- - Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Lawyer returns from forced disappearance

BEIJING | The wife of a prominent human rights lawyer who disappeared for two months amid a massive Chinese security crackdown said her husband has returned home and appears to be well.

The wife of Beijing lawyer Jiang Tianyong said he returned home Tuesday evening. Jin Bianling said Wednesday that Mr. Jiang just wanted to “rest for a while” and that it was not convenient to talk.

Mr. Jiang disappeared on Feb. 19 as he was visiting his brother in a Beijing suburb. Police grabbed him and threw him into a waiting van.

He is among dozens of well-known lawyers and activists across China who have vanished, been interrogated or criminally detained for subversion in recent weeks. Human rights groups say the crackdown is on a scale not seen in many years.


Urgent meeting planned on Mideast unrest

GENEVA | Several members of the U.N.’s top human rights body are pressing for an emergency meeting to examine the government crackdowns against popular protests that have swept the Middle East and North Africa, Western diplomats said Wednesday.

The countries, from Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia, are trying to collect 16 signatures necessary to force a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council next week, the diplomats said.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, which was underlined by the innocuous title proposed for the meeting - “Promotion and protection of human rights in the context of recent peaceful protests.”

The title was chosen to avoid singling out particular countries, the diplomats said. But they confirmed that Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria would be among the nations whose violent suppression of protests would be on the agenda.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose members carry significant weight in the 47-nation Human Rights Council, said it wouldn’t consent to holding such a meeting.

“We think that the events that are taking place do not merit some kind of a special session,” said Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva.

He accused those advocating a special session of double standards, and said the OIC would use any such meeting to focus on human rights abuses by Israel instead.


Upper chamber of Parliament overflowing

LONDON | Squeeze in, Sir; excuse me, Earl. Lawmakers say the red leather benches of Britain’s House of Lords are packed to bursting - with Parliament’s upper chamber straining to cope with the needs of almost 800 members.

Legislators complain the overcrowding means a scramble for seats, office space and slots to speak. Some grumble that an influx of new members has ushered in a bad-tempered atmosphere.

The House of Lords currently has 792 active members, a mix of appointed, hereditary and religious peers.

A University College London report published Wednesday warned that the chamber had become “bloated and dysfunctional,” and demanded an immediate halt to any new appointments.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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