Rights Court Refuses

Mexican Torture Case

MEXICO CITY -- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided Tuesday that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case of Alfonso Martin del Campo Dodd, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen convicted of murder in Mexico City 12 years ago on the basis of a confession obtained by torture.

The court ruled that it could consider only cases that occurred after December 1998, when Mexico formally accepted the international court's jurisdiction. The court, an arm of the Organization of American States, does not take appeals of its decisions.

The case was brought before the court last year by its sister organization, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which after a review concluded that Martin del Campo's human rights had been violated by the Mexican government. It recommended that Martin del Campo, who was born in Chicago, be released and that his family be compensated for his years in prison. The Mexican government refused, so the commission brought its first-ever suit against Mexico at the court.

The court's decision drew immediate condemnation from human rights groups, which said that because of a jurisdictional technicality, Martin del Campo, 39, would now likely serve the remainder of his 50-year sentence. He has exhausted his legal appeals in Mexico.

-- Kevin Sullivan

The middle East

* JERUSALEM -- Israeli cabinet ministers approved cash advances of up to $115,000 to Jewish settlers willing to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank -- the first concrete step toward carrying out Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's contentious pullout plan.

In a sign of growing tensions, Israeli police said Sharon and an official planning the withdrawal have been the targets of death threats by Jewish extremists.

Sharon wants to pull out of all 21 Gaza settlements and four small ones in the West Bank in 2005, removing 8,500 settlers from their homes. After four years of conflict with the Palestinians, Sharon says the moves are needed to improve security and preempt new international peace plans.

* NABLUS, West Bank -- Israeli troops killed at least five Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Nablus early Wednesday, witnesses said.

A military spokeswoman confirmed operations were underway but declined to comment on casualties. "Our troops were attacked while in Nablus and returned fire," she said.

Witnesses said four of the dead men were believed to belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

* ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's government backed off its plan to outlaw adultery after criticism within the European Union, strident protests from opposition politicians and a march on parliament by hundreds of outraged Turkish women.

Government leaders had proposed an adultery ban as part of a major overhaul of the mostly Muslim country's 78-year-old penal code, which comes as the 25 E.U. states prepare to decide by the end of the year whether to begin talks on Turkey's appeal for membership.

The government had been hoping to tack the adultery ban onto the draft penal code, apparently to appease Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's conservative and devoutly Islamic base.

Asia

* SEOUL -- Torrential rain has devastated huge swaths of North Korea, destroying homes and farmland ahead of the autumn harvest, the official KCNA news agency said in a rare report on a natural disaster.

A tropical depression brought extremely heavy downpours to the entire country from Saturday to Monday, with rainfall in some areas exceeding eight inches over 48 hours, the agency said. KCNA mentioned no casualties or deaths.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair warned of the threat posed by climate change and urged support for the principles of the Kyoto accord on global warming, a treaty rejected by President Bush as unfair toward U.S. industry.

Blair promised to make global warming a focal point of Britain's presidency of the Group of Eight summit next year and said he would push for greater international commitment to cut greenhouse gases.

* BELFAST -- Sinn Fein leaders accused British spies of hiding an electronic listening device inside the Belfast headquarters of the Irish Republican Army-linked party.

Sinn Fein's leader, Gerry Adams, displayed the 5-foot-3-inch-long device, which apparently included a string of long-life battery packs and a microphone. He said it was hidden in the floor of Connolly House, the heavily guarded Sinn Fein base in Catholic west Belfast.

Adams, who did not say when Sinn Fein made the discovery, publicized the find on the eve of Sinn Fein's departure for high-stakes negotiations in England.

-- From News Services