Khmer Rouge Defendant Weeps during Return to Killing Fields

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – During an investigative reenactment, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, was brought to tears as he lead tribunal judges and co-investigators through the Tuol Sleng Torture Center he once oversaw during the Khmer Rouge regime.

During the 3 ½ hour tour, Kaing Guek Eav explained what took place at the torture center and nearby killing fields. Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesmen, told reporters, “We noticed that he was feeling pity, tears were rolling down his face two or three times.” Kaing Guek Eav was also especially moved when he stood before a tree that described how executioners killed child victims by bashing their heads against the tree’s trunk.

At the end of the reenactment, Kaing Guek Eav began to pray and cried in front of a glass-fronted stupa that displayed 8,985 skulls bearing signs of death by hammers, bamboo sticks, and bullets.

The reenactment took place last Tuesday and was closed to the public and media. About 80 tribunal participants took part. The group included judges, prosecutors, lawyers, representatives of victims, and witnesses.  During the tour, Kaing Guek Eav appeared frail and walked through the fields with the assistance of a guard.

Kaing Guek Eav was commander of the Khmer Rouge’s torture center, Tuol Sleng. Nearly 16,000 men, women, and children were tortured at the Tuol Sleng and then executed at the nearby killing fields. Only 16 persons are believed to have survived their time there.

For more information, please see:

AP – Khmer Rouge Defendant Visits Grave Site – 26 February 2008

Earthtimes – Former Khmer Rouge Jailer Returns to Cambodian “Killing Fields” –26 February 2008

The Press Association – Khmer Rouge Accused at Death Sites – 26 February 2008

BRIEF: Women in Afghanistan in Danger

KABUL, Afghanistan- Seven years after the Taleban regime ended, women in Afghanistan are still plagued by extremely high rates of violence.  High levels of poverty are causing families to sell their daughters into forced marriage.  Some of these girls are as young as six and they are being forced into a life of slavery and rape, often by multiple members of their new families.

In 2007, the Afghan government passed a law banning marriage to girls under 16 years old.  Despite this, in 57 per cent of marriages the bride is under 16 according to a recent report by Womankind Worldwide.  There are laws in place to protect women, but the Afghan government does not enforce them.

Because of their violent home situations, many of these women turn to self-harm and suicide.

For more information, please see:

The Independent – Women’s lives worse than ever – 25 February 2008

BBC News – Afghan women ‘remain in danger’ – 25 February 2008

Gazans Form Human Chain

NEW YORK, United States – Human Rights Watch and the Moroccan Human Rights Association called on the Moroccan government to protect the rights to privacy and a fair trial.  In November 2007, six men were arrested and later convicted under Article 489 of the penal code, which criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”

The men were arrested after a video of a private party, allegedly including the men, circulated on the internet.  Abdelaziz Nouaydi, a Rabat lawyer on the men’s defense team, said that the men were convicted after the prosecution showed no evidence of any Article 489 violation and only offered the video as evidence.  However, the video showed no indication of sexual activity.  The men were sentenced to imprisonment, ranging from three to ten months.  Article 489 provides a punishment of up to three years imprisonment.

HRW states that criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates international law.  Morocco has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bar interference with the right to privacy.  Also, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that laws that criminalize consensual homosexual conduct violate the ICCPR.

For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – Morocco: Protect Rights to Privacy and Fair Trial – 26 February 2008

Human Rights Watch – Morocco: Overturn Verdicts for Homosexual Conduct – 12 December 20083

Ugandan Peace Deal: End in sight for 22 year war

By Ted Townsend
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, Sudan – The Ugandan Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Rebels signed a deal over the weekend. The deal will include a permanent cease-fire to the twenty-two year war that killed thousands of people and displaced another one to two million. The agreement requires one final step: agreement on the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of the rebel fighters. The official cease-fire will go into effect once the comprehensive peace deal is signed, an event most expected to occur by next weekend. However, negotiators such as UN envoy Joaquim Chissano see this past weekend’s events as “the laying down of arms. . . the end of the war.”

Peace talks began in mid-2006 when the parties signed a cessation of hostilities agreement that required both parties to stop shooting at each other and remain with their weapons. Last week, the peace agreement talks picked up steam when the two parties reached agreements on how to prosecute alleged war criminals and how rehabilitation efforts in war-torn regions would proceed. The progress made was almost lost Friday of last week when members of the LRA stormed out of the peace talks over demands for government positions.

The cease-fire agreement creates a temporary staging area in the southern part of  Sudan where rebels will remain prior to demobilization. The area creates a buffer of six miles (ten kilometers) around the area, which will be guarded by Sudanese troops. The rebel assembly area is on the border between  Sudan and Congo, in a town called Ri-Kwangba. The town has been used previously in the talks as one of the two locations the rebels were to assemble after the initial cessation was signed in 2006. However, the government contends the rebels never honored the assembly area and roamed throughout southern Sudan causing havoc.

Further, in the agreement a provision was left for the UN to play a policing role, assisting in compliance with the cease-fire. This cease-fire has “raised expectations that up to 500,000 of the (estimated) 1.3 million internally displaced people created by 20 years of war could go home in 2008,” according to a U.N. news released. Some refugees have returned to the areas they were displaced from, but aid agencies expect the cease-fire will lead to a “mass return” once finalized.

The revolt against President Yoweri Museveni, aimed at destabilizing the government, has torn apart Northern Uganda since 1986.  The LRA became infamous for their brutal tactics and methodology, including mutilation of their victims and recruitment of child soldiers. The Acholi people of North Uganda have been especially hard hit, suffering from not only the rebel attacks and recruitment but also from rape and other abuses by the military in refugee camps.

As the talks come to a close, LRA leader Joseph Kony is still at large. Kony claimed his power from spiritual authority, and his rebels demanded the Ugandan constitution be replaced with a version of the Ten Commandments. The International Criminal Court has had an outstanding arrest warrant for Kony since 2005. The warrant charges Kony with twenty-one counts of war crimes, including sexual enslavement, rape, directing attacks against civilians, and forced enlisting of children to fight.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post.com – Voting Starts in Remote Areas – 24 February 2008 (free registration required)

International Herald Tribune – Major Step Toward Final Peace Deal in Uganda – 24 February 2008

CNN.com – Ugandan Peace Deal Looms as Rebels, Rulers Sign Cease Fire – 24 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Govt, Rebels Sign Permanent Ceasefire Agreement in Juba  – 24 February 2008

Sify.com – Uganda Signs ceasefire with rebels – 24 February 2008

Impunity Watch – Brief: Second Breakthrough in Uganda Peace Talks this Week – 22 February  2008

Two journalists arrested by military junta in Burma

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

“Burma’s military regime has once again shown its intolerance toward different political viewpoints by arresting journalists who were doing nothing more than reporting news and opinions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The Burmese government arrested two journalists Thet Zin and Sein Win Aung of Myanmar Nation magazine.  Both journalists were taken after police and intelligence officers carried out a four-hour search of the publication office, and confiscated many documents which included a copy of Human Rights Report on Burma by Paulo Sergio Pinherio, videos of last September’s anti-government protests and hand-written poems.  It was unclear under what specific charges the two journalists were being held.

Thet Zin’s wife Khin Swe Myint said that the journal is “published officially after clearance from the Censorship Board.”  According to Aung Din, Director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, Thet Zin told his wife Khin Swe Myint in a visit that he will be transferred to Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison soon.  Thet Zin did not tell his wife the nature of the charges he is facing, but he told her the prison term could amount to 10 years.

The editor, Thet Zin, has been an anti-government activist and critic.  He was arrested and tortured in 1988 for his participation in pro-democracy student protests during which the government killed as many as 3,000 protestors.  Throughout the 1990s, Thet Zin was occasionally detained and interrogated by officials.

Four days after the arrest, and interrogating the two reporters, the authorities raided the publication office again, and confiscated more documents.  Later, the censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, instructed the publisher to stop publishing the weekly journal.  According to Human Rights Watch reports, Burma’s government continues to sharply restrict media freedoms by requiring all domestic copy to be approved by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division of the Ministry of Information.  Journalists are routinely banned from publishing any material that contains criticism of the current government or positive towards the political opposition.

According to The Associated Press, the country’s ruling junta surprisingly announced last week that a new draft constitution to replace the one scrapped in 1988 is ready for submission to a national referendum. The new charter is supposed to lead to a general election in 2010. It was the first time the military government had set dates to carry out what it calls its road map to democracy.  However, “The arrests of journalists and repression of access to information deny the Burmese people any real opportunity to debate the proposed new constitution,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

For more information, please see:

Asian Tribune – Burma’s Media completely under military dictatorship – 20 February 2008

The Committee to Protect Journalists – BURMA:Two journalists arrested by military junta – 19 February 2008

Human Rights Watch – Burma: Arrest of Journalists Highlights Junta’s Intolerance – 19 February 2008

BRIEF: UK Troops May Have Executed 20 Iraqis

LONDON, England—Attorneys representing five Iraqi men released evidence that alleging that British soldiers tortured and executed up to 20 Iraqis after a battle in 2004.

The British military denied the claims, and said that the dead were insurgents that were killed in a gun battle after ambushing British troops.

Martyn Day and Phil Shiner, the attorneys representing the five Iraqis, said that witness testimony, death certificates and video footage of mutilated bodies all support their claims.  All five of the Iraqis claim to be laborers who were caught in the middle of the violence.  The lawyers have asked the British High Court to order a public inquiry into the May 14, 2004 battle near the town of Al Majar Al Kabir.

Day and Shiner claim that the five Iraqis were handcuffed and blindfolded and could hear other men screaming, moaning in pain and choking.  The men also claim to have heard gunfire.

Day said that the nature of a number of the injuries of the Iraqis would seem to be highly unusual in a battlefield.

“For example, quite how so many of the Iraqis sustained single gunshots to the head and from seemingly at close quarter, how did two of them end with their eyes gouged out, how did one have his penis cut off [and] some have torture wounds?” Day said.

The attorneys for the five men have called for the ongoing investigation, being conducted by the Royal Military Police be taken over by Scotland Yard.

For more information, please see:
Associated Press – UK Troops May Have Executed Iraqis – 23 February 2008

Gulf News – UK Troops Killed 20 Iraqis In Their Custody, Claim Lawyers – 23 February 2008

BBC – Claim UK Troops ‘Executed’ Iraqis – 22 February 2008

The Guardian – British troops executed 20 captives in southern Iraq, say lawyers– 22 February 2008

Brief: Kenyan Peace Talks Faltering

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kofi Anan, the moderator of the peace talks in Kenya, is intervening due to a failure of the two sides to reach agreement. Anan is going to talk to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM,) in an effort to get the talks back on track. The dispute is over the powers to be ceded to the newly agreed upon post of prime minister which is to be occupied by Odinga if it is created as talks have suggested it will be.

The ODM has said it will resume mass protests this Thursday if agreement is not reached.

Some government leaders believe the final plan should be put to the people for a referendum.

It is now estimated that 1,500 people have been killed since the late December 2007 election.

BBC News – Kenya peace talks reach impasse – 25 February 2008

Reuters – Annan meets rivals to break Kenya talks stalemate – 25 January 2008

Impunity Watch – UPDATE: AU Chairman Pushes for Agreement in Kenya – 22 February 2008

BRIEF: UNAMID Reports Renewed Aerial Bombings in Darfur

DARFUR, Sudan – There is serious concern for the safety of thousands of civilians in the Jebel Moun area of Darfur where the Sudanese Military is reported to have renewed its bombing campaign. UNAMID, the joint African Union and United Nations mission in Sudan received reports of aerial bombings conducted by the Sudanese government. The conflict started five years ago and has resulted in 200,000 casualties and over 2.5 million homeless persons. The UN estimates that there are 20,000 people in the Moun area.

China is under increasing pressure to use its influence over Sudan to help resolve the situation. China is expected to provide $11 million dollars in humanitarian assistance this week. China played down allegations that its arms sales to Sudan have helped fuel the conflict saying that even if they were to stop selling arms to Sudan this would only account for 8% of the countries arms imports.

UNAMID began deploying troops in the region in January and thus far the UNAMID force consists of only 9,000 of its full force level of 26,000.

BBC News – Sudan ‘renews Darfur air strikes’ – 24 February 2008

Reuters  – Darfuris caught in crossfire as Sudan bombs rebels-UN – 24 February 2008

BRIEF: Turkey Continues Northern Iraqi Invasion

The Turkish military launched a land invasion into the Matin mountains of N. Iraq to hunt down the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).  A discrepancy between the reported casualties suffered by each side exists. Turkish reports state that they have killed 147 PKK members and lost only 15 casualties.  (Guardian Unlimited)  However, the PKK reporting killing 47 Turkish soldiers and only losing two soldiers. (Times Online) The Turkish force is comprised of 5,000 soldiers and 60 tanks.  As the fighting continues, it may continue to destabilize the region.

A solution to create lasting peace will be is almost impossible, because of the intensity of each party’s goal.  The Turkish military wants to completely eliminate the PKK.  The PKK wants to carve out an independent Kurdish nation for the 14 million Kurds living in Turkey.  However, since the Turks believe that the PKK rebels are hiding in the Kurdish region of N. Iraq to situation has increased complexity.  The northern Iraqi Kurds have promised not to betray fellow Kurds, despite its own desire for peace in the region and the urging of its American benefactors.  The United States, an ally of Turkey, has given the Turkish military access to American intelligence.  Therefore, a truce will be difficult to be worked out because of the tangled web of competing interests.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian- Turks send more tanks into Iraq against PKK- 25 February 2008

Times Online- PKK guerrillas seek help from Iraq Kurds- 25 February 2008

Hamas Imam Dies in West Bank Prison

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Editor, Middle East

KOBAR, West Bank – On February 22, Majd al-Barghouthi died in a prison while in the custody of the Palestinian Authority (PA).  According to a senior PA security official, Barghouti was arrested on suspicion of membership in Hamas and “incitement” against the PA leadership.  The Jerusalem Post stated that al-Barghouthi was arrested on February 14, as he left his mosque, where he served as an imam.

While the official autopsy report stated that al-Barghouthi died as a result of a heart attack, his family claims that he was tortured to death by PA interrogators.  A statement released by the Palestinian Security revealed that al-Barghouthi was rushed to Khalil Hospital in Ramallah two days before his death, after he complained of pain in his abdomen.  After he was examined, doctors determined that he did not need hospitalization.  Then, on February 22, al-Barghouthi was taken to Khalid hospital, after he complained of pain in his chest.  He died shortly after.

According to Seif Barghouthi, the family learned of the torture from four men, who were arrested with al-Barghouthi and were released after his death.  One of the released detainees, Azzam Sahel, said that he was forced to stay in painful positions, including standing on his toes for extended periods, and was forced to sleep on a wet floor in nothing but a shirt and his underwear.  Sahel said that he could hear al-Barghouthi in a nearby cell shouting for help repeatedly, but that he did not witness actual mistreatment.

As rumors of mistreatment spread, members of al-Barghouthi’s family began calling for an independent investigation into his death.  On February 22 and 23, members of his family blocked a main road near Kobar with rocks and burning tires, demanding that his interrogators be put on trial.

On February 24, thousands of Hamas supporters gathered in Kobar and marched as al-Barghouthi’s funeral.  Some 3,000 supporters carried his body, which was draped in a green Hamas flag, and shouted slogans against PA such as Fayyad and Abbas’ intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi.

PA security officials have not commented on al-Barghouthi’s death, besides to say that the cause of death was a heart attack.  On February 23, Abbas called for an investigation into al-Barghouthi’s death.  However, relatives and Hamas denounce any PA investigation, and will only permit an autopsy if monitored by an independent observer.

al-Barghouthi’s death occurs during a time of increased tensions between Fatah and Hamas.  Tensions increased following Hamas’s forceful takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007.  Following Fatah’s ouster from Gaza, dozens of Hamas members and leaders in the West Bank have been arrested and detained by PA officials.  Hamas officials accuse Abbas and Fatah of “factional cleansing” in the West Bank, which continues to be under the control of Fatah.

For more information, please see:
AFP – Crowds Vow Revenge at West Bank Funeral of Hamas Imam – 24 February 2008

Associated Press – Hamas Members Turn Funeral into Protest – 24 February 2008

International Middle East Media Center – President Abbas Orders a Probe into  Death of Political Prisoner in a PA Prison – 24 February 2008

Jerusalem Post – Hamas: PA Violating Detainees’ Human Rights – 24 February 2008

Reuters – Hamas says Leader Killed to Extract “Sham Confession” – 24 February 2008

Associated Press – Fatah-Hamas Tensions Over Prisoner Death – 23 February 2008

International Herald Tribune – Hamas Preacher Dies in Palestinian lockup; Family Alleges he was Tortured – 23 February 2008

Yedioth – Hamas: Palestinian Authority  Worse than Israel – 23 February 2008

Al Jazeeera – West Bank Protest Over Hamas Death – 22 February 2008

Ethnic Unrest in Nepal Includes Children Protesters

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

KATHMUNDU, Nepal – The United Nations Children Fund [UNICEF] and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR] in Nepal have expressed deep concern for children taking part in the increasing violent protests.

Currently, there have been ethnic protests in Southern Nepal, which have cut off fuel from the capital. The United Democratic Mahadesi Front [UDMF] have called for a general strike until ethnic Mahadesis from the impoverished Terari region have more of a say in the country’s governance. The UDMF have stopped fuel shipments to the capital by blocking the main road.

UNICEF and OHCHR both have confirmed reports that children are taking part in the violent protests and strikes. In Neplgunj, children from the ages of 7 to 15 were seen carrying sticks and supporting a general strike. In Duhabi, numerous children were seen carrying sticks while guarding a roadblock. Additionally, the agencies report that thousands of children in Terari have stopped attending school since the general strike began.

In light of the fact that protests have gotten increasingly violent, the agencies both urge that adults respect the rights of children and do their part to avoid children from participating. Thus far, two protestors have been killed, and numerous have been injured. Among those that are injured, there are reports that a fourteen year old boy was injured by a bullet.

In a statement from the agencies, they wrote, “People under eighteen must not be forced, coerced or bribed into participating in political activities. Any participation must be voluntary, with consideration given as to whether they fully understand the implications of their participation. Children should not be armed under any circumstances.” The agencies also reminded all concerning parties that Section 23 of the Election Code of Conduct of 2007 states that no children should be brought to participate in any kind of procession, mass meeting or rally, or in any election-related publicity activity.

Negotiations have begun between the government and the UDMF to end the protests and general strike. The Nepalese government stated that it was hopeful that negotiations can bring an end to the ethnic protests and help the parties reach an understanding.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Nepal Government Hopeful to End Ethnic Unrest – 22 February 2008

Chinaview – UN Bodies Express Concern Over Use of Children in Protests in S.Nepal – 22 February 2008

The Hindu News – UN Concerned Over Use of Children in Protests in Nepal – 23 February 2008

Update on Charles Taylor Trial

By Ted Townsend
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor continued into its sixth week with the testimony of two more prosecution witnesses. Aruna Gbona (“Gbona”), prosecution witness TF1-330, testified first with the majority of his testimony focusing on the forced labor of civilians by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Following the close of Gbona’s testimony, prosecution witness TF1-275 Foday Lansana (“Lansana”), a former RUF radio operator, took the stand, and testified about coordination between Taylor’s forces and RUF commanders.

Gbona testified over the course of two days, mostly with regards to the period between 1996 and 2000, when he was forced to work for the rebels. All groups of civilians working for the rebels during this time had a solider in charge of the group, called a G5.  Each G5 had a group of rebel soldiers with him, many of whom were from eight to ten years old. The G5’s and their soldiers forced the civilians to farm, fish, mine and hunt in their native villages and nearby towns. All harvests, catches and kills had to be immediately turned over to the rebels. Gbona “considered this procedure to be slavery: before the war he could cultivate the land pace and the harvest would be for him and his family to eat and to sell.”

Gbona further testified about the physical ramifications for the civilians. When they wouldn’t work to the rebels desired level, or when they were reluctant to work, beatings ensued. Moreover, the rate of hernias during the rebel occupation rose significantly due to the heavy loads the civilians were often required to carry for the rebels. Women, in addition to the forced labor, also were often forced into marriage with the rebels.

The defense did not have any questions for Gbona.

Prosecutor Christopher Santora next called Lansana to the stand.  The questioning began focusing mostly on his background. Lansana, a native Liberian, was recruited by the National Freedom Party of Liberia (NFPL) from a refugee camp and trained to be a radio operator. He was posted in Monrovia at a Coca Cola factory that doubled as a base, where, on the second day of his posting, he witnessed a meeting between Taylor and more than 25 members of his special forces. Taylor told those assembled that jets from Sierra Leone were “killing people” and that he would “inform the world that Sierra Leone had been used as a base to kill his people.”

Lansana was later sent to the RUF/NFPL headquarters for Lofa County, Liberia, where he witnessed troops, weapons and supplies going in and out of Sierra Leone. He recounted to the court that, in order to disguise the groups operations in Sierra Leone, they would refer to Sierra Leone as “Kuwait,” because of the perceived wealth of the country. Later, Lansana himself was sent with a group of reinforcement troops into Sierra Leone and charged with installing a radio at RUF commander Foday Sankoh’s house. This radio allowed Sankoh to communicate with Taylor, code name “Butterfly.”

Christopher Santora’s questioning of Lansana continued for two days, covering everything from the development of radio communication and technical explanations of how the communications were conducted, to specific facts regards communications between the witness and specific commanders. He specifically recounted the procedure for passing on messages and instruction from Sankoh, who had been imprisoned, to Taylor.

Lansana was also questioned about his own personal arrest, on 14 counts of shooting with intent, a sentence which he served ten years for. He did not recall what the arrest was for, but believed it to be in relation to a 2000 incident where 15 civilians were shot at Sankoh’s home.

True to their strategy with other witnesses, he defense began its cross examination of Lansana mostly by reviewing details, and small factual discrepancies in his testimony. They also explored possible benefits he may have received in exchange for his testimony.

For more information, please see:

allAfrica.com – Prosecution Witness Describes RUF Use of Civilian Forced Labor – 20 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Former NPFL/RUF Radio Operator Testifies – 21 February 2008

The Trial of Charles Taylor –Prosecution’s Examination of Foday Lansana Completed; Defense Counsel Begins Cross-Examination of Lansana – accessed 22 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Taylor’s Defense Team Pleased With Trial – 21 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Lansana Testifies Concerning Communications Between Taylor and Sankoh – 22 February 2008

Impunity Watch –  Update on Charles Taylor Trial – 16 February

Update on Charles Taylor Trial

By Ted Townsend
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor continued into its sixth week with the testimony of two more prosecution witnesses. Aruna Gbona (“Gbona”), prosecution witness TF1-330, testified first with the majority of his testimony focusing on the forced labor of civilians by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Following the close of Gbona’s testimony, prosecution witness TF1-275 Foday Lansana (“Lansana”), a former RUF radio operator, took the stand, and testified about coordination between Taylor’s forces and RUF commanders.

Gbona testified over the course of two days, mostly with regards to the period between 1996 and 2000, when he was forced to work for the rebels. All groups of civilians working for the rebels during this time had a solider in charge of the group, called a G5.  Each G5 had a group of rebel soldiers with him, many of whom were from eight to ten years old. The G5’s and their soldiers forced the civilians to farm, fish, mine and hunt in their native villages and nearby towns. All harvests, catches and kills had to be immediately turned over to the rebels. Gbona “considered this procedure to be slavery: before the war he could cultivate the land pace and the harvest would be for him and his family to eat and to sell.”

Gbona further testified about the physical ramifications for the civilians. When they wouldn’t work to the rebels desired level, or when they were reluctant to work, beatings ensued. Moreover, the rate of hernias during the rebel occupation rose significantly due to the heavy loads the civilians were often required to carry for the rebels. Women, in addition to the forced labor, also were often forced into marriage with the rebels.

The defense did not have any questions for Gbona.

Prosecutor Christopher Santora next called Lansana to the stand.  The questioning began focusing mostly on his background. Lansana, a native Liberian, was recruited by the National Freedom Party of Liberia (NFPL) from a refugee camp and trained to be a radio operator. He was posted in Monrovia at a Coca Cola factory that doubled as a base, where, on the second day of his posting, he witnessed a meeting between Taylor and more than 25 members of his special forces. Taylor told those assembled that jets from Sierra Leone were “killing people” and that he would “inform the world that Sierra Leone had been used as a base to kill his people.”

Lansana was later sent to the RUF/NFPL headquarters for Lofa County, Liberia, where he witnessed troops, weapons and supplies going in and out of Sierra Leone. He recounted to the court that, in order to disguise the groups operations in Sierra Leone, they would refer to Sierra Leone as “Kuwait,” because of the perceived wealth of the country. Later, Lansana himself was sent with a group of reinforcement troops into Sierra Leone and charged with installing a radio at RUF commander Foday Sankoh’s house. This radio allowed Sankoh to communicate with Taylor, code name “Butterfly.”

Christopher Santora’s questioning of Lansana continued for two days, covering everything from the development of radio communication and technical explanations of how the communications were conducted, to specific facts regards communications between the witness and specific commanders. He specifically recounted the procedure for passing on messages and instruction from Sankoh, who had been imprisoned, to Taylor.

Lansana was also questioned about his own personal arrest, on 14 counts of shooting with intent, a sentence which he served ten years for. He did not recall what the arrest was for, but believed it to be in relation to a 2000 incident where 15 civilians were shot at Sankoh’s home.

True to their strategy with other witnesses, he defense began its cross examination of Lansana mostly by reviewing details, and small factual discrepancies in his testimony. They also explored possible benefits he may have received in exchange for his testimony.

For more information, please see:

allAfrica.com – Prosecution Witness Describes RUF Use of Civilian Forced Labor – 20 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Former NPFL/RUF Radio Operator Testifies – 21 February 2008

The Trial of Charles Taylor –Prosecution’s Examination of Foday Lansana Completed; Defense Counsel Begins Cross-Examination of Lansana – accessed 22 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Taylor’s Defense Team Pleased With Trial – 21 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Lansana Testifies Concerning Communications Between Taylor and Sankoh – 22 February 2008

Impunity Watch –  Update on Charles Taylor Trial – 16 February

Update on Charles Taylor Trial

By Ted Townsend
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor continued into its sixth week with the testimony of two more prosecution witnesses. Aruna Gbona (“Gbona”), prosecution witness TF1-330, testified first with the majority of his testimony focusing on the forced labor of civilians by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Following the close of Gbona’s testimony, prosecution witness TF1-275 Foday Lansana (“Lansana”), a former RUF radio operator, took the stand, and testified about coordination between Taylor’s forces and RUF commanders.

Gbona testified over the course of two days, mostly with regards to the period between 1996 and 2000, when he was forced to work for the rebels. All groups of civilians working for the rebels during this time had a solider in charge of the group, called a G5.  Each G5 had a group of rebel soldiers with him, many of whom were from eight to ten years old. The G5’s and their soldiers forced the civilians to farm, fish, mine and hunt in their native villages and nearby towns. All harvests, catches and kills had to be immediately turned over to the rebels. Gbona “considered this procedure to be slavery: before the war he could cultivate the land pace and the harvest would be for him and his family to eat and to sell.”

Gbona further testified about the physical ramifications for the civilians. When they wouldn’t work to the rebels desired level, or when they were reluctant to work, beatings ensued. Moreover, the rate of hernias during the rebel occupation rose significantly due to the heavy loads the civilians were often required to carry for the rebels. Women, in addition to the forced labor, also were often forced into marriage with the rebels.

The defense did not have any questions for Gbona.

Prosecutor Christopher Santora next called Lansana to the stand.  The questioning began focusing mostly on his background. Lansana, a native Liberian, was recruited by the National Freedom Party of Liberia (NFPL) from a refugee camp and trained to be a radio operator. He was posted in Monrovia at a Coca Cola factory that doubled as a base, where, on the second day of his posting, he witnessed a meeting between Taylor and more than 25 members of his special forces. Taylor told those assembled that jets from Sierra Leone were “killing people” and that he would “inform the world that Sierra Leone had been used as a base to kill his people.”

Lansana was later sent to the RUF/NFPL headquarters for Lofa County, Liberia, where he witnessed troops, weapons and supplies going in and out of Sierra Leone. He recounted to the court that, in order to disguise the groups operations in Sierra Leone, they would refer to Sierra Leone as “Kuwait,” because of the perceived wealth of the country. Later, Lansana himself was sent with a group of reinforcement troops into Sierra Leone and charged with installing a radio at RUF commander Foday Sankoh’s house. This radio allowed Sankoh to communicate with Taylor, code name “Butterfly.”

Christopher Santora’s questioning of Lansana continued for two days, covering everything from the development of radio communication and technical explanations of how the communications were conducted, to specific facts regards communications between the witness and specific commanders. He specifically recounted the procedure for passing on messages and instruction from Sankoh, who had been imprisoned, to Taylor.

Lansana was also questioned about his own personal arrest, on 14 counts of shooting with intent, a sentence which he served ten years for. He did not recall what the arrest was for, but believed it to be in relation to a 2000 incident where 15 civilians were shot at Sankoh’s home.

True to their strategy with other witnesses, he defense began its cross examination of Lansana mostly by reviewing details, and small factual discrepancies in his testimony. They also explored possible benefits he may have received in exchange for his testimony.

For more information, please see:

allAfrica.com – Prosecution Witness Describes RUF Use of Civilian Forced Labor – 20 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Former NPFL/RUF Radio Operator Testifies – 21 February 2008

The Trial of Charles Taylor –Prosecution’s Examination of Foday Lansana Completed; Defense Counsel Begins Cross-Examination of Lansana – accessed 22 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Taylor’s Defense Team Pleased With Trial – 21 February 2008

allAfrica.com – Lansana Testifies Concerning Communications Between Taylor and Sankoh – 22 February 2008

Impunity Watch –  Update on Charles Taylor Trial – 16 February

Beijing relocates 15,000 people for Olympic Games

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Beijing, China – The city’s Olympics organizing committee said 14,901 people from 6,307 households had been relocated for Olympics Game venues.  The figures are dramatically different from those provided last year by an international campaign group.  The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) said an estimated 1.25 million people had been displaced ahead of the Games, often in a brutal and arbitrary manner with little compensation.  COHRE described the situation as an “abysmal disregard” for the basic human right to housing.

However, Chinese officials said everyone who was relocated did so voluntarily, and with adequate compensation.  According to Zhang Jiaming, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Construction Committee, “the relocation projects enjoyed the support of residents involved…All the relocated households signed the relocation agreements and move voluntarily; no one was forced our of their home.”  Zhang also indicated the average compensation per household for relocation was enough to allow some displaced resident to buy better housing and some could even afford a car with left over money.

The key issue remains for this massive relocation is the lack of transparency.  According to Nicholas Bequelin, who is a researcher for Human Rights Watch, “People did get money and were resettled, but what is important is what happened to the people who protested. Many people were taken to police stations or threatened with job dismissal.”  In addition, Human Rights Watch reports show that much of the compensation money was embezzled by corrupt local officials, many relocations were forced by using heavy-handed police tactics, and there was no opportunity to object when compensation did not match the value of people’s home.

In recent years, evictions from homes and farmland have caused widespread protests across China.  Residents are often frustrated with government’s inadequate compensation and corruption.  Last year, police were deployed to evict protesters on the construction site of the new state television network headquarters in Beijing.

For more information, please see:

AP – Beijing Olympic official says people evicted got generous compensation – 19 February 2008

BBC News – ‘Thousands’ moved for China Games – 20 February 2008

Reuters – Beijing says 15,000 relocated for Games venues – 19 February 2008

The Washington Post – China Defends Relocation Policy – 20 February 2008