Gays Deserve Torture and Execution, Says Iranian Official

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – Homosexuals deserve torture and execution, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference. (Times Online)

Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranking official to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality. When the British MPs during the meeting raised questions about public hanging of two boys in Mashhad, Iran widely reported back in 2005, the leader of the Iranian delegation said, “if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed.” (Times Online) He argued that “homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.” (Times Online)

Rights groups in Britain regularly challenge Iran about its gay hangings, stoning and executions of adulterers and perceived moral criminals. Furthermore, rights group such as Outrage! accuses Iran of cloaking executions for homosexuality with bogus charges for more serious crimes.

This policy is especially troublesome in light of the fact that an Iranian man accused of raping three boys were almost executed this week despite of retractions from his accusers. Fortunately, a court stepped in this time and a judge stopped the execution because he believed, without further elaboration, it was against Iran’s Islamic Sharia law. The 20-year-old Makwan Mouloudzadeh was 13 when the alleged rape happened.

Other countries that apply the death penalty for homosexuality include Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Nigeria, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

Sharia “lawbreakers”

— Homosexuals Farbod Mostaar and Ahmad Chooka sentenced to death. Iran said Chooka had kidnapped, knifed and raped a student.

— A woman called Soghra was sentenced to stoning for adultery and being an accomplice to her husband’s murder.

— Two men executed in public after being found guilty of a homosexual relationship. A newspaper said they were convicted of sodomy, rape and kidnapping.

— Zhila Izadi, 13, sentenced to stoning after becoming pregnant with her brother’s child.

— Malek Ghorbany sentenced to stoning for adultery.

— Leila Qomi sentenced to stoning for adultery and assisting a man who killed her husband. He received 100 lashes.

— Jafar Kiana stoned for adultery. His female lover Mokarrameh Ebrahimi sentenced to the same fate.

Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office documents released under Freedom of Information Act

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Iran reviews execution for accused teenage rapist – 17 November 2007

Gulf News – Iran reviews execution for accused teenage rapist – 17 November 2007

Times Online- Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister – 13 November 2007

Fox News – Gays deserve torture, death penalty, Iranian minister says – 13 November 2007

Threat of War in Sudan

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir warned Saturday that although the government does not want war, it will be ready for one if forced to fight.  This statement came at a rally marking the 18th anniversary of the Popular Defense Forces (PDF), a militia he created to fight in Sudan’s 22-year civil war.  Bashir called on the PDF “to open training camps and gather mujahadeen not for the sake of war but to be ready for anything.” 

Southerners have been increasingly accusing the government of violating the peace treaty that ended the civil war in 2005, leading to concerns of a return to war. Bashir announced that he will continue to refuse to budge “an inch” on the contested borders of the oil-rich Abyei region, a dispute that led to the SPLM pulling its ministers out of the government in October.

Bashir’s comments come at a very turbulent time for the Darfur region and ongoing peace efforts.  Darfur peace talks, brokered by the AU and UN have died out due to boycotts of insurgent groups.  The SPLM and rebel groups, who have responded that they are for peace and not for a return to war, have condemned Bashir’s comments and accused him of “threatening and calling for war.”

Bashir also reiterated his right to exclude Western troops from a 26,000 UN-AU joint peacekeeping force scheduled to start operating in Darfur next year. “The boots of those who blasphemed the prophet Muhammad would never trample on Sudanese land” Bashir told the crowd at the rally.   This statement was apparently in reference to countries whose newspapers carried caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.  A Denmark newspaper first published the drawings in 2005 and several European countries later reprinted them. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in his latest report that several obstacles remain in the way of a speedy deployment of the troops, including the Sudanese government’s refusal to assign land for the hybrid force.   Sudan also has yet to approve a list of troop donor countries.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Former rebels accuse Sudan president of threatening war – 18 November 2007

Sudan Tribune – Bashir says Sudan will not accept troops from four countries in Darfur – 18 November 2007

The Times (South Africa) – Beshir ups ante in Sudan – 18 November 2007

AP – Sudan Leader Says He’d Be Ready for War – 17 November 2007

For more information on the Sudan situation, please see the following Impunity Watch reports:Continued Delays in Deployment of Sudan Hybrid Force; Sudan Talks Falter; Upcoming Peace Talks in Sudan in Jeopardy; New Atrocities in Darfur; Ceasefire Ends in Sudan; African Union Peacekeepers Attacked in Darfur; Ongoing Conflict in Sudan; ICC Prosecutor Demands Arrests in Sudan; Secretary General Urges Sudan President to Commit to Ceasefire; Peace Talks on Darfur Scheduled for October 

Solomon Islands Government in Turmoil

By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – The Solomon Islands government is in turmoil this week, with nine high-level government ministers defecting to the opposition after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare shuffled his cabinet.  Deputy Prime Minister Toswell Kaua resigned, along with Dr. Derrick Sikua, Steve Abana, Nollen Leni, Stanley Festus Sofu, Gordon Darcy Lilo, Sam Iduri, Mark Kemakeza, Patrick Vahoe, Peter Tom, Martin Sopage, Martin Magga, and Trevor Olovae.  Lilo and Abana were terminated from their positions for “working against” Sogavare.

The resigning ministers delivered signed letters to Governor General Nathaniel Waena, which were also signed by backbenchers and members of the opposition, calling for Sogavare to resign from his position.  They stated that if he would not resign, they would submit a no confidence motion.  The opposition is confident that they now have the numbers to force the resignation, and consequently, that Sogavare no longer has the numbers to rule.  Waena called Sogavare in, but Sogavare maintains that he has the numbers to rule.

Waena told Parliament that the issue was a political one, and that he cannot intervene unless he is certain that the elected leaders cannot overcome the political impasse.  He told the press, “As Governor General, I don’t see it as a Constitutional crisis but a political crisis.  They are two different things.  The numbers form political crisis, therefore they are elected with a mandate from our people to sort out the political chaos.”  While Waena will not recall parliament to hold a no-confidence vote, he will reconsider the situation next week if it has not been resolved.

Sogavare, however, has said that only Parliament can remove him from office, and has restated his belief that the government does still have the requisite numbers to remain in power.  Transparency International reports that Sogavare is rapidly losing popular support, and the opposition is steadfast in its intent to overthrow him.  The opposition has said that empty ministerial portfolios prove that the government does not have the numbers to lead.

The opposition coalition has said that if they are successful in their bid to unseat Sogavare, they will turn over current Attorney General Julian Moti to the Australian authorities, who have wanted to indict him on child sex tourism charges since the late 1990s.  Sacked finance minister Gordon Lilo said that Moti is now “the most worried person” in the Solomons, and is doing everything he can to keep Sogavare in power.

Some defections this week have gone the other way, from the opposition to the government, and three of the original resigning ministers returned to the government.  These moves have been followed with allegations that those defectors were bribed back to the government, which Sogavare has vehemently denied.  Former Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza was rumoured to have joined with the government, though he told reporters that he was not going anywhere and that he would not do any deals.

Both sides maintain that they have the numbers to rule.

For more information, please see:

Solomon Times – Sogavare Reshuffles Cabinet Ministers – 09 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands government in crisis – 11 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomons PM says he has no details of complaints by revolting Cabinet ministers – 11 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Sogavare administration still intact, says Solomons government caucas chair – 12 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomons government claims it still has the numbers despite resignations – 12 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomons Opposition confident of removing PM, following Gov’t defections – 12 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands Prime Minister his out at his former Finance Minister – 12 November 2007

Solomon Times – New Govt Promises to Repatriate Moti – 12 November 2007

Solomon Times – Solomons Citizens Call for Government Stability – 12 November 2007

Solomon Times – Lilo, Abana Sacked for Working Against PM – 12 November 2007

Solomon Times – Only Parliament Can Vote Me Out: Sogavare – 12 November 2007

Solomon Times – Solomons Govt in Political Crisis – 12 November 2007

Islands Business – PM Sogavare says only parliament can vote him out – 12 November 2007

Islands Business – PM says deputy is ‘ring leader’ of defecting ministers wanting to oust him – 12 November 2007

Islands Business – GG summons Sogavare, Govt claims administration still in tact – 12 November 2007

Islands Business – Three government backbenchers defect opposition – 13 November 2007

Islands Business – Governor General calls on politicians to solve crisis – 13 November 2007

Islands Business – Transparency says PM losing support – 13 November 2007

Islands Business – We still have the numbers: Opposition – 13 November 2007

Pacific Islands Report (Solomon Star) – Sogavare Defiant After Solomons Resignations – 13 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomons PM faces defiant opposition – 13 November 2007

Solomon Times – Sir Nathaniel: Current Power Struggle Political Crisis – 13 November 2007

Solomon Times – We Still Have the Majority: Lilo – 13 November 2007

Solomon Times – Governor General Demands Resignation Letters – 13 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands Prime Minister says current political upheaval is over – 14 November 2007

Islands Business – Government crisis worries Moti – 15 November 2007

Sydney Morning Herald – Former Solomons PM struggling for power – 15 November 2007

Solomon Times – Sir Allan joins Grand Coalition for Change Government – 15 November 2007

Solomon Times – PM Sogavare: No Bribery Offered to Koli – 15 November 2007

Solomon Times – “The Game is Now Over”: PM Sogavare – 15 November 2007

Solomon Times – Unions Call on PM to Step Down – 16 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomon Islands opposition says empty ministerial portfolios prove PM lacks numbers – 16 November 2007

Please note that the Solomon Star has exceeded its bandwidth and is therefore not online at this time.

For more information on the Moti affair, please see the Impunity Watch reportson Moti’s appointment as attorney general for the Solomons, PNG government involvement in Moti’s escape, the Vanuatu case statusAustralia’s extradition attempt and the missing PNG inquiry reportPNG court refusal to suppress the inquiry report, and Moti’s fear of assassination attempts.  The inquiry report itself was released to Dade on 28 September, and he found the inquiry to be illegal at the end of October.  The issue is on appeal in the PNG court system,barring public debate at this time

Egypt ID Cards Limit Minority Beliefs

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – A recent report jointly issued by Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has raised concerns over Egyptian violation of freedom of religion. In “Prohibited Identities: State Interference with Religious Freedom,” they document the Egyptian government’s discriminatory practice of restricting identity to three religions when citizens are required to identify their faith on government documents. Such requirement causes violation of many rights and immense hardship to members of minority faiths such as Bahai as well as converts from Islam by forcing them to lie about their true belief.

In Egypt, all Egyptians over 16 must carry Identification card showing religious affiliation. But the Civil Status Department of the Interior Ministry has limited the choice of affiliation to one of the three recognized religions – Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. Even though no Egyptian law gives the officials the power to authorize such requirement, they had acted on their interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

Without the Identification card, minorities and converts face enormous problems in everyday life including education and employment. For example, it would deny a person’s ability to conduct transactions as basic as opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, entering a university, getting a job, or collecting a pension. In addition, it may also affect one’s ability to educate children.

Consequently, the 98-page report highlights many who complained that they have been designated as Muslims against their will. While some just get their identification cards listing them as Muslims, others are intimidated or bribed by Interior Ministry officials to identify themselves as Muslims against their express wishes.

“Ministry of Interior officials apparently believe they have the right to choose someone’s religion when they don’t like the religion that person chooses,” said Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork. “The Interior Ministry’s policy essentially says: ‘If you lie we’ll give you the documents you need, but if you tell the truth about your religion we’ll make your life miserable by withholding them’,” he said.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Egypt ID cards sentence minorities to non-life – 12 November 2007

Human Rights Watch – Allow citizens to list actual religion on ID cards – 12 November 2007

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

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

BRIEF: Child Soldiers Released From DRC Rebels

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo – More than 200 child soldiers were freed from a pro-government militia according to the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.  UNICEF announced that the release of 232 children, with an average age of 14, is part of a campaign against the recruitment and use of children by armed groups operating in East Congo.  While the Congo army no longer use children, militias continue to draft and recruit them.  The children are engaged in battle, and used as porters, cooks, and lookouts.

The children were released from the Mai Mai militia through the combined efforts of UNICEF, Save the Children, and the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   Around 29,000 children have been demobilized so far, however it is believed that hundreds or even thousands of children are still working with the armed groups.

According to UNICEF, the children are “currently in transitory care facilities and awaiting family reunification…Once reunified, they will receive assistance to go back to school, undertake vocational training, or start small income generating activities.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Children released from DRC rebels – 17 November 2007

AP – Child Soldiers Released in Congo – 17 November 2007

Reuters – More than 200 Congo child soldiers freed – 17 November 2007

Crack Down in Somalia

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Following the gruesome event last week in which the bodies of two Ethiopian soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the Ethiopian army underwent an intensive search for insurgents believed to be involved with the incident. For several days Ethiopian troops carried out operations against the al-Shabaab, the military group of the former Islamic government, which left nearly 80 people dead in the streets. The troops continue to patrol and conduct door-to-door searches for insurgents.

According to the Human Right Watch’s Africa director, Peter Takirambudde, the Ethiopian soldiers are not distinguishing civilians from insurgents. This is partly the explanation why more civilians are killed. In accord, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf warned residents of the capital that if they do not assist the government in fighting the insurgents, they risk being caught in the crossfire.

Within a week about 24,000 people have fled the capital for fear of being injured or killed in the crossfire of insurgent or Ethiopian attacks. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), estimates that 114,000 residents of Mogadishu has fled the city, and some 850,000 Somali people have left the country.

Together with Ethiopian troops, the Somali transitional government has also taken actions to crack down on insurgents and their supporters. Three prominent radio stations have been taken off the air since Monday in Mogadishu. Along side Radio Shabelle, which was forcibly closed, Mayor Mohamed “Dheere” Omar Habeeb accused 2 more private radio stations, Radio Banadir and Radio Simba, of supporting insurgents and undermining the government. Four stations, HornAfrik Radio, Holy Quran Radio, Radio Somali Weyn, and Voice of Democracy, remain on the air but their content and reports have been censored.

In the meantime, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces is unrealistic given the dire conditions. Instead the UN is encouraging dialogue between the transitional government and insurgents with the aim of ending the incessant violence and strengthening the public institutions to the point which would allow Ethiopian troops to withdraw.

However, negotiations appear unrealistic. In an audio clip posted on a website yesterday, Somali insurgent leader Sheikh Aden Hashi Ayrow asked insurgent fighters to attack African Union soldiers in Somalia. The peacekeeper’s spokesman, Major Felix Kulaigye replied by saying that the soldiers would defend themselves if necessary.

For more information please see:

BBC- Somali Insurgent Target AU Force – 14 November 2007

Yahoo News- Somali government Cracking Down on Media – 13 November 2007

AllAfrica.com – Somalia: Two More Radio Stations Shut Down for “Coverage Undermining the Government” – 14 November 2007

United Nations – UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia not realistic or viable, says Ban Ki-moon – 12 November 2007

Reuters: Africa – Residents Flee Mogadishu as Government Battles Rebels – 12 November 2007

Reuters: Africa – Death Toll in Somali Capital Nears 60 – 10 November 2007

BBC- Hunt for Insurgents in Mogadishu – 12 November 2007

Threats Against PNG PM Shut Down Protest

By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

PORT MORESBY, Paupa New Guinea – Assassination threats against Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare are being investigated by police and security has been elevated around his residences.  These threats came at a time when various NGO members had planned a protest at parliament to petitioning for Somare to step down over the Moti affair.

[For more on the Moti affair and Somare’s involvement, see the Impunity Watchreports on Somare’s involvement in Moti’s escape to the Solomon Islands, themissing inquiry documents, court refusal to repress the inquiry report, and the defense minister’s recent finding that the inquiry was illegal.]

There have also been threats against senior elected leaders of parliament.  Police Commissioner Gari Baki confirmed the threats and that police are taking action, but he did not comment on where the threats were coming from.  Police have increased street patrols, particularly around bus stops and markets, and police and Defense intelligence are conducting surveillance.  Baki said of the threats, “It’s uncalled for, it’s unheard of in Papua New Guinea anyway, that we adopt those kinds of principles of terror operations.”

The protest planning was stopped after police said that they had linked the assassination threats to the march.  Protest leaders say that heavy rain and their inability to collect the requisite fifty thousand signatures were secondary reasons the march was cancelled.  They reiterated that they only wanted their grievances heard, and that they cancelled out of respect for the parliamentary budget session.

Some who were planning to protest claim that their freedom of expression is being infringed upon.  Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta released a statement saying that while the police do have the ability to stop the march under their constitutional responsibility to protect people and property, they should not prevent citizens from expressing themselves.  He also stated that he does not believe in mob rule or street protests.

For more information, please see:

The National – Threats to PM – 15 November 2007

The Australian – ‘Plot to kill’ PNG leader – 15 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Police stop planned protest against PNG PM – 15 November 2007

Islands Business – Police investigate threats of kill plot against PM Somare – 15 November 2007

BRIEF: Saudi court punishes rape victim

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi courts doubled the punishment of a rape victim in a verdict delivered on November 14.  The Saudi court in Qatif sentenced the young woman to 200 lashes and six months in prison for violating a segregation law, which forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other.  She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes, but the punishment was increased on appeal for what the court termed, “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”

The court also banned the woman’s lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem  a famous human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia, from defending her.  Lahem had his license to practice law confiscated and is required to report to a disciplinary hearing later this month.  Lahem had publicly criticized the previous verdict – claiming that the woman’s sentence was too harsh and that her attackers’ sentences were too lenient.

Following an appeal, the Saudi court increased the sentences against her attackers to two to nine years in prison – for an offense that carries the possible punishment of death.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Saudi gang rape sentence “unjust” – 16 November 2007

New York Times – Ruling jolts even Saudis: 200 Lashes for Rape Victim – 16 November 2007

Reuters – Saudi court orders lashes, prison for rape victim – 16 November 2007

AFP – Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes – 15 November 2007

AHN – 19-year old rape victim in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 200 lashes – 15 November 2007

Arab News – Qatif Court convicts rape victim – 15 November 2007

International Herald Tribune – Report: court hands jail term, doubles lashes for woman victim of gang rape – 15 November 2007

BRIEF: Kidnapped Crew Killed by Pirates

MOMBASA, Kenya – Yesterday, the surviving crew of the Taiwanese vessel, Ching Fong Hwa No. 168, shared their experience after being kidnapped by Somali rebels for roughly seven months. The vessel and its fourteen crew members were first seized by 15 armed Somali pirates in April. One crew member was shot in the back and another, 32-year old Chen Tao from China, was killed when negotiations with the ship owner halted. The body of the murdered crew member was placed in the ship’s freezer.

In the end, the ship was released by the pirates on Nov. 5th after an unspecified ransom was paid to the kidnappers in October. According to the captain of the ship, Xinshen Ling, the pirates demanded $1.5 million. When the pirates demanded more money, the US Navy intervened and pressured the release of the ship and its crew. Upon release, the vessel was escorted out of Somali waters and safely to Kenya. There, the crew received food and medical assistance for the injuries they suffered due to the occasional beatings by the pirates.

Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous shipping lanes. Twenty-six ships have been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia this year, although deaths are rare, according to the East Africa Seafarers’ Assistance Program. Only two ships, a cargo ship registered in Comoros and a Japanese-owned chemical tanker, remain under pirate control.

For more information please see:

Reuters: Africa- Taiwanese Ship Freed by Pirates Arrives in Kenya – 14 November 2007

Reuters: Africa- Somali Pirates Killed Chinese Sailor- Official  – 15 November 2007

Yahoo News (AP) – Survivors of Somali pirate attack speak – 15 November 2007

Kuwait Urged to Ratify International Criminal Court Statute

By Nykoel Dinardo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

NEW YORK, New York – The Coalition for the International Criminal Court, CICC, has named Kuwait as its target country for October 2008.  CICC is urging Kuwait to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the treaty which created the first international court capable of trying individuals for crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.  In a letter to Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait on October 1, CICC asked that ratification is made a priority.

According to the CICC, Kuwait has a growing number of human rights organizations; ratifying the Rome Statute would solidify Kuwait’s dedication to international justice.  There are currently over 300 active Coalition member organizations throughout the Gulf region.

There is also a movement within Kuwait.  The Kuwaiti Coalition for the International Criminal Court has made a draft ratification proposal to submit to the Kuwaiti legislature.  Last year, the Kuwait Bar Association (KBA) hosted a meeting about the ICC and the Gulf States.   At the meeting, members of the International Criminal Bar came to give lectures and encourage members of the KBA to become more involved.

Currently, 108 countries have ratified the Rome Statute.  However, in the CICC’s Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA), there are only 3 member states, Jordan, Djibouti, and the Comoros Islands.  Eleven MENA countries have signed the treaty and the CICC hopes to encourage each of these countries to become full ratifying members.

In a statement to the KBA, Hussain Al-Hereti, the Secretary of the National Assembly, encouraged Kuwait to become a member of the ICC.  However, he explained that at least one Kuwaiti parliament member is worried that ratifying will open Kuwaiti Amir to trial in the ICC.  Al-Hereti said that this should not be a concern as the Amir will never commit a war crime so would not be tried.

For more information, please see:

Kuwait Times – Kuwait Urged to Ratify ICC Treaty – 9 October 2008

Coalition for the International Criminal Court – Global Coalition Urges Kuwait to Ratify ICC Treaty – 12 November 2007

Kuwait Times – Lawyers Urge Kuwait to Become ICC Member – 26 March 2007

Coalition for the International Criminal Court –  Issues and Campaigns: Kuwait

Coalition for the International Criminal Court – List of Ratifying Parties

Update on the Attack in Cameroon

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

BAKASSI, Cameroon – Nigerian and Cameroonian officials are meeting in Abuja to determine who killed 21 Cameroonian soldiers in the Tuesday attack in the Bakassi peninsula. Presently, both the Nigerian Army and Nigerian militant groups from the Niger Delta are denying their involvement. Witnesses claim that the attackers were dressed in Nigerian Army uniforms.

Nigerian Army spokesman, Col Amu told the BBC’s Network Africa programme: “We are all abiding by the decisions of the court; we withdrew our troops in compliance with that decision and ever since the relationship between the two countries have been at an all time high.”

Simultaneously, a Nigerian armed group has blown up and ruptured a major oil pipeline in the Niger Delta. This has impacted two main crude oil export terminals. The bomb resulted in the spillage in a large volume of oil in the Forcados site.

The Nigerian government speculates that the attack could have been conducted by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the militant group that was thought to be responsible for earlier attacks on an Exxon Mobil oil terminal. The Exxon Mobile attack follows the five-month ceasefire against workers of the oil industry. The ceasefire was an attempt for armed groups in the area to abandon their weapons and seek discussion with the Nigerian government.

For more information, please see:

Impunity Watch – 20 Cameroonian soldiers attacked in Bakassi Peninsula – 13 November 2007

BBC – Delta Militants Deny Bakassi Raid – 15 November 2007

BBC – Nigeria and Cameroon Probe Attack  – 14 November 2007

Hamas cracks down following Fatah rally

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza – Hamas policemen in Gaza, arrested dozens of Fatah members following an outbreak of violence during a rally organized by Fatah.  Over 200,000 Palestinians participated in the rally, the largest show of public support for Fatah since the Hamas take over in June.  The rally ended in violence, when Hamas policemen opened fire and killed at least 6 people, all civilians.  Hamas claims that Fatah gunmen fired on members of Hamas’ Executive Force and the police were just returning fire.  However, in an unusually critical statement by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), the organization reported that members of Hamas provoked the violence by driving their car into groups of demonstrators.  This action caused the demonstrators to throw stones at the police and to shout “Shia, Shia”, a derogatory reference to Hamas’ support from Iran.

Even, the Islamic Jihad criticized the excessive use of force.  Nafez Azzam, leader of the Islamic Jihad, stated that “despite all the political differences, it is forbidden and taboo to open fire randomly on a mass popular demonstration.

Fatah and most news sources report that over 400 Fatah loyalists were arrested later on Monday.  However, Hamas reports that 50 individuals were detained and dozens more asked to come in for questioning.  Hamas’ spokesperson stated that the individuals were not detained for their political affiliation, but rather because they were the one who organized the rally and are “suspected of being responsible for the chaos that took place.”

PCHR also criticized Hamas’ actions following the outbreak of violence at the rally.  For instance, it reported that members of the Hamas’ police force chased and beat rally participants with batons; members of the media were attacked and had their cameras confiscated; and the use of force against a funeral procession later on November 12, injuring three.

In addition to the arrests, Hamas is also enacting harsh restriction on the members of the media, detaining those without an official Hamas-issued press card.  However, in order to acquire a Hamas-issued press card, the news organization must consent to vague bans on which stories may be reported on.  Hamas justified the restrictions by stating that during the violence following the rally, journalists were seen using their cameras not to report the news, but for the benefit of political parties.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Hamas round up Fatah members – 14 November 2007

Chicago Tribune – Activists for Fatah detained – 14 November 2007

Guardian – Fatah loyalists held by Hamas after rally – 14 November 2007

Independent – Mourning families in Gaza blame Hamasfor deaths at rally – 14 November 2007

International Herald Tribune – Hamas widens crackdown with new press restrictions – 14 November 2007

Associated Press – Hamas cracks down after deadly violence – 13 November 2007

BBC – Fatah members rounded up in Gaza – 13 November 2007

London Times – Hamas carries out mass arrests and puts down Gaza schoolgirl demo – 13 November 2007

New York Times – Hamas arrests Fatah supporters – 13 November 2007

Palestinian Center for Human Rights – PCHR condemns excessive and lethal use of force against civilians in Gaza – 13 November 2007

AFP – Hamas cracks down on Fatah after deadly rally – 12 November 2007

CNN – Fatah: mass arrests follow Gaza violence – 12 November 2007

UPDATE: NZ Suspect Released from Hospital, Taken into Police Custody

by Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — (For background on this story, please see Impunity Watch’s coverage here ).  Millionaire businessman Ballu Khan was released from the hospital today and was taken into Fiji police to be questioned regarding his alleged involvement in the assassination of Fiji interim Prime Minister Bainimarama.  Khan had been hospitalized for what was ultimately discovered to be a fracture at the base of his skull and a fracture of his left cheek bone.  Some reports also indicate that Khan’s rib was broken.  The Fiji police insist that the injuries were sustained when Khan resisted arrest.

Beyond the physical injuries that Khan sustained, there is concern about his psychological health.  A medical report prepared bya surgeon at Suva’s Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete, and the head of Suva’s School of Medical Sciences, Professor Eddie McCaigsaid, “‘The psychological effect of his confinement and assault is evident in his inability to sleep and the fact he hasn’t eaten for four days.”  It went on to say that, “‘We are continually reminded of his ‘verbal assaults’ and ‘not been left alone”’.

Khan’s lawyer, Tevita Fa, says that his client should be returned to the hospital to receive further treatment for his injuries.  According to Fa, Khan, who was admitted to the Colonial War Memorial Hospital two weeks ago, still looks weak.

Relatedly, military and police officers have raided Khan’s home at Udu Point on Vanua Levu.  Military spokesman Mosese Tikoitoga confirmed that the mission did take place, but that he had not yet received word on what may have been found during the course of the raid.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Conspiracy suspect Khan in Fiji police custody after hospital detention — 14 November 2007

Fiji Times — Khan suffered skull, cheekbone injuries — 14 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International — Lawyer concerned for the health of New Zealander in police custody — 14 November 2007

Fiji Times — Army raid Khan’s Waisavu home –14 November 2007

New Zealand Herald — Fijian Kiwi has fractured skull, cheekbone doctor says — 14 November 2007

Fiji Times — Khan discharged from hospital — 14 November 2007

Corruption in Sierra Leone

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – A confidential presidential audit commissioned by newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma was released today by the BBC.  The report details “grave inadequacies” in areas such as health care, tax collection and the security services and acknowledges that corruption is the “greatest impediment to the country’s development.” 

President Koroma has made dealing with corruption a priority, and has said that Sierra Leoneans may now take and judge him at his word.   Koroma will be formally inaugurated on Thursday, although he has been in office since September.  Koroma has already taken several steps to addressing the corruption issues in the country, and response has so far been positive.  However, Koroma still has much work to do. 

Human Rights Watch issued a letter today to Koroma advising him to urgently address pressing human rights concerns, particularly the “striking deficiencies in the judicial system and ongoing corruption.” 

Africa director Peter Takirambuddle said “The people of Sierra Leone have long suffered from a vicious cycle of corruption, economic decline, violence and immunity…President Koroma must articulate and implement a bold vision for improving Sierra Leone’s chronic human rights problems.  There is no time to waste.”

Among the issues that Human Rights Watch asked Koroma to address are deficiencies in the national judicial system, prison conditions, abusive police conduct, and widespread corruption. They have also called on Koroma to abolish the death penalty.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in Africa and is slowly recovering from a decade of brutal civil war that ended in 2001.  The war began in 1991 when rebels crossed into the country from Liberia and took control of the diamond fields.  After years of widespread human rights violations and atrocities, the rebels were eventually defeated by a United Nations peacekeeping force and a separate intervention by the British army.  Sierra Leone has since created a hybrid international court with the UN in order to try those most responsible for violations during the war. 

For more information, please see:

BBC News – S Leone ‘riddled with corruption’ – 14 November 2007

VOA News – Sierra Leone’s President Says Fighting Corruption is Priority – 14 November 2007

Human Rights Watch – Sierra Leone: New Leader Must Combat Injustice, Corruption – 14 November 2007

For more information on Sierra Leone, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: BRIEF: Special Court for Sierra Leone in Danger of Bankruptcy; Former CDF Leaders Sentenced in Sierra Leone; Sierra Leone Court’s Recent Verdicts Against Former CDF Leaders; Sentencing of Three Former Leaders of Sierra Leone’s Armed Forces Revolutionary Council; Forced Marriage a War Crime?

Georgia: TV company’s broadcast license suspended

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Senior Desk Officer Impunity Watch, Middle East

TBILSI, Georgia-  The city court has a suspended a local TV company’s broadcast license. The court stated that the company’s coverage of unrest in the city of Tsibili on November 7, 2007 was driven by the company’s desire to overthrow the government.

The television station, Imedi, decided to air a statement of Badri Patarkatsishvili, a co-owner of the station.  The court ruled that the statement included calls for the people of Georgia to overthrow the government inciting possible violence.

Insiders involved with News Corp., the Robert Murdoch group that controls Imedi TV, have called the allegations that Imedi TV is possibly involved in a coup of the government “ridiculous.”  (Civil Georgia)  Imedi TV has pledged to appeal ruling to higher courts to overturn the city court’s ruling.

Georgia is currently involved in a state of emergency following the riots that began November 2.  The protesters had four demands for the government  “(1) conduct parliamentary elections in spring 2008, instead of late 2008; (2) create new election administrations with representatives from political parties; (3) change the current majoritarian election system – a first-past-the-post, winner takes all system; and (4) release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.”  (Transparency International)

On November 7, the crowd was dispersed by riot police with tear gas.  More than 500 people had to seek medical attention from injuries sustained through the tear gas.

The Georgian government has treated the protest as an attempted coup.  Thus it has placed the country in a state of an emergency for the last week.  The government has reported that it will lift the state of emergency Friday, November 15.

Although the situation seems to be calming down, the fact that the government has shut down the main opposition news network is disconcerting, because the news agency is a necessary check for the government.

For more information, please see:

Civil Georgia Online Magazine- Court Suspends Imedi’s TV Broadcast License-14 November 2007

Radio Free Europe- Criticism Mounting Over Georgia’s State Of Emergency- 8 November 2007

Russia Today- Tbilisi court suspends opposition TV license- 15 November 2007

Today’s Zaman- Georgia to lift emergency, TV stays off the air- 15 November 2007

Transparency International- Transparency International Georgia Comments on Events of November 7, 2007 in Tbilisi- 8 November 2007