BRIEF: Fiji Supports Chinese Actions in Tibet

SUVA, Fiji — Cutting against the grain of the common international sentiment, the Fiji’s interim government has thrown its support behind the Chinese government in their recent handling of the riots in the Tibetan city of Lhasa. 

The Permanent secretary to the interim Prime Minster, Parmesh Chand, confirmed that the interim Prime Minister had written to the Chinese government to officially express his support.  According to Chand, the PM Bainimarama praised the Chinese government for abiding by the rule of law and stressed that he understood that the situation in Tibet was an internal matter for China to deal with.  Chand also said that it is not uncommon for world leaders to pass along notes like this. 

Concern has grown, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, regarding Fiji’s increased dependence on China.  Since the 2006, Fiji’s relations with Australia and New Zealand have been strained and an increasing amount of Fijian aid is coming from China.  New Zealand Green MP Keith Locke has publically expressed his fears of what a fusion of these alliances and his perception of Fiji’s lack of respect for democracy could mean for the future.  “It’s bad enough that Mr Bainimarama has trampled on democracy in Fiji, without supporting the Beijing’s suppression of Tibetan rights,” he said.  He also called upont the New Zealand government to condemn the Fijian statement. 

For more information, please see:

News Talk ZB — Concern at ties between China and Fiji — 25 March 2008

The Sydney Morning Herald — China applauded for Tibet crackdown — 25 March 2008

Scoop — NZ Govt caught over Bainimarama support for China — 25 March 2008

Radio New Zealand — Fiji supports the Chinese government’s handling of fatal riots in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet — 25 March 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji indicates support for Chinese government’s action in addressing deadly riot in Tibet — 24 March 2008

BRIEF: Two Kurds Killed in Turkey Protests

ISTANBUL, Turkey – On March 24, hundreds of Kurdish protesters threw stones at Turkish police in southeastern Turkey; marking the fifth day of confrontation between the two sides.  Two protestors were killed as a result of the confrontations in cities across the country and dozens more were injured.  Over 130 people were arrested.

In early March, the Turkish military launched an eight-day campaign in northern Iraq, targeting PKK camps.  The continuation of Turkish military operations against Kurdistan’s Working Party (PKK) has caused heightened tensions in Turkey’s mostly-Kurdish southeast.

Police used batons, tear gas and water cannon on protesters in the city of Van.  Thousands of protesters took part in the Van demonstrations, with many of them hurling rocks and chanted slogans in support of the PKK Kurdish rebel group.  Protestors set up barricades and lit fires in the streets.

Clashes took place across the country, with arrests and injuries reported in Hakkari and Siirt.  In Viransehir, protestors threw Molotov cocktails at police.  Unrest was also reported among Kurdish communities in western Turkey, including in Mersin and Izmir.

These recent clashes coincide with the celebration of the Newroz spring festival, also known as the Kurdish New Year.  The holiday is associated with Turkey’s large Kurdish population and often sparks conflict between clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 to make a Kurdish ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.  Since 1984, approximately 40,000people have died in violence between the PKK and the Turkish military.

For more information, please see:
Jerusalem Post – Kurds Clash with Turkish Police for 5th Day; 2 Dead – 24 March 2008

Al Jazeera – Kurds Killed in Turkish Protests – 23 March 2008

Reuters – Kurdish Man Dies in Clash with Turkish Police – 23 March 2008

BBC – Turkish Police Clash with Kurds – 22 March 2008

Nepali Police Arrested over 400 Tibetan Protesters

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KATHMANDU, Nepal – UN officials reports Nepalese police stopped two separate protests by Tibetan exiles and monks in Katmandu, and arrested 475 protesters on Monday as they gathered to protest the recent crackdown on Tibetans in China.  The UN human rights office in Nepal said the arrested included some prominent Nepali human rights activists who joined the protests.

Chanting “China, stop killings in Tibet. UN, we want justice,” the protesters were marching toward the UN offices when police stopped them and snatched their banners.  The protest in Katmandu by 200 Tibetan refugees and monks was broken up by police, who beat them with bamboo sticks and arrested scores, dragging them to trucks and vans to be taken to police stations. Police official Sarad Karki said about 245 demonstrators were arrested in the protest.

Police also stopped a second protest near Singhadurbar, where the prime minister’s office and all government ministries are located, but less force was used.  Police official Sarvendra Khanal said 155 protesters were arrested there.

The UN human rights office said it was deeply concerned at the arbitrary arrests and detentions of several hundred individuals. “These actions by police violate individuals’ basic rights to freedom from arbitrary detention and freedom of movement, in addition to impairing the individuals’ rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” the UN said in a statement.

The Nepali government denied it was using excessive force, saying it was only trying to stop political activities by Tibetans.  “We will not allow any anti-China activities in Nepal and will stop it. The allegations that excessive force was used to break these protests are baseless,” said Modraj Dotel, Nepal’s home ministry spokesman.

For more information, please see:

AP – Nepal Police Arrest Tibetan Protesters – 24 March 2008

CBC News – 400 Tibetan supporters arrested in Kathmandu – 24 March 2008

FOX News – Nepalese Police Beat Back Monks, Refugees in Tibetan Protest; About 475 Arrested – 24 March 2008

Reuters – Tibetans protest in Nepal, 250 detained – 24 March 2008

BRIEF: Dozens Killed in Attacks Throughout Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A series of suicide attacks, shootings, and rocket strikes have claimed dozens of lives this week in Iraq. The sudden rise of violence despite of additional 30,000 troops deployed in critical areas underscore the precarious nature of security in the country.

On early Sunday morning, 13 Iraqi soldiers died when a suicide attacker drove a fuel tanker into an army base in Mosul in northern Iraq. At least 40 people were also injured when the attack caused a massive blast. In other violence:

· Drive-by shooting in a Baghdad market claimed seven lives and injured 16 people

· Rocket strikes in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone killed at least fifteen people, eight of whom were civilians

· A suicide car bomb killed at least three people near Samara

· A roadside bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers close to the city of Kirkuk

Violence in Iraq had declined since the stationing of extra 30,000 troops last June. But this week’s attacks have shown that any improvements made in security can deteriorate anytime.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – 42 die in series of attacks across Iraq – 23 March 2008

BBC News – Dozens die in attacks across Iraq – 23 March 2008

AFP – 54 killed in Iraq bloodshed – 23 March 2008

International Herald Tribune – Rockets hit Green Zone in Iraq – 23 March 2008

BRIEF: This Week’s Pacific Island Forum Will Discuss Fiji Elections

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Leaders from more than 15 nations around the Pacific will converge on Auckland this week for the Pacific Island Forum.  New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the Fiji Times that among the topics to be discussed at the conference is Fiji’s progress towards Democratic elections.  Peters has also said that all Pacific Islanders share the goal of returning Fiji to democratic elections. 

“We will continue to encourage Fiji to build on its preparations for elections, and we all stand ready to assist and encourage this process,” he said.

The Fiji’s interim Foreign Minister has said that he is willing to attend the meeting with an open mind.  At the meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will be asked by the other Foreign Ministers attending the meeting to give a presentation of what has transpired over the last twelve months in Fiji. 

The meeting is set to begin this Wednesday.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times — Forum wants Fiji to return to elections next year says NZ — 24 March 2008

Pacific Magazine — Meeting on Fiji in Auck this week — 24 March 2008

News Talk ZB — Fiji Foreign Minister Has Positive Outlook on Forum Ministers Meeting — 23 March 2008

Fiji Times — Fiji on Forum agenda: Minister — 21 March 2008

Nauru’s President Speaks Out Against Opposition

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

YAREN, Nauru –- Amidst recent political instability, Nauru’s President, Marcus Stephen, has declared the newly appointed parliamentary Speaker, David Adeang, “out of control.” Mr. Adeang, a member of the Opposition, working with Nauru’s former President, Rene Harris, attempted to oust Mr. Stephen with a vote of no confidence on Tuesday.

While Mr. Stephen’s supporters still hold a majority of 9 in the 18 member Parliament, Mr. Adeang’s appointment as Speaker is significant because it allows the Opposition to recall Parliament even when Government Ministers are out of the country and unable to vote.

Eager to remove Mr. Stephen’s government, the Opposition is calling for new elections. In accordance, Mr. Adeang has recommended dissolving Parliament and holding a new round of elections. Mr. Stephen has accused the Speaker of “breaking every parliamentary rule in the book.” 

But Mr. Adeang and the Opposition are justifying last week’s vote of no confidence on the “pollution and phosphate dust emissions” resulting from Nauru’s recent revival of its phosphate industry. Last month’s closing of an Australian detention center has placed nearly ten per cent of Nauruans out of work. The government has been pressed to find alternative solutions for creating a sustainable economy. Phosphate exportation is one of those solutions. 

The mining of phosphate, a mineral used in farm fertilizer, has long been a source of political unrest in Nauru. In the last hundred years, the phosphate industry has been both a blessing, transforming Nauru into one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and a curse, more recently bankrupting the island and ravaging its environment. President Rene Harris, whom the Opposition favors, is credited, at least in part, with causing Nauru’s fall from riches.

Meanwhile, President Stephen has retaliated, calling Mr. Adeang’s environmental reasons for the vote of no confidence a “a red herring being used in an attempt to justify their selfish and uncaring actions, which are not only affecting the smooth conduct of parliament; they are also hurting Nauru’s reputation at a time when genuine progress is being achieved.”

Nauruans are caught in the middle; many favoring a return to prosperity, yet, others unwilling to sacrifice their backyards to dust and phosphate emissions. The majority merely want an end to the political instability.   

If Parliament calls for new elections, however, foreign minister, Dr Kieran Keke, is confident the current Government will prevail.

For more information, please see:

PacNews –- Nauru talks ongoing to find political stability –- 24 March 2008

Pacific Magazine –- Nauru President Claims Parliamentary Speaker “Out of Control” — 22 March 2008

ABC News –- Oppn MP appointed Nauru Speaker –- 20 March 2008

Al Jazeera.net –- Nauru’s riches to rags decline — 17 March 2008

BBC News — Nauru seeks to regain lost fortunes — 15 March 2008

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A series of suicide attacks, shootings, and rocket strikes have claimed dozens of lives this week in Iraq. The sudden rise of violence despite of additional 30,000 troops deployed in critical areas underscore the precarious nature of security in the country. On early Sunday morning, 13 Iraqi soldiers died when a suicide attacker drove a fuel tanker into an army base in Mosul in northern Iraq. At least 40 people were also injured when the attack caused a massive blast. In other violence: · Drive-by shooting in a Baghdad market claimed seven lives and injured 16 people · Rocket strikes in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone killed at least fifteen people, eight of whom were civilians · A suicide car bomb killed at least three people near Samara · A roadside bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers close to the city of Kirkuk Violence in Iraq had declined since the stationing of extra 30,000 troops last June. But this week’s attacks have shown that any improvements made in security can deteriorate anytime. For more information, please see: Associated Press – 42 die in series of attacks across Iraq – 23 March 2008 BBC News – Dozens die in attacks across Iraq – 23 March 2008 AFP – 54 killed in Iraq bloodshed – 23 March 2008 International Herald Tribune – Rockets hit Green Zone in Iraq – 23 March 2008

GAZA CITY, Gaza – On March 20, Hamas accused Egypt of detaining and torturing dozens of Hamas members.  Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum stated that the organization “has expressed its dissatisfaction over the continuing detentions of dozens of Palestinians in Egyptian prisons and denounces the torture which has been inflicted on them.”

Hamas claims that 39 members are currently detained in Egypt and 90 have been released in recent days.  Most were arrested when they entered Egypt in January, along with hundreds of thousands of Gazans, when the border fence near the Rafah crossing was breached.

The alleged torture occurred during interrogations conducted by Egyptian authorities.  The individuals who have been released stated that they were questioned on topics such as the movements of Hamas leaders, such as former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the whereabouts of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, and Hamas activities within Gaza.

Said Siam, former interior minister in the Hamas-led government, strongly condemned the Egyptian authorities.  “The Egyptians aren’t asking anything about what’s happening inside Egypt,” he said. Siam added, “These are the type of questions that only Israeli interrogators would ask.”  Barhum agreed, stating that the questions had nothing to do with Egypt’s security.

For more information, please see:
ABC – Hamas Accuses Egypt of Torturing its Members – 22 March 2008

AFP – Hamas Accuses Egypt of Militant “Torture” – 21 March 2008

BBC – Hamas Men “Tortured by Egyptians” – 21 March 2008

Jerusalem Post – Hamas: Egypt is Torturing Hamas Prisoners – 20 March 2008

UPDATE: Malaysian PM Finally Initiates Reforms

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – In the aftermath of the Barisan National Party’s loss in recent elections, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has begun to initiate reforms to promote transparency and accountability. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi announced that ministers would have to declare their assets and created a smaller 68-member cabinet. In downsizing the cabinet, many unpopular political heavyweights were pushed out, but despite the smaller cabinet, the prime minister included some of his staunchest critics in the cabinet. Human rights lawyer and Bar Council deputy chairman Ragu Kesavan said, “This type of reformist cabinet is long overdue. It seems that the poll losses have forced Badawi to bring in new faces. But will he give them the power and the scope to make changes.”

For more information, please see:

Impunity Watch – UPDATE: Malaysians Protest and Call for Prime Minister’s Resignation After Unprecedented Elections – 14 March 2008

Impunity Watch – Barisan National Party Wins Simple Majority – 8 March 2008

Inter Press Service – Malaysia: Poll Setback Finally Prompts Reforms – 20 March 2008

Bangladesh Contemplates War Trials

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Veterans from Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 have called for war trials. Many allege that their fellow countrymen, who sided with Pakistan at the time, are responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. Former commanders have called for many influential politicians to be tried, including Jamaat-e-Islami who is the leader of Bangladesh’s largest party. To this day, Jamaat-e-Islami’s party calls the war a civil war between Pakistanis and deny a war of liberation ever took place.

The veterans rallied under the banner of the Bangladesh Liberation War Sector Commanders’ Forum. Many veterans that spoke told of their anguish and anger over the long delay in bringing the war criminals to justice. Many of those that attended the forum said they had witnessed Pakistani forces and their collaborators within the country commit much of the carnage. Dr. Mustafisa Rahman, a medic in the Bangladeshi forces, said of the collaborators: “They raped our mothers, they killed our brothers and sisters, they burned our houses, they have done everything.”

The war took place over nine months in 1971 and was won quickly with the support of India. Today, the veterans of the war are considered national heroes. During the brief but bloody war, nearly 3 million people lost their lives.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Calls for Bangladesh War Trials – 21 March 2008

Independent Bangladesh – Convention on War Trials March 21 – 19 March 2008

Reuters – Bangladesh Commanders Demand War Crime Trial – 21 March 2008

Moroccan King Pardons Facebook Impersonator

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CASABLANCA, Morocco – King Mohammad VI pardoned Fouad Mourtada, a Moroccan computer engineer imprisoned for creating a fake Facebook profile of the king’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid.  Last month, Mourtada, 26, was sentenced to three years in jail for “usurping” the identity of the prince by creating a profile of him on the popular social networking site.

During his trial, Mourtada insisted he meant no harm to the prince in creating the profile.  He reiterated those sentiments upon his release.  “I have nothing against the prince.”  Mourtada said.  “In fact, my act was done because of my admiration for him.  I regret that it was badly interpreted.”

Mourtada said he was “fine” after his pardon and thanked his supporters who campaigned for his release.  Mourtada’s arrest sparked free speech protests around the world.  Many prominent Moroccan bloggers stopped writing in solidarity with Mourtada.

“Fouad’s liberation is a victory for justice and freedom,” said Mourtada’s lawyer Ali Ammar. “The king has done what the court should have done in the first place.”

The king granted Mourtada’s pardon along with 565 others just before the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Mohammed, a public holiday in Morocco, and a date on which pardons are often announced.  The king did not provide any reasoning for his pardons.

Mourtada’s case caught the attention of the French based Reporters Without Borders organization.  After Mourtada’s release, the group released a statement that said, “This is a great relief.  Mourtada will be able to spend this holiday with his family tomorrow after 43 days in prison. Nonetheless, we regret that his release is the result of a royal pardon rather than a fair verdict and sentence. Moroccan bloggers will not be able to forget his imprisonment when they compose their blog entries.”

BBC’s James Copnall said that Mourtada’s case has shown that while human rights conditions in Morocco have greatly improved in recent years, the royal family continues to be off-limits for criticism and even parody.

King Mohammed VI is regarded as a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, and to question his authority is seen as a challenge to his religious role as the Commander of the Faithful.

For more information, please see:
AFP – Moroccan King Pardons Joker Jailed for ‘Royal’ Facebook Page – 19 March 2008

Associated Press – Royal Facebook Usurper Freed in Morocco – 19 March 2008

BBC – Morocco ‘Facebook Prince’ Pardon – 19 March 2008

CNN – King Pardons Morocco Facebook Imposter – 19 March 2008

New York Times – Facebook Prankster Released in Morocco – 19 March 2008

Reporters Without Borders – Press Release – 19 March 2008

Reuters – Royal Pardon Frees Moroccan Facebook User – 19 March 2008
http://africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL19737224.html

Media, Government Relations Strained

By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — In the weeks following the removal of Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter and the meetings called by the interim Attorney General with Fiji newspaper publishers, the signs of tension between the media and the government are becoming more evident.  Two new specific restrictions have brought on criticism from domestic and international observers. 

The first of these is a move from the Interim Finance Minister to instate media licensing.  Fiji academic Brij Lal has decried the move, calling it an attempt to “muzzle the media.”  He told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, “By muzzling the media you are not going to solve any problem in fact you are going to create more dissatisfaction, more unhappiness in a populace already, already facing difficult circumstances so I think this call to license the media; I just hope that the people of Fiji will resist this because it will be an infringement of their freedom.”

The second was a request made to the Fijian media not to contact the interim Prime Minister directly any longer.  The Prime Minister’s Office told the Fiji Times that any inquiries for the Prime Minister should be directed through the Department of Information.  The statement also requested that any inquiries to the Bainimarama in regard to his capacity as head of the military should be directed at a military media spokesman.  Parmesh Chand, the interim PM’s secretary, said that the request was based upon the interim Prime Ministers extremely busy schedule. 

In light of these and other concerns the Fiji Media Council has requested a meeting with the government in order to find a way forward.  Daryl Tarte, the Council’s Chairman, said, “There are concerns on both sides; concerns on the part of the media about government’s actions and obviously the government themselves have some concern about the media so we think it would be productive if we could meet and discuss these matters and find some amicable way ahead.”

In the last few days the situation between the Fijian media and the government has sparked comment from two international observers.  Stephen Smith, the Australian Foreign Minister, has spoken with concern regarding the interim government’s intimidationg of the media.  A trade mission from Taiwan, during observations of Fiji, has said that it is not their place to pass judgement on domestic policy, but has insisted that, “I think the freedom of press is universal value, respected by the United Nations and countries around the globe.”

For more information, please see:
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Taiwan monitors Fiji, aware of media problems — 22 March 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Media Council asks to meet government to discuss concerns — 20 March 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Australia concerned over treatment of Fiji media — 20 March 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Restrictions attempt to gag Fiji media — 20 March 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji Media has been advised not to call Prime Minister — 18 March 2008

China’s crackdown in Tibet

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Hundreds of paramilitary troops converged on foot, trucks and helicopters to Tibetan areas.  At least 80 trucks were seen traveling along the main road through the mountains into southeastern Tibet. Others set up camp and patrolled streets in riot gear, helmets and rifles in small towns across a wide swath of western China.  The troop mobilization was helping authorities reassert control after the massive demonstrations by Tibetans against Chinese rule in decades.  Led by Buddhist monks, protests began peacefully in Lhasa but erupted into rioting March 14, drawing a harsh response from Chinese authorities.  Demonstrations had also spread across Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces in support of protests that started in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Yesterday, the government also issued a “Most Wanted” list of 21 rioters by posting their photos taken from video cameras and security footage on major Internet portals.  The official Xinhua News Agency said two of the 21 suspects had already been arrested and a third turned himself in.  They will be charged with “endangering national security, beating, smashing, looting and burning,” in Lhasa.  Authorities also called on the public for help, offering rewards for information and guaranteeing the anonymity of tipsters.  China also has admitted for the first time that its police have opened fire on four Tibetan protesters, but it insisted that the gunfire was in self-defense.

China’s response to riots in Tibet drew worldwide attention to China’s human rights record, and threatens to overshadow China’s attempts to project an image of unity and prosperity for the Olympics in August.  The United Nations’ top human rights body is facing calls to break its silence over China’s crackdown in Tibet and send investigators to the Himalayan region Beijing has closed off to foreigners and journalists.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the Dalai Lama in India and called on the world to denounce China’s crackdown in Tibet.  She dismissed China’s claim that the Dalai Lama was behind the violence in Tibet, as making “no sense.”  Chinese government made its unhappiness clear concerning Nancy Pelosi meeting the Dalai Lama and her statements on Tibet.  The Chinese government warned against any meddling in its “internal affairs” by “any country, organization and person”.  Chinese officials also expressed “grave concerns” toward British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama.  Also, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on China to be open about the situation in Tibet.

However, leaders of numerous countries around the world including Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and others have also voiced their support for the Chinese government’s efforts to safeguard territorial integrity and national unity in the face of the recent riots in Tibet.  Moreover, Many overseas Chinese groups in South Korea, the United States, Mexico and Egypt as well as Chinese-language newspapers have condemned the riots in Tibet.

For more information, please see:

AP – Chinese Troops Converge in Tibetan Areas – 21 March 2008

AP – China Blankets Tibetan Areas With Troops – 21 March 2008

AP – Pelosi Denounces China’s Tibet Crackdown – 21 March 2008

BBC – Top US lawmaker meets Dalai Lama – 21 March 2008

Canadian Press – China warns British PM about planned meeting with Dalai Lama – 20 March 2008

New York Times – China Admits to Wounding 4 Tibetan Demonstrators – 21 March 2008

Reuters – CHRONOLOGY-Day-by-day record of Tibet protests – 21 March 2008

Reuters – China’s torch climbers denounce Tibet protests – 21 March 2008

Recuters – Germany urges China to open up on Tibet – 21 March 2008

XiHua – Foreign leaders support China’s efforts to defend territorial integrity, national unity – 21 March 2008

XiHua – Overseas Chinese groups, Chinese-language media condemn riots in Tibet – 20 March 2008

XiHua – Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh support China’s actions to stabilize Tibet – 21 March 2008

Legitimacy of Upcoming Zimbabwean Election Already in Question

Legitimacy of Upcoming Zimbabwean Election Already in Question

By M. Brandon Maggiore
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe -The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reports forced voting, arrests, and other issues, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the Zimbabwe election will not bring about democracy.

Five police officers accused of supporting the MDC, an opposition group to the ruling Zanu-PF party, have been jailed for 14 days. This action comes just over a week before the March 29 elections and while postal voting is taking place.

Four police officers were arrested after boarding a vehicle of Harrison Muzuri, a local MDC parliamentary candidate, while another was arrested for allegedly waving an open hand, a symbol associated with the MDC.

Critics say that the police act which bars police officers from participating in politics is selectively enforced, and that supporters of the Zanu-PF party are not prosecuted. Several police officers have been seen entering vehicles for the Zanu-PF without being disciplined.

According to information obtained by the MDC, police officers and military members are being forced to vote under the supervision of their supervisors. Solders in Mutare were required to write their identification number on the back of their ballot, and police officers in Bulawayo were allegedly forced to vote multiple times.

Postal votes are already raising suspicion of fraud. On Thursday, Eddie Cross, MDC policy advisor for the Tsvangirai formation and MDC parliamentary candidate for Bulawayo South told the BBC, “The Zimbabwe Election Commission has said only the police force has requested 8,000 postal votes. To our surprise, we have information that postal votes, cast and sealed, are over 75 000. Where have the rest come from?”

Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC President, claims that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had ordered the printing of between 600,000 and 900,000 postal votes. While the armed forces, police, and diplomats total about 82,000, only about 20,000 are eligible for postal votes.

To find out how many postal votes have been sent out, the MDC plans on going to court. The concern is that the armed forces and diplomats are being forced to vote a particular way, not that they are being permitted to vote in advance.

HRW released a report on the upcoming election on Thursday. The report listed numerous concerns  stating that ”there is little chance the March 29 elections will help Zimbabwe either establish democracy or bring an end to the country’s ongoing political crisis.”

HRW  criticized the use of government distributed food supplies and government-subsidized farming equipment to influence the election. The report also discusses the beating of opposition supporters in February by Zanu-PF supporter, and intimidation of opposition supporters by police forces in spite of the prohibition against such conduct in Zimbabwe’s Electoral Laws Amendment Act.

Access to Zimbabwe’s state-owned television and radio stations has also been a problem for opposition leaders according to HRW. In February, President Robert Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party received five-times more television coverage than all opposition groups combined.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Zimbabwe police jailed for ‘bias’ – 21 March 2008

allAfrica.com – Zimbabwe: Soldiers And Police Officers Forced to Vote Under Supervision – 20 March 2008

Human Rights Watch – All Over Again Human Rights Abuses and Flawed Electoral Conditions in Zimbabwe’s Coming General Elections – 20 March 2008

China’s crackdown in Tibet

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Hundreds of paramilitary troops converged on foot, trucks and helicopters to Tibetan areas.  At least 80 trucks were seen traveling along the main road through the mountains into southeastern Tibet. Others set up camp and patrolled streets in riot gear, helmets and rifles in small towns across a wide swath of western China.  The troop mobilization was helping authorities reassert control after the massive demonstrations by Tibetans against Chinese rule in decades.  Led by Buddhist monks, protests began peacefully in Lhasa but erupted into rioting March 14, drawing a harsh response from Chinese authorities.  Demonstrations had also spread across Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces in support of protests that started in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Yesterday, the government also issued a “Most Wanted” list of 21 rioters by posting their photos taken from video cameras and security footage on major Internet portals.  The official Xinhua News Agency said two of the 21 suspects had already been arrested and a third turned himself in.  They will be charged with “endangering national security, beating, smashing, looting and burning,” in Lhasa.  Authorities also called on the public for help, offering rewards for information and guaranteeing the anonymity of tipsters.  China also has admitted for the first time that its police have opened fire on four Tibetan protesters, but it insisted that the gunfire was in self-defense.

China’s response to riots in Tibet drew worldwide attention to China’s human rights record, and threatens to overshadow China’s attempts to project an image of unity and prosperity for the Olympics in August.  The United Nations’ top human rights body is facing calls to break its silence over China’s crackdown in Tibet and send investigators to the Himalayan region Beijing has closed off to foreigners and journalists.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the Dalai Lama in India and called on the world to denounce China’s crackdown in Tibet.  She dismissed China’s claim that the Dalai Lama was behind the violence in Tibet, as making “no sense.”  Chinese government made its unhappiness clear concerning Nancy Pelosi meeting the Dalai Lama and her statements on Tibet.  The Chinese government warned against any meddling in its “internal affairs” by “any country, organization and person”.  Chinese officials also expressed “grave concerns” toward British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama.  Also, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on China to be open about the situation in Tibet.

However, leaders of numerous countries around the world including Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and others have also voiced their support for the Chinese government’s efforts to safeguard territorial integrity and national unity in the face of the recent riots in Tibet.  Moreover, Many overseas Chinese groups in South Korea, the United States, Mexico and Egypt as well as Chinese-language newspapers have condemned the riots in Tibet.

For more information, please see:

AP – Chinese Troops Converge in Tibetan Areas – 21 March 2008

AP – China Blankets Tibetan Areas With Troops – 21 March 2008

AP – Pelosi Denounces China’s Tibet Crackdown – 21 March 2008

BBC – Top US lawmaker meets Dalai Lama – 21 March 2008

Canadian Press – China warns British PM about planned meeting with Dalai Lama – 20 March 2008

New York Times – China Admits to Wounding 4 Tibetan Demonstrators – 21 March 2008

Reuters – CHRONOLOGY-Day-by-day record of Tibet protests – 21 March 2008

Reuters – China’s torch climbers denounce Tibet protests – 21 March 2008

Recuters – Germany urges China to open up on Tibet – 21 March 2008

XiHua – Foreign leaders support China’s efforts to defend territorial integrity, national unity – 21 March 2008

XiHua – Overseas Chinese groups, Chinese-language media condemn riots in Tibet – 20 March 2008

XiHua – Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh support China’s actions to stabilize Tibet – 21 March 2008

Legitimacy of Upcoming Zimbabwean Election Already in Question

By M. Brandon Maggiore
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

HARARE, Zimbabwe – The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reports forced voting, arrests, and other issues, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the Zimbabwe election will not bring about democracy.

Five police officers accused of supporting the MDC, an opposition group to the ruling Zanu-PF party, have been jailed for 14 days. This action comes just over a week before the March 29 elections and while postal voting is taking place.

Four police officers were arrested after boarding a vehicle of Harrison Muzuri, a local MDC parliamentary candidate, while another was arrested for allegedly waving an open hand, a symbol associated with the MDC.

Critics say that the police act which bars police officers from participating in politics is selectively enforced, and that supporters of the Zanu-PF party are not prosecuted. Several police officers have been seen entering vehicles for the Zanu-PF without being disciplined.

According to information obtained by the MDC, police officers and military members are being forced to vote under the supervision of their supervisors. Solders in Mutare were required to write their identification number on the back of their ballot, and police officers in Bulawayo were allegedly forced to vote multiple times.

Postal votes are already raising suspicion of fraud. On Thursday, Eddie Cross, MDC policy advisor for the Tsvangirai formation and MDC parliamentary candidate for Bulawayo South told the BBC, “The Zimbabwe Election Commission has said only the police force has requested 8,000 postal votes. To our surprise, we have information that postal votes, cast and sealed, are over 75 000. Where have the rest come from?”

Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC President, claims that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had ordered the printing of between 600,000 and 900,000 postal votes. While the armed forces, police, and diplomats total about 82,000, only about 20,000 are eligible for postal votes.

To find out how many postal votes have been sent out, the MDC plans on going to court. The concern is that the armed forces and diplomats are being forced to vote a particular way, not that they are being permitted to vote in advance.

HRW released a report on the upcoming election on Thursday. The report listed numerous concerns  stating that ”there is little chance the March 29 elections will help Zimbabwe either establish democracy or bring an end to the country’s ongoing political crisis.”

HRW  criticized the use of government distributed food supplies and government-subsidized farming equipment to influence the election. The report also discusses the beating of opposition supporters in February by Zanu-PF supporter, and intimidation of opposition supporters by police forces in spite of the prohibition against such conduct in Zimbabwe’s Electoral Laws Amendment Act.

Access to Zimbabwe’s state-owned television and radio stations has also been a problem for opposition leaders according to HRW. In February, President Robert Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party received five-times more television coverage than all opposition groups combined.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Zimbabwe police jailed for ‘bias’ – 21 March 2008

allAfrica.com – Zimbabwe: Soldiers And Police Officers Forced to Vote Under Supervision – 20 March 2008

Human Rights Watch – All Over Again Human Rights Abuses and Flawed Electoral Conditions in Zimbabwe’s Coming General Elections – 20 March 2008