Democracy Now! Headlines for December 31, 2009

Democracy Now!

Afghan Investigators Accused Int’l Forces of Killing Schoolboys

In other news from Afghanistan, Al Jazeera reports at least eight Afghan civilians have been killed in an air raid by foreign forces in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. Meanwhile, protests were held in several Afghan cities Wednesday over reports that international forces killed ten civilians, including many schoolboys, in an attack earlier in the week. NATO officials have denied civilians were killed, but Afghan investigators said nearly all those killed were school-age boys. In a statement released yesterday, President Hamid Karzai’s office said that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village and took ten people from three homes. Karzai’s office said all of the people detained were shot dead.

Canadian PM Harper Accused of Shutting Down Torture Probe

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily shut down Parliament until March, after the close of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The move shuts down all parliamentary committees, including a probe into whether Canadian troops turned over Afghan prisoners to Afghan authorities to be tortured. Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale accused Harper of padlocking Parliament and shutting down democracy. Goodale said, “Three times in three years and twice within one year, the Prime Minister takes this extraordinary step to muzzle Parliament. This time it’s a cover-up of what the Conservatives knew, and when they knew it, about torture in Afghanistan."

Dutch Court OKs Nigerian Suit Against Shell

Four Nigerian farmers have won the right to take oil giant Shell to court in The Hague. A Dutch court said on Wednesday it has jurisdiction to hear the case. The Nigerian farmers claim oil leaking out of a Shell pipeline polluted their farm lands and fish ponds. Geert Ritsema of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision.

Geert Ritsema: “We think this is a breakthrough, because it’s now acknowledged by a Dutch court that the actions of Shell outside of the Netherlands can be—they can be held liable for these actions, and they can be held responsible. And that is the most important victory of today”

The four Nigerian farmers who filed the suit against Shell are expected to testify soon about the oil company’s presence in Nigeria.

Egyptian Police Beat Protesters from Gaza Freedom March

Eighty-six international activists and journalists have reportedly entered Gaza carrying humanitarian aid, but the Egyptian government is continuing to block more than 1,200 other other activists with the Gaza Freedom March from crossing the border. Organizers said Egypt’s position has prevented more aid from entering Gaza. Meanwhile, in Cairo, plainclothes Egyptian police officers beat members of the Gaza Freedom March as they staged a demonstration to demand the right to enter Gaza. Protesters were reportedly beaten with blows to the head and forcefully kicked. Other activists were detained in hotels. One Belgian protester named Maude said Egyptian security forces were tightly controlling their actions in Cairo.

Maude: “There was a lot of events in the street, in the street during the last few days. And now there is a big manifestation, but it’s not possible for us to join our group, because the police is making a circle and we can’t enter in. It’s not possible now."

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