been imprisoned for four
years despite a European Court for Human Rights ruling that he should be freed. A group of five senior Bahraini clerics release
a statement denouncing the destruction of mosques being carried out by government and
Saudi forces to repress peaceful protests calling for reform. On Friday in Syria, security forces used live
ammunition against tens of thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters across the nation,
with witnesses and human rights groups reporting at least 75 people being killed, including
five shot by snipers from above a medical clinic in a suburb of Damascus. US President
Barack Obama and British Secretary of State William Hague each spoke out against the violence,
saying that it must end now as they urged the government to respect the rights of the
citizens to exercise freedom of speech. Near the western town of Walut, Libya, revolutionary
forces were able to assume control after around 100 government soldiers fled across the border
into Tunisia. Meanwhile, Libya’s state television reported that the government is proposing
a political solution to end the conflict. Among its suggestions are a new constitution
and elections that would be held in six months if the military intervention by the North
Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) is halted. However, Libyan forces continue an intense
siege on Misurata, the nation’s third largest city. Saying that half a million people have
already fled the country’s unrest, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the United
Nations’ priority is a cease fire as he called for Libyan officials to halt the killing of
citizens. UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos also announced that there were no plans to
bring troops onto the ground for delivery of relief supplies as the UN can still access
Libya via civilian routes. However, in a talk with UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his nation’s concern that the mission
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is overreaching the original UN resolution,
which called only for the introduction of a no-fly zone to protect innocent civilians. Meanwhile on Friday, US Senator John McCain
became the highest ranking US official to travel to Libya as he met with leaders of
the Transitional National Council on Friday and called for greater support as well as
global recognition of the council as the legitimate government of the Libyan people. Amid the
nation’s rising casualties, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the government
was seeking help from the African Union in arriving at a diplomatic solution to the political
and humanitarian crisis. As we mourn the loss of precious lives, we
are heartened by the glimmers of peace in regions of turmoil, and we pray for the ceasing
of all conflicts as citizens everywhere choose to live in neighborly dignity, freedom and

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