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

Violence Increase as Election Day Looms

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – Violence has broken out every election in Kenya since 1992. This year’s election, which is scheduled to take place on December 27, is expected to be extremely close, which explains the mounting tension and violence as candidates seek votes and land for their groups. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission claims that local politicians are responsible for instigating the violence against opponents.

The western part of Kenya, specifically Kuresoi and Mount Elgon, has been the hotspots of incessant attacks and clashes. According to the European Union’s chief election monitor in Kenya, the violence has been raging all year. Between both regions, more than 300 people have been killed and 70,000 have fled their homes.

In Kurosoi, a farmer was hacked to death with a machete by a political activist, who then burned down eight nearby houses. In Ugenya, a city in western Kenya, two carloads of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporters, stoned a rally by a rival candidate. One rebel group, Mungiki, responsible for a series of beheading, has threatened to disrupt the election. Since July, the group has passed leaflets encouraging Kenyan youth to rise up against the government.

Women, especially, are easy targets for many of the political activists. One aspiring parliament candidate was shot to death in front of sister’s house. Another was dragged and gang raped by several armed men. Angela Waweru, withdrew her candidacy for a Kenyan civic seat, after a group of knife-wielding men threatened her life at a polling station near a slaughterhouse. Martha Kibwana, a candidate for councillor in Taveta, a town in Kenya’s coastal province, was stabbed and left for dead. Through a shattered jaw, Kibwana expressed that she would not withdraw from the race, “[o]therwise it would be for nothing”.

The Gender Rapid Response Unit (GRRU) was set up by the British government to respond to and deal with attacks against women. Since the campaign period, which began in September, GRRU has received roughly 255 reports of attacks. Hundred of female candidates and activists have received threatening phone call and texts. Unlike, neighboring nations, the disproportion of women in parliament is 18 out of 224, despite the fact that out of 14 million voters, women represent 6.7 million.

The campaign continues to be marred by violence despite the European Union’s condemnation. As thousands of displaced men, women and children wait in line in front of Molo Baptist Church for a ration of maize and milk, Pastor George Kariuki expresses the view of many, “If the government can’t stop the violence…they should postpone the election.”

Presently, ODM’s Raila Odinga has a slight lead in opinion polls over President Mwai Kibaki, and Kalonzo Musyoka follows as a distant third.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News (AP) – EU: Kenya Clashes Threatening Election – 21 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – Kenyan Women Bear Brunt of Election Violence – 21 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – EU Condemns Pre-Election Violence in Violence – 21 December 2007

UPDATE: Abducted Journalist Urge Negotiation for his Release

BOSASSO, Somalia – According to Awale Jama Salad, a local journalist and clan member of the kidnappers, Gwen Le Gouil is urging international media watchdogs to press for his release. Le Gouil was kidnapped by armed men on Sunday, December 15 and is currently being held for $80,000 ransom in the mountainous village of Mareero, east of Putland’s Bosasso port.

According to Salad, Le Gouil is “fine.” Puntland’s Trade and Industries Minister Abdisamad Yusuf Abwan said French embassy delegations were in the country to negotiate Le Gouil’s release.

Based on a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. media watchdog, at least 64 journalists have been killed in 2007. This is the highest death rate since 66 deaths in 1994’s. After Iraq, Somalia ranked as the second deadliest country with seven journalist killed this year.

Fortunately, Somali kidnappers are known to treat their captives as assets and therefore are not likely to seriously harm Le Gouil.

For more information please see:

Reuters: Africa – French Journalist Held in Somalia Asks for Help – 20 December 2007

Reuters: Africa – 2007 Deadliest Year for Journalist since 1994 – 19 December 2007

Temporary Calm in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter for Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – In the east part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congolese army has killed thirteen of Colonel Laurent Nkundas’s men today. The killing came as retaliation for an attack on government positions in Ntamugenga. The clash occurred 60 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Goma.

A few days ago, a UN field officer confirmed that 17 rebels and two FARDC soldiers had died in the skirmish. “There are people wounded on both sides,” said the source.

Colonel Antoine Mushimbu, leader of the army’s Sixth Brigae, reported that the troops pushed the rebels into the Bukima. After the latest conflict, the country has experienced a slight period of calm.

Presently, the Democratic Republic of Congo has deployed almost 25,000 troops in North Kivu to fight 4,000 rebels loyal to Nkunda. Most of the men claim to be protecting fellow ethnic Tutsis in eastern DRC.

Villagers suffer from the extreme violence in the region. Presently, 800,000 civilian victims are displaced by the conflict. According to Anneke Van Woudenberg, of Human Rights Watch, the government and rebel groups are responsible for the most inhumane excesses against civilians.  “Every time these belligerents fight each other, they have killed, raped and looted civilians,” said Wouedenberg.

A report by Doctors without borders details that victims of the conflict are suffering from outbreaks of Cholera in the makeshift towns. Moreover, victims’ clean water supplies are dwindling down.

For more information, please see:

News 24 South Africa –  DR Congo- 13 Rebels Killed  –    20 December 2007

The Guardian – Mission Impossible – 20 December 2007

AFP-  DR Congo troops push back insurgents; 19 dead  – 19 December 2007

BRIEF: Sikua Elected Solomons PM

HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Dr. Derek Sikua was elected Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands today.  The former opposition group, now the Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement (CNURA), received 32 of 47 votes cast this morning.  Sikua will be sworn in tomorrow.

Sikua has only been in parliament for a year and a half, and served as education minister in the Sogavare government before defecting in November.  He holds a Ph.D. in educational decentralization and has previously served in a variety of high positions in the ministry of education.

Fred Fono is expected to be named deputy prime minister tomorrow.

For more information, please see:

Solomon Times – New Prime Minister for Solomon Islands – 20 December 2007

Islands Business – Dr Sikua is Solomon Islands new PM – 20 December 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Solomons parliament elects Sikua as new PM– 20 December 2007

The Australian – Sikua elected new Solomons PM – 20 December 2007

National Parliament of the Solomon Islands – official website entry for Dr. Sikua

For background information on the political crisis in the Solomon Islands that led to Sikua’s election today, please see the Impunity Watch articles on last month’s defectionsthe continuing instabilitythe heated arguments, and the successful no confidence motion against the Sogavare government last week.

For more information on the Moti affair, a key element of CNURA’s argument against the Sogavare government, please see the Impunity Watch reports onMoti’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.

BRIEF: Turkey Sends Ground Troops into Iraq

The Turkish military have sent ground troops into Iraq for the first time since the rising tensions regarding the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).  The Turkish military reported that the attacks were a success and that PKK bases had heavy losses inflicted upon them.

The Turkish intelligence believes that the PKK is being supported by the northern Iraqi Kurds. The Turkish military had previously threatened to strike with ground forces, but before this attack they had only sent air strikes.

Reportedly, the Turkish military was supported by American intelligence to capture the PKK members.  However, the US has denied any such support.  (BBC)  This perception of support by the Americans caused Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani to skip his meeting with U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

For more information, please see:

BBC- US denies backing Turkey PKK raid- 17 December 2007

International Herald Tribune (AP)- Turkey’s military confirms ground incursion; claims inflicted heavy losses- 18 December 2007

Reuters- Iraq Kurdish leader snubs Rice over Turkey raid- 18 December 2007

Abuses Against Women in Zambia

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

LUSAKA, Zambia – Human Rights Watch issued a report yesterday accusing Zambia’s government of failing to stop the escalating violence against women and prevention of access to antiretrovial treatment for AIDS patients.  The report was based on 83 interviews conducted earlier this year of women, police, health counselors, and governmental and non-governmental organizations.   

The Zambian government was commended for its action in dealing with HIV/AIDS treatment, however the report was clear to establish that for many women an HIV positive diagnosis is the equivalent of a death sentence.  While the government has made AIDS treatment drugs free and put more than 93,000 patients on them with the help of international donors, women are still discriminated against and do not receive equal access to treatment. 

The stigma attached to HIV-positive people is still common and significantly affects women’s access to testing and treatment.  Fear of violence from their husbands lead some women to hide their medications and may even prevent them from being tested.  Many women are also left without money for transportation or food after divorce or their husband’s death due to property laws that favor men and “property grabbing” in which the deceased husband’s family seizes all his property, often leaving the widow destitute.  The result is that many women are unable to go to health clinics or afford the proper diet necessary while on medication.

Human Rights Watch called on Zambia to enact and enforce legislation on gender-based crimes and to ensure the the new constitution fully protects women’s equality.  “The Zambian government should also establish systems to enable healthcare providers, including HIV treatment providers, to respond to gender-based abuses. At a minimum, the government should ensure that healthcare providers in the HIV sector receive adequate training, clear guidelines, and support to detect and respond to gender-based abuses.”

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch News – Zambia: Abuses Against Women Obstruct HIV Treatment – 18 December 2007

AFP – Human Rights Watch slams Zambia over violence against women – 18 December 2007

International Herald Tribune – Human Rights Watch says domestic violence, poverty keeps AIDS drugs from Zambian women – 18 December 2007

BRIEF: Somare Blasts TIPNG

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea – The Papua New Guinea chapter of Transparency International (TIPNG) has drawn Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s ire over the past week for comments made to the press.  TIPNG board chairman Mike Manning told an anti-corruption seminar recently that a third of PNG’s budget is stolen by corrupt politicians.

Manning said that these politicians are not punished for their crimes, but are re-elected instead.  “Until we impose on people a sense of shame for doing wrong, we are never going to stop corruption,” he added.  Manning believes that the pervasive corruption in PNG is degrading the nation’s infrastructure.

In response, Somare challenged Transparency International to name names rather than make “hasty generalizations”.  He requested that if TIPNG has relevant information, that information be turned over to the police and relevant enforcement agencies.  “Otherwise,” he said, “they should stop playing power games under the guise of transparency.”

Somare and Transparency International have had some minor scuffles in the press before, most recently over the Moti affair and Somare’s alleged involvement in it.

For more information, please see:

Stuff.co.nz (AAP) – A third of PNG govt budget stolen each year – 06 December 2007

PNG Office of the Prime Minister – Name corrupt politicians, Sir Michael urges Transparency International – 10 December 2007

Pacific Magazine – Sir Michael Blasts Transparency International Comments – 18 December 2007

Conference To Take Place in Goma, DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter for Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo –  In attempts to end the conflict in the east of the country, the Democratic Republic of Congo government has announced a peace conference. The government has invited all parties to the table, including rebel leader, General Laurent Nkunda. The nine day conference is set to commence on December 27, 2007. The conference will take place in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Vital Kamerhe, head of the National Assembly and a deputy from the Sud-Kivu region stated that the conference seeks to “bring an end to the war…and to create the basis for a durable peace.”

As a pre-condition for the talks, Gen Nkunda, has asked the Congolese government to disarm the Rwandan Hutu rebels that he claims are attacking ethnic Tutsis.

This week alone, the United Nations has predicted that over 60,000 people have fled the North Kivu region to escape the fighting. Hundreds of victims, hungry and suffering from disease, have fled toward Minova, a town in South Kivu. There are currently 800,000 civilians displaced by the ongoing war, according to the UN.

The Democratic Republic of Congo army has reported on Tuesday they had pushed back Laurent Nkunda’s rebels in North-Kivu after six hours of intense fighting. The current conflict has resulted in nineteen deaths.

For more information, please see:

AFP – “DR Congo troops push back insurgents; 19 dead”  –  18 December 2007

BBC – Dr Congo Invites Rebels to Talks  –  18 December 2007

AFP – Congolese authorities announce Kivu peace conference   – 18 December 2007

BRIEF: Nauru Seeks Meetings With Australia on Facility Closure

YAREN, Nauru – Australia announced last month that it plans to close its detention facility on Nauru, sparking concerns for Nauru’s economic well-being.  Naruru Foreign Minister, David Adeang, said that the Australian facility provides 20% of Nauru’s GDP.

Since its bankruptcy in 2002, Nauru has become increasingly dependent on Australian aid, and much of Nauru’s annual aid package from Australia is tied to the facility, which former Australian official Mark Thompson characterized as “an unmitigated bribe”.

Nauru MP Kieran Keke said in a statement last week, “The financial arrangement with Australia, combined with initiatives like the resumption of phosphate mining, has helped turn the country around from the brink of economic collapse […] We sincerely hope the Australian government will continue to support our efforts to upgrade our health and education programs, to name just two.  Restoring important infrastructure like the power system is also a priority for us.”

The Nauru government is now seeking to meet with Australia to discuss how Nauru will adapt when the facility is shut down.  Australia has not yet given a time frame for the closure.

For more information, please see:

Impunity Watch – Rudd Gov’t to Close Nauru Detention Facility – 26 November 2007

The Age – Nauru fears gap when camps close – 11 December 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Nauru opposition calls for Australian support as camps set to close – 13 December 2007

Sydney Morning Herald – Australian govt exit worries Nauru MP – 13 December 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Nauru Government seeks early meeting with Canberra to discuss cost of camp shut down – 17 December 2007

BRIEF: Kidnapping in Somalia

BOSASSO, Somalia – French journalist Gwen Le Gouil was kidnapped in Puntland, Somalia. According to conflicting reports either three or five armed men abducted the journalist two days ago after he arrived in the city from Mogadishu. Le Gouil, an Albert Londres award winner for his report on humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka, was researching a story on human trafficking in Somalia when the attack occurred.

The kidnappers have demanded $70,000 (£35,000) ransom for Le Gouil’s release. According to Puntland’s deputy Governor Yusuf Mumin Bidde, government officials and elders were dispatched to Puntland to negotiate with the abductors. However, reports speculate that Le Gouil has been moved to Marero, after kidnappers opened fire on negotiators today.

Once known for its stability, Puntland, a port town of Bosasso, has been the center of recent kidnapping, hijacking and piracy.

In the meantime, there are reports that Somalia pirates attacked an Italian-owned cargo ship, MV Jolly Turchese, today. The Italian Ministry has not received any information or communication from the ship, and Andrew Mwangura, director of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, says the information is sketchy. Mwangura believes the ship was headed to Kenya’s Mombasa port after delivering cargo through the Suez canal when it was attacked off the coast of Somalia. Presently it is unknown if the ship and its crew were captured or if they escaped.

For more information please see:

BBC- French newsman ‘safe’ in Somalia – 17 December 2007

Reuters: Africa- Suspect pirates attack Italian ship – group – 17 December 2007

Reuters: Africa- Gunmen kidnap French journalist in North Somalia – 16 December 2007

AllAfrica.com- Somalia: French Journalist Kidnapped By Armed Men – 17 December 2007

Brief: Catholic Priest Stabbed in Turkey

Italian Priest Adriano Franchini was stabbed following mass by a 19 year old assailant.  The attacker observed mass with the priest’s congregation but became violent and angry following a brief conversation with the Priest.  The stabbing was in the stomach and the injuries were not life threatening.

The stabbing follows a line of similar cases where Christians have been attacked in Turkey.  The recent string of attacks on Christian leaders began in February 2006.  A 16 year old shot a Catholic priest, while he was kneeling in prayer, in response to the European newspaper caricatures of the Muhammad.  There has been many more killings and attacks against priests and clerics in all regions of Turkey.  Recently, the gruesome killing of three Christians who throats were slit has undergone investigation to determine whether police officers aided the killers. (See story)

Christians comprise less than one percent of Turkey’s population.  However, the Christians are committed to staying in Turkey despite the attacks.  A catholic bishop remarked, “our will to remain here is stronger after these attacks. However, while the Turkish population is generally good, such events attest that there is a sick branch in the big tree of the local population.”  (AP)

For more information, please see:

AP- Priest Attacked, Hurt in Turkey- 17 December 2007

Guardian Unlimited- Priest stabbed after Sunday mass in Turkey- 17 December 2007

VOA News- Italian Catholic Priest Stabbed in Western Turkey- 16 December 2007

BRIEF: US Reacts to Azeri Reporter’s Jailing

NAKCHIVAN, Azerbaijan – US Deputy State Secretary Daniel Fried has expressed concern over detention of a journalist working for US-funded radio station in Azerbaijan. Fried’s statement on Saturday comes a week after the United States said it was “deeply disturbed” by imprisonment of Ilgar Nasibov, calling it a sign of deteriorating media freedom in the country.

Nasibov was jailed on December 6 after turning up at court expecting to be released after being cleared of defamation suit brought by Nakhchivan City Police Department Deputy Chief. Instead, a judge tried Nasibov without counsel, and sentenced him to serve three months in jail.

Azerbaijan is the leading jailer of journalist in Europe and Central Asia and has the fifth-highest number of reporters behind bars worldwide. It is also among the places where press freedom has deteriorated the most over the last five years according to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) research.

For More Information, please see:

TODAY.AZ – Daniel Fried: “Strong countries do not send their reporters to jail” – 15 December 2007

Press TV – US condemns Azeri reporter’s arrest – 9 December 2007

AFP – US ‘disturbed by imprisonment of journalist in Azerbaijan – 8 December 2007

CPJ – Tenth Azerbaijani jounalist imprisoned – 6 December 2007

CPJ – Backsliders – 2 May 2007

UPDATE: Papua Human Rights Lawyer Charged

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Sabar Iwanggin, a lawyer working for the human rights organization Elsham, was arrested in October for forwarding a text message that read, “The president has an agenda of wiping out Papuans by poisoning food and hiring members of the army as doctors, restaurant workers, and motorcycle taxi drivers to kill Papuans.”  (Please see the Impunity Watch report on his arrest here.)  Iwanggin was formally charged this week with insulting the president.

Iwanggin will be transferred to a community prison is Abepura to await trial.

Elsham co-worker Paula Makabori said that Iwanggin is being unfairly singled out for a text message that was received and forwarded by thousands of others.  She told Radio New Zealand International, “Why don’t those thousands of other people be put into the jails together with Sabar?  Because they all received the same SMS and for writing to their friends and families because of their concern about human rights in West Papua and the deteriorating situation over there.”

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International – Papua human rights campaigner charged over SMS messages – 12 December 2007

Iraq: 25 Killed in Triple Car Bombing and Mass Grave Found

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq- On Wednesday three bombs went off simultaneously killing 25 people and wounding 135 others.  Although  initial reports that were released had stated that 45 people were killed, the death count was lowered.

Prime Minister Al Maliki remarked that the bombings were “desperate attempt” to take away from the success that has been ongoing by the Iraqi security forces.  (Gulf Daily News)

Although no group has yet claimed the attack, car bombs are weapon of choice for Al-Qaida and Sunni extremists.  These groups have been forced out of Baghdad and so should not pose a substantial threat to southern Iraq’s stability.

In contrast, there are rumors that the local Shiite militias are linked to Iran.  If they are backed by Iran and are seeking to assert their influence on the region it could be a threat to the Iraqi Security forces.  Especially since British troops have planned on pulling troops from the region by the end of the year.

However, the bombing should not affect the transfer.  An Iraqi official stated that “(The bombing) has nothing to do with Basra.  The handover will go on ahead on December 16.  The quality of the forces in Basra is excellent.”  (Gulf Times)

A bombing also occurred in the Kurdish dominated Town of Khanaquin killing four and injuring twelve.  Three police were among those who were injured.

Also Wednesday, a mass grave containing 16 bodies was unearthed.  All 16 corpses were men.  Twelve of the men were decapitated and the other four were mutilated.  Al-Qaida is reported to have killed and mutilated the men.

For more information, please see:

CNN- Troops discover mass grave in Iraq- 13 December 2007

AP- Iraqi City Mourns After Deadly Bombing- 13 December 2007

Gulf Daily News- Market blasts kill 40 in Iraq- 13 December 2007

Washington Post- Triple Car Bombing Kills 46 in S. Iraq- 13 December 2007

Los Angeles Times- As one Iraqi city reels, others are hit- 13 December 2007