Former Militia Leader Released on Bail in Nigeria

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

On Thursday, former militia leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari was freed on bail by a Nigerian court due to his health condition. Dokubo-Asari has been in detention since September 2005. He is on trial for treason. Dokubo-Asari belongs to the liaw ethnic group, which is the most populous group in the Niger Delta. Elders of the liaw group have unsuccessfully tried to have Dokubo-Asari released for the past two years. Moreover, the Supreme Court denied him bail last Friday because of national security fears.

Analysts believe that Dokubo-Asari was released as a result of a political deal between the Nigerian government and rebels in the southern Bayelsa state in the delta. Rebels in southern Nigeria have freed hostages, declared a truce, and are willing to communicate with the newly inaugurated President Umaru Yar’Adua. This truce will help to improve oil production in the region.

Powerful state figures have publicly approved the release of Dokubo-Asari. Emmanuel Diffa, a Liaw elder purports that the release is “good news for anyone with a business in the Niger Delta. It will pour cold water on the situation. Asari is key to bringing peace to the delta.” Asari has stated that he will help the Nigerian government as long as the army stops using violence. Government officials believe that Asari is a powerful voice to help persuade rebels to disarm. Nevertheless, Justice Peter Olayiwola has conditioned that Dukubo-Asari can not take part in any political rally or political activity upon release. Moreover, his movements will be monitored by security services.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Fight For Nigeria Oil to Continue – 15 June 2007

BBC – Hostages Released in Niger Delta – 12 June 2007

CNN – Nigerian oil delta militant freed on bail – June 2007

Hamas militants take control of Gaza as fighting continues

On Thursday, June 14, the Palestinian president, Abbas, declared a state of emergency and dismissed the Palestinian coalitional government.  Currently, an interim government, mostly Fatah loyalists is in place.  Abbas states that he intends to call for elections once the in-fighting ceases.  Abbas declared a state of emergency as a result of heavy gun-fights and militant operations between the armed branches of Hamas and Fatah in Gaza. 

After a day of fighting, where Hamas fighters seized control of key Fatah security, military, and intelligence compounds, Hamas virtually controls the Gaza Strip.  In the past week, violence between the two groups caused over 100 deaths, sparking international outcry over the present humanitarian crisis.  In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch criticized both Hamas and Fatah militants for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Human Rights Watch stated that “both Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals.”  It continued to cite specific incidents where militants violated international humanitarian law; including:

  • June 9 (Gaza-Israel border) – Armed members of the Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle with a “TV” insignia to attack Israeli troops.
  • June 10 (Gaza City) – Hamas militants captured Muhammad Swairki, a cook for Abbas’s presidential guards, and threw him off a 15 story high-rise.
  • June 10 (Gaza City) – Fatah militants captured Muhammad al-Ra’fati, a Hamas supporter, and threw him off a high-rise.
  • June 11 (Beit Lahiya) – Hamas fighters entered the home of Jamal Abu al-Jadiyan and then executed him in the street.
  • June 11 (Gaza City) – In retaliation to the death of Yasir Bakar, Fatah gunmen began firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Shifa Hospital, drawing Hamas fire from inside the building, killing one Hamas and one Fatah fighter.
  • June 11 (Beit Hanun) – At a hospital in Beit Hanun, three family members with ties to Fatah, `Id al-Masri and his sons, Farij and Ibrahim, were killed.  The three were being treated at the hospital for injuries sustained earlier.

In addition, there have been reports of other violations of humanitarian law.  On June 14, it is reported that after Hamas fighters gained control of the Preventative Security and Gaza’s intelligence headquarters, Hamas executed captured Fatah fighters.  Also, many fighters position themselves on rooftops of high-rises, government buildings, and even hospitals.  Residents of the buildings are forced to remain inside buildings where many of which have their water and electricity cut-off. 

Fighting has even jeopardized the safety of hospital in the territory.  On June 11, a hospital in northern Gaza shut down after three people were killed.  Then, on June 12, the European Hospital’s roof, in Khan Yunis, was used as a part of an assault, causing the hospital to send home all nonessential staff.  A nurse at Al Quds Hospital complains that the hospital has no electricity, water, or blood units, limiting its ability to treat the injured.

Also, Hamas listed several members of Fatah accused of collaborating with Israel.  Hamas declared that collaborators are traitors and will be dealt with in due time.  For instance, Hamas militants captured and publicly executed Samih Madhun, a top commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s armed military group.  Also, Hamas threatened that Muhammad Dahlan, the head of Fatah’s security in Gaza, will be killed if he returns to Gaza.

The fighting, though concentrated in Gaza, has spilled over into the Fatah dominated West Bank.  Fatah militants and supporters targeted Hamas supporters for acts of retaliation.  Many of the victims are not involved in the fighting, but attacked based on their membership in Hamas.  Businesses owned by Hamas supporters were also targets for violence and acts of retaliation.

On Wednesday, June 13, over a thousand non-violent protesters marched through Gaza City urging an end to the in-fighting.  Armed militants fired on the peaceful protesters, killing one protester and injuring 14 others.

Palestinians and the international community are concerned about the implications of the most recent increase violence.  Some predict that the Palestinian Authority will split into a Hamas controlled Gaza and a Fatah controlled West Bank.  This possibility raises several questions and concerns about the future of a Palestinian state.

For more information please see:
BBC:
“Abbas sacks Hamas led government”  14 June 2007. 

“Hamas hails ‘liberation’ of Gaza”  14 June 2007. 

“Coping with the Gaza fighting”
  14 June 2007. 

“Gaza residents under fire”  14 June 2007. 

“Hamas battles for control of Gaza”  13 June 2007. 

“Hamas launches new Gaza attacks”
  12 June 2007. 

Al Jazeera:
“Abbas sacks Palestinian government”  14 June 2007. 

“Hamas defies Palestinian President”  14 June 2007. 

“Hamas pounds Gaza security bases”  13 June 2007. 

London Times:
“‘There will be no dialogue with Fatah, only the sword and the rifle’”  15 June 2007.

“President Fortress falls in the face of Hamas onslaught”
15 June 2007. 

“Fatah militants turn on leader who ‘left them to fight without orders’” 15 June 2007.
“Analysis: the future is bleak for Abbas” 14 June 2007. 

“Gaza lurches towards Islamist mini-state”
  14 June 2007. 

ABC News:
“Hamas seizing control of Gaza Strip”  14 June 2007.

“Abbas orders elite guard to attack Hamas”  14 June 2007. 

“It’s Civil War, Palestinians Factions Agree”  13 June 2007. 

“Hospitals become battleground in Gaza”  12 June 2007. 

CNN:
“Hamas claims full control of Gaza”  14 June 2007. 

“Palestinian fighting ‘will burn all of us,’ official says”  13 June 2007.   

“Militants throw rivals off high-rise Gaza buildings”  10 June 2007.

Human Rights Watch:  “Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes”  13 June 2007. 

The Economist: “Conflict in Gaza”  13 June 2007. 

Time: “What happens after Hamas wins?”  13 June 2007.

Peace Efforts in Congo

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Joseph Kabila met with South African President Thabo Mbeki this week to discuss business investments in the country. DR Congo, once known as Zaire, has had a long history of civil war and corruption fueled by the country’s vast mineral wealth. Mbeki played a leading role in the peace progress and ensuring a fair election after the former Congolese president Laurent Kabila was assassinated. Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent Kabila won the historic election in late 2006.

The African nations have also recognized the progress of the DRC from 41 years of regional wars to swift political transition backed by the West. In an effort to encourage and reinforce the disarmament of the DRC, the three-day Disarmament Conference opened on Tuesday in DRC. The delegates of 20 African countries met to discuss issues of child soldiers, armed foreign rebels and unemployment.

Unfortunately Kabila’s visit to South Africa and the conference were marked by the murder of a Congolese journalist on Wednesday. Serge Maheshe, journalist for Radio Okapi, a UN sponsored radio station, was shot several times after visiting a friend’s house. Maheshe was traveling in a clearly marked UN van with 2 friends, who were not injured. The Reporter Without Borders media’s rights group condemned the “targeted murder” especially during a time when the government aspires peace and security.

The police have mounted an operation to hunt down the murders. Maheshe is the fourth media worker to be killed in the past two years. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – UN-backed radio journalist gunned down in DRCongo – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – DR Congo president to pay state visit to South Africa – 12 June 2007

Yahoo – African Disarmament conference opens in DR Congo – 12 June 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Democratic Republic of Congo – 05 June 2007

Continued Strike is Damaging South Africa

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

According to Jacob Zuma, the deputy leader of the governing ANC, South Africa’s public sector strike could have been avoided and is damaging the country’s image abroad.

One of the biggest strikes in South Africa increased Wednesday as hundreds of thousands more workers downed tools, bringing large parts of the country to a standstill.

Hospitals, schools and transports have met a huge disruption since the beginning of the strike, June 1. Most public schools have been closed since the beginning of the month and hospitals are only able to run a skeleton service with army medics. Bus and train services refuse collections as the unions staged massive marches through the center of the country’s main cities, such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

Despite optimism from President Thabo Mbeki the wage dispute could soon be resolved. The government has increased its offer from six to 7.25 percent but the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has vowed to pressure the government into raising their pay offer from the 7.25 percent. Workers, who wanted a 12 percent increase, say they will not go below 10 percent.

Zuma, a possible successor to President Thabo Mbeki, said negotiations since the start of the strike showed that a compromise between the government and unions was possible and should have been explored beforehand.

Zuma acknowledged that the strike damaged the country’s international reputation as it tries to cement its status as the continent’s economic powerhouse and ahead of the 2010 World Cup which is being held in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the government criticized the unions of failing to explain the details of the negotiations to their members and took out ads in newspapers to give information of how its offer included increases on housing and medical allowances.

For more information please visit:

BBC – Strike Escalates in South Africa – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – Strike Damaging South Africa, Says Zuma – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – South Africa Shutdown as Strike Intensifies – 13 June 2007

Egyptian Voters Denied

     Egyptian voters were denied the ability to vote in areas where the government perceived strong support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The polls were guarded by police who stopped Egyptians from voting for the opposition. This weakened the government’s assertion that the constitutional changes in March were implemented to strengthen democracy.

    The voters were denied access to vote in Awseem. Police officers armed with automatic rifles blockaded the locked entrance. Voters were told that the polling places were closed, or that the election occurred the following the day. Others were physically beaten by police, and one man was killed in the election violence.

    The purpose of the government’s action was to deny the Muslim Brotherhood from gaining parliamentary seats. In the past few months, over 800 of the Muslim Brotherhood have been questioned or arrested by the government. The government’s fear is that if the Muslim Brotherhood gain power then they will transform the nation into a Muslim nation with Sharia law.

    These actions by the government weaken its claim that the constitutional changes in March strengthened democracy by halting the emergency powers. The changes stripped authority from the judicial branch. This has strengthened the president and the legislature. It gave the government the power to bar Egyptians from voting for the Muslim Brotherhood, because of the perceived terrorist threat.

    As expected, the Muslim Brotherhood, which previously was a leading opposition party, did not win a single seat in the preliminary results.

Washington Post. Egyptian Voters Impeded in Opposition Strongholds. 12 June 2007.
Pittsburgh  Tribune-Review. Violence Spoils Egyptian elections. 12 June 2007.
Los Angeles Times. Egypt’s dissidents held down by law. 13 June 2007.
Monsters and Critics News. Egypt’s ruling party sweeps Shura election contest. 13 June 2007.

Sudan Approves Peacekeepers

By Impunity Watch Africa

Sudan approved a new plan for a joint African Union (AU) and UN peacekeeping force for Darfur on Tuesday following two days of high-level technical consultations.  Under this new plan, the AU will run the day-to-day operations, while the UN will have overall control of the 17,000 to 19,000 peacekeepers. In announcing the agreement, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit urged the UN Security Council to authorize deployment of the hybrid force as soon as possible.

Sudan has raised some concerns about exit strategy, and it was agreed that the operation will be periodically reviewed. However, it was not stated how often such reviews will take place.  There are also concerns over the use of non-African troops.  The head of Sudan’s delegation, Mutrif Siddig, stated that the parties had agreed that priority should be given to African troops, but if there are not enough they are willing to take troops from elsewhere.

The UN Security Council is being briefed today on the deal.  Some diplomats are fear that there are conditions attached to the deal and it will prove to be yet another pact aimed at resolving the Darfur conflict that will fail to come to fruition.    The US ambassador has said that if there are conditions attached, additional sanctions will become necessary.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Sudan Accepts Hybrid Peacekeeping Force in Darfur – 12 June 2007

Yahoo – UN Council hears hitches on Darfur force deal – June 2007

MSNBC – Sudan accepts joint peacekeepers in Darfur – June 2007

BBC – Sudan accepts joint Darfur force – 12 June 2007

Chinese police rescue slaves

China has rescued 31 people forced to work for a year as slaves, according to China Shanxi News.  A brickworks, run by the son of a local Communist Party official, supplied them only bread and water. They received no pay.  The factory is near Linfen in the inland province of Shanxi, China.

Eight of the workers now can only remember their names. One slave was beaten to death with a hammer for not working hard enough. All of the survivors have bruises, wounds and burns, having been made to carry uncooled bricks and walk barefoot in the kiln.

They were guarded by dogs and “thugs” at the factory. The boss was allowed to get away with the bad treatment because of his political connections. The workers are still living at the brickworks while the local government tries to get their wages.

 Millions of migrant workers from poor rural areas have flocked to urban areas to find work. They often work for as little as $2 a day or less.

 Many of these laborers work without formal contracts. They have little legal recourse in case of disputes.

 For more information, please see:

http://www.einnews.com/china/newsfeed-shanxi

www.edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/06/08/china.workers.reut/index.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6733045.stm

Twelve Hostages Released in Nigeria

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

On June 11, twelve hostages were released in the Bayelsa state of Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta. According to the Nigerian government, three Americans, five Britons, two Indians, one Filipino and one South African were released. In addition, a local Nigerian who was captured during the raids was also released. Since January 2006, more than 200 oil workers have been kidnapped by armed militants and criminal gangs in the oil rich region. These militants want more of the oil revenues to be spent on developing infrastructure in local poverty stricken communities.

The hostages were released phsyically unharmed after the ransom was paid on their behalf by oil companies or state governments. Nevertheless, one hostage, South African Duplooy Smit, described the first three days as “hell.” Smit had been held hostage since May 25th 2007. He told to Reuters news agency that the rebels conducted a mock execution on him. Moreover, Smit feared the rebels because they “they were all high on local gin and marijuana, and carrying machine guns, so you never knew what would happen next.”

While the twelve hostages were released on “humanitarian grounds,” the militants indicated that they would continue the attacks in southern Nigeria. More than twenty-four foreigners are currently being held hostage in southern Nigeria. The main militant group, Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta has given President Yar’Adua one month to find a solution to the problems of poverty and under-development that plague the Niger Delta. However, the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta did not release any hostages on Monday.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Hostages Released in Niger Delta – 12 June 2007

CNN – Report: Hostages Let Go in Nigeria – 11 June 2007

BBC – Briton’s Nigeria kidnap confirmed – 03 June 2007

CNN – Nigeria gunmen seize six foreigners – 03 June 2007

BBC – Nigeria militants offer ceasefire – 02 June 2007

Egyptian Voters Denied

Egyptian voters were denied the ability to vote in areas where the government perceived strong support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The polls were guarded by police who stopped Egyptians from voting for the opposition. This weakened the government’s assertion that the constitutional changes in March were implemented to strengthen democracy.

The voters were denied access to vote in Awseem. Police officers armed with automatic rifles blockaded the locked entrance. Voters were told that the polling places were closed, or that the election occurred the following the day. Others were physically beaten by police, and one man was killed in the election violence.

The purpose of the government’s action was to deny the Muslim Brotherhood from gaining parliamentary seats. In the past few months, over 800 of the Muslim Brotherhood have been questioned or arrested by the government. The government’s fear is that if the Muslim Brotherhood gain power then they will transform the nation into a Muslim nation with Sharia law.

These actions by the government weaken its claim that the constitutional changes in March strengthened democracy by halting the emergency powers. The changes stripped authority from the judicial branch. This has strengthened the president and the legislature. It gave the government the power to bar Egyptians from voting for the Muslim Brotherhood, because of the perceived terrorist threat.

As expected, the Muslim Brotherhood, which previously was a leading opposition party, did not win a single seat in the preliminary results.

Washington Post. Egyptian Voters Impeded in Opposition Strongholds. 12 June 2007.
Pittsburgh  Tribune-Review. Violence Spoils Egyptian elections. 12 June 2007.
Los Angeles Times. Egypt’s dissidents held down by law. 13 June 2007.
Monsters and Critics News. Egypt’s ruling party sweeps Shura election contest.13 June 2007.

Malaysia court rejects Christian conversion

In a divided two to one decision, Malaysia’s highest court refused to recognize a Muslim woman’s conversion to Christianity.  Lina Joy tried to change her religious status and remove the word Islam from her identity card to marry her Catholic fiance.  Under separate laws in Malaysia, Muslims must marry within the faith.  The abandonment of Islam is sometimes punishable by fines or imprisonment.  Here, the Islamic Sharia court rejected Ms. Joy’s appeal.

Ms. Joy, born Azlina Jailani, has lost her job, been disowned by her family, and went into hiding last year after receiving death threats.  She now may seek asylum in Australia.

Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but declares all ethnic Malays are Muslim and thus are not allowed to convert.  In this multi-racial country, Muslims constitute sixty percent of Malaysia’s population of nearly 25 million people.  Critics say this ruling underlines the increasing separation of Muslims from others. Additionally, it reinforced the notion that Islamic laws should have primacy over secular laws in some aspects of Muslims’ lives and the question of the separation of religion and state.

For more information, please see:

Malaysia rejects Christian appeal

Malaysia Top Court Doesn’t Honor Muslim’s Conversion

Iran forcibly deports Afghani refugees

Since April 21, 2007, ninety thousand Afghan refugees have been forcibly removed from Iran.  As a result of Iran’s toughened stance on illegal immigrants, thousands of Afghanis, mostly men, have been arrested and put on buses to Herat, Afghanistan.  While most of the deportees were single men, almost 22,000 have been families.  Some have been separated from their spouses and children, and in some cases, some children have been deported alone.

Afghanis comprise the second largest refugee group in the world. Millions left their home during the Soviet invasion and more left Afghanistan during the Taliban regime that followed.  Since 2001 and the fall of the Taliban, 3.5 million Afghans repatriated and returned home.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees described three ways refugees are returning from Iran.  First, voluntary repatriation; where registered refugees are given a repatriation package ($100 (US)/person or $500 (US)/family of five) to facilitate the relocation process. Second, spontaneous return; where unregistered (and therefore illegal) refugees chose to return to Afghanistan.  They are given time to gain proper certification to return.  The third method is deportation; where illegal refugees are forced to return.

Since 2002, 860,000 refugees have left Iran and returned to Afghanistan.  However, 915,000 Afghani refugees still reside in Iran. Some entered illegally.  Some entered with a visa that has now expired.  Some are legal refugees who lack the proper papers and therefore are deemed illegal by the Iranian government.

Beginning on April 21, Iran began its new two pronged strategy to decrease the number of Afghani refugees. The first prong is to provide incentives, such as repatriation packages or facilitating illegal refugees in getting the proper return papers, to encourage refugees to return.  The second prong is to crack down on illegal immigrants by arresting and deporting them. 

Iran and Pakistan are homes of largest population of Afghani refugees. Currently, Iran spends approximately $7 billion a year to support their Afghani refugee population.  While the UN agrees that Iran has the right to address the matter of illegal immigrants in their countries, but appeals that it is done in a humane manner.

For more information please see:

BBC:  “Expelled from Iran – Refugee Misery”  8 June 2007.

UNHCR:  “Return to Afghanistan”  30 May 2007.

Bahrain Police Fire at Protestors

            The protesters gathered in response to the seizure of their land by a member of the royal family. The perpetrator, Sheik Hamad bin Mohammed Salman al-Khalifa, is the cousin to the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifaa. Two years ago, the Sheik built a 500 meter wall to protect his alleged territory. This enclosure has not only given the Sheik disputed land, but also prohibited local fishermen from accessing the sea.
            The villagers protested the action. They gathered and held signs displaying their disgust. The Associated Press reported that some of the signs stated that “Bahrain’s lands are not for sale.” According to the head of the district municipal counsel’s report, the crowd had gathered civilly, when the riot police fired the rubber bullets. The tear gas rendered some of the crowd unconscious.

            According to the Police Captain’s report the crowd rioted without an exact purpose. They tried to harm the police. The rioters used danger weapons such as sticks, gasoline bombs, golf balls, and slingshots to injure the police. The police had to fire rubber bullets to quiet the crowd and prevent further havoc.
            Bahrain rarely blocks peaceful protests, as long as the crowd consents to certain requirements. In this case, the protesters got permission to gather, and yet the police fired on the anti-seizure land protesters quickly.
            A possible reason for the quick and strong response by the police is because the Shiite majority is being ruled by a Sunni ruling family.  The government’s fear is that this rally was actually related to the protest on 21 May 2007, where Shiites sought more rights for themselves through greater democratic reform. In that riot, one man was injured by police to dissipate the crowd. Shiites make up 60 percent of the population of the nation, and have long complained about being discriminated against by the Sunnis.

Al-Jazeera. Bahrain Police Fire on Protesters. 10 June 2007.
Alalam News. Bahrain Police, Opposition Clash. 21 May 2007.
Associated Press. Anti-riot police clash with demonstrators protesting land seizure. 9 June 2007.
Gulf Daily News. Riots ‘orchestrated.’ 10 June 2007.

Reactions to Beginning of Charles Taylor Trial

By Impunity Watch Africa

Charles Taylor’s boycott and refusal to show at the first day of his trial in The Hague for war crimes that occurred in Sierra Leone has sparked much response and criticism from scholars and commentators.  Instead of attending the first day of his trial, Taylor sent a letter from his cell calling the court a “charade” and firing his counsel, apparently intending to represent himself.

The former founding Chief Prosecutor David Crane of the Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former President, on March 3, 2003. The original indictment included seventeen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, murder, pillage, enslavement, mutilation, and unlawful recruitment of child soldiers.   It was later changed to eleven to make for more concise charges.

Former Prosecutor David Crane attended the opening statements.  His response to Taylor’s boycott is that “Taylor and his counsel are predictably providing the histrionics that accompany the public disgrace of a bloody tyrant.”  He saw Taylor’s actions as no different from those of Milosevic or Hussein or any other former head of state on trial for war crimes.

With a three-week break before the trial begins, many are cautioning the court to ensure proper control over the proceedings in order to prevent a disaster.  The presiding judge in this case has started well, and was able to manage the defense counsel’s attempts to derail the opening statements and was able to get the proceedings back on track.  Corrine Dufka, a West African researcher for Human Rights Watch, noted that the judge has already started off well.  Unlike the Milosevic trial where the defense and prosecution were allowed to go on and on and there was a lack of management from the bench, here the judge has already instituted order and is working to ensure a fair trial.

The trial resumes in three weeks on June 25.

For more information, please see:

Jurist – An Empty Chair at The Hague: Trying Charles Taylor – 08 June 2007

World Politics Review –  Accountability in West Africa: Charles Taylor on Trial at The Hague – 07 June 2007

VOA – Charles Taylor Boycotts His War Crimes Trial in The Hague – 04 June 2007

Guardian – Liberia’s Taylor Snubs War Crimes Trial – June 2007

Kenyan Police Crackdown on Mungiki Sect

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The Mungiki is an outlawed religious sect inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s against British colonial rule. Banned in 2002, the sect is accused of mutilating and beheading around 20 people during the recent months. Among the murdered was a constituent of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. According to Police Chief Albert Kimanthi, leaflets circulated in the Mathare slum, which is home to some 500,000 people, threatened that more beheadings were imminent unless residents and traders pay between $1 and $3 as protection fees.

President Kibaki warned that the government would not “allow criminals to get away with wanton acts of violence.” On Thursday May 31st, the government spokesperson announced that 2,464 members of the Mungiki sect were arrested.

During a police raid on Tuesday June 5th, in which 21 people were killed after a shootout, a BBC reporter and a reporter for Reuters news agency claim to have seen a woman holding her baby clubbed in the throat by an officer and nearly 40 women and children forced to lie face down in the mud.

Mungiki leaflets accuse Kibaki’s administration of failing to honor election pledges made in 2002 to create jobs and rewrite Kenya’s constitution. Even more leaflets claim that high-level government officials, lawmakers and over 16,000 member of Kenya’s security force are members of the sect.

Many fear the sect may disrupt the December election in which current President Kibaki is expected to seek his second term.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – Kenyan president vows crackdown on sect as killing rage – 01 June 2007

Yahoo – 2,464 sect suspects arrested in Kenya – 01 June 2007

BBC – Kenya police shoot sect suspects – 07 June 2007

Fighting in Northern Lebanon Continues as Violence Spreads

Fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam, a militant group based in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp, continues into its second week.  While the Lebanese army engages tanks and helicopters in its bombardment of the camp, Fatah al-Islam remains defiant.  However, despite the group’s threat to fight to the “last drop of blood”, several members have surrendered to Fatah officials within the camp and have turned over their weapons.

The fighting is the worst internal violence in Lebanon since its civil war.  Since fighting began, 109 Lebanese soldiers, militants, and civilians have died.  In addition, humanitarian groups still are expressing concern over the conditions within the camp, which lacks access to power and medical supplies.  Tens of thousands of refugees have already fled the camp; however, thousands still remain.   

Also, on June 4, the violence broke out in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh.  Two Lebanese soldiers were killed while fighting another militant group, Jund al-Sham.  It is believed that the violence in the two camps is loosely related.  The fear of the continuing spread of violence led the US government to pledge even more supplies to the Lebanese army, in addition to the $280 million in aid Congress approved last month.

Thus far, the Lebanese government indicted 31 alleged militants of terrorism, being members of the Fatah al-Islam organization, and for forming groups to attack civilians and the Lebanese military and government.  If convicted of these charges, the accused may face the death penalty.

For more information please see:

ME Times:  “Lebanese army pounds besieged Islamist”  7 June 2007. 

The Daily Star: “Lebanese army claims ‘less resistance’ at Nahr al-Bared”  7 June 2007. 

ME Times:  “Lebanon lays terror charges against Islamist”  6 June 2007.

BBC:  “Some Lebanon gunmen ‘surrender’”  5 June 2007. 

London Times:  “More clashes as second radical group joins attacks in Lebanon”  5 June 2007. 

BBC:  “Two die as Lebanon clashes spread” 4 June 2007. 

London Times:  “Two soldiers die as Lebanon fighting spreads”  4 June 2007. 

BBC:  “Lebanon charges 20 over fighting”  30 May 2007.