BRIEF: Iraqi Cabinet Approves Bill that could Free Thousands

The bill would pardon prisoners who have been wrongly detained. There are an estimated 50,000 Iraqis that have been jointly arrested by the US military (26,000) and the Iraqi security forces (24,000).  The number prisoners has spiked since the increase in the military strength by the US military, which has cut down on insurgent violence.

The main target of the bill is to free uncharged prisoners who have not been linked to dangerous terrorist activities and yet have been held indefinitely.   Most of the prisoners are Sunni prisoners, which has caused rising tension.  A main hope by the drafters is that the release of the prisoners will limit some of the hostility among the rivaling Sunnis and Shiites factions.

For more information, please see:

All Headline News- U.S. Optimistic Over The Release Of Thousands Of Iraqi Detainees In 2008- 26 December 2007

Jurist- Iraq cabinet approves pardon of ‘innocent’ detainees: report – 26 December 2007

PBS News hour- New Law Could Pardon Thousands in Iraq- 26 December 2007

YAHOO! News (Reuters)- Iraqi cabinet approves draft general pardon law- 26 December 2007

Several Days of Protests, Followed by Arrests in Bahrain

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – On December 17, police and protestors clashed during a demonstration marking ten years since the death of a leading Shiite activist.  The demonstration, organized by the opposition parties, sought compensation for claimed human rights violations which occurred the 1980s and 1990s, when the opposition protested perceived discrimination against Shiites.  During the December 17 demonstration, the police used teargas and later, a demonstrator, Ali Jassem, died as a result of inhaling teargas.  However, a statement from the Interior Ministry claimed that an official medical examination concluded that Jassem died as a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Jassem’s death spurred several days of riots and clashes with the police; including burning tires, blocked roads, and destruction of police vehicles.  The largest demonstration occurred on December 20, following a clash between the police and the mourners at Jassem’s wake.  Mourners attacked a police officer in Jedhafs village.  Riot police responded by entering the village.  According to a witness, the police began firing indiscriminately on the mourners with rubber bullets and teargas.

Then, 500 men gathered and began destroying public and private property.  The spokesman for the Islamist Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy opposition party, Abdul-Jalil al-Singace, said that Jassem’s death could lead to new protests and mass demonstrations similar to those that occurred during the 1990s, which resulted in 40 deaths.

Following the demonstration in Jedhafs, the police conducted sweeps of mainly Shiite villages and arrested close to 40 individuals.  Witnesses state that people were beaten and abused by the police during these arrests.  The Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy issued a statement which claimed at least three people were hospitalized.  The Interior Ministry confirmed that arrests took place but would not disclose the number of people arrested.  The ministry also stated that the arrests are not politically motivated, but instead related to charges of arson, destruction of police cars and stealing police weapons.  A statement from the ministry to the official state news agency said that the charges are “criminal and they are not political activists.”

New protests occurred during the following days.  Hundreds of family members of those arrested staged a sit in outside the police stations in the villages of Bani Jamara and Malkiya.  Riot police were present at both locations, and the protest in Malkiya became violent.  Later, on December 25, family members arrived at the public prosecution office in Manama with clothes that the government requested for the detainees but refused to hand them over or leave unless they saw their relatives.  Opposition parties and rights groups claim that the government officials denied the request and riot police forced the family members out of the office.  However, Interior Ministry spokesman, Mohammed bin Daina, denied the event occurred and stated that the office was evacuated in order to prevent chaos.

Family members and opposition parties claim that the government is refusing to allow anyone to see the detainees, even legal counsel.  Harez Harez, a lawyer for some of the accused, told the Associated Press that the government “violated legal procedure by banning lawyers from meeting with the suspects and attending the interrogation sessions.”  He also stated that, from his conversations with government officials, 28 individuals were detained.

Bahrain, a parliamentary monarchy, is ruled by a Sunni family.  However, 70 percent of its population is Shia.  Resentment within the Shia majority stems from high unemployment rates and the government’s policy of naturalizing Sunnis from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen and granting the immigrants jobs which otherwise would go to Shiites.  Rights activist Abdul-Nabi al-Ekri stated, “the government has created a volatile situation by accelerating naturalization of foreigners with the aim of changing Bahrain’s demography and this exacerbated frustrations among different sections of society.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Bahrain MPs Denounce Clashes in Shiite Areas – 25 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Bahraini Police Scuffle with Relatives of Detained Shiites – 25 December 2007

YouTube – Shia in Bahrain – 25 December 2007

Al Jazeera – Bahrain Protests Lead to Arrests – 24 December 2007

Gulf Times – Disturbances Hit Bahrain Areas for Fifth Day: Reports – 24 December 2007

BBC – Bahrain Rocked by Days of Clashes – 23 December 2007

Reuters – Bahrain Arrests 40 After Week-Long Protests – 23 December 2007

Guardian – Violent Clashes Erupt in Bahrain – 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Bahraini Police Stage Security Sweeps Following Clashes – 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Violent Clashes Erupt in Bahraini Capital – 21 December 2007

Al Jazeera – Mourners Clash with Bahrain Police – 20 December 2007

Associated Press – Bahraini Shiites Clash with Riot Police – 18 December 2007

More Kidnapping in Somalia

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Kidnapped French journalist Gwen Le Gouil was released on Monday after influential negotiations between the kidnappers, elder clan members and governmental officials. Le Gouil was kidnapped on December 16 after arriving in Bossasso to film a documentary on mass refugee smuggling. Although the kidnappers demanded $70,000 (£35,000) for Le Gouil release, the police report that no ransom was paid.

Following the release of Le Gouil, two medical aid workers were kidnapped on Tuesday in the Puntland region, the same place the Le Gouil was kidnapped. Once known for its stability, Puntland, a port town of Bosasso, has been the center of recent kidnapping, hijacking and piracy.

Both aid workers worked for Medicin San Frontieres (MSF) in Bosasso. The regional spokeswoman based in Kenya for MSF, Susan Sandars, has identified the abducted female staffers as Mercedes Garcia, a Spanish doctor, and Pilar Bauza, an Argentine nurse.

The two women were ambushed in their car by a gang of six gunmen as they were driving to a hospital in Bossasso. According to the driver of their vehicle, the gang blocked the road, and ordered the driver and translator out of the car, after beating up the driver the gang abducted the women.

Earlier today the Somali security forces surrounded the kidnappers. According to Puntland Trade Minister Abdishamad Yusuf Abwan, two kidnappers were captured following an exchange of gunfire. The women however were not rescued. Police suspect the women and remaining kidnappers are being holed up in the mountainous area of Puntland. However, the police report that the region is surrounded.

Like in the case of Le Gouil, who was released in good health after eight days, Somali kidnappers are known to treat their captives well, since they are viewed as investments for an expected ransom return. Captives are almost never inflicted with serious injury or killed.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News (AP) – Somalis Corner Aid Workers’ Abductors – 26 December 2007 – Somalia: Aid Workers Kidnapped in Puntland, Ransom Paid for French Reporter – 26 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – Police Corner Somali Kidnappers of Aid Workers  – 26 December 2007

BBC – Kidnapped Newsman Free in Somalia – 24 December 2007

BRIEF: Indonesian Admits Involvement in Human Trafficking

TOKYO, Japan – Indonesian national Carrand Tangka is on trial in Chiba district court in Japan on charges of human trafficking.  He admitted to all the prosecutor’s charges and faces a four-year jail sentence.  The verdict will be handed down on 21 January.

Tangka was a flight attendant for Garuda Indonesia, and is accused of using that position to smuggle three people into Japan illegally.  While he admitted to the charges, he claims that he did not willingly violate the law.  His defense lawyer argued for a lenient sentence based on the fact that it is Tangka’s first offense, that he has young children in Indonesia, and that he may lose his job if he is jailed for a prolonged period of time.

For more information, please see:

Japan Times – Embassy staffer held for illegal entry – 02 November 2007

Antara News – Indonesian admits charges on human trafficking – 24 December 2007

BRIEF: Al Qaeda Link to Gang Members Who Killed Family in Mauritania

ALEG, Mauritania – Four members of a French family on vacation have been shot dead in Mauritania. Two children are among the dead. Presently, the father is receiving treatment in Aleg hospital.

The attack has been viewed as suspicious given that Southern Mauritania is relatively stabile democracy. The gunmen approached the family while they were having a picnic on the side of the road, and demanded money. Once the money was handed over, the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons, and then escaped the scene.

The primary suspects of the robbery are three men suspected of links to a regional al-Qaida terror network. Judge Moustapha Ould Said told The Associated Press that “this was a grave terrorist act committed by dangerous criminal terrorists.”

The Interior Ministry of Mauritania said that it “regrets and condemns this criminal act that contradicts our values of tolerance”.

Today, Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries. However, given its stability, many nationals have hopes for future prosperity based on oil and natural gas sales.

For more information, please see:

BBC-  Tourists shot dead in Mauritania – 24 December 2007 

Guardian – Mauritania Seeks 3 in Tourist Killings  – 25 December 2007

Times Online – Al-Qaeda link to gang that killed tourists on picnic in danger zone – 26 December 2007

BRIEF: Moti Loses Legal Bid to Prevent His Deportation

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Julian Moti was sacked as Solomons Attorney General on Monday, and is expected to be deported to Australia on Thursday (27 December) at the latest, according to Solomons Immigration Department permanent secretary Jeffrey Wickham.

Moti filed an application to stay his deportation, but it has been denied.  He argued that since he was granted asylum in the Solomons he should be protected under the Solomons constitution.  However, the judge ruled the application out of order since Moti’s asylum protection was dependent on his remaining attorney general and it was clear at the time that the new government intended to remove him from that position.

Still concerned that Moti may attempt to escape, Papua New Guinea has issued an order to its airlines and port authorities that Moti is to be turned away from PNG.  Fiji, on the other hand, has made it clear that Moti will be allowed entry should he seek sanctuary in Fiji.  Fiji Immigration Director Viliame Naupoto said that Moti has a right to enter Fiji because he was born there.

For more information, please see:

ONE News – Moti loses legal bid to prevent deportation – 23 December 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Moti dumped as Solomons’ Attorney General – deportation process underway – 24 December 2007

The National – PNG bans Moti – 24 December 2007

Fiji Village – Moti has right to come to Fiji – 24 December 2007

The Age – Solomons set to deport Moti – 25 December 2007

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 report, and Moti’s fear of assassination attempts.

BRIEF: Call for Help in Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Alpha Oumar Konare, the head of the African Union Commission, called on Sudan’s government today to facilitate the deployment of a joint AU-UN peacekeeping force to Darfur.  He also called on the rebels to rejoin the peace process. 

The current AU peacekeeping force has had problems keeping the peace and Darfuris have been asking for international protection for five years.  A joint AU-UN peacekeeping force was approved in July, but the government has been repeatedly accused of purposely causing delays.    Deployment has finally been agreed to and the AU force is due to hand over power to a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force on January 1. 

Konare stated that the handover is not the end of the African Union force, known as AMIS, “but the beginning of a new phase of hybrid force.”  He called on the Khartoum government to help with the logistics of the operation.

For more information, please see:

AFP – AU chief appeals to all sides in Darfur conflict – 24 December 2007

Reuters – African Union urges Sudan to facilitate Darfur force – 24 December 2007

Egyptian Guard Killed in Shootout with Traffickers

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAFAH, Egypt – An Egyptian border guard was killed on Friday in a shoot out with people traffickers who were trying to smuggle African migrants into Israel.

Mohammed Abdel Mohsen al-Guindi, 21, was killed when gunfire broke out after the group refused to surrender. The migrants fled across the border and the traffickers managed to escape. Egyptian authorities are currently searching in the area for suspects.

The border between Egypt and Israel has become a major transit route for Egyptians and foreigners to cross into Israel to smuggle goods, including people. The border is also used for east European prostitutes heading to work, voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as for African migrants and asylum seekers, and for smugglers of illegal weapons and drugs.

The migrants who crossed the border on Friday are likely part of influx of African asylum seekers seeking entry into Israel, where more than 2,500 of them entered illegally in the past two years. Several hundred of those are Sudanese refugees from war-torn Darfur, but most are coming to Israel looking for jobs. As a result, dozens of Africans have been arrested in recent months as they sought to cross the border, and at least three migrants were killed in the process.

On the day after the incident, Egyptian border guards arrested another 11 African migrants who were trying to cross illegally into Israel. Five were injured when guards opened fire to stop them and four were wounded while trying to jump over barbed wire along the border. One was shot in the knee.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Egyptian guard killed in clash with smugglers at Israeli border– 23 December 2007

Reuters – Egypt says smugglers kill soldier at Israel border – 22 December 2007

AFP – Egypt policeman dies in shootout with people traffickers – 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – 11 African refugees arrested before crossing into Israel; 5 injured – 22 December 2007

Tahitian Lawyer Investigated in Connection With Missing Journalist

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

PAPE’ETE, French Polynesia – Investigators searched the offices of Jean-Dominique des Arcis and seized documents believed to be related to the 1997 disappearance of journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud.  Des Arcis used to work with Couraud, and recently gave conflicting reports of what happened around the time of the disappearance.

Couraud, former editor of Les Nouvelles de Tahiti (a Tahitian newspaper), disappeared in 1997, and authorities declared it a suicide at the time.  In October 2004, however, former spy Vetea Guilloux testified during France’s Clearstream scandal that Couraud was in fact killed by drowning during a horrendous interrogation by the Polynesian Intervention Group (GIP).  [GIP was a police unit under the command of then-president Gaston Flosse to monitor the government’s political opponents.]  Guilloux changed his testimony a few times, first saying that he was present at the interrogation, and later saying that he had only overheard two GIP colleagues, Tino Maraa and Tutu Manate, boasting about it.  He then retracted the murder claim altogether, only to reiterate during his appeal that Couraud had been murdered.

There have been rumours that Couraud was killed because he had information on then French president Jacques Chirac’s involvement in “questionable dealings” related to the Clearstream affair, according to the New Zealand Herald, while other rumours give a series of articles that portrayed Flosse in an unflattering light as the reason for Couraud’s disappearance.

In response to Guilloux’s testimony, Couraud’s family filed a murder complaint against unknown persons for Couraud’s death.  Couraud’s brother Phillipe told the New Zealand Herald that he does not believe his brother’s death was ordered by either Chirac or Flosse, but that he believes Jean-Pascal was accidentally killed during GIP questioning.

The probe was about to be closed this November because the first investigative judge did not find any evidence of murder.  Couraud’s family appealed this finding, and a new investigative judge will be appointed to continue the inquiry.  Phillipe Couraud said, “We really think things will change and we will get to the end of this.  In the file, what we have are a lot of declarations of people who were not friends but colleagues [of the alleged killers], who have heard people from the GIP telling the story of the assassination.  […]  Twelve people came to see us and said ‘hey, your brother has been killed by these people.’ “

Reporters Without Borders has been calling on the French government to get to the bottom of the case:

“Recent developments suggest the inquiry into [Couraud’s] presumed death can now move forward.  It is urgent, morally and legally, that all elements in this case are revealed.  The French authorities must not provide an argument for those who think French Polynesia is a place where shady deals are done or the law can be flouted.”

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – Reporters Without Borders calls for Couraud case to be probed – 13 December 2007

Scoop (Reporters Without Borders) – France Urged To Act In Case Of Missing Journalist – 16 December 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Lawyer’s office searched in case of missing French Polynesian journalist – 20 December 2007

New Zealand Herald – Journalist’s death poses questions, 10 years on – 23 December 2007

Bahraini Protesters Arrested

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain- Police arrested the Shiite demonstrators protesting against the Sunni government.

The riots began on Monday marking the ten year anniversary of the death of a prominent Shiite civil rights leader.  The majority of the Bahrainis are Shiite, however, the ruling family is Sunni.  This has lead to a clash between the two groups as the financial and economic disparity between the groups has continued to grow.  The Shiites have continually complained about the fact that they have been discriminated against by the Sunni government.

The protestors voiced their opinions this week.   The response by the government has been to dramatically increase security. The government immediately tried to halt the rally through using gas grenades, killing one protester.  Reportedly Friday following morning prayers, Security Forces arrested many of the protesters of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy.

The group issued a statement regarding the worshipers being arrested on Friday.  “They were faced brutally by the Special Forces, which entered the mosque … while pursuing the rest who fled towards the nearby Water Garden park. Tear gas was fired on the people in the park.”  (Guardian Unlimited)

The government has responded that it was just trying to keep the peace during a volatile time.  The heightened security has solely been a response to the out of control mob, which has destroyed public property and burned a police car.

The Security Forces have extended its quest to going to the homes of the opposition leaders to arrest them in their homes.  They have placed the northern villages under siege and have roughly handled the citizens in their search to detain suspects.

For more information, please see:

Albawaba- Demonstrators reported in Bahrain- 23 December 2007

Guardian Unlimited- Violent Clashes Erupt in Bahrain- 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune- Bahraini police stage security sweeps following clashes- 22 December 2007

Reuters- Bahrain arrests activists after week of unrest- 22 December 2007

Israel Expands Settlement Plans

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

JERUSALEM, Israel – The proposed budget for the Construction Ministry includes $25 million dollars earmarked for the building of 740 new apartments.  The Construction Ministry budget includes funds to build over 500 apartments in the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem and 240 apartments in the Maaleh Adumim settlement in the West Bank.

At the conference in Annapolis in late November, Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders agreed to renew the 2003 peace roadmap.  In the 2003 roadmap, Israel promised to freeze settlement growth.  Rafi Eitan, the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, told local radio that Israel never promised to halt construction within the municipal borders of Jerusalem, which, according to Israel, includes East Jerusalem which was annexed during the 1967 War.  Also, Israel claims that since that any future agreement would include Maaleh Adumim as a part of an Israeli state, building in that settlement is permitted as well.  Eitan stated that Maaleh Adumim is an “integral part of Jerusalem in any peace accord.”

The international community and Palestinian leadership have expressed disagreement with the settlement building plans.  The announcement comes shortly before another peace meeting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, accused Israel of trying to sabotage the renewed peace efforts.  Erekat called Israel’s move as “destructive”.

In addition, senior Hamas officials signal that the group is prepared to reach a truce with Israel.  Ahmed Yusef, a polical advisor to Ismail Haniya, stated that Hamas is ready to “reach a truce with Israel” so long as the siege on Gaza is lifted and Israel halts it policy of assassinations.  However, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, has ruled out a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, describing the conflict as a “true war”, and that it will continue.

For more information, please see:
AFP – New Israeli Settlement Plans Unveiled on Eve of Peace Talks – 23 December 2007

Al Jazeera – Israel Funds More Settlement Growth – 23 December 2007

Associated Press – Israel Building Plans Could Spur Fury – 23 December 2007

BBC – Israel Confirms Settlement Plans – 23 December 2007

Chicago Tribune – Olmert Rules  Out Truce Talks With Hamas – 23 December 2007

Ha’aretz – Israel Expands Plans to Construct New Homes in E. J’lem, W. Bank – 23 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Israel Plans New Homes on Occupied Land – 23 December 2007

Washington Post – Israel Unveils Settlement Plans on Peace Talks Eve – 23 December 2007

Somalia Receives Additional Peacekeepers

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

MOGADISHU, Somalia – 100 peacekeepers from Burundi deployed to the Somalia capital today, only hours after fighting between Islamist rebels and government forces killed at least four civilians.   The deployment of additional peacekeepers has been repeatedly delayed, and the 1,600 Ugandan troops who began work in March have been in desperate need of support.  The peacekeeping force is meant to be at a strength of 8,000. 

Burundi’s government pledged 1,700 troops that were scheduled to deploy in July, but the deployment was repeatedly delayed.  An army spokesman said the rest of the contingent of two battalions of 850 soldiers each should be on the ground within the next two weeks. 

The Ugandans have been restricted to guarding Mogadishu’s sea and air ports and presidential palace, and providing security for top government officials.  Their limited numbers have been unable to stop the increased fighting in the capital, which has led to the deaths of many civilians.  Just last night fierce battles broke out when Islamist insurgents attacked government troops and their Ethiopian allies.  A mortar shell landed in a home, killing two people and another resident was killed in crossfire. 

Somalia has faced lawlessness since 1991 when warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.  There have since been 14 attempts to restore effective rule but the latest has been weakened by the Islamist-led insurgency.   

On Saturday the African Union’s Peace and Security Council issued a statement describing the Somalia conflict as one of the most serious challenges for peace and security on the continent.  The statement called on the international community to provide greater political will and resources.  The fighting has killed an estimated 6,000 people and displaced more than a half million residents. The AU Peace and Security Council have agreed to meet again in mid-January to discuss future plans for the Somalia peacekeeping mission before it expires. 

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Burundi troops join AU in Somalia – 23 December 2007

Reuters – Burundi Peacekeepers deploy in Somali capital – 23 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – 5 Somalis killed in overnight attack; Burundian peacekeepers deploy in Mogadishu – 23 December 2007

VOA News – African Union: Somalia Conflict Threatens Peace and Security in Africa – 23 December 2007

Reuters – AU seeks fresh initiatives to end Somali conflict – 22 December 2007

BRIEF: Ballu Khan Remains in Hospital

SUVA, Fiji — Ballu Khan, the New Zealand business man who was implicated in the attempted assassination plot of interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, was not released from the hospital yesterday as he was originally expected to be.  Khan has been at the Suva Private Hospital for the past few weeks after his skull was fractured and his was broken by Fiji police officials during an interrogation.  While Khan has remained a suspect in the attempted assassination of the interim PM, he has still not been formally charged and the police have not gotten an opportunity to question him due to the extent of his injuries.

QC Peter Williams, Khan’s lawyer, filed civil charges against the interim government over the injuries sustained by Khan.  Williams released a statement yesterday that he believed the $40 million lawsuit was progressing well.  Asked whether he thought that his client could receive a fair hearing, Williams responded, ” that it was essential to have trust in the rule of law”.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Fiji businessman to be released from hospital tomorrow — 20 December 2007

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Khan’s lawsuit progressing well – QC — 21 December 2007

Pacific Magazine — Khan Still in Hospital, Still not Charged over Assassination Claims — 21 December 2007

BRIEF: Ivory Coast Begins Disarmament

TIEBISSOU, Ivory Coast – More than five years after a brief war erupted and split the country into a rebel-controlled north and government-held south, the rebels and government forces have agreed to begin the process of disarmament.  Ceremonies are being held on either side of the ceasefire line today and it is hoped that this will be a significant step towards the planned reunification of the country. 

The warring parties first agreed to a ceasefire several months after the brief war erupted in 2002.  In 2004, the government announced the start of disarmament, but disagreements among the parties have repeatedly delayed the process.  Former enemies President Laurent Gbago and ex-rebel leader Guillaume Soro forged a partnership in March and have worked towards this disarmament.   The process is expected to take three months.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Ivory Coast’s disarmament begins – 22 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Ivory Coast factions begin disarmament process – 22 December 2007

Reuters – Ivory Coast former foes launch disarmament process – 22 December 2007

AFP – African Union hails progress towards peace in Ivory Coast – 21 December 2007

BRIEF: HRW Sends Letter to Tunisian President to Stop Harassment of Rights Group

TUNIS, Tunisia – Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter on Tuesday to Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to stop state authorities from harassing “unrecognized” rights group.

The “unrecognized” group refers to Tunis-based International Association in Support of Political Prisoners (AISPP). In early December, attorney Samir Ben Amor – AISPP co-founder and steering committee member – was detained by police for his activities within the group. Under Tunisian law, those who are involved in “unrecognized” associations are penalized with prison terms and fines. And AISPP, under Tunisian law definition, is “unrecognized” because the Tunisian authorities have refused to legally recognize the group since its inception five years ago.

Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said that the Tunisian authorities deny having political prisoners in the country, and that jailing of Ben Amor “only underscores the fact that the authorities harass Tunisians who point out that the government holds political prisoners.”

Ben Amor is currently defending thirty Islamists charged with trying to overthrow the government.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Tunisia court postpones coup bid trail to Dec. 29 – 22 December 2007

Magharebia – HRW protests harassment of rights groups in Tunisia – 19 December 2007

Human Rights Watch – Stop harassing ‘unrecognized’ rights group – 18 December 2007