tv BBC World News PBS March 14, 2012 5:00am-5:30am EDT
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>> a bus crash in a swiss road tunnel kills 28 people, 22 of them children, as they return to belgium from a skiing holiday. another 24 are injured in the crash. they've been flown by helicopter or taken by ambulance to hospitals. the belgian prime minister calls the accident a national tragedy, while parents gather at the affected schools. welcome to "bbc world news." i'm david eades. our other main headlines -- the international criminal court is about to deliver its first verdict on an african rebel leader accused of using child soldiers. china's outgoing premier calls for urgent political reform to protect economic gains and prevent a historic tragedy.
>> thanks very much for joining us. they were traveling home from a skiing holiday when disaster hit. the bus carrying 5 people, mainly children, crashing in a swiss tunnel. 28 people were killed, most of them -- 22, in fact -- around 12 years old. officials are still trying to identify all of the victims. belgium's foreign minister has called the tragedy incomprehensible. it happened in the swiss region of valais, which borders italy. both of the drivers are dead. johnathan josephs has the latest. >> the harrowing scenes inside this tunnel are any parent's worst nightmare. hundreds of emergency service personnel were quickly on the scene in the canton of valais. the coach, carrying two classes of schoolchildren, crashed into the wall of the tunnel, killing many of them. regrettably, we have to
announce that 28 people have been killed, among them, 22 children, age 12, as well as six adults, including the two drivers of the coach. 24 other children were injured. at this stage, it's unclear exactly how the tragic accident happened, but prosecutors have established that the bus hit a concrete wall head on. the relatively new vehicle, which was equiped with seat belts, was taking the children home after a week of skiing in the swiss alps. many of the injured have been flown to hospitals across switzerland. help for the families has been set up. in the belgian town of heverlee, some of those families gathered outside the school gates to comfort one another, their grief clearly visible. >> this is a shock for the whole nation, and it's a real tragedy, first of all, for the victims and for their families,
bit for the entire nation. it's quite a very difficult moment. >> the belgian government is offering psychological support to the affected families and says military aircraft will take those who want to go to the scene. from there, the badly mangled coach has already been removed and will be examined further as investigators look for answers and swiss police are already calling this unprecedented. johnathan josephs, bbc news. >> we can speak now to simon bradley, who's joining us on the line from switzerland. there is great surprise, puzzlement, as to how this happened at all, isn't there? >> well, the cause of the accident is still not yet known, and an investigation is underway. what we know, we were told early this morning at a press conference about 5:00 is the coach, the accident occurred at
around 9:00 last night. the coach had left the region where they had been on a skiing holiday, and they had gone on to the motorway just around sierre, which is a built-uptown, heading towards the modern motorway. the accident occurred in a tunnel, which was about 10 years old, a modern tunnel, 1,000 kilometers long, and as i say, we don't know many more details, apart from the fact that the bus veered right, hit a curb, and rammed head on into an emergency area, concrete wall. and if you see the shocking picture of the wreckage, there is a lot of shock, particularly among the rescuers.
>> pretty awful pictures, as you say. and those others on the bus, many of them injured, of course, they've been flown, where, to all corners of switzerland? >> well, there's been a huge rescue operation underway, some 200 people have been involved, 30 police, 60 firefighters, 15 doctors, some eight helicopters, and 12 ambulances were on quickly on the spot to help. and those -- i think we talk about 24 people have been hospitalized, and they've been looked after. there was a psychologist and people who can obviously speak -- able to help them on the spot. >> simon bradley, thank you very much indeed. i think we can now join on the line from brussels, in fact, the belgian transport minister, melchior wathelet. thanks very much indeed for sparing us a few moments of
what is clearly a very difficult time for you and, indeed, for the country as a whole. >> yes, of course. everybody is shocked here. we have children, and what has happened during this night is, of course, a real catastrophe. my first thoughts go, of course, to all those families who are going to switzerland now. yes, it's really a cat story, and we are all shocked by what has happened. >> how much information have you managed to pull together as to what actually happened? >> in fact, we do not have a lot of information. what i can say is the company, which has the buses, was well known with a good reputation. the drivers of the coaches arrived in switzerland on
tuesday morning, spent all day over there. it seemed that they were not driving for a long period, so everything seemed to be ok with the coach, with the drivers, so we are trying to understand, and also that we are in contact with the swiss authority and that the coordination happens very good. i think that the swiss, as belgians, we are all shocked today and trying to do everything we could to support the family and to understand as possible what has happened, because, of course, we need some answers because it is so -- such a big issue and such a big accident with so many children who are killed that we have to understand.
>> thanks very much indeed for speaking to us on what is clearly a very difficult time for the country of belgium. ok, the international criminal court in the haig is shortly going -- in the hague is shortly going to hand down its verdict on a congolese leader. this is the scene at the court right now. we'll see in a moment -- this is the courtroom, yeah. thomas lubanga is accused of sending child soldiers to kill and be killed in a brutal ethnic conflict. his trial is going to be the first verdict delivered by this permanent international criminal court. it was established in its permanent a some 10 years ago now. from the hague, peter biles sent this report. >> the international criminal court is different from the ad hoc tribunals that have dealt with the former yugoslavia, rwanda, and sierra leone. this court is a permanent institution, but it's taken 10 years to bring the first trial to conclusion. thomas lubanga was the leader
of the congolese patriots, a political group in the democratic republic of congo, which prosecutors say had an armed wing that used child soldiers. this i.c.c. trial is the only one to date that is solely related to the use of children in conflict. >> if we find guilty, that would mean that the use of child soldiers was a crime. but if isn't find guilty, that will mean child soldier, it is not a crime. that what is at stake. so we can understand the stakes are so high. >> thomas lubanga was first brought here in 2006. he's pleaded not guilty to all the charges of enlisting and constricting children under 15. it's alleged these crimes were committed during the conflict in the east of the d.r.c. in the early part of the last
decade. today's judgment will be important, not only because it will decide the fate of thomas lubanga, it's also a coming of age for the international criminal court, of which there are increasingly high expectations. peter biles, bbc news. >> as soon as we get some word on the verdict coming out, we'll go straight back to the court there in the hague. chinese premier wen jiabao, has called for reforms to prevent what he calls a historical tragedy like the cultural revolution. delivering what is his last address to the national people's congress before he steps down, mr. wen expressed regret that he was unable to resolve a number of economic problems facing the country. he told communist party members he did have the courage to face people and history. our correspondent in beijing, martin patience, told me more about mr. wen's comments. >> well, they certainly were very stark. he has called for political reform in the past, but it was the fact that he said, unless these political reforms were
carried out, he said the leadership level of the party and the state, then we could see a tragedy on the scale of the cultural revolution. now, that was a period in chinese history over 30 years ago marked by chaos and the prosecution and killing of millians. so it was a very -- he made a very strong point there. but when he talks about political reform, he doesn't give any specifics. so, normally when chinese leaders refer to political reforms, they're talking about making the party more efficient in order to make it more responsive to the people's needs rather than any western-style democracy. >> well, with me now is the chinese ambassador to london. ambassador, thanks very much indeed for joining us. pretty urgent message coming out there, and likening it to tragedies of the past if reforms are not put in place.
how urgent is this? >> i think premier wen, what he said will affirm chinese government's commitment to reform. in fact, political reform is ongoing program. it's really a part of china's overall reform. once the agenda was set for reform, political reform is always the heart and soul of this program. >> are we talking here about what we might call people power reforms, giving more power to the people? because i think wen jiabao was not terribly specific about what these reforms would be. >> back in china, it's very specific, like we have been apart 30 years. lifetime for the leadership, before we started program, many chinese leaders, very long term. and now there's a smooth
transition from a previous leadership to new leadership, and through the election by the people's congress, that is chinese way of democracy. >> right, but we got this reference to urgency here and also, of course, well-known saying, the journey of 1,000 miles starts with a first step. but there are a lot of steps to take here, not least the concern about corruption within party ranks, as well as government ranks. when is that going to be something you can put your hand up and say we have dealt with that? >> first, i would say, number one, political reform is always part of the reform, and secondly, china has achieved enormous progress in political reform. if you compare china today politically, with china 30 or 60 years ago. ought >> but is it quick snuff a lot of people say it's not quick enough. >> and thirdly, there's still
big room to improve. no system is perfect. we admit that. there's still a long way for china to go in terms of how to make the government more accountable, how to respond to the people's desire for broader participation in decision making. i think the steps have been taken on, have been taken up, and it will be speed up in the days to come. >> i just want to ask you also, as you hear about the situation in syria, and i want to ask you this. what does it take from the syrian authorities, from the syrian government to do for china finally to condemn president assad's actions and perhaps to move closer in line with some of the western nations who are ready to move in a way that you're not? >> we condemn violence from any site. china does not protect any site, and china do not condone
any violence, and we are very concerned about loss of life, especially innocent people. we are calling for that violence, should we stop and dialogue should be started, and we supported good office with support for kofi annan's diplomatic efforts, and we believe that arab countries should take leadership, united nations should take leadership, but we are opposed to any military intervention, regime change, and we believe that we should show respect for sovereignty. >> just very briefly, does that mean you want the regime to stay? >> i think it's up to the syrian people to choose their leadership. it's not for us to impose their way, whether their leaders should stay or not to stay. it's up to the syrian people. >> the result of that is
continued fighting. that's the trouble. >> i think with the united efforts by united nations, by the international community, you know, we have sent over envoys to syria to talk to the syrian leadership, and also they're a position people. i think the efforts, concerted efforts of international community, things will improve. that is our hope. >> ambassador, thank you very much. >> thank you for having me. >> you're watching "bbc world news." thanks for watching. still to come in the program -- there's been another attack on an afghan delegation sent to investigate the killing of civilians by an american soldier. the human rights group, amnesty international, claims the syrian regime is using systematic torture against its opponents a year after the uprising began. the charity says it found evidence of beatings, rape, and
electric shock. they're calling for those who use torture to be held accountable. here's our world affairs correspondent, alan little. >> amnesty says many syrians have been caught up in what it calls a nightmarish world of systematic torture since the uprising began 12 months ago t. has counted 31 methods of tower tour, including electric shock, the peeling of flesh from limbs, and male rape. the claims are bamesed on interviews with survivors who fled into neighboring jordan. some describe being suspended above the floor by their wrists and beaten. others said they'd been made to stand in water that was then subjected to electric shock. amnesty has repeatedly called on the international criminal court to investigate what it says are wide spread crimes under international law and other gross violations of human rights. it says the i.c.c. has been constrained for political reasons. as russia and china have vetoed u.n. security council resolutions. so instead, amnesty wants the
u.n. human rights council to act, to gather evidence that will lead to eventual prosecutions. syrians should be left in no doubt, the organization says, that they will one day face justice. alan little, bbc news. >> you can get more on that story on our website. that's bbc.com/news. there's plenty more indeed also on our main story at the moment, the bus crash in switzerland. 52 people on board, most of them children, crashed in a swiss tunnel. 28 people have been killed. most of them just 12 years old. we've got the details for you and, of course, the response from belgium, as well as switzerland on the website, bbc.com/news. >> you're watching "bbc world news" with me, david eades. the headlines this hour -- 28
people, 22 of them children, have been killed in a bus crash in switzerland as they're headed home to belgium from a skiing holiday. an anxious wait for parents for parents for news of their children. the international criminal court has begun delivering its first verdict on an african rebel leader accused of using child soldiers. president obama and the british prime minister, david cameron, will discuss the role of british and american troops in afghanistan, also the uprising in syria and iran's nuclear program when they hold formal talks in washington later in the day. now, the pair spent the first day of mr. cameron's three-day visit to the u.s. at a basketball game in the state of ohio. our correspondent, steve kingston, has this. >> at the college basketball games, a boys' night out. the american host and his british guest buddying up over hotdogs and hoops. >> prime minister cameron, talk to me. this is your first time being
-- >> very first time at a basketball game. >> what do you make of the experience so far? >> it's pretty fast and furious. it's hard to follow sometimes exactly who's done what wrong. >> was our president helping you follow the game? >> he was giving me some tips. >> and he's going to teach me cricket. >> they sounded and looked like two regular guys, seemingly without a care in the world. but the world weighs heavy on this relationship, nowhere more so than afghanistan, where anger is building. here, they burn an of gee of a u.s. soldier, days after an american sergeant shot dead 16 people, apparently in cold blood. washington and london insist there will be no rush for the exits, but they're exploring option toss bring more troops home faster than planned. the end date for a withdrawal would remain december 2014, but both these men would like afghan forces to take the lead
combat role as early as the summer of next year. afghanistan will be top of the agenda when the real talking begins here, but the president and prime minister will also discuss syria, iran, and the global economy, components of a relationship which they claim is essential for the entire world. >> david cameron has described his host as deeply rational and reasonable, ideological soul mates they are not, but this partnership is once again feeling special. steve kingston, bbc news, washington. >> well, the situation in afghanistan, we've learned a motorcycle bomb has killed an afghan intelligence official wounded three other people in the southern city of kandahar. two of the wounded were also, we understand, intelligence officers. i think we can get the latest now on the situation there, because our correspondent is in kabul.
is there anything more you can tell us about this latest incident? >> well, the attacks have placed right in the heart of kandahar city, not very far from the country's main place, killing one member, injuring three others, but it was also not very far from a guest house where a high-level government delegation was sent, the same delegation that was attacked by insurgents yesterday. it just shows how volatile the security situation remains in kandahar province. >> also, we understand that leon panetta, the u.s. defense secretary, is on his way to afghanistan. given the current climate there, he's got a battle on his hands to win people over, doesn't he? >> he does. according to afghan officials, he'll be meeting with senior officials in afghanistan,
possibly kandahar province, tribal elders, and back in kabul, he'll meet president happened karzai and senior members of the government. the challenge for mr. panetta is to come out with a message that will be satisfactory for the afghan people, as well as for the afghan government. we understand that president karzai would be having a very frank conversation with him, allaying the anger and the disappointment of the afghan people, as well as the afghan government to mr. panetta, and calling for justice. that's according to senior aides close to the president. >> and, of course, the killing of 18 civilians by the american soldier, i understand that's going to come straight back into the front line again, isn't it? as we understand, there are pictures, cctv possible footage of that soldier surrendering, which no doubt will be aired in due course. >> it will be. you have to understand the
details are still disputed. what we are hearing from senior afghan officials is that the american soldiers of the base got in touch with the afghan national army, worked with them on the same base that one other soldier was missing. the afghan national army officials are saying they went and they found the soldiers sleeping and brought him back to the base. what we're also hearing now, that a number of those victims, especially children, were also stabbed by this american soldier, and several were beaten. >> clearly much more to come out on that story. bilal, thank you very much indeed for bringing us quite a roundup on the situation in afghanistan. and if you do want more details, i should just tell you, again, the website, bbc.com/news, is following all these angles for you in detail with timelines as well and background for you. as it is on the situation that
we've been bringing you from switzerland. that's just one of the many ambulances that has been rushing passengers from one coach, which crashed in this tunnel, to hospital. unfortunately, i have to say, 28 people on board were killed, including the two drivers, we understand, and i suppose it just hurts that much more when we know that 22 of them were children. the vast majority of those were just 12-year-olds who were at the end of a skiing holiday in switzerland, beginning that long journey back home to belgium when this fatal crash took place. in belgium itself, we've spoken to the foreign minister and the transport minister. they've expressed their own bemusement at how this could possibly have happened. it seemed very quiet at the time on the roads. it was quite early in the journey as well. so, an awful lot of questions still to be asked as many family and friends have to deal with this tragic news. as i say, more on the website,
bbc.com/news. >> make sense of international news at bbc.com/news. >> funding was made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu. newman's own foundation. and union bank. >> at union bank, our relationship managers use their expertise in global finance to guide you through the business strategies and opportunities of international commerce. we put our extended global network to work for a wide range of companies, from small businesses to major corporations. what can we do for you?