Recent Audit of Khmer Rouge Tribunal Shows Improvements

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – After allegations of kickbacks and malpractice, a recent audit of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal shows that there have been significant improvements in management and steps have been taken to reform procedures.

Jo Scheuer, the country director for the U.N. Development Program, said a recent audit showed “significant improvements,” and there were “no questionable financial transactions, misallocated resources and no incomplete or missing documentation in support of disbursements” of money since 2006. Jo Scheuer also added that there was “no conclusive evidence” to support allegation of kickbacks in exchange for jobs with the tribunal.

The positive audit is to serve as a reassurance to potential international financial backers of the tribunal. Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires of the European Commission’s mission to Cambodia, said, “This special review has shown that we (now) have a system that can work.” Tribunal administrative director Sean Visoth added, “With the results of the special review we are sharing with you today we can finally close this chapter and move on to continue the very positive achievement the (court) has made in discharging its historic mandate.”

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is in need of funds to continue proceedings. Although five former Khmer Rouge regime leaders have been charged and arrested, trials have yet to begin. With an original budget of $56.3 million, the tribunal’s costs have soared as a result of undue delays and political wrangling. The decade long delay has caused costs to rise to about $170 million. Presently, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has sufficient funds until September.

Recently, French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade announced that France will donate an additional $1 million in funds to the tribunal to help with its financial troubles. The recent contribution is in addition to a previous $5 million donation France gave when the tribunal first appealed for financial help. French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade commented, “One of the priorities for French diplomatic action abroad is international justice and the fight against impunity.” She added, “Human rights should not just be words.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Cambodian Genocide Tribunal Denies Financial Mismanagement – 25 April 2008

The China Post – France Pledges Extra US $1mil. to Cambodian Genocide Court– 26 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – Audit Says Management of Cambodian Tribunal Has Improved Since Call for Reforms – 25 April 2008

BRIEF: Fiji Criticized for Lack of Progress Towards Elections

SUVA, Fiji — The Pacific Islands Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group on the Situation in Fiji met in Suva this week to discuss the progress that Fiji has made toward restoring democratic election.  At the end of the summit, the Working Group expressed its disappointment that a finalized timetable for democratic election had not yet been completed.  They also noted that Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers should have been able to review these timetable in Cabinet in the second week of April.

Also of concern to the Working Group was the current lack of a Supervisor of Elections.  New Zealand lawyer Dr. Maurice Coughlan, had been appointed to the position but had resigned only days later.  In the wake of his departure, the Working Group called upon Fiji to find a replace for him and also that the basis for the electoral system generally be changed.

More positively, the Working Group did acknowledge the Elections Donor Coordination Committee (EDCC) membership’s current ability to assist with any technical training or information technology assistance that may be required in the coming elections.

Speaking after the meeting, Fiji’s interim foreign affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau remained positive about the interim government’s prospects for returning Fiji to democratic elections.  Speaking to Fijilive he said, “We have no intention of delaying the elections as perceived by the international community and we promise them that we will have elections in March 2009.”

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Fiji regime admonished by Forum group over election timetable issues — 24 April 2008

Pacific Magazine — Forum Working Group Concerned By Progress To Election — 24 April 2008

Solomon Star News — Supervisor of Elections to be appointed as soon as Possible: Working Group — 24 April 2008

Iraqi Children Recruited as Suicide Bombers

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – According to an United Nations official, insurgent groups in Iraq are recruiting children as suicide bombers.  Ending a week-long visit to Iraq, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, said children there are the silent victims of the ongoing violence in the country, with approximately 1,500 “known to be held in detention facilities.”

“Since 2004, an increasing number of children have been recruited into various militias and insurgent groups, including as suicide bombers,” she said.

Coomaraswamy said that many Iraqi children no longer attend school and are either recruited for violent activities or are detained in custody.  She said that many children lack access to the most basic services and “manifest a wide range of psychological symptoms from the violence in their everyday lives.”

According to Coomaraswamy, only 50 percent of primary school children are attending school.  That number is down from 80 percent in 2005.  Only 40 percent have access to clean drinking water and there is a continuing possibility of outbreaks of cholera.

Coomaraswamy’s statements come three months after the U.S. military released videos of suspected al Qaeda in Iraq members training children as young as 10 to kidnap and kill.  She urged “religious and community leaders of Iraq to send one clear message to Iraqi children: Stay out of the violence and go back to school.”

She called on all sides in the Iraqi conflict to follow international humanitarian standards for the protection of children and to release without delay any children under the age of 18 associated with their forces.  She also asked all sides to adhere to international human rights standards pertaining to juvenile justice provisions.

“Let peace in Iraq begin with the protection of children” Coomaraswamy said.

For more information, please see:
BBC – Militias ‘Recruit Child Bombers’ – 25 April 2008 – Iraqi Children Recruited for Suicide Attacks – UN – 25 April 2008

The Press Association – Child Recruits for Suicide Attacks – 25 April 2008

UN News Center – Iraqi Children are Silent Victims of Ongoing Violence, Says UN Envoy – 25 April 2008

USA Today – U.N.: Iraqi Children Recruited as Suicide Bombers – 25 April 2008

United States Accuses Vietnam of Widespread Adoption Fraud

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – In a recent report from the US Embassy in Vietnam, Vietnam orphanages are accused of paying parents for their children and accepting babies that were not given up knowingly.

The report describes adoption brokers coercing poor mothers in small villages, hospitals selling babies whose parents cannot pay their medical bills, and a grandmother giving her grandchild up for adoption without the parents knowing.

Some brokers offer $450 to birth mothers for their babies, which is a year’s salary for most. In another instance, hospital officials turned over a baby for adoption because a mother could not afford to pay her $750 hospital bill. The large medical bill was purposely inflated by the hospital. In one case, a grandmother, who was taking care of her grandchild for weeks while the mother worked in another province, gave the child up for adoption.

The corruption and fraud in the Vietnamese adoption system stems from the donations foreign adoption services provide the local orphanages. Vietnamese law requires foreign adoption services provide funding to Vietnamese orphanages in exchange for adoption referrals from that orphanage. Typically, there is a set proportion of children for donations.

The report alleged that cash and in-kind donations from adoption services have been diverted by local orphanage officials to personal uses—such as private cars, jewelry, and a commercial real estate development.

The US Embassy report comes at a time when adoptions from Vietnam have jumped. In the last 18 months 1,200 Vietnamese children were adopted. Eight hundred and twenty-eight of the children were adopted by American families, which is a surge of more than 400 percent from the year before.

US law requires that the children be knowingly put up for adoption or be reported as abandoned. If the child is reported as abandoned, it is impossible to know if the children are genuine orphans. In 2003, 20 percent of adoptions were reported as abandonments. Now they make up 85 percent of adoptions.

The United States is asking for stronger regulations that include DNA tests for birth mothers and permission for surprise investigations in provinces that arrange US adoptions. Vietnamese officials, however, say that those regulations are unacceptable because adoption in Vietnam is a very private matter, and Vietnamese authorities should take part in any investigation.

Vu Duc Long, director of the Department of International Adoptions, commented, “The American side is trying to make it seem like this agreement is ending because of violations by the Vietnamese side. It’s not fair for them to blame us.”

For more information, please see:

AP – US Alleges Baby-Selling in Vietnam – 25 April 2008

TOP News – US Reports Adoption Fraud Widespread in Vietnam – 25 April 2008

VOA News – US Finds Fraud in Vietnam Adoptions – 25 April 2008

UPDATE: Rebel Leader Involved in East Timor Assassination Attempts Found

DILI, East Timor — East Timor police and military located rebel leader, Gastao Salsinha, who is believed to have aided in the assassination attempts on the country’s President and Prime Minister in February. Salsinha says he is planning to surrender but not before his followers join him.

On February 11, rebel soldiers attacked President Horta during his morning walk, shooting him twice in the back. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was also attacked but escaped unharmed. The President returned to his duties last week after a two month recovery in Darwin, Australia.

Salsinha is East Timor’s most wanted man for his involvement in the attacks. After rebel leader Aldredo Reinado was shot and killed during the attack on President Horta, Salsinha took command. Salsinha is currently staying in a house in Ermera district, and says he will remain there until the other rebel members join him.

The UN has reported that Salsinha has met with representatives of the Prosecutor General’s office, FFDTL, military, and a church in the town of Gleno, to discuss the conditions of his surrender.

The recent rebel and gang violence stems from a 2006 incident where 600 military members were fired for protesting alleged discrimination. In the bitter dispute, the army divided into factions, causing 37 deaths and forcing 150,000 from their homes. On Thursday, during a fight between rival martial arts gangs, one member was decapitated, local police detective chief, Rogerio Gueterres said.

President Horta announced on his return that he would renew the country’s efforts to combat the increasing violence and poverty rates.

For more information, please see:
ABC, Radio Australia — East Timor authorities locate rebel leader — 25 April 2008

ABC News — East Timor rebel leader may surrender — 25 April 2008

Reuters — Two killed in East Timor gang violence — 24 April 2008

UN: Humanitarian Aid Halted by Israeli Fuel Embargo

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warned that its fuel supplies will run out on April 24 unless it receives fresh petrol supplies.  UNRWA chief in Gaza, John Ging, said that Israel must supply gasoline to Gaza immediately or the UN will not be able to distribute necessary food aid to Gaza residents.

Ging said that the supply of fuel from Israel to Gaza has been “totally inadequate” for 10 months until it was finally halted two weeks ago. “The devastating humanitarian impact is entirely predictable,” he said.

“Neither UNRWA nor the World Food Programme… will be able to resume food distribution until they receive diesel for the trucks involved in transporting the food,” Ging said.  A shortage of diesel and petrol means UN food assistance to 650,000 Palestinian refugees will stop today, and aid from the World Food Programme for another 127,000 Palestinians due in the coming days will also be halted.

It addition to affecting the distribution of food aid, the blockade also creates a health care crisis.  According to the lack of fuel, 20 percent of ambulances out of commission and another 60 percent with less than a week’s worth of fuel.  The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, operating on limited fuel reserves, has reduced its services to emergency cases.

Ging added that “laundry services at the largest hospital, Shifa, have been cut by 50 percent and we all know what that means in terms of public health.”  In addition, doctors and health care professionals face difficulties getting to work because of the halt of public transportation.

The Israeli-imposed blockade, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, prevents exports and allows in only limited supplies of food, fuel and aid.  A complete petrol blockade began on April 9, following a Palestinian attack on the main fuel terminal at Nahal Oz.

On April 22, the deputy head of the energy department in Gaza, Kanaan Obeid warned that Gaza’s sole power plant would shut down within the next 30 hours.  On April 23, Israel permitted one million liters of diesel fuel to be delivered directly to the power plant, averting its closure.  The fuel will be sufficient to power the plant for three days.

Commenting on the blockade, Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East, said “the collective punishment of the population of Gaza, which has been instituted for months now, has failed.”  He added that the recent Palestinian attacks against crossing points into Gaza, saying they were “deeply disturbing.”

Serry appealed to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to end these attacks.  “These attacks endanger both international and Israeli civilians, and cannot possibly contribute to Palestinian efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza. On the contrary, they serve only to deepen and prolong it,” he said.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Gaza Fuel Embargo “Block UN Aid” – 24 April 2008

Guardian – Fuel Shortage Forces UN to Halt Food Handouts in Gaza – 24 April 2008

AFP – Fuel Shortage Could Halt Gaza Food Distribution: UN – 23 April 2008

BBC – Israel Resumes Gaza Fuel Supplies – 23 April 2008

Human Rights Watch – Gaza Fuel Cuts: Civilians Pay the Price – 23 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – UN Warns that Food Distribution will Halt Unless Israel Supplies Diesel – 23 April 2008

UN News Centre – Gaza: UN and Partners Set to Meet on Critical Humanitarian Situation – 23 April 2008

Yedioth News – UN: Collective Punishment of Gazans has Failed – 23 April 2008

Chinese arms shipment to Zimbabwe Heads Back to China

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A Chinese ship that was carrying three million rounds of assault rifle ammunition, 3,000 mortar rounds and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades to Zimbabwe is being brought back to China, the Chinese government said today.  The ship, identified as the An Yue Jiang and belonging to COSCO, a state-owned shipping firm, was forced to abandon plans to unload in the South African port of Durban last week.

The news comes after the United States urged countries in southern Africa — particularly South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Namibia — not to allow the ship to dock or unload.  It also asked China to withdraw the weapons shipment and halt further arms shipments to Zimbabwe until the post-election crisis is resolved.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “The cargo was not unloaded because the Zimbabwe side failed to receive the goods as scheduled, so the Chinese company made the decision according to this situation.”  She also reiterated the shipment was a purely commercial transaction that did not break any laws or international obligations and had nothing to do with the ongoing political crisis.

The Chinese ship has sparked international condemnation for attempting to transport weapons to Zimbabwe that could be used to crackdown on Zimbabwe’s political opposition. China’s decision to turn the ship around was welcomed by the dockworkers, trade unionists, religious leaders, Western diplomats, and human rights workers.

China is a major supporter of Zimbabwe’s ruler Robert Mugabe, who has touted a “look East” policy of closer cooperation with China.  However, Beijing has shown signs of increasing embarrassment over its association with Mugabe.  Last year, China said that it had decided to halt all assistance to Zimbabwe except humanitarian aid. It was unclear if the contract of the weapons trade was signed before that pledge.

For information, please see

AFP – Chinese arms shipment to Zimbabwe turning back: Beijing – 24 April 2008

AP – Zimbabwe arms deal is off – China – 24 April 2008

New York Times – Zimbabwe-Bound Ship Heads Back to China – 24 April 2008

Reuters – China says arms bound for Zimbabwe to be recalled – 24 April 2008

Wall Street Journal – China defended its arms shipments to Zimbabwe – 24 April 2008

XinHua – China arms trade conforms to laws, int’l obligations – 24 April 2008

Life Sentence for Malasebe’s Murders

By Ryan L. Maness

Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji — Justice Nazhat Shameem handed down sentence for the three men convicted of in relation to murder of Tevita Malasebe last June.  Detectives Lole Vulaca and Rusiate Korovusere, who were both convicted of murder, were sentenced to life in prison.   Sergeant Pita Matai, the supervising Sergeant of the Vulaca and Korovusere, was convicted of being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to two years in prison.

When handing down sentence, Justice Shameem noted that Matai’s actions on behalf of his men had frustrated the evidentiary investigation into Malasebe’s death.  Because of that interference she said, “Perhaps, we will never know who inflicted the terrible injuries on Malasebe in the Crime Office (at Valelevu Police Station).”

The sentencing was welcomed by the Citizens Constitutional Forum.  Reverend Akuila Yabaki, the Chief Executive Officer of the CCF, said that he was glad that the sentences were handed down, but was disappointed that those people who were responsible for protecting the people had taken advantage of a helpless citizen, costing that citizen his life.  He also said that the National Council for Building a Better Fiji should seriously look at the role of disciplinary forces in Fiji and that measures should be taken to cure any deficiencies in the charter process.

For her part, Malasebe’s mother was less satisfied by the results of the trial.  While she said that she had forgiven the families of her son’s murders, she also said that she believed that all eight of the men should have been given life sentences.  Radio New Zealand International also reports that she seeks to appeal the acquittals of the five men who were originally charged with her son’s murder.

The Fiji Police also announced today that it will offer further training to its police officials in the future.  Police spokesperson Ema Mua said that the public’s faith in the police needs to be restored.  Speaking in response to the Malasebe murder, she said, “There’s a real need now for officers to know how to deal with that sort, because no one is guilty unless proven by the courts. So yes, we are looking at introducing further training, further courses for officers when it comes to dealing with situations like this.”

For more information, please see:

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji police to improve training after two officers murdered suspect — 24 April 2008

Radio New Zealand International– Fiji police says officers’ life sentences are fair — 24 April 2008

FijiVillage — Life Sentence Welcomed by CCF — 24 April 2008

Fiji Times — Police officers go in for life — 24 April 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Public will never know says Judge — 23 April 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji police murder victim’s mother unhappy with ruling — 23 April 2008

Female Suicide Bombers Kill Police, Others

By Christopher Gehrke
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, South America

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A female suicide bomber blew herself up north of Baghdad yesterday, killing six and wounding twelve others.

The bombing took place outside a police station in the Diyala province, where several other attacks have occurred recently.

Most of the dead were policemen, according to a police source.  There have been several attacks by female suicide bombers in Iraq in recent weeks.  Diyala is one of the northern provinces where al Qaeda has sought sanctuary after being driven out of Anbar province in the west and Baghdad.

On Monday, a female suicide bomber detonated near the office of an anti-al-Qaeda group in Baquba, killing three of its members.

The bomber activated her vest, filled with explosives, in the Al-Mafraq neighborhood north of Baghdad.

Ahmed Alwan, a doctor at Baquba hospital, said three anti-al-Qaeda group members were killed and four other people wounded in the attack.

“The woman attacker tried to get inside the office that lies in the middle of the market.  The guards at the first checkpoint stopped the woman and asked her to open her robes to check if she wore an explosive belt, but at this moment she exploded herself outside the office,” said Abu Talib, a Sons of Iraq commander.

Al-Qaeda has been targeting groups who have sided with the US military to fight them in recent months.  These groups are made up of mostly Sunni Arab former insurgents, using women as a way to carry out attacks with an element of surprise.

For more information, please see:

Reuters – Female suicide bomber kills six north of Baghdad – 22 April 2008

AFP – Female suicide bomber kills three in Iraq city – 21 April 2008

Los Angeles Times – Female suicide bomber kills four in Iraq – 22 April 2008

UPDATE: Khieu Samphan’s Attorney Disrupts Proceedings

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Khmer Rouge Tribunal adjourned a preliminary hearing for Khieu Samphan because his lawyer, Jacques Verges, erupted at the tribunal judges after learning his documents had not been translated into French.

Jacques Verges left the courtroom telling reporters that the judges had recommended to Khieu Samphan to find a new lawyer. He also told reporters, “French is an official language of the tribunal. There is not one page of the case file against Mr. Khieu Samphan translated into French. I should be capable of knowing what my client is blamed for. He continued by saying, “This is a scandal! This never happens except in dictatorships!”

The tribunal judges later said they would issue a warning to Jacques Verges for causing a postponement of the hearing.

Jacques Verges is famous for his legal work involving Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, and the confessed serial killer Charles Sobhraj.

For more information, please see:

International Herald Tribune – Attorney for Khmer Rouge Head of State Scolds Judges – 23 April 2008

As Rights Record Reviewed Internationally, Sri Lankan Rights Activist Killed

By Elizabeth Breslin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Returning home from a church service on Sunday, priest and human rights activist Reverend M.X. Karunaratnam was killed by a roadside bomb in a rebel-controlled territory of Sri Lanka.  Rebels claim that a government bomb killed Karunaratnam, while the government denies any involvement.

Karunaratnam was the leader of North East Secretariat on Human Rights, a rights group focused on the rights of ethnic Tamils.  For this reason, many ethnic Tamils believe that the government targeted him specifically.  There are numerous reports which state that the bomb was in fact planted by Sri Lankan Army’s Deep Penetration Unit.

This incident preceded recent criticisms of the Sri Lankan government by international legal group International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP).  IIGEP was formed in 2007 to oversee an inquiry into 16 human rights violation cases in Sri Lanka; it includes members from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and other countries.  On Tuesday, the group announced that the Sri Lankan government had not been meeting the IIGEP’s requests and lacked the political will to investigate rights abuses.  Instead of acting on their recommendations, the government had been disrespectful toward the IIGEP and was accusing it of purposely failing in its job by pushing an “international agenda” in an effort to force a United Nations rights monitoring mission on the country.

Reverend Karunaratnam perhaps understood the IIGEP’s frustration when issuing his last report on April 5th, stating: “The local [Sri Lankan] mechanism to ensure good governance with respect for human rights has miserably failed and there is widespread call for the establishment of a UN body to monitor human rights violations.”

For more information, please see:

AFP – Foreign experts step up human rights criticism of Sri Lanka – 22 April 2008

Tamil Sydney – Genocide: Sri Lanka Silences Yet Another Human Rights Activist– 23 April 2008

USA Today – Prominent priest killed in Sri Lanka blast – 21 April 2008

Xinhua News – Human rights panel denies int’l plot to discredit Sri Lanka – 23 April 2008

Papuan Students Released From Jail After Peaceful Demonstration

By Hayley J. Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAYAPURA, Papua — Today, seven Papuan students were released from prison after they were arrested for unfurling banned flags supporting democracy and Papua’s independence. The students were let go after the Jayapura police station was bombarded with calls from concerned friends and family.

Yesterday, about 500 West Papuan people met in Abepura, Papua’s largest city, to attend the peaceful protest which was reportedly organized by the West Papuan student organization, Front Pepera. In addition, the Indonesian Para-military police and military reported that hundreds of activists were prevented from attending the protest.

The seven arrested students included: Yosias Yeimo 22, Benyamin Sabu 30, Nebon Pahabol 25, Marthen Goo 29, Santon Tekege 27, Emilianus (Demianus) Keiya 27, and Gunawan Inggeruhi 22.

The demonstration centered around Papua’s right to self-determination and independence from Indonesia. Once a Dutch colony on New Guinea’s western end, Papua became Indonesia’s largest province in 1969. Violence erupted in 2003 after President Megawati Sukarnoputri separated Papua into three provinces: Central Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Tengah), Papua (or East Irian Jaya, Irian Jaya Timur), and West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat). Indonesian courts declared that the creation of the central province was unconstitutional and in opposition to Papua’s Special Autonomy status.

The seven students were imprisoned after waving the Morning Star flag, which symbolizes democracy and self-determination. A law in Indonesia’s criminal code prohibits the display of the Morning Star Flag in Papua, the South Maluku Republic Benang Raja flag in Ambon, and the Crescent Moon flag in Aceh. All three flags are examples of banned separatist symbols.

Last month, Human Rights Watch, the largest human rights organization, called for the release of nine activists, who were similarly arrested for waving the banned Morning Star flag. “Raising a flag at a demonstration is a nonviolent act, but in Indonesia it can land you in prison,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

In March, two pro-independence demonstrators were sentenced to 15 and 17 years in prison for preparing flags for the South Maluku Republic. In the last month, the Para-military police have arrested 20 West-Papuans, all of whom remain detained as “political prisoners.”

Police said today that the seven arrested students will be treated as witnesses and will not be charged.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — Seven students in Papua released following arrest over democracy protest — 23 April 2008

Scoop, Independent News — Students Detained & Demonstration In Jayapura — 23 April 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Students detained and demonstration in Jayapura — 22 April 2008

InfoShop News, Independent News — West Papua: Seven Students are released by Police in Jayapura — 22 April 2008

Reuters, Asia –- Free Peaceful Protesters in Papua –- 19 March 2008

BRIEF: 48th Saudi Execution in 2008

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On April 22, the Saudi Interior Minister announced that Hamoud al-Ansi, convicted of murder, was beheaded in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran.  Ansi was convicted for stabbing another man to death during a conflict about land.  According to the Associated Press, his execution brings the total to 48 in 2008.

In addition, on April 18, two Syrian nationals, Firas Faycal Al-Aghbar and Firas Hussein Maktabi, were beheaded in the northwestern city of Tabuk.  They were convicted on drug trafficking charges for receiving a shipment of hallucinogenic drugs.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, under which those convicted of murder, drug trafficking, rape or armed robbery are executed in public with a sword.

According to an Amnesty International report on capital punishment, Saudi Arabia executed the third highest number of people in 2007.  China, who executed at least 470, was first; followed by Iran (317).  In 2007, Saudi Arabia executed 143 people, which was a drastic increase from the total in 2006 (37).  The report also notes that Saudi Arabia was one of three countries who executed child offenders in 2007.  Also, in 2007, at least 76 of the 143 people executed were foreign nationals.

For more information, please see: – Saudi Arabia Executes Convicted Murderer in 48th Beheading this Year – 22 April 2008

Kuwait Times – Syrian Protesters Stage Sit-in Against Saudi Executions – 22 April 2008

Amnesty International – Death Penalty: World Trend Down but Secrecy Surrounds China Execution Figures – 14 April 2008

BRIEF: Warrantless Raid on Gay Community in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek police raided the community center of Labrys, an organization which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Kyrgyzstan, on April 8th.  Without a warrant, three police officers forced their way into the building, which also serves as a shelter for LGBT people and women suffering from domestic violence.

According to Labrys staff, they looked through private files and demanded to see documents regarding Labrys’ registration, statutes, and rent statements.  The officers threatened to arrest those present if they did not fully cooperate.  The police chief eventually joined the officers and said that the only way they would leave was if Labrys staff sent them copies of administrative and financial documents the next day, so Labrys staff agreed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement last week demanding that the Kyrgyz police stop harassing the gay community.  According to Scott Long of the HRW LGBT Rights Program: “Police should protect organizations defending human rights, not use their power to harass and intimidate them. The raid sends a chilling message to anyone marginalized or stigmatized.”

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Kyrgyzstan: Halt Anti-Gay Raids – 17 April 2008

BRIEF: Three Police Officers Convicted of Malasebe Murder

SUVA, Fiji — Three of the eight Fiji Police Officers charged with the murder of Tevita Malasebe were found guilty today.  The High Court found Corporal Lole Vulaca and Constable Rusiate Korovusere guilty of murder and found Sergeant Pita Matai guilty as an accessory to murder.  The High Court found that there was insufficient evidence to convict the five other men who had been charged with the murder.

The three men who were convicted were those officers who had actually gone to Malasebe’s house last June and were the ones, the court found, that actually assaulted the rugby player.  The court acknowledged that the other five accused men may have been present at the time, but this alone was not enough to secure a conviction.

The verdict itself came three hours after Judge Justice Nazhat Shameem handed the case over to the assessors.

Fiji Human Rights Commissioner Shamima Ali said that the conviction came as a huge relief.  She expressed her gratitude that justice had been done, but also expressed her hope that the court will now look into the death of Nadi teenager, Sakiusa Rabaka, who was also allegedly killed while in official custody.

Three men who were found guilty are scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International — A Fiji Human Rights Commissioner welcomes guilty verdict — 22 April 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Police officers convicted of Malasebe murder — 22 April 2008

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Malasebe’s accused sentencing today — 23 April 2008