Egypt's top contenders appeal disqualification from presidential race
Egypt's top three contenders are fighting to appeal their disqualification from the first open presidential race since the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak. The move has increased tensions and accusations that Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is looking to maintain power, despite the proposed date of July 1 for a transition to civilian rule. Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's former intelligence chief and vice-president, was presumably disqualified by the election commission for not securing enough signatures. The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Khairat el-Stater, was blocked because of a prior conviction under the Mubarak regime, while the Salafist backed preacher, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, was barred for his mother's alleged American citizenship. Abu Ismail claimed charges of his mother's nationality question were fabricated by his opposition, and his supporters stormed the electoral commission headquarters. Suleiman has suspended his campaign, while he awaits a decision on his appeal. He would be allowed to run if he collects enough signatures in the coming days. Shater said his campaign would move ahead. The candidates have two days to appeal the disqualifications, and a final list will be released on April 26.
An advance team of up to six United Nations monitors arrived in Damascus to begin an observer mission to enforce the ceasefire and implement the six-point peace plan of U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of up to 30 unarmed monitors in the first unanimously passed resolution on Syria since the beginning of the conflict 13 months ago. The mission may be expanded to 250 in another resolution that could come as early as Wednesday. The deployment has come amid increasing concerns that last week's ceasefire is failing to hold. The Syrian government has kept troops and tanks posted in urban and residential areas, defying Annan's six-point plan. Activists have reported a resurgence of heavy shelling in Homs at the rate of "one shell per minute." Conversely, SANA, Syria's state news agency, said a "terrorist group" attacked government forces in Idlib province claiming, "Since the announcement of an end to military operations, terrorist attacks have increased by dozens, causing a large loss of life."
- An Israeli soldier has been suspended for hitting an activist in the face with the butt of an M-16. Meanwhile, Israel blocked the entry of nearly 80 foreign activists participating in a "flytilla."
- Diplomats called Iranian nuclear talks in Istanbul constructive, and scheduled another session for May
Arguments & Analysis
Historic transition in Libya must not forget survivors of sexual violence, (Margot Wallstrom, Al Jazeera English)
The wide circulation of weapons does not mean that women feel safe; quite the contrary. From experience, we know that too often men in uniform carrying weapons use their power to abuse women and children. Preliminary findings from UN monitoring in Libya confirm that both women and men were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence during the conflict. While women were abducted from their homes, from cars or from the streets and exposed to rape in places unknown to them, men were sodomised in prisons and in places of detention as a means to obtain intelligence. This serves as a reminder of the importance of including sexual violence in the list of possible human rights violations whenever war crimes are being investigated.
Hard talks on Iran (The Financial Times)
Iran already faces a raft of energy and banking sanctions from the US and EU that are seriously undermining its economy. Iran also knows an Israeli attack this year cannot be ruled out. As a result, Iran's delegation arrived in Istanbul with a more constructive approach to talks than it has demonstrated in the past. Iran did not set impossible preconditions for future talks with its interlocutors -- the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China -- as it has before. Instead, Iran accepted that its nuclear programme should be the subject of more detailed discussions in Baghdad, where the group meets again in five weeks time.
Bahrain: Grand Prix Deicion Ignores Abuses, (Human Rights Watch)
The decision to go ahead with the Grand Prix on April 22, 2012, gives Bahrain's rulers the opportunity they are seeking to obscure the seriousness of the country's human rights situation, Human Rights Watch said today. The decision was announced on April 13 by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and the Formula One Teams Association. As part of a major public relations campaign to clean up Bahrain's image following the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, the Bahraini authorities have been lobbying to have the Bahrain Grand Prix reinstated in 2012. The event was cancelled in 2011 because of political unrest. Not only is the event expected to generate significant income, but it is also being used by the Bahraini authorities to support their claim that the political and human rights crisis in the country is over.
-- Mary Casey and Jennifer Parker