Shooting along the Eritrea- Ethiopia Border

Shooting along the Eritrea- Ethiopia Border

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Yesterday, the UN released a statement that gunfire was exchanged between Eritrea and Ethiopia on Wednesday. Eritrea, once again, accuses Ethiopia of instigating a war between the two nations. In a statement posted on a website, Asmara claims Ethiopia “planted mines, carried out excursion, abducted nationals and burned crop fields in the ground”; all part of an ongoing effort to provoke them.

For several months, both Ethiopia and Eritrea has accused the other of violating the 2002 border resolution which ended the 1999-2000 war that took the lives of roughly 70,000 people. The United Nation decision granted the disputed town of Badme to Eritrea. The terms of the resolution required that the countries physically mark the boundary by the end of November or the International Boundary Commission would draw it on maps themselves and let it stand. The deadline passed with no agreement.

Last month Secretary- General Ban Ki- Moon warned in a report that the failure to resolve the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia was a cause for serious concern. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Ethiopia to avoid raising tension with Eritrea.

According to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), it’s Indian Battalion Post in the Temporary Security Zone on Eritrea’s side heard firing sounds coming from the direction of Gergera. The UNMEE has been in contact with both nations and is investigating the incident.

The Ethiopian government has denied all allegations by Eritrea and claims it has not employed any military attacks along the border.

With nearly 200,000 troops and heavy military equipment posted on the border, the UN has called on both sides to show the utmost restraint. The UNMEE has 1,676 military personnel, including 1,464 troops and 212 military observers, monitoring the border. The number of troops was cut back due to the lack of progress by either country.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News – Exchange of Gunfire on Eritrea- Ethiopia Border: UN  – 27 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – Eritrea Accuses Ethiopia of Border Attack – 27 December 2007 – East Africa: UN Mission Calls on Ethiopia, Eritrea to Show Restraint after Shooting Incident – 27 December 2007

Jailed Iran Rights Activist Sent to Hospital

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – A prominent human rights activist jailed since October was rushed to a hospital after collapsing in a prison shower.

Emadeddin Baghi, 45, suffered a “double heart attack” in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, where he has been held for the past 74 days. He was taken to a private hospital when a prison official found him unconscious in the shower. He had collapsed twice in his cell earlier in the morning due to high nervous pressure.

Baghi, a reformist journalist who is in jail for the second time, has reported been held in solitary confinement ever since he was first taken to Evin, and his health deteriorated steadily during the past two months. His lawyer believes his poor health was mainly due to appalling prison conditions and harassment he has been subjected to during interrogations.

Baghi was arrested in October on charges of violating national security. Iranian authorities said that due to his ongoing activities, he had to serve the remaining year of an earlier prison sentence he had received back in 2003. In 2003, he was sentenced to three years in prison on similar charges of threatening national security, but he only served two years of the term. Authorities have accused Baghi, who campaigns for the humane treatment of prisoners and against the death penalty, of using his activism as a guise to cover anti-regime efforts.

In 2005 Baghi was awarded a top human rights prize by the French government for his work campaigning against the death penalty. Since his jailing, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the US State Department have both called for his release.

In Iran, capital offences that results a death penalty include murder, rape, armed robbery, serious drug trafficking, and adultery. Iran is reportedly the second most prolific applier of the death penalty worldwide after China.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Media advocacy group RSF worried about health of jailed Iranian activist – 28 December 2007

AFP – Jailed Iranian rights activist hospitalized – 27 December 2007

The New York Times – Human rights activist, jailed in Iran, is transferred to hospital – 27 December 2007

Associated Press – Jailed Iran rights activist in hospital – 27 December 2007

Iraq: Thousands Seeking New Livelihoods

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

The Turkish military has attacked the northern Kurdish region of Iraq.  The Turks have claimed that the attacks have killed hundreds of PKK militants, including up to 175 rebels killed on December 16 alone.  (BBC-Turkish jets in fresh Iraq strike)

The attacks have destabilized the region and forced those who live in the area to seek safety.
“Since 16 December when Turkish warplanes renewed their bombing of the borders, nearly 700 families, about 4,000 people, have fled their villages, leaving everything behind,” said Mohammed Khalil, a spokesman for the Regional Displacement and Immigration Directorate.  (IRIN)

The instability has forced many Iraqis to sell their homes and possessions in order to relocate during the attacks.

However, since many Iraqi Kurds in the northern mountainous region were farmers and shepherds, many of the people relocated have been forced to find new livelihoods.  They have been forced to find the shelter from relatives while seeking to begin a new life from scratch.

For example in a phone interview, 65 year-old father of eight, Hama Numan Jalil, a relocated farmer from the border region explained his plight from his cousin’s home.  “I lost all my animals last week: nine cows, 18 sheep and 14 goats which we depend on for a living . . . We left everything behind – our home, which is partially damaged, and our land, and now we have ended up here at my cousin’s home in the city; my cousin has 10 sons to feed already,” Jalil said.  (IRIN) Jalil stated that he would probably have to remove his children from school to make sure that they could be able to survive.

The Turkish attacks have been condemned by leaders of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.   However, these condemnations seem to not have dissuaded the Turks who seek to eliminate all strongholds of the PKK.

For more information, please see:

BBC News- Turkish jets fresh in Iraq- 26 December 2007

BBC News- Iraq Kurds warn Turkey over raids- 25 December 2007

IRIN News- IRAQ: Newly displaced in north considering alternative livelihoods-26 December 2007

BRIEF: Police Not Above the Law, says Weicavu

SUVA, Fiji — At several points during the course of this year Fijian police and governmental officials have been charged with acting beyond the confines of the law.  On 26 December, however, Assistant Police Spokesman, Corporal Josaia Weicavu, told Fiji Times reporters that no one is above the law.  His remarks came after reporters asked him about an incident involving a police officer beating two children in Suva.  Weicavu said that he had not been personally aware of the incident, but that if it did happen that police officials should always follow official rules of engagement.

The incident in question occurred on 25 December, when a police officer exited his highway patrol vehicle outside of the Fiji Visitors Bureau office and proceeded to belt two boys who was standing on the street corner.

When Weicavu became aware of the incident he issued his strong warning that police should not take the law into their own hands and that beating members of the public would not be condoned.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Police officers issued a stern warning — 26 December 2007

Fiji Times — Police: No one is above the law — 26 December 2007

Increase in Child Abductions in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – According to the charity, Save the Children, the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has resulted in an increase in child abductions by rebel groups. While the conflict has forced about 800,000 people from their homes, only about 800 children have been freed from armed militias during 2007.

The Congolese director for Save the Children, Hussein Mursal, has described the situation for children and teenagers in eastern DRC to be “catastrophic.” Militant groups have been forcibly capturing children as young as age ten to fight in the front lines. The UN claims “that rape, pillage (and) the recruitment of child soldiers are practiced by all Nord-Kivu fighters.”

Kemal Saiki, a spokesman for MONUC, the UN mission to DRC said “Our latest information shows 200 pupils were forcibly recruited on December 17, with school materials and ID cards being burnt.”

General Nkunda has reported that he is not interested in using child soldiers to fight against Rwandan Hutu rebels who threaten the DR Congo’s Tutsi population.  Nevertheless, reports show that Nkunda’s men have been responsible for taking children from Tongo. 

Presently, Nkunda has called for a ceasefire in an attempt to undertake internationally sponsored peace negotiations in Goma that will take place on January 6, 2008. Currently, 20,000 government soldiers with the help of United Nations forces are fighting 4,000 Nkunda loyalists.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Child Kidnap Surge in DR Congo   – 24 December 2007

BBC – DR Congo: Voices of Violence – 17 October 2007

VOA – DRC Rebel Leader Calls for Ceasefire   – 26 December 2007

AFP – UN slams Congolese rebel child soldier recruitment   – 26 December 2007