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Southeast Asia: Australian Foreign Minister "Grateful" for Indonesia's Tough Drug Stance After Four Australians Sentenced to Death for Smuggling

After the Indonesian Supreme Court sentenced four Australian citizens to death for trying to smuggle heroin from Bali to Australia, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told a press conference Tuesday night he was "grateful" for Indonesia's tough stance on drug policy. Downer held out little hope that the four, and two others already sentenced to death, would be spared.

Part of a group known as the "Bali Nine," the four Australians had originally been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, but prosecutors appealed the "lenient" sentences, and earlier this week the Supreme Court resentenced them to death. They join two other young members of the "Bali Nine" already sentenced to die in a case involving 18 pounds of heroin.

At the press conference called to confirm the imposition of the death sentences, Downer said the case would not harm relations between the two countries. "We actually urged the Indonesians to be tough on drug trafficking," he said. "The last thing we want is heroin brought into Australia from Indonesia. Don't make any mistake about that. We are grateful to the Indonesians for being tough on drugs. It's just that we don't support capital punishment. That they have arrested people who've been trafficking drugs means those drugs don't come into Australia and innocent Australians, or drug users in Australia innocent or not, aren't going to use those drugs, and that's a good thing."

Despite Downer's sanguine comments, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, himself a staunch drug warrior, announced he would seek clemency, although he cautioned it would be unlikely. "I don't think people should entertain too many optimistic thoughts because it's difficult, but we will try hard and we will put the case against the death penalty," Howard said late on Wednesday.

Other Australian politicians have protested more loudly. "Judicial murder is what the Indonesian authorities have in mind here. It is a repugnant and barbaric practice," Green Senator Bob Brown told Reuters.

A group of Australian politicians who are members of Amnesty International said they would protest to the Indonesian government. "We should not sit back and say this is their laws and they can do what they want," said government MP Bruce Baird. Meanwhile, the six young Australians confront their imminent mortality.

One of the Australians sentenced to death, 20-year-old Scott Rush, said he was shocked by the ruling and pleaded for help. "This is making my head spin. I am sitting on death, am I?," he said. "At first I didn't want to appeal because of this sort of thing. I was scared and me and my parents were stressed. But everyone said no Australians would be put to death, and now I am on death row. If there is anything people can do to prevent this please make it happen because I need a second chance at life."

That's the way we do things in Indonesia, the country's top cop, General Sutanto said. "In Indonesia, drugs abuse is rampant because punishment has been too lenient. If we are not serious about tackling the problem, drug traffickers will not be deterred," Sutanto told reporters, according to Reuters.

Editor's Note: It's foolishly naive to think that the death penalty does or can deter drug trafficking. After all, many participants in the drug trade already risk death at the hands of their competitors routinely. A government adding a few more bodies to the pile does nothing to fundamentally alter that reality. Much more likely is that it will push the trade into the hands of the most dangerous kinds of criminals who are most comfortable taking the risk.

Canadian Federal Government Demands More Research on Safe Injection Site, But Won't Pay For It

The Canadian federal government -- relatively hostile to harm reduction measures like safe injection sites since the Conservative Party took power in the last elections -- will not fund further research for Vancouver's InSite safe injection site, Health Ministry spokesman Eric Waddell told the Drug War Chronicle this afternoon. That was news to the site's operator, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, whose spokesperson Viviana Zonacco said she had not been informed of that aspect of the ministry's decision.

The Health Ministry had funded research on the injection site's efficacy for the past three years to the tune of $500,000 a year. The ministry extended the site's exemption from the country's drug laws for only year instead of three years last Friday—the dead news day before the three-day weekend in Canada—saying that it required further research on how well it worked. But after demanding more research, the Health Ministry doesn't want to pay for it. Go figger.

I learned about this as I was researching an article I will write about the decision for this week's Chronicle. Check it out on Friday.

Localização: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Calling in the Drug Calvary

Localização: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-colafghan6sep06,1,4418859.story?coll=la-headlines-world&ctrack=1&cset=true

Five years after their removal from power: The Taliban are back

SENLIS COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE
5 SEPTEMBER 2006



Five years after their removal from power: The Taliban are back

Taliban Frontline now cuts half-way through Afghanistan

US and UK led failed counter-narcotics policies are responsible

Humanitarian crisis hits southern Afghanistan - extreme poverty, drought and hundreds of thousands starving in south

LONDON – The Taliban have regained control over the southern half of Afghanistan and their frontline is advancing daily, warned The Senlis Council on the release of an evaluation report of the reconstruction of Afghanistan marking the five year anniversary of 9/11. The Report is based on extensive field research in the critical provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Herat and Nangarhar.

The Taliban frontline now cuts half-way through the country, encompassing all of the southern provinces. Senlis Afghanistan reports that five years after the 2001 US-led invasion, a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty has gripped the south of the country and that the US and UK-led failed counter-narcotics and military policies are responsible. The subsequent rising levels of extreme poverty have created increasing support for the Taliban, who have responded to the needs of the local population.

Taliban’s return to power is a direct consequence of the flawed approach that the US-led international community has taken in Afghanistan since 2001
“When you first came here we were so glad to see you. Now we have lived with you in our country for five years and we see you tell a lot of lies and make a lot of false promises,” says a former Mujaheedin commander from Kandahar quoted in the Report.

The US-led nation-building efforts have failed because of ineffective and inflammatory military and counter narcotics policies. At the same time there has been a dramatic under-funding of aid and development programs.

“Huge amounts of money have been spent on large and costly military operations, but after five years southern Afghanistan is once more a battlefield for the control of the country,” said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council. “At the same time Afghans are starving. The US has lost control in Afghanistan and has in many ways undercut the new democracy in Afghanistan. I think we can call that a failure, and one with dire consequences which should concern us all. The US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe-haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy.”

Emergency Food Aid needed now: “Children are dying here”

Due to lack of funding from the international community the Afghan Government and the United Nation’s World Food Programme are unable to address Afghanistan’s hunger crisis. Despite appeals for aid funds, the US-led international community has continued to direct the majority of aid funds towards military and security operations.

“The United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to cancel plans to provide more than 2.5 million Afghans with urgent food aid,” said Reinert. “Unless these needs are met, this will have dire consequences for millions of Afghans.”

Hunger and the insurgency: Hunger Leads to Anger

“Five years after 9/11, Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world and there is a hunger crisis in the fragile Southern part of the country,” said Reinert. “Remarkably this vital fact seems to have been overlooked in funding and prioritisation of the foreign policy, military, counter narcotics and reconstruction plans.

Relieving poverty, which should have been the main priority, has not received the attention it so desperately needed. Consequently the international community has lost the battle for the hearts and mind of the Afghan people.

The Report reveals that makeshift, unregistered refugee camps of starving children, civilians displaced by counter narcotics eradication and bombing campaigns can be found on the doorstep of new US and UK multi million dollar military camps.

“I took my child to the graveyard, my child died of hunger. There are children dying here,” said a man in one of these camps in Kandahar Province.

“Hunger leads to anger,” said Reinert. “Farmers who have had their poppy crop eradicated by the US and UK led eradication campaign now see their children facing starvation.”

These camps also accommodate families who have left their home due to violence and fighting. Some are there because their homes have been destroyed by coalition forces’ interventions in the ‘war on terror’ and the current heightened counter-insurgency operations.

A man in a camp in Lashkar Gah is quoted in the Report as saying, “After the bombing I moved to Lashkar Gah…I am afraid and terrified.” There have been no official camps established to provide for civilians who left their villages due to US bombing campaigns.

Hunger has led to anger against the rich foreign community the Afghans see in their country. This and the crop eradication policies provide a perfect breeding ground for the Taliban propaganda against the foreign presence in Afghanistan.

US and UK-led failed counter-narcotics policies are responsible for the hunger crisis and the return of the Taliban

By triggering both anger and a hunger crisis in southern Afghanistan, US and UK-led counter-narcotics policies are directly responsible for the breakdown in security and the return of the Taliban.

“Forced poppy crop eradication is an anti-poor policy,” said Reinert. “Poppy cultivation means survival for thousands of Afghans. By destroying entire communities’ livelihoods, without any alternative plan for how the farmers would feed their families, the current eradication programmes are pushing farmers straight back into the arms of the Taliban.”

A worker in Kandahar city is quoted as saying “In the villages, they had their crops destroyed, there is no water, no jobs, nothing to do – isn’t it fair that they go and join the Taliban? Wouldn’t you do the same thing?”

The Wrong priorities since 2001

“Prioritising the ‘war on terror’ over the ‘war on poverty’ has recreated the exact situation it was intended to remove in southern Afghanistan,” said Reinert. “Right from 2001, the US-led international community’s priorities for Afghanistan were not in line with those of the Afghan population. It is a classic military error: they did not properly identify the enemy.”

An Afghan commander in Kandahar province is quoted as saying “The foreigners came here and said they would help the poor people and improve the economic situation, and they only spend money on their military operations. The poor people are poorer now than when the Taliban were the government. We don’t trust them anymore. We would be fools to continue to believe their lies.”

Military expenditure outpaces development and reconstruction spending by 900% - the wrong priority

82.5 billion USD has been spent on military operations in Afghanistan since 2002 compared to just 7.3 billion USD on development.

Focus on poverty relief and development could have created a solid foundation on which to re-build Afghanistan. Instead, the focus on “securing” Afghanistan with aggressive military tactics has led the Afghan population to mistrust the reasons for the large international military presence in their country.

The large numbers of civilian casualties and deaths have also fuelled resentment and mistrust of the international military presence.

“We have a saying about you now: Your blood is blood, our blood is just water to you,” the Report notes a former Mujaheedin commander from Kandahar as saying.

There were 104 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the month of July alone.

Faced with the return of the Taliban, the US and the international community must immediately reassess entire approach in Afghanistan

“Emergency poverty relief must now be the top priority,” said Reinert. “Only then can we talk of nation-building and reconstruction. A complete overhaul of the failed counter-narcotics strategies is urgently needed. We must try and win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The Taliban are advancing north every day. This should concern us all.”

Research for the Report was carried out throughout Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 2006 by Senlis Afghanistan teams of Afghan and international researchers.
Localização: 
Afghanistan

Afghanistan Five Years Later--The Return of the Taliban

Localização: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Senlis Council
URL: 
http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/014_publication

In Afghanistan, A Symbol for Change, Then Failure

Localização: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?hp&ex=1157515200&en=1e70e663189b6fb9&ei=5094&partner=homepage

The Afghanistan Debacle

On Saturday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its estimate of the 2006 Afghan opium crop, and the numbers are astoundingly bad. According to the UNODCO, this year's crop is 60% larger than last year's and will yield an all-time record 6,100 tons of opium. Afghan opium will account for a whopping 92% of global illicit opium production. This report, which must come as a punch in the gut to the US and NATO, strongly suggests that the US/NATO/Karzai strategy of attempting to uproot the opium crop and the opium economy--which is Afghanistan's primary economic motor--is not only failing, it is backfiring. Opium production has now spread to 28 of the country's 34 provinces, and in the restive south, opium profits are helping fuel a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency. It is a situation eerily reminiscent of Peru in the 1980s. Maoist insurgents of the Shining Path were making inroads among Peruvian coca producers, who were being hounded by the Peruvian government at the behest of the United States. Some Peruvian generals got smart and decided to lay off the peasants, ignoring their coca cultivation in a bid to win hearts and minds. The US government got mightily pissed, but in the end, the strategy worked. The Shining Path was not able to bring the coca growers into its insurgency and eventually faded away. There is a lesson here for NATO and American war planners. You can have your war on terror or you can have your war on drugs, but it doesn't seem that you can successfully have both. It's awfully difficult to win hearts and minds when you're burning down farmers' fields and destroying their livelihoods.
Localização: 
Afghanistan

Opium Cultivation Rose 60% in Afghanistan This Year, All-Time Record, UN Says

Localização: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/09/02/asia/AS_GEN_Afghan_Drugs.php

Guatemala Begins Eradication of 6 Million Poppies

Localização: 
SM
Guatemala
Publication/Source: 
Dominican Today
URL: 
http://www.dominicantoday.com/app/article.aspx?id=17052

Health Canada Postponing Decision on Vancouver Safe Injection Site

Localização: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Health Canada
URL: 
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/2006/2006_85_e.html

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