International News Briefs of December 11

December 11, 2008 Updated: December 11, 2008

One Million Dollar Reward Offered in Paris Jewel Theft

Lloyd's insurance company offered a US$ 1 million reward on Dec. 11 to anyone providing information about a recent robbery from the Harry Winston boutique on Avenue Montaigne, Paris.  An estimated 85 million Euros (around US$ 110 million) was stolen on Friday, Dec. 5.

Four individuals wearing women’s dress and wigs entered the Winston boutique in Paris’s fashionable Eighth district, and in less than 15 minutes stole the most expensive diamonds, watches, rings and necklaces. The incident has been dubbed “the heist of the century” in France.
In October 2007, the Harry Winston boutique was robbed of 20 million Euro in jewels; a US$ 500 000 reward offered at that time triggered no help.

Vandals Deface Muslim and Jude Graves in Northern France

The graves of up to 500 war veterans in the Northern province of Pas-de-Calais, France, have been covered by anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic slogans recently. The attack took place the same night Muslims in France were celebrating Eid al-Adha, where Muslims are to practise forgiveness. It was the third time the Muslim area of the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery, where the remains of soldiers who fought during World War 1 are kept, has been attacked by suspected Neo-Nazi activists. Of particular note were extremely aggressive slogans aimed at French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati, who is of Northern African origin.  President Sarkozy strongly condemned the attack, describing it as “repugnant racism.” A dozen Jewish graves were also defaced.

Expert: Human Rights in France  ‘Could do better’

Stephan Hessel, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stated on the occasion of his 60th birthday that France should in no case “feel too proud, as it is always bad to do so”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on December 1948 in Paris by the then 48 member nations of the UN. According the 91 year old commentator, in 2008 France does not entirely deserve the title of a “Nation of Human Rights.” This has especially to do with its immigration policies and penal system, which has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, he says.

“The current French President could do much more,” said Hessel, adding that “the French Secretary of Human Rights is a nice person, but has she done enough to promote human rights in the world? I’m not convinced”
Stephan Hessel is a keynote speaker of the French commemoration of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Czech President Abandons Political Party

President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, surprised the Czech public on Saturday, when he announced at the congress of the Civic Democratic Party that he will be giving up his title of honorary chairman.

Klaus mentioned his disagreement with the direction of the Party, from a liberal-conservative position toward the middle of the political spectrum, as a reason for the move. Klaus also holds a well-known critical stance towards the European Union (EU), which he also raised. He now plans to support the newly formed Euroskeptics Party, which is supposed to have close association with the lobby group Libertas, known for its successful campaign against passing the Treaty of Lisbon—a strong EU initiative—in Ireland.

‘Big Eye’ Contact Lenses Under Suspicion in Thailand

Contact lenses popular among Thai youth, called “big eyes,” may potentially lead to blindness, reported Thailand’s Daily Xpress recently. The lenses serve only a cosmetic purpose, to give the impression that the wearer has bigger eyes, and are offered in a range of colors.

Doctors say loss of sight may be caused by wearing incorrectly shaped lenses, or not cleaning or packaging them properly. There is currently no legislation to regulate the sale of such contact lenses, but the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they will convene this month to discuss this issue. The FDA is expected to issue similar safety standard laws to those imposed on regular contacts.

Militant Attacks Increasing in Pakistan

Violent attacks by militants are becoming a regular occurrence in Peshawar, one of the Pakistani cities closest to the war-torn region bordering Afghanistan, where the United States is fighting its “war on terror.”

On Dec. 5, days before Eid al-Adha, a major Islamic holiday, a powerful bomb exploded in the heart of Peshawar’s oldest marketplace, Qissa Khawani. According to The News, a local media, many locals remained indoors despite the busy shopping time, for fear of another attack.

On Dec. 7, militants raided two transport terminals and burned more than 160 NATO vehicles, heading to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

European Task Force Moves into Kosovo

The European Union Rule of Law Mission, EULEX, took over the policing of Kosovo from the UN on Dec. 9. The Albanian side fears that EULEX will give Serbia a say in the affairs of Serbian inhabited areas in Kosovo, thus splitting the country along ethnic lines, while the Serbian side is skeptical that the mission can remain neutral.

Kosovo media warned of numerous difficulties in the implementation of the EULEX mandate  before the takeover date. One of the main papers, Koha Ditore ,warns that EULEX judges will be confronted with legal chaos in their work for improving the rule of law. Presently, there are three legal systems: the laws passed by the Kosovo parliament, UN administration regulations, and in the North where Serbs live, the laws of Serbia.

UN forces will be on alert to avoid any ethnic conflict, though the only conflict the Kosovo media foresees is in the transfer of responsibilities from the UN to EULEX.