BRIEF: Maori Concerned Over Clause in Land Bill

BRIEF: Maori Concerned Over Clause in Land Bill

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Maori have worked for six years toward getting Mount Maunganui, known by the Maori name Mauao, given back to them.  Mauao is an extinct volcanic cone that rises above the town of Mount Maunganui, a suburb of Tauranga.  Mauao is a former Maori pa, a fortified village from the 19th century or earlier.

The proposed bill would hand over Mauao to three Maori iwi.  [“Iwi” is a term roughly similar to “clan”.]  A clause in the proposed bill seems to suggest that the Crown would still own Mauao after the handover.  The Crown claims that the clause at issue refers only to public safety and that the Crown will take responsibility if someone gets injured on the mountain, which is a popular hiking spot open to the public.

There is also some controversy over the Waitaha iwi’s participation in management decisions but not ownership, according to Radio New Zealand.

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand – Iwi debate Mt Maunganui ownership – 31 December 2007 – Iwi take issue with clause in handover bill – 31 December 2007

At Least 125 Killed after Kibaki is Named Victor in Kenya’s Election

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – It took a few minutes on Sunday, after Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the victor of an intense and controversial election, for the country to fly into a rage. More than 100 people have been killed across Kenya in protest blamed on the disputed presidential election. Mwai Kibaki was officially re-elected president while Raila Odinga, the opposition, rejected the results saying he was robbed of victory by electoral fraud.

It was earlier predicted that the vote would be close, and the final results had Kibaki winning by a splinter, 46 percent to 44 percent. According to the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes, beating Odinga by more than 230,000 votes. But that gap may have included thousands of invalid ballots. Before the final count, Kibaki trailed in all opinion polls.

Kibaki, in a statement, urged healing, reconciliation and unity going into the New Year in an effort to quell one of the most volatile moments in Kenya since the 1963 independence. However, Kibaki cautioned that his government would “deal decisively with those who breach the peace by intensifying security across the country.”

As riots spread across Kenya, the government took the first steps toward martial law on Sunday night and banned all live media broadcasts. Police, who have imposed a 6am to 6pm curfew, told the Associated Press that they had orders to shoot to kill. The orders have divided the police force, with many officers sympathizing with protesters.

Most of the violence has been between Kenya’s two largest tribes, Luo supporters of Odinga clashed with members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe. According to the local television stations, ten people were killed in the ethnically-mixed town of Kisii. The bloodiest attacks took place in Kisumu, the country’s third-largest city and a concentrated area of the opposition. According to witnessed, 25 bodies lay at the mortuary. In Nairobi, police fired live rounds and tear-gas to break up Odinga’s supporters in the Kibera slum, where a blackout forced the area into darkness while ethnic gangs set homes and businesses on fire. The death toll from clashes between protesters and police, or ethnic violence has risen today to more than 130.

Meanwhile, the opposition candidate, Odinga, has dismissed the presidential vote as rigged. After the police warned the opposition from holding a rally in Uhuru Park, Odinga has called on a million protesters to gather in the park on Thursday.

Many people have taken refuge in police stations as the violence spreads. Took make matters worst, food, water and fuel are in short supply in most of the country.

Bewildered tourists are left stranded in the chaos as flights have been delayed and airports turned into makeshift shelters.

The US, which works closely together with the Kibaki government on anti-terrorism issues, initially congratulated the president on his re-election but today withdrew its commendation.

For more information please see:

BBC News – Odinga rejects Kenya poll result – 31 December 2007

BBC News – Scores dead in Kenya poll clashes – 31 December 2007

Reuters: Africa- Kenya Election Violence Kills More Than 100 – 31 December 2007

Yahoo News (AP) – Kenya Rioting Death Toll at 125 – 31 December 2007

Washington Post – Kenyan Election protest Kill More Than 100 – 31 December 2007

Stranded Palestinian Pilgrims Protest for Re-Entry

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

El-ARISH, Egypt – Following a pilgrimage to Mecca, two thousand Palestinians are stranded in Egypt as a result of a dispute on their re-entry into Gaza.  The Egyptian and Israeli governments would like the pilgrims to return to Gaza via the Israeli controlled Aouja crossing, to ensure that weapons or money are not smuggled into Gaza.

However, Palestinians insist that the pilgrims be allowed to re-enter via the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing.  The Rafah crossing is the only entry into Gaza which is not controlled by Israel.  In mid-December, the Egyptian government permitted the pilgrims to exit Gaza through the Rafah crossing, despite Israeli protests against it.

Some of the Palestinian pilgrims are members (or are related to members) of Hamas or are wanted by the Israeli government.  They fear that if they will be arrested if forced to return through the Israel.  Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, said that Hamas rejects any other crossing.  Also, Hamas lawmaker, Yehia Moussa, said that Egypt had an obligation to allow the pilgrims to return home.

On December 28, over two thousand Palestinian pilgrims left Jordan to sail to the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, Egypt.  The Egyptian government finally permitted entry into Egypt after the pilgrims were stranded on the ferries for two days.  Then, the Palestinians were bused to several camps in the Sinai until the parties agree on a method of re-entry.  Currently, Egyptian officials are considering several options; including receiving assurances from Israeli authorities that no one will arrested or allowing the pilgrims to re-enter through Rafah, despite Israel’s wishes.

Following the busing of at least one thousand pilgrims to temporary camps near el-Arish, Egypt, many of the pilgrims began protesting.  Many refused to exit the bus, while others broke windows and started fires to protest Egypt’s decision.  Masses of Palestinians gathered on the border between Gaza and Egypt and demanded that the pilgrims be allowed to enter.  However, the demonstration was quickly controlled by the Hamas security forces.

In a similar incident, Palestinians and Israelis clashed at a border crossing.  According to an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) official, IDF soldiers fired warning shots into the air to disperse the on-coming crowds and these warning shots resulted in the death of a Palestinian woman.  However, witnesses claim that following warning shots in the air, IDF soldiers also fired shots into the crowd, killing one woman and wounding three others.

For more information, please see:
Al-Jazeera – Stranded Pilgrims Riot in Egypt – 31 December 2007

BBC – Protest by Stranded Gaza Pilgrims – 31 December 2007

Jerusalem Post – IDF: Pilgrim ‘Apparently’ Shot by Troops – 31 December 2007

London Times – Pilgrims Left in Limbo as Egypt Bars Their Route Home to Gaza– 31 December 2007

Reuters – Stranded Palestinian Haj Pilgrims Protest in Egypt – 31 December 2007

AFP – Palestinian Pilgrims Stuck in Egypt Refuse to be Moved to Camps – 30 December 2007

Associated Press – Pilgrims Stuck in Egypt Taken to Camps – 30 December 2007

BBC – Gaza Pilgrims Stay on Their Buses – 30 December 2007

Reuters – Gunfire Kills One Palestinian Pilgrim, Wounds Four – 30 December 2007

Al-Jazeera – Gaza Pilgrims Stranded off Egypt – 29 December 2007

BBC – Gaza Pilgrims Stranded in Red Sea – 29 December 2008

International Herald Tribune – Close to Two Thousand Palestinian Pilgrims Trapped in Egypt – 29 December 2007

Moti Extradited to Australia to Face Rape Charges

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

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Julian Moti, former attorney general for the Solomon Islands, was extradited to Australia on Thursday, where he was promptly arrested.  The Fiji-born Moti is an Australian citizen who is facing a charge of child sex tourism for an incident in Vanuatu in 1997.  Moti eluded Australian authorities in Papua New Guinea before fleeing to the Solomons, where he was made attorney general.  However, last week the government changed over and the new government is not as friendly to Moti as their predecessor and has said for their entire campaign that they intended to return Moti to Australia.

Moti has maintained throughout the affair that the charges were dropped in Vanuatu and that the Australian government has been pursuing the charge for racial or political reasons.  [There is some debate over the actual case status in Vanuatu regarding whether the charges are pending or lapsed.  Please see theImpunity Watch report here for more.]  He is not well-liked in Australia, and a recent article in The Australian described him as “better known for hubris than any show of humility.”

Moti’s supporters rallied at his house on Thursday, confronting police and immigration officers who had come to escort him to the airport, delaying Moti’s departure for an hour and a half.  He was flown to Brisbane, where he was detained by Australian Federal Police, who handed him over to Queensland police.

After his arrest, Moti reiterated his belief that the charge against him is political and nature.  He has accused the Australian Federal Police of coaching witnesses and claims that he has not been given adequate time to raise his defense.  He is charged with engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under sixteen years of age, which has a maximum penalty of seventeen years of imprisonment.

Former Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, who appointed Moti, has accused the Solomons government of “evading law and proper procedures” in the deportation process “merely to please Australia,” according to the Solomon Times.  Sogavare said that international human rights protocols were not observed, and that it was improper for the same judge to hear the case on appeal.

For more information, please see:

The Australian – Moti arrested at Brisbane airport – 27 December 2007

The Australian – Moti faces court after eviction – 28 December 2007

The Australian – “Victim of political conspiracy” – 28 December 2007

Solomon Times – Sogavare Accuses Government on Moti Deportation – 28 December 2007

Solomon Times –  Moti to Face Rape Charge – 28 December 2007

Sydney Morning Herald – Moti forced onto Brisbane flight to face charges – 28 December 2007

BRIEF: Kurds Promise to Continue to Fight

The Kurds have promised to continue fighting Turkey until they are promised equal rights including the right to teach the Kurdish language in public schools.  Suzdar Avista a local Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader stated that “We will not surrender, and if Turkey continues its aggression against our bases and kills civilians we will respond, we’ll begin fighting inside Turkey.” (International Herald Tribune)

Some locals have remained in the area despite the constant shelling.  They have condemned the Turkish actions.  They believe that the purpose of the attacks has only to improve the morale of the Turkish people, rather than actually eliminate the PKK rebels.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune (AP)- Kurdish rebels in Iraq vow to carry out more attacks against Turkey if airstrikes continue- 30 December 2007