The Guardian 14 December, 2005

Global briefs

SOUTH AFRICA: Following court decisions in earlier years outlawing discrimination and expanding gay rights, South Africa's Supreme Court ruled unanimously on December 1 to allow same-sex marriages. The court gave Parliament a year to make marriage laws consistent with the constitution, which bars discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. The country now joins Belgium, Spain, Holland and Canada in allowing same-sex marriages. Marie Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys, a lesbian couple, had won a case in the Supreme Court last year supporting their right to marry. But the Department of Home Affairs had appealed the decision. "Although a number of breakthroughs have been made", Judge Albie Sachs said in the current ruling, "there is no comprehensive legal regulation of the family law rights of gays and lesbians." Sachs added that "small gestures" toward equality are not enough, and exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage is not "a small inconvenience". A democratic and equal society embraces everyone and accepts people for who they are, he said.

HAITI: The Haiti Action Committee said on November 28 it had received eyewitness reports that United Nations troops had launched a new round of attacks on residents of the Cite Soleil district of Port-au-Prince. On November 23, the committee said, UN troops reportedly killed one man, a maker of kitchen utensils, and injured five others when they fired into his shop. Another report said UN troops led by Jordanian soldiers killed a husband and wife and wounded eight others. The Haitian news agency AHP said that according to some accounts, as many as 15 people might have been killed and others wounded. AHP said UN military spokesperson Colonel El Ouafi Boulbars denied there was a military operation, and said there were only exchanges of gunfire. Warning that "another massacre" might be in the making, the Haiti Action Committee called for protest messages to Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director, NY Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (917) 367-5208 or International human rights organisations have accused UN troops and Haitian security forces of earlier massacres of civilians in Cite Soleil and other poor working-class neighbourhoods where support is high for deposed President Jean- Bertrand Aristide.

VIETNAM: The Vietnam-USA Society, an organisation of Vietnamese people working for friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries, said in a November 28 letter that it is "very disappointed" by the US State Department's recent designation of Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern (CPC)". The Society said the designation "disregards recent significant improvements in democracy, human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam, runs counter to the new developments in US-Vietnam relations as well as the aspirations and interests of the governments and the people, including religious followers, of the two countries."

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