Top of the Morning: Andrew Mitchell Out as DfID Chief; Bahrain Upholds Harsh Sentences Against Demonstrators; Colombia Peace Talks

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

Bahrain Upholds Harsh Sentences Against Demonstrators

Human rights campaigners and protesters who led demonstrations in Bahrain last year have no reprieve from harsh sentences handed down on them by a Bahraini court. “A Bahrain court Tuesday upheld jail sentences against 20 opposition figures convicted of plotting to overthrow the Western-allied government, including eight prominent activists facing life in prison. The decision is likely to deepen the nearly 19-month-long crisis between Bahrain’s Sunni rulers and Shiite-led protesters demanding a greater political voice in the strategic Gulf kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The group on trial includes some of the most high-profile leaders. Among the eight sentenced to life is rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who staged a 110-day hunger strike earlier this year in protest. The other 12 have lesser prison terms, ranging from five to 15 years, with seven of them convicted in absentia. The decision also could intensify street clashes that have occurred nearly nonstop since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising began in February 2011. More than 50 people have been killed in Bahrain’s unrest. Hours after the court announcement, riot police outside the capital, Manama, fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters. Some demonstrators threw firebombs at security forces.” (NYT

Norway to Host Colombia-FARC Peace Talks

One more attempt to find a negotiated solution to Latin America’s longest running insurgency. “Colombian government peace talks with leftist guerrillas to try and end Latin America’s longest-running insurgency will begin next month in Norway before moving to Cuba, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday. Unlike past failed negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, however, there will be no ceasefire this time, Santos said in a national TV address. ‘I ask the Colombian people for patience and strength,’ Santos said, announcing the talks would start in the first half of October. ‘There’s no doubt it’s time to turn the page.’ While Colombians are hopeful Santos will succeed, he faces a monumental task to reach peace with the FARC, which has holed up in Colombia’s jungle territory since 1964 and imposed tough demands in past peace negotiations. In a video message broadcast to journalists in Cuba, the FARC’s bearded leader Rodrigo Londono, known by his war alias Timochenko, urged a ‘civilized dialogue’ to end the bloodshed.” (Reuters

Andrew Mitchell Out as UK International Development Secretary

DfID will have a new chief. “As part of UK prime minister David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, Andrew Mitchell left the Department for International Development (DfID) – where he had been international development secretary for more than two years – to become chief whip. The former transport secretary, Justine Greening, will replace him. Mitchell, who held the post in the shadow cabinet prior to his 2010 appointment, said he was sad to be leaving the department, although, according to Guardian colleagues, chief whip is apparently a post he’s always wanted. Mitchell has been widely praised for bringing greater transparency to the department’s aid spending and upholding the UK government’s commitment to keep its 0.7% aid pledge despite the tough economic climate and opposition from within his own party. DfID funding was ringfenced in the last comprehensive spending review. Mitchell has kept the UK’s profile high among the donor community, and in June landed a job on a panel aimed at creating a new global partnership on development co-operation. Moreover, it was on Mitchell’s watch that Cameron was appointed co-chair of a UN high-level panel tasked with devising post-2015 development goals.” (Guardian