Saudi Women “Perpetual Minors,” Report Says

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LONDON, England – An April 21 report released by Human Rights Watch alleges that Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship of women and sex segregation policies prevent women from enjoying their basic rights.  The 50 page report, “Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia,” documents the effects of these discriminatory policies and draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women.

Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi government treats adult women as legal minors who are not in control of their own well-being.  The group said that Saudi women must often obtain permission from a guardian (a father, husband or even a son) to work, travel, marry or even access health care.

“The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women,” said Farida Deif, women’s rights researcher for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies.”

The report claims that Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies without a male representative unless the agency has established a female section.  According to the report, the need for separate office spaces provides a disincentive to hiring female employees.

The report also alleges that even when no permission from a guardian is required, some officials will ask for it.  Despite national regulations to the contrary, some hospitals require a guardian’s permission to allow women to be admitted, agree to medical procedures for themselves or their children, or be discharged.

Male guardianship over adult women also contributes to their risk of exposure to violence within the family as victims of violence find it difficult to seek protection or redress from the courts. The report says that social workers, physicians and lawyers say that it is nearly impossible to remove guardianship from male guardians who are abusive.

“It’s astonishing that the Saudi government denies adult women the right to make decisions for themselves but holds them criminally responsible for their actions at puberty,” Deif said.  “For Saudi women, reaching adulthood brings no rights, only responsibilities.”

For more information, please see:
ABC  – Saudi Women ‘Kept in Childhood’ – 21 April 2008

BBC – Saudi Women ‘Kept in Childhood’ – 21 April 2008

Human Rights Watch – Saudi Arabia: Male Guardianship Policies Harm Women – 21 April 2008

Human Rights Watch Report – Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia – 21 April 2008

Saudi Women “Perpetual Minors,” Report Says

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LONDON, England – An April 21 report released by Human Rights Watch alleges that Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship of women and sex segregation policies prevent women from enjoying their basic rights.  The 50 page report, “Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia,” documents the effects of these discriminatory policies and draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women.

Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi government treats adult women as legal minors who are not in control of their own well-being.  The group said that Saudi women must often obtain permission from a guardian (a father, husband or even a son) to work, travel, marry or even access health care.

“The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women,” said Farida Deif, women’s rights researcher for the Middle East at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi women won’t make any progress until the government ends the abuses that stem from these misguided policies.”

The report claims that Saudi women are prevented from accessing government agencies without a male representative unless the agency has established a female section.  According to the report, the need for separate office spaces provides a disincentive to hiring female employees.

The report also alleges that even when no permission from a guardian is required, some officials will ask for it.  Despite national regulations to the contrary, some hospitals require a guardian’s permission to allow women to be admitted, agree to medical procedures for themselves or their children, or be discharged.

Male guardianship over adult women also contributes to their risk of exposure to violence within the family as victims of violence find it difficult to seek protection or redress from the courts. The report says that social workers, physicians and lawyers say that it is nearly impossible to remove guardianship from male guardians who are abusive.

“It’s astonishing that the Saudi government denies adult women the right to make decisions for themselves but holds them criminally responsible for their actions at puberty,” Deif said.  “For Saudi women, reaching adulthood brings no rights, only responsibilities.”

For more information, please see:
ABC  – Saudi Women ‘Kept in Childhood’ – 21 April 2008

BBC – Saudi Women ‘Kept in Childhood’ – 21 April 2008

Human Rights Watch – Saudi Arabia: Male Guardianship Policies Harm Women – 21 April 2008

Human Rights Watch Report – Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia – 21 April 2008

Patriotic Protests Spread in China

BEIJING, China – Demonstrations against French supermarkets and western medias rocked China on Sunday.  Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Carrefour in several Chinese cities, sang the national anthem and waved the Chinese flag.  Some protesters have been calling for a boycott of the French store Carrefour, which has more than 100 outlets in China. The boycott comes after pro-Tibet demonstrators attacked a Chinese amputee athlete in a wheelchair who was bearing the torch in Paris and the city council raised a banner on City Hall that read, “Paris defends human rights all over the world.”  The authorities maintained a heavy police presence but did not interfere with the demonstrators, according to wire service reports.

The Chinese government has called on citizens to temper their fury at the West in recent days.  The state-run newspapers urged Chinese not to launch a boycott campaign against French goods and to express their patriotic enthusiasm calmly and rationally and express patriotic aspiration in an orderly and legal manner. Still, many are ignoring the government’s call for calm. Beijing police reportedly turned away a small group of demonstrators outside the French embassy.

The protesters also expressed their anger about what they see as biased reporting of unrest in Tibet by Western medias especially CNN and BBC.  Demonstrators carried banners saying, “Oppose Tibet Independence” and “Condemn CNN,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Protests are occurring beyond China’s borders.  In Paris, several thousand protesters gathered in the Place de la Republique.  Many wore T-shirts bearing the slogan “Let’s make the Olympics a bridge, not a wall”, reported the AP news agency. Thousands Chinese gathered outside the CNN’s bureau in Los Angeles demanding that Jack Cafferty apologize and be fired from the network over comments critical of China and the U.S. government’s relationship with it.  Jack Cafferty, a commentator on CNN’s “Situation Room” program, used the term “goons and thugs” while comparing the current conditions in China and 50 years ago.

For more information, please see:

AP – China urges calm after anti-Western demonstrations – 21 April 2008

BBC – Anti-French rallies across China – 21 April 2008

CNN – China protests target CNN, French store – 21 April 2008

CNN – CNN commentator’s comments draw protests – 21 April 2008

New York Times – Protests of the West Spread in China – 21 April 2008

Time – China Frowns on Patriotic Protests – 21 April 2008

Washington Post – China seeks to contain patriotic outbursts – 20 April 2008

Two Jemaah Islamiah Leaders Jailed

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

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The trials of Abu Dujana and Zarkasih, both leaders of the South East Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, were sentenced today to fifteen years in jail.  While both men were at various times leaders of the terrorist organization, the two were tried for different crimes and sentenced by different judges in the South Jakarta District Court.  In handing down sentence, the presideing Judges also officially declared that Jemaah Islamiah to be a terrorist organization.

Abu Dujana, who was thought to have masterminded many of Jemaah Islamiah’s terrorist attacks, and Zarkasih, the so-called “amir of Jemaah Islamiah”, were both arrested last summer on charges of harboring terrorists and weapons charges.  At the time, the arrest was hailed as a victory for the Indonesia’s fight against Islamic Militants.

Abu Dujana, who has denied having any relationship to Jemaah Islamiah, was convicted by  Judge Wahjono for attacks against Christians on the island of Sulawesi.  From 1999 until 2001, Dujana was responsible for many attacks and bombings against Christian civilians.  Since that time, Dujana has condemned the style of attacks, claiming that they are against his stated goal of establishing Islamic law throughout Indonesia.  The Judge Wahjono was cognizant of Dujana’s statement and renunciation of terrorism when he handed down sentencing and stated that he hopes that Dujana will help to reform other jailed terrorists.

Zarkasih was thought to have had more control over the rank and file members of Jemaah Islamiah.  He was also thought to have received training in Pakistan in the late 1980s and was associated with Muslim rebels in the Philippines in 1998.

Jemaah Islamiah has been involved in a 2002 bombing in Bali, a 2003 bombing of a Jakarta hotel, the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta and three suicide bombings in Bali in 2005.  However, while once a feared organization in Southern Asia, Ken Conboy, a terrorism analyst, told Voice of America that Jemaah Islamiah is no longer a threat to Indonesia’s secular Muslim government.  “They seem to have no real capability to attract and maintain … substantial numbers of new members.

For more information, please see:
BBC — Key Indonesian militants jailed — 21 April 2008

Radio New Zealand News — Indonesia jails militant leaders for 15 years — 21 April 2008

The Associated Press — Terror leaders in Indonesia get prison terms — 21 April 2008

United Press International — Top Indonesia terrorist leaders sentenced — 21 April 2008

BRIEF: Rights Group Condemns Israeli Killing of Reuters Cameraman

GAZA CITY, Gaza – Human Rights Watch condemned Israel on Saturday for the death of a Reuters cameraman and three others in an Israeli strike in Gaza. The New York-based rights group believes an Israeli tank crew fired either recklessly or deliberately at Fadel Shana and three others standing near him.

Human Rights Watch believes Israeli soldiers failed to make sure they were aiming at a military target before firing. Shana’s final video showed a tank on a distant hilltop open fire. Shana was wearing a bullet proof jacket marked with “Press” at the time and his vehicle was also marked with “TV” signs. His final video turned black immediately after the shots were fired.

The tank fired flechette shells, which rights groups consider inappropriate for densely populated areas like the Gaza Strip. The flechette shell is an anti-personnel weapon generally fired from a tank, which explodes in the air and releases thousands of small metal darts, which disperse in a conical arch of approximately 300 by 90 meters. Use of flechette shell usually results in indiscriminate firing, thereby endangering innocent civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.

Shana was the first Gaza journalist to be killed in the territory in the past eight years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Rights group: Israel must investigate cameraman’s death – 20 April 2008

Jerusalem Post – Israel must probe cameraman’s death – 20 April 2008

Human Rights Watch – Investigate death of Gaza civilians – 19 April 2008

AFP – Media Watchdog IPI condemns killing of Reuters cameraman – 19 April 2008

Indonesia Arrests Linked to East Timor Assassination Attempts

By Hayley Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Three East Timorese soldiers were arrested Friday in Indonesia for having a possible hand in the assassination attempts on East Timor’s President and Prime Minister in February. The arrests follow allegations made Thursday that the shooting may have involved “Indonesian elements.”

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

Although details surrounding the Indonesian arrests remain unclear, Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said the arrested suspects entered Indonesia illegally after the February attacks. The three men, Egidio Lay Carvalho, Jose Gomes, and Ismail Moniz Soares, are ex-soldiers of the East Timorese army.
Photo courtesy of BBC News
Indonesian_prez_2President Horta told journalists Thursday that while the shooters were thought to be hiding in East Timor, he believed “Indonesian elements” may be involved. President Yudhoyono was surprised at the allegations, stating that the two countries had been collaborating secretly to catch the suspects.

“I had instructed my ministers and police chiefs not to disclose that information to the public in order to give an opportunity to the Indonesian police to find these suspects,” President Yudhoyono said.

While President Horta has been careful with his accusations, President Yudhoyono has warned that any allegations implicating the state of Indonesia itself, maybe hurt relations between the two countries.

The arrested men are among 600 soldiers turned rebels after their jobs were lost for protesting alleged discrimination during a 2006 strike. The army became divided along factional lines, and disputes erupted into violence which killed 37 and drove 150,000 from their homes.

To listen to President Horta describe the shooting, click here

For more information, please see:
ABC News — Indonesia arrests 3 over E Timor attacks — 19 April 2008

Reuters — Indonesia says arrests 3 for attacks on E.Timor leaders — 18 April 2008

BBC News — Indonesia arrests E Timor rebels — 18 April 2008

Radio Netherlands Worldwide — Indonesia arrests 3 East Timorese soldiers — 18 April 2008

UPDATE: Hu Jia, Chinese Dissident, Denied Chance to Appeal

BEIJING, China – Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist and dissident, was denied a chance to appeal his 3.5 year sentence because prison guards prevented his lawyer from meeting with him.

Li Fangping, Hu Jia’s lawyer, said he went to the detention center on Monday to discuss Hu Jia’s final decision on whether to appeal. Li Fangping said he waited for several hours because guards would not allow him to see Hu Jia. After waiting, he decided to draft a motion for appeal that required Hu Jia’s signature. However, prison guards refused to give it to Hu Jia.

Hu Jia was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for inciting subversion. The charges were largely based on a blog he contributed to that provided information about other dissidents and social problems. Specifically, he wrote a series of essays that criticized the country’s human rights record.

For more information, please see:

Impunity Watch – UPDATE: Hu Jia, Chinese Dissident, Sentenced to 3.5 Years for Subversion – 3 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – Chinese Rights Activist Loses Chance to Appeal –18 April 2008

Emergency Rule Extended in Southern Thailand

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – The Thai Cabinet has extended emergency rule in Southern region of the country to deal with a separatist rebellion by Malay Muslims despite criticisms from human rights groups.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej extended the state of emergency for three more months Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces, where a separatist insurgency is raging. The emergency rule has been extended 10 separate times, putting emergency rule in place for a total of thirty-three months.

In response the repeated extensions, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, said, “The emergency rule will not continue forever because the situation is improving, but as of now we really need it.”

The emergency rule provides security forces with broader immunity from prosecution while giving them wider powers of search and seizure. Persons may also be detained up to thirty days without charges.

Several human rights groups have criticized the continued emergency rule inSouthern Thailand because it creates a culture of impunity.

More than three thousand have died since 2004 when the separatist insurgency began. The killings have become more frequent and brutal as time has gone on despite the Thai government’s assurances that things will improve.

For more information, please see:

AFP – Thai Cabinet Extends Emergency Rule in Muslim South – 18 April 2008

Bangkok Post – Emergency Decree Extended in Deep South – 18 April 2008

MCOT Thai News Agency – Cabinet Approves Three-Month Extension of Emergency Rule in Restive South – 18 April 2008

At Least 20 Palestinians, 3 Israelis Killed in Escalated Violence

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

GAZA CITY, Gaza – On April 16, at least 20 Palestinians and 3 Israelis were killed as violence between the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Palestinian militants quickly escalated.  Fighting began shortly after midnight when IDF raided northern Gaza in an operation to keep militants away from the border fence.

According to Ha’aretz, IDF soldiers exchanged gun fire with armed Palestinians, mostly members of Hamas.  During the exchange, four Palestinians were killed and one Israeli soldier was injured by sniper fire.  The military stated that Palestinian gunmen open fire from a mosque used to store explosives.  IDF returned fire and later blew up explosive devices found in the mosque; causing the building to sustain heavy damages.

Later, three IDF soldiers were killed and two others wounded when Hamas ambushed an IDF unit.  The 12 person IDF unit crossed into Gaza to pursue militants who approached the border near the Nahal Oz crossing.  A second group of Hamas gunmen fired on the unit; killing Sgt. Matan Ovdati (19), Sgt. Menhash Albaniat (20), and Sgt. David Papian (21).  The fighting also resulted in the deaths of four Hamas gunmen.

Violence escalated later in the day, as the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched four missiles at the Bureij refugee camp in the centre of Gaza City.  The strike killed at least eight Palestinians; some media sources report that 12 were killed.  Of these, at least two were children, under the age of 16, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry.  The BBC reports that of the 11 individuals killed in the strike, five were children.

Another strike in Gaza City killed a Reuters cameraman and two by-standers.  Fadel Shana’a, 23, a Palestinian cameraman, was reporting on the violence when an Israeli tank shell struck his vehicle, which was clearly marked with “Press” on the roof.  Two other journalists were wounded in the strike.  David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of the news agency, called for an investigation by the Israeli military.

While Israel expressed regret over Shana’a’s death, a military spokesman said that “it must be pointed out that there’s a war going on against armed terrorists who are extremists and dangerous.”  The military official told Reuters that “the presence of media, photographers and other uninvolved individuals in areas of warfare is extremely dangerous and poses a threat to their lives.”

The increase in violence occurred one week after members of the Islamic Jihad and two smaller militant groups attacked a fuel depot at the Nahal Oz crossing, killing two Israeli civilians.  Since the attack, no fuel had passed through the crossing, resulting in a fuel shortage.  On April 15, two universities in Gaza were forced to shut down because students were unable to travel to class due to the lack of petrol.

On April 16, Israel permitted necessary fuel deliveries to Gaza’s only power station.  Earlier, the station warned that it only had enough fuel supplies to run the plant for a few more days.  The fuel shortage is exacerbated by a strike of Gaza petrol station owners in protest to the delivery reduction.  Israel accuses Palestinians of preventing distribution in order to create a fuel crisis.


For more information, please see:

The Guardian – 20 Die in Gaza Clashes after Fire Fight at Fuel Crossing – 17 April 2008

Ha’aretz – 20 Palestinians, Including Reuters Man, Killed in Heavy Gaza Clashes– 17 April 2008

The Independent – Cameraman among 20 Dead as Violence in Gaza Escalates – 17 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – A Bloody Day of Fighting in Gaza – 17 April 2008

Jerusalem Post – Some 20 Gazans Killed in IAF Strikes – 17 April 2008

The Times (London) – Cameraman among at Least 22 Dead as Violence Returns to Gaza – 17 April 2008

Al Jazeera – Children among Israeli Raid Dead – 16 April 2008

Al Jazeera – Palestinians Killed in Israeli Raids into Gaza (video) – 16 April 2008

BBC – Day of Gaza Unrest Leaves 22 Dead – 16 April 2008

Reuters – Israel Kills 17 in Gaza after Troops Die in Clash – 16 April 2008

Repatriated North Korean Refugees Faced “Severe Prosecution” at Home

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

A new study that concerns treatments of North Korean refugees after they are forcibly returned from China to North Korea puts pressure on the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean refugees. Tens of thousands of North Koreans are thought to have crossed into China, propelled by hardship or persecution. China treats them as economic migrants and sends them back.

The 48-page report is titled “A Prison Without Bars.” The chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Michael Cromartie, says the report is based on interviews with 32 refugees who fled North Korea for China from 2003 to 2007 and with six former North Korean security agents who defected to South Korea during the past eight years.  He called on countries to press the Chinese government to stop sending North Korean refugees back to their homeland and provide increased protections as required by international protocols.

The report said that repatriated North Korean refugees were often subjected to harsh interrogation, torture and long detentions without trial if found to have converted to Christianity or had contact with South Korean Christians or churches while in China. Former North Korean security agents told the commission that authorities set up mock prayer meetings to entrap new converts in North Korea and train staff in Christian practices for the purposes of infiltrating churches in China.

Refugees said that merely owning a Bible could lead to arrests, disappearances and even deaths of those repatriated.  “Its up to the condition of the guards. Because killing a prisoner will do no harm for them,” one interviewee said.  Another refugee, claimed that “a person was shot to death” on a riverside in Hoeryeong, a North Korea city along the border with China, for accepting a Bible from South Korean priests.  According to the report, the treatment was part of Pyongyang’s efforts to prevent the spread of religion.

For more information, please see:

AFP – China slammed over “grave” crisis facing NKorean refugees – 16 April 2008

BBC – China ‘must not return N Koreans’ – 16 April 2008

Chosun News – U.S. Report Hits North Korea On Religious Rights – 16 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – U.S. congressional report finds abuse of returned North Korean refugees – 15 April 2008

Reuters – U.S. panel urges China not to repatriate North Koreans – 15 April 2008

Washington Post – NKoreans with religious ties face peril – 15 April 2008

BRIEF: Tibetan Reporter Detained by Chinese Government

BEIJING, China – The reporter, Jamyang Kyi, 42, an announcer at the state-run television station in Qinghai, a western province bordering Tibet, was detained on April 1 and has not been seen since April 7, according to colleagues and friends. The authorities also confiscated her computer and a list of contacts, they said.

Jamyang Kyi is better known for her singing and song writing in the Tibetan language and performs abroad, sometimes alongside musicians associated with the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government-in-exile.  However, she has avoided themes or language in her music and writings that could be construed as challenging the Communist Party’s hold over Tibet.

Chukora Tsering, a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala, India, said he knew of nothing in her music or writings that might have provoked the authorities.  Her husband, Lamao Jia, who is also a journalist and a writer, said he had received no word from his wife for more than a week and did not know where she was being held. “She is in serious trouble.  I’m very worried for her safety. I’m very sorry. I can’t say more,” he said in a telephone interview.

Asked about Jamyang Kyi’s detention, Jiang Yu, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said she was unaware of the songwriter’s case. She insisted, that the Chinese legal system dealt fairly with all its citizens. “China is a country under the rule of law.  The law protects freedom of speech and other rights of its citizens. Only when a person goes against the law will they be punished by the law,” she said during a regularly scheduled news conference.

For more information, please see
:

New York Times – China Detains Tibetan Reporter – 18 April 1008

International Herald Tribune – Tibetan entertainer detained in China following anti-government protests – 16 April 2008

BRIEF: Red Cross Condemns American Prison in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced this week that it disapproves of the way the United States runs its prison at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, and urged for reforms.

Over 600 prisoners are held at Bagram, and the US military does not reveal who is held there or why.  Family and other public visitors are not allowed, including journalists.

The ICRC, however, has visited Bagram 120 times.  This recent announcement was made after the ICRC President, Jakob Kellenberger, visited last week.

Kellenberger commended the US for following some of the ICRC’s past recommendations, such as allowing video-conference communication between prisoners and their families.  He also appreciated the founding of new “enemy combatant review boards” that will examine Afghan detainees’ cases every six months and determine whether they can be released.

Nevertheless, he urged for further reforms to expand prisoner rights and allow them to introduce outside testimony:  “This [enemy combatant review board] should also get evidence from the persons outside, … evidence which can speak in favor of those who are detained … Evidence of people who know them, so that this evidence is brought into the process.”

Over the past five years, the US has been criticized for holding prisoners in places like Bagram without charge.

Kellenberger emphasized that the prisoners in Bagram “do not know what the future brings, how long will they be there and under which conditions will they be released.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Red Cross: Change Needed at US Prison – 15 April 2008

The Jurist – Red Cross chief urges US military to allow outside evidence in Afghan detainee hearings – 14 April 2008

Bomb Attacks in Four Cities Kill 70, Injure Over 100

By Christopher Gehrke
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, South America

BAQUBA, Iraq – Blasts in the Iraqi cities of Baquba, Ramadi, Mosul, and Baghdad killed more than 70 and injured more than 100 yesterday.

At approximately 10:50 a.m., a vehicle filled with explosives detonated outside a restaurant in Baquba, killing 53 and injuring 90.  The Baquba police estimated that nearly 1,400 pounds of explosives were packed into the vehicle.

A suicide bombing in Ramadi outside a kebab restaurant killed thirteen; three were killed and twelve were wounded in another car bombing in Mosul; and three were killed and eight were injured in Baghdad in a car bomb blast that targeted police patrol.

BCC reports that Sunni Islamist groups inspired by al-Qaeda are likely suspects.

The death toll in Baquba is expected to rise, said police.  There were still burnt bodies inside the cars at the scene.  Most of the bodies were burned beyond identification, and most of the dead appeared to be women and children.  Baquba is known as an insurgent stronghold.

One physician described the scene in Baquba:  “Some of the bodies that came to the hospital were, let’s say, not bodies, but only a hand or a torso.”

The Baquba attack was one of the most deadly in Iraq in months, where it appeared the U.S. surge strategy was successful in preventing civilian deaths.  This week, however, has seen several attacks.  Seventeen were also killed in two bomb attacks near Mosul Monday, among them 12 members of the Iraqi army.

American and Iraqi forces were backed by Awakening Councils in Baquba and Ramadi, which are mostly Sunni organizations that oppose Sunni extremists.  Baquba residents said that the attacks were probably retaliation for their decision to fight these groups.

Rear Adm. Greg Smith – the chief spokesman for the U.S. military there – told the New York Times that the attacks show that al-Qaeda could regenerate and strike, despite not controlling the territory as it had.

“They no longer possess the capability to terrorize and intimidate the major population centers or large swaths of Iraq’s countryside, but they certainly maintain both the will and the capacity to indiscriminately kill and maim innocent Iraqi citizens with vehicle and suicide bombs,” he said.

Authorities are no sure if the triple car bombing was coordinated or not.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Dozens dead as Iraq cities bombed – 16 April 2008

New York Times – Dozens killed in Bombings in Four Iraqi Cities – 16 April 2008

Times Online – Dozens killed in car bombs across Iraq – 15 April

Agence France Press – Iraq bombings, clashes kill 62 – 15 April 2008

Gramma International – Lethal day in Iraq, 69 dead – 15 April 2008

San Francisco Chronicle – Explosions kill dozens in 2 cities – 16 April 2008

Daily Dispatch – Car bombs rip through Iraqi lull – 16 April 2008

Guardian – Bomb attacks kill at least 50 people as new wave of violence hits Iraq – 16 April 2008

Repatriated North Korean Refugees Faced “Severe Prosecution” at Home

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

A new study that concerns treatments of North Korean refugees after they are forcibly returned from China to North Korea puts pressure on the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean refugees. Tens of thousands of North Koreans are thought to have crossed into China, propelled by hardship or persecution. China treats them as economic migrants and sends them back.

The 48-page report is titled “A Prison Without Bars.” The chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Michael Cromartie, says the report is based on interviews with 32 refugees who fled North Korea for China from 2003 to 2007 and with six former North Korean security agents who defected to South Korea during the past eight years.  He called on countries to press the Chinese government to stop sending North Korean refugees back to their homeland and provide increased protections as required by international protocols.

The report said that repatriated North Korean refugees were often subjected to harsh interrogation, torture and long detentions without trial if found to have converted to Christianity or had contact with South Korean Christians or churches while in China. Former North Korean security agents told the commission that authorities set up mock prayer meetings to entrap new converts in North Korea and train staff in Christian practices for the purposes of infiltrating churches in China.

Refugees said that merely owning a Bible could lead to arrests, disappearances and even deaths of those repatriated.  “Its up to the condition of the guards. Because killing a prisoner will do no harm for them,” one interviewee said.  Another refugee, claimed that “a person was shot to death” on a riverside in Hoeryeong, a North Korea city along the border with China, for accepting a Bible from South Korean priests.  According to the report, the treatment was part of Pyongyang’s efforts to prevent the spread of religion.

For more information, please see:

AFP – China slammed over “grave” crisis facing NKorean refugees – 16 April 2008

BBC – China ‘must not return N Koreans’ – 16 April 2008

Chosun News – U.S. Report Hits North Korea On Religious Rights – 16 April 2008

International Herald Tribune – U.S. congressional report finds abuse of returned North Korean refugees – 15 April 2008

Reuters – U.S. panel urges China not to repatriate North Koreans – 15 April 2008

Washington Post – NKoreans with religious ties face peril – 15 April 2008

UPDATE: Uzbek Critic Sentenced

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – According to rights group Human Rights Defenders Initiative, Uzbek dissident Yusuf Juma has been sentenced to five years forced labor for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer (see prior Impunity Watch article here).  He was charged with the crimes in December after conducting a protest against Islam Karimov’s third bid for president.  While being held prior to trial, his family claims that he was tortured.

His son Bobur, who had also been arrested during the protest, was given a suspended sentence of three years after admitting to the charges.  A family member said that Bobur only confessed after being beaten, and after authorities told him that without his confession, his father would be sentenced to 20 years.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Uzbek poet ‘sentenced over demo’ – 15 April 2008

Impunity Watch – BRIEF: Family of Uzbek Critic Say He Is Being Tortured by Government – 12 April 2008