Agenda Also in the news
In brief... Patients before profits, Novartis! For years, India was known as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’, producing generic drugs for use by those unable to afford the patented versions manufactured by Big Pharma. When it joined the World Trade Organization in 2005, India was forced to start granting
Despite the Madras High Court ruling against them in 2007, Novartis has stubbornly continued in its claim, and on 28 March their case finally reached India’s Supreme Court.
Should Novartis succeed in getting Section 3d overturned, patenting will become much more widespread in India, and production of generic alternatives will be severely curtailed, threatening the lives of millions across the developing world.
Médecins sans Frontières, which relies on generic drugs for its HIV/AIDS programme as well as its malaria and tuberculosis treatments, is campaigning to stop Novartis pursuing its case: msfaccess.org/STOPnovartis/
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T h e patents, but decided that only drugs which showed ‘an improved therapeutic effect over existing ones’ would be considered. This part of the law – Section 3d – prevents pharmaceutical companies from constantly extending their patents by making minor tweaks to existing drugs (known as ‘evergreening’). As a result, India rejected Novartis’ patent request on leukaemia drug Glivec – prompting the Swiss-based pharmaceutical to take India to court.
Italy’s unfair harvest An investigation by The Ecologist has revealed the shocking living and working conditions of migrants harvesting oranges in southern Italy. Reporters visited the small town of Rosarno, in Calabria, where some 2,000 migrants arrive each winter to pick the harvest for just $33 a day.
Many of the migrants enter Italy illegally in search of work and are soon exploited by gangmasters who recruit them on behalf of farm owners.
Most of the fruit they harvest is processed into concentrates for juice and soft drinks. Campaigners have contacted transnational food and drink firms, including Coca-Cola, which produces Fanta, urging them to pay a fair price for i c e n c e
U n d e ra l o n e a n d r e w m a the oranges – the market price has fallen below the cost of production, forcing down the wages farmers are willing to pay their workers.
With some growers deciding not to harvest their oranges at all this year, many migrants now face an even more uncertain future: living in squalid conditions in Italy, but without the money or documentation they need to return to their families.
One of the workers, Daniel, recalls being held in a detention camp in Libya after leaving Ghana. Once released, he found a boat heading for Europe, but it hit rocks off Sicily and three of his companions drowned.
Despite the hardship he went through to get to Italy, Daniel is now keen to leave. But there is no easy way out, he says. ‘It is a big question. How do you go home?’ The Ecologist bit.ly/yc1e0T A video made by the reporters can be seen on YouTube: youtu.be/u9jTowyQ3B8
Open window In collaboration with cartoonmovement.com – a global network of political cartoonists – each month this slot will feature a different cartoonist from around the world.
This month: Crazy Crab, from China, with ‘Propaganda Strategy’. To celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Chinese regional government distributed more than a million flags and portraits throughout Tibet to be displayed in temples, schools and rural households. The portraits depict four generations of Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
Crazy Crab is a pseudonym – his cartoons have been banned in China since October 2011. ‘I don’t know why they banned my cartoons. What I know is they fear the truth, they fear people’s laughter, and they fear my cartoons.
According to the order from “the Ministry of Truth”, my cartoons are considered as “harmful”. They even required every Chinese website to double-check and make sure that all my cartoons were deleted. I regard this as an honour.’ Read an interview with Crazy Crab at nin.tl/xDLNq8
12 ● N ew I n t e r nat i o nal i s t ● A P R I L 2 012 Cambodian drug law ‘legalizes’ appalling abuse
‘People are beaten unconscious and shocked with cattle prods. Abuse is common,’ says Sara Bradford, a Phnom Penhbased human rights researcher and advocate, as she describes Cambodia’s 14 compulsory treatment centres (CTCs). ‘The police pick up people who are supposedly drug dependent in street sweeps and, without any judicial process, lock them up.’ They are then held in detention for three to six months, but according to human rights activists, things are about to get considerably worse.
The Cambodian National Assembly recently passed the ‘Law on Drug Control’, following advice on the legislation from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Introduced to crack down on drug use, the law has been condemned for legalizing abuse – it allows compulsory detainment in CTCs, without a judicial order, for up to two years. A new mega-centre for up to 2,000 inmates is due to open this year.
Drug users are not the only people detained; the homeless, mentally ill, sex workers and street children are also interred in ‘catch all’ Social Affairs Centres. In 2008, 2,382 people were held, including 570 children. Joe Amon, Director of Human R ights Watch, says: ‘About a quarter of detainees across the system are children. They need care, not abuse.’
According to the Cambodian government, the legislation is aimed at ‘the rehabilitation of drug users’. However, the ‘treatment’ couldn’t be any worse, with therapeutic models to treat addiction entirely absent. ‘Conditions are atrocious,’ confirms Bradford. ‘There are no detoxification medications, and staff aren’t trained. Up to 70 people can be locked in a small room, without adequate nutrition or clean drinking water.’ Physical abuse is also endemic.
A 2010 report published by Human R ights Watch documents ‘treatment’ consisting of military drills, forced labour and exercise. Punishments include whipping with electrical wire, gang rape and being forced to donate blood. Not surprisingly, says Bradford, ‘people who have been in these centres are incredibly traumatized.’
The new law also allows for the compulsory treatment of minors. In 2010, a youth CTC, Chom Chao, was closed down after Human R ights Watch uncovered serious cases of child abuse. Chom Chao was run by the Ministry of Social Affairs and partially funded by UNICEF, and rights groups have strongly criticized UN and donor involvement in the centres. ‘If even one cent is allotted for activities in CTCs,’ says Bradford, ‘this denotes complicity and implies such centres are redeemable, which they’re not.’ Despite the UN Committee on the R ights of the Child expressing deep concern, UNICEF continues to fund the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Joe Amon says that in the two years since abuses in CTCs were uncovered, the situation has not improved: ‘The Cambodian government cares more about keeping the streets free of “socially undesirable people” than giving drug users treatment that actually works. UNODC should take a long, hard look at whether its project to “toughen up” Cambodian drug law hasn’t in fact made the situation worse.’ ■
Reasons to be cheerful
Map to the future After 10 years of painstaking work, the indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana have finally made public a digital map of their territory, as well as unveiling plans to care for 1.4 million hectares of pristine rainforest. Under threat from land-grabs, logging, dam-building, mining and agribusiness, the community intends to use the locally made map, which shows key livelihood, spiritual and cultural heritage sites, to pressure the government to recognize their land rights and preserve the environment.
South Central People’s Development Association
Sharks’ sanctuary The Republic of the Marshall Islands has established the world’s largest shark sanctuary, having passed legislation banning commercial fishing of sharks in all 1,990,527 square kilometres of its waters, as well as the sale of any sharks or shark products. With fines of between $25,000 and $200,000 for infringement of the law, shark-fin soup should be off the menu for good.
Earth Island Journal
Tweets against crime Kenyan chief Francis Kariuki has got local criminals on the run, thanks to an innovative use of social media. ‘I have brought crime under control,’ he told IPS recently. ‘This place was very dangerous. Incidents of carjacking, mugging and burglaries occurred daily, but they are no more.’
Kariuki uses Twitter to send alerts to over 15,000 of the 28,000 people who live in his district, to mobilize the community when a crime is reported. It’s not all plain sailing, though – the criminals themselves now follow @chiefkariuki in an attempt to keep ahead of the game.
In brief... The UN is failing to monitor human rights in Western Sahara In April the UN Security Council will be debating the renewal of its mandate to the UN mission in occupied Western Sahara, MINURSO. This is the only current UN mission that does not monitor human rights. In the absence of such human-rights monitoring, torture, false imprisonment and violence against Saharawi activists continue – there were 34 instances of serious humanrights violations by the Moroccan security forces in August and September 2011 alone.
Join the campaign to insist the UN gives the people of Western Sahara the protection they deserve at nin.tl/wpLN08
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