Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Protesting Police Brutality & State-Sponsored Yellow Journalism

Around 100 protesters congregated outside the headquarters of the state-owned Al-Gomhuria Newspaper in downtown Cairo today where they chanted slogans against the brutal murder of Alexandrian youth Khaled Said at the hands of police forces (on June 6th), and against the subsequent cover-ups and pathetic justifications for Said's murder published in this yellow newspaper's pages.

Slogans were chanted against Al-Gomhuria's blatant lies, against President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak, Minister of Interior - Habib "El Butcher" Adly, the State-Security Apparatus, the police in general, and the oppressive Emergency Law which has governed the country for the past 29 years.

Other slogans urged the journalists and editors of Al-Gomhuria to write the truth, and to refrain from acting as a mouthpiece for Mubarak's criminal state.

Hundreds of journalists and employees could be seen peeking out of open windows, while tens of others came out of the building and stood behind the police cordon which contained the protesters, and looked about curiously.

This demonstration is only one of several protests which have been conducted in Egypt since Said's murders. A number of other (larger) protests have been staged in Alexandria, Cairo, the Nile Delta, and other governorates.

Read Also:
AFP - Rights group slams Egypt for beating protesters

General Union Abandons Ahmonseto Textile Workers

Around 400 workers from the Ahmonseto Textile Company protested today outside the state-controlled General Union for Textile Workers in Shobra el-Mazalat, these workers also announced their intention of extending their protest into an open ended sleep-in. This delegation of workers had contacted General Union President, Saeed el-Gohari (a member of Mubarak's ruling party,) days earlier and had requested to meet him so as to resolve their numerous grievances.

Upon their arrival, however, these workers were surprised to find that none of the general union council members were present. Angered by the response of the general union, the workers chanted slogans against this yellow union council, against Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hadi, and all their "empty promises."

Some 1,200 workers at the private sector Ahmonseto Textile Company, located in the Tenth of Ramadan Industrial City, have been left unemployed since June 2008, after the owner of the company - Adel Agha - fled from the country and from a lengthy prison sentence.

Another 500 workers at the Economic Company for Industrial Development, a subsidiary company within Ahmonseto have resorted to a system of workers' self-management. The ECID workers are struggling to maintain production, while all production has ceased in the rest of the company.

Ahmonseto workers have been calling for the liquidation of the company and the provision of early retirement packages, compensations, and end-of-service payments from Bank Misr which took possession of the company following Adel Agha's flight. The Ministry of Manpower and the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation have both repeatedly reneged on promises to compensate these workers.

Following numerous protests and lengthy sleep-ins outside the upper house of parliament, the Ministry and the ETUF pledged to liquidate the company and provide the workers with LE 106 million, but during a parliamentary session on May 23 these authorities announced that they would be given only LE 50 million. Police forces were immediately deployed en masse outside both houses of parliament and moved to arrest, assault, and forcefully disperse the Ahmonseto workers, along with a number of other workers from different companies who were protesting and sleeping-in outside parliament.

This is the first protest that the Ahmonseto workers have staged in Cairo since the government's violent crackdown in May.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Egypt's Red Sea Oil Spill 'Cover-Up'

Times - LIVE
Red Sea oil 'cover-up'
Government accused of hiding information about spill reaching beaches
June 21, 2010

Eva Haroun

The Egyptian government has been accused of trying to cover up a major oil spill in the Red Sea that has affected holiday beaches along the resort coast of Hurghada.

Environmentalists monitoring the area have taken pictures of oil-encrusted beaches and tracked the spill to an offshore rig operated by a subsidiary of the state petroleum company.

But Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy claimed that the cause of the "leak" is unknown. Private laboratory tests completed yesterday revealed that the oil found on the beaches and the oil leaking from the rig were from the same source.

The rig is offshore, near the island of Geisum, a rocky outcrop 35km from the Egyptian coast. It is operated by state-owned Geisum Oil.

Officials of the company implied that Geisum Oil was responsible for the spill yesterday when they said the leak had been capped.

The government's environment and tourism ministries later officially noted that the spill had been contained and that measures were being taken to ''deal with the pollution caused".

But even the government-aligned Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency has labelled the damage caused by the spill as "catastrophic".

The agency's head, Amr Ali, has called for "stringent action" following a visit to the polluted beaches by Fahmy and Junior Environment Minister Maged George. They were to take charge of a hurried, land-based, clean-up operation that now extends to Al Gouna, 50km south of the initial pollution.

Ali has admitted that the spill was first noticed around the legs of the offshore platform "four or five days" ago, but that no notification was given.

And there were no attempts to contain the spillage.

An environmental monitor who has examined the coastal damage claimed yesterday that "the government is planning a cover-up".

He reported that hundreds of birds and turtles had been killed by the oil since the spill began. Dolphins, which frequent the area, are also affected.

Disasters of this kind, whether resulting from the activities of state-owned enterprises or private companies, are seldom officially acknowledged by governments.

Resort owners and diving centres along the coast say they have lodged complaints with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif but he has made no comment.

Egyptian officials are particularly concerned about cancellations by European tourists if news of the extent of the damage to the beaches become widely known. Of particular concern is the potential damage to the resort town of Al Gouna, the brainchild of billionaire investor Al Gouna. It is the site of the largest residential investment in Egypt.

*Photo by HEPCA


AP: Egypt confirms oil leak from rig off Red Sea coast

AFP: Egypt oil spill threatens Red Sea marine life

BDS: Israeli Cargo Blocked in Oakland, California

Daybreak outpouring of Bay Area picketers stops unloading of Israeli ship
June 20, 2010

Henry Norr

If anyone had any doubts that the movement for justice in Palestine is growing by leaps and bounds, in numbers, breadth, and determination, check out what happened this morning in Oakland, CA:

• Somewhere between 700 and 1,000 demonstrators from all over the San Francisco Bay Area made their way at 5:30 on a Sunday morning deep into the Port of Oakland to stage a spirited community-labor picket line in front of a berth where an Israeli freighter, the Zim Shenzhen, was due to dock;

• Dock workers from Local 10 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line;

• Under the terms of the ILWU contract, an arbitrator was summoned to the site, he upheld the legality of the dock workers' refusal to cross the line, and the company was compelled to cancel the shift and send the workers home.

Waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanting "Free, free Palestine - don't cross the picket line" and "An injury to one is an injury to all - the Israeli apartheid wall will fall," the demonstrators blocked three gates to the berth for more than four hours. The turnout was all the more impressive because the BART, the Bay Area subway system, doesn't even start running until around 8 a.m. on Sunday, and even after people got to the assembly point in West Oakland, we had to walk more than a mile to get to the berth.

The event was organized by an ad hoc coalition of dozens of community and labor organizations. The main leadership came from Palestinian-Americans and other Arab Americans, with the Bay Area branch of ANSWER also playing a key role. The idea arose in response to a call issued in the wake of Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, which asked workers around the world to stop unloading ships carrying Israeli goods.

For veteran Bay Area activists, today's victory echoed a historic milestone in 1984, when ILWU workers in San Francisco refused to unload a ship called the Nedlloyd Kimberley, because its cargo came from South Africa. Just 10 years later, Nelson Mandela was elected president, and apartheid - in its South African form - was dead.

With today's day shift cancelled, most of the picketers have now gone home to get caffeine, food, and rest, but we're not done yet: we're going back to the site at 4 o'clock this afternoon to put up another picket line, in hopes that the ILWU workers will again refuse to cross the line and unload the ship. If you're in the Bay Area, be there or be square - it's your chance to make history. Just head for the West Oakland BART at 4 to march or get a ride to Berth 58. There's more information here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Police Assault & Arrest Over 30 Anti-Torture Protesters

Police Assault & Arrest Over 30 Protesters Demonstrating in Solidarity With Khaled Said

A demonstration involving around 300 protesters in downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square was crushed and forcibly dispersed by thousands of police forces. Over 30 protesters - who had gathered in the square to protest against the torture and brutal murder of Khaled Said - were arrested.

Reports mentioned that a number of those arrested were beaten while in police custody. Police harassed and assaulted journalists, while one female protester said that she was sexually harassed by plain-clothed policemen. Those who were not arrested congregated on the stairs outside the Journalists' Syndicate where they demonstrated for the release of the 30+ protesters arrested.

Chants and slogans were directed against the Minister of Interior, Habib El "Butcher Adly, the State-Security Apparatus with its brutal torture methods, and the police in general, along with President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak. Chants called for avenging the Martyr Khaled Said.

Rows of Central Security Forces cordoned the demonstrators on the stairs of the syndicate, while police photographers and a video-cameraman documented the protests and focused on those leading the chants and slogans. Some angry youth threw empty (plastic) water bottles at these police cameramen; but other protesters told them to refrain from doing so.

In the course of about three hours all the arrested protesters were released. A number of these released protesters joined the demonstration outside the Journalists' Syndicate and chanted against the repressive Emergency Law which has governed Egypt for the past 29 years - and which facilitated the murder of Khaled Said at the hands of policemen. All protesters loudly and wholeheartedly chanted "Down with Mubarak!" and "Down with the Emergency Law!"

Further demos in solidarity with torture victims, and against the oppressive Emergency Law are to be held during the upcoming week - including a protest stand on June 26th in commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EGYPT: Police Beating Death Sparks Nationwide Fury

The Los Angeles Times
EGYPT: Alleged police beating death sparks nationwide fury
June 14, 2010

Amro Hassan

Anger over the death of a man allegedly at the hands of two undercover police officers in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria has sparked anger across the nation and condemnation by human-rights organizations and a Facebook group dedicated to finding out what happened to Khaled Mohamed Saied.

On Sunday, security forces outside the Interior Ministry in the capital, Cairo, broke up a march by 200 protesters before allowing it to resume about 300 yards away amid tight security.

Demonstrators, carrying banners that read "Trial for Khaled Saied's murderers," were demanding an investigation into Saied's death. Protesters shouted that "Khaled was murdered" and lay the blame on Interior Minister Habib Adli.

Following his death on June 6, human-rights groups, including Amnesty International, said that Saied was arrested in an Internet cafe by two undercover policemen, who tortured and beat him to death at the entrance of a nearby building. Photos of Saied's beaten face and body spread across social-networking websites.

The Ministry of Interior issued a statement rebuffing accusations that police had a hand in the killing, adding: "The forensic report showed that Saied, who was at large following two criminal convictions, died of suffocation from an overdose of drugs he swallowed immediately before his capture."

A statement issued by the opposition movement April 6 Youth, argued that photographs of Saied after his death provided evidence that he died as a result of having been beaten and claim "he was severely beaten while he was still alive."

Speaking in an interview filmed by the El Ghad opposition party, cafe owner Hassan Mosbah said that two officers had come into his shop and dragged Saied to an adjacent house, where they beat him.

"We thought they would just interrogate him or ask him questions," Mosbah said. "But they took him as he struggled with his hands behind his back and banged his head against the marble table inside here."

Alexandrian café owner: police beat youth to death

The Associated Press
Egypt café owner describes police beating death
June 13, 2010


CAIRO — The owner of an Egyptian Internet cafe said he witnessed police beating a young man to death and described the killing that has outraged rights activists.

The Interior Ministry has denied the allegations, claiming on Saturday that the 28-year-old was wanted by police and died after choking on a joint he swallowed when policemen sought to arrest him.

Activists say 28-year-old Khaled Said's death is an example of rampant abuses made possible by a three-decade-old emergency law they describe as a central tool of repression by President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

In a filmed interview posted online Sunday by a leading opposition party, cafe owner Hassan Mosbah said two police officers came into his establishment in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, dragged Khaled Said out into the street and beat him to death there. Pictures of Said's shattered face appeared on social networking sites after his death on June 6.

"We thought they would just interrogate him or ask him questions. But they took him as he struggled with his hands behind his back and banged his head against the marble table inside here," Mosbah said in an interview conducted by a journalist from the liberal opposition al-Ghad newspaper.

Mosbah said he told the police to take it outside and they hauled Said into the doorway of a nearby building. He did not emerge alive, said the cafe owner.

A fact-finding mission by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, confirmed the cafe owner's account.

"They dragged him to the adjacent building and banged his head against an iron door, the steps of the staircase and walls of the building," the Cairo-based organization said in a statement Sunday.

"Two doctors happened to be there and tried in vain to revive him but (the police) continued beating him," the statement said, adding that Said was well regarded by his friends.

The official police statement, however, said he was a known drug user and the cause of death was suffocation from "a cigarette containing drugs" lodged in Said's trachea. It also said he was wanted for convictions in absentia for theft and weapons possession, in addition to evading compulsory military service.

"The allegations reported by some circles have intentionally ignored all the facts in order to show that the human rights situation in the country has been violated," said the police statement.

Soon after his death, pictures of Said's shattered face appeared on social networking sites, outraging activists and turning into a rallying cry for Egypt's political opposition.

About 100 protesters gathered Sunday in downtown Cairo to demand the resignation of the interior minister, who controls the police force. A large number of security personnel vigorously beat back the crowds to keep them from reaching the ministry building.

Young activists held up side-by-side photos of Said, one showing him alive and the other a grisly image after his beating. "Down with Mubarak," demonstrators shouted.

Police arrested dozens.

Amnesty International and other rights groups on Friday demanded an independent investigation.

The "shocking pictures ... are a rare, firsthand glimpse of the routine use of brutal force by the Egyptian security forces, who expect to operate in a climate of impunity, with no questions asked," Amnesty said in a statement.

The victim's brother, Ahmed Said, maintained that the beating was revenge for his possession of a video showing the policemen dividing the spoils of a drug bust among themselves and so they confronted him at the cafe. He said he saw his brother's body a day after his death. His jaw was twisted, his rib cage mangled and his skull cracked, he said. Similar images were posted on bloggers' websites and he confirmed their authenticity.

Human rights groups say police torture — including sexual abuse — is routine in Egypt, but the government denies it is systematic. Reformers say the emergency law, in place since 1981, is to blame.

Cases of police brutality rarely result in punishment.

*Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report.

Egyptian Government Must Investigate Brutal Killing of Young Man

Amnesty International Urges Egypt Government to Investigate Brutal Killing of Young Man

June 12, 2010

Amnesty International is calling for an immediate, full and independent investigation into the brutal killing of a 28-year-old Egyptian man, Khaled Mohammed Said, while in the hands of Egyptian security forces in the city of Alexandria on Sunday, June 6.

Shocking pictures of Khaled Mohammed Said's body, whose face is almost unrecognizable from the beating he received, at the hands of the Egyptian police and in public according to reports, has been posted on the internet.

"The horrific photographs are shocking evidence of the abuses taking place in Egypt which are in stark contrast to the image of the country depicted today by Egyptian officials to members of the UN Human Rights Council and their reluctant recognition of some minor wrongdoings," said Amnesty International.

"These pictures are a rare, first-hand glimpse of the routine use of brutal force by the Egyptian security forces, who expect to operate in a climate of impunity, with no questions asked.

Although, the exact circumstances surrounding the killing are still being pieced together, what is known is that Khaled Mohammed Said was severely beaten by two plain-clothes police officers in an internet cafe. He was reportedly dragged out of the café and the beating continued until he died.

According to a lawyer from El-Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, Khaled Mohammed Said's relatives were informed of his death, but were prevented from seeing his body immediately. The police took them to Sidi Gaber police station, where they were told that Khaled Mohammed Said had swallowed a bag of narcotics when the police had approached him, and had died from an overdose.

The family filed a complaint with the prosecutor on Monday, June 7, but was surprised to find that the police had already filed a report claiming Khaled Mohammed Said had died from a drug overdose. The prosecutor has since ordered an autopsy and the investigation is continuing. Amnesty International calls for an investigation to be carried out in line with international standards, including those within the United Nations Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

Under the umbrella of Egypt's 29-year-old state of emergency, abuses by the security forces are routine and rarely punished, and those responsible have only been brought to justice on a very few occasions. The state of emergency was extended for another two years earlier this month, despite repeated calls from states and international human rights groups during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for it to be lifted as soon as possible.

"The Egyptian authorities must respond immediately to this brutal beating and killing in the most robust way. If they do not take action, it will yet again send a clear signal that these abuses may continue and guarantee the perpetrators get away with it," said Amnesty International. "The Egyptian authorities must reign in their security forces. The Egyptian authorities should know that the eyes of the world are increasingly on them, and the pictures online mean that they cannot avoid conducting a thorough investigation with another whitewash."


Photos of Khaled Said before and after his brutal murder at the hands of Egyptian police

Alexandrian Family Says Police Brutally Killed Son

Family says Egypt police brutally killed their son
June 12, 2010


CAIRO — Egyptian police beat a young businessman to death on an Alexandria street after he posted a video on the Internet of officers sharing the spoils from a drug bust among themselves, his family said Friday.

The beating earlier this week — which police deny took place despite photos showing the man's face had been shattered — has become a rallying cry for Egypt's political opposition. Activists say it is an example of rampant abuses made possible by a three-decade-old emergency law they describe as a central tool of repression by President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Images of 28-year-old Khaled Said's broken body were posted on social networking websites, where activists dubbed him the "martyr of the emergency law."

Amnesty International and other rights groups on Friday demanded an independent investigation.

A police official said the cause of Khaled Said's death on Sunday is unknown and is being investigated. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Amnesty said police initially told Said's family he swallowed a bag of narcotics when police officers approached him and that he died of an overdose. Results from an autopsy are due Saturday.

"This was revenge" for exposing the policemen in an Internet video, said the man's brother, Ahmed Said, in a telephone interview from Alexandria.

He and other relatives as well as the family's lawyer say witnesses told them two plainclothes officers confronted Said in an Internet cafe Sunday and began arguing with him.

The officers slammed his head against a table, dragged him outside, smashed his head against a metal door and continued to beat him even after he was dead, his brother said.

An uncle, Ali el-Guindi, said a police van later dumped Said's body outside his house.

Police torture — including sexual abuse — is routine in Egypt, human rights groups say, while the government denies it is systematic. Reformers say the emergency law, in place since 1981, is to blame. Cases of police brutality rarely result in punishment.

The man's brother, Ahmed, said he saw his body a day after his death. His jaw was twisted, his rib cage mangled and his skull cracked, he said. Similar images were posted on bloggers' websites and he confirmed their authenticity.

The "shocking pictures ... are a rare, firsthand glimpse of the routine use of brutal force by the Egyptian security forces, who expect to operate in a climate of impunity, with no questions asked," Amnesty International said in a statement.

The group said Egypt must "rein in" their security forces and called for a robust and immediate investigation.

Aida Seif al-Dawla, the head of an Egyptian human rights group dealing with torture victims, said it is no longer enough to ask for an investigation.

"We live in a country where there is absolutely no law," she said. "We want the sacking and trial of the head of the police."

Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading government critic and Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote on his Facebook and Twitter pages that "Khaled's life must not be lost in vain."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Annual Survey of Labor Union Rights Worldwide

ITUC: 2010 Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights

Since 2008, the global financial and economic crisis has had a massive impact throughout the world on the level of employment. Tens of millions of jobs have been lost, and many millions more workers are still feeling the threat of unemployment. This in turn has made the central task of trade unions, defence and promotion of workers’ rights and decent jobs for all, even more difficult than at any time in recent history. Indeed, in many countries, despite a call by G20 leaders, public authorities and companies have continued to use the crisis as a pretext to weaken and undermine trade union rights.

The ITUC is adamant that the struggle for the universal respect of trade union rights enshrined in the ILO fundamental conventions is needed more than ever before. The ITUC Founding Congress in 2006 mandated the organisation to expose and denounce violations of workers’ rights, wherever they occur. The publication of this Survey is an important part of fulfilling that mandate.

This Survey again records an extensive list of violations suffered by trade unionists struggling to defend workers’ interests, this year in 140 countries. Other violations remain unreported, as working women and men are deprived of the means to have their voices heard, or fear to speak out due to the consequences to their jobs or even to their physical safety. The Survey provides detailed documentation of harassment, intimidation, persecution and, in the worst cases, murder of trade unionists. Killings of trade unionists actually increased by 30% compared to the previous year.

At least 101 trade unionists and labour activists were murdered in 2009 compared to 76 the previous year: 48 were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 12 in Honduras, six in Mexico, six in Bangladesh, four in Brazil, three in the Dominican Republic, three in the Philippines, one in India, one in Iraq and one in Nigeria. Colombia was yet again the deadliest country in the world: 22 of the trade unionists who died were senior trade union leaders and five were women. The rise in violence in Guatemala and Honduras is deeply worrying.

A further ten attempted murders and 35 serious death threats are recorded, again mostly in Colombia and Guatemala. Furthermore, many trade unionists remained in prison and were joined by around hundred others in 2009. Many others were arrested in Iran, Honduras, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Zimbabwe, in particular. The general trade union rights’ situation has continued to deteriorate in a number of countries, including Egypt, the Russian Federation, South Korea and Turkey.

Trade union rights continue to be infringed, in many cases with total impunity, and the repression of trade unionists goes on while governments fail to meet their responsibility to ensure that trade union rights are respected and that the people defending these rights are protected. In a number of countries, governments again showed that they are intent on keeping trade unions under their firm control.

Anti-democratic forces continued to target union activity, aware that unions are often in the front line in the defence of democracy. This was evident in Honduras during the post-coup violence and in Guinea during a protest demonstration against the ruling junta which turned into a terrible massacre on 28 September.

Numerous cases of strike-breaking and repression of striking workers were documented in each region. Thousands of workers demonstrating to claim wages, denounce harsh working conditions or the harmful effects of the global financial and economical crisis have faced beatings, arrest and detention, including in Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Honduras, India, Iran, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey. Dismissals of workers due to their trade union activities were reported in many countries. In Bangladesh, six garment workers on strike for a pay increase and settlement of outstanding wages died after a police intervention.

Union busting and pressure continue to be widely used by employers. In several countries, companies threatened workers with closure or transfer of production sites, should they organise or join a trade union. Often employers simply refused to negotiate with legitimate workers’ representatives while the authorities did nothing. Some labour codes were amended to permit more “flexibility” and to unravel social welfare systems which often impacted the existing industrial relations systems and thus curtailed trade union rights.

Another negative effect of the economic and financial crisis is that more and more workers are forced into various forms of precarious work. Indeed, the ILO now estimates that 50% of the global workforce is involved in vulnerable work. This affected workers in export processing zones, especially in South East Asia and Central America, domestic workers (especially in the Middle East and South East Asia), migrants as well as agricultural workers. It is worth mentioning that women represent a significant majority of the workforce in these sectors. Furthermore, the growth of informal employment and the development of new “atypical” forms of employment was seen across both regions and industrial sectors. The difficulties these workers face to organise or exercise their trade union rights are directly related to their highly vulnerable position in the labour market.

Where legislation protects some trade union rights, this often comes with restrictions. Fundamental rights remain restricted for many categories of workers, including public employees in several countries. Severe restrictions or outright prohibition of strikes also exists in a large number of countries. Furthermore, complex procedural requirements, imposition of compulsory arbitration and the use of excessively broad definitions of “essential services” provisions often make the exercise of trade union rights impossible in practice, depriving workers of their legitimate rights to union representation and participation in industrial action.

2009 was the 60th Anniversary of the ILO Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949 (no. 98). Countries such as Canada, China, India, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam have still not ratified it. Thus, approximately half of the world’s economically active population is not covered by the Convention. Even when ratified, implementation of this vital Convention is frequently weak. Respect for the rights to organise and bargain collectively are crucial to restoring purchasing power and economic growth around the world, and governments must act to ensure that these rights are respected in law and in practice. The alternative is greater inequality, and deeper recession.

The free exercise of fundamental trade union rights by independent trade unions is also essential to the functioning of a democratic society and to a global economy based on social justice. The ITUC will continue to fight for the protection of these rights, and bring support and solidarity to the men and women who risk their jobs, their freedom and even their lives to defend workers’ rights.

Egyptian Workers in Crisis

Around 100 worker-delegates and trade unionists converged upon the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) in downtown Cairo on Monday, June 8th in hopes of winning concessions or resolving crises at their companies.

Workers from the Ahmonseto Textile Company, The Tanta Flax & Oils Company, The Salemco Textile Company, and the Egyptian Telephone Production Company have been suffering crises at their workplaces for months and, in some cases, years. Delegates from these companies met with ETUF President Hussein Megawer (a pro-capitalist MP from the ruling party,) and the presidents of their respective general unions, in hopes of governmental intercession.

Upon leaving the ETUF headquarters, a number of these worker-delegates said that "Megawer is merely giving us another dose of pain-killers." The roots of their problems were not addressed.

Some 1,700 workers at the Ahmonseto Textile Company have been seeking to liquidate this company and receive compensations, or early retirement packages - given that the owner, Adel Agha, fled the country (along with a lengthy prison sentence) around three years ago.

The Tanta Flax & Oils Company was privatized several years ago and sold to a Saudi investor, Abdel Ellah El Kahki, who has since sacked striking workers and imposed a lock-out in the company.

The Telephone Company was similarly privatized and sold to a Jordanian Investor, Ayman Hegawi, who mismanaged this previously profitable company and incurred millions of pounds worth of debts. He has since ceased all production and operations at this company, and has refused to pay workers their overdue wages, or to provide them with early retirement packages/compensations.

These workers argue that the President of their Local Union Committee, Mahmoud Sobeih, who is also the Secretary-General of the General Union of Engineering Industries, is misrepresenting them in negotiations. The telephone company workers began signing a petition by which to issue a vote-of-no-confidence against Sobeih if he continues to drag his feet in these negotiations, or if negotiations will end up giving him a disproportionately large compensation settlement - at the expense of manual workers and engineers at this company.

The Salemco Company is a private sector textile enterprise which was similarly mismanaged, and its workers have been seeking their overdue wages and benefits; or otherwise calling for retirement settlements/compensations.

ILO: Egyptian Government Interfering in Labor Affairs

ILO: Egyptian govt 'interfering' in labor affairs

Mohamed Azouz

At a conference currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland, the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized the Egyptian government for what it described as "interference" in labor affairs. The organization lashed out at Egyptian security forces in particular for their role in dispersing recent labor protests.

According to a report by the ILO's international labor standards committee, the Egyptian government has failed to respond to previous complaints by the organization about repeated interference in matters pertaining to Egypt's national labor force. The report stated that Egypt continued to violate the C87 agreement on freedom of association and C98 agreement on freedom of collective bargaining.

The organization gave Egypt another year to improve its behavior before the issuance of a report by the ILO technical aid mission that visited Cairo last April.

The ILO also called for a fact-finding committee to investigate alleged assaults on protesting workers by Egyptian security forces.

It also noted that Egypt had failed to amend its syndicate and labor laws, as had been previously requested by the organization. The laws in their current form forbid labor strikes without the prior approval of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which enjoys exclusive control over syndicate finances.

Labor Unions Move to Isolate Israel

Unions act to isolate Israel
June 5, 2010

Dick Nichols

The movement for Australian union action against Israel is gaining strength after the apartheid state’s latest murderous attack on the unarmed aid flotilla to Gaza.

The South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) and the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory branches of the Australian Services Union have joined the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union in committing to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the aggressive Israeli state.

Australian unions and peak bodies have also called on members to attend the many protest actions.

The union campaign demanding an active boycott of Israel began in this country with the January 2009 ban on Israel cargo imposed by the Western Australian branch of the Maritime Union of Australia. The ban came after the Durban branch of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union refused to unload cargo from Israel.

SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris said: “A boycott of Israeli goods produced in the illegal settlements is a good way for the international community to send a strong message to the Israeli leadership that humanity will not turn a blind eye to the injustice … inflicted on the Palestinian people."

We must now make the BDS campaign the policy of the entire union movement, just as in the days of the anti-apartheid bans against South Africa.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and state trades and labour councils have so far avoided taking meaningful action against Israeli interests, restricting themselves to calls for restraint.

To make a difference, the Australian union movement should follow the lead recently set by the British University and College Union.

Its 2010 congress last week voted overwhelmingly to "sever all relations with [the Israeli trade union federation] Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise”.

It also proposed to: “Seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union-sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law.

This is the only sort of action the Israeli government understands.

Other Australian unions can make a difference for Palestine by supporting the BDS campaign and demanding that the ACTU do the same.

Call for International Dockworkers to Block Israeli Ships

Palestinian Trade Union Movement Calls on International Dockworkers Unions to Block Loading/Offloading Israeli Ships
June 7, 2010

The Palestinian trade union movement, as a key constituent member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on dockworkers' unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade in response to Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, until Israel complies with international law and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza. Drunk with power and impunity, Israel has ignored recent appeals by the UN Secretary General as well as a near consensus among world governments to end its siege, putting the onus on international civil society to shoulder the moral responsibility of holding Israel accountable to international law and ending its criminal impunity. Dockworkers around the world have historically contributed to the struggle against injustice, most notably against the apartheid regime in South Africa, when port workers unions refused to load/offload cargo on/from South African ships as a most effective way of protesting the apartheid regime.

Today, we ask you to join the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), who resolved [1] not to offload Israeli ships in Durban in February 2009 in protest of Israel’s war of aggression on Gaza, and the Swedish Dockworkers Union [2] who resolved to blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel in protest of Israel's attack against the Freedom Flotilla and the ongoing deadly Israeli siege of the occupied Gaza Strip.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of essential food, health, educational and construction supplies is not only immoral; it is a severe form of collective punishment, a war crime that is strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that is inducing mass poverty, water contamination, environmental collapse, chronic diseases, economic devastation and hundreds of deaths. This three-year old medieval siege against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, has been squarely condemned by leading legal experts, including UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Prof. Richard Falk, who described it as constituting "slow genocide."

Israel's deplorable attacks on the unarmed ships are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes." Under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process. As prominent international law scholars have recently confirmed, there is absolutely no legal justification for Israel's act of aggression against international civilian ships carrying humanitarian and developmental aid to civilians suffering under occupation and a patently illegal blockade, which has created a man-made and deliberately sustained humanitarian catastrophe. Our response must be commensurate with this crisis.

Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity. During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the world was inspired by the brave and principled actions of dockworkers unions who refused to handle South African cargo, contributing significantly to the ultimate fall of apartheid. Today, we call on you, dockworkers unions of the world, to do the same against Israel's occupation and apartheid. This is the most effective form of solidarity to end injustice and uphold universal human rights.


- Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

- General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)

- Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU)

- Palestinian Professionals Association **

- Youth Workers Movement (Fatah)

- Central Office for the Workers Movement (Fatah)

- Progressive Workers Block

- Workers Unity Block

- Workers Struggle Block

- Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) –part of IFU

- Workers Liberation Front

- Labor Front Block

- Workers Solidarity Organization

- Workers Struggle Organization

** Includes the national syndicates of engineers, agricultural engineers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, lawyers and veterinarians.

Pixies, Gorillaz & Klaxons Cancel Shows in Israel

I truly respect the following artists for canceling their performances, or refusing to play, in the Apartheid Pirate-State of Israel:

Bono, Sting, Santana, Snoop Dogg, Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Gorillaz, and Klaxons.

I hope that Elton John, Rod Stewart, and Ozzy Osbourne will cancel their planned performances there.

Please Join the Movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel


Pixies, Gorillaz, and Klaxons Bail Out of Israeli Music Festival
June 7, 2010

It's an active month for political protests from musicians: Following the Rage Against the Machine–led boycott of Arizona, several acts — namely, the Pixies, Gorillaz, and Klaxons — have canceled their appearances at Tel Aviv's June 9 Pic.Nic festival. The bands have released no statements, but the festival's promoters are up-front about the cancellations being related to Israel's May 30 raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian-aid flotilla. Last month, Elvis Costello canceled a show in Israel as well.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Protesting the Egyptian-Israeli Siege on Gaza

Around 200 activists congregated outside the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo, on June 5, to protest against the joint Egyptian-Israeli siege imposed upon 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.

This protest was also intended as a show of solidarity with the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, and a commemoration of the devastating 1967 War - in which Israel occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Syria's Golan Heights, Lebanon's Shebaa Farms, along with the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The protesters chanted against Dictator/President Hosni Mubarak, accurately describing him as a stooge of US imperialism and as an ally of Zionism. Speakers mentioned that the Egyptian government's opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza was merely a PR stunt in light of the mounting pressure on Egypt and Israel to lift their joint siege on the Gaza Strip.

Activists, aid workers, and physicians who had recently been delivering humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip described how Egyptian border authorities delayed their passage for hours, and even days, before being allowed to let in humanitarian aid and medical supplies.

Other goods such as electricity generators, concrete and reinforced steel for construction efforts in Gaza have been obstructed. While the flow of Gazans to and from Egypt has been limited as the border crossing is open for only a few hours each day.

A humanitarian convoy is set to depart from the Lawyers' Syndicate to the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Israeli Pirates Seize Another Gaza-bound Aid Ship

Israel remains defiant, seizes Gaza-bound aid ship
June 5, 2010


JERUSALEM — A defiant Israel enforced its 3-year-old blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday, with naval commandos swiftly commandeering a Gaza-bound aid vessel carrying an Irish Nobel laureate and other activists and forcing it to head to an Israeli port instead.

The bloodless takeover stood in marked contrast to a deadly raid of another Gaza aid ship this week. However, it was unlikely to halt snowballing international outrage and demands that Israel lift or at least loosen the devastating closure that confines 1.5 million Palestinians to a small sliver of land and only allows in basic humanitarian goods.

For now, the confrontations at sea are likely to continue.

The organizers of Saturday's sail said they planned to dispatch as many as three more ships in coming months and that four captains already have volunteered for the missions.

"What Israel needs to understand is that nothing is accomplished with force," said Greta Berlin of the Cyprus-based Free Gaza group, which sent the latest aid vessel, the Rachel Corrie.

Israel said it would block any attempt to reach Gaza by sea, in order to prevent weapons from reaching the Iranian-backed Islamic militant group. "Israel ... will not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

At the same time, Israel signaled Saturday it is considering easing the blockade, although officials provided no details. Israel and Egypt closed Gaza's borders after Hamas seized the territory three years ago from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Saturday's takeover of the 1,200-ton ship was over in minutes.

After trailing the vessel for six hours across the Mediterranean, Israeli commandos boarded it from speed boats around noon, in international waters about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Gaza, and forced it to sail to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Footage from an Israeli aircraft showed the passengers sitting quietly in two rows on the top deck. A man described by the Israeli military as the captain got up, raised his arms and walked toward the soldiers.

The military said the crew of the Rachel Corrie dropped down one of the ship's ladders to make it easier for the forces to board.

The activists could not be reached to describe the events because communication with the ship was cut during the operation. Berlin called the takeover an outrage.

The 11 passengers and eight crew members will be deported, although those who object will be detained and given a chance to appeal, officials said.

Those aboard included Mairead Corrigan, who won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday.

While in radio contact, the Israeli navy officers addressed the boat as "Linda" — the vessel's name before it was renamed for an American college student crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer during a 2003 Gaza protest.

Saturday's nonviolent operation came nearly a week after a chaotic takeover of a six-ship flotilla by Israel, also in international waters. In that confrontation, Israeli forces rappelled from a helicopter onto the deck of the Turkish lead ship, clashed with club-wielding activists awaiting them and at some point opened fire.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed, and a preliminary autopsy report released by Turkey Saturday said they were shot a total of 30 times. Of the nine, five were shot in the head and back, and one was shot from close range, the report said.

Israel said its forces acted in self-defense against what it described as Islamic extremists.

However, the outcry over the aid ships has been a public relations nightmare for Israel, while giving Hamas a welcome boost.

Northern Ireland's deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Saturday the Rachel Corrie should have been allowed to reach Gaza "without Israeli aggression." In Stockholm, the Swedish dockworkers' union said it would persuade members not to service Israeli ships for a week, starting June 15.

In Tel Aviv, a demonstration marking the 43rd anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza turned into a protest against the blockade. "The government is drowning all of us," a sign read. Another protest by thousands in Paris included a large parade-style float representing an aid ship.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, on Friday joined other nations in saying the blockade in its current form is not sustainable. An infuriated Turkey said it would minimize relations with Israel, once a close regional ally.

The blockade, meant to dislodge Hamas, initially enjoyed the tacit support of many in the international community. Under the restrictions, Israel bars virtually all exports and most imports, including construction supplies.

Critics say the restrictions have been counterproductive, strengthening Hamas, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs and hampering U.N.-led efforts to rebuild what was destroyed in Israel's war on Gaza 16 months ago.

Most commercial goods, along with cash and weapons, are now funneled through hundreds of Hamas-controlled smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt borders. With unemployment high, many Gazans cannot afford to buy the smuggled merchandise.

Israeli Cabinet minister Isaac Herzog told The Associated Press that Israel is talking to its allies about possibly easing the flow of goods to Gaza, but provided no details.

The Obama administration had adopted a gradual approach of persuading Israel to ease restrictions, but National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said Friday the U.S. was working "urgently" with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other international partners to find ways to bring more goods into Gaza.

Israel fears steel and cement can be diverted by Hamas for military use but has said it is willing to allow in limited shipments if aid agencies take responsibility. Hamas and other groups have fired thousands of rockets and mortars on Israeli border towns in recent years.

The Rachel Corrie carried hundreds of tons of aid, including electric wheel chairs, medical supplies and cement. Israeli officials said the cargo was to be unloaded in Ashdod, and items permitted under blockade rules would be taken to Gaza by land. Cement could be shipped in if the U.N. takes delivery, officials said.

The Free Gaza group, which organized Saturday's sail and other attempts to break the Gaza embargo, said Saturday it was closing its Cyprus headquarters and relocating, but won't stop sending ships to challenge the blockade.

Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since December 2008.

The fate of the cargo of Monday's flotilla remained in limbo, apparently because of disputes between Hamas, the U.N. and the Turkish aid group that was the main sponsor over who should receive them in Gaza.

The Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief said it has no immediate plans to send more ships and is still trying to get back the vessels Israel had seized. All six vessels of Monday's flotilla remain in the Ashdod port.

*Associated Press Writers Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem, Karoun Demirjian in Ashdod and Selcan Hacaoglu in Istanbul contributed to this report.