Iranian Feminist Activist Jailed Over Online Petition

TEHRAN, Iran – Maryam Hosseinkhah, a journalist and women’s rights activist, was arrested on November 18 in Iran. She was accused of “disturbing public opinion”, “propaganda against the system” and “publication of lies” through websites she edits. Bail was set for one billion rial ($107,000) but she could not afford it and was taken to prison.

Hosseinkhah is an active member of the feminist website Change for Equality, an initiative to collect a million signatures to end legislations that discriminate against women. Zanestan, another women’s online bi-monthly Hosseinkhah was frequent contributor of, has been closed since November 12 on the order of the Internet Bureau of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation.

Hosseinkhah’s arrest marks the continuation of increased harassment of women’s rights activists, especially members of the “One Million Signatures” petition. Since the start of the campaign, 40 individuals have been arrested. Two other members of the campaign besides Hosseinkhaha remain in prison without access to their families or lawyers.

Press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said “these women are simply asking for the same rights as men and there is nothing dangerous about them. The crackdown against these brave women shows the importance of the Internet in the country to the feminist struggle.”

This was not the first time Hosseinkhah was arrested. In June 2006, she took part in a protest in Tehran square against Iranian laws in marriage, child custody, and divorce for women. Seventy people who participated the protest were arrested and some were jailed. Police were accused of beating up women. Also in March 2007, Hosseinkhah was among 33 women arrested for protesting at the trial of five women’s rights activists.

Iran is notorious for omnipresent internet monitoring. It is among the world’s most repressive countries in relation to the Internet and boasts that it filters 10 million “immoral” websites. Since 2006, authorities have banned high speed connections in order to hamper what little internet freedom the Iranians previously enjoyed before.

For more information, please see:

Reporters Without Borders – Authorities could demand 95,000 euros for cyber-feminist’s release – 21 November 2007

AFP – Iran arrests women’s activist – 21 November 2007

Amnesty International – Arbitrary arrest/prisoner of conscience: Maryam Hosseinkhah – 19 November 2007

Payvand News – Journalist and woman activist, Maryam Hosseinkhah, arrested – 18 November 2007

BRIEF: Chinese Peacekeepers Not Wanted in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Chinese engineers arrived on Saturday in Sudan as part of the UN peacekeepers to work alongside the African Union peacekeepers to continue security in Darfur.  The 135 engineers are supposed to implement building bridges and roads, as well as digging wells.  However, the rebel group, Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), wants the Chinese to leave Sudan and have accused the Chinese of being a culprit of the Darfur conflict.  According to Reuters, Jem leader Khalil Ibrahim stated that “we oppose them coming because China is not interested in human rights.  It is just interested in Sudan’s resources.  We are calling on them to quit Sudan, especially the petroleum areas.”  When asked about whether Jem would target the engineers, Ibrahim stated, “I am not saying I will attack them.  I will not say I will not attack them, what I am saying is that they are taking our oil for blood.”  The rebel group has stated that they will accept peacekeepers from any other country except for China.  The President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has stated otherwise.  The President announced that China and Pakistan were the only non-African countries he would accept.  According to the BBC, one month ago Jem attacked the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, a Chinese-controlled consortium in Sudan’s oilfields.  At that time, Jem stated that the Chinese company had one week to leave Sudan.  This conflict continues to add to the struggles in Sudan, and according to AFP “since February 2003, more than 200,000 people have died from the combined effects of the war, famine, and disease in western Sudan’s Darfur region, while 2.2 million others have been left homeless.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – China peacekeepers arrive in Darfur – 24 November 2007

BBC – Darfur rebels spurn Chinese force – 24 November 2007

Reuters – Darfur rebels reject new Chinese peacekeepers – 24 November 2007

Turkey: Trial for Murder of Christians Begins

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

MALATYA, Turkey- The trial began for the five men who allegedly killed three Christians.  On April 18, 2007, the Christians were killed in their publishing house during a Bible study.  Two Turkish converts and German missionary were in a Bible study when their attackers arrived.  The prosecutor has stated that he will seek the death penalty for the men accused of the crime.

“Their attackers tied the men to their chairs, targeting Tilmann Geske, a German father of three, before turning to Pastor Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel. By the time police arrived, the Turkish converts had been virtually decapitated, with their buttocks, testicles, stomachs and backs repeatedly stabbed, their fingers sliced and throats slashed from ear-to-ear. The accused, all between 19 and 20, allegedly filmed clips on their mobile phones.”  (Guardian Unlimited)

The trial is important because the Turkish judicial system must show that it is committed to protecting the minorities in the community.  The Christians have always faced a strong anti-Christian sentiment in Turkey despite only 350 official conversions to Christianity in the past 15 years.  (The Independent)

In the past, Christians were seen as rebels seeking to overthrow the existing government.  However, Turkey’s recent desire to enter the European Union has caused the Turkish government to relax its regulations and protect the country’s Christians.  Yet, as anti-Western sentiment has recently grown, the Christians have suffered more attacks from churches being burned and a priest was recently shot and killed.

The court must take a strong stance on protecting the country’s minorities, especially since it has begun air strikes against the PKK in northern Iraq.  The PKK is a Kurdish militia seeking independence for the Kurdish people.  The Turkish government must show that it is committed to protect the minorities, since the violence against minorities, especially Turkey’s 15 million Kurds, may increase because of the PKK’s recent attacks.  If the Turkish government allows the minorities to be marginalized then it could allow independent militias like the PKK to gain support.

For more information, please see:

Guardian Unlimited- Turks accused of killing Christians go on trial- 24 November 2007

Independent Online- Five on trial in Turkey for missionary murders- 24 November 2007

Today’s Zaman- Court adjourns Bible publisher murder case- 24 November 2007

BosNewsLife- Turkish Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentences For Killers Of Christian Missionaries- 23 November 2007

Notable Progress between Mugabe and the MDC

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern
Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – After speaking to President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe’s leading opposition group, South African President Thabo Mbeki claims that significant progress has been made concerning the political crisis within the country. Mbeki has been actively mediating a solution between Mugabe and the MDC after several claims of political oppression and abuse by security forces and supporters of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.

Last month, several members of the MDC were allegedly assaulted. Three MDC officials were abducted from their homes in Chipinge South. George Makuyaya, the MDC’s parliamentary candidate for next year’s elections was one of the three men allegedly kidnapped in the middle of the day. In another incident, Tobias Gundavakura, the MDC ward chairman for Mutare was attacked by a machete. Furthermore, the MDC claims most of its meetings have been banned without reason.

Along with concerns of political violence and sanctions, the MDC has accuse Mugabe and his government of rigging past elections. As part of the negotiations, the MDC is demanding the passage of democratic reforms for the upcoming 2008 election.

Although the negotiation talks have stalled due to missed deadlines in several months, the parties have agreed to four of the five points on the agenda. The first four agenda items were constitution, electoral laws, security legislation, and media laws. The last point which deals with the political climate, along with demilitarization of state institutions, the role of traditional chiefs, use of food aid for political benefit and foreign broadcasts into Zimbabwe, may prove to be a more “sticky” subject. However, both sides are confident the agenda will be addressed before the upcoming election.

The rise in political oppression coincides with the economic depression which has ranked the country’s inflation rate at over 8,000 percent, the highest in the world. Many critics have blamed the crisis on government mismanagement but Mugabe continues to accuse the West of conspiring against him.

For more information please see:

Reuters: Africa- Mbeki Confident of Solution to Zimbabwe crisis – 23 November 2007

BBC- Mbeki Upbeat after Zimbabwe Talk – 23 November 2007

AllAfrica.com- Zimbabwe: Mbeki Pressure Mugabe – 23 November 2007

Impunity Watch- Political Oppression and Violence – 25 October 2007

Egyptian Woman Jailed For Father’s Conversion 45 Years Ago

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian Christian woman is going to jail for three years because her father’s brief stint as an Islam 45 years ago made her a Muslim, not a Christian as her official papers say.

Shadia Nagui Ibrahim on Thursday was charged with fraud for stating her religion as Christianity on her marriage certificate. She was unaware that her father, who left when she was two, had once converted to Islam in 1962. Her father’s conversion automatically made her a Muslim because children in Egypt must take their father’s religion. Even though he came back three years later and re-converted to Christianity, her status as a Muslim stood the same.

Christians in Egypt face many hardships solely because of their religious affiliation. While Egyptians typically have little difficulty changing religion from Christianity to Islam, changing from Islam to another religion such as Christianity is socially risky and considered apostasy.

Compounding the hardship is the state’s reluctance to allow citizens to put their religion of choice on identification cards. In Egypt, all citizens are required to carry identification cards once they reach the age of 16. Because the citizens have only three choices to choose from, this policy forces members of minority faiths to obtain forged documents that can result in criminal prosecution.

When Ibrahim’s father reconverted to Christianity, he forged his document to say he was a Christian. The authorities eventually caught him and told his daughter that she was still a Muslim and charged her with “providing false information on official documents” for stating that she was a Christian when she got married in 1982. She got sentenced for three years after a brief court session.

Also under Egyptian law, Muslim woman are not allowed to marry a Christian man.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Egypt Copt jailed 45 years after father’s conversion – 22 November 2007

Reuters – Egypt denies ID papers to Baha’is, converts – 12 November 2007

BBC News – Egypt ‘denies minority beliefs’ – 12 November 2007

BRIEF: Nauru Minister Accused in Passport Scandal

YAREN, Nauru – Nauru’s Finance and Foreign Minister David Adeang has been accused by a group of MPs of associating with businessmen in Thailand who are selling and distributing Nauruan passports.  The group also alleges that he received gifts, travel funding, and other benefits in conjunction with this venture, which he failed to declare under Nauru’s public accountability laws.

Adeang dismissed these claims, saying that the MPs are playing for control of the government and that the accusations are false.  He further stated that the businessmen in question had become Nauruan citizens when former president Rene Harris had been running his own passport scheme.  Adeang dubbed the allegations “spurious” and criticized the group for not building a case to prove the allegations.

The breakaway MPs are moving for a no confidence motion against Nauru president Ludwig Scotty if he does not deal with the issue, and are pressuring him to reconvene parliament to deal with the misconduct allegations against Adeang.

For more information, please see:

Islands Business – President may face no confidence vote over Adeang – 12 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Rebel MPs in Nauru claim to be building support for no confidence vote – 22 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Nauru’s Adeang dismisses claims that Asian colleagues involved in passport sales – 22 November 2007

Islands Business – Rebel MPs claim to be building support for no confidence vote– 22 November 2007

Jordanian opposition claims election fraud

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

AMMAN, Jordan – On November 20, Jordan voters went to the polls to elect a new parliament.  Only six of the 22 candidates from the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, won their contested seat.  In the previous election, 17 IAF candidates won and it was expected that a similar number would win again on Tuesday’s election.

The IAF accused the government of election fraud and vote-rigging, which resulted in the election of pro-government candidates.  Government officials admit that 17 individuals were arrested on suspicion of interfering with the election.  Of those, two were arrested on suspicion of vote-buying.  IAF alleged that the electoral monitoring system failed, which allowed election fraud to take place.  Also, the IAF accused the government of bussing in unregistered voters into various polling stations.

IAF’s spokesman, Jamil Abu Bak, stated, “this is an electoral massacre… violations by far exceeded even the last elections… it will have harmful repercussions on the country’s political progress.”  Bak claimed that according to IAF’s own pollings indicated that 16 of its candidates should have won and demanded that in the areas where IAF’s candidates won according to IAF results.  Bak points to Narqa, a strong hold for Islamist support, where the IAF’s candidate did not win.

In addition, the voter turnout was lower, particularly in Amman (about 29%).  In the rest of the country voting levels were about 55% of registered voters.  Higher percentages of voters in rural areas voted, than those from urban areas.  Jordan has a system of proportional representation – which results in people in rural areas being better represented that those in urban areas.  Most people voted according to tribal or family lines, rather than for a specific party.  In addition, some polling stations were kept open two hours longer than others, just so that more people could vote.

For more information, please see:

AFP – US praises Jordan election – 21 November 2007

Al Jazeera – Setback for Jordan’s Islamic Front – 21 November 2007

Associated Press – Allies of Jordan’s king win elections – 21 November 2007

BBC – Jordan Islamists claim poll fraud – 21 November 2007

Reuters – Islamists lose seats in Jordan elections – 21 November 2007

Al Jazeera – Jordan opposition cries foul – 20 November 2007

Riots Hit Dakar

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

DAKAR, Sengal –   In Dakar, the capital of Senegal, rioters threw stones and burned tyres in response to a new government policy to remove vendors.  Rioters also blocked main streets and toppled cars. The clash broke out following a trade union demonstration against rising food and oil prices. Garbage cans, old tyres, and wooden stalls were lit on fire to gain attention to the riots.

In response, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesting street vendors. Moreover, the police arrested at least 15 people involved in the riot.

In Dakar, thousands of people earn their livelihood by peddling food and goods on Dakar’s streets.  In a recent study, the World Bank said 95 percent of workers in Senegal are found in the informal sector.

Last Thursday, new policy by President Abdoulaye Wade banned thousands of street vendors from informal trading in the city. These new laws were passed because uncontrolled street vending had cost Senegal around 125m Euros because traffic jams were deterring investors.

In March, Dakar is to host a 57 nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit. In an attempt, to meet the needs of the organizers, the city has undergone a major “facelift,” by building new hotels, conference rooms, bridges and roads.

According to the UN Human Development Index, Senegal is grouped in the bottom 20 of the world’s poorest countries. More than 27.5 percent of Senegal’s employable population have no jobs or are not adequately employed.

For more informaton, please see:

Reuters – Worst riots in years hit Senegalese capital    – 21 November 2007

BBC – Street vendors riot in Senegal  – 21 November 2007

IC Publications – Senegal vendors riot in Dakar over ban  – 21 November 2007

Update BRIEF: Saudi Girl Gang Raped

A 19 year old woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison in Saudi Arabia, because she was in a car with men who gang raped her.  She was initially given 90 lashes, but her penalty was increased.  The cause for the increase in her sentence was that she sought help from the media.  The extra 110 lashes were a direct penalty for questioning the judicial system.

The male who was kidnapped alongside the woman faced similar penalties.  The man had allegedly been trying to blackmail the woman with a photo of hers when the two were abducted and the woman was raped.

However, the appeal did increase the punishment of the men who committed the crime from two years to nine years.  The attackers could have faced the death penalty.

Concurrently her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, had his license revoked by the judiciary for appealing the case and approaching the media.  The woman’s lawyer is seeking to have his license reinstated and also seeking a reprieve from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to clear the woman of all punishments.

For more information, please see:

CNN- Saudi lawyer in rape victim plea- 20 November 2007

Justice Chides Fiji AG Over Contempt Charges

By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — Justice Coventry, of the Fiji High Court, has dismissed contempt charges brought by interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum against the former vice president of the Fiji Law Society, Tupou Draunidalo.  In addition to dismissing the case, Coventry ordered that the AG pay court costs of $20,000.

The charges were based upon Draunidalo’s statement on 14 May; that, “The confidence of lawyers in the judicial system, let alone the public, is shattered.” On 15 June, the AG sought leave to apply for an Order of Committal against Draunidalo. After Draunidalo submitted eight affidavits in support of her position, lawyers from the AG’s office filed papers to discontinue the proceeding.  The issue was officially dismissed on 14 November.

In his ruling, Coventry noted that, while several prominent legal professionals had spoken in support of Ms. Draunidalo, the only affidavit in support of the Khaiyum’s claim was a broadcast transcript of the original statement. Coventry also noted that when the AG was pressed to explain why he had filed for the proceeding, “he could do no more than state that the proceedings had been brought in the public interest and, with virtually no change in the circumstances, were being withdrawn in the public interest.”  Coventry finished by saying that the AG had acted “irresponsibly” for bringing this proceeding against a woman who was utilizing her freedom of expression.

Seeing no clear reason why this charge could have been lodged, the Justice speculated that ulterior motives may have been involved.

The Solicitor-General, Christopher Pryde, counsel for the Attorney-General, informed the court of his intention to seek an appeal of the ordered costs.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Fiji AG castigated by High Court judge in ruling — 20 November 2007

Fiji Times — Judge roasts interim A-G — 21 November 2007

Fiji Times — Interim A-G ordered to pay $20,000 — 20 November 2007

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Attorney-General order to pay $20,000— 20 November 2007

FijiVilliage.com — AG’s actions irresponsible – judge — 20 November 2007

One Million Displaced in Somalia

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR) announced today that the number of displaced people in Somalia has hit a “staggering” one million.   About sixty percent, or 600,000 people are thought to have fled the capital of Mogadishu since February, with nearly 200,000 being displaced in the last two weeks alone. The total population is approximately 8.8 million according to the most recent World Almanac.

Citizens have been forced out of their homes due to a renewed conflict between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government forces.  The UNHCR has stated that those who have fled may end up living in desperate conditions.  Those in the Afgooye area, about 30km from Mogadishu, are “using plastic bags and rags to patch up their flimsy mud and straw huts.” 

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December of last year in an effort to drive the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu and to establish and restore the UN-backed transitional government.  Following the invasion, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised his troops would remain for only a few weeks, however they have yet to leave and have become involved in a guerilla-type conflict.  Islamists responded to the invasion by launching an insurgency against the Somali government and Ethiopian troops. 

Meanwhile, Ethiopia is calling on the UN Security Council to deploy peacekeepers to Somalia.  The African Union previously pledged 8,000 troops to assist the weak government, however to date only 1,500 Ugandan troops have arrived. 

The increased violence and instability in the region has prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to rule out sending any peacekeepers to the Horn of Africa, except for a “coalition of the willing.”  On Monday, the Security Council admitted that there is a need for a contingency plan for possible deployment of UN troops, but gave no promises.  Previous peacekeeping efforts by the UN and the US were extremely unsuccessful and disastrous in the mid-1990s and Somalia has since had a difficult time getting assistance. 

For more information, please see:

CNN – Million displaced in Somalia – 20 November 2007

BBC News – ‘One million’ homeless in Somalia – 20 November 2007

Reuters Africa – Number of displaced Somalis hits 1 million – 20 November 2007

AFP – Ethiopia urges quick deployment of peacekeepers in Somalia – 20 November 2007

VOA News – Tensions Grow in Somalia – 20 November 2007 

Iraqi AP photographer faces charges

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

UNITED STATES- The U.S. military has recommended charges against an Iraqi photographer employed the Associated Press for being linked to insurgents.  Bilal Hussein was part of the AP photo group that won a Pulitzer prize in 2005.

Bilal Hussein has been held by the US military without charges for the last 19 months.  The military has refused to inform Hussein of his alleged conduct or present its for holding Hussein.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell cited that “new evidence has come to light” regarding Hussein, which caused the government to formally bring charges now.  (AP)  However, the government has remained silent regarding the exact charge crimes.   Instead, Morrell stated that the military has “convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to stability and security in Iraq as a link to insurgent activity” and asserted that Hussein was “a terrorist operative who infiltrated the AP.”  (AP)

However, the AP has rejected the Government’s assertions of convincing and irrefutable evidence.  The Associate General Counsel for the AP responded, “That’s what the military has been saying for 19 months, but whenever we ask to see what’s so convincing we get back something that isn’t convincing at all.”  (AP)

AP President and CEO Tom Curly asserted that Hussein should be immediately released, because Hussein has been denied due process of law.  “The steps the U.S. military is now taking continue to deny Bilal his right to due process and, in turn, may deny him a chance at a fair trial. The treatment of Bilal represents a miscarriage of the very justice and rule of law that the United States is claiming to help Iraq achieve.”  (Reuters)

Hussein’s defense lawyer has also raised the difficulty of creating a viable defense.  The classified evidence against Hussein is inaccessible for the defense lawyer until the trial, which handicaps the defense lawyer.  However, even if Hussein wins the case and is released it does not bar the defense military from further detaining Hussein as a security risk.

For more information, please see:

AP- US Plans Case Against AP photographer- 20 November 2007

Reuters- US seeks charges against AP photographer in Iraq- 19 November 2007

CNN- News photographer in Iraq accused of insurgent ties- 19 November 2007

BBC News- Iraq reporter faces terror charge- 20 November 2007

Allegations of Planned British Invasion

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Last week, an article in the United Kingdom (UK) newspaper, Independent, reported that British General Lord Gutherie and ex Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed invading Zimbabwe. According to the Independent, the UK and many western nations have accused Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe of causing an economic depression by seizing land belonging to white farmers and redistributing it to blacks. Subsequent poor policy decisions further deteriorated the already fragile economy. In addition, the British government accuses President Mugabe of grossly violating human rights.

In response to the article Mr. Charamba, a spokesman for President Mugabe, told the Sunday Mail that they were aware of the British’s desire to not only invade Zimbabwe but to also assassinate President Mugabe and several other political leaders. Mr. Charamba also states that a “defense plan had been operationalised” and that such a plan still exists in preparation for a possible British attack. Charamba claims that the British have not made a move because Blair was told that Zimbabwe had a “very capable army” and thus would be prepared to fight back. In addition, Blair did not have the United State’s support to invade. President Mugabe has always blamed the West for their economic demise. 

The British on the other hand continue to deny that they are trying to interfere with Zimbabwe’s political affairs. Despite the conflicting reports, there are some who support a British invasion. Leading Zimbabwe Cleric, Pius Ncube, feels the invasion and overthrow of President Mugabe is necessary when “millions [are] facing death from famine.” Ncube says that the people of Zimbabwe should rally together to overthrow President Mugabe and that he would be “ready to lead the people, guns blazing but the people are not ready.” According to Ncube, fear is preventing the people from acting.

Today, Zimbabwe reported that it has placed its army on high alert against its former colonial master.

For more information, please see:

Voice of America – Following UK Revelations, Zimbabwe Says It Still Sees Invasion Threat – 19 November 2007

AFP- Army on Alert to Prevent British Invasion: Zimbabwe – 19 November 2007

BBC- Zimbabwe ‘ready for UK invasion’ – 18 November 2007

Reuters: African – Zimbabwe accuses UK of plotting to kill Mugabe-paper – 18 November 2007

Reuters: Africa- Zimbabwe Accuses UK of Plotting to Kill  Mugabe – 18 November 2007

BRIEF: Guidelines May Eliminate Ban on Political Reporting in Tonga

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga – New government guidelines on news reporting may lead to a lifting of the current ban on political reporting, Minister of Information Afu’alo Matoto told Tongan journalists on Friday.  He said that the ban is in place because the government felt that the Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) was presenting unbalanced news and was concerned with the quality of reporting.  Matoto believes that the new guidelines will be helpful for reporters in the long run, though some, like TBC news editor Nanise Fifita, have expressed their doubts.  The guidelines are still being drafted, and their scope has not yet been determined.

Tongan journalists remain concerned, especially about their lack of access to important documents like pending legislation, which is not released to them unless and until it is passed, and to court decisions, where cost per page can be prohibitive.  During his meeting with the journalists, Matoto said that he will try to improve the flow of information from the government to the news media.

Matoto recently criticized a report from Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Tonga as 119th of 169 countries on its World Press Freedom Index, a large slide from last year when Tonga was ranked 54th.

For more information, please see:

Tonga Now – Minister of Information doubts report by Reporters Without Borders – 14 November 2007

Matangi Tonga – Govt drawing news “guideline” for public broadcasting – 19 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Tonga to get guidelines to lift ban on political reporting – 20 November 2007

The Reporters Without Borders annual World Press Freedom Index may be found here.

Abbas steps up security prior to Annapolis conference

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NABLUS, West Bank – In the beginning of November, Palestinian Authority began to take steps to consolidate control over security in the West Bank.  The Palestinian president, Abbas, is cracking down on militant organizations within the West Bank to demonstrate that he will be able to enforce a future peace agreement made with Israel.  This effort, while occurring across the West Bank, has focused on Nablus, a city notorious for its lawlessness.

Nablus, which is the West Bank’s second largest city, and several surrounding refugee camps are strongholds for militant groups such as Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.  With Israel’s approval, Abbas deployed more than 300 members of the Palestinian National Security Forces, along with guns, ammunition, and cars, to the city.  Since the beginning of November, the bolstered police force in Nablus have been making near daily arrests.

During the course of the past few weeks, the Palestinian National Security Forces have arrested members of Hamas, Abu Mustafa Brigades (the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)), and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (the militant wing of Fatah).  On November 18, Palestinian police forces entered el-Ain refugee camp near Nablus and arrested several members of the Abu Mustafa Brigades, thought to be responsible for several attacks against Israeli military.

In addition to an increase in Palestinian security operations, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continues to carry out near daily operations in the West Bank.  In recent weeks, IOF operations occurred through out the West Bank resulting in several arrests.  Conflicting reports exists as to whether the Palestinian and Israeli forces are working together or separately.  However, Palestinian officials report that these operations are separate from the actions of the IOF and that the IOF operations are detrimental to Palestinian interests.

For more information, please see:

International Middle East Media Center – Israeli army kidnaps five civilians across West Bank – 19 November 2007

International Middle East Media Center – Seven Hamas members arrested across West Bank – 19 November 2007

WAFA – IOF arrests 10 citizens allover West Bank – 19 November 2007

International Middle East Media Center – PFLP’s armed brigades warn of PA crackdown – 18 November 2007

Yedioth – PA security forces carry out mass arrests in Nablus – 18 November 2007

Yedioth – Fayyad threatens al-Aqsa it must cooperate with PA security plan – 14 November 2007

AFP – Security returns to post-gangland Nablus – 13 November 2007

International Middle East Media Center – Security forces kidnap 10 Hamas members – 12 November 2007

Reuters – Palestinian PM vows crack down on outlaws – 11 November 2007

New York Times – Volatile city tests Palestinian police – 8 November 2007

Associated Press – Palestinian police seal refugee camp – 5 November 2007

New York Times – Palestinians clash in West Bank – 5 November 2007

Reuters – Palestinians force enters Nablus in security drive – 2 November 2007

Associated Press – Chaotic Nablus: Testing ground for Abbas – 25 October 2007