Malaysia arrests blogger

Malaysia arrests blogger

The Malaysian government detained Nathaniel Tan under the Official Secrets Act for posting information on the Internet ( the government considered sensitive.

His arrest was part of a government campaign to combat alleged to inaccurate information being spreading by bloggers.

Police arrested Tan and seized his computers. Tan also manages the website of the opposition National People’s Party. Police questioned Tan for four days of police.

Tan potentially faces a large fine and a mandatory one-year jail sentence if charged and found guilty under the OSA. The OSA has “vaguely worded definitions” of what constitutes an official secret.

Tan is well known in blogging community. He is noted for his criticism of government leaders. He had previously criticized minister Baharum and asked readers to “vote this guy out.” Baharum was investigated and cleared last week after allegations that he had received $1.6 million in bribes to release three convicted criminals.

Analysts see the government’s campaign as an attempt to instill fear and suppress attacks on national leaders, especially on Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi before of a general election expected later this year.

The ruling National Front coalition does not want to see a swing in voter support for the opposition party, which is promising more transparent government, affirmative action to help all Malaysians, and to end racially-discriminatory policies.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Reporters without Borders both urged the government to respect human rights and restrain the police. “By arresting [Tan], the authorities are trying to intimidate Malaysian Internet users and get them to censor themselves,” SEAPA said in a statement. “Until now, they had limited themselves to threats and abusive prosecutions. Now they have gone further and adopted a more radical form of repression.”

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Human Rights Watch Criticizes Child Soldiers in Chad

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

In Chad, thousands of young boys are thought to be fighting in the national army, rebel and paramilitary group. Observers believe that there are between 7,000 and 10,000 child soldiers. The United Nations Security Council will meet in New York to discuss the issue of child soldiers in Chad.

Just a few days ago, Human Rights Watch criticized the government of Chad for not fulfilling the promise to release children from the national army. Human Rights Watch produced a forty six page report, “Early to War: Child Soldiers in the Chad Conflict,” which documents the use of young children in the Chadian army, its allied paramilitary militias and rebel forces in both northern Chad and along the eastern border with Sudan’s Darfur region. The report consists of interviews with senior officers in the Chadian military and current child soldiers

Presently, under a government deal, only four hundred children have been released from the military and sent to rehabilitation centers. These rehabilitation centers focus on efforts to change the children’s violent behavior. These centers were established by UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund. The children follow a daily regimen of “prayer, rest, and play.” They play cards, play volleyball, and learn basic literacy. Furthermore, the boys learn anger management skills and learn to love their friends and family.

These child soldiers are expected to return to their families in a few months. Nevertheless, supervisors believe that for these boys, “the road back to normality will be a long one.” The boys will have to learn to cope with their reality without the use of violent tactics.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Chad Child Soldiers Scrutinized – 19 July 2007

HRW – Chad: Government Keeps Children in Army Ranks – 16 July 2007

HRW – Early to War: Child Soldiers in the Chad Conflict – 07 July 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Chad – 21 May 2007

Justice Delivered in Sierra Leone

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

The United Nation’s war crimes court in Sierra Leone has sentenced three militia leaders for war crimes including rape, mutilation, and murder. Alex Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu received a fifty year sentence, while Brima Kamara received a forty-five year sentence. Last month, these men were convicted of eleven of fourteen war crimes charges, including terrorism, enslavement, rape and murder.

All three men were senior members of the Armed Forced Revolutionary Concil, a militia that overthrew the Sierra Leone government in 1997. These sentences were the first assigned by the UN backed court since the civil war concluded five years ago. Moreover, these militia leaders are the first to be convicted of recruiting and training child soldiers.

When Judge Julia Sebutinde passed the judgment in the capital, Freetown, he stated, “The men committed “heinous, brutal, atrocious, crimes never recorded in the history of mankind.”

Presently, the defendants have the right to appeal their convictions. However, if they lose the appeal, they will serve their lengthy prison terms in Europe rather than in Sierra Leone due to safety concerns.

The UN backed court has indicted twelve criminals in connection with the Sierra Leone war. Liberian President Charles Taylor is accused of supporting the rebels. Currently, Mr Taylor is on trial in The Hague in order to prevent disruption in West Africa between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Critics are skeptical of the UN backed court because they believe that the court has been “slow in delivering justice to the people of Sierra Leone.” For example, three indicted criminals in Sierra Leone died before their verdicts were ever delivered.

For more information, please see:

BBC – First S Leone War Crime Sentences – 20 July 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Sierra Leone – 20 June 2007

Jerusalem Post – Sierra Leone War Crimes Court Hands Out Sentences – 20 July 2007

Japanese war orphans end suit

Approximately 2200 Japanese orphans who were abandoned in China following Japan’s defeat in World War II have agreed to accept a proposal from the government.  In the agreement, the government would provide more aid to the war orphans after dropping their compensation lawsuits.  The proposal comes in response to suits filed by the 2200 orphans.

The lawsuit accused the Japanese government of failing to adequately support them when they returned to Japan.  Many of the orphans are now sick and elderly, while struggling to survive because they cannot speak fluent Japanese.

Under the proposal on new livelihood support measures, the war orphans will receive a monthly pension payment of $535, an increase from the $178 they now receive.  Additionally, they will receive a special subsidy in place of welfare benefits, and the government will help cover their housing, medical, and nursing care.  In the proposal, the orphans will abandon their lawsuits against the government.

Thousands of Japanese children were abandoned in China by their parents as former Soviet troops closed in at the end of the war in 1945.  Many were adopted by the Chinese and were too young to remember their Japanese names or their biological parents. 

In 1972, approximately 6300 people, including 2500 war orphans, returned to Japan after Tokyo normalized ties with Beijing.

For more information, please see:

Talks of Peace Amongst Violence

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

Early Wednesday night, the sky of Mogadishu was lit with explosions. Islamic insurgents carried out a massive attack against Somali troops in the capital’s biggest market, Bakara. The country has had little peace since the arrival of government backed Ethiopian troops. Bombs, attacks on government officials, assassination attempts, and wounded civilian are common situations in Somalia.

Wednesday nights attack began around 1:25 am, local time and lasted for approximately 45 minutes. Families were forced to sleep on the floor due to the heavy fighting and stray bullets. Halima Ahmed, a mother of seven, described it as the worst and most frightening night of her life.

This attack comes a few hours before a peace conference of more more than 1,200 delegates was scheduled to begin in the northern part of the capital. The historic conference has been long awaited. The delegates met to tackle an 11-point agenda aimed at ending Somalia’s violence. The 2009 election, clan arguments, and a new constitution are amongst the topics to be discussed during the conference.

Unfortunately, the conference itself was attacked and has been postponed. Six children, while playing soccer, were killed earlier today, when terrorists mortars exploded near the conference building. Mayor Muhamad Dheere said, “[terrorists] wanted to undermine the peace process and missed their target and killed children.” None of the delegates were injured.

The conference has been postponed several times due to fighting. According to Mohammad Hassad, a writer for the Associated Press, the Shabab, the military wing of the Islamist group, has threatened to disrupt the gathering saying anyone who takes part “is sentenced to death.”

For more information please see:

AllAfrica – Somalia: Heavy Gun Battle Rocks Magodishu Overnight – 19 July 2007

AllAfrica – Somalia: Peace Talks Under Mortar Attacks – 19 July 2007

BBC – Somali Talks Bomb Kills Children – 19 July 2007

Yahoo – 6 Children Killed in Somalia – 16 July 2007