Digital Rights Progress

Free Internet? courtesy of Nemo's great uncle/flickr

Digital Rights have long been recognized as crucial to development and growth. Having a right to an internet connection is a vital component of making the freedom of expression real and meaningful. Both rights are secured in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the full implementation of these rights remains rare.

Access to digital resources online is also crucial to global knowledge transfers, from the north to the south. This was acknowledged in the Millennium Development Goals declaration in 2000 already, with a specific target in its 8th goal: “In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.”

We are starting to see more and more initiatives by various countries to broaden this access, particularly broadband penetration. Finland recently declared broadband access a right. In practice this means that internet providers will have to extend the internet network in Finland to make sure that every citizen has access at a reasonable cost.

Justice in the North

Justice, finally? Courtesy of Scott Chacon/flickr

A week ago, a landmark case in Finland against a 59-year-old Rwandan preacher concluded with a life sentence for mass murder (the Finnish legal term joukkotuhonta actually roughly translates as ‘mass/group destruction’). The man, Francois Bazaramba, had sought asylum in Finland in 2003 and was arrested in 2007 in Porvoo, Finland, accused by the Rwandan authorities of involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Although not unprecedented, Finland’s exercise of the so-called universality principle in public international law, has revived the controversy surrounding the principle which, in theory and if codified in national law, allows national courts to prosecute individuals suspected of involvement in genocide or other grievous and systematic attacks against civilian populations, regardless of the location of the crime or the nationality of the suspect.

More importantly, however, it has marked another step in the torturous road toward justice and reconciliation in Rwanda.


But Timber Doesn’t Sink, Right?

Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr
Lego Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

In one of the most bizarre stories of the month, a Finnish-owned ship with a timber load belonging to Stora Enso (a Finnish company and the second largest paper producer in the world) worth an estimated 1.3 million euros, vanished (yes, vanished!) as it was passing through the English Channel nearly three weeks ago on its way to Algeria. The ship and its all-Russian crew have not been heard from since. Reports state that the ship was hijacked off the Swedish coast in July and subsequently released by suspected pirates who had reportedly boarded the vessel dressed up as Swedish anti-narcotics police. The ship, upon failing to bring its load to Algeria on 4 August was reported missing.

While the Finns seem oddly indifferent and blasé about the whole thing, Putin is already flexing his well-toned muscles and threatening to launch a Rambo-mission to find the poor hijackees (with the help of his sidekick, Medvedev, of course). We needn’t worry though- apparently timber can’t sink, so the ship will be found, intact or as a sea of floating Finnish timber in the Atlantic.